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Shadow Work // Rise Of The Oniwaban Elite Ninja Death Squad

It’s fair to say I’ve been sitting on this project for what feels like an eternity! I’ve dropped a couple of hints via some of my other blog posts, but it’s finally been unleashed. Many moons ago I was commissioned by Shamanic Technology to produce some album artwork for a project he was working on. I had already previously worked with him via my exploits with UK Glitch Hop and had released one of his tracks on Beta Test Record‘s debut vinyl ‘Chemical Coercion’, so it was nice to produce something for him in return. There was no real brief per-se, but the title of the album was ‘Shadow Work’, and as such, my mind was immediately drawn to Ninja. Evidently, I am that predictable, but it was a no brainer as far as I was concerned!

I like to extensively research my subject matter, especially if I have an excuse to sit and watch low rate ninja films & documentaries! As I trawled through Japanese history, I came across a fascinating tale of the Oniwaban, or garden keepers, an elite group of undercover agents established by the 8th Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684–1751). I loved the idea of these ninja hiding in plain sight whilst guarding the Shogun, and so I decided to take the oni, or demon, mask from my samurai character and adapt it for this project.

I had been asked to produce an image that would cover the inlay of a CD sleeve which is 12 x 24cm. Due to the awkward shape of the image, I decided to produce a short comic that would show the Oniwaban executing his duties in a storyboard of crimson! I’m a big fan of hiding details within my work that may often be overlooked. As such, I thought it would be a nice touch to incorporate a short haiku, each cell representing one line of a three line stanza.

It took me a good week to finalise the haiku and accompanying imagery. Once the idea had properly set in my mind, I went to work on the first, largest of the three, and what would become the most challenging drawing I have produced to date. This cell was to represent the Oniwaban lurking in the shadows awaiting the opportunity to enact his swift, merciless reckoning.

I had originally intended to go with my usual process of producing an outline, then colouring it, either by hand or on Photoshop, but this time I wanted to challenge myself and attempt to dot shade and keep the drawing black on white. I don’t know why I do it to myself, but I seem to always add these extra obstacles during projects for other people, when time is a factor, and in situations where there is little room for error. It took me weeks of dot shading to produce the first image!!

Void One - Shinobi Oniwaban 3

It was good to see a black and white drawing to completion and it’s something I’m trying to do much more of late. I really want to enter Secret Walls at some point, so working in black on white is something I’m keen to master, if not within a much shorter time frame! Having said that, I recently performed some live drawing at what was The Bulls Head pub in Moseley, Birmingham, for Canvas. I recklessly decided to try drawing this character live and was surprised by the result. It still took me a good 4 / 5 hours to complete, but being in a packed bar is hardly helpful when trying to be productive!  I wish I’d added some details in the background, but all things considered, I count this as a win. I’ve had to add my name as this image was cropped for Instagram and I can’t find the original. Incidentally, I’m now on Instagram! Just search for voidoneuk.

Void One - Shinobi Oniwaban Live at Canvas

Anyway, we digress. I decided to edit the the main cell in Photoshop by changing the spiked hand claws to look a little more brutal and to make the oni mask red so it looked more demonic. I used speed lines to accentuate the face, like a kind of halo, and added some glow to the moon. For some reason I had given the character massive gums, so I decided to clear this up too.

Void One - Shinobi Oniwaban Master

I realised there was no way I could produce the other two images in the style of the first cell as I’d still be producing the artwork now, so I adopted a more familiar technique for the final two cells and just stuck to simple outlines and colouring on Photoshop. One cell was to represent the Oniwaban murking his prey, unseen apart from a trail full of blood splats. The final cell would represent the victims soul transcending this world and returning to the infinite void, staring into the abyss that is death. I had originally intended the victims head to be flying off with blood pissing into a vortex to hell, but it proved a little difficult to realise and was apparently too gory, so I kept it simple and stuck with a spiral. It was a really nice compliment that one of the tracks was renamed ‘Return To The Void’ in homage to the artwork.

I’m loving the noire feel to the work and the contrast between the black & white with the red blood splatters is really effective at creating movement in the images. Something I’ve also learned, especially in creating comic style imagery, is the use of speed lines. Really simple to create, speed lines almost instantly make the image jump out of the page and are great for filling up backgrounds, especially for action scenes. In the end, I took out the majority of them whilst I was experimenting, but I fully realise their potential for the future.

Void One - Shadow Work Final Small

So, the final work, including the haiku [Click on the image to enlarge]. It’s odd looking at the image now, as I can see so many ways that I would improve it. It would have been nice to keep the smoke emanating eerily from the blade, and also to have maybe worked more on the flowers to be perhaps falling from a cherry blossom tree, or something of that ilk. It was really challenging to fit everything in such an awkward space, but it just means I’ll have to revisit this piece to incorporate all the crazy ideas I came up with. Having said that, I’m really pleased with how this turned out! This project has both given me a new character to explore in the future, and also shown me a glimpse of the possibilities that may be achieved through dot shading.

That’s only my contribution to this project, but there is so much more to be found over at Shamanic Technology’s Indiegogo campaign page!! As well as a double LP of some seriously fresh neuro inspired Electronica, there are also the artistic stylings of fellow Brummie Cujo Cussler, plus Mantis Mash, “Hare” Krishna Malla, Sponge & Ben Leonard. The campaign only has a few days left to run, so please check out the links below and help materialise this epic collaboration.

Shamanic Technology – Shadow Work Indiegogo Campaign

Void One_

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City Of Colours Winter Showcase // The Revolution Will Be Merchandised

I’ve been saving this post for a while now as this project has really grown in scale and I’m pleased to see that the concept has evolved and developed as far as it has. This project is now going to become a model for my future escapades as it encompasses everything I’m trying to achieve with my work.

This design was initially created as an avatar for my musical exploits under the alias Terrorbyte, but was switched up to become the inspiration behind a print for, and what I wanted to paint at, the City Of Colours Winter Showcase on December 6th last year.

void one - facebook teaser mechanized

I’ve been researching war propaganda posters from the first and second world wars for a series of satirical posters using the tag line ‘The Revolution Will Be Mechanized’. I love the track by Gil Scott Heron called ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, especially line about there ‘being no re-runs brother, the revolution will be live’.

In Gil’s lyrics, the revolution will not be brought to you by xerox, or taste better with coke, you will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. For me, the heart of Gil’s message is that true social revolution comes from inside the individual, it’s down to you to manifest the changes you want to see in the world. The revolution isn’t out there waiting to happen, it’s your responsibility to mobilise yourself to live a more conscious existence. It’s not something you can capture on film or sell as a commodity, it’s a thought process, and it’s only when enough people embody such a paradigm shift that revolution in a more broad context can occur. It’s small changes in the way you lead your life at grass roots level that make the most difference to local communities and the world at large.

This message could not be more relevant than in today’s climate of shallow, catchphrase, PR politics from millionaire career politicians who are scandalously out of touch with the general public. Advertisements abound with platitudes from companies and governments promising to make your life better, to solve the most inane of first world dilemmas with a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social status they project. I’m not railing against people having nice things, but the best things in life aren’t things and it’s important to keep that in focus.

The revolution will be mechanized is meant to satirise the notion that we are now slaves to our devices and that our devices have come to define us. It represents a dystopian vision in which humans have become mindless automata under the governance of an oppressive system, one that has coerced us to embrace technology as a means of liberating ourselves, whilst actually placing us in perpetual slavery to our upgrades and the debt that results from our misplaced desire to own the latest models.

It is with this concept in mind that I produced the above prints for City Of Colours. The robot head was coloured and I added a few simple shapes to make it look almost like a badge or medal. The triangle design is my new logo, I’m thinking of using it like an abstract signature for my work in general. Now I just had to paint it.

Once again, I was lacking any meaningful amount of sleep due to all the last minute tweaking and preparation. I don’t know what it is, but I never finish a project with any real time in advance. I need the pressure of an impending deadline to motivate me to make often hard or drastic decisions about where something might be heading. I never miss my deadlines, and sometimes it annoys me in retrospect that I could have spent more time on finer details, but I find that so long as I have a solid concept before I start, such pressure often leads to moments of frenzied production and moments of inspiration, circumstantial happenstance, or unplanned yet happy accidents.

So, I arrived bright and early. If I remember correctly, I had spent my last £20 on paint and had no cash for emulsion for the background. I thought the black sprays I had would cover the boards I was painting with some to spare, but this was yet another schoolboy error I should have learned at the main festival a few months earlier. They did just about cover the background, but it was by no means a solid colour and I think it really let the piece down. Again I went with using a mixture of stencils, masking off areas with tape, and hand drawn / sprayed details to throw up the image. I worked much more quickly this time for two reasons. Firstly, there wasn’t a bar right next to me and far less people knocking about to distract me. Secondly, because I had given myself a real headache as far as how much work was really involved and how much could be done in the dimming winter light. The plan was to get the main image up and then spend any spare time working on tightening it up and maybe do some sort of border to frame the image. In hindsight, I think I was lucky to have enough light to get as far as I did!

It was a little while later that I revisited this . Before even thinking about the print I had created a few simple logo designs featuring the mech head artwork. It was from these initial ideas that the print had evolved. I tried a few designs on T-shirts to see what they would look like and decided the ones below looked the sharpest. At the time I didn’t really have any plans to move forward with production, it was still very much wishful thinking, but I went with three really simple visualisations.

I posted them to my Facebook page to see what the response was and the whole thing just blew up! It was clear from that point that this was something people would wear. In an ironic twist the revolution will be merchandised too, and this sits nicely with the whole theme. After seeing a few other crowd funded projects cross the line recently and some friends recommending Kickstarter as something to look into, I decided to give it a try. I had nothing to lose! The general response was that the red triangle artwork was the strongest, and after pricing up the order, I was confident it would be successful. So, I ran a campaign to print the artwork on some T-shirts & hoods. I couldn’t believe it, the project was funded within a couple of hours! Thank’s to everyone for backing the campaign! Everyone wins really as the artwork will look sweet.  I’m loving the concept of crowd funding, as it demonstrates there’s backing for projects before you waste your time and money.

Mech Tee FINAL resize red

Something I really like, and hope to expand on more, is how this process gives me the capacity to custom tailor people’s orders, colour combinations etc. I’m definitely going to be running more of these campaigns. The reward system is perfect for offering different products and a really easy way to update people about the process. I like being able to show a few designs to people and see what works best before committing to anything. I’ve decided on a policy of only running one campaign at a time, as I want the quality to be high and I don’t want to bombard people with too many products all at once. The T-shirts will be ready and shipped out next week. I have been able to press up a couple of spares but they are virtually gone. I did 30 in total, so that’s been a great success in my mind! I’ll update this site to include some pics in due course, but these are some of the other visualisations.

Check out the campaign page @ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/609532185/void-one-classic-tee-shirts-hooded-sweaters

So, more Tee’s  once I’ve shipped this project off and I’m thinking about a three colour stencil from the layered artwork I used for the T-shirt screens. I want to throw loads of these around, maybe some stickers. I want to try to keep re using all the bits of work I’m producing and test out a few different mediums, in the same way I have been doing with my Tetsuo work previously. The summer is fast approaching and I’m booked for a few paint jams, including this years City Of Colours and Big Noise. Good to be able to sign off another chapter for this piece though. Shadow Work is finished and will be coming soon, one of my most challenging works to date.

Void One_

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Digital Graphics // UK Glitch Shops & Digital Whomps

I’ve updated and tidied up my website a little more now, I’m also officially resident at voidone.uk, but I now want to cover some of my most recent digital work as it links in nicely with some of my musical endeavours. As I’ve mentioned before, I produce electronic music under another alias; TERRORBYTE. It’s through my music production that many of my most recent commissions have come about.

Working with UK Glitch Hop to broadcast weekly 2 hour radio sessions and releasing a few albums on Beta Birmingham / Beta Test has brought me in contact with some great musicians, labels, and all manner of characters along the way! UK Glitch Hop fry the fattest chips and battered beats on the UK circuit, served up with a dope dollop of whomp sauce for your fish and glitch.  This all came about just around the time I had launched the first compilation album under Beta Birmingham in April 2011, Graffic Equalisers. Yes, that’s one of my pieces too!

I had sent the album to a music blog called Musical Mana and it transpired the guy running it had been working with some labels I knew of, Skanky Panky Records and Colony Productions, and intended to put together a weekly radio show on Glitch.fm to be called UK Glitch Hop. I’d brought William Breakspear up to represent Skanky Panky and had done a Colony Productions showcase with Moudly Soul and Mike Wallis for a couple of shows for Beta, it was at this point that Chris Ra Baker aka Morbidly Obese Midget or M.O.M suggested I could take a show too. Over the years we’ve interviewed and hosted guest mixes by a swathe of artists from the Glitch Hop, Neuro Hop, Ghetto Funk, Electronica and down tempo scenes. Respect to everyone involved for their efforts in helping to keep the sound evolving in the UK!! Check out the UK Glitch Hop Soundcloud for the archives. If you’re new to Glitch Hop, this is a great place to start! My Beta shows are listed below:

So, the first of my music related commissions came from 4bstr4cker, who runs Parisian Glitch Hop label Digital Whomp. I had interviewed him for one of my shows  and after he saw some of my work I was asked to produce something for a forthcoming release. The brief was simple: glitch girl. I’ve been really getting into more abstract work lately, almost surreal. I started by making some shapes for the background, like screen tones, to give the picture some depth. I messed around with a couple of images for the girl but this one sat well so that the eye met at the vanishing point. I now wanted to make it look like the eye was exploding and make her look a little 3D by layering some of the details of her face and playing with the blending options. I wanted it to look like light was emanating from her eye. I love working in Photoshop because of the freedom there is to mess around with the colours and layer blending. It’s similar to music, in that smashing layers together can create some incredible glitches and perfect accidents. It was agreed that the blue one was the most striking. That was the original colour anyway, so I was happy. I think there’s a better contrast between the face and the background.

Void One - Glitch Me Color Test

Void One - Glitch Me

I fully support the tunes these guys are putting out and it was great to work on this piece. It was nice to try to envision someone else’s concept for a change too. I’m going for a super clean abstract style at the moment, so that the more you look at the images, the more fine details there are, yet at the same time without over complicating the composition. It’s a fine balance, but I think it worked with this image. Subsequent to this release one of my tracks was featured on their second Whompadelic Trip compilation album, I love the artwork for that release too! This, along with the vinyl I produced for Beta Test Records are both short listed for this years UK Glitch Hop Awards. Please take a second to vote here: UK GLITCH HOP AWARDS 2014

Following on from that, I randomly put myself forward when I saw a post asking for graphic designers by Roo Raptus who runs another label I know through UK Glitch Hop: The Glitch Shop.  They wanted a revision of their logo and a wallpaper for their social media. The only real brief was to have their name encapsulated by a circle, like the original.

zOvDpPzU

My first thoughts were to do a HUD style graphic behind the text and then it just went all Tron. I was pretty happy with this so I moved on to the wallpaper. As far as mech and digital HUD effects go, you can’t beat Tron!

Void One - The Glitch Shop Tron

I wanted to create some kind of abstract alien technology to be almost projecting the HUD logo. I’m getting much faster at making the abstract backgrounds now, again using my process of creating simple abstract shapes repeated at varying scales to form an emergent complexity. I added a few more HUD details to tie it all together and then did a few colour tests again. The plan for these was to have each colour represent a different genre on their You Tube channel. I often get to a point where I’m over working an image, so I stripped down some of the designs for the different colours too for a little variation.

It was decided that the dark grey background with green HUD was the one to use for the social media avatars and such. I had to fill in the text to make it stand out more.

FACEBOOK BANNER 851 X 315 FACEBOOK INVEERTED BANNER 851 X 315

TWITTER BANNER BLANK 1500 X 500

The above are a couple of banner variations I made for their social media. Again, really happy with the results for this project and given the brief I think I nailed it again. I’ve had some amazing feedback about my more abstract work and it’s something I’m beginning to find quite easy, so there’s plenty more of this style on the way! For the future, I think I need to focus on my typesetting and letter work. I highly recommend checking out some of their releases anyway, they too are nominated for a few UK Glitch Hop awards, so don’t forget to have a look at the link listed above and check out some of the nominations. Obviously vote for Beta Test Records though! *twists arm 😛

So yeah, I am now taking commissions for album artwork and a little re-branding amongst other things. Loads more art / music crossover projects are approaching completion, lookout for another update soon! I can’t wait to go public with my Shadow Work ninja comic for another forthcoming release. That’s more hand drawn and in keeping with my samurai work, there’s plenty of blood! The summer is looking incredible! It’s going to be another busy year!

Void One_