Blasts from the past.

Pencil drawing of old Cyclomotor circa 1981

The long weekend away turned into a longer period away from the drawing board thanks to another chunk of freelance work, a mad dash to the line in time for a client meeting abroad for my client and a hefty chunk of mechanism making. It worked out fine so here’s hoping more work from them soon.


Anyone who has a home workshop full of stuff, or a home studio full of the products of ones creativity will know that it is an oft occurring feature of life that whilst rummaging through things in order to find a particular item, one often uncovers another item long buried under a pile, or secreted at the bottom of a rarely opened box. It happens on our computers too. How many of us have hard drives stuffed with old files we barely know we still have? So it was a nice surprise to unearth some very old drawings from my first year as an art student. You’ll see that my interest in engines was already in plain view.


As some of you will know, and others perhaps not, ones journey toward a creative life in the UK often starts after you’ve spent eighteen or so years filling your head with maths, history, geography, languages and all manner of fact based academic luggage. Many of us don’t really know what creative career we would like to pursue and so a year on a Foundation course helps to point you in the right direction. It’s a fantastic period full of experimentation and exploration as you feel your way through a vast gamut of disciplines. After thirty years as a professional I really feel like doing another one it’s such an expansive experience.


So these two drawings are from that time, products of one of the many observational drawing assignments undertaken where the emphasis was on producing lots of images rather than how one made them. The one above is done in soft pencil on cartridge paper and is complete with smears, fingerprints and the lovely grubbiness one gets from the heel of your hand moving about the paper. I’m not sure, but I think the lower one is done in some kind of oil pastel, again on cartridge paper, and is vastly oversized. You can see from both that my interpretation and understanding of forms, and the ability to distinguish surfaces through light and dark areas is starting to assert itself but is very much a work in progress. I’m particularly amused by my rendering of various ellipses, a geometric shape that haunts many an interpretation of man made objects. I still struggle with them even now.

Cyclomotor carburettor.

What is this object? It is a small engine that one attaches to the rear seat stays of a bicycle and drives the rear wheel via a roller lowered onto the tyre. A Cyclomotor perhaps? In the larger image it is upside down, the cylinder would point downwards in normal use. My uncle appeared from his cavernous garage with it on the day I mentioned to him that I was looking for something unusual to draw. Sadly I can’t remember what happened to the motor or the drawings after I photographed them.



More work in progress.

Having wrapped up the two “megatwin” drawings thoughts turn immediately to what’s going to follow on behind them. As methodical as one might wish to be it’s not always a simple case of reaching over to shelf and picking up the next sheet in the pile and cleaning off the business end of the biro.

Not being in a position to work on the drawings every day means that the work flow can be a bit erratic at times. As much as one would like to have a selection of different pictures in various states of readiness to work on it don’t always happen like that. Gaps appear in the chain, as it were, when only doodles and quick sketches lie on top of the pile. At these times I reach for said sketch pile and skim through them looking for any likely candidates for refinement. My noodling sessions, coffee powered periods of ploughing through the image archive, bike mags and various web sites with a pen in one hand and a pad to hand always throw up a rich crop of little ideas. Now it’s simply a case of working a few of them up to a point where a more finished idea emerges.

The sketches here show that kind of process in loose form, from initial doodle to something I’ll transpose onto Bristol Board for inking in. It may very well end up as two versions, one with the question mark thought bubbles and one without. easy enough to do but there’s a good chance one may end up getting some paint thrown at it. The form of the bike may lend itself very well to that. Also, the detail on the horizon line in the initial sketch has been left off the latest version but may very well re-appear later on.

The right way to go.

Just when you think you’ve got a strong idea in your mind it has to be admitted by this scribbler that my minds ability to create an image is far more polished than my hand/eye combo. Full of a new found confidence and a belief that I’d finally started to crack a nut that had been bothering me for some time, I leaned back and presumed things would just flow out. No, it was a lot harder than that. Sketch after sketch after sketch. Locked into a kind of one man battle with a pad of layout paper I just went round and round in circles. Over a cup of desperately needed coffee I laid everything out on the floor and had a think about what I was doing. Doing this is such a great way of seeing where you are with a project and a practice ‘d completely neglected to incorporate into my working.

By turning over all of the skamps that I felt weren’t going anywhere I ended up with three or four which showed promise. I rarely throw any drawing away, no matter how crappy, you never know what you might see in them on another day with fresh eyes. So I had a pile of duds and a select few to work on further.

I stuck with pencils and layout paper. One has a beautiful progressive nature to it, in that it allows you to press as softly or hard as you wish and the line quality is a direct reflection of your actions and, the other is opaque enough for a good background but thin enough to allow you to place drawings underneath the top sheet and trace through. The two sketches in this post are preliminary drawings for others that I’ve now done in ink.

Because I’d been thinking about context and how to create it in the drawings I’d decided to always draw a rider on board unless he’s close by doing something to the bike and it’s stationary. I kind of thought that that, and the attitude of the bike in the picture would be enough to keep me going for now and that I’d worry about fuller backgrounds later on. I wanted to master drawing the bikes first. I also wanted to try and find a style of drawing that was comfortable and more importantly, repeatable, in the sense that layout and other elements would come more naturally rather than feeling forced in any way.