No.8 and a trip to the Tate.

Matchless cafe racer by Jon Tremlett

This is number eight, the penultimate picture in this series and for me one of the best ones. Finding that the limits of my embedded knowledge were being reached I had resorted to flicking through one of the many reference books here in an attempt to top it up a bit. I find with great books that each different viewing often reveals a new set of surprises. In this case a lovely picture of an old Matchless jumped off the page and at once demanded to serve as inspiration for this picture. As with all these drawings the final picture is never really a true rendition of the reference, they all get pushed and pulled about a fair bit to suit the original vision, but this one’s got a bit more truth behind it than some. One detail in particular stands out, and is one that reveals how an utterly simple approach can be just as effective as a far more complex solution to the same problem. The simple curving shadow line along the fuel tank, to delineate reflection, very clearly says “polished metal” without the need to apply any more shapes, shadows or colour areas. A triumph of less being more, and oh so simple.


Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective currently running at the Tate Modern Gallery in London. Although a fan of various aspects of Pop Art, I’d never really considered any of his work other than the large comic format pictures repeatedly paraded in front of us like Whaam! So it was very interesting to see a much more varied collection of pictures across a number of periods which followed the development of his unique style and approach. From his early experiments with abstract expressionism, through flat graphic interpretations of objects and on to landscapes inspired by chinese scroll paintings, with a fair bit of work in between, it proved an enlightening journey through the canon of an artist many might dismiss as a one trick pony. The landscapes and seascapes in particular, were both surprising and stunning, his Benday dot screen technique combined with some fantastically bold colours producing images that were both strangely mechanical and oddly dreamy at the same time. If you are  anywhere near London and the show is still running I would recommend going to see it. Rumours of ticket non-availability proved wrong, we got some without any problems. It’s on until May 27th.


Nearing completion.

soulcraftcandy cafe racer by Jon Tremlett

As mentioned in the previous post things are moving relatively swiftly towards the time when the complete collection of nine of these small “stunt” pictures are done. Not for want of trying has it taken rather a while to get to this stage. As things progress one is challenged by a double edged sword of execution. On the one hand, making more of these images should become quicker as one gets used to the routines and techniques being employed. Conversely, as you become increasingly involved in the process behind each one, you get more and more focused on achieving the levels of finish and detail that you know you’re looking for. Thus one edge gives you time while the other happily takes it away again. Enthusiasm however is not diminished and the end goal of nine is now firmly in sight.


This one above is the latest to be finished. I think it’s based on some kind of BSA though looking at it now it appears more of a “bitsa”, an agglomeration of various parts assembled into something that satisfies the required function. A bit like cafe racers of old perhaps and so true to the spirit of the genre I think.


Alive and kicking.

Soulcraftcandy work in progress

It is probably very different for those who can maintain the discipline of posting to their blogs every day, but for the rest of us, who invariably post when we can, gaps appear in our flow and by the time we have seen them it is too late to close them up or fill them in. Such is the way of things. When posting relies quite heavily on making progress with a project or piece this is something you pretty much have to live with, cope with and try and overcome through trying just a bit harder. So, gaps are awkward but not the end of the world. My posting habits are erratic at times but this does not mean that nothing has been going on in the background.


Following the last post, showing the journey from blank sheet to finished picture (see below), work has continued on that small series, sketching out, drawing up and starting colour work on the last three images that will take me to the complete set of nine that I want. In the photo above, taken today in the mini-studio, you can see two of these remaining pictures. In the foreground is number eight just over half way through with most of the inking in done and only bike colour and background to finalise. Number seven, in the top left, is all done and only awaits a background block and final fiddling. I will of course post them up as they get fully finished. I thought this shot would also be useful for the fact that you can clearly see my technical pens lying next to the picture, which gives you a clear sense of the scale I am working at with these. Small.

Soulcraftcandy ideas and sketch wall..

This second shot shows the current state of my ideas wall. I am trying to develop the habit of changing it’s contents a bit more regularly though doubtless some of what you can see will appear very familiar to those who have been following the blog for any time. On the right hand side though you can see evidence of what has been occupying my blog-time of late. I have been getting some of the drawings ready for printing as small cards with the intent of selling some through the Soulcraftcandy BigCartel store. The top row shows some run-offs of the first set from the original Cafe Racer series done last year and below them are some prints off the home printer looking at how best to size these newer images for their own card set. Getting all the files clean after scanning, colour balanced and nice and crisp takes a good deal of time but hopefully the results will be worth it. So there is lots happening and I will be reporting on progress as the journey to print continues.


If you spotted it and guessed correctly, yes that is a picture of one of the cats at the very bottom of the shot, but fear not, this blog is not about to be overtaken by feline inspired craziness.



From blank sheet to finished picture – last part


Finally, at last, eventually here is the finished picture, brought to you after some rather unexpectedly focused procrastination and first order dithering. Admittedly there was a good deal of fiddling about trying to get the right colour for the background block, but that’s no excuse. I knew I wanted a blue of some kind to provide a contrasting coolness to the yellow of the bike and getting the mix and density right was a bit tricky but finally something came together to give me the feel I was searching for. The liquid water colours I use behave in an unpredictable way when you start mixing them and then diluting the resultant blend. In this case you will notice that some of the pigments take to the paper almost instantly, creating areas of dark, or patches of mauve depending on the speed of your brush movements. The results are always a surprise therefore, but this is an aspect of the making process which rewards as much as detracts from one’s satisfaction upon completion.


So that’s six of these done with another three to do. I want nine in total for a little project I’m thinking about. I’ll be posting about that soon. Thanks for watching.


From blank sheet to finished picture – part 3.


The next stage in the application of colours to the picture is probably the most nerve wracking and delicate, though it is hugely rewarding when completed to ones satisfaction. Although in your minds eye you feel you can “see” exactly how you want things to to turn out, the reality is that one is merely aiming at achieving that vision, as actually it’s not at all clear until you’ve put paint to paper, and sometimes by then it is too late to make a change. You have to kind of feel your way towards your goal. I’d decided the bike should be a golden yellow colour. The first stage is to put some shadow tones onto the areas that require them like lower edges and vertical faces. With these you have to think what colour the yellow would be in shadow as these things are invariably never a case of simply adding black or grey to your base colour. In this case doing that would make everything a dirty green colour, not good. So using small quantities of darker ochres and browns these areas are touched in and left to dry. Having decided on highlight size and position it’s time for the yellow, applied in a thinned wash to start with and then built with some less diluted colour as the from appears. Knowing when to stop is as much judgement as experience, so slowly, slowly, catchy monkey as they say. The yellow on the helmet follows and then finally the base layer for the leather jacket making sure I leave clear all the small details I want to stand out in the finished picture.


When all the above is fully dry it’s time for the last of the inking stages. Using a fatter pen than usual, a 0.5 point, the tyres are done first, leaving hard edged areas for the highlights rather than a more messy looking feathered edge. Back to a fine pen and the jacket comes next where it’s very much a case of working slowly down or across the shape, again leaving small slivers of grey to denote highlight areas where the leather wrinkles. You could argue that areas like the jacket should be more gradated and “realistic”, but if you do that then the rest of the picture doesn’t “fit” and you end up having to apply the same approach to everything. All that’s left to do now is add any small colour touches into any helmet and jacket badges, the spark plug cap and small reflections of the yellow that appear on metal parts facing the coloured area. A final tickling process takes some time, constantly scanning the image for little white gaps and spots where a bit more colour or black is needed, but it serves to lift small parts of the picture that you perhaps didn’t see before.


The picture is now nearly done, all that remains is to choose the right colour for the background block, one that gives enough contrast with the bike colour but doesn’t drown the image in the process. That’s all in the next post, see you then.



From blank sheet to finished picture – part 2.


In the last post I showed how I create the base drawing for one of the small colour images I’ve been making recently. Now it’s time to take a look at how the colour and ink go down onto the paper. There is no right or wrong way of doing this, we are all individuals after all and our working methods all differ accordingly, but this is how I do it. There are about seven steps involved, and they pretty much alternate between applying colour washes and inking in. I have a preference for building the image from the centre outward so this is where I start, engine, chassis and other cycle parts.


Greys go down first, in this case Payne’s Grey, slowly building up in layers to give shadow where I want it, form where I need it and a backing for black areas which may contain a high or low light. Using a very small brush with barely any paint on, things start to take shape. There is a strangely imprecise precision to the process. Next come the smaller areas of browns, ochres and blues which begin to define the ground and sky reflections on the various metal parts. I leave the exhaust for now as I find this easier to do later, working within the confines of the outline after it has been inked in.


With the core of the image coloured, it’s time for the first pass with the technical pen, and being an old fashioned kind of bloke I’m still very fond of a good Rotring pen, in this case a 0.25mm nib width. The tightening of the detail that this achieves also has the benefit of allowing you to see where you may need to apply a bit more colour, or even a different colour, to an area which needs a bit more punch. You’ll notice I’ve also applied wash to the front and rear brake areas in this step to put myself in the position where the core of the bike is very much done. The frame rails, which were washed all in grey are now mostly black apart from a highlight line and I’ve applied solid black in selected areas to bring other details to the fore and create some depth.


This second wash stage involves getting the rider figure underway and laying the base colour pieces to the wheels as well as getting that tricky curving exhaust sorted out. As with the frame I put grey on the wheels and tyres in the places where I know I’ll leave gaps in the black of the ink, and apply this same method to parts of the rider like boots, helmet parts and goggles. Now, a quick word about that exhaust. Back when all of us budding designers were drilled in the fine art of marker rendering, it was obvious after a while that the practice involved learning a few, what I would call, conventions. Little techniques for doing curved surfaces, metal parts, areas of high gloss, textures and chrome amongst others. Although I haven’t picked up a marker in years, some of them remain useful when dabbling in other media. Shiny exhaust pipes are a case in point. A grey line to denote a horizon below which a brown area denotes ground reflections, and finally a blue upper area to signify the sky. Simple and effective, with some extra colour tones around the cylinder head exit where the metal changes colour due to the heat.


Time for more ink using the same approach as before, tightening detail and bringing definition. The wheel outlines get some attention using an ellipse guide for neatness, to be honest my freehand ellipse drawing is not what it used to be, and picking out a couple of details on the jacket and such will remind me not to wash over these at the next stage. The bike’s going to be a golden yellow colour so that’s what is coming in the next installment.