Vincent’s Vivarium

I can only imagine how touched my uncle would have been to see so many dear and familiar faces here today, to celebrate his life and mourn his tragic passing. No doubt many of you had your reservations about coming- I understand that Uncle’s singular personality rubbed some of you up the wrong way.

In his defence I can only say that Uncle Vince was a character- a unique individual. I myself still have strong feelings about some of his habits, exploits, and ventures- the otter-cheese farm, the mandatory zipline to the downstairs toilet, bear boxing- I never supported any of these. Now that dear Uncle is gone, I shan’t worry about having to wear pink stockings after nine pm, eating only with spoons, or only turning anti-clockwise in the presence of women.

We may never truly know how Uncle Vince passed away. We may never know how he wandered into the locked greenhouse in the middle of the night, without his protective bee “disguise”, stark naked and with two lamb chops and a pork loin taped to his forehead. We may never know how he came to be so riotously drunk as to do that, despite being teetotal. All we can say is that he will be missed, and as the sole inheritor of his massive estate I feel it is my responsibility to thank you all for coming. Cheers.

Now, who’s up for canapés?

A man in a bee suit lovingly attends to to his plants

Secrets of Nature: Episode 01

Here’s a little something I made some years ago-  the HD remastered edition:

The backstory is this:

At the end of the first year of University we had an assignment to throw together a few seconds of animation- preferably being inspired by illustrators and not the more obvious examples of conventional animation like Aardman studios. The thing was, once I’d got started I realised that I much preferred the conventional animation- and that I wanted to do something more like that. We had three weeks for the brief, which I reckoned was more than enough to learn how to do something basic.

I got carried away. But I also had a brilliant time, and started to wonder whether I should have studied animation instead of illustration (I’m unsure to this day frankly). Anyway- the end result was something silly that I’m still oddly proud of to this day. I’d uploaded it to youtube some years ago, but the quality was so poor that I’m not surprised that nobody really watched it.

It occurred to me that I could download a copy of flash (or animate as they’re calling it now) and use the trial period to open the old files and re-save a higher def version for the modern era. So I have. It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but I have to let it go now. I have a terrible weakness for wanting to go back and fix my old stuff. Which is probably why I never get anything new done…

Foray into 3D

In an effort to make myself more flexible as an artist I’ve been forcing myself to learn some 3d. Forcing isn’t really the right word I suppose- I enjoy it too much. I have to force myself to do 2D at the moment. I was rather proud of this car I made though, so I thought I’d show it off:

A 3d model of a vintage car

It’s modelled in Blender based on the one from my “Great race” picture. See:

A steampunk themed race

Now, how the heck do I texture things?

How to fly a steampunk airship

I’ve had a number of engineering students write to me lately to assert the absurd proposition that none of my airships will ever fly- furthermore- that they are impractical and contrary to good engineering sense. Humbug, I say to them. poohpooh. Etc. So I’ve decided that I obviously need to explain how the damn things operate- in order to get these pedants off my back and to prove that it is indeed feasible technology.*

Behold, a labelled diagram of a steampunk airship. I shall now proceed to address the points of most importance concerning it’s proper operation.

Airship diagram
Click to enlarge.

Elevation (Vertical motion)
Altitude is increased by increasing the buoyancy of the gas filled lift cells in the balloon (1)- these respond to heat energy from the boiler (12) by decreasing in density and therefore gaining lift.

To make the craft descend; lift is reduced by allowing the cells to cool- which is controlled by means of the air intakes ((8) or in emergencies by venting excess gas directly from the cells.)

Lift gas is replenished and generated on-board the vessel via the algae tanks (not visible).

Horizontal motion:
Combined action of the chain driven Lateral propellers (6) drives the craft forward or backwards when equal power is delivered to both sides of the craft. Yaw is achieved by increasing the relative amount of power (via gear transmission) to one side of the craft at a time: Higher power to the right propeller turns the ship to the left and higher power to the left propeller turns the ship right.

The ship also possesses a central “main propeller” which provides less thrust than than the lateral propellers while in the air but is adapted to work well when submerged- allowing the craft to move efficiently on water.

In situations where the ship is required to rapidly lose velocity the airbrake (10) can be deployed: releasing tension on the brake lines allows the brake to fold out from the tail like a fan- increasing air resistance and slowing the craft. Conversely- the airbrake can also be used as a sail to increase the speed of the craft and conserve fuel when sailing along the wind.

Piloting & Navigation
The pilot flies the ship from the front cockpit (13)- with assistance of the crew. A periscope (4) allows the pilot to see directly beneath the ship at all times- even when resting on water. Orders are received from the captain and transmitted to the crew via speaking pipes (airships are obviously very loud). The pilot’s job is to control the  speed and direction of the craft while the engineers ensure the engines, pumps gears and other apparatus are working correctly.

Engine Power
Engine power is achieved via modern steam turbine engines using liquid fuel- this frees up space versus traditional gas fuels and weight versus solid fuels.  The engines and fuel tanks (not visible) are located towards the bottom and centre of the ship to help maintain the correct centre of gravity. The engines drive the lateral and main propeller via chain drive trains. The chain drive method allows the Lateral propellers (6) to be folded up and out of the way when the airship docks.

  • Landing
    This airship is designed to land on water. Water intakes on the drive train (3) also allow the boilers and algae tanks to be conveniently refilled while the ship is at rest.

    Other stuff:
  • 16. Cloud Lantern– Anti collision lighting designed to be visible as the ship rises through cloud
  • 7. Life boats– Self explanatory! Standard fold out glider type
  • 4. Anchor– To anchor the ship- when a hangar isn’t available.
  • 9. Overpressure chimney– Automatic pressure release chimney for situations where boiler/gas cells exceed the safe pressure limits
  • 18. Nests- These are used to ensure visibility around the craft at all times- the lookouts communicate with the crew in the gondola via speaking tube.

*I am not responsible for any injuries deaths etc. resulting from attempting to put this technology into practice. Always seek professional help when piloting steampunk airships.

Series 48: Interceptor. A sci fi Spaceship design

48 Interceptor

Series 48: Interceptor- Light assault spaceship for close extraplanetary defence.

Concept design for a sci fi spaceship.

I love drawing these but sometimes it’s hard to justify to myself why its so “planey” besides the fact that it just feels right. There’s no air resistance in space of course. I blame pop culture. Maybe I’ll do something more original later…


A town built in a dark caveAt the confluence of the great subterranean rivers, beneath the green glaciers and sheltered from the blinding snowfields lies the isolated settlement of Cavetown.

Many generations ago the nomadic tribes of the frozen tundra took shelter in this cave and have remained there ever since- their small band growing into the prosperous settlement you see today.

In the middle, towards the top- you can clearly see the temple garden where the high priests congregate. This is one of only three places in the cave where sunlight reaches, and where plants can grow, giving it great significance to the people. Only during festivals or ceremonies are citizens permitted to enter the garden, and fallen leaves from the holy red tree are worth a half-dozen catfish to the average villager.

To the left of the garden is the temple itself- its many lanterns burning fiercely. A typical example of Cavetown architecture- it uses a strong stalagmite as a central pillar on which the roof is supported- the roofs are thatched with long reeds that grow at the rivers edge in summer.

Towards the bottom right you can see one of the eel pools, where catfish and eels are farmed for food. They are also hunted from the lake far below and from the many rivers and lakes that extend deep beneath the mountains. High above some sacred finches fly. The local people believe the glowing birds are spirits of their ancestors, and tend to spoil them rotten. In return, the birds hang around, and their bioluminescent feathers provide a valuable light source to the villagers.

Light is a big deal to the people of Cavetown- so they adorn their houses with torches blazing with catfish oil, to show off their wealth and status. Light is also a necessity for navigating the precarious terraces and pathways that jut from the cave walls, so acolytes from the temple are tasked with keeping the pathway lamps lighted day and night.