WHO IS THIS GUY?
When I was around 8 years old, our family purchased its very first personal computer (of sorts). It was a Sinclair zx81 and I was obsessed with it. It was, after all, a games console back then, and me and my brothers would spend hours playing 'Pong' on it. A simple, black & white game that would be the reason for hours wasted in front of the TV.
As the years went on, the zx81 was upgraded to a 48k RAM version of Sinclair’s machine. The ZX Spectrum. A massive leap from the days of the monochrome zx81, the Spectrum was full 8 bit colour. And again, I was obsessed with it.
Whilst my older brother was out, being sociable, I would stay in my bedroom with my Spectrum 48k learning how to write BASIC and Machine Code. My best friend Neil and I would spend hours upon hours coding our computers, making our names scroll across the TV that we used as a monitor.
I remember the very first bit of computer art that I made. Neil and I had figured out how, using machine code, we could make an 8x8 pixel sprite on our Spectrums. We also worked out how to make one sprite morph into the next. Our very first animated gifs??
I also remember that I used to buy ‘Crash’, a magazine designed for the Spectrum programmer. It would have pages of code that you would copy out to make your own programmes. Typing all of the code by hand would take hours upon hours and one small mistake would make the programme not work. You then had the tedious job of going through all of the code to try and find any mistakes. This was the first time that using a computer made time nonexistent.
Neil and I would swap programmes at school, all written out on sheets of paper, I would spend my lunchtime drawing out 8x8 pixel squares and designing more sprites. And then trying to fit squares together to make giant pieces of pixel art.
And then I bought a piece of hardware made by DKTronics, called a lightpen. This could be used, against the television screen to draw freehand, as well as predefined shapes such as arcs, circles and squares. They were priced at £19.95 back in 1983 and this was a great deal of money. I remember having to save my pocket money for months as well as doing odd jobs around the house. But I wanted my lightpen and when it arrived I was utterly gobsmacked by this advancement in technology and was able to use what limited skills I had to be able to draw directly onto the computer.
So, what happened next?
When it came to our GCSE ‘options’, both my best friend Neil and myself decided to take Craft, Design & Technology (Design and Realisation). A very long-winded phrase for Technical Drawing. I remember my Father saying that he used to enjoy technical drawing when he was in school, so I thought it a good idea to do something similar.
I enjoyed CDT a great deal more than art. In the corner of the room were a number of BBC Micro computers with CAD plotters on them. Printer-like devices that had small pens set inside them. Used to plot out computer generated imagery, this was my very first glimpse at the future of computer design. The classes themselves were much more aligned to my sense of imagination. I recall a number of projects that we undertook. Redesigning an album cover and draughting a ‘useful item’ were amongst them.
I decided that the most useful item that I could think of was a new ‘Bullpup’ style semi-automatic rifle for the British Army. My older brother had since joined the Army and I was a ‘green & keen’ Army Cadet with all the intentions of joining my Brother in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. I just had to finish school first.
CDT class taught my all of the basic draughting technique including orthographic projections and isometric drawing. We were taught how to use a draughtsman’s desk and how to set up draughting templates, scales and the like. All of these skills served me well once I had indeed followed big brother and signed on the dotted line for active service.
Under wise recommendation from my Father and the Army Careers Office, I served a junior apprenticeship with the Corps of the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers. I was more than happy to join my local Infantry regiment, the Gloucestershire Regiment, but it was suggested to me that I might not want to spend my days marching up and down the square for the rest of my life, and having a trade that could relate to civilian life would probably be a better idea. So there I was, in November 1992, walking through the gates of Princess Marina College in Arborfield, Berkshire, preparing myself for a life in green!
After a year’s apprenticeship, which included draughtsmanship, I settled into a nice 10 year long career in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. My job took me to some amazing places, where I met some amazing people. Many of which I still keep in contact with today.
As the millennium came around, I knew that it was time to consider making a move from the British Army. I was 27 and at the age that I believed future employees would think ‘Is he too old to take on board’? So, in 2002 I left Her Majesty’s service and embarked on a life as a civilian. My first job took me to Andover, where amongst other roles, I was in charge of redeveloping a Health & Fitness centre’s website. This included all new branding, photography, site coding and back-end system. I was in slightly over my head, but as we used to say in the Army ‘Bullshit Baffles Brains!’
Between 2004 and 2011 I moved around a fair bit, getting settled then moving on. Getting settled, then moving on again. Between this time I was honing my illustrative skills on the industry standard software.
Stay hungry, stay foolish. Steve JOBS
I had first come across Adobe Photoshop when it was version 7.0.1, back in 2002. I used to use it to digitally modify cars. Taking pictures of normal saloons, hatchback and coupes and then manipulating them digitally so that they looked like something out of Fast & Furious. It was a great way for me to learn the tool. As the 21st Century rolled on, I starting dabbling in 3d modelling, using AutoCAD’s software suite 3ds Max, formerly 3d Studio Max. I was instantly hooked! The freedom that 3d modelling gave me allowed my imagination to run wild with itself.
I decided that as nice as it was, designing for fun/friends, there was a market out there that I felt needed to be tapped. Using the various connections I had made over the previous years, I started to branch out and join the world of commercial creative design. Remaining freelance, I started working in event photography, mainly nightclubs, taking shots for club promoters to use on their websites and on flyers. From here, I moved into studio and commercial photography, then later, integrating my graphics skills with my photography skills to offer a full creative agency solution for commercial clients.
So from dorky kid who spent hours colouring in 8x8 pixel squares to graphic designer on the South Coast, I am lucky enough to say that I have been able to turn my hobby into my career. I thank my lucky stars that I am able to pursue my passion and get paid for it. Something that I will never lose site of. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.