House of Mabel Design: Graphics
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F2 Filer (2004)

Filer directoriesA lot of my graphics work for Freedom2 consisted of fairly monochomatic icons for the toolbox (done in shades of green to be precise), or for apps like the calendar or email (shades of red), and just for a break there were some user configuration stuff (shades of blue). I got break out of the monotony by doing some filer icons for a web-based storage system however.
I wrote an initial version in PHP (based on some old Perl code I'd written a while back, but with added upload/delete/create directory goodness) for the management console, and the main product was updated to have a similar look, including my obscure hacks to handle RISC OS comma extentions.
Filer icons
Update: after going through the filer documentation to check some facts, I noticed that it explains RISC OS filetypes, and it used an icon for Acorn Sprite files as a demonstration. This icon wasn't in my copy of the original artwork, presumably due to my hard drive crash, so I went looking for the backups I did of the project documentation and found a later version with all the filer icons, plus some directory icons, which also helped reconstruct the Little Dudes. Yay for backups!


This is a general purpose EPOS system - a sort of cash register, video rentals, accounting sort of deal. Running it on RISC OS hardware is ideal, due to the stable nature of the OS plus all sorts of other goodies like low power consumption. However, for various reasons like economies of scale, RISC OS machines can cost more, so to keep things managable the brief for these icons stated that they had to be viewable on both monochrome and 16 colour (standard RISC OS palette) displays. Plus, they had to be large and interesting. So, quite contrasty and chunky in places, but a little humour where possible - I mean, how many other programs have a French maid as their housekeeping icon?


Foggy's Hardware (2005-ish)

Foggy's Devices
Richard "Foggy" Foster needed images of certain devices for a set of networking documents that he was working on. However, as he wasn't paying, some are lovely, lovely photo-realistic new images (e.g. the Mac Mini, the Sony-Ericsson T610 phone, and the Playstation 2 games console), whereas some others are older, less well shaded images. After all, he only wants them as small icons, whereas I can use them elsewhere.


Lil Dudes (2004-2005)

These started out as a kind of doodle - I got bored with designing hundreds of monochrome icons for Freedom2 products (see above), so I took one of the little faces I'd created for the Users icon and doodled in the margins of my vector graphics package...
Lill Dudes
...with the vague notion that they could be expanded on for documentation - the little blond dude could be the user, and the moustachioed brunette would be the evil hacker. They were supposed to be just simple characters, almost like those Fisher Price-type little people. However, during some downtime, it was a simple matter to modify them to create a whole range to take in almost any variation on age, race, gender and so on. So of course, I lost them in a hard drive crash.
Other dudes
Then a little while later, we actually got chance to use them in some demonstration material. It was a simple matter to recreate enough different people for the demonstration, but people kept pointing out that one of the characters looked a bit like me, leading me to create customised versions for the tech staff working at Freedom2.
Freedom2 dudes
These proved popular - eventually. I did an animated version of Paul Vigay as a joke - it got used to illustrate a news item on The Icon Bar (in fact the news was pretty much scraped together just so we could use the icon). Paul was his usual unimpressed self at first (posting iffy pictures of him alongside news articles being a favourite sport of the TIB staff), but gradually they've been cropping up as instant messaging avatars, website artwork (PV's blog, Andy Poole's website, blog) and suchlike.
Paul Vigay as a Little Dude
Paul Vigay's animated caricature
After discovering some backups that included a few of the extended Lil Dudes characters, I notice now that the "white" characters above all have light yellow skin - either jaundice has set in, or this was a Simpsons tribute, or (more likely) I was too lazy to mix a proper skin tone for the initial sketches and used whatever was closest - an Acorn (Computers) Beige-alike colour in my default palette. This was corrected in the "proper" variations, but then lost, and I reverted back to the "lazy" yellow. The following show a few progressions - how one blonde woman is changed into three different ages, and a general progression from the blond dude through different sexes and races. It's not quite as simple as changing the skin colour - but almost ;)
Dude progression

Larger Artwork

Fireworks (1996)

Someone from Sherston(?) Software came down to see me about re-doing some of their graphics, as they were about to port their educational software from RISC OS to Windows. This would have involved quite a lot of work which would have kept me employed for some time, so you know, no pressure. You'd think that they'd be looking for quite taxing, detailed stuff, but under the pressure of having someone watching over my shoulder I had the opposite problem - they were asking for a flat, cliparty style, and I couldn't resist trying to impress them with showy gradient fills!
Despite this blindspot I must have shown some promise as I was eventually offered the gig, but by the time I got the call I'd already accepted the ArgoNet job in Chichester. Apparently they'd interviewed me because someone else had done the same thing; I felt doubly guilty because the guy that came all the way down to see me had noticed my House of Mabel branding and gave me some Mabel brand chewing gum he'd bought on holiday. A whole box full.

Art for Arts Sake

The human form is probably the trickiest of all subjects to master: with whole portions of your brain dedicated to tasks like facial recognition, if you get anything even slightly wrong people will notice immediately. Which is probably why I've kept returning to it ever since Art class in college. If I'm going to spend time and effort on drawing something that has no real utility afterwards, I might as well make things really damned hard and excercise a few grey cells.

Lesley Ann (1993)

Lesley AnnThis first face was taken from a photograph of a (now decidedly ex-)girlfriend. We met in Art class at college, so I guess using her as the subject of my first vector artwork made a lot of sense.
I guess this image shows just why I dislike flash photography - the drawing is a fairly accurate rendering of the photo, but the photo wasn't particularly great to start with, with harsh highlights. People don't usually walk around with big shiny bits all over them, so the only time they ever look like this is that moment they're captured in the glare of a flashbulb.

Harry (1993)

HarryTaken from the front cover of the film tie-in version of Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?, this is (supposed to be) Harrison Ford in Bladerunner. It's a lot more complex than the previous image, and maybe a little more realistic - despite the fact that some of the hair effects are just freehand scribbles.

Lady (1993)

LadyLady is an amalgam of various elements taken from the covers of pulp '40s novels. For some reason I was fascinated by the sleazy glamour of these books, and they were dirt cheap at the second hand shop I frequented, so I bought half a dozen or so. I even made the mistake of reading one of them once.
A close up of the face shows a variable level of detail - the image was obviously meant to be viewed "from a distance" (if that makes sense when it's on a computer display). So, you can see that some musculature is suggested by a a quick line or squiggle, and the hair is made up of simple curls with gradient fill shading. However, the eyes are framed with proper eyelashes, the lips have highlights, and the bracelet has detailing such as three individual pearls. Extra details like this add to the project time and don't really add to the image, sometimes they can even make it look cluttered. I've tried to learn from logo design that you should only draw what you need to, and no more. However, it appears that I find myself continually drawn to the details.
Lady (face)

Dee (completed 1999)

DeeI wanted to try something a little softer and more subtle than my usual style, and of course failed miserably on the first attempt. However, after some time running away and hiding from this particular file I decided I should persevere and finished up with this. I think she looks a bit startled, but the face is a lot softer.
Dee iconOh, and Dee unsubtlehere she is on a directory icon from some time later. Which is kind of ironic, given that the first thing you have to do when you shrink an image to this scale is pick out all the main features and highlight them in really unsubtle ways to stand any chance at all of them showing up. Poor, starey-eyed Dee!

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