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  • 10 Practical Tips For Taking Animal Photos

    (Especially when commissioning me to paint Some Ink Nice for you)

    The majority of paintings I do are based on photos that I've taken myself. 

    This here list is a collection of the things I look for when going through my own pictures, to assess which ones are suitable and which would make the best paintings.

    Because as a general rule -

    The better the reference photo, the better the painting.

    Some are specific to the way I work.

    Some might seem obvious (but they're easy to overlook, especially when you only see them on a tiny phone screen or camera viewfinder).

    And some you might find handy, for any art, design & photography situation.


    1 - Focus

    Yes, the obvious one.

    But the most important.

    And surprisingly easy to think you've got it spot on, until you see the image on a large screen.

    Whole thing in focus, please.  If not possible, then the face is the priority.


    2 - Angle

    Ideally, a photo taken at the same height as your lovely pet works best, I find.

    Not looking down on them at your feet.

    Not looking up at them as they peer down at you from the top of the door.



    3 - Shape

    Simple shapes are more pleasing to the eye.

    So flailing arms, legs, tails, wings and all sorts of other details are best tucked in.

    You also want to make best use of the space on an A4 / A3 sheet of paper.  So long, thin details, or animals lying down, are tricky to frame.


    4 - Resolution

    The more detail that's visible, the better I can recreate the texture.

    Sometimes getting closer to the creature in question simply isn't possible.

    Cropping & zooming in might be fine, but check there's the information there in the image to be able to see them clearly.



    5 - Lighting

    Natural light best, well exposed.  Remember, the more visible the detail, the better. 

    Also be careful with direct sunlight.  A bit of contrast is good, but heavy shadows can cause havoc.



    6 - The 'Whole Thing' Trap

    Particularly with larger animals, you might feel an uncontrollable urge to fit the whole creature into the photo.

    Which often ends up with a nice, familiar shape.  But it ends up being so small that there's no detail, and so no personality to it.

    Focusing in on a detail (specifically, the face), and not worrying about the rest, is often a much better move.

    Everyone knows the giraffe has long legs, you don't need to show them to prove it's a giraffe.  Likewise a dog's tail.

    I get the same urge to 'capture it all' when taking pictures.  You don't want to feel you might miss something out.

    The way round it?

    Take a photo of the whole thing first.  Done.  You don't need to use it, but you've got it.  You can relax.  Then zoom in and take some more interesting, 'detail shots'.



    7 - Colour

    Much like shape, simplicity is more appealing to the eye.

    Fewer colours work better, they're less chaotic.

    For example, the bird below is stunning in real life.  But when I painted it, the colours all clashed a bit too much.

    It's like adding too many conflicting flavours to a good stew.  If they don't complement each other, the whole thing ends up tasting of nothing at all.

    Also, no filters please.  It really helps to know what colour the animal 'should' be first, and tweak it to enhance something afterwards.



    8 - Faces

    To me, the best paintings are the ones that convey a sense of character.  Otherwise they can feel cold, like the 100% accurate, clinical illustrations of a medical textbook.

    You want the face to be interesting, with a bit of contrast. 

    So either straight-on, looking at the camera (unless they have eyes either side of their head, which 'disappear' when looking straight on).

    Or turned slightly to the side, to create a bit of shape & shadow.



    9 - Eyes

    Similar to the last one, visible is best.  Nice and bright and open. 

    This is where you want the focus of the image to be.



    10 - Multiple Animals

    Going back to simplicity and shape, if you really, really want there to be more than one animal in the image, then one last tip.

    Unless you're adamant that you want a painting highlighting how your two dogs don't like each other (hey, this is the internet, anything is possible) - have them 'together' in the photo.

    Aside from the Simple Shape thing to make it more appealing, it also gives a feeling of connectedness, of warmth.

    If you don't have a photo like this, let me know, I can photoshop two together and match the lighting before painting it.

    (Within reason, obviously.

    'I want a painting of my two dogs, but I only have this photo of Maureen down a disused tin mine and this photo of Buster leaping from the 1st floor of a burning office block in the midday sun.  Can you merge them?'

    This kind of thing will incur an extra fee.  On principle.)



    Interested in your own painting?

    See the FAQ page, then the contact page and / or send me an email at

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  • Have YOU checked the Top Drawer?

    Have YOU checked the Top Drawer? - Some Ink Nice
    Well.  Continuing the theme of Trade Shows Being Excellent, this week marked my first time at Top Drawer as an exhibitor.
    Spoiler alert.  It, too, was excellent.
    Quite a few people had said to me that the September one is nowhere near as busy as the January one.
    Which may be true.  Having nothing to compare it against, that may well be the case.
    I can't do the show next January, or Spring Fair in February, so when I was offered a small stand this September, for a reasonable price, I figured why not?
    Good move.
    Because I had a fully lovely time.
    It seemed like they'd made the main floor area smaller than before.  Usually the card area is tucked in the back, where it's a bit darker.  Maybe it'll stay like that for January, but my stand was nicely floodlit by natural light from this amazing roof.  Which was nice.
    No, there's not the endless (& free) tea trolley that does a constant loop like at PG.  Nor is there the free lunch.
    But just like at PG, I got to spend a handful of days in the company of some Excellent People.
    Rosie (Harrison / ... Made A Thing) was on the stand opposite, and Frankie (of You've Got Pen On Your Face - even though she refused to put pen on her face, thereby missing a massive own goal, conversation-starter-wise) was next door.  Both of whom are incredibly warm and friendly and a mine of helpful advice.
    Amongst many other talented publishers, of course.
    It was also a delight to meet so many existing and new shopmates in person.  It's a reminder that this is a brilliant industry to be in, and hopefully be more involved with.
    Yes, the buildup in the week before was a little stressful, trying to get everything ready in time.
    And yes, a jalapeno toastie is a strange thing, I've learnt.  And who puts a full, hard boiled egg in a club sandwich?
    But other than that, if that is what counts as going to work, then lucky, lucky me.
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  • Henries Awards 2019 Finalist

    Henries Awards 2019 Finalist - Some Ink Nice

    Chuffed, Chuffed, Chuffed.

    Three words to describe me recently, (or one, depending on your approach to counting) as I've been nominated as a finalist for this little (star) category:

    The Lynn Tait Most Promising Young Designer or Artist Award

    At the year's Henries Award, billed as 'the ultimate accolades in greeting card publishing'.

    Which is nice, isn't it?

    To put it in context:

    14,000 cards were entered into this year’s Henries and these were judged by an impressive judging panel, made up of 50 top retailers (including buyers from Paperchase, Scribbler, John Lewis, Fenwick, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Moonpig, as well as many leading independents).

    To put it in even more context:

    Most of the people that entered Actually Know What They're Doing and also Do This For A Living Because They're Proper Designers & Artists and very good at it.  So this is really quite humbling.

    If you had a hand in this, then thank you very, very much.  That cheered me up no end.  Your bribe can be claimed using the claims form that we spoke about earlier.

    There will be a no-holds-barred awards ceremony at a fancy Hyde Park hotel at the start of October.  After which I will go mysteriously quiet & never mention it again, because I didn't win and I'm probably harbouring a grudge.

    some ink nice henries award finalist 2019 most promising young designer artist

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  • Some Where Nice - 2019 Edition

    Some Where Nice - 2019 Edition - Some Ink Nice

    And now for a new installment of our rare yet excellent feature:

    Excellent Places To Stay That Happen To Be Decorated In The Some Ink Nice Colours of White, Wood & Dark Green.

    This month we visited 1898 The Post, in Ghent, Belgium.  (Also known as Gent, in Belgish).

    Train to London, Eurostar to Brussels, Double-decker train to Ghent (Gent in Belgish), tram to the front door of 1898 The Post.

    It's housed in the upper floors of the old postal headquarters, right in the middle of the city.

    And it's amazing.

    (p.s. this is not a paid or sponsored post or anything, but if anyone from the hotel isn't too offended by me repeatedly using the word Belgish, and would like to invite us back, then please do)

    I mean, look at it:

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

    1898 the post ghent gent belgium dark green hotel

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