Wortsea cc4.1

Sitting at the South eastern tip of it’s continent,  Wortsea is a major city with a bustling market,  thriving religious community along with a military academy close to the port.  The affluent North West of the city has a regional palace as well as government buildings, whilst the poorest part in the South East near the docks often supplies young men and women for the military.  Its large Market near Westgate and the multicultural east corner creates a wonderfully diverse and vibrant community.


Work: Stockholm by Milltown Brothers Album cover

As of the 13th of June 2020, Miltown Brothers, have released their 5th Studio Album, “Stockholm.”

Milltown Brothers are an Indie band that rose swiftly to fame in the 1990’s with hits such as “Which Way Should I jump” and “Apple Green” they split up but after a long hiatus decided to get back together and release a new album very five years.

I’ve known the lead vocalist and the drummer for about 10 years now, having met them through work, and towards the end of last year, Matt – the vocalist – asked me if I would like to do the cover of the album for them.

I said yes before he finished the sentence.

It was never going to be a job, this one, it was always going to be a favour. Little did I know what the brief was going to be.

So Matt sat me down and said, “You know that we have a L.S. Lowry-style character that we’ve used on a bunch of our ‘merch’ for ages? Well, we were wondering if you could do us, you know, a picture of this square in Stockholm but make it look like L.S. Lowry had done it. Because that’s what the first single is going to be. Sound all right?”

“Right,” I said, thinking at about a hundred miles an hour how I was going to do a painting of a Square I had never been to, looking as if it was by a dead artist that had a truly distinctive style without making a pig’s ear of it.

Well, after quite a bit of thought, a couple of tech tests with software and a hell of a lot of time sitting on my arse in a chair in front of a computer, I did it.

This is the first version I sent to Matt and the guys.

Stockholm Album Cover 1
Stockholm painted as if by L.S. Lowry (it’s signed by S. W. Rolly – a bit of a rubbish anagram but it feels right having it on there.)

Not a single drop of real paint touched a canvas in the making of this image. In fact, not a penny was spent on the software either. Yes, I love open source software, did I mention that?

Every pixel here was created using Krita for the painting and finishing and Blender for the modelling, lighting and rendering. I have been wanting to put some of my on and off time using open source to better use. I have been using Krita for quite a few years now for drawing storyboards, creating illustrative assets for motion graphics and just drawing. Mostly this is line work, but Krita has amazing paint brushes as well as a very sturdy brush making pipeline. With this in mind I created several brushes that when combed with a custom built smear brush gave a pretty credible oil paint effect.

Using these brushes I create a colour test then I adapted it to become a bump pass. Bringing these into Blender, I used Eevee to quickly put the test onto a tile, flipped it in the ‘y’ axis and put in a couple of lights. This was the result with the two images used:

test painting lookdev

Knowing that it might just work, I began the process of finding the right info for the job. In other words, I began to trawl the internet for all the Lowry ref I could.

I managed to uncover a high resolution image of a painting that Matt had indicated was a good idea for the look and feel of the painting. With that, I then went through a combination of google images, google maps and every image bank on the internet to source reference images of Stortoget Square in the old town of Stockholm. If you’ve not heard of it, t’s this one:

One of the many images that I used as reference for the

The next step was to do a line drawing of the square but as close a match to the line style of Lowry as possible. This took a while (phew, did it ever) and then I began the slow task of painting in the lines, adding the hue shifting fills, adding dirt, then adding strokes by smearing with with a custom bristle smear I made. But the time I had drawn in all the people added a shadow layer and finessed the colour with more dirt, adjustment layers and so on, I had around 20 layers. I then made a duplicate of the image, took all the saturation out and levelled everything to a black and white map, I had a bump map as well.

Making a very quick frame in Blender, I created a simple frame – based on one I saw online that had been around a Lowry during an exhibition several years ago – I made the shader almost exactly as I had before, added lights and rendered out the image at the top, minus the overlays.

Blender scene of Stockholm album cover

I did a second version with a darker background, some light passes in Krita and a little noise and made this version:

Stockholm Album Cover 2
Personally, this is my favourite version, I love the colour of the background.

After a bit of too and fro with Matt and the band, the final version, the one on the Album right now in Spotify is this one:

Stockholm Album Cover 3

It turned out that everyone liked the image so much, they wanted it full screen. And in this image it is far easier to see, particularly in the sky, where the colour and the bump work well together.

And there you have it. All being well, I will have a tutorial properly up before long.

Oh and listen to the album if you get a chance. It’s good.

Stockholm on Spotify


I created this a short while ago with Blender. Yep. It’s me talking about Blender again.

1024 resize

As usual, it started as an accident. I was trying to create a fractal landscape using a subdivided grid, a subdivision surface modifier and a displace modifier with a cloud texture. By chance, moving through the cloud’s settings, I saw at the top cell noise. By setting the cell depth of the cell setting to 1, I had a large square block displacement. Changing it to two, this give me an overlay layer of half sized on top of the originals. Changing that up to 4 gave the look of the land.

Seeing the Minecraft-esque look, I immediately changed the camera to an orthographic and moved it to an isometric angle. I decided it would be nice to have a shader that emulated the land and water levels using RGB constants on a colour ramp. I’ve done something similar before in Maya, but never in blender. I started with a principled shader, added a colorRamp into the colour. In order to map it only in the Z, I separated off the Z position from a Geometry Input Node – giving me a value of 0 to 1 in the Z, and added this into the factor of the colorRamp. This then maps the colorRamp from 0 to 1 vertically, the top and bottom colours carrying on into infinity. Multiplying this value by 4 made it go from 0 to 1 over a distance of 0 to .25 (I realise I could have easily remapped that with a different node now) and added a little amount to that value to move it up a touch on the Z and match better to my displacement height.

To add a little variation to the edges, I mixed into the colour a darker version of the colorRamp using the Pointiness of the Geometry Input node. Such a wonderful input, it uses object edge angles similar to a dirtPass in V-Ray and, using a crunched up colorRamp as the controller, I was able to add the darkened edges over the original colorRamp.

The sea was a Plane but with a very simple translucent shader on it. This made it possible to see whatever was just below the surface clearly, but added a little blur as the ground was further away. Mixed with a glossy shader to add a little reflection, I stopped there with the water.

But I wanted something more. So I built a tiny ship using two different block sizes to try and emulate a similar feel to the landscape.

Importing this, I shrunk it down and added it into the water, duplicating it a couple of times.

So that is where it is right now.