Don’t rush it, you’ll finish it soon enough.

Biro drawing by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy.

So here’s a progress update on the biro ink drawing I’m working on at the moment. It’s coming along really well though it is taking quite a long time to complete. The thing is, you reach a point in a drawing where you really start to see how it will turn out, and inspired by this you open yourself to  an internal pressure to get it finished. This can be a good thing, you are energised to put in the effort but, it can also be a bad thing because if you’re not careful you rush things, and when that happens you make mistakes. Although it can often be a little frustrating at times it is always better for me in these situations to take a deep breath, take frequent breaks to take stock of the marks I’m making on the paper and accept the fact that slow is good, and that I’ll get to the end, one small step at a time. I’m having to be extra mindful with this one too. It is not a commission but a work based around a request, and the last thing I want to do is muck it up. I want it to be the best one I’ve done so far and as a result my internal pressure gauge is already off the scale!


From this detail shot you can see I hope, how much pen work goes into these things, so you get an understanding of how important it is for me not to make mistakes. I spend a lot of time scribbling on a separate sheet to get the pen running right and my hand steady (I have a natural shakiness at close range). There’s a discipline to cross hatching, getting the tone and line direction consistent which requires huge concentration. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, the angle of the pen gives too much black or the pressure you’re using is too firm and at times like this you just have to step back, scribble on a loose sheet until you’re happy and then come back to it. No one ever said this was easy, so I try not to think that. In essence the greater the effort the greater the reward. Let’s see how I cope with the rest of it.

It’s never too late to finish something.

V-Bobber by ©JonTremlett 2014

While work on the “Catch Me” picture progresses and it moves slowly to its conclusion I thought I’d post a couple of other things in the meantime. For me it’s really important to have more than one work in progress at any one time, it helps to keep me inspired, assists in keeping my drawing hand active and my eye “in”, and most importantly of all, prevents me from getting bored.

So first up is this picture which some long term followers may recognise, it having made its first appearance on the blog about two years ago. Back then it was just a picture of a bloke on a bike, sat in the middle of an empty page, and since then it has sat in a drawer here waiting for me to finish it. Every now and again I’ve taken it out of the drawer, put some pencil lines in the background and promptly put it away again, unhappy with what I imagined would be a fitting background. I’d lost count of how many times this had happened. Here’s a link to that original post.

The other day though, something clicked, a penny dropped and I finally discovered what I wanted to do with it. Based on the idea that the guy riding the bike is going somewhere, I imagined him escaping the world he occupies during the working day, jumping on his bike and heading out somewhere better. It’s probably a context shared by many of us who wind up spending a great deal of our time in those slightly crumbling semi suburbs around the edges of cities, full of light industrial activity, crappy cafes and diners and run down buildings festooned with strange advertising hoardings. It puts a little back story behind the image and brings it to life a bit more. Why I hadn’t thought of any of this before escapes me. Creating this background reminded me that this is a great way to inject a bit of humour into a picture and include a level of detail that draws the eye to the image beyond the great big bike stuck in the middle of it. I’m so glad I did it this way and it has prompted a whole string of thinking about dealing with some other images I have failed to finish and are lying in a drawer waiting for their moment. I hope you like it too.

That’s more like it.

Pencil layout by Jon Tremlett 2014 for Soulcraftcandy

As I mentioned in the previous post, the composition of the first picture for Mr. C needed further work resulting in a bit of a redraw. It’s funny how it works sometimes. In your mind you’ve got this image that you think is what you want. Then you draw it out and it’s a million miles away from what you are actually after. So after staring at it for a good while you redraw, thinking that this is going to be a bit of a marathon, and “pop” out comes what you were looking for in the first place. This is not the first time this has happened, so I don’t waste any energy thinking every first rendition will be the right one.

So what you see above is the tightened version made from the blue pen sketch. I use my small home built light box for doing this. It’s essentially a tracing exercise where all of the details are positioned where I want them and I sort out the final angle projections for the wheels and stuff. The hardest bit is getting the position of the figure right, and this will often involve several bits of paper as I try and find the right one. For example, the lower leg and foot in this picture was particularly problematic, for some reason I just couldn’t “see” it. I have a Japanese made posable figure here which I use in situations like this, he’s a very useful piece of kit.

Police car by Jon Tremlett 2014

I also had to do a fair amount of work on the chasing police car down in the lower right hand corner. The one in the main picture here is a kind of modern version based on something they might use right now but, it doesn’t sit well with the overall feel I’m looking for. Something more retro was called for as I want to create a notional connection with the original age of the bad boy Cafe Racer. Searching the web, as you do, turned up some fabulous old pics of what we would call here in the UK, Jam Sandwiches and Panda cars. Just like all modern societies we seem to relish the opportunity to give anything to do with law enforcement a nickname. So the force, “Plod” would drive “jam sandwiches”, essentially white cars with a dirty great red stripe down the side. These superseded the “Panda” cars which were oddly light blue with white doors and very slow. I digress. The other picture here today is my final choice for the police car. An early “Jam Sandwich” of the Triumph 2000 variety, suitably festooned with period accessories including the big illuminated box on the roof (a massive air brake), crappy roof mounted spots and a great big siren mounted in the middle of the bonnet to aid engine cooling. It takes me back to my youth tearing about the neighbourhood on my old Yamaha avoiding these characters.

From here there follows another light box session to transfer this onto Bristol Board ready for the final step which is the biro inking stage, which oddly I’m looking forward to a great deal as I haven’t done one of these for some time. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, and thanks for dropping by today.

Going large, how blowing up images changes their character and impact.

Vinyl banner print by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy.

Another project that has spent many a month in the pipeline is the continuation of an experiment I started last year, where I wanted to see what impact it would have if I blew up one of the drawings to something like life size. While I’m still very much trying to figure out a way of being able to draw at this scale, it seemed like a good idea to get something printed in order to be in the position to make some judgements about how to approach such a challenge in the future. Initially I’d enlisted the help of a good friend, an architect with a big format plotter, to run out a couple of A0 sized sheets with the sketch image of the above drawing on. Taped together, these looked pretty impressive though the paper wasn’t too keen on staying very flat for long. Follow this link to that particular post.

After some further investigation, and with one eye on the possibility that I could use such prints for other purposes, it became clear that the best thing to do was get something printed on vinyl as a kind of banner. So this is what you see above, hanging in my dining room. It’s a metre and a half square, roughly 60 inches across and high, and is a thing of beauty, even though I say so myself. Well, I would, wouldn’t I ?

Vinyl banner print detail by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy

The jump up to such a scale causes you to regard the image in a very different way. The first is that it challenges your perceptions in that one hardly ever sees a cartoon at this size, so one is confronted by a strangely proportioned interpretation of a man and his machine. Some things fit and others don’t. The other change is that the print doesn’t hold any of the information in it back. Every single mark, line and cross hatch is revealed in all its glory, and so what appears a very neat drawing at normal size takes on a looser and more sketchy feel. As the creator, this change is not unlike revealing ones inner secrets of technique and skill to the viewer. Letting them see every stroke of then pen, every guiding thought and inevitably, every mistake. All unexpectedly liberating to see everything laid bare in this fashion. The good thing is, though I may stand to be corrected by others, that the drawing doesn’t suffer for this jump up in size in my mind, it still looks like a drawing, just a very big one done with a very big pen.

I’ve resolved to have some more of these prints done, and it would be really interesting to see what happens to one or two of the colour drawings. To see how every small daub of paint is shown in minute detail. The main challenge will be choosing which one to reproduce. Some would suggest that a painting should never be enlarged beyond its original size but, we do this to photographs so why not something made by hand?

Before I go I’d just like to mention that although vinyl banner printing is a widely available service, it pays dividends to find a printer one can talk things through with before placing the order. So many companies offer a web based service and instant file upload facility, but it’s the ability to see what your final print will look like where many fall short. Luckily I found one who did, so I’ll be visiting them again. If you need to know who they are please contact me.

Today I painted a car! Part 2.

Ford Mustang water-colour by Jon Tremlett ©2014

Well, here it is, the finished Mustang picture I’ve been working on over the last week. A slightly more intense painting session took hold yesterday and before I knew it I was sat staring at a completed picture. It would be fair to say I’m more than happy with it given that it’s not a subject I visit very often. I’ve never been a car fan, so they don’t appear on the radar as great subjects unless they are extraordinary, and even then I pretty much have to force myself to draw them. Just one of those things I suppose. Anyway, the main stimulus for doing this one was that it’s going to be a gift for a friend so that helps to keep the focus and the enthusiasm up at a level where you need it to make a decent job of it.

There is very much a kind of groove that one gets into when doing something like this. At the beginning of the session things are all rather laboured, small decisions about colour tone, wash density, which bit to do next and even which brush to use seem to take forever. but slowly things speed up and it’s all relatively easy to jump from one thing to the other. It must be a confidence thing too. After painting for an hour or so it all starts to feel more natural and intuitive, and this is really evident in ones ability to push concerns about mucking something up to one side and just get on with it. One gets into a flow which certainly doesn’t happen when trying to complete a picture by picking up the brushes for a few minutes here and there. Best to reserve some quality time and get stuck in.

There were some bits that I found quite difficult. For example the bush or hedge that sits behind the car and the way it’s reflected in the bodywork and windshield. In my reference photo the hedge is much larger but I wanted to reduce it’s presence and use it to help frame the car and give more prominence to the big bulbous hood. I’ve never been good at vegetation so this was a bit of a challenge but great practice for future projects. The other bits that presented a challenge were the headlamps. the lenses are a mass of prismatic forms and they are filled with so many reflections I found it quite hard to see what I was doing and replicate them in a believable way. Thankfully they aren’t too prominent in the overall scheme of things so my rather bitty interpretation of them isn’t to jarring. Again, all good practice for the future. I hope you like the final result as much as I do, and thanks for stopping by and reading todays post.

Today I painted a car! Part 1.

A painting in progress by Jon Tremlett ©2014

It would be fantastic to say that after only a day of painting that the picture was complete, but I know I don’t work that fast and besides, any faster would be a rush and that’s when mistakes happen. Anyway, as you can see from the shot above it has come a long way from the blue sketch shown in the last post. I suppose at this point the car is about half done.

Barring a couple of small detail changes it was very straightforward to trace off on to the watercolour paper using the lightbox. I use a good old HB pencil for tracing off, and I’ve found that once you’ve captured the image you can then stretch the paper as you would normally and not loose any of the pencil work. This is a really handy discovery and means I can avoid endless hours mucking about with grids and such transferring the drawing on to paper stuck to a big wooden board.

All of us who have been lucky enough to have been on the receiving end of any artistic tuition will have been told at some point or other that there is no such thing as black when making a drawing or a painting. So the first challenge when rendering a black car is working out what colour it is. An old tutor I had at design school always recommended starting with Payne’s Grey and working from there. He’s been proved right so many times. So the picture is built up using various dilutions of Winsor and Newton Payne’s Grey, wash upon wash. This means you can work slowly toward the shade you’re after without putting down a whole load, and subsequently realising it should have been lighter. It’s time consuming, but a lovely technique. To get the slight blueness in the highlights I put a very thin wash of Indigo Blue down first. The bits that look black, but are in fact an intense dark blue, were put down quite thick as those areas had very defined lines to follow. For the area of shadow under the car I’m going to use a half and half mix of W&N Payne’s Grey and Schmincke Payne’s Grey which will give me a slightly warmer shade. I’ll mention here that although I have three tubes of paint here all called Payne’s Grey, from different manufacturers, they are all quite different. It helps to buy a few and find the one that suits your technique the best.

The background contains the concrete telegraph pole shown, and a whole swathe of a large green leafed hedge that sits behind the car in my reference shot. There’s a big tree in there as well so they will go in towards the end of the painting process so that I can build them up gradually and frame the car just enough without swamping it. It’ll be done soon.

Shotgun drag bike – slowly the bike emerges from the paper.


In a continuation from the previous post, here are some further images charting the progress of the Shotgun drag bike picture. In this first one I’m still very much in the process of laying down the grey tones, and as you can see this pretty much covers most of the parts of this bike, including the tyres, which are not painted red. As I mentioned previously this is very much a process of laying on tone and building up to the desired intensity in small steps. Most people who’ve ever rendered anything will tell you that true black doesn’t really exist, and they’d be right. But with this style of drawing or painting I like to create areas of absolute black as they help give the image punch and underline the more cartoonish nature of the final picture. So where possible it’s good to get those bits done at this stage too.


In this second image you’ll see that I’ve completed the exhaust pipes having finished with the greys, before starting on the frame colour. Exhaust pipes, especially chromed ones are a lot of fun to do, but they do rely on you having some decent reference material to work from. In this case there was plenty going on in the photograph, so the reflections are quite colourful and intricate. The engine, and therefore the near vertical exhaust pipe too, provide a real central anchor point for the picture and the reflections really help to draw the eye to the focal point of the image.


This final image shows the picture with the frame pretty much done. Again, this was a process of laying down slightly diluted tones of the red colour in steps, slowly building the colour up giving the frame tubes their form and highlight areas as you go. I took some time to get the base red right, mixing scarlet and orange inks to obtain something with the right amount of vibrancy. Diluted this gave a lovely pink for the lighter areas and with a bit of dark rich brown mixed in created a great tone for the shadows. It can be a bit nerve wracking when working with such strong colour as the last thing you need is to smear it across an area where it’s not wanted, or worse, get a small droplet landing on your pristine white surround. Once this stuff is down, there is no way to get rid of it or cover it up. But taking your time and working slowly and methodically pays dividends, and allowing things to dry every few minutes is a good habit to get into.

By this stage the picture is really starting to jump off the page, the red frame bringing a whole new three dimensional feeling to the piece. Nearly there.