A good pen is an expensive tool, look after it.

The finished workshop polo shirt.

The finished workshop polo shirt.

So here is the shirt design for Bill Bunn Motorcycles, my local bike shop, in its finished form. The guys very kindly gave me a polo shirt in way of payment, which makes one feel very good about the idea of bartering. The quality of the screen printing is really good and the level of line and detail they have managed to keep is very high. A great result.

This black and white block reductive drawing is becoming strangely addictive. Partly I think it has to do with the process being quite quick, you see results quite fast but, it also has much to do with the simple pleasure of pen use and the decision making process. Areas of the drawing are either black or white and that’s it, this way or that, simple. As more drawings take shape it becomes easier to decide which way to go, ones ability to “see” what gets left out becomes clearer. It is amazing how the eye and brain are able to build a complete image from only a rather basic framework of information.

Big_Ink_CB750©JonTremlett2015

This activity is also helping me to complete some drawings which have been lying dormant in the drawing chest because I couldn’t decide on how to finish them. This indecision invariably comes from a lack of confidence and a worry about messing something up having invested a great deal of time and effort into it. For some reason this temerity seems to disappear once I start thinking of completing them in this style. One example is the drawing above. It must have sat in the drawer for about a year while I dithered over the final execution. However, armed with a couple of freshly filled Rotring pens it all came together rather quickly. there is still some background to complete to bring it on a bit further but essentially a neglected work has taken on new life.

Techy pens1

One aspect of working in this way is that I’ve realised that I actually have a rather unhealthy pen fetish! I’m actually a bit of a technical pen nerd in reality. It is a necessary part of using these things that one has to be rather fastidious about their cleanliness in order to get the best out of them, and I find myself enjoying this often messy job. There’s something terribly satisfying about making the first lines after a thorough clean and refill of my most oft used pen. What strikes me as a bit excessive is why I have to have so many of the things? At least a dozen at the last count, though not all are in working order. Long neglected at the bottom of a drawer, one or two are utterly dried up and solid with ink residue, a rock hard shellac like substance that seems to be impervious to most solvents. Prolonged soaking in cleaning fluid, often weeks, helps to release things but often the smaller sized nibs are beyond help. I have no idea why I have so many, like many bits of drawing equipment we just seem to accumulate them unwittingly over time. I remember purchasing my original Rotring box set over 30 years ago, second hand from a market stall but where the others have come from is anyones guess. Likely bought because I’d forgotten I had that size already or they were so bunged up I just went and got a new one rather than bother cleaning them out. Profligate and lazy days to be sure. One thing being a freelancer teaches you though, is looking after your stuff so hopefully m nibs can look forward to a more pampered and productive life from here on.

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The big Green Meanie – it’s finished.

A personal commission by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy.

For once, having said in the previous post that I was close to finishing a picture, I have done exactly that, and faster than I thought I would too. So here is the finished article. The pictures are the wrong way around today, finished one first, purely because it’s great to open a post with a completed picture. I’m pretty happy with how it has come out.

You will notice that I have left the top of the picture plain white rather than include the very dark area at the top of the reference photo. What drove my decision in the end was the thought that I wanted the main subject to really stand out, surrounding it in big dark bits would have dulled it off too much. So there’s just a hint of ochre wash back there to lift it further.

A personal commission by Jon Tremlett.

This view, and apologies for my iPad’s inability to take a decent photo in my studio, shows things at about the half way stage. With such dark areas in the image it was a bit of a juggler getting the various tones down in an order where they didn’t conflict too greatly. What helped was mixing two different kinds of grey, one for the riders leathers and the other for the bike area shadows, so I could maintain a distinction between them. The shadow areas go down in a couple of passes with the brush, but the leathers took rather longer, slowly building the tone with much thinner washes. The really tricky bit, doing the helmet and face, came last and again was a slow build. I’m not afraid to admit I find faces and flesh tones quite difficult so going slowly with a small brush gives me the best chance of getting it right. Finally, once all the above is dry, my attention switches to the ground area and their associated shadows, making sure I don’t include too much detail so as to keep your eye focused on the big green thing in the middle.

There is always a process of final fiddling and fettling at the end of the main paint stage. Each time your eye returns to the image after a short break you pick up on little things which just need a small tweak so out comes the tiny brush for some edge honing, some white gouache to bump some highlights up and a colour pencil or two. Some things you can’t adjust so there’s only so much you can do, your biggest challenge is knowing when to stop. This one turned out to be more of a painting than a drawing, something I don’t do that often, but I don’t think it loses anything because of that. Yes, it was a challenge but, it was a fun one to undertake which is just as important.

Thanks for dropping by today and hopefully you’ve enjoyed the post.

Shotgun drag bike – slowly the bike emerges from the paper.

Shotgun_greys©JonTremlett2014

In a continuation from the previous post, here are some further images charting the progress of the Shotgun drag bike picture. In this first one I’m still very much in the process of laying down the grey tones, and as you can see this pretty much covers most of the parts of this bike, including the tyres, which are not painted red. As I mentioned previously this is very much a process of laying on tone and building up to the desired intensity in small steps. Most people who’ve ever rendered anything will tell you that true black doesn’t really exist, and they’d be right. But with this style of drawing or painting I like to create areas of absolute black as they help give the image punch and underline the more cartoonish nature of the final picture. So where possible it’s good to get those bits done at this stage too.

Shotgun_frame1©JonTremlett2014

In this second image you’ll see that I’ve completed the exhaust pipes having finished with the greys, before starting on the frame colour. Exhaust pipes, especially chromed ones are a lot of fun to do, but they do rely on you having some decent reference material to work from. In this case there was plenty going on in the photograph, so the reflections are quite colourful and intricate. The engine, and therefore the near vertical exhaust pipe too, provide a real central anchor point for the picture and the reflections really help to draw the eye to the focal point of the image.

Shotgun_frame2©JonTremlett2014

This final image shows the picture with the frame pretty much done. Again, this was a process of laying down slightly diluted tones of the red colour in steps, slowly building the colour up giving the frame tubes their form and highlight areas as you go. I took some time to get the base red right, mixing scarlet and orange inks to obtain something with the right amount of vibrancy. Diluted this gave a lovely pink for the lighter areas and with a bit of dark rich brown mixed in created a great tone for the shadows. It can be a bit nerve wracking when working with such strong colour as the last thing you need is to smear it across an area where it’s not wanted, or worse, get a small droplet landing on your pristine white surround. Once this stuff is down, there is no way to get rid of it or cover it up. But taking your time and working slowly and methodically pays dividends, and allowing things to dry every few minutes is a good habit to get into.

By this stage the picture is really starting to jump off the page, the red frame bringing a whole new three dimensional feeling to the piece. Nearly there.

Shotgun dragbike – Finalising the layout.

Shotgun layout by Jon Tremlett 2014

It’s been a very busy month since my last post, one that has seen this picture progress to being finished along with some other stuff too. rather than jump straight to the final image, here is a slightly retrospective look at the process I have been through in completing this commission.

So this first image is of the final layout sketch which will now dictate how the picture will be in its final form. This one is traced through, using my little lightbox, on to an A3 sheet of good quality drawing paper using the previous sketch as an underlay. This stage is when I do most of the adjusting, moving things around slightly, changing some proportions here and there, and generally tightening things up. For the first time the drawing takes on a kind of crispness which really helps in being able to see properly what’s what and get the view finalised. Once I’m happy with this version, it’s pretty much ready to go and ready to be transferred onto the sheet of Bristol Board for the final rendering. This transfer stage is normally quite quick and easy, but this time was a rather fraught event. The size of the Bristol Board sheet was too large for the lightbox, the last thing you want is to crease or damage the paper whilst tracing through. Instead I had to rig up a makeshift lightbox using a small glass topped table and some desk lights and kneel on the floor to draw. It was hot day and the heat from the lights made the whole thing a rather nerve wracking affair, the board starting to warp after only twenty minutes. But it got done soon enough and I was really itching to get cracking with the colour phase.

Shotgun_engine©JonTremlett2014

So this image is of the the engine after a couple of painting sessions. I don’t know exactly why, but I always like to start at the centre of the picture and work outwards. With the bikes this invariably means doing the engine area first. It’s actually a really good way to get started. The main constituent colour here is Payne’s Grey, either on its own or mixed with other colours for different hues and shades. Keeping the paint quite thin, colour and tone are built slowly in layers, it gives more control, and allowed to dry every now and then to stop paper warp and the surface from degrading through sogginess. Once I’m happy with an area I’ll get the technical pen out and start the process of outlining and blacking to start to bring the whole thing out of the surface and give it some punch. This also helps to set the early tone for the drawing and acts as a guide for putting down subsequent colour areas. Looking good so far.

It’s very green.

103_Nail_It©JonTremlett2014

Just a brief post this time as there is still much to do at the end of this Bank Holiday weekend and we are all back at school tomorrow.

So here above is the finished picture that was shown in a part done state a couple of weeks ago. Safe to say it’s very bright and colourful and has turned out pretty much exactly as I planned. I love using a bright orange on the bike tanks and so it seemed only logical to offset that with a blazing green for the background block. And because the bike’s standing pretty much on its nose, then angling the coloured area around it seemed like a good way of emphasising the the dynamic of the image.

This one’s done on a much smoother water colour paper than the usual fare and it makes a real difference to how the inking goes down and the control that one can exercise in the coloured areas. I hope you like it as much as I do. Gotta dash.

It’s bright, I’m happy and it’s shipped.

The Thumper © Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy 2014

Those little thieves, that like to pinch bits of your time when you’re not looking are still hovering around the studio, turning hours into minutes. I’m experimenting with various strategies to combat their fiddling, the most effective so far being to shut down the email at certain times and turn the phone to silent mode. It’s working but it’s not a long term solution.

 

Despite these distractions I have finally managed to finish the picture featured in the last post, and it would be fair to say that I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. For a long time I wondered if the speed streaks would work, and was tempted on many an occasion to just leave them out. I’m glad I didn’t, they add a bit of direction and dynamism to the image which wouldn’t be there otherwise. It’s a detail I need to work on to get absolutely right but for a first attempt it’s none too shabby. I’m also very happy with the balance, between cartoon and reality, I have managed to strike. It is such an overwhelming temptation sometimes to get utterly carried away in the painting and start working too much realism into the colouring.

 

As for that background, well it just needed something massive and punchy to lift it off the paper and grab the eyeballs. I did it in Dr. Martin’s liquid water colour with an airbrush, using two variations on orange. First a layer of orange and then some tangerine layed over the top. I always find using the airbrush completely nerve wracking. Laying down the masking film is enough to give me the jitters on its own, and then cutting out the mask with a scalpel and removing the pieces turns me into a shaking wreck! Spraying seems to be the easy bit. The ink takes ages to dry properly and in the end I had to remove it from the surface of the film with a carefully placed piece of blotting paper and a roller. Only then is it safe to remove the mask, very, very slowly.

Detail of the Thumper by © Jon Tremlett 2014

As I mentioned before, I think I’ll leave this level of detail painting for a while and have a go at being a bit looser with things. I’ve been sketching out some other pieces in good old fashioned pencil this week and I want to take one of those onto a suitable paper and play with washes. I’m hoping it will be a bit experimental and free up the brain a bit, loosen the creative muscle as it were. I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

 

Overcoming Bull-headedness.

Bike sketch in brown ink by Jon Tremlett ©2013

For those of you who have been following the saga of the large biro drawing, known around here as “The Bull”, you will note that todays offering is not it, it’s something else, something a little different. Why? Well to be honest with all of you, I’m having a bit of a battle with it, and as a consequence it remains unfinished. I’m beginning to wonder who the bull really is. It is truly the drawing or perhaps it’s me, as I find myself repeatedly charging full pelt at a gate which is refusing to give way. A concerted effort last week to resolve the impasse bore nothing but a large pile of scrunched up tracing paper, wasteful certainly, and enough to provide bedding for a hamster for about a year. I have since decided to leave it alone for a while.

 

Having got utterly steamed up about it, backing off and calming down has led me to realise that this conflict is nothing new. It is one of the uncomfortable truths that surround any creative process. It is certainly not unusual to find oneself completely bereft of ideas during a concept design phase in the studio. Having “brain dumped” for several hours in a morning it is not a surprise to find out that your mind is totally empty and your imagination has gone walkabout. The energy previously expended in generating new ideas gets refocused into frustration and before you know it you’ve got a nice little vicious circle going.  Backing away, doing something else for a while unblocks the pipes and lets things flow again. So for now the drawing is sat on the other side of the room, the recipient of the occasional glance but nothing more. It will come to me when it’s ready, but probably not before.

 

So what’s with this brown thing? Well, it’s a sketch I made a while back, always good to have a back up plan for a post if things go awry, whilst playing with the idea of drawing in other colours. Being a sucker for a cheap pen I’d purchased a tasteful set of biro pens in assorted colours and was intrigued by what they might bring to the party. Initial scribbling revealed that some of the colours, yellow in particular, might not be strong enough, but the brown showed immediate promise. You may remember the cartoon of the authentic biker a while back, that was done with this pen. The basic pen itself gives the drawing a lovely aged feel but it’s a bit limp when it comes to creating good contrast. As luck would have it I’d also found a brown gel rollerball pen, which when used with the biro gives a degree of heft to the dark bits and lends the whole thing a much needed punchiness. This is very much a learning exercise but one that worked out well. Now to get my hands on some cream coloured paper and find out where I can get brown biro refils without the need to buy a whole set when it runs out, which it will, soon.