Ok, so I air-brushed it. Some may construe this as giving up, caving in and taking the easy way out, but I don’t see it that way. The concentric rings of colour idea was something I wanted to try, but knowing that it might not go according to plan, it was only common sense to have a solution tucked in the back pocket. Try as I might, I could not get it to work manually. The twin evils of watery paint and a shaky hand conspired to create a cringe making collection of patchy coverage and hopelessly imprecise curving lines. If it was a report card it would have had “Messy, must try harder” written large over it in red ink. I thanked myself for at least taking the trouble to try it out on a separate sheet of paper.
I’m sure it might have been less traumatic if I’d tried it in acrylic paint, or mixed up house paints, as a good friend has since suggested. But I really didn’t want to make another trip to the art store to purchase even more stuff that I would have to find a home for in the now bulging shelves of the studio.
The air brushing was not without its moments either. Purchased many years ago to apply even coats to a rather expensive model I was making, the airbrush has spent most of its life in its box, venturing out occasionally to be fiddled with but never wealded as a precision instrument. As far as using it to create a picture, the last time I tried that was at art school thirty years ago, and the results were pretty poor even viewed through rose tinted specs. I’ve never bought a compressor, resorting to cans of air such is the infrequency of its use. Anyway, armed with some low tac Frisk film I set about carving the concentric lines with a scalpel to create pieces of removable mask. I had completely forgotten how difficult it is to replace a curving piece of film accurately onto the page and that any overspray on the surrounding mask adheres immediately to your finger tips and goes everywhere you don’t want it. Result: another shocking mess. Finally, realising that the KISS principal (Keep It Simple Stupid) was my only option I recovered the piece in another piece of film, cut around the drawing to reveal the background space, and sprayed the whole thing in one go with blue emanating from one corner and the yellow from another. All the film was then lifted off when it was all totally dry. Et voila, finished, and despite being the result of expediency as much as desire it looks pretty good considering. The compromise may not be ideal but it saves me from looking at a finished piece with the perpetual frustration of knowing that a simpler solution would have yielded a better result.
Two posts ago I talked about the many distractions hanging in the air these days, they are all mostly still there though my mind is slowly learning to ignore them. After all, one can only do one thing at a time and besides there are quite a few things to finish before immersing myself in a new medium, material, technique etc. Best get those done then.
Here is a more completed scan of the picture featured in that very post. The bike and rider are now done and it’s background time, again. I wanted something impactful but simple, colour but not complicated. I’d settled on a sun and sky combination and wondered about treating it as a series of concentric arcs of colour across the page. Sounds simple enough I thought, though knowing also how easy it can be to make a complete mess of a decent picture through the application of an ill considered final detail, I resolved to “sketch” it out in Photoshop first. So now we get the image shown below.
It is not looking too shabby at this stage, but I’m already wondering whether this is achievable in ink and paint given that the paper is Bristol Board, not the best thing for getting large areas of really flat colour. This is one aspect that Photoshop and other similar softwares can’t mimic. The digital space is a nigh on perfect canvas, free of the foibles of papers, boards and other physical media. Ones brushes are consistent in their behaviour, even when using a tablet as I do, and their “feel” is experienced through your gliding across the uniform surface of the tablet and the application of tiny variations in pressure. All lovely, but nothing like the real thing. So whilst I’ve got myself a scheme that seems to tick all of the boxes for me, the real challenge now will be rendering it in the mucky, unpredictable and unforgiving analogue space, where water manages to help and hinder all at the same time.
Lots of folk who say they can’t draw actually can, and time and again one finds out after some very elementary enquiry that the reason they’ve got to thinking this is that they never take any time to practice, and so, when they do pick up a pencil or pen it always leads to disappointment. For those of us who draw a lot, this kind of existential dilemma is a less formidable obstacle to overcome. That doesn’t mean though that things are necessarily easier for us. We still need to practice, just as much as someone who plays a musical instrument does, it’s the way we keep our skills sharp and develop ourselves.
The greatest practice is sketching and the best thing about it is that you can do it anywhere and at any time pretty much. It doesn’t have to be from life, though keeping ones observational skills up to scratch pretty much necessitates it. With a whole world out there to look at there is plenty of subject matter to choose from and nothing to be intimidated by. I have always subscribed to the view that it’s ok to visit a zoo, for example, and simply draw a building or a tree. You sketch what catches your eye, what you naturally gravitate toward. if you don’t like drawing people then don’t draw them unless you actually want to improve this skill. Sketching can be so easily turned into a stick with which we beat ourselves with, and this removes the fun from the exercise.Sketching is a drawers play time, the serious stuff comes later, so enjoy it. I’m sure lots of us reckon we don’t do it enough, but no one is counting the hours. The important thing is to do it when you can.
Here are a couple of sketches done the other day on a visit to the RAF museum at Hendon in North London. I tend to go with my old chum Ben, who’s pretty handy with a pen, and this lends an extra dimension to the day as we are able to meet up after sessions and discuss our sketches and the views, angles and processes we’re engaging with. It makes it much more interesting. I took a brown paper sketchbook I bought recently and after a couple of roughs in soft pencil I thought I’d have a go with a brown ink pen, which works well with the paper, and splodge some highlights around with a thin white chalk. The first one is looking up into an open cockpit of a Lightning fighter with a dummy pilot sat inside. The second a cylinder head from the radial engine on the front of a Bristol Bulldog biplane. There is so much to look at at the museum that one is never short of a subject, the collection is huge and it’s free to visitors too. What more do you need?
Finally here’s an update of the cherry red bobber I’ve been working away on of late. For a background I’ve decided to mimic the kind of bold swipes designers sometimes use to back up their marker drawings. More about this in the next post when it should be finished.