I am under no illusions that to have spent a portion of my life earning a living flying hot air balloons is something many would happily swap places for. And while I am grateful for the opportunities it has provided, the places it has taken me and the people it has allowed me to meet; I am also acutely aware, that for a UK based job it is not only seasonal, but also, weather dependent. Two things the UK doesn’t hold in it’s favour.

As a result, I had very little option if I wanted to keep the beans on the toast and, at the time, the nicotine in the bloodstream, but to source supplemental work and supplemental income. And so I turned to my creative side to find the answer.

Back when I was enjoying the delights of secondary school, expanding my knowledge and attempting to find a place in this world I, like a lot of children in the mid 1990s, become interested to a point of almost obsession, with 28mm metal and plastic men, with Warhammer, Games Workshop, and the tabletop battles they provided. Now, the hobby is simple. Buy the model figures, glue them together, paint them up and construct your army. Then cover some books with a table cloth to form a “battlefield” and spend an afternoon shouting “death to orks” and “but the rules state…”. However, it came apparent from the early days of my war gaming hobby, that I wasn’t destined for a military based career – I don’t remember ever monikering the name “Cannon Fodder Chris” but it would have been suitably apt!

Give me a tub of superglue, acrylic paint and an unpainted model, however, and I was in heaven. For hours I could sit there and paint. Just paint. I loved it. Building the figures, painting them up, getting them ready to die… I mean fight. Warhammer gave me a way to explore and develop my creative side. It gave me enjoyment. The end results may never have been spectacular, but that wasn’t important, it was the start of an interest, a creative streak that is still with me today. So much so, that over the last few years I have actually started to get back into Warhammer, I’ve even picked up a brush again; although it’s the stories and novels they publish that now hold my interest more.

Warhammer will never be more than a hobby but it had opened up a door in my life. It gave me a way to develop my creative side at a young age. To learn the enjoyment that could be extracted from creation. How the attention to detail required to paint models – the mixing of colours and style to create uniformity -or the converting of parts to grow individuality worked together in harmony. Life was always about ballooning, but underneath it all, was a simmering passion for design that I wondered whether, maybe, just maybe, could provide an income – even a small one – to top up my summer ballooning profession. The result was that in 2006 I started my own company offering a design service based around building websites and producing ideas for corporately sponsored balloons.

Hot Air Balloon Design Visuals

While building websites never really took off, designing hot air balloon visuals for commercial operators certainly did. I’d create 3D designs they could use to show potential clients what a branded balloon would potentially look like. Initially, designed in Photoshop they were created and shaded essentially by hand. But I always longed to move into 3D modelling. To refine the underlying balloon into a far more realistic end product. As time progressed and my design work developed and I moved forward creating more and more design visuals, branching out into special shape design and even airships while moving away from base HTML web work and into more content creation, with video and thoughts my main focuses.

Sadly though, when you work for yourself and suffer from an eating disorder, life can at times become problematical. It’s hard to accept and meet important deadlines, or be at your creative best for clients when being your own mind is imploding, unable to focus, because thoughts of food, routine and the restrictive control are more encompassing. It’s why recovery is so important. Where my life is going I am not sure, what my future hold I cannot say, but the more I continue my fight against Anorexia, the more I truly search and find my place in the world, and even the more blog posts about films I write, the more it is becoming apparent to me that my creative side holds the key to my life. So watch this space for where my future goes…

Work header image © JD Hancock