Authenticity, is there such a thing?

Biker cartoon by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy.

Some years ago, for anyone working in and around the twin universes of design and marketing, there was much talk about authenticity. According to contempory sooth sayers of the time, this was to be the next “secret sauce” that would enhance the relationship between your brand and your customers, and make you more “sticky” to those discovering you and your products for the first time. Without it your brand was merely a sham, a cheap facade lacking integrity, purpose and the will to live. And so on and so forth etc etc. Like many of these kinds of things the shelves were suddenly loaded with books on the subject written by myriad experts who quite co-incidentally had all hit upon the same thing at the same time, funny that. Anyway, we all merrily devoured these publications in the hope it would give us greater understanding and some kind of competitive advantage. I’ll admit it, I read some too, though I don’t remember much of it making a great impression on me as a designer. I think the marketeers benefitted more from this new wisdom than we did. To us, if it didn’t come from where you said it did, and it didn’t do what it said on the tin, then chances are that no amount of authenticity was going to help you shift a rubbish product.

 

Nowadays it is very much part and parcel of the creative communications lexicon, though one does wonder sometimes whether brands that bandy it about really do have any connection to it. So what’s all this about? Well, I was reading some correspondence in a magazine the other day where a gentleman was lamenting the demise of real, authentic bikers. This got me thinking. Obviously, to this chap, the owning and riding of a motorcycle is no longer enough to lend one any reality or authenticity as a motorcyclist. I wondered what extra credential one would have to possess in order to fit the bill these days? Perhaps droning on in a monotonous tone as one dismisses far eastern made products as rice burners, would be one, or maybe it’s about the fact that modern bikers don’t want to smell of motor oil and have perpetually grubby finger nails, who knows. This was rich, fertile ground for a cartoon though, so I put pen to paper to see what would come out. This is a first stab at the idea, there is room for improvement, but I think it works quite well and says something about this whole subject area, about whether things are really what they say they are and how important is it to us anyway? 

 

Lots of communities of people will tell you they are united, but usually nothing could be further from the truth. Each one is invariably made up of lots of tribes, groups, gangs, cliques and any number of little sub sets, all seeking to be different from each other. Bikers are no different really. If you ask a biker why he/she rides a bike, part of the answer will be something to do with freedom of expression and individuality. This is all fine, though subsequently complaining that no one is the same as you surely defeats the object of the second part of this premise. That’s a cartoon for another time. My parting thought, whichever group you’re in, one thing we should share is a sense of humour. Thanks for dropping by, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride today.

 

A small commission.

Sidecar commission by Jon Tremlett at Soulcraftcandy

The sharing of pictures which are completed as gift commissions is always a little tricky. Firstly you need to wait until the gift has actually been given, and secondly as in this case, I was waiting for it to be published on a club website before picking up my small trumpet and giving it a blow.

 

This depiction of slightly exuberant sidecar piloting was done for the brother in law of a very good and old friend of mine Ben, whose approaching 50th birthday required a special kind of gift. Adrian, the brother in law, is an ardent sidecar enthusiast and is setting out this summer on a european tour on his outfit with his wife Polly. Over a coffee with Ben, we agreed that a speeding outfit with fresh french produce bulging out of all available spaces would be particularly apt.

 

When undertaking an exercise such as this I like to work from some decent reference material and Ben duly supplied me with some photographs of Adrian, Polly and the big Honda outfit. Whilst one doesn’t want to slavishly depict every detail exactly, a cartoon is an interpretive exercise after all, it’s good to have all the information available for feeding the distortional process which occurs when the pencil hits the paper. I’ll openly admit that my skill in creating facial likeness is not very good, a frequent obstacle in undertaking any commissions, but thankfully in this case I was rather saved by needing to show him riding and so with a helmet on his head. Background information really helps here too as you can pick up little things which you can include in the image which help to flesh out the character you’re trying to show, like the soccer team scarf and riding gear.

Sidecar commission by Jon Tremlett at Soulcraftcandy

The pencil layout before applying the colour washes and ink.

This one was drawn onto Bristol Board before being coloured with watercolour washes and then inked up using technical pens of various widths. I thought it came out really well and was thrilled to hear that Adrian was chuffed to receive such a unique gift.

 

Distractions, distractions.

Head_on_CafeRacer_©JonTremlett2013

Drawing and painting onto wood, drawing on metal with a Dremel, designing t-shirts, jewellery making, wood carving, sculpting, transferring images onto glass, painting rocks(!), etching, wire modelling, making enamel badges and resin casting. These are all ideas that have flown my way over the last few weeks. Whilst they are all valid, they are all residing in the possibilities box at present. Some are self generated and others come from those around me. Some arrive with the word ‘should’ tacked on the front somewhere, whilst others take a more open approach with the word ‘could’. I prefer the latter, it speaks of a freedom to chose, of open ended possibilities and creative potential, whereas the former does not, sounding often like a form of well meaning edict, but an implied command none the less. Anyway, there they all sit in the great lottery ball tumbler of options waiting for possible selection. While they are in there they churn around, the subconscious busy doing what it does best, sampling, analysing and interrogating each one in turn. I’ll report on what this process reveals in coming posts I’m sure.

 

This is a great thing but, my word does it create a mountain of distractions which have led to a kind of treacly inertia needing to be overcome each time the drawing board is occupied. I know that the best time to grab a new idea is when you can feel fired up about it, knowing that you will do something with it quickly rather than sit mulling it over. I can feel that moment coming but it ain’t today, or possibly tomorrow either. So in the meantime focus has returned to the drawings and paintings that have suffered from my neglect. The image above is where I’m at with a pen and watercolour rendition of one of those Rocker guys whose style seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment. Enjoy, and don’t forget, the store is open and has a limited stock of those greetings cards for anyone stuck for a gift for a biking mate.

Finally, with new followers arriving all the time, a big thanks to you all for your support and loyalty, it means a great deal and is a welcome spur to keeping going.

 

A gift that keeps on giving.

77_Don_Lance-zinger

A slight deviation from the well ploughed furrow of motorcycle art today, as one of my other projects reaches its end. Now that the gift has been given, I can let you in on something that I’ve ben working on for the last few sessions. My friends visit the blog and so it is always a good idea not to show stuff too early, they may see things they’re not meant to.

 

This is a gift picture done for a very good friend, Martin, to celebrate his birthday. It’s done on A4 Bristol Board using my favourite current techinique of watercolour wash and drawing pen. My friend is a strangely quixotic german, and over dinner the other week my partner and I came up with this idea of the dis-functional knight based on the Cervantes character of Don Quixote. Oddly, Martin too has a sidekick called Sancho, his cat. It seemed very fitting at the time. It took more than a couple of goes to get the horse looking silly enough, but I think I succeeded in the end. And turning my hand to a bit of calligraphy, after rushing to the library for a reference book, was an interesting experience, like dipping a toe into an adjacent pool of different colour water. Needless to say Martin loved it, and his wife Adriana knew exactly what the picture was referring to.

 

Selling a picture is a rewarding experience and one always hopes that the buyer will enjoy it for many years to come. One is of course always happy and grateful for their support and custom, and it’s a great feeling knowing that you have made that connection with someone. Giving a picture, or indeed anything that you have created or made, invokes completely different feelings, particularly when it’s a complete surprise to the receiver. I get a real kick out of seeing their faces and feel tremendous gratitude from hearing their appreciation and thanks. I always hope that every time they see it, the picture reminds them not just of me, but of that moment and the friendship that we share. These kinds of gifts are often wholly unique and the investment in time, energy and care in their making says a lot about how much your care about someone and what their friendship means to you. It’s a wonderful thing.

 

The first V-twin drawing, nearly done.

First V-twin drawing.

Firstly, a big thanks to everyone who sent me a “like” following the last post about the Dragster drawing and its blank rider. As ever, it’s always so encouraging to receive positive responses from viewers. If I haven’t yet, I will be visiting your sites too, to check out all of the creativity happening on WordPress and elsewhere and hopefully reciprocating in the spread of good karma.

 

You will see from the drawing above that not everything is going down the “leave bits blank” route, and so currently this one is much more like many that have come before. But it isn’t finished yet. What you see today is more of a progress update than a finished drawing. I whizzed off a quick scan for the blog without cleaning any of it up so it’s riddled with pencil lines and various other bits and pieces. Although the differences are sometimes subtle, this one is done on Fabriano drawing paper (200 gsm) rather than my preferred Bristol Board. The surface of the paper is much softer than the board and so the fine biro pen interacts with it differently. It is much harder to achieve the very fine line work for delicate tones on the one hand but, creates a kind of broken texture in the cross-hatching on the other hand. You do get a bit more ink build up on the nib of the pen so it’s a good idea to always have a tissue handy for keeping the pen as clean as you can. Overall the result is good though, so the paper has passed this part of the test. The next bit will be to see how it deals with direct sketching in pen. If there is a downside, it is the fact that this paper is only available in A4 and A3 sizes, so getting into some larger drawings will require  me to find a different paper. I’m on to that already.

 

What’s going to happen in order to finish it? Well, there are a couple of new ideas that I’m trying out now which I hope will provide the answer to that question. It will be a new direction that’s for sure and I’ll post about it very soon.

Lastly today, here for your amusement, is the second cartoon I bashed out the other day over a cappuccino whilst contemplating our inability to read things properly, take things seriously and exercise our sense of humour.

 

 

The line is drawn.

Dragster 1

Following on from the last post, the point was quickly reached where the decision as to what to do with the rider figure needed making. Leaving him as a kind of abstract blank space didn’t seem to look at all right. A few basic outlines looked better but didn’t add that much to the overall image, so the third of my choices remained. Why we spend so much time agonising over these things sometimes mystifies me, especially when it’s such a small jump to achieving the finish and one realises that it wasn’t such a big deal after all. That’s life I suppose.

 

It would be good at this point to be able to offer some kind of critique of the finished drawing but I’m currently in that place where I have been looking at it for so long that it is hard to get observations in some kind of order. So for the time being you will have to decide for yourselves whether it works or doesn’t. Others eyes will see things that mine currently miss, so revisiting it in a few days will give me a fresh perspective, and the capacity to work out how to move things on from here. There is certainly something in this leaving areas blank idea, but it needs properly evaluating, experimenting with and developing further.

Finally today, and on a much lighter note, a small cartoon for consideration. Some of us have an unfortunate habit of being able to read a word or phrase and always manage to insert extra letters. An example, if I see a real estate sign that says “To Let” I cannot fail to see the word “toilet”. I’m sure I am not the only person to suffer from this affliction. Well, a well known helmet manufacturer released a new product recently, The Castel. Reading the press release blurb I couldn’t help but think that it was called The Castle. Suffice to say this stuck in my mind, and that morning over a coffee at a local cafe the sketchbook came in very handy. The biking world can be very dry sometimes, it’s good to poke fun at it every now and again. Enjoy.

 

 

Back to the drawing board.

Image

Now that the freelance job has finished, for the time being at least, it’s time to return to the other kind of creativity that occupies the time not spent working on other peoples stuff. The great pity about so much of the freelance work I do these days is that I can’t share it with you, which would help to bring a hefty dose of making activity to the blog. Development projects are always shrouded in a bit of mystery and the ever present blanket of confidentiality to prevent development details from being compromised. Few projects progress fast enough for details to see the light of day within months of being completed, let alone a couple of weeks. In this case it is more likely to be a year or more before it’s safe to show anything and of course there are always permissions that must be granted too. As a third party contractor one must live with this apparent inconvenience but it goes with the territory. I suppose I’ll have to build another bike and get the making-o-meter back round the dial that way. Now there’s a thought…….

In the meantime it’s back to the drawing board and some action with the brushes and pens. There is still some work to do on some colour sketches which are sitting here and that means getting warmed up again for some painting.

So here above is yesterdays warm up exercise in the form of another “bikehead”. Not quite as successful as the previous attempt, a bit heavy on the colours, but it served its purpose.Yes, there are lots of things wrong with it, but these only serve to remind me that there is some way to go on the journey to a more confident and polished technique.

Sketch results in the next post.