Advice and opinion, don’t confuse the two.

Instruments: before, big and busy. After, uncluttered and simple.

Instruments: before, big and busy. After, uncluttered and simple.

There is a big difference between advice and opinion. One serves to guide and promote discourse, and the other invariably confuses things and promotes argument. I learned the difference between the two a long time ago and am constantly reminded of that lesson. When seeking advice we are generally hoping to tap into the accumulated knowledge and experience of others whose judgement we trust. Opinion on the other hand is generally something that follows acting upon advice and is subjective, unless of course, the other person has misconstrued your original query, in which case you get a whole load of one when you wanted the other. When I’m engaged in making stuff I ask for advice, when I need it, from other makers I know, and I might canvas their opinion when I’ve finished what I’m doing, but not before.

New headlight brackets and new front indicator light mounts.

New headlight brackets and new front indicator light mounts.

If I’d followed all of the unsolicited “advice” I’d been given about how my bike should be, then I would have wasted a great deal of money and time on what is essentially a cheap form of transport. Working within an admittedly self imposed tight budget, and with time pressure to match, the solutions that interest me are those which are simple, relatively easy to execute and fit for purpose. It is with this in mind that I approach everything I do on this build and it helps to steer things clear of needless expense and wasted effort. One day I might build something more special but, for now I’ll work with what I’ve got. Sorting out the instrument area and the headlight would have been “better” if I’d totally stripped the bike of all electrics, cable drives and other bits, but that doesn’t clear the deck, it just opens up a whole new avenue of expensive solutions to a new set of problems. Working with what’s there meant splitting the clocks to allow cable drives to flex more freely and shorter light mounts to keep things close in and fairly tidy. The bundle of wiring needed to keep things working would stay, although shortened and repackaged. I’d bought some ‘P’ clips some time ago thinking they’d do for mounting the light on the forks and so put them to use. they work well enough for now though I may make replacements with a tighter fit later on. I drew up some side brackets on some graph paper (brilliant for laying out simple parts to scale) and transferred the design onto some aluminium alloy for cutting out. I made a new speedo mount based on what had been there before, but with a 20 degree offset and modified the mounting that came with the tachometer when I bought it, to bring it closer to the handlebar. All this allowed me to raise the light and split the clocks, and try to keep things as low as possible. By tilting the bars back further I was getting near to where I wanted the front to be. It looks a lot more sparse than before, but I’ll get used to it. And the natty little fly screen has gone.

I was very fond of it, but it had to go. A quick word about making those side brackets. Because I’d drawn them out on graph paper, it was easy to draw them again on alloy sheet, you remember all the numbers. I cut them out using a jigsaw, slowly, with a blade for metals at slow speed. I finished them off with hand files and drilled the holes with a hand drill. It takes time but not as long as you’d think and the result is pretty tidy once they’ve had a rub down with 600 grade wet and dry paper.

Here’s a canny bit of advice given to me by my father just before I started this: when filing soft metals, rub chalk along your files, it stops them from clogging. He was right, it did too. You can’t beat good advice. His opinion? Well, he didn’t have one, he’s waiting until I’ve finished to give me that.

Seize the moment.

Stripped and ready for action.

Stripped and ready for action.

The decision to get cracking on the bike coincided with two pieces of good fortune. First, work called just before I started on it to ask if I’d mind staying at home that week as there wasn’t enough work going through the studio to keep me busy. Regret that I wouldn’t earn any money that week was countered by the prospect of getting a fair crack of the whip on my bike build, so a reasonable result. Then, to my utter surprise, the weather turned unseasonably warm and sunny for about a week, perfect for fettling bits of metal out in the shed and garden. Having wrestled the bike into the back garden, no easy task given a very narrow access alley out back and the need to fit some much reduced width handlebars, the strip down was quick. Originally I’d built it in a way that would enable me to take it apart if I ever needed to and so was grateful for having made that decision. The work plan was front mudguard first, then the clocks and headlight area and finally the rear mudguard. After a quick once over and a clean it was time to get started.

Not bad, considering.

Not bad, considering.

I’d sketched out several solutions for mounting the front guard but, in the end opted for the simplest one which used two straps or hoops connecting the mounting holes on the fork legs with the guard mounted on top. Ok, not that elegant, but essentially all you need and adhering nicely to one of my general philosophies when approaching making anything, which is the KISS principal (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Due to the front forks having a leading axle arrangement, the mounting holes are off-set to the wheel centre so the straps needed to be of different lengths, and so I slotted the holes on the rear one to enable some positional adjustment when finally mounting the guard. Trimming the guard from the longer piece of rolled section I had was relatively easy, the tricky bit is joining it all together. For this you need to find the centreline of the guard, awkward on a thing that curves in two planes. My simple solution was to lie the piece on its side and establish the centreline as a height rather than a width, using a pen taped to an adjustable square. That done, it’s much easier to define the hole positions for your fixing screws or rivets to attach the mounting straps. Nothing worse than drilling holes only to find they’re in the wrong place. With the holes drilled I screwed the whole thing together using some M4 button headed screws and thread lock compound. Doing it this way allowed me to tighten things up just so, and minimise the risk of pulling the surface down onto the straps too much and dishing the top surface. The rolled mudguard blanks came with a polished finish but this is a nightmare to maintain, so the final thing was “brushed” with Scotchbrite before a treatment of anti-corrosion spray. Ok so far. Next up, the clocks and front light area.

Beer fuelled silliness.

Spoof magazine cover by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy ©2013

Capturing ideas at the precise moment they occur is always a little tricky. It is not unusual for them to crop up at times when one is nowhere near a pen and paper (another great reason for always carrying a sketchbook with you, a habit I’m very slack at perfecting) or you’re in the middle of doing something else and perhaps don’t have the time to scribble it down. The mad dash home, where one can make a note of it before it disappears into the ether, invariably finds me repeating it to myself over and over in an effort to somehow embed it into my memory. It’s often like trying to remember the details of a dream.

 

This image above is the result of one such occasion and having sketched it out upon returning to base, I stuck it on the wall from where it has been shouting at me ever since. A discussion over a pint of beer in a pub with a good friend turned to imagining a series of rather ridiculous magazine titles. Based on a number of publications we both read regularly, it seemed appropriate to take inspiration from them, and within a short space of time we’d spun off into a nonsensical world. This one stems from our goofing about with Sideburn magazine, a fine publication devoted to the celebration of flat-track racing and the burgeoning new custom bike scene spreading across the motorcycling world. It’s a great read and the product of a lot of hard work put in by the guys who put it together, Gary Inman and Ben Part. I’d like to stress that this tongue in cheek spoof is in no way meant to denigrate the fine work that the guys do.

 

At first I was rather reluctant to take it beyond a very rough sketch on some newsprint paper, but as I said, it nagged and nagged at me, so finally I caved in and decided to make it a bit more finished. Usefully it got me using a couple of bits of software that I haven’t touched for a while, so it was a gentle skills refresher too.

 

Whether its humour survives the major test of sharing the joke with others remains to be seen. The important thing is that it’s now done and the itch has been scratched, so to speak. It is likely that some of the other ideas in this group will find the light of day at some point, but not quite yet, I’ve got some other things I want to get underway first.

 

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.

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.

 

 

Cafe Racer No.4.

So here we are, presented for your delectation today is the fourth finished drawing in the Cafe Racer series. Like the previous drawing it treads the line between caricature and reality, leaning in one direction or the other depending on which bit you’re looking at. I’m not one to shout loudly about my work but I have to admit here that I’m very happy with it, all things considered. What was mentioned in Post No. 63, “Cafe Racer 3, finally” about how ‘static’ and ‘moving images dictate the background in very different ways rings true here. The original idea of a stylised chevron barrier, you know, the big black and white things that alert you to a bend in the road, just didn’t work, so a far simpler approach was taken.

 

The perennial problem that faces you when you’ve got parallel or converging lines to cross-hatch between is staying inside the lines. If you have an occasionally wobbly hand as I do, then it can be a real ordeal. Each stroke of the pen is a potential mess maker waiting to happen. My solution, and it’s obvious when you think about it, is to mask off the area. Normal masking tape’s no good though, particularly if you want to preserve the surface of your paper. Every roll tried just seems too sticky. Back in my designer days, some guys I was working with at Philips’ studio used a lovely low-tac masking tape when making their marker renderings. It was brilliant stuff but I’ve no idea what it was called or where I could get any. If you know, please let me know. My solution currently is Scotch Removable clear tape which is similarly low-tac. It doesn’t bend as much as masking tape does, so it has its limitations but for these purposes it’s fine, and not so thick that it makes the pen jump on the edge. Pretty good and a neat way to get those edges really crisp.

 

The next two drawings are already laid out in pencil so I’ll be posting updates on their progress when there’s something to show.

 

Cafe Racer 3, finally.

Finally, finally, finally the wind has been in the right direction and the third of the Cafe Racer series is now done. Boy, did this one suffer an awkward and time consuming birth! After all of the misgivings expressed in the previous post about teetering along the line between reality and caricature, it took a bit of effort to apply the finishing touches. There was no way that I was going to be able to drag it back towards cartoon humour, so the best thing to do was just focus on what would suit the central image and concentrate on that. Needless to say, I think it’s turned out not too badly considering the hand wringing of the last few days.

 

When the central characters and bikes are stationary in a drawing it’s interesting to note that my mind’s eye considers and composes completely different approaches to the contextual background, or what goes in to help place the image on the page. This is almost a subconscious act. When things are in motion, my imagination automatically starts thinking very graphically, with lines and blocks as a way of emphasising that motion. When things are stationary quite the opposite occurs, with visions of horizons and landscapes being the main focus. Not a bad situation to be in, a fertile imagination is a great thing but, it does lead to quite different feeling final outcomes. Somewhere along the line it would probably be worth trying to swap these two traits around to see what comes out but, for the purposes of not wanting to create too many distractions before this series is finished I’ll leave that for now.

 

Look out for Cafe Racer No.4, coming very soon.