Tell us your careers story; did you always want to illustrate computer games? And how did you get into the industry?
I grew up in Sheffield then studied Graphic Design in Newcastle and Sequential Illustration in Brighton. During the early years of my career I built up a network of illustration clients and had commissions for children’s books, magazines and greetings card publishers. I moved back to my home town in 2004 to manage a family gallery business along side my own illustration work.
I met Tim in 2010 and we’ve been working together on and off since then. I was originally the lead designer at Team Cooper, working on Flash based Digital Amusements before we evolved into an HTML5 based business. We then became more focused on branded games and eventually transitioned into what is now Peek & Poke.
I’ve always loved games in all of their forms so this being a full-time designer here is an ideal job for me. As a child I used to make up my own board games and later on I created one for the main project in my Masters degree. It was always just for fun and I never really considered that I’d end up in the games industry, but looking back now it feels like it was always meant to be!
What programmes do you use?
Adobe Illustrator has always been my main professional tool. When I was at Uni one day in the late 90’s I was painting a children’s book illustration with flat gouache colours. Someone suggested that I should try working digitally to achieve a similar effect with more control and save a bit of time. I knew straight away that vector based illustration suited my style and I’ve used Illustrator almost every working day since.
Creative Cloud is essential for our graphics workflow. In particular Photoshop, which we use regularly and also Adobe Animate. Recently I’ve been playing with Procreate on the iPad for sketching and concept work.
What does you average day look like?
After an essential coffee (to get the cogs of my brain working!) I’ll get stuck in to project work on my nice big iMac.
My role here is quite varied and involves managing the artwork process from start to finish. Most of the time is spent illustrating game assets, creating animations and designing promotional material. For larger projects I devote a bit more time to project management and defining the scope of the visuals. I also enjoy discussing ideas for customisations and new engines with the rest of the team.
Do you have a specific process and where do you get your inspiration from?
Like many other illustrators, I guess my natural drawing style is influenced by my childhood. I watched a lot of kids cartoons in the 80’s (Dogtanion, Smurfs, Flintstones, Dangermouse etc) and spent hours reading the Beano, Dandy, Garfield and Asterix books. They probably all had an influence as I developed my own style of vector based cartoon illustration.
More recently at Peek & Poke we’ve been developing a graphic style for game assets which is stripped back and ultra simplified, using a limited palette of flat colours and geometric shapes where possible. This is flexible for recolouring and suits a variety of different brands so ideal for what we do. Working in the games industry also helped me to broaden my skillset with user interface design and animation.
We are a close knit group and this has helped us to develop and refine the process of generating artwork for our games. We always try to keep our clients up to date every step of the way and share visuals throughout the project.
What do you love most about your job?
After spending the first few years of my career working on my own, I really appreciate working as part of a team. It’s good to contribute my skill set with other talented people to make a great end product. It’s also satisfying to get positive feedback from clients and to see other people enjoying our games. We’re all passionate about what we do here and I think that’s the key to the success of Peek & Poke.
Things that float your boat outside of work – what do you get up outside office hours?
Most of my spare time revolves around my family. I have two young kids and we all enjoy outdoor adventures, biking, exploring the countryside and holidays by the sea. I enjoy being active, playing sports and helping out with the local scout group. Any other time I have to myself is spent on creative pursuits like playing the piano, writing stories and making my own art prints.
What is your all-time favourite game?
My personal golden age for games was the early 90’s. I spent many hours exploring Monkey Island, directing Lemmings and racing Micro Machines on my Amiga 500. But I must admit, I spent more hours playing Sensible Soccer than any other game in my life. It was an essential after school ritual for me and my friends and the first game I was properly addicted to.
What is your zombie apocalypse plan?
The first thing I would do would be to assemble a team of friends and relatives and head straight to my nearest Amazon distribution centre. We would gain access on the pretext of picking up an undelivered parcel. After securing the perimeter and assigning armed guards to all key entry points, we’d settle into our new warehouse home.
Every day would be like Christmas with a supply of giftware, toys and games to keep us entertained for years. There would also be a plentiful source of non perishable food and an array of weapons including rackets, bats and golf clubs not to mention a selection of battery powered tools and gardening equipment for fighting off the mouldy brain munchers!
Then I would make a pot of coffee, find a good book and wait for it all to blow over.