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.

 

Havin’ it large.

Life size print of a cartoon by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy.

The above phrase, regularly used and a feature of the colloquial landscape that is modern english, often refers to a bout of over indulgent and often excessive behaviour, invariably fueled by alcohol.

 

Despite there being little alcohol consumed at the time this idea was born, the phrase seems most apposite in describing the birth of the above creation. For quite a while now, the suggestion that the drawings should perhaps take on a larger scale has been hovering about in the back of my mind but, achieving this jump up in size presented lots of challenges that would need to be overcome. Aside from wondering where in the house one could create a big enough space to do it, the mechanics of transferring a basic layout onto large boards or sheets is something I’ve not yet figured out. I know that simply drawing straight onto large format sheets is tricky, ones perceptions of perspective and proportion are distorted, and being so close to the image as you make it means you can’t “see” all of it, so you have to keep standing back to check on your progress. There are lots of tools out there to help with these issues like projectors and setting up a copying grid, but the fact remains that it’s a daunting undertaking if you’re not practiced at it. I really wanted to see what one would look like blown up, before embarking on a creative exercise of this size.

Life size print of a cartoon by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy.

Fortunately for me, a good friend who runs a small architectural office offered the use of his A0 plotter to run something out as an experiment. I knew that printing out a massive version of one of the finished biro drawings would rapidly consume his stock of black printing cartridges, not a good idea seeing as this was a generous offer already, so elected to use one of the early sketches which is much lighter in tone. The scale for the print was based on the size of the front wheel which would be approximately life size. There was no way it was going to fit on a single piece of paper either, so I split the picture in two with a bit of an overlap so it could be trimmed and glued together afterwards. The sketch was re-scanned at 1200 dpi to avoid any pixelation when blowing it up, resized across two sheets of A0 light weight plotter paper and converted into a pdf file to keep the file size down a bit, we didn’t want to be sat there for hours while the plotter got on with the job.

 

Back at base the sheets were trimmed on the kitchen table and the two edges stitched together with spray glue, before being pinned to a rough frame made from some scrap lengths of baton found in the shed. Choosing to do this on a really hot day at the start of a very rare heatwave meant the exercise was a little fraught and the subsequent union a little wrinkly, but it looks fine for what I wanted it to achieve. I took a couple of photos for the blog post with one of my crash helmets in the shot and the original sketch to give you an idea of the size of this thing.

Detail of cartoon by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy.

There are some interesting things that spring to mind when I look at it. The jump in scale really shows up the distortion that occurs in the cartoon process, for example, although the riders body is about right, his head is really quite huge. The original sketch was done in biro onto non acid free lining paper which has a really gritty surface, and the way the line breaks up is very prominent in the blown up version and gives the whole thing a lovely looseness. Take a look at the detail shot to see what I mean.

 

So the question now is, what am I going to do next? I think it splits into two routes. The first one is to find a printing method, onto paper, canvas or vinyl, which will enable me to get one of the finished drawings done at this size. I can see them making great banners, or even applied to the sides of a vehicle in vinyl, though persuading anyone to take them may be harder than I imagine, but it’s worth thinking about. The second is to start to think seriously about how I would create a drawing at this scale, a journey probably riddled with experimentation with different media and tools which could be a lot of fun. Part of that journey has already started with the idea, hatched at the local coffee shop with my good friend Ben as usual, to investigate making a drawing instrument which creates the quality of line shown in the big print. And that is as exciting as actually doing the drawing itself, so I’ll keep you all posted on my travels in the world of large format printing and whether I can figure out how to construct the worlds biggest biro pen.

 

 

 

What next?

Cherry Red Bobber.

The most nerve racking moment when finishing one of these coloured pictures is not when applying the last little bits with the brush, or even putting in the last bits of the thickened outline, it’s actually the time when you’ve got to lay a ruler along the edge of the exposed paper and cut the image free from the stretching tape. I need to get myself a heavier weight straight edge, the thick plastic one I’m using feels like it will slip at any moment. I confess that I have accidentally sliced presentation drawings in half before, hastily patched up with spray mount and tape, but it’s not something I want to make a habit of.

Like many previous drawings my satisfaction in finishing it is tempered by an irritating feeling that there are little improvements that could be made. It’s right though to fight these for now as engaging in a final fiddling session is a sure fire way to make a mess of things. So I’ll leave it and divert my creative energy toward getting on with another image. Todays dilemma is which image to work up next? Having spent ages being reasonably well organised with my workflow, I find myself today with no idea what I’m going to work on now. Lots of sketchy things on the wall but none is screaming “Me me me”. Best go away and choose one. Actually having said that, there is the small matter of finishing the black and white version of this picture which was featured in a post a couple of weeks back. The man now has a plan.

Back to black.

On goes the ink.

A catchy title to todays post but, for all music fans out there I’m not going to be offering comment on the great studio album by the late, great Amy Winehouse, though I would say that Tears Dry On Their Own is my favourite track by far. Anyway I digress.

 

As you can see above The TT racer is nearing completion with a healthy dose of inking being done. As the title of the post implies this is very much an exercise in chasing all of the colour washed areas back towards black in the darkest shadows. This has proved quite tricky for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is incredibly easy to get a bit carried away and over do it, so teaching oneself when to stop is a constant challenge. The second reason is more techy in the sense that it’s about the touch of the pen on the drawing surface. Water colour paper is quite heavily textured relative to normal papers and so maintaining a delicate touch across areas is quite hard as you are not engaging with a smooth surface, so the line can be a bit inconsistent. It’s just something you have to get used to and work with. This also catches those little blobs of ink that gather on the pen tip every now and then so constantly cleaning the nib is a must do habit to get into.

 

It is coming together well though and should be finished soon. Then I’ll be able to release the paper from the back board, give it a proper scanning without there being a large bit of wood attached to it, and post it up here. Here’s a close up which reveals some of the dodgy line work.

 

We are all story tellers, Part 1.

Old sketch, new life.

In the previous post I alluded to my attempts to find new directions in which to take some, or all, of the drawings that pop out of the studio here. For a long time now there has been a persistent challenge in completing the ink drawings in particular, which has somehow not diminished or been overcome no matter the approach taken. It is that old thorny issue of context. Whether the inability to get this nailed is the result of never being formally trained in illustrative techniques, or some weird hangover from years drawing objects as a product designer I’m not sure. The more I think about it, the more I’m persuaded it’s a combination of things, some of which go right back to when we learn to draw in the first place and how we look at the world we are trying to capture.

 

The connection between ones minds eye and the imagination is a fascinating one and is undoubtedly different in all of us. How we imagine things, scenes, objects and the like also varies within us from moment to moment. When drawing from life one is saved from creating context because, in a way, it’s right there in front of us, and we are able to use some visual editing to eliminate that which we feel is surplus to our requirements. In imaginative drawing this is almost reversed, we must “fill in” first before editing down.

 

What’s this got to do with stories you might ask? Well, part of the success or failure of an imaginative image, I believe, lies in providing enough information to not only hold the eye of the viewer, but also to captivate their imagination in the hope that we allow them to extract as much as possible from the image. In a way we try to tell a story, or at least provide enough to start a story off, to allow the imagination to take us somewhere. Although a fairly simple sounding premise it has taken me some time to work this out in my own mind, which I’d much rather do than read it in some book or other. Because I’m a person who sees objects more than scenes in the minds eye, providing this context is always a struggle. Previous attempts have had mixed success. Shaded geometric shapes have helped to place the image on the page, but no more. Inserting scenes such as horizon lines inhabited with trees and buildings have helped too but run the risk of pulling the central image back towards reality and becoming repetitive. What I wanted to find was a format that would give more flexibility whilst being very much in tune with the language of the images.

 

The little drawing above might give you a fairly clear idea as to where this is going.