Cafe Racer No.5, One to go.

Today is a good day. As you can see above, Cafe Racer No.5 is now finished. This means that there is now only one more to complete in this first series. It could go on to encompass a few more drawings, there are still quite a few ideas clinging to the studio wall but, it feels like a change of pace and subject is in order. A second series is bound to follow soon enough. Setting out to do a series was always going to be a bit of a challenge and it feels good to be nearing the end.


Variety is the spice of life they say, so some time spent engaging in a looser style, messing about with some paints and inks, exploring different subjects and doing some other things should provide a fair chunk.


There should be some “making” happening as well. Inspired by some desk drawers that get in the way of my legs, a new drawing table should be taking shape soon, using a combination of Ikea hacks and some basic metalwork. The basic design sketches and making process will be appearing here provided I remember to keep the camera handy and I know there are a couple of posts and updates to do for the final stages of the bike modification project on the Suzuki 250. There will be some drawings too as one can’t completely stop doing those. So lots to do.


Now, where’s that pencil underlay for drawing number six?


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.


Lining paper, a surprisingly good drawing medium.

This is a sketch for one of the remaining drawings that are left to do. This was done as a kind of experiment. It’s at least 60% bigger than any of the others for a start, which allowed me to be a little less precise with everything, and seeing what an increase in scale would look like proved a useful exercise. Sometime in the future it would be great to create some much bigger drawings and my first tentative steps in this direction are being taken now. As mentioned above it’s not significantly larger than any of the others but, creating it starts to give me a feel for what changes when you go up in size. How you deal with proportion, detail and tonal variation across the drawing. One also has to consider the implication on ones preferred medium. I’m not sure that working in biro across an A1 sheet or larger is going to be a fruitful or spirit crushing experience. Only one way to find out I suppose.


It’s drawn directly, no pencil rough out, on to heavy duty (1400 weight) lining paper, the stuff you stick on your walls at home to even out a wall surface before painting. It’s not good quality paper for sure but, it does have this kind of hard textured surface which works really well with a medium point biro, almost making it feel like using a pencil such is the subtlety of shading one can achieve. Being quite thick allows you to work into the paper a good deal to achieve the thick black areas but, the pay off is not the usual warping and distortion you get with other, albeit finer, papers.


Yes, it can be a bit scratchy and coarse but it’s great stuff, cheap as chips and comes on a roll, so you can cut sheets to any size. I would mention though that at first it was a challenge to get it to lie flat, at all. Leaving it under a pile of books for a couple of days didn’t work, so I ended up ironing it with a hot but dry iron and then left it in a pile under a couple of pads. Much better. This weeks top tip for ploughing through sketches without worrying about using up your expensive art shop bought sketch pads. I’m going to have a look at lighter weights of lining paper to see if the texture is different and check out how they perform. An update will hit the blog soon.


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.


Working, or crawling, to the finish.

It’s coming, it’s coming, although the anticipated sprint to the finish has somehow turned into a bit of a crawl. The third in the Cafe Racer series is nearing completion, though today my normal creative enthusiasm has seemingly been replaced by a dogged determination. A flowing ease has turned into a plodding grind, but ink is still hitting the paper at least.

Self imposed deadlines are often so hard to stick to, particularly when an images’ creation proves either problematic or the composition remains in flux, and such is the case in this instance. I wonder if this is down to a mood thing or whether I’ve just spent too long noodling away at it. The latter seems a more likely culprit.

What’s interesting about this, to me anyway, is that it occurred to me the other day whilst standing back and having a look at the image, that there is something out of balance with it. Like there was something not quite right going on. It took a while to work out and feels like a kind of line is being crossed, a line that stands between realism and caricature. It has always been a desire to err towards the latter of these two elements but, at the same time maintain a degree of detail borrowed from the real world. In this case, through injecting a high level of detail I have left an element of the caricature behind and the drawing has lost a certain character as a result. Personally I blame the rider figure, he made me do it. Whilst I’m perfectly happy with the way the bike is rendered and the overall impact of the image, some of the quirkiness and humour that should be there has wandered off somewhere. The rider figure is the key, he’s too lifelike. Not by much, but by enough to make a difference and this has been the reason behind my somewhat lazy approach to finishing it.

But it’s only by working through these problems that we learn and progress, so the push is now on to “ship” the final drawing. Below is where things are currently with the background. A simple horizon and mid-ground which places our rider at the side of the road while he awaits the arrival of his mates who are in the distance charging over the brow of the hill. Hoping to have it done very soon, I want to get on with the others as soon as possible.

Please excuse the darkness of the pictures in this post, it’s one of the perennial handicaps of snapping off a few shots of the drawing board only illuminated by the studio window.