A different approach to shadows.

Sidecar No.9

Finding the best angles and compositions for pictures invariably involves doing a great deal of exploratory sketching. On very rare occasions one might stumble upon something that feels “right” straight out of the blocks, but in most instances that is not the case. So beyond the couple of simple sidecar views that have emerged so far there is much work to do to find some more interesting compositions.


That said, here are another couple of Sidecar combinations which have been taking shape on the drawing table. Learning to get ones head around the intricacies of a new subject area is enjoyable though quite hard work. In these instances I’ve elected to try a different approach to rendering the drawing as well in an attempt to add a different kind of depth to the shadow areas as much as to the drawing itself. Although it looks as though some pastel has merely been smudged across various areas of the paper, the shading is in fact produced using an airbrush. Digitally this would be quite easy to replicate in Photoshop after completing the drawing but that is not what this is about. the idea is to roughly create areas of shadow over a rough layout first and then draw into those areas to bring out form and detail. It changes the way you approach the drawing and the way you work, which is what is interesting for me in this process. These are again done relatively quickly on Lining paper as the task of finding an alternative with the right texture is ongoing.

Sidecar No.8

In the second drawing I’m also trying to revisit the idea of leaving areas of the drawing blank, particularly in the direction of where I’ve elected to position the light source, so that the image kind of fades out. Again this is an interesting thing to try out as it plays with the idea that your eye and brain are left free to complete the image themselves based on the information that is already there. These are tiny steps to start with but, slowly things will work towards the limit of what you can get away with. As you can see from these two the slightly cartoonish style of previous drawings gets a bit lost with this shading technique. It’s still there in the engine details and other small parts, in this case I’d venture to think that my mind was rather distracted from it due to learning the subject and playing about with the airbrush. Still, they show promise, so into the gallery they go.



Sidecars part deux.

Completing the drawing featured in the last post it was clear that there could be something in this sidecar thing. It’s great to “bank” a decent drawing early on as it provides a good spur to stick with a subject for a while and see where it takes you. It can be so easy to look at a picture and allow your brain to say “right, that’s that done, now for something else”. Your ability to say no to your inner self is a small bit of discipline that can take a heck of a lot of learning. So I thought I’d play with the subject for a while.


Initially I wasn’t too sure exactly why sidecar outfits are suddenly holding my attention but having thought about it for a bit there are some very good reasons why this is the case. Catching the televised coverage of this years Isle of Man TT races I realised how much I enjoyed watching the sidecar races and how utterly bonkers the whole thing is. It’s a kind of controlled madness and as such is very exciting. The machines today are a good deal faster and the whole dynamic is much more violent than in yesteryear, but it still amazes me how they do it. Modern outfits are more streamlined bullet than bike and sidecar combinations of the past, and it is these old solutions to solving the same problem that offer a great opportunity for some fun images. There’s more exposed machinery to try and capture, an engine you might get a glimpse of, some extreme gymnastics on the part of the passengers and everything about the machine is straining to follow that fine line between going fast and tipping over completely. It’s a target rich environment as it were, and one that I hope to spend some time having a look into.

The post images today are small sketches done following the bigger drawing. The top image is a quickie to see how the idea might look with some colour applied. The half finished view is how it looked before I caved in and added the sky and track edge detail. The final image is another very quick sketch where I’m thinking about including more than one outfit in the shot. A big colour drawing is definitely on the cards as a result and there are others that I’m working on now which are helping me explore some new techniques and media. They will be up here soon I hope.



Sidecars, an unexpected delight.

Sidecar No.1

Those of you who have been visiting the blog over the last few weeks and months will have heard me mention on more than one occasion that it’s a bit of a habit to be working on more than one thing at a time. You will also be familiar with my list keeping that helps to organise the workflow and assist in prioritising the order in which things happen. You would think, perhaps rightly, that these two things would conspire to keep the imagination fully fueled from now until some point in the distant future, and generally you would be correct. But sometimes a proverbial “curve ball” comes in from nowhere and changes the game plan completely.


On this occasion the disruptive little agent of change came calling whilst sat on a bench in a local park. I was deep into the Cafe Racer series and pretty sure what I was going to be doing next. It wasn’t a particularly nice day to be lost in a reverie on a park bench but that moment of free thinking just threw this word at me: Sidecars. I reached for my trusty A6 Moleskine notebook and made two very quick sketches which are shown below. No notes were made, just these two little scamps.

Back in the studio, pen hit lining paper with a rare intensity and within a very short space of time I had the bare bones of a much larger drawing, the big one at the top of this page. It’s rare to find myself able to work this fast, or this accurately, straight to paper. But knowing these moments don’t always come voluntarily lends them an exciting urgency which is best served by going with it for as long as it lasts. The drawing was “finished” the following morning, in the sense that it had reached the point where adding any more would have spoiled it.


It’s fantastic when this kind of thing happens. It’s so easy to get sucked into a situation where a schedule that you’ve created in an effort to ease any anxiety about what to do next becomes constraining, is actively removing flexibility from your working. It’s a psychological thing as much as a practical one obviously, and you’re never really tied to your plan, but it’s there to give you purpose. The unexpected game changers are great because if you’re open enough to engage them when they occur, you quickly realise that as important as it is to have a plan, it’s equally important to have the courage  and ability to change that plan and not be a prisoner of it.


Go with the flow, and see where it takes you………….



Perseverance rewarded.

Street Racing No.2

You don’t have to look far across the walls of the studio here, or delve too far into one of the sketchbooks lying about, to find a list. Lists of drawings to do, subject areas to take a closer look at, details to get images of and compositions to work up into something meaningful. Lots of lists and so always seemingly masses to do. Visiting a list at the end of a project hopefully kick starts the creative muscle at a time when all it really wants to do is take a break.


The latest visit has yielded the above drawing which has been sitting rather unloved in a large pad that spends most of its time being moved around to make room for other things. Such is the way of small rooms and large flat things. Anyway, it has sat there patiently waiting for its moment of glory, inclusion in a post in it’s final form. It’s called Street Racing No.2, following on from a previous drawing, done in a style I rather casually refer to as scribbling. It needed finishing off. Drawn pretty much directly onto the page over a very vague pencil layout, this technique involves a very light touch with the pen, working around the image in a very sketchy and indeterminate way.  It builds the picture very slowly and is without a doubt very time consuming. This is one of those methods that really tests your resolve to finish the piece, to persevere and get to the end knowing you’ve chosen this path yourself. Yes I know this is a relatively small drawing, but it does provide an insight into what working at a much larger scale involves in terms of focus and momentum.


Perhaps that’s why I haven’t undertaken any more of these recently. This one is spread across a sheet of A2 paper in landscape format. This is a lovely scale for a drawing but brings with it a firm refusal to fit onto the scanner bed in any orientation, even breaking it into sections. Hence this view is a bit lacking in some of the finer detail as I had to shoot it with the camera and fiddle about quite a lot in Photoshop.


So that’s another item to cross off one of the lists, but it’s already prompted the addition of another item on another; do something about a lighting set up to enable better photos of larger pieces, or get a bigger scanner……..


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.