A different approach to shadows.

Sidecar No.9

Finding the best angles and compositions for pictures invariably involves doing a great deal of exploratory sketching. On very rare occasions one might stumble upon something that feels “right” straight out of the blocks, but in most instances that is not the case. So beyond the couple of simple sidecar views that have emerged so far there is much work to do to find some more interesting compositions.


That said, here are another couple of Sidecar combinations which have been taking shape on the drawing table. Learning to get ones head around the intricacies of a new subject area is enjoyable though quite hard work. In these instances I’ve elected to try a different approach to rendering the drawing as well in an attempt to add a different kind of depth to the shadow areas as much as to the drawing itself. Although it looks as though some pastel has merely been smudged across various areas of the paper, the shading is in fact produced using an airbrush. Digitally this would be quite easy to replicate in Photoshop after completing the drawing but that is not what this is about. the idea is to roughly create areas of shadow over a rough layout first and then draw into those areas to bring out form and detail. It changes the way you approach the drawing and the way you work, which is what is interesting for me in this process. These are again done relatively quickly on Lining paper as the task of finding an alternative with the right texture is ongoing.

Sidecar No.8

In the second drawing I’m also trying to revisit the idea of leaving areas of the drawing blank, particularly in the direction of where I’ve elected to position the light source, so that the image kind of fades out. Again this is an interesting thing to try out as it plays with the idea that your eye and brain are left free to complete the image themselves based on the information that is already there. These are tiny steps to start with but, slowly things will work towards the limit of what you can get away with. As you can see from these two the slightly cartoonish style of previous drawings gets a bit lost with this shading technique. It’s still there in the engine details and other small parts, in this case I’d venture to think that my mind was rather distracted from it due to learning the subject and playing about with the airbrush. Still, they show promise, so into the gallery they go.




Wrestling with your passion.

The Paddock Push.

Ok, so this one doesn’t fit into the cafe racer series but, it’s been with me for a while, slowly reaching completion and falling conveniently into the category of “ work needing to be finished. It’s called “Paddock Push”.


The inspiration for it came from a few different angles. Throughout the history of bike sport there have always been instances of intrepid individuals wrestling moderately inappropriate machinery around Off Road. Massive BMW’s careering across the Sahara in the Paris Dakar, Harley Davidsons pounding around the Catalina Grand Prix and overweight Brit engined motocrossers ripping up the fields of England. Wherever there are lightweights, one will find the heavyweights somewhere in the background.


This is not necessarily a homage to these feats of derring-do, however I am drawn to the thought of the unlikely hero, the underdog. The choice was to create one in full flight and one in a more static situation. The first to be complete is the latter, where the apparent grace and power of a big machine in motion is replaced by the struggle to man-handle the thing around when the engine has finished doing what it does best. If you’ve ever moved a heavy machine around on a loose surface you’ll understand why the guy is huffing and puffing.


The next cafe racer picture is nearly done. Watch this space.


Inspirations part one.

Whatever it is that forms the output from your creative noodlings everyone gets asked at one point or another where their inspiration comes from. Those tiny little seeds of ideas, they must come from somewhere right? Whilst the answer to this question is often an easy one for most creative people, sometimes it’s difficult to be specific. I find that both cases apply to my own ideas. The former seem to be the direct result of consciously absorbing influences, looking at photographs, taking pictures myself, books, looking at blog sites etc. Others feel like they come from somewhere else, some far fetched corner of my subconscious that has been busy reviewing stuff without my really knowing about it.

What’s often interesting is that what I think will influence me actually doesn’t. For example, I can spend hours browsing images on-line across a whole raft of sites, collect a few, and then promptly forget all of them by the next day. If I take pictures myself and go through the whole process of loading them into i-photo and editing some of them, then they work their way into my memory bank more. It’s something to do with interacting with an image or other material that seems to be the key. I’m still working out why all this is so as I’d like to get to the point where I know inherently how to feed the engine of my imagination prior to a big ideas session. That sounds all too controlling but at present it’s worth thinking about.

The sketch at the top of the post was strongly influenced by this image above. For once I made a direct connection between seeing and idea creation. As I said, it’s not always this plain and simple. I came across this image on a blog site called Le Containeur, which is a fantastic site. You’ll find it here.

There is of course another step to all this which is when something you’ve created heavily influences another idea. This drawing of a dirt tracker is a direct result of making that first sketch. Ill try to expand on this over the next couple of days.

A time for ink.

Armed with the blue pencil sketch from the previous post, I used it as an underlay to create the final version of this drawing. Having said before that layout paper provides a good opacity for tracing through it became obvious fairly early on that despite this it was often difficult to pick out the lines that I wanted to follow. As a result I found working slowly and with a medium hardness pencil the best way to go. Basically I could erase things if I didn’t like them, though there is always the danger that you’re going to wreck the paper just at a critical moment as you get a bit enthusiastic with the eraser. I always try to avoid this by stretching my hand across the sheet and working the eraser slowly between my thumb and forefinger. Still, the danger is always not too far away.

I seem to have acquired a two pronged attack to adding detail to the drawings. I insert a certain amount in the pencil stage and then include more as I proceed with the ink pen stage, and so the drawing looks kind of half done at this stage. I also have to say that when I’m unsure about something, like the rider’s expression for example, I’ll leave it half done and continue to work on it in pencil as the inking process moves forward. Something in the way the drawing takes shape seems to help me find the right look further down the line.

Inking on this drawing was straight on top of the pencil on the layout paper. I realised I didn’t have any kind of light box that would allow me to easily transpose the image onto my favoured Bristol Board. This was something I didn’t forsee but was able to solve relatively quickly soon after as I made my own. I’ll cover that in the next post.

As a consequence the process of laying down layers of biro ink onto quite thin paper lead to the paper doing what it always does in these instances and that is to wrinkle quite badly, particularly around the areas where you put in the most effort. I suppose it must be that the constant pressure and side to side action of the pen stretches the paper. I could see myself ironing it in a desperate effort to make it flat enough to stick to a backing board. I know ironing a drawing sounds a bit mad but it does work provided you place it face down before you start and work slowly from the centre outwards and keep the iron dry. Stay away from the steam button. The strange things that my brain is filled with eh? As an aside, I first learned about ironing paper from the father of an old friend who I was best man for at his wedding. He told me to iron all the cash I was due to hand over to the chauffeur and various other folk that day. The reason being that it would give a great impression and that a man in a top hat and tails should be armed with suitably smart money. Whatever.

Fortunately I didn’t need to flatten out the drawing in the end before getting it onto a backing sheet, to protect it as much as anything else. In its current state the paper drawing doesn’t have any ground line or background, I’ve added these in a very scribbly way in photoshop just to see what it looked like. I’ve been mucking about on a multitude of photocopies with all kinds of backgrounds and ground lines. I’ve not found what I’m after yet but will add to the final drawing when I do. Coming up with ideas which both convey speed, and sit naturally with the style of the drawing is proving a lot harder than I thought it would. Perseverance will win out in the end though. I for one will certainly be happier when it does. The last thing I want to do at this point is f**k up a decent drawing with a failed background experiment.

The inspiration for this image is definitely from my love of racing machines and a burgeoning liking for big twins and singles. There’s something about these engines that’s kind of pure and simple, though having said that many are certainly not so. I also have tried to convey in the rider the sense of barely controlled power and the kind of expression that I’m sure many of us make when we feel we’re really opening the taps. There’s still much more work to do and progress to be made but at this point I feel the drawings gaining a definite look of their own.