Although we now live and work in the idyllic Wiltshire village of Ramsbury, we both have very different beginnings.
Originally from a hamlet in the Stroud Valleys, in nearby Gloucestershire, Ann has been artistic her whole life. For as long as she can remember, she’s always doodled, sketched, painted and drawn. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t always see things the same way. As a result, she got bundled off to secretarial collage, when all she wanted to do – all she COULD do – was to work as an artist.
Gary’s day-dreaming past, originally had him as a budding car designer, but Fate had other plans… For it was in the direction of video-games that he was drawn; first as a QA tester, then designer. One thing led to another before, eventually, he was writing books and running his own agency, matching artists to commercial opportunities. This was how he met Ann!
We built a business together, sculpting a dizzying array of pieces for Giftware companies across the World. It was a heady time and, for a spell, we did well. Then came the 2008 crash and things changed once again. It was time for Ann to return to painting and for Gary, to resume writing…
At first it was hard for Ann to pin down who she might become as an independent artist. Working in the commercial field for so long – hidebound as she’d been, to briefs & deadlines – had denied her a certain freedom. Having it return so unexpectedly was initially a little daunting, but after a time, she found her voice as an artist once again.
Looking back on those ‘years of struggle’, one theme remains constant: the vital importance an understanding of animal anatomy came to have in the work. So many painters today, struggle to convey the ‘essence’ of an animal’s presence – their ‘3D-ness’, if you will – because they lack that understanding & appreciation of the animal in ‘3D’.
Carnival of Wonders
Ann: “For years, I’d doodled & painted ‘Fantastical’ subjects & ideas, for my own amusement. Pieces that were never intended to be seen, but which kept me sane, in-between what seemed an endless conveyor-belt of ‘traditional’ subjects & themes. Besides, I didn’t NEED to show them. I began a regular slot in a bustling Craft Fair, where we sold prints of the wildlife work. Things were looking up.
And then things changed all over again…
Covid-19 hit the UK in the spring of 2020. My little project would have to adapt: and fast. As the world we knew, shrank down to the four walls of the house, Gary & I decided to rethink. Reset.
To a casual observer it might appear as if little needed to change, right? That the pandemic would – eventually – blow-over and we would resume business as if nothing had happened. But if our first six months of trade had shown us anything, it was that the wildlife work was lacking in something I’ll call ‘Ingredient X’. An intangible ‘feeling’ that’s impossible to quantify, the best I can offer, is that it felt like that conveyor-belt mentioned earlier. Although technically & artistically acceptable, I always knew that there was something else I could be painting. Something that made me happier.
Covid changed lives across the world, ours included. We just couldn’t see, at the time, that it would lead us down this path.
That it DID, is something for which I shall be eternally grateful”.
Artworks from ‘AI’
Gary: “I use ‘AI’ (‘Artificial Intelligence’) to find starting points for my artwork. Unlike Ann, who uses traditional oils, I find that using AI actually expands my creative process. For decades, I’ve been struggling to translate images from my mind’s eye out into the world: AI has liberated me…
How does it work? First, you have to accept that AI is NOT A MAGIC BULLET! I still have to guide it with select prompts. This can be – IS – a time-consuming and often frustrating process, as I coax it towards the finishing line. A piece can take just a few iterations or several hundred to get right; alas, as with every discipline in life, there’s no short-cut!
Once I have a promising image, my next challenge is to increase its size to a point where I can print ‘at-scale’. This is where the REAL hard work comes in… You see, the ‘base’ AI images are too small in size to use immediately. If I were to make large prints from them, your eye would trip over countless jagged lines and an overall ‘blockiness’.
So, I work with Photoshop to introduce missing sharpness & detail, as images grow in-scale. This is the longest part of the whole job and it’s something that AI still has no answer for… Not yet, at least!
When Photoshop appeared thirty years ago, Graphic Designers the world-over, thought the sky was falling. Yet, within a decade, those same studios couldn’t function without it! AI is doing the same thing RIGHT NOW. A century earlier, the advent of photography was seen as a threat to ‘the traditional arts’, until it became essential in its own right. To me, AI is just another tool for self-expression. Another way of coaxing dreams into reality.
For what is art? It’s a magic trick created with a single purpose: to trigger an emotional response in the viewer.
As an artist working exclusively with AI, I’m PROUD of my authorship. This Collection has been assembled with an attention-to-detail fostered over many, many hundreds of hours and the learning continues…
We’re always being asked where we find our inspirations. The truth, is that inspiration – and story – is everywhere. All around us. All we have to do, is open ourselves up to see & receive it when lightning strikes.
It helps that we’re both ferocious readers; Ann’s Kindle labours under a load of several hundred fantasy novels, classics & Sci-Fi. Neither of us are particularly fussy when it comes to our fiction: as long as the author has ignited the imagination and held our attentions, then anything goes. For years, Ann used to enjoy Stephen King, but fell off the wagon some time ago and never got round to working out why… Instead, it was Gary who began plodding through the pile! These days, it’s everything from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, through to Neal Stephenson and all points in-between. Actually, Stephenson’s someone who we wholeheartedly recommend: try Cryptonomicon yourself and go from there.
As to film, our go-to genre is generally animation, particularly the work of Studio Ghibli; a Japanese animation house that’s produced a string of mini-masterpieces. Try Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away and prepare to have your mind blown! Pixar & Disney have both delivered special experiences in recent years, but we’re seldom captivated in the way that Ghibli achieves so effortlessly.
Then there’s ‘World Cinema’, but that’s an entirely different conversation…
At the beginning, we mentioned ‘Story’, so let’s get into that. At the heart of every painting within ‘The Carnival of Wonders’, is a story of some kind, be it short or long, funny or reflective. The nature of that story isn’t important. All that matters, is whether it makes either of us lean towards its potential as a painting. If either one of us comes up with something – and we’ve convinced the other of that potential – then it goes onto the shortlist.
Sometimes, we might suggest a particular creature that might look good in armour, so we’ll weave & adapt a story around them. Or we might see a photo in a magazine that triggers something. ‘The One That Got Away’ came from a chance encounter with an old copy of National Geographic whilst sat in my GP’s waiting room!
You see, STORY is everything. The idea of telling stories to each other, has been with us since we were living in caves. We scare each other. Make each other laugh. Or cry. We explain to each other how the World works, through stories. How those glowing points of light in the night sky came to be there. Why the Moon changes shape over a month and… Pretty much anything you can think of, has a story behind it.
Our art practices are no different these days. I’m just making up for lost time!
Ann: “This is one of the hardest areas for me to write. I mean, I don’t consider myself as someone worthy to give advice… So let’s just start with the basics and go from there, shall we?”
01. Sources. Living out here, in deep, dark rural Wiltshire, I struggle to find a good art shop. Somewhere to browse, experiment with samples & get advice from knowledgeable staff… So, along with the majority of you, I suspect, I buy most of my stuff online: a process that removes all the happy accidents / coincidences from my shopping and reduces every decision to an arbitrary YES / NO. Yuck. Still, I have found – and use – a couple of stores that work for me. You might already have heard of them: Jacksons & Ken Bromley. At the time of writing this, neither store holds an advantage over the other: BOTH can feel needlessly cranky & difficult to navigate at times, so I would recommend getting a good coffee (and, preferably, a biccie) and taking the time to sit down and really sift through the options available. I’d also recommend you sign-up to their Newsletters, as I’ve picked up more than one bargain over the years from them.
At the outset, know this: ‘Buy the Best you can afford, for the job you have to do’. Everything’s an investment of some kind, especially when you’re starting out on your artistic journey and you’re unsure of where it might take you. My advice when you’re just starting out? You’re likely going to be trying lots of different genres & subjects, before you find ‘the one’ that sticks. The one that’s right for you.So, whether you’re a struggling art student or just someone who’s thinking of ‘having a go’, it’s perfectly okay to nip down to HobbyCraft and browse the starter-sets & gift-boxes. It’s playtime, after all. There’s no need to go mad with the credit card, until you know your direction of travel. Relax and have fun. The serious stuff can wait.
02. Surfaces. Now we’re getting into it. For years, I put little or no thought into what I painted on… Cheap boxed canvases. Canvas-wrapped board. MDF offcuts: everything was fair game, because I wasn’t thinking about ‘The Future’, only how to improve my painting. As things got serious (and I realised that ‘Buy the Best You Can Afford’ should be more than an aspiration), I dabbled with Aluminium panels for a spell. They have everything going for them: they’re consistently flat, will never warp and need only a thin layer of Gesso primer. They’re also THIN which, if you have a cramped studio like mine, makes storage a LOT easier! However, they’re also a little lacking in ‘soul’.I came to realise that part of the charm in my work, was its relationship to the woodgrains around in high-quality plywoods: so that’s where I’ve ended-up. I like their warmth. Their honesty and, yes, their SOUL. I get mine from two places: Jacksons and direct from Ampersand.
03. Grounds. I’ve tried lots of different Gesso’s over the years, with which to prime my canvases & boards. In the end, I always come back to Winsor and Newton Professional. It remains consistent from tub-to-tub, offers good levels of pigmentation and has good coverage. Why use an Acrylic gesso, I hear you ask, when you paint in Oils? Because acrylic is compatible as a gesso when used a grounding for oils, NOT vice-versa. It also dries quickly, which means I’m not sat around watching paint dry…
04. Colours. This is a tricky one to pin down, because EVERY artist will end-up settling for a medium of expression that suits either their temperament, skill and/or free time. My journey began with pencil sketching, quickly moved through watercolours (too fiddly & unforgiving) and ended-up with acrylics. I’ve been through the System 3 phase, along with countless art students. Trouble is, the amount of pigmentation in those entry-level paints can sometimes leave a bit to be desired. Colours seem ‘flatter’ than they should, so you end-up using more paint, in ever-thicker layers in the pursuit of subtlety. Not ideal. Even better quality acrylics such as Winsor and Newton’s Professional line, aren’t quite there when it comes to blending & tonal control. I’m absolutely sure that there are PLENTY of artists out there, working with these brands, who are finding amazing results with them. But like I said at the outset, I don’t consider myself worthy of giving advice. All I can do is share my own discoveries.
For me, everything changed when I dabbled with Water-Mixable Oils. Offering the colour-depth and control of traditional oils, but without the lengthy drying times, they revolutionised my practice. Where an acrylic piece might be dry in a day or so, and its equivalent in oils might take months, the same piece in Mixables might be dry in less than a week and, for that alone, I’m more than happy to compromise. Now, I CAN be working on more than one picture at a time, knowing I won’t have too long to wait before I can return to them. After a little experimentation, I’ve settled on a few brands, that I rotate between, depending on what I need for a painting. In no particular order, I use the Cobra range from Talens, Artisan from Winsor and Newton, with Daniel Smith bringing-up the rear.
05. Varnishes. If you’re serious about the work you’re making, then sooner or later, you’re probably going to want to preserve it. For me, the search for a good varnish began – and ended – with Gamvar. It’s great stuff. The slightest application brings out the details in my work and adds a luxurious sheen. There are other varnishes out there, all of which have their vocal supporters, but Gamvar just works for me & my style. Oh, and if you have to go back and make corrections on the Original Work (guilty as-charged) then use Gamsol to gently remove varnish from the area that needs fixing. Re-apply once done and no-one will ever be the wiser 😉
Gary: “Let’s begin with the basics and go from there, shall we?”
01. Background. Like Ann, my practice has a strong foundation. In her case, it stems from a lifetime of drawing. In mine? Year after year of writing fiction & unpublished screenplays, design documents & pitches. A career running my own agency and, latterly, our joint business, that gave me a broad appreciation for art history in particular and the wider culture, in general.
02. Sources. All my work is digital; that is, created wholly on my Apple Macintosh, without using a particular reference as a guideline. To create it, I rent space on a remote (and private) computer server that’s running a flavour of a particular AI art generator. I then input a string of English phrases, that’ve been polished ad nauseam by me, over countless hours, to start the process. For example using ‘the Cat sat on the mat’ will give you images depicting that requested subject, but the trick is getting from that, to the work you see here. It’s NOT easy..!
03. Inspiration. A common problem that newcomers into the AI space always encounter, is the lack of restriction! Suddenly, creators can visualise anything they can conceive… Which inevitably brings problems of its own. When the first wave of computer generated graphics hit Hollywood in the mid-Nineties, we saw a whole rash of films that were almost brash in their use of the technology; almost for its own sake. Now, some thirty years later, the suite of tools available is such that the overwhelming majority of films use it to greater or lesser degrees, as an essential tool in post-production.
I think we’re at a similar tipping point now.With my art practice, I’m using the tools to realise images that remain accessible & evergreen. I COULD go crazy and include the kitchen sink in everything… But instead, I’m stepping back and asking myself whether I should…
Want to use our artworks for something? Here are the guidelines for Fair Use.
01. Profile Pics, Avatars, etc. You can use our artwork for your avatar, profile pics etc but only if you can find a way of clearly crediting us as their creator. If you can, please use ‘Art by Otherwurlde – www.otherwurlde.com’ in the description. If you can’t find a way to credit me, then please don’t use it. Fair’s fair…
02. Licensing. If you want to use our artwork for commercial purposes, then contact us about licensing. We used to do a fair bit back in the ‘old days’, so have experience of this area. Tell us the How, What, Why and When of your proposal and we’ll go from there.
03. Referencing the Work. Using our artwork as a reference for your own works, is not a problem. After all, taking inspiration from others, is the basis of the entire artistic culture of which we’re a part. All we ask, is that you give us credit wherever possible, under ‘Fair Use’.
04. Tattoos. No need to ask our permission for this one. If you’re thinking of using / adapting one of the paintings for a tattoo, go right ahead: all we ask, is that you send us a photo of the finished piece if you’re brave enough!
05. Personal Use. Are you hankering after one of the images to use as a phone background or desktop wallpaper? Be our guest! All we ask is that you don’t try and sell it on, or claim it as your own…
06. Other Websites. We’re happy to have our artworks featured own your own site or blog. No need to ask permission: as before, all we ask is that you credit us for it, by linking back to www.otherwurlde.com.
If you’ve something on your mind, you can reach out to us…
01. Commissions. Have a look here.
02. Buying Prints & Originals. At the time of writing, we’re selling ‘official’ prints & original works through THREE channels: the online store, our occasional appearances at the Cirencester Craft Fair and during July’s Open Studios programme. If you see ‘new’ prints offered anywhere else, they will be FAKES and extremely poor quality. You have been warned!
03. Interviews. If you’re thinking of asking for an interview for either of us, please enquire via email. The only area we don’t entertain are schools & art colleges, as we get more enquiries than we can cope with from you guys! That’s why we put together such a comprehensive FAQ, in the hope that many of your questions might be answered here.
04. Reviewing Artwork. There seems to be a growing trend amongst artists with a profile on YouTube, to review & ‘roast’ the work of others. Whilst undoubtedly entertaining, it’s not something I think we would ever be comfortable doing, even for fun… We’re riddled with enough anxieties over our own work, without getting into the weeds with someone else!
05. Sponsored Posts. We currently accept NO sponsorship requests. Any recommendations we make, are therefore genuine and without commercial advantage. If things change, we’ll be sure to crow about it…
06. Reporting Art Theft. If you believe our artwork is being used illegally, please don’t hesitate to contact us… Thanks to the willingness of fans & collectors in the past, we’ve discovered several copyright breaches of which we’d previously been unaware. Thanks to them for being our eyes & ears on the ground!
07. ‘Style Theft’. Please don’t contact us to report an artist who appears to be imitating our style. Please be aware that a certain degree of similarity to our own work is not a breach of copyright. There has to be a degree of mimicry in art, if the medium & form is to evolve rather than stagnate. Of course, if they’re painting armoured Toucans sitting on a branch as a clutch of pink balloons rises into view, then that’s something else: an escalation lawyers call ‘Passing Off’. In cases like that, then we DO want to know…!