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 drew a car!

Mustang sketch by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy.

I’m currently working my through a small book I bought recently about creativity. Needless to say I find it extremely interesting. The book is called “12 Rules of Creativity” by Michael Atavar, you’ll find it here. In the opening chapter is some stuff about training your eyes to really look at things, to really see what’s in front of you. What’s this got to do with drawing this car? Well, I’ve tried a number of times over the last few months to get this picture underway, and each time I have utterly failed to capture it in any way that was remotely close to what I was looking for. Realising the other day that it would be a good idea to have another go, I thought I’d read that chapter in the book again before picking up the pen. By reading the pages and looking up at some photographs I’d taken of the car on the computer screen, it was suddenly much easier to see what I was looking at and, see in my minds eye the composition of the image I wanted to create. Funny that. I’m not exactly sure how it worked but some connection in the brain suddenly got made, and forms that I’d struggled with previously seemed to be more easily understood. Once I’d established an eye line and got my head around the extreme perspective the sketch progressed fairly quickly, though I did have to have a couple of goes at getting the wheel angle where I wanted it.

Consequently I’m pretty happy with this first drawing, which I’ve done in my favourite blue Bic biro on a very cheap sketch pad. It will go onto the light box next so that it can be traced onto some watercolour paper ready for painting and inking.

Ultimately the picture is going to be a gift for my friend Christophe in France. We will be visiting him next month for a house warming party, so I’m hoping he’ll like it and put it up in the new place. He’s a confirmed petrolhead, and this is him in his beloved Mustang, a car I can only describe as a ballistic tank.

The strength of conviction.

I realised this morning, with a somewhat heavy heart, that I hadn’t posted here for over a month. The shame induced by this sorry situation was dealt with swiftly, over a cup of coffee, as I set up the computer on the kitchen table and took some photographs of the latest completed drawing. Working here rather than in my little studio has its disadvantages, the cat likes to clamber over me and wander freely over the keyboard, but the light is great and the french windows afford me a view of the sky and some trees which lift the spirits on a cold morning.

The Bull, biro on drawing paper by Jon Tremlett 2013

So here, finally, is the finished version of The Bull. Regular followers will know that this drawing has taken me an age to complete, and has also been the reason behind a creative journey from unbounded enthusiasm, through plodding frustration, and finally to a kind of relieved joy. Shutting it away in a drawer and going off to do other things helped to put some distance between me and the problems I had with it but, what actually tipped the balance was showing it to my partner and talking the problem through. Fresh eyes and a critical view from someone possessed of no mean creative talent themselves, helped me to see what I had previously not been able to visualise. With refreshed urgency I was then able to finish it off in a single afternoon sitting.

 

I have just started reading a very interesting little book about drawing and I’ll post my thoughts on it when I’ve got a bit further through it. I’m only a couple of chapters in but have already come across a possible explanation as to why this particular image was so problematic for me. Courage, or the lack of it, was holding me back. The fear that I would end up making a complete pigs ear of things was actively stopping me from making marks on the paper, even in light pencil. My minds eye knew roughly what I was after but the connection between imagination and enactment was somehow broken. The fear of failure, of coming away from something one had already invested so much time in with little to show for it, had called a halt to the free flow that had powered the making of the drawing thus far. By taking a break and sharing it with another set of eyes I realised that it was the strength of my conviction that was holding everything up. Rather than deciding on a single course of action and working that through, I had been sketching out possible solutions without really settling on any of them. I had put myself at the centre of a loop I couldn’t get out of. Loop broken, I was able to focus and finish the task quite easily. Much important learning was done. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, but at least I’ll have a better idea of how to deal with it when it does.

 

I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do now.

 

Overcoming Bull-headedness.

Bike sketch in brown ink by Jon Tremlett ©2013

For those of you who have been following the saga of the large biro drawing, known around here as “The Bull”, you will note that todays offering is not it, it’s something else, something a little different. Why? Well to be honest with all of you, I’m having a bit of a battle with it, and as a consequence it remains unfinished. I’m beginning to wonder who the bull really is. It is truly the drawing or perhaps it’s me, as I find myself repeatedly charging full pelt at a gate which is refusing to give way. A concerted effort last week to resolve the impasse bore nothing but a large pile of scrunched up tracing paper, wasteful certainly, and enough to provide bedding for a hamster for about a year. I have since decided to leave it alone for a while.

 

Having got utterly steamed up about it, backing off and calming down has led me to realise that this conflict is nothing new. It is one of the uncomfortable truths that surround any creative process. It is certainly not unusual to find oneself completely bereft of ideas during a concept design phase in the studio. Having “brain dumped” for several hours in a morning it is not a surprise to find out that your mind is totally empty and your imagination has gone walkabout. The energy previously expended in generating new ideas gets refocused into frustration and before you know it you’ve got a nice little vicious circle going.  Backing away, doing something else for a while unblocks the pipes and lets things flow again. So for now the drawing is sat on the other side of the room, the recipient of the occasional glance but nothing more. It will come to me when it’s ready, but probably not before.

 

So what’s with this brown thing? Well, it’s a sketch I made a while back, always good to have a back up plan for a post if things go awry, whilst playing with the idea of drawing in other colours. Being a sucker for a cheap pen I’d purchased a tasteful set of biro pens in assorted colours and was intrigued by what they might bring to the party. Initial scribbling revealed that some of the colours, yellow in particular, might not be strong enough, but the brown showed immediate promise. You may remember the cartoon of the authentic biker a while back, that was done with this pen. The basic pen itself gives the drawing a lovely aged feel but it’s a bit limp when it comes to creating good contrast. As luck would have it I’d also found a brown gel rollerball pen, which when used with the biro gives a degree of heft to the dark bits and lends the whole thing a much needed punchiness. This is very much a learning exercise but one that worked out well. Now to get my hands on some cream coloured paper and find out where I can get brown biro refils without the need to buy a whole set when it runs out, which it will, soon.

 

Two wheels on my wagon.

Biro drawing by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy 2013.

Yes, I know, it’s not finished yet. But things have moved on somewhat from where it was for the last post. As you can see there are now some wheels present and the main underlying structure of the bike is pretty much done now. This is becoming a labour of love, but a very rewarding one given the amount of time I’m taking over it. The paper being used is a heavy weight kind of textured drawing paper which, whilst being great for delicate shading, requires much more work with the pen to achieve the true blackness you need for certain details. It’s starting to look really punchy though, and that bodes well for the final result. One must just make sure that one doesn’t overdo it with the background and swamp it, a lighter touch may be required for that. Here below is a detail shot of the drawing to give you a better idea of the technique I’m using.

drawing detail by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy 2013

The last week has been spent drawing detail sketches for the design of a large piece of medical laboratory equipment, who says design isn’t exciting (!), so it will be a welcome relief to put some energy into this picture over the weekend and have a go at completing some other stuff that is just crying out to be finished. One such piece is this little fellow below. To be honest I started this ages ago and kind of lost heart a bit.

Drawing detail by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy 2013

Lovely though it is, the dot technique is laborious to say the least, and I’ll readily admit that maintaining concentration when “dotting” is hard. My inner procrastinator tells me to just leave it alone, but that would be too easy, a cop out, the true test of things like this is to grit ones teeth and push to the finish and learn from the experience. Lots of creative projects suffer from mid-term blues, but rarely get to the end in the same state. So, one final lunge to the finish line should see it done, and who knows it might look quite good by then.

 

 

 

Not idle, just busy.

Inking a bike cartoon by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy.

A very small pang of guilt always accompanies  the short gaps which crop up between posts. Try as we might, I’m sure most of us amateur bloggers suffer from the same twinge every time we look at our records and note the time passed since the last posting. And lets be honest, most of us are juggling busy everyday lives, where the opportunities to grab an hour or two for “doing your stuff” are often few and far between. If like me, your blog relies on a fair bit of creative output as well, then finding the time to “make your stuff” as well presents its own pressures.

 

Busy times make for lots of juggling, and grabbing the briefest moments in which to exercise the creative muscles. Being short lived, these moments often fail to embed themselves fully in the memory and one finds oneself often thinking that you haven’t done much at all. But this isn’t so, it’s just one perception of the extension of the period between starting something and actually finishing it. small steps mean slower progress, but progress none the less.

 

So here above is where I am in the inking phase of the drawing I showed you in pencil layout in the last post. Having not done a full blown biro drawing for a while I’d forgotten how much effort goes into them, but it’s pleasing to have got this far, and see it emerging slowly from the paper in all its glory. It is slightly bigger than previous efforts, I put some pens in the shot for scale, so will take a little longer anyway.

 

Much time is being currently spent adjusting to life with a new part time contract job, and its effect will ripple out for a little while longer as I find a new rhythm. I’m back working in an industrial design studio, something I haven’t done for quite a while. Although you never really forget how to do it, like riding a bicycle, it is only now that I’m realising that I am needing to use a completely different set of creative muscles than those utilised in just making models for folk and scribbling away at home. It is proving very enjoyable though, and brings much needed regularity to a freelance life riddled with the usual uncertainty.

 

Nevertheless there are lots of projects awaiting attention on the Soulcraftcandy side of things. There are some further investigations to undertake on the big format prints I want to create, there are some more spoof magazine covers lining up and a handful of fresh pencil layouts itching to be turned into something more distinct. And then there’s at least one post to write about my recent weekend trip to Berlin. Lots to do.

 

As I said, never idle, just busy.

 

Authenticity, is there such a thing?

Biker cartoon by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy.

Some years ago, for anyone working in and around the twin universes of design and marketing, there was much talk about authenticity. According to contempory sooth sayers of the time, this was to be the next “secret sauce” that would enhance the relationship between your brand and your customers, and make you more “sticky” to those discovering you and your products for the first time. Without it your brand was merely a sham, a cheap facade lacking integrity, purpose and the will to live. And so on and so forth etc etc. Like many of these kinds of things the shelves were suddenly loaded with books on the subject written by myriad experts who quite co-incidentally had all hit upon the same thing at the same time, funny that. Anyway, we all merrily devoured these publications in the hope it would give us greater understanding and some kind of competitive advantage. I’ll admit it, I read some too, though I don’t remember much of it making a great impression on me as a designer. I think the marketeers benefitted more from this new wisdom than we did. To us, if it didn’t come from where you said it did, and it didn’t do what it said on the tin, then chances are that no amount of authenticity was going to help you shift a rubbish product.

 

Nowadays it is very much part and parcel of the creative communications lexicon, though one does wonder sometimes whether brands that bandy it about really do have any connection to it. So what’s all this about? Well, I was reading some correspondence in a magazine the other day where a gentleman was lamenting the demise of real, authentic bikers. This got me thinking. Obviously, to this chap, the owning and riding of a motorcycle is no longer enough to lend one any reality or authenticity as a motorcyclist. I wondered what extra credential one would have to possess in order to fit the bill these days? Perhaps droning on in a monotonous tone as one dismisses far eastern made products as rice burners, would be one, or maybe it’s about the fact that modern bikers don’t want to smell of motor oil and have perpetually grubby finger nails, who knows. This was rich, fertile ground for a cartoon though, so I put pen to paper to see what would come out. This is a first stab at the idea, there is room for improvement, but I think it works quite well and says something about this whole subject area, about whether things are really what they say they are and how important is it to us anyway? 

 

Lots of communities of people will tell you they are united, but usually nothing could be further from the truth. Each one is invariably made up of lots of tribes, groups, gangs, cliques and any number of little sub sets, all seeking to be different from each other. Bikers are no different really. If you ask a biker why he/she rides a bike, part of the answer will be something to do with freedom of expression and individuality. This is all fine, though subsequently complaining that no one is the same as you surely defeats the object of the second part of this premise. That’s a cartoon for another time. My parting thought, whichever group you’re in, one thing we should share is a sense of humour. Thanks for dropping by, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride today.