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AJ Aiken

freelance animator, illustrator and story artist

Welcome to my website!

I am a freelance animator, illustrator and story artist based in Scotland.

Scroll down to see my day-to-day updates, sketches and life drawing. Choose from the menu above to view my portfolio, storyboards, and showreels, see my most recent projects, or get in contact.

Featured post

I had another great session of life drawing at The Haining with model Jacque on Tuesday.

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Had a really lovely life drawing session on Tuesday, with Topaz modelling. I felt I hadn’t warmed up enough, but I relaxed over the course of the evening and in the end managed to do some nice drawings.

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Yesterday I sketched Elsa as she chewed on a toy. Occasionally she’d bring it over to me and dump it at my feet before retreating across the room to stare at me. She usually wore an accusing look at this point – “What, you haven’t thrown it yet?”

I’m a bit unsure about my painting below; it’s quite wonky but it was fun to play with colour. Usually I stick to sketches, but the Sketch app on the iPad Pro is amazingly versatile and I’m looking forward to trying more painting on the go.

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I’ve been referencing horses for a project, so I’ve spent some time drawing them in order to figure out how they work. Using Line of Action I did some quick gestures, and then I searched for various images through Google to sketch in more detail.

The hooves are particularly hard to draw, especially when they’re hidden in long grass as was the case in most of the photographs …Horse_05Horse_04Horse_01Horse_02Horse_03

Another great life drawing session, with poses from 2 minutes up to 30.

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Updated 11th May 2017 to include information on deleting files, and importing from sources other than Creative Cloud.

I’m a huge fan of Kyle T Webster’s amazing Photoshop brushes, and use them almost exclusively. It’s now possible to load these brushes into the iPad app Adobe Sketch, which until recently only used .abr (brush) files rather than .tpl (tool) files, which is what Kyle’s brushes use.

My iPad is a recent purchase and I’m still figuring it out. As a result of that it took me a while to load the .tpl files, so here’s a little guide to tell you how to do it! I’m using a Mac with Photoshop CC.

Loading Files

1. Preparation

The first thing to do is to make sure your Adobe Sketch app is up to date. You can check this by going to the App Store and pressing the Updates button on the bottom right. There’ll be a list of apps that need updating.

2. Choosing Brushes

Kyle is now organising his brush downloads differently, so if you download the newest Megapack, for example, it will be organised into folders named Blenders, Brushes, and Erasers. At the moment erasers, mixer brushes and smudge tools can’t be brought into Adobe Sketch. The brushes are broken down into different groups so you can choose which files you want to bring into Sketch.

If you want to create your own file, perhaps with your favourites, then you’ll need to do so from within Photoshop on your computer. Select Edit>Presets>Preset Manager.

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Change the Preset Type from Brushes to Tools.

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Select the tools that you want to export and click Save. Here I’m selecting some of Kyle’s Gouache brushes.

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Save the file wherever you wish.

3. Saving to the Cloud

Put a copy of the .tpl file into your Creative Cloud folder.

You can also use iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, or other file sharing app to move the file to your iPad. If you’re using Dropbox or Google Drive, make sure you’ve downloaded and set up the appropriate app on your iPad.

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4. Importing into Adobe Sketch

Once the file has synced, you can open Adobe Sketch on your iPad. Press the + symbol.

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Click “Add”.

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If you put the file in your Creative Cloud folder, select “Import from CC Assets”. Clicking “Import from other source” will allow you to bring in the file from Dropbox, iCloud etc.

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5a. Importing from CC

After clicking “Import from CC Assets”, navigate to the file and select it. Press “Open”.

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5b. Importing from iCloud

After clicking “Import from other source”, select “iCloud Drive”. Navigate to the file and select it.

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5c. Importing from Dropbox or Google Drive

After clicking “Import from other source”, select “More”.

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Switch the switches on and click Done.

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Dropbox and Google Drive will now be listed under iCloud. Click the appropriate drive, navigate to the file and select it.

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If you’re unable to select or find your file, it’s worth checking in the apps to make sure that the files are available offline. However, I was unable to access my Google Drive file even after trying this and was only able to import it after clicking “Open in” and selecting Creative Cloud. If anyone has any idea how to fix that I’d like to know!

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6. Loading

The brushes will load into your library.

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Now you can access your brushes in Adobe Sketch!

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Deleting Files

At the moment it isn’t possible to delete brush files within Adobe Sketch. Don’t worry, though, there are two ways to delete them!

If you have the Creative Cloud app on your iPad you can navigate to “Libraries” and select and delete the files within there, wherever they’ve been imported from. As you can see below I was able to delete the file imported with Dropbox.

What I do not know is whether it’s possible to use the Creative Cloud app if you don’t have a CC licence. I’d be interested to know if anyone’s tried this.

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The other way to delete the files is to log on to Adobe here: https://assets.adobe.com/assets/libraries and then navigate within your library to find the file to delete.

I’m pretty sure that it’s accessible to anyone with an Adobe ID. Again, I’d be interested to hear if anyone’s had issues with this.

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Once the file is deleted it will no longer be accessible in Adobe Sketch.

 

I hope this has been helpful! If you have any questions then please ask; I’ll do my best to answer.

A simple companion piece to my Good Friday image, celebrating Christ’s resurrection.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-10

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I wanted to make something simple, focusing on shape and colour. I’ve also made a companion Easter piece.

[Jesus] said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. Mark 9:31-32

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These are from last month, but I never posted them. The site I use for online gesture drawing has changed its name and is now Line of Action. I began with 20 second poses and finished with two minute poses.2minGestures20secGestures

I thought I’d push my gesture skills a bit and try drawing from moving figures, so I pulled up some ballet videos on YouTube. Very difficult, but good fun!Ballet_01

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There’s been idea in my head that I’ve wanted to storyboard for a while. I’ve begun drawing thumbnails, but before going any further today I decided to get down some rough character designs. A dog features in this story, specifically a Border Collie, so I did some very loose drawings inspired by my own dog Elsa. She has the most wonderful ears.ElsaCollie_02

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I now have a new portfolio and two new showreels online! My portfolio has a range of gesture and life drawings, concept sketches, and animal drawings as well as a range of final art from some of my projects. The showreels page has both a character animation and a motion graphics reel, both which feature work I haven’t yet posted on the site. I’ve also added a storyboards page where I’ve collected together some of my story work.

The image above is from a map I created for the beginning of the feature film The Gaelic King. I hope you enjoy taking a look at what I’ve been up to!

It’s been over a year since I last updated my portfolio and showreel so (thanks to the prodding of others) I’m finally sorting through my work. In doing so I uncovered this painting of Glencoe. From what I remember I abandoned it in frustration, but I quite like it now! It’s loosely based on a photograph I took the last time I was there.Glencoe

These drawings are from earlier this month. Another excellent model! I struggled after the break – most of the drawings below are from the first half.

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I moved in late November last year and it’s meant I haven’t been to a life drawing class since then. Thankfully earlier this week I was able to go again!

Today I attempted some gesture drawing from an episode of The Life of Birds. As I reached the end of Planet Earth II last year I realised I really should have had my sketchbook out. It’s good training for cafe gesture drawing, which I’m normally pretty hopeless at. As soon as people or animals are actually moving my drawing speed seems to slow down.

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I stuck my headphones in and ended up listening to the episode too, which was perhaps a mistake – I was definitely distracted at points. But it was fascinating learning more about the birds, particularly the New Zealand birds. I liked drawing the Kiwi but it was the flightless parrot, the Kakapo, which was my favourite. I especially like how the males inflate like a balloon in order to make their calls travel further.

After the episode had finished I looked up a few images online and did a slightly more detailed study of a Kakapo.

I had great fun but I think I need to work at drawing birds in flight, and practice colour more – I’ve been drawing in black and white so much I’m a bit rusty.

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A little over a year ago I set myself the challenge of illustrating a short story I’d written. I’ve posted some concepts and development of these illustrations before, but now I’d like to share a few of the finished drawings.

Most of the drawings below are spreads, and are viewed over two pages when printed. Odd blank spaces are normally where there’s some text! I had a few copies printed as presents for family and friends this Christmas. I’d like to illustrate some more stories and perhaps create a collection, or maybe tackle something larger, to be published.

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If you haven’t seen my previous storyboards from the Animation Base Camp, you may want to start here or here.

The story revolves around odd-couple animals at a therapist’s office. The scene below, featuring a bee, was worked on by several different people throughout the Base Camp.

I’d recommend looking at Erin’s version – she’s the one who came up with the bee/flower gag in the first place, and developed the bee’s wonderfully pathetic character.

The background of the alleyway was a sketch of Hajnalka Szanto’s beautiful design.

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