A time for ink.

Armed with the blue pencil sketch from the previous post, I used it as an underlay to create the final version of this drawing. Having said before that layout paper provides a good opacity for tracing through it became obvious fairly early on that despite this it was often difficult to pick out the lines that I wanted to follow. As a result I found working slowly and with a medium hardness pencil the best way to go. Basically I could erase things if I didn’t like them, though there is always the danger that you’re going to wreck the paper just at a critical moment as you get a bit enthusiastic with the eraser. I always try to avoid this by stretching my hand across the sheet and working the eraser slowly between my thumb and forefinger. Still, the danger is always not too far away.

I seem to have acquired a two pronged attack to adding detail to the drawings. I insert a certain amount in the pencil stage and then include more as I proceed with the ink pen stage, and so the drawing looks kind of half done at this stage. I also have to say that when I’m unsure about something, like the rider’s expression for example, I’ll leave it half done and continue to work on it in pencil as the inking process moves forward. Something in the way the drawing takes shape seems to help me find the right look further down the line.

Inking on this drawing was straight on top of the pencil on the layout paper. I realised I didn’t have any kind of light box that would allow me to easily transpose the image onto my favoured Bristol Board. This was something I didn’t forsee but was able to solve relatively quickly soon after as I made my own. I’ll cover that in the next post.

As a consequence the process of laying down layers of biro ink onto quite thin paper lead to the paper doing what it always does in these instances and that is to wrinkle quite badly, particularly around the areas where you put in the most effort. I suppose it must be that the constant pressure and side to side action of the pen stretches the paper. I could see myself ironing it in a desperate effort to make it flat enough to stick to a backing board. I know ironing a drawing sounds a bit mad but it does work provided you place it face down before you start and work slowly from the centre outwards and keep the iron dry. Stay away from the steam button. The strange things that my brain is filled with eh? As an aside, I first learned about ironing paper from the father of an old friend who I was best man for at his wedding. He told me to iron all the cash I was due to hand over to the chauffeur and various other folk that day. The reason being that it would give a great impression and that a man in a top hat and tails should be armed with suitably smart money. Whatever.

Fortunately I didn’t need to flatten out the drawing in the end before getting it onto a backing sheet, to protect it as much as anything else. In its current state the paper drawing doesn’t have any ground line or background, I’ve added these in a very scribbly way in photoshop just to see what it looked like. I’ve been mucking about on a multitude of photocopies with all kinds of backgrounds and ground lines. I’ve not found what I’m after yet but will add to the final drawing when I do. Coming up with ideas which both convey speed, and sit naturally with the style of the drawing is proving a lot harder than I thought it would. Perseverance will win out in the end though. I for one will certainly be happier when it does. The last thing I want to do at this point is f**k up a decent drawing with a failed background experiment.

The inspiration for this image is definitely from my love of racing machines and a burgeoning liking for big twins and singles. There’s something about these engines that’s kind of pure and simple, though having said that many are certainly not so. I also have tried to convey in the rider the sense of barely controlled power and the kind of expression that I’m sure many of us make when we feel we’re really opening the taps. There’s still much more work to do and progress to be made but at this point I feel the drawings gaining a definite look of their own.


The right way to go.

Just when you think you’ve got a strong idea in your mind it has to be admitted by this scribbler that my minds ability to create an image is far more polished than my hand/eye combo. Full of a new found confidence and a belief that I’d finally started to crack a nut that had been bothering me for some time, I leaned back and presumed things would just flow out. No, it was a lot harder than that. Sketch after sketch after sketch. Locked into a kind of one man battle with a pad of layout paper I just went round and round in circles. Over a cup of desperately needed coffee I laid everything out on the floor and had a think about what I was doing. Doing this is such a great way of seeing where you are with a project and a practice ‘d completely neglected to incorporate into my working.

By turning over all of the skamps that I felt weren’t going anywhere I ended up with three or four which showed promise. I rarely throw any drawing away, no matter how crappy, you never know what you might see in them on another day with fresh eyes. So I had a pile of duds and a select few to work on further.

I stuck with pencils and layout paper. One has a beautiful progressive nature to it, in that it allows you to press as softly or hard as you wish and the line quality is a direct reflection of your actions and, the other is opaque enough for a good background but thin enough to allow you to place drawings underneath the top sheet and trace through. The two sketches in this post are preliminary drawings for others that I’ve now done in ink.

Because I’d been thinking about context and how to create it in the drawings I’d decided to always draw a rider on board unless he’s close by doing something to the bike and it’s stationary. I kind of thought that that, and the attitude of the bike in the picture would be enough to keep me going for now and that I’d worry about fuller backgrounds later on. I wanted to master drawing the bikes first. I also wanted to try and find a style of drawing that was comfortable and more importantly, repeatable, in the sense that layout and other elements would come more naturally rather than feeling forced in any way.

A new direction.

Finishing the big drag bike drawing was a kind of watershed moment. I had a strong feeling that I didn’t want to do full colour images just yet, which I’ve covered in previous posts. There was also something else bothering me about it. It had elements to it that ticked the right boxes as far as content was concerned; the exaggerated engine, slightly extraordinary profile, big wheel(s) etc. But it lacked other things too. Straight off it was an image that said “bike as object”, not what I was after. It also lacked any context or connection to anything and a human element. Without a rider, or a place to go and do what it does, a bike is just a collection of parts that remain inert. What I wanted to get into the drawings was some of that action, some dynamism and direction.

I put away all my previous sketches and took out a fresh pad, a pencil and started again. the drawing above is what came out.

Now this is more like what I was after. Apart from the fact that drawing in soft pencil was an absolute pleasure, the drawing is starting to encapsulate the elements that had up until now eluded me. Putting a rider on the bike brings a fresh perspective and gives the image some new found purpose. It acts to lend a much needed sense of scale to the image and presents me with a whole host of small details to play with to influence my reaction to it. Facial expressions, arm and leg position, outfit and pose all come into play. It’s still elevational but I’ve started to bend the viewing plane to give some perspective to the extremities of the wheels. This bending, as if looking at the whole thing through a wide angled lens, also starts to give the feeling of motion.

It’s still a cartoon, which is a good thing, just a much better one than I’d been doing before. It gave me a huge spur to push things more into this new direction.