Let’s be critical.

A couple of posts ago I showed a photograph of the above drawing about one third done. Well, here it is finished and I’m very happy with it. Every now and then you complete a drawing which just seems to eclipse some of the others, it has something about it which keeps your attention for a little bit longer and speaks to you in a louder voice (I know this sounds pretentious but bear with me). Even though it’s in black and white it has that “pop” that I talked about before. But these are not the only reasons I feel good about finishing it and looking at it.


For me it demonstrates a progression in my technique which is most gratifying. These things take many hours to complete in ink and the potential to lose ones way in the rendering looms large in the background. Here’s how I think it shows things moving forward.


Firstly, and most basically I’ve got the position on the page nailed. My shading technique is much better on this one and is much more confident. I say this because of two things. One is that working on the principal of less is more, I’ve managed to get a much better tonal range across the picture through creating better contrasts between the light and dark areas, which adds to the “pop”. Some of my drawings in the past have suffered from being a bit too grey. The other reason is that I’m starting to get to grips with how to deal with the shaded detail on the figure. By worrying less about all the little wrinkles and folds in clothing and leather, and so keeping these surfaces simpler somehow adds to the impression rather than detracting from it.


The inclusion of a simple horizon line in the background and a fairly simple approach to the shadow in the foreground give the main core of the image enough of a context to confidently occupy the centre of the page without taking away anything from it.


One of the hardest things to learn when engaging in self-initiated creative work is the ability to analyse ones own output, be critical of your own work and approach and, to subsequently work out what it is that you should do to improve and keep moving forward. The judging of creative output is a terribly subjective activity whether conducted by a single person or a group. The key is learning how to regard things objectively. Some people are naturally good at it, others need to learn. I started life very much in the latter group and as a result feel that I’m often still learning even after all this time.


My learning this critical skill started at art college and continued through all my years working professionally. It opened my eyes to the need to investigate options, to iterate, try different approaches and to realise that your first idea is never the right one or the final one. To many designers this sounds like teaching your granny to suck eggs but, it was amazing how much time I would spend with my students when I was teaching, explaining that without understanding ones own work in a critical fashion you had very little chance of explaining it to anyone else. It also meant that by the time one got to present ideas to a client, the ideas were of a higher quality and so stood more of a chance of being accepted. I’m sure there’s much more to say on this matter, but I’ll leave that to another time.

Before I go here’s another sneak peek. This is another big singled bike I’ve just started working on, a kind of sprinter. It’s sharing my time with some others on the drawing board so we’ll see which one gets to be finished first soon.