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.


Engines, old and new.

Before getting on to the main purpose of todays post, an update on another of the biro drawings, there is just enough time to show you one more of the Cyclomotor drawings unearthed the other day. As you can see this is a colour one and as far as I can remember it was quite a big one, something like A1. What does remain firmly in the memory is how it was done. My tutor at the time insisted we make some of our drawings in colour and as this was a drawing project brushes were out. I had had a small tin of these oil pastels kicking around at home for a few years but had never used them, so this was a perfect opportunity to give them a try. They are called Neocolour by Caran D’Ache and are quite hard in their consistency. They are not at all appropriate for any kind of detail work but for big jobs they rule. They go down quite evenly for a pastel and what is really nice is that you can smudge them in a very controlled way with your finger and blend the colours into each other with some control. I’m wondering if I can use them for some of these bike drawings if I can get the scale up big enough, could be fun.


Looking at this old drawing today gives me real pleasure. It represents something that I work constantly to rediscover these days, a kind of naive confidence in the way the drawing is made that lies beyond the bounds of the years of formal training that followed this period of my experience. The errors in perspective and construction seem easily carried by the sheer boldness of the enterprise. I still have some of those pastels somewhere, perhaps it’s time to dig them out.

Drag bike half done

On to the main thrust of the post, oddly a much shorter paragraph, and this is a kind of progress snap shot of the second drag racing picture being worked up in biro. This one is taking a little time as I’m kind of learning as I go. In a break from usual practice this one’s being done on a different paper than usual, Fabriano Drawing Paper, whiter than cartridge with a slightly different texture. It’s a learning exercise as the pen engages with the surface in a softer way which means needing to be much more delicate with any pressure. It also tends to be much harder to hold a crisp line, though having said that it does give shaded areas a looser feel than that achieved with Bristol Board. The big test will be to see how it deals with larger areas of black and the fine feathering used on wheels etc. It is probably better suited to larger drawings where a softer medium can be used like pencil or crayon. I’ll persist though and see how it turns out.



V-twins, learning to draw them.

Bobber, side elevation

Here are a couple of different sketches today which are inspired by some shots I took at the drag meet of some great custom street bikes that were on display there. I have been meaning to try and have a crack at some V-twin powered creations for absolutely ages.


You could be forgiven for thinking that this engine configuration is utterly ubiquitous given that it seems to lie at the heart of so many custom motorcycles the world over. You only have to open the pages of any custom bike magazine and they are everywhere, such is their popularity. But for some reason I have persistently shied away from them. At first it was very much a case of their apparent simplicity being incredibly difficult to capture in perspective views and, secondly it was just a case of never being able to get the proportions right, no matter how hard I tried. In fact the harder I tried, the worse it became. Anyway, as you can see, some progress is being made. Like lots of these things you have to force yourself to start but, once that initial hurdle of confidence is overcome the path to familiarity is more open and you can get on with the task of learning what you need to create the image you desire. It’s that old embedded knowledge process again and that apparent ubiquity plays into my hands here as there is never any shortage of reference material to help me out when I can’t quite get it right.


Starting with some Bobber type street bikes, I have a soft spot for these, the sketch at the top is mostly about getting to know some proportional stuff in elevation, which is really the starting point for being able to distort and exaggerate details in future drawings. The lower drawing is a first stab at pumping up the engine proportions in a simple perspective view. Again, it’s early days but satisfying none the less to be finally adding this format to the engine room.

v-twin front 3/4 view


Setting up shop, episode 2.

King of corners sample print.

You will have read in my last post that things have started to come together for the opening of the small internet shop for Soulcraftcandy where you will be able to purchase high quality prints of some of the drawings. I thought it might be interesting to write a little bit about the journey to this point so far.

So how are things going? Well, not too bad actually. Whoever you seek advice from in these matters, like in most cases in life really, you will receive plenty of information. All advice is good, you just have to work out which bits are most relevant to your course of action and use most of it to guide your decisions rather than slavishly following one point of view or another. Such was the case with the choice for which on-line retail supplier to go with. As it turned out, once this decision had been made, loads of other stuff seemed to fall into place as adhering to a given format or template made decision making much, much easier. There were some things though that remained outside of this comfortably convenient arrangement.

I know from many years selling design ideas to clients that although a concept may be brilliant, how others perceive it can be heavily effected by how you present the idea. In a sense the beauty of the presentation must be as wonderful as the idea contained within it, in order for it to gain maximum impact. Thus I knew that the quality of any prints I would be offering would have to be very high. I’d heard about giclee printing before, in fact I bought a print by another artist last year, it’s an impressive process. the challenge was to find a giclee printer in London who would take on my work. With a bit of research I’ve found one, and I think our relationship will be a good one. I chose him for all the usual good reasons but what really swung it for me was how I felt when entering his studio for the first time, it was immaculate. No offcuts or waste anywhere and spotless equipment. If ever there was a place which strongly adhered to the adage of “ a place for everything, and everything in its place”, this was it. The part of me that likes a tidy workshop and a box of clean, well kept tools was very happy. I ordered some sample prints from him and they are lovely.

The one at the top of this post is enlarged to A2 size from the original A3 format. I wanted to see what would happen to the line work and the drawing as a whole at an increased scale. I’m more than pleased with the result and this size will be offered in the store alongside the original A3 size for all prints. It’s almost as if I drew it originally at this size and after a bit of fiddling with saturation levels and such like, the image prints beautifully. Biro ink is not unusual in that the black is actually made up of lots of other pigments. As a result, when you digitise an image it often has a hue about it which can be perhaps blue or purple in nature. This can be difficult to control if you’re printing straight off, so a bit of careful adjustment is always required to get balance right.

King of corners sample print at A3

This print at the bottom is the A3 size. I clipped a business card to the board to give some idea of relative scales. And please excuse any discolouring in the photos. Even on a bright sunny day the camera seems to make up its own mind about light levels. You can though see the door of my shed, a small but meaningful space often used for moments of creative alchemy.

A different approach to shadows.

Sidecar No.9

Finding the best angles and compositions for pictures invariably involves doing a great deal of exploratory sketching. On very rare occasions one might stumble upon something that feels “right” straight out of the blocks, but in most instances that is not the case. So beyond the couple of simple sidecar views that have emerged so far there is much work to do to find some more interesting compositions.


That said, here are another couple of Sidecar combinations which have been taking shape on the drawing table. Learning to get ones head around the intricacies of a new subject area is enjoyable though quite hard work. In these instances I’ve elected to try a different approach to rendering the drawing as well in an attempt to add a different kind of depth to the shadow areas as much as to the drawing itself. Although it looks as though some pastel has merely been smudged across various areas of the paper, the shading is in fact produced using an airbrush. Digitally this would be quite easy to replicate in Photoshop after completing the drawing but that is not what this is about. the idea is to roughly create areas of shadow over a rough layout first and then draw into those areas to bring out form and detail. It changes the way you approach the drawing and the way you work, which is what is interesting for me in this process. These are again done relatively quickly on Lining paper as the task of finding an alternative with the right texture is ongoing.

Sidecar No.8

In the second drawing I’m also trying to revisit the idea of leaving areas of the drawing blank, particularly in the direction of where I’ve elected to position the light source, so that the image kind of fades out. Again this is an interesting thing to try out as it plays with the idea that your eye and brain are left free to complete the image themselves based on the information that is already there. These are tiny steps to start with but, slowly things will work towards the limit of what you can get away with. As you can see from these two the slightly cartoonish style of previous drawings gets a bit lost with this shading technique. It’s still there in the engine details and other small parts, in this case I’d venture to think that my mind was rather distracted from it due to learning the subject and playing about with the airbrush. Still, they show promise, so into the gallery they go.



Cafe Racer No.6, finally.

Cafe Racer No.6

It’s raining, it must be June. Whilst the bad weather this weekend has done its best to put a massive dampener on anyone taking part in celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, in my case it has succeeded in driving me indoors, away from the distractions of motorcycling and into the chair in front of my drawing table. Unable to feel the tug of a sunny afternoon and a spin on the 250, a final spurt of creative energy means that the final drawing in the Cafe Racer series is now complete. Why this drawing has taken so long to finish could have something to do with the fact that all spare time over the last week has been taken up by constructing, fitting and painting a new front gate and posts, and giving the front door a once over. It may also have something (more) to do with nerves. When a drawing gets to a critical stage it can often be the case that I approach completing the final details with some trepidation, messing it up at a late stage is a huge risk. Biro is a fantastic medium, but you can never ever erase it. Once it’s down, that’s it. But it’s done now and other projects can start to take shape while I learn to breathe again!

The second part of todays double header is another lining paper sketch that didn’t make the final selection. It’s nearly there but not quite, very much a case of “ close, but no cigar”.  I was attempting to show some speed in the image without resorting to ending up with a huge blur. Various elements of the figure trailing off into the slipstream left behind. It’s something I have seen others do much more successfully than I’ve managed in this case, so there is some work to be done to get it working and may very well benefit from being tried again using a different medium. It is something worth aiming for as the alternative is the rather obvious big blurry background, and I’m not quite in the mood for one of those just yet. I’ll post my experiments as I go so you’ll soon see how things are progressing.