No going back.

The inescapable fact of the matter when you’re making drawings like these is that ink can be a mightily unforgivable medium. Once you’ve made that mark on the paper there is invariably no going back. You can’t erase it. I remember there being such a thing as an erasable biro pen many years ago but, I also remember that it wasn’t really so and always left some kind of witness behind it and the eraser used scuffed up the surface of the paper. Not that great really when you’re after a perfect image. But I digress. There are advantages however to putting oneself in the situation where you can’t really afford to make any mistakes. I’ve always found that it tends to focus ones concentration on the drawing and where the marks and lines go. Over time this also builds a confidence in oneself which allows you to be much more relaxed during the creative process. There is a joy to be had in “knowing” what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It makes it all feel very natural and in some way takes you closer to that point of flow that I’ve mentioned before.

There are many agonising moments during the making of a drawing, but the most can often be the point where you’re just about to make the very first marks on the page. I know I’m not alone in suffering that dreadful emptiness when faced with a blank sheet of paper. As a kid sat in art class the blank page presented you with so much possibility that you almost froze in the face of its intimidating emptiness. As you mature creatively this diminishes for sure but it can pop up occasionally to test you. Thankfully with a pencilled outline already on the page I don’t suffer this fate at present but I do take one last long stare at the bare image before that first biro contact. One is still faced with many choices one has to make even at this point but to combat any unsureity I employ a couple of simple strategies to get me by.

The sketches in this post demonstrate my simplest approach. I start in the middle of the drawing and work outwards. There is a practical reason behind this as much as anything. By starting in the centre I can move around the piece I’m working on very easily without running the risk of picking up “wet” ink on my hand and then promptly smearing it all around the page. I always use a loose sheet of paper to lean on to avoid this but it is so easy to forget to move it as you go and make a mess. As the drawing progresses I then divide it up into areas and attack those one at a time. So for example I’ll do the engine, then the surrounding bodywork etc. Wheels are always done as a pair and I leave the rendering of the figure until after I’ve competed the bike. the final step is any shadow and ground detail and then finally the horizon or background, if there is one.

These two drawings have taken shape in parallel. Again it’s another strategy I use to help me along, working on more than one thing at a time. Despite the obvious advantage of giving you two finished drawings at the same time what this really does is help we out when I get stuck. It keeps the flow going when I run into a set of details I’m perhaps not sure about, and rather than sit idly there letting my mind and focus wander I can reach for the other drawing and keep going while my subconscious mulls over how I’m going to deal with the problem. A happy consequence can also be that something done on one drawing provides a solution for the other. A kind of win win thing.

These two will be finished very soon.

Going with the flow.

Some years ago I was engaged in a process of attempting to understand creative acts and my own creativity in particular. This was brought about by a need to find out more about what made me tick. Like many creative people I’m sure, I’ve often found myself wondering what exactly it was that I was good at why being unsure about it was making working life quite confusing and unrewarding. Coincidentally my partner was beginning to investigate the meaning of creativity around about the same time and through her own investigations introduced to me the concept of flow.

I had never come across this idea before but, very quickly I understood that it was something I’d encountered many times in both my professional and private life. Like many of these kinds of things it’s a very simple idea but people manage to write whole books about it. In simple terms the best way I can describe it is that it is primarily a state of mind.

 

Have you ever engaged in an activity and lost all track of time? Have you ever been so engrossed in something that you’ve not heard the telephone ring, or suddenly looked up from a task and wondered where the day went? Have you ever been so into making something that all problems encountered are easily solved and progress seems to just come naturally? Well, if any of these has happened to you then most likely you have been in flow.

 

Understanding this concept has helped me hugely in recognising what I like doing most in work and play. It has enabled me to make much more informed choices about what work to take on and why sometimes I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse.

 

This finished colour representation of the second of my printed out sketches onto watercolour paper emerged from a concentrated afternoon spent mostly in flow. I have no idea how long it really took, not that it matters, and I got so engrossed in it that the day just vanished in a blur of paints, brushes and water. Not having really done a full colour drawing like this for some time I threw myself into rediscovering how to get the paints to move around the painting and what happens when you put paint on a wetted surface and a dry surface. It sounds simple but I’ve found it’s easy to forget all of the little tricks one develops for oneself to get things looking how you want them. There are a couple of things not quite right with it, like needing more variance in my greys. But there are also some great things about it too. I’d forgotten how vibrant the liquid watercolours I use for some parts can be (Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant concentrated water colours, hopefully available at all good art shops worth their salt). The red for the tank really helps the image to jump off the page which is such a satisfying outcome, for me anyway. I’m attending the 50th birthday party for a very old friend this weekend and I’m so pleased with this image I think I’ll give it to him as a present. He’s a bit of a bike nut too, so here’s hoping he’ll like it.

 

The first sketch, with the mechanic behind the bike, is very nearly done too so I’ll post that up in a day or so. The bigger biro drawing of the big single cylinder cafe racer is coming along well to and will be here soon. Watch this space.