Shotgun drag bike – the finished picture.


Now that the finished picture is finally with its new owner, it’s the right time to post it here on the blog. It would have been unfair on Nik to put the finished picture up before he’d had a chance to see it in the flesh. Needless to say he had a very big smile on his face when he unwrapped the parcel, a moment that gave me great satisfaction and a fitting end to a project that has been utterly enjoyable to do, and has left me feeling that this could very well be the best picture I’ve done to date. So brilliant to get something just right. I think he’s going to hang it in his living room which makes me very proud and is rather flattering to be honest.

The front fairing was, in time honoured tradition, pretty much the trickiest part to complete in colour. As I hinted in the previous post, these intense liquid colours come with their own set of particular limitations, namely their ability to “blend” across larger areas and around complex details. Getting the red to “flow” around all of the lettering involved lots of quick brush work, letting things dry and using very diluted tints laid over each other. It took quite some time, but the result looks great in the context of the overall picture. We’d agreed that the bike would sit alone on the background and so the finishing touch was just to put the thick black line under the wheels and sign it. Job done.


Nik had also asked me to do him a smaller black and white drawing that he could use for t-shirts and cards. I chose a simple elevational view for this one, and the dot shading technique I’ve used on a couple of previous pictures seemed the best way to go. As I’ve said before, this is a rather time consuming way to apply shade to a drawing but it does give the finished thing a look which is very distinct and crisp.

With these two done it’s time to delve into the unfinished projects drawer and pull out a couple of sketches that have been on the back burner for some time now. There’s also the possibility that I’ll do another picture of the Shotgun, perhaps a partial drawing from another angle. I’m undecided at present but will post up how I get on with both of these options soon.

Shotgun drag bike – slowly the bike emerges from the paper.


In a continuation from the previous post, here are some further images charting the progress of the Shotgun drag bike picture. In this first one I’m still very much in the process of laying down the grey tones, and as you can see this pretty much covers most of the parts of this bike, including the tyres, which are not painted red. As I mentioned previously this is very much a process of laying on tone and building up to the desired intensity in small steps. Most people who’ve ever rendered anything will tell you that true black doesn’t really exist, and they’d be right. But with this style of drawing or painting I like to create areas of absolute black as they help give the image punch and underline the more cartoonish nature of the final picture. So where possible it’s good to get those bits done at this stage too.


In this second image you’ll see that I’ve completed the exhaust pipes having finished with the greys, before starting on the frame colour. Exhaust pipes, especially chromed ones are a lot of fun to do, but they do rely on you having some decent reference material to work from. In this case there was plenty going on in the photograph, so the reflections are quite colourful and intricate. The engine, and therefore the near vertical exhaust pipe too, provide a real central anchor point for the picture and the reflections really help to draw the eye to the focal point of the image.


This final image shows the picture with the frame pretty much done. Again, this was a process of laying down slightly diluted tones of the red colour in steps, slowly building the colour up giving the frame tubes their form and highlight areas as you go. I took some time to get the base red right, mixing scarlet and orange inks to obtain something with the right amount of vibrancy. Diluted this gave a lovely pink for the lighter areas and with a bit of dark rich brown mixed in created a great tone for the shadows. It can be a bit nerve wracking when working with such strong colour as the last thing you need is to smear it across an area where it’s not wanted, or worse, get a small droplet landing on your pristine white surround. Once this stuff is down, there is no way to get rid of it or cover it up. But taking your time and working slowly and methodically pays dividends, and allowing things to dry every few minutes is a good habit to get into.

By this stage the picture is really starting to jump off the page, the red frame bringing a whole new three dimensional feeling to the piece. Nearly there.

Starting the Shotgun commission.


A couple of posts ago I put up some colour photographs of a lovely red vintage drag bike called Shotgun. I’ve been asked by its owner, Nik Fisk, to create a picture of the bike for him. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get going but here is the first layout sketch done in preparation for the final picture. It’s done in black biro on heavy weight lining paper. When I was taking the photographs we discussed in some detail the view we wanted to achieve in the finished piece, something that hinted at the length of the bike, but also showed off the overall shape well and the fantastic old Triumph engine that sits at the heart of the beast. Having the right hand exhaust pipe nearly vertical we reckoned this would allow the curvature of the left pipe to be a feature and would also create a strong central element to the picture.

It would be far simpler, and probably much easier, to sketch directly over a printed photograph, or do it digitally using something like Corel Painter, but that would defeat the object of this exercise. In asking me to create a picture for him, Nik is looking for something created in a particular style, which we reckoned would be called something like “factual caricature”. This is not about creating a facsimile image, more about giving the image a degree of character which a photograph just can’t do. So with a picture up on the screen as reference I like to work freehand directly onto the paper, working out the relative positions and proportions of things as I go. It’s a rather organic process, one which not only makes you look carefully at the subject, but also embeds knowledge about that subject into your minds eye as you go. I find this part of the process invaluable and it enables me to make the slight scale and proportional changes which bring the caricature into the image. It allows me to do things like make the engine slightly bigger and bulk up the exhaust pipes to increase the sense of power of the unit for example. I always like to increase the fatness of tyres on bike pictures, in makes them look more planted in my view, but at the same time I need to make sure that the ellipses that outline the wheels are as correct as possible. This sketch shows a revised front wheel from the original sketch, done with some ellipse guides at a smaller size (my templates only go so big), rescanned and photoshopped into place. So when I’m freehanding the outline drawing for the final picture I’ve got some decent guidelines to work to.

The drawing is about 380mm from the back of the rear wheel to the tip of the front and sits very nicely on an A2 sheet, so a really good size which will allow lots of details to be shown. The next step is to check over this one, make some notes for adjustments and then use the light box to start the process of getting it onto the Bristol Board I’ll use for the final painting. This is going to be a lot of fun and I’ll be posting progress reports as things take shape.

Submit your work to a local art show.

small water colour 19cm x 16.5cm for Soulcraftcandy.

Every couple of years here in Ealing, there is a local art show hosted in the Gallery of Pittshanger House, in the northern corner of Walpole Park. It’s called the Ealing Open and it serves as an opportunity for local artists, both amateur and professional, to exhibit an example of their work. You are allowed to enter one piece of work for the show and the great thing is that there are no barriers to entry other than the work must have been completed in the last twelve months by a person living within the borough. As a consequence there is a huge variety of different styles, abilities, media and images on show. It’s great and is a fantastic chance to see not just how creative people are but, how many creative people there are all around us. I submitted one of the Cafe Racer biro drawings last time, back in 2012.

This year I’m submitting again and the image above is the one being entered. It’s a small piece, done in water colour, ink and a touch of gouache. Two weeks ago I was reluctant to submit it, I’d fallen out of love with it completely and was finding it hugely difficult to summon the energy to finish it. I’m not exactly sure why but, I think it had something to do with the amount of colour in it. Every time I looked at it, it just looked far too dense, too much blue, too much green and lacking in a depth of field that I thought I’d worked hard to achieve. But things change, and sitting down last weekend having taken a break from it for some time, it jarred much less and finishing it off took surprisingly little time and brought much relief. I’ve called it “Tom, Dick and Harry”.

My partner is submitting some work too, though her style of painting is much more abstract than mine to say the least, a grasp of which is seemingly beyond my comfort zone. It will be fun to enter such different pieces and to see where in the vast collection of entered works our paintings are hung. I seem to remember that last time there were in excess of three hundred entrants, so plenty to entertain the crowds for the month the exhibition runs for.

The Ealing Open, PM Gallery, Pittshanger House, Ealing W5 5EQ, 24 May – 21 June.

It’s very green.


Just a brief post this time as there is still much to do at the end of this Bank Holiday weekend and we are all back at school tomorrow.

So here above is the finished picture that was shown in a part done state a couple of weeks ago. Safe to say it’s very bright and colourful and has turned out pretty much exactly as I planned. I love using a bright orange on the bike tanks and so it seemed only logical to offset that with a blazing green for the background block. And because the bike’s standing pretty much on its nose, then angling the coloured area around it seemed like a good way of emphasising the the dynamic of the image.

This one’s done on a much smoother water colour paper than the usual fare and it makes a real difference to how the inking goes down and the control that one can exercise in the coloured areas. I hope you like it as much as I do. Gotta dash.

Trying something new.


Most of the fabrication work on the bike refresh is now complete and, as I mentioned before, the last big bit of the jigsaw puzzle is coming up with a new paint scheme for the fuel tank and spraying it up. I’ve got something I’m pretty keen on and it’s sitting in the “mulling” section of my brain right now while I have a final think about the colours.

In the meantime here are some pictures in way of an update of what else is happening in the creative microcosm that is Soulcraftcandy. The first is a little sketch I knocked out a while back which immediately demanded a finished version. I’m unsure as to why it sent such a strong signal but I think it’s got something to do with putting the pink bits into the drawing as well as the stance and angle of the whole thing.


Needless to say the pink hasn’t survived the move to a more finished image but the idea of using bright colour has, and I’m hoping for quite a punchy little picture when it’s done.

Soulcarftcandy art by Jon Tremlett

These two progress shots show working up the main part of the bike, painting and inking as I go. I find this a good way to work as it enables me to keep an eye on what I’m doing and keep things in control. I find that bringing focus to the picture as it moves along helps me see what I want to do with the next bit, rather than leaving it all rough and inking in everything at the very end. From here I’ll move on to doing the rider figure and then finally the background. Excuse the odd hue of the pictures, it seems to be a consequence of photographing these things in daylight as I can’t fit the backing board onto the scanning bed.

Soulcraftcandy art by Jon Tremlett

This last one is a slightly different animal, an image on which I’m trying to do something new (for me anyway). Firstly I’m trying to paint much more of a complete scene and this is forcing me to think harder about background, middle ground and foreground and the focal relationships between them. In all honesty I’m finding it quite difficult, but it’s rewarding to try and rise to the challenge. My difficulty probably stems from all those years of design drawing where one is not expected to create any sense of depth of field, presentation visuals being very two dimensional in nature, and so it all feels a bit alien and intimidating. So in order to help myself as much as possible I’ve divided the image into three planes, big bike at the front in focus, two smaller bikes on the second level and then the landscape on the third, mainly. The desire to try a bit of freer brush work, which I’ve mentioned before, now gets a chance to play on the background levels and will hopefully minimise my chances of making a muck of it all from the outset and build some much needed confidence in being a bit more loose with how I apply paint to the paper. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Creative energy spreads.


With all of the making happening in the back garden and in the makeshift workshop that is the garden shed, it would have been so easy just to forget about the artworks for a few days. But these things never sleep, whatever’s on the drawing table in the studio lets you know it’s there every time you walk in the room. The hope was that some making activity would bring a fresh spur to the drawing work and so it proved. By splitting my creative time in this way, both fed off the energy that was now available seeing as I wasn’t going to be working for a few days.

This picture above was started a while back but was taking ages to finish. Procrastination had set in as a reaction to my being a little daunted by pushing it along. I wanted to see how I’d get on with some heavier textured water colour paper, and whether I could hold the detail given the rougher surface. It was also a challenge to figure out the best way of rendering all of that smoke, something I’d not had much success at in the past.

In the end the detail concerns were pretty unfounded, the technical pen worked out ok on the paper once it was fully dry, though I would say that it does tend to get a bit “hairy” if you labour the pen too much. The smoke bit on the other hand was a tad more tricky. I had kind of promised myself that I’d have a go at being a bit more free with my brush work a while ago and saw this as a perfect way to get some practice. Smoke being of a very “wafty” nature I thought it would suit a more loose approach. What I didn’t reckon on was actually how hard it was to do. I take my hat off to all those whose water colour style is more conventional than my own, the impressionistic feel they give to brush work is a hard won prize indeed. Initially I was far too deliberate, the cloudiness needed just wasn’t there and no amount of blending the marks I’d made seemed to work. In the end I plumped for just loading up a No.4 brush and smearing, can’t think of a better word for it, wash all over the required area and trying to blur it all with more water whilst still wet. It kind of worked but I failed to achieve any consistency across the whole area. Not wanting to overdo it I left it at that, though I will be having another few tries at getting the looseness I’m after on some other pieces which are coming along behind this one.