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.