Tag Archives: Microsoft Expression

Way back when, when I was a different me…

So for a variety of reasons I’m chucking out and binning a lot of stuff, some of which reminds me of different aspects things I’ve been up to over the past 20 or so years.

From 2005 (?) to 2010 (?again 🙂 ) I managed a very wonderful youth arts centre. Marvellous fun it was too with lots of music and film evenings and pretend journalism courses and artwork nights and drama and all sorts. Some amazing teens walked through our doors and I’m still convinced that one day I’ll hear their names in a context that their talent deserves.

We were, in many senses of the word, a fantastic team. Not just the youth workers but the kids as well (and many of their parents too).

We even did gigs at Woking band stand, generally in ABSOLUTELY freezing or rainy conditions, and I often look back at those adventures and smile.

But one of the things I remember most is the bus journey to and from work. It was actually a very happy 75 minutes either way in many ways. I didn’t have anyone asking me questions, giving me tasks, all that fun stuff. It was just me, my music, and whatever I was writing or drawing at the time. Occasionally I’d tell people I love drawing on busses and, more often than not, they’d get the wrong idea.

I’d often (and still do) listen to podcasts and one of my favourites, then and now, is Mayo and Kermode’s film reviews. So one day, one a bus, I drew this:

… and then the next time I was on the bus (I seem to remember it being Tuesday and Thursday nights) I turned the sketch into this:

Now all I remember about it really is that I was on a bus, with my laptop perched on my knees, anticipating the curves and bumps of a journey I’d done for 10 years or so (having used the same bus for my prior job as a computer games artist).

It would have been around Jan-Feb time (as I was testing out not only a new piece of software on the lappie – Microsoft Expression Design – but also some lovely fonts from Comicbookfonts.com – something I used to treat myself to once a year). I vaguely remember this being, almost word for word, what the two said to each other (may have added cruxial but bearing in mind MKs mastery of the English language I may not) and it made me giggle to myself on the bus. So I drew this.

I miss being able to time artwork to bus timetables.

So, Chrome then.

Crashes during Comicraft font transaction and now demolishes everything I type into it in here… Odd, strange and bizarre…

Looks nice though and the advert for it is beautifully animated.

Let’s try this again then:

So. Jan 1.

A friend who’s number I do not have in my address book (so have no idea who it is, someone who’d changed number perhaps?) texted me a quote: an optimist welcomes the new year to see what it will bring, a pessimist waits for the previous year to finish. (Or something like that. QUote from memory – not great combination).

Me? Well. Probably pessimistic truth be told. Fora variety of reasons, the seeds sown in late 2008, I didn’t enjoy the year just gone in the main. This year? I hope better, so I guess I’m more optimistic. I do have some stories to tell, so we’ll see if any are liked.

I am a little dispondant, in ways, that my work doesn’t ever seem to get ‘there’ wherever there is. I’d like to see some of it be more recognised and enjoyed yet feel slightly estranged from the creative circles I move around. I’d like to be a little better regarded as a writer, because I think the stories I spin are OK and sometimes better than that, yet because of their basis, or because I spend have my time drawing, I feel that the projects I work on don’t hit a wider mark that they sometimes deserves to.

Similarly I wonder whether my desire to draw for half of the time causes problems with each area. Does my art suffer (HA! Now I AM an artist! Does my art suffer indeed 🙂 )…

…but do the pictures I work on suffer as a result of my lack of focus on that side of my life? I like being a doodler that writes and a writer that paints but…

Sigh… Thinking thinking where does it ever get me?

So! Doodled this in the past hour, just for the fun of i, just to doodle. Am aiming to get back to using Expression (and spent some of my Christmas money on a 4 gig ram upgrade for my laptop to better use Expression Studio amongst other software packages. I’m still primarily using Brushes on the iPod and EAGERLY awaiting the potential iSlate/tablet/nUton news, hopefully at the end of January. If the nUton comes with Brushes in the app store it will be a DAY ONE purchase for me as I love creating art on the iPod… But we’ll see…..

Anyhow: Microsoft Expression Studio Design 3 (Sorry MS – despite being an Apple fanboy I’m by no means an M$ hattorz but you NEED to get a naming thing sorted out for Expression. Let’s look at Adobe for a sec shall we? Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Flash etc all slip off the tongue and you can see the family links. Microsoft Expression Studio Design 3, Microsoft Expression Studio Blend 3 et al? Corporate, comittee silliness…)

Ahem, anyway: MESD3 time (which, despite the silly name I’ll stay and play with as it’s a lovely piece of software. Not as good as it should be: variable line width hallo?  Stroke soften, fringes, fill blur, effect lines? Where did they go? Regardless: lots of Expression love here in Chez Kercal for what that’s worth (not a great deal obv). Have a rabbit as the first image of 2010.



Work in progress. Nice to be working away from Brushes/Pixelmator for once. This is made almost entirely in Expression 3.3 (with a little Pixelmator thrown in to crop/feather the pictures…) Yes I do have Expression Studio 3 on my system but 3.3 is the cleaner, slightly better software as far as I can see. Time’s not been there for experimentation so I thought I’d default to software I know.


Sigh… sometimes I only feel I get to do artwork when I’m ill*…


Long been a fan of Marvel comics (and comics in general but the X-Men were the ones who hit most at that time in my life) and the Sentinels were possibly my favourite bad guy: hostile yet unfeeling. Fancied doodling as I try and get better sooner and this is the result.

*Actually the title is blatantly not true as I’ve been lucky enough to be doing artwork all over the place recently but this is the second time recently and nth time this year I’ve been sick and it’s a bit dull lying here not able to do much bar squeak.

And a little bit of Cerebus created in Expression while I’m at it:


And then it was quiet…

So, Big Book Draw weekend last week and it was a corker. Slightly lower numbers than last year, the first year we’ve not grown by exactly 20% in fact, but a number of people said to us that they’d been surprised by it not being in half term week (again a first for us). Still, the 120+ people we had join us enjoyed it massively and it was a complete success. We had a huge piece in the Surrey Ad too which was glowingly positive and a nice read.




And then, almost directly after the Book Draw I went down with a cold which then turned into laryngitis and aches and pains. Fun. Went into college on the friday (didn’t want to but had an email to say there was no sick cover) and lasted as long as I could. Then headed home and been in bed ever since.


Which allowed me to, at least, finished off this picture in Brushes on the iPod touch. Time wise I didn’t manage to do the iPod exhibition, which was one of a couple of small disappointments on an otherwise lovely day (we were out of canvas at work hence no chance to print it out), but I did do one pic to prove that at least the pictures do print out well at A1 size. Hopefully an exhibition soon, depends on budgets going through at work.

So, maybe not so soon… 🙁


And, lastly for this update, installed Windows 7 on my mac which means I can get back to using Expression. I’m trying to focus on fewer projects post Book Draw and have some time off, if that’s possible. We’ll see. I’ve got two freelance projects on the go to finish off then I’m hoping to say ‘no’ to everything that I can for the rest of the year. Doodled this in Expression Design last night, was fun to start using it again.

Also, news to come about Sylver… But that’s for another post. Let’s just say that this has been the hardest project to work on and the most under attack one. I suppose I should see that as a positive thing, if its worth attacking it’s worth something, but it can get a bit wearying, especially when it feels like I have a coal fired frog in my throat and sound like I’ve been smoking 20 an hour. Ah well, onwards as ever.

Change of pace.

Sadly not dropping down a gear: moving up one 🙁

Anyhow, just finished (unless changes occur) the medical comic thing I’ve been doing. It’s been a doozy. Lots of info to get across in a very limited space, not the easiest of tasks. As much of a sample as I can add here:


Also did this, ostensibly for War Child which is a charity I support. BAsically I do freelance work and, rather than have to faff around worrying about the tax or anything I just get them to donate my fees to various charities: EngageHIVaids, War Child and Christian AId more often than not. Anyhow I phoned up teh charities the other day to ask if I could put their logos in the back of Sylver 3 – or at least the Book Fest version of the book and the War Child peeps and I got chatting and this pic came out of it. Dunno if it’s of any use to them but it sprung to mind and then onto the iPod.


Apart from that spent a mixed afternoon at the Matrix Trust’s presentation of the Queen’s recognition of the work they have done in the Guildford and Woking area over the past decade. I say mixed. It was a lovely time for a variety of reasons, but I was so tired I could have slept standing up and, in a way, I was envious of their success where I feel I achieve little. Oh well. I did see three ex-youth groupers and all said nice things to me as I went about my work on the day – one saying that he’d appreciated the places he had to sit and chat and work things out – which was very nice. And of course it is good to celebrate the work on the Matrix Trust – the garden in Guildford they’ve renovated looked amazing. Next year will be the tenth Ready 4 Action too 🙂 We’ll have to do something special for that I’d’ve thought. Righto, time to sleep 🙂

Wish list: long dull art software post.

Apparently V 1.5 of my favourite photo editing package (Pixelmator if you needed to ask) is out in a few short weeks time and it, and a small slanging match online, made me think of things I would like to see in the update: layer styles, brush palette coverflow and folders, layer groups, text rotation and manipulation in vector, nested palettes, mask to layer transform, wave filter, filter on filter deformation, CMYK and so on.

Which is actually a long list. Ironically 1.5 seems to be about web graphic manipulation so my little list isn’t likely to be looked at I would have thought, but hey, I am unusual. (The small slanging match was to do with a sadness I expressed that every review of Pixelmator dwells and overdwells on what’s missing, not what’s there. Despite this list – and this is a little like life, kids, there’s loads that Pixelmator does amazingly well and that’s what I judge it by not what it’s yet to be. That was described as irritating complaining but hey ho).

Ahem. /sermon.

Anyhow, the other thing it made me think about was that two of my other favourite art packages are coming towards a refresh also and, in one case, a major update apparently: Blender hits 1.5 (doh! well spotted – 2.5 indeed) and Expression Design hits V3. Blender, we’re told, will have a completely upgraded user interface (which, I hate to say it, is long overdue. It’s intelligent but a little overwhelming and offputting) and Microsoft’s Expression Design…

Hmmm…. Well, we’ll see. ED2 (and 1 as well) are, in ways, a step back from the prior versions of the software (which reached their peak in Expresion 3.3 which is still available as a free download from Microsoft if you’re interested in a try out). I’d love to see ED become the de facto vector tool of choice for designers but there are a good few niggles and that’s a shame. I love it to pieces though, but there’s a fair few things that were taken out for no discernible reason (fill fringes? Effect lines? Fill softening? Variable stroke width?) and a good few things that I’d love to see in there: stroke mixing and blurring, layer transitions (by which I mean strokes moving from one layer into another giving the user a pseudo 3d effect, layer shadows with perspective depth and a better way to look at fill colours, vectors and bitmaps. And also, while we’re on the subject, a flipping Mac version.

Did read a review of Painter 11 which I’d love to play with and Photoshop CS4 needs to have more of a playthrough when I have the time. Good times for art software 🙂 It’s turning into a heck of a year for AAA art software 🙂

Just wish I had more time to play with the software and create more doodles 😉

Expression Gallery/Pixelmator manual.



Doing the image thing as an emergency valve against all of the words I’ve had to edit this and last week… Uploaded a few images to the Expression gallery which can be found here: http://gallery.expression.microsoft.com/ 

I’ll be adding more as time goes by, some even not about elephants 🙂 🙂  partially as it’s so easy to participate in their gallery pages and partially because I like to use Expression and think the results are fairly strong, if I say so myself, egotistically 🙂

There’s some other nice stuff up there so well worth a few minutes having a mooch around I’d have said.

Also was contacted by team Pixelmator asking for permission to use one of my images in their next manual which is hugely exciting and of course I said yes straight away 🙂 Big fan of both Pixelmator or Expression so am happy to see some of my pictures going all over the place.