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.

 

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.