The Captain.

Here’s another slice of the mixed fruit cake of drawing that goes on around here. The picture above shows a guy I have been playing about with for some time, and he’s the closest I’ve ever got to developing a character. He arrived in my life some time ago whilst working on a communications project. An opportunity had arisen to use a character to promote certain messages the client had in mind. This guy was not a direct result of that exercise but was born during a moments idle sketching one evening. The project had been about communicating expertise and my mind had wandered in the opposite direction to contemplating ineptitude and how to communicate that. The idea of a bungling, idiotic and ineffectual “superhero” type had a strange appeal, someone with all the gear and no idea.

Not long after his arrival he was given a name, Captain Shark, after my small design business whose logo he wears on his chest, and for want of anything better at the time. He rapidly went from a slightly muscular bloke to this rather podgy individual graced with abundant enthusiasm, an overly fertile imagination and elevated sense of his own abilities. A sidekick in the form of a small dog appeared soon after and my sketchbook at the time bulged with sketches of him trying to engage with the world in one form or another. And there he has remained for some time now apart from a few select outings like the watercolour above. This has very much to do with not knowing exactly what to do with him.

Over the last year or so he has undergone some experimental name changes, I closed my company so the shark reference doesn’t have the same ring to it, and a dormant attempt to turn him into something else, like a mad inventor or suchlike. So he’s very much still a work in progress.

What he does have though is staying power as frequent visits are made to that particular sketchbook to move him on a bit further or simply play around with him.

Whatever fate awaits him, he is immense fun to sketch and draw. Because his body form consists of a series of rounded blobs he is moderately easy to pose and the tight fitting spandex outfit lends him a kind of elasticity that is fun to exploit. Being a cartoon he is a great vehicle for trying things out, for instance, if I’m stuck on something else like a posture it’s often faster and easier to work it out using his bendy body form first and then develop from there. He is essentially like a bit of 2 dimensional modelling clay and a handy catalyst for getting ideas moving. More about him soon.


Background noise.

As mentioned before on the blog there are always things going on in the background while work on the larger finished drawings is progressing. Sometimes this takes the form of working sketches which will form the basis of larger works, at other times they are small drawings that are used to practice techniques or develop an idea.

Above are a small group of what are known here as bikeheads. Invariably the larger drawings contain a character or two and it is often a challenge to get them looking right for the given context that they find themselves in. Finding the correct pose and body shape is never simple and the same goes for facial expression, and how this reflects the characters personality. The former are dealt with purely through sketching out varying forms but, the latter is harder, especially when you realise that even the slightest variation in line can change a facial expression completely. So as an aid to get things going I have started a kind of character bank in which to keep all the doodles of heads and faces that appear through the sketch sheets. It will then be easier to have a look through and find some inspiration when it’s needed. Adding some colour to these helps to bring out the character and keeps my colour pencil technique up to scratch too if it’s not being employed elsewhere.

Which leads me neatly onto this second group. Back in December a post contained some small groups of varying bike styles I was playing with at a reduced scale. Those had been completed in crayon and ink. These above were done purely to see what would happen if they were done using liquid inks and watercolours. To find out how intense the colours would be and how much of the detail could be held  given the very liquid nature of the medium and the coarser paper used. Very fine Rotring pen has been applied too, to firm up[ the outlines and add extra black where desired. The paper was fine for the paints but proved to be a bit too “wooly” for the finer stuff subsequently done with the pen. Next up will be a test on harder paper.

Some say you can’t learn to draw from a book. This may be so, or not, but a couple of really useful books I refer to regularly are Action Cartooning by Ben Caldwell, here, and Cartooning The Head & Figure by Jack Hamm, here. Both are invariably out on the desk when character sketching. Neither will teach you a style but, both will inform whatever your personal style may be. Great books.


Is it now a painting?

Finally got around to putting the finishing touches to this one the other evening and so wanted to get it up on the blog as soon as possible. As much as I like the final result, it’s proving difficult to decide what to say about it today other than to ask the question, “is it now a painting?”

Certainly the character of the image is completely different, the starkness of the ink drawing is replaced by a softness afforded by the colour treatment. What’s also interesting is that even though a stronger connection to reality is forged with the addition of colour, it has also brought a stronger emphasis to some of the more comic elements.

The purpose of the exercise however was not to set up some kind of competition between the two images, more to explore how colour would effect the final outcome and to get my rusty painting hand back into action. Some details proved easy and enjoyable to do whilst others remained a challenge, so there is still work to do before getting to that point where one is confident in creating what your minds eye can see, on the page in front of you. They say that in order to truly become an expert at something you must practice it for something like ten thousand hours, quite a way to go if expertise is the goal. Thankfully it is not, well not yet anyway, re-learning to play with some colour media is. So there will be more of these.

Enjoy the view.