Going large, how blowing up images changes their character and impact.

Vinyl banner print by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy.

Another project that has spent many a month in the pipeline is the continuation of an experiment I started last year, where I wanted to see what impact it would have if I blew up one of the drawings to something like life size. While I’m still very much trying to figure out a way of being able to draw at this scale, it seemed like a good idea to get something printed in order to be in the position to make some judgements about how to approach such a challenge in the future. Initially I’d enlisted the help of a good friend, an architect with a big format plotter, to run out a couple of A0 sized sheets with the sketch image of the above drawing on. Taped together, these looked pretty impressive though the paper wasn’t too keen on staying very flat for long. Follow this link to that particular post.

After some further investigation, and with one eye on the possibility that I could use such prints for other purposes, it became clear that the best thing to do was get something printed on vinyl as a kind of banner. So this is what you see above, hanging in my dining room. It’s a metre and a half square, roughly 60 inches across and high, and is a thing of beauty, even though I say so myself. Well, I would, wouldn’t I ?

Vinyl banner print detail by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy

The jump up to such a scale causes you to regard the image in a very different way. The first is that it challenges your perceptions in that one hardly ever sees a cartoon at this size, so one is confronted by a strangely proportioned interpretation of a man and his machine. Some things fit and others don’t. The other change is that the print doesn’t hold any of the information in it back. Every single mark, line and cross hatch is revealed in all its glory, and so what appears a very neat drawing at normal size takes on a looser and more sketchy feel. As the creator, this change is not unlike revealing ones inner secrets of technique and skill to the viewer. Letting them see every stroke of then pen, every guiding thought and inevitably, every mistake. All unexpectedly liberating to see everything laid bare in this fashion. The good thing is, though I may stand to be corrected by others, that the drawing doesn’t suffer for this jump up in size in my mind, it still looks like a drawing, just a very big one done with a very big pen.

I’ve resolved to have some more of these prints done, and it would be really interesting to see what happens to one or two of the colour drawings. To see how every small daub of paint is shown in minute detail. The main challenge will be choosing which one to reproduce. Some would suggest that a painting should never be enlarged beyond its original size but, we do this to photographs so why not something made by hand?

Before I go I’d just like to mention that although vinyl banner printing is a widely available service, it pays dividends to find a printer one can talk things through with before placing the order. So many companies offer a web based service and instant file upload facility, but it’s the ability to see what your final print will look like where many fall short. Luckily I found one who did, so I’ll be visiting them again. If you need to know who they are please contact me.

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Today I painted a car! Part 2.

Ford Mustang water-colour by Jon Tremlett ©2014

Well, here it is, the finished Mustang picture I’ve been working on over the last week. A slightly more intense painting session took hold yesterday and before I knew it I was sat staring at a completed picture. It would be fair to say I’m more than happy with it given that it’s not a subject I visit very often. I’ve never been a car fan, so they don’t appear on the radar as great subjects unless they are extraordinary, and even then I pretty much have to force myself to draw them. Just one of those things I suppose. Anyway, the main stimulus for doing this one was that it’s going to be a gift for a friend so that helps to keep the focus and the enthusiasm up at a level where you need it to make a decent job of it.

There is very much a kind of groove that one gets into when doing something like this. At the beginning of the session things are all rather laboured, small decisions about colour tone, wash density, which bit to do next and even which brush to use seem to take forever. but slowly things speed up and it’s all relatively easy to jump from one thing to the other. It must be a confidence thing too. After painting for an hour or so it all starts to feel more natural and intuitive, and this is really evident in ones ability to push concerns about mucking something up to one side and just get on with it. One gets into a flow which certainly doesn’t happen when trying to complete a picture by picking up the brushes for a few minutes here and there. Best to reserve some quality time and get stuck in.

There were some bits that I found quite difficult. For example the bush or hedge that sits behind the car and the way it’s reflected in the bodywork and windshield. In my reference photo the hedge is much larger but I wanted to reduce it’s presence and use it to help frame the car and give more prominence to the big bulbous hood. I’ve never been good at vegetation so this was a bit of a challenge but great practice for future projects. The other bits that presented a challenge were the headlamps. the lenses are a mass of prismatic forms and they are filled with so many reflections I found it quite hard to see what I was doing and replicate them in a believable way. Thankfully they aren’t too prominent in the overall scheme of things so my rather bitty interpretation of them isn’t to jarring. Again, all good practice for the future. I hope you like the final result as much as I do, and thanks for stopping by and reading todays post.

Today I drew a car!

Mustang sketch by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy.

I’m currently working my through a small book I bought recently about creativity. Needless to say I find it extremely interesting. The book is called “12 Rules of Creativity” by Michael Atavar, you’ll find it here. In the opening chapter is some stuff about training your eyes to really look at things, to really see what’s in front of you. What’s this got to do with drawing this car? Well, I’ve tried a number of times over the last few months to get this picture underway, and each time I have utterly failed to capture it in any way that was remotely close to what I was looking for. Realising the other day that it would be a good idea to have another go, I thought I’d read that chapter in the book again before picking up the pen. By reading the pages and looking up at some photographs I’d taken of the car on the computer screen, it was suddenly much easier to see what I was looking at and, see in my minds eye the composition of the image I wanted to create. Funny that. I’m not exactly sure how it worked but some connection in the brain suddenly got made, and forms that I’d struggled with previously seemed to be more easily understood. Once I’d established an eye line and got my head around the extreme perspective the sketch progressed fairly quickly, though I did have to have a couple of goes at getting the wheel angle where I wanted it.

Consequently I’m pretty happy with this first drawing, which I’ve done in my favourite blue Bic biro on a very cheap sketch pad. It will go onto the light box next so that it can be traced onto some watercolour paper ready for painting and inking.

Ultimately the picture is going to be a gift for my friend Christophe in France. We will be visiting him next month for a house warming party, so I’m hoping he’ll like it and put it up in the new place. He’s a confirmed petrolhead, and this is him in his beloved Mustang, a car I can only describe as a ballistic tank.

Creative decisions that are right for you.

Taking my time to find the right position.

Taking my time to find the right position.

Time to take a look at cutting and fitting the new rear mudguard. There is much talk in bike building circles about getting the stance of your bike right as a prerequisite for coming up with anything good looking. There is a school of thought that is very prevalent currently to have the line of the bike very flat. That’s to say, the visual line from the back of the seat running through the base of the tank to the front suspension should be pretty much parallel to the ground. Hence you see lots of bikes that are all starting to look the same and share the almost totally flat seat which is almost ubiquitous in its manifestation. This is all well and good if you’ve got the time, money and the need to go down this route. Personally I haven’t. As I’ve mentioned before, without resorting to large amounts of frame modification  (read expensive welding bills and jiggery) and spending a whole pile of cash on different suspension equipment, there’s not much one can do beyond a certain point. The creative challenge is therefore to move away from the standard look enough to create difference and come up with something that works with the proportions one is presented with. This can be a lot harder than you think, but it is possible on a very limited budget and is generally a case of taking ones time in positioning, cutting and mounting components. Once you’ve cut metal there’s very little you can do to rescue things, so it pays to exercise patience and adopt a methodical approach no matter how quickly you want the project to be completed.

Position set, holes drilled, just the light to mount.

Position set, holes drilled, just the light to mount.

Of course, what “looks right” is a purely subjective conclusion. Because these kinds of projects are pretty personal in their nature, the result must first be right for you, in your own eyes. That’s the most important thing really. Decisions you make in a build are always contextualised by a whole host of factors and compromises that one has had to deal with on the journey to the final outcome. Others may not like your final iteration but then invariably they have little knowledge of this context. As a maker, of anything, one has the luxury of knowing that you could change or modify things in future if the urge takes you, but it’s an option that you can reserve to exercise if you so choose.

When I first built this bike I made a pile of decisions about how it would look based how I felt about the life it would lead, about practical issues like comfort and durability as much as aesthetic considerations. I reserved the right to change things if I wanted to but generally didn’t feel the need to do much other than periodic tweaking. Now, some time later, it is time to make some changes  based on living with it and riding it for a few years. There are still certain things about the stance I can do little about, but these are not a problem. The bike started life as a factory custom and so caries with it some small legacies of that life which I’m happy to live with, like the long forks and the steep rake of the tank.

A rather blurry shot courtesy of my iPad, but you get the idea.

A rather blurry shot courtesy of my iPad, but you get the idea.

So here are some shots showing the process of getting the new rear mudguard (fender) sitting in the right place, at the right angle in the right way. Once I’d cut the bare rolled section I’d bought to roughly the correct length I spent ages with bits of foam, tape and cups of tea trying it in different positions to get the look I was after. Once I was happy I marked the mounting holes for drilling and returned to the shed for some hole making. The critical factor was getting enough section over the wheel without it looking overly long but still having enough curve available to support the light/plate assembly at the right angle. I didn’t think things had changed much until I held up the new piece next to the old one to see that I’d actually reduced the length by about 150mm, very satisfying.

The final shot shows the guard in place with the light mounted and everything else ready to go. The final piece of this refresh is painting the petrol tank, which I’m currently working on a design for and I’ll be posting about that very soon.

Before the making starts.

Strange proportions and some serious wear and tear you can't see.

Strange proportions and some serious wear and tear you can’t see.

In the last post, which was primarily concerned with getting into some making as an antidote to creative imbalance, I mentioned that the project I’d be launching myself into would be a refresh of my already custom built little 250cc motorcycle.

Above are a couple of shots taken not long ago of how it was looking. From this distance and angle there doesn’t seem to be that much wrong with it but upon closer inspection it was really starting to show its age. First modified nearly six years ago, it has since endured a life of quite heavy use as a daily commuter and weekend run about. There were two aspects that I wanted to address in my refresh. Firstly, the finishes that I’d applied all those years ago were starting to look very tired. Numerous scrapes and scratches, injuries sustained from sharing public parking bays with careless scooter users, and general wear and tear had taken their toll on the paint work, and the protective lacquers applied to keep it all shiny had reached the limits of their life. Surface cracking and other problems giving the whole thing a rather worn appearance. Some patina of use is good, some just makes things look a bit sad and unloved. So time for a fresh face.

Secondly, there were some aspects of the proportions of the whole thing which I realised I hadn’t got very right the first time around. As you can see the bike is quite low at the back and high at the front, a product of it being a “Factory Custom” bike in its previous life. I wanted to reduce this height a bit to bring a bit more balance. The rear fender was causing me some worry too. I’d made it longer at the outset for practical reasons more than anything, to keep the road dirt off everything, but have come to see it as way too long, the overhang above the rear wheel being too far which seems to exaggerate the odd proportions even more so.

So the plan was to create two new fenders, or mudguards, see what I could do about the height of the front and give it a fresh coat of paint. Thinking it through it seemed like better sense to keep the guards in bare metal, very a la mode these days but, no more worrying about precious paint finishes on bits that get very dirty. I’d purchased two new rolled sections just for this purpose some time ago at a local autojumble so saw this as a quick fix solution that I could do at home.

Dealing with the front end would be a bit more tricky. The instrument bracket I’d made and its effect on the headlight position, together with the fly screen all contribute to a visual height at the front which seems at odds with the rest of the bike. Changing all this and giving it all a bit more breathing space should help, and mucking around with bar positions and suchlike will help too. The forks are pushed up into the yokes as far as they will go, so without drastic fork shortening there’s not much I can do beyond small changes. Some have suggested the more severe approach of having the frame modified but that’s way beyond the brief and, after all, this is a daily workhorse bike not a show pony aiming for total perfection. Not to mention the fact that major engineering of that magnitude costs a good deal of hard earned cash, probably more than the bike is worth.

The final piece in the puzzle will be the new paint scheme. The bike is mainly black and I’ll keep it that way. I want something subtle, but different enough to make it individual. With only the tank and side panels to do it needs to be quite simple. I’d like to have an element of hand painted brush work in there as well as a tiny splash of colour. I’m yet to settle on a final idea though I’m leaning heavily towards something slightly more decorative that a big white stripe. I’m going to keep in under my hat for now, until it’s resolved, as I’ve told a couple of friends it will be a secret until I’ve finished it. Don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet.

Creative imbalance and making the most of what you’ve got.

Small, but with lots of potential.

Small, but with lots of potential.

It is the only word I’ve managed to come up with in trying to describe what’s been going on of late, imbalance. I’ve got a fair idea about where it’s come from and it has taken me a while to get to grips with it.

Rather than castigate myself for allowing it to happen, it has been much easier to recognise it for what it is and deal with it through action and a little reasoning. This imbalance stems from a shift in my working life over the last few months, and hence my creative output, which I’d not accounted for. Although my role is only part time, it has involved a lot of idea generation and thus a massive amount of drawing and sketching. Big projects, which require a lot of this kind of thing in their early stages, need sustained creative input and masses of ideas. It’s exhausting, creatively and physically. Where I went wrong is not remembering this to be the case and failing to keep any creative energy in reserve for my own stuff once I returned home. So it’s been difficult to draw, but more to the point, it’s been hard to generate ideas.

Shed_2

I’m showing you a couple of pictures of my garden shed, here in my back yard, as it has proved to be the answer to coping with this imbalance. Rather than spend any more time staring at blank sheets of paper the solution lay in getting out there and making something, turning raw materials into something else, using some tools and getting my hands dirty.

 

There had been a plan in the back of my mind for a while to refresh the little 250cc motorcycle that I’d modified some years ago when I started this blog. Over the years, as the miles have racked up, it has suffered the usual knocks and scrapes that these things are victim to, and overall the finish was starting to look very tired. I wanted to give it a freshen up, and make some changes to the overall design that I’d not got right first time around. So what to do for a making project was all ready and waiting, I just had to start. Before now I have relied on using workshop space owned by other people, this time around I didn’t have that option so my little shed was going to need to be the work space that I could use. As you can see it’s a small building with very limited floor area, but it does have an electricity supply, a big light on the rafters  and a work bench across one end. It houses all of my various tools, materials and other useful stuff accumulated over years of working as a prototype builder and modelmaker. Being of a sturdy design and construction it allows all manner of things to be hung from the walls, freeing up floor area and permitting at least a modicum of organisation. I don’t own any large machine tools, I’d need a bigger shed if I did, so most of the work would be done with hand and power tools with my trusty old Black and Decker Workmate acting as a secondary work bench. The only thing I can’t, and likely won’t do in there is spray paint, that will have to happen elsewhere. The shed was here in the garden when we moved into the house and I’ve always wanted to use it as a making space. now was my chance to put that thought into practice.

It just about fits in.

It just about fits in.

The third shot shows the bike pretty much in the shed. I didn’t need it completely inside, just enough to get some soldering done on the electrical loom, but it meant that I could work on it in there if the weather took a turn for the worse. By being methodical and tidying up as I went it was utterly surprising what I managed to do in this small space. Most of us work in some kind of organised chaos. Some cope well the more chaotic things are, others less, and over the years my natural inclination has veered toward the organised rather than the chaotic and this is a boon when working in a confined space. Having everything to hand helps too but, the order one maintains around oneself really is reflected in how one deals mentally with the making process.

The fruits of my labours are in the next post.

 

Confronting your creative comfort zone, one step at a time.

Paint and ink detail be Kon Tremnlett for Soulcraftcandy.

Welcome to the first post of the new year, a year supposedly fully fueled with fresh resolve to go beyond merely just carrying on. Actually, to be honest, I made no new resolutions regarding the blog, and this may end up being a good thing as it will keep the devil of disappointment from the door for a while. Y’see, it’s not even the end of January and the thieves of time have already raided the creative cupboard and made off with more than they usually swipe. The important thing at times like this is not to stop altogether, to keep chipping away, even if it is only a small bit at a time. This is how it goes sometimes and part time work can often morph into something with a greedy appetite for your precious time. I liken it to when we used to listen to the radio on sets that possessed a manual tuning dial. Often the signal would fade or go crackly, and in order to hear the music again you had to lean over and move the tuning control ever so slightly. Clarity would return. So currently the dial of life needs some subtle turning to get back to a more balanced feeling.

 

But creative work never stops and thankfully the drawing projects are still on going, just a bit more slowly than usual. The image above is a detail of what’s on the drawing board right now. Essentially it’s a larger colour version of a drawing I did over a year ago as part of the original cafe racer series in biro. I’ve been wanting to do a colour one for ages, so got the brushes out just before Christmas and have been chipping away ever since.

 

Like previous pictures this one is being done on Bristol Board using water colour washes and my trusty technical pens. Although progress is slow, I’m enjoying every minute of it and, taking my time has allowed me to make some considered changes to my plan and think a bit more deeply about what I’m doing.

 

This is all good stuff, but it’s also causing me to realise that I should perhaps be trying to do more with the paint. I’ll try and explain what I mean. At the core of it would be a feeling that I am not a natural painter, someone who’s automatically at home with the medium. For me, and this probably harks back to formative years, the application of paint to an image has always been a colouring in exercise, following some kind of predetermined outline to render a colour picture. It has never really ever been used as an expressive tool in its own right. As a result I’ve established this kind of comfort zone in which my painting exists and is quite cosy for me. So there’s a challenge in the near future to see if I can get out of that comfort zone and see if I can make more of what’s out there. People endlessly talk about thinking outside of the box these days, well this is a challenge of DOING outside of the box.Painting, whether it be in oils, acrylics or water colour is a combination of many skills and techniques and yes, it is daunting to think that one is only in possession of a small amount of skill and a couple of techniques but, it is also exciting to know that there is a world of image making still out there waiting to be tried. My professional life does not allow me the luxury of experimentation so, somehow expectedly, I’ll need to break some habits too if I’m going to improve my skills. Rather like the picture from the last post, you never know what’ll happen until you try, so flinging some paint around could reveal some interesting things. The key will be to learn, as much as create and make. Here’s to an experimental and rewarding 2014.  I’ll keep you posted.