Don’t rush it, you’ll finish it soon enough.

Biro drawing by Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy.

So here’s a progress update on the biro ink drawing I’m working on at the moment. It’s coming along really well though it is taking quite a long time to complete. The thing is, you reach a point in a drawing where you really start to see how it will turn out, and inspired by this you open yourself to  an internal pressure to get it finished. This can be a good thing, you are energised to put in the effort but, it can also be a bad thing because if you’re not careful you rush things, and when that happens you make mistakes. Although it can often be a little frustrating at times it is always better for me in these situations to take a deep breath, take frequent breaks to take stock of the marks I’m making on the paper and accept the fact that slow is good, and that I’ll get to the end, one small step at a time. I’m having to be extra mindful with this one too. It is not a commission but a work based around a request, and the last thing I want to do is muck it up. I want it to be the best one I’ve done so far and as a result my internal pressure gauge is already off the scale!

Catch_me_detailJonTremlett2014

From this detail shot you can see I hope, how much pen work goes into these things, so you get an understanding of how important it is for me not to make mistakes. I spend a lot of time scribbling on a separate sheet to get the pen running right and my hand steady (I have a natural shakiness at close range). There’s a discipline to cross hatching, getting the tone and line direction consistent which requires huge concentration. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, the angle of the pen gives too much black or the pressure you’re using is too firm and at times like this you just have to step back, scribble on a loose sheet until you’re happy and then come back to it. No one ever said this was easy, so I try not to think that. In essence the greater the effort the greater the reward. Let’s see how I cope with the rest of it.

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Today I painted a car! Part 1.

A painting in progress by Jon Tremlett ©2014

It would be fantastic to say that after only a day of painting that the picture was complete, but I know I don’t work that fast and besides, any faster would be a rush and that’s when mistakes happen. Anyway, as you can see from the shot above it has come a long way from the blue sketch shown in the last post. I suppose at this point the car is about half done.

Barring a couple of small detail changes it was very straightforward to trace off on to the watercolour paper using the lightbox. I use a good old HB pencil for tracing off, and I’ve found that once you’ve captured the image you can then stretch the paper as you would normally and not loose any of the pencil work. This is a really handy discovery and means I can avoid endless hours mucking about with grids and such transferring the drawing on to paper stuck to a big wooden board.

All of us who have been lucky enough to have been on the receiving end of any artistic tuition will have been told at some point or other that there is no such thing as black when making a drawing or a painting. So the first challenge when rendering a black car is working out what colour it is. An old tutor I had at design school always recommended starting with Payne’s Grey and working from there. He’s been proved right so many times. So the picture is built up using various dilutions of Winsor and Newton Payne’s Grey, wash upon wash. This means you can work slowly toward the shade you’re after without putting down a whole load, and subsequently realising it should have been lighter. It’s time consuming, but a lovely technique. To get the slight blueness in the highlights I put a very thin wash of Indigo Blue down first. The bits that look black, but are in fact an intense dark blue, were put down quite thick as those areas had very defined lines to follow. For the area of shadow under the car I’m going to use a half and half mix of W&N Payne’s Grey and Schmincke Payne’s Grey which will give me a slightly warmer shade. I’ll mention here that although I have three tubes of paint here all called Payne’s Grey, from different manufacturers, they are all quite different. It helps to buy a few and find the one that suits your technique the best.

The background contains the concrete telegraph pole shown, and a whole swathe of a large green leafed hedge that sits behind the car in my reference shot. There’s a big tree in there as well so they will go in towards the end of the painting process so that I can build them up gradually and frame the car just enough without swamping it. It’ll be done soon.

Shotgun drag bike – the finished picture.

107_Shotgun©JonTremlett2014

Now that the finished picture is finally with its new owner, it’s the right time to post it here on the blog. It would have been unfair on Nik to put the finished picture up before he’d had a chance to see it in the flesh. Needless to say he had a very big smile on his face when he unwrapped the parcel, a moment that gave me great satisfaction and a fitting end to a project that has been utterly enjoyable to do, and has left me feeling that this could very well be the best picture I’ve done to date. So brilliant to get something just right. I think he’s going to hang it in his living room which makes me very proud and is rather flattering to be honest.

The front fairing was, in time honoured tradition, pretty much the trickiest part to complete in colour. As I hinted in the previous post, these intense liquid colours come with their own set of particular limitations, namely their ability to “blend” across larger areas and around complex details. Getting the red to “flow” around all of the lettering involved lots of quick brush work, letting things dry and using very diluted tints laid over each other. It took quite some time, but the result looks great in the context of the overall picture. We’d agreed that the bike would sit alone on the background and so the finishing touch was just to put the thick black line under the wheels and sign it. Job done.

108_Shotgun_B&W©JonTremlett2014

Nik had also asked me to do him a smaller black and white drawing that he could use for t-shirts and cards. I chose a simple elevational view for this one, and the dot shading technique I’ve used on a couple of previous pictures seemed the best way to go. As I’ve said before, this is a rather time consuming way to apply shade to a drawing but it does give the finished thing a look which is very distinct and crisp.

With these two done it’s time to delve into the unfinished projects drawer and pull out a couple of sketches that have been on the back burner for some time now. There’s also the possibility that I’ll do another picture of the Shotgun, perhaps a partial drawing from another angle. I’m undecided at present but will post up how I get on with both of these options soon.

Never say never again.

Pen and ink drawing by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy.

The weekend proved reasonably productive in the end with a fair bit achieved on both of the pictures featured in the last post. Not bad going, considering that most of Saturday was actually spent grappling with the pruning of a monster shrub that lives in my back garden. This thing puts on about four feet of fresh growth annually and as a result needs a good trim at least once a year. I swear it’s a Trifid, its appetite for resources must be huge and it dwarfs everything around it. The killer app is a telescopic long range pruning cutter, but I digress.

 

The big picture now has a rider figure with jeans and a jacket but not much more. More importantly the small “dot” picture is now finished, as you can see above. There was a bit of tidying up to do yesterday but that is now it, the end, it’s done. I’m pretty happy and so is my drawing hand which was starting to shake involuntarily by the end of a marathon dotting session on Sunday. All things considered it’s not too shabby and although I was unsure to start with, using the framing line on the right hand side only, really helps to balance the image. All it needs now is a proper title, it has a working one which is not quite right. 

 

What’s next? Time for some gentle watercolour stuff I think, I have an image already traced out in pencil, and some low impact biro work to get a couple of pending projects up and running. They say “never say never again”, but no more dotting, oh no, not for a while.

 

Two wheels on my wagon.

Biro drawing by Jon Tremlett for soulcraftcandy 2013.

Yes, I know, it’s not finished yet. But things have moved on somewhat from where it was for the last post. As you can see there are now some wheels present and the main underlying structure of the bike is pretty much done now. This is becoming a labour of love, but a very rewarding one given the amount of time I’m taking over it. The paper being used is a heavy weight kind of textured drawing paper which, whilst being great for delicate shading, requires much more work with the pen to achieve the true blackness you need for certain details. It’s starting to look really punchy though, and that bodes well for the final result. One must just make sure that one doesn’t overdo it with the background and swamp it, a lighter touch may be required for that. Here below is a detail shot of the drawing to give you a better idea of the technique I’m using.

drawing detail by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy 2013

The last week has been spent drawing detail sketches for the design of a large piece of medical laboratory equipment, who says design isn’t exciting (!), so it will be a welcome relief to put some energy into this picture over the weekend and have a go at completing some other stuff that is just crying out to be finished. One such piece is this little fellow below. To be honest I started this ages ago and kind of lost heart a bit.

Drawing detail by Jon Tremlett at soulcraftcandy 2013

Lovely though it is, the dot technique is laborious to say the least, and I’ll readily admit that maintaining concentration when “dotting” is hard. My inner procrastinator tells me to just leave it alone, but that would be too easy, a cop out, the true test of things like this is to grit ones teeth and push to the finish and learn from the experience. Lots of creative projects suffer from mid-term blues, but rarely get to the end in the same state. So, one final lunge to the finish line should see it done, and who knows it might look quite good by then.

 

 

 

It’s enough to make you dotty. A dragster in monochrome.

Dragster cartoon©JonTremlett2013 at Soulcraftcandy

Maintaining momentum, and keeping the creative juices flowing, is always one of the challenges one has to overcome when engaging in an artistic pursuit which has to fit in around the everyday goings on of ones life. It’s easy to loose the flow, and returning to an unfinished image rarely results in picking up the thread exactly where you left it. I suppose that one of the key disciplines of any artist is to develop techniques which enable you to do this as seamlessly as possible. I don’t have any hard and fast routines that I follow in order to make this easier but one thing I do do is always try and have a number of little projects on the go at any one time, all at different stages. This means that when I’m deep in thought about how to solve a problem on one picture, there is always another close by which I can engage with, one where the work is at a stage where I don’t have to overcome any issues in the execution. So dipping in and out of things keeps the creative ball rolling rather than running to a dead stop as endless time is wasted staring at a problem until the answer comes. In fact this act of “dotting about” helps me to uncover the answers that I’m looking for.

 

So whilst pondering what to do about the background for the picture featured in the last post, I had a good look through the “pending ideas you should really finish” pile and pulled one out to serve as the “other” project. I had a dabble last year with some sketches following a visit to a drag race meeting, made a couple of drawings, and then promptly left it there. I’m not sure why. This drawing above was all ready for some treatment having been carefully pencilled out onto a nice bit of drawing paper, I just hadn’t thought much about how to take it further. I’m not sure what inspired my choice of technique, it could have been my recent visit to Tate Modern to see the Roy Lichtenstein show or something else entirely. Doing something different really appealed though and so out came the trusty old technical pens and I set to work.

 

Although the dot shading is a madly labour intensive way to do things, this drawing proved to be very enjoyable to do and a pleasant alternative to the paint and ink technique I’ve been doing a lot of recently. You have to take a break every now and then though as all the little specks of black make your eyes go a bit funny after a while. It’s a lovely way to gradually build up tone though and really plays to the cartoon nature of the drawing. I’ve called it “The Slugger” after a certain baseball bat, a blunt though effective instrument that gets the job done. I hope you like it.

 

From blank sheet to finished picture – part 2.

Norton_wash1

In the last post I showed how I create the base drawing for one of the small colour images I’ve been making recently. Now it’s time to take a look at how the colour and ink go down onto the paper. There is no right or wrong way of doing this, we are all individuals after all and our working methods all differ accordingly, but this is how I do it. There are about seven steps involved, and they pretty much alternate between applying colour washes and inking in. I have a preference for building the image from the centre outward so this is where I start, engine, chassis and other cycle parts.

 

Greys go down first, in this case Payne’s Grey, slowly building up in layers to give shadow where I want it, form where I need it and a backing for black areas which may contain a high or low light. Using a very small brush with barely any paint on, things start to take shape. There is a strangely imprecise precision to the process. Next come the smaller areas of browns, ochres and blues which begin to define the ground and sky reflections on the various metal parts. I leave the exhaust for now as I find this easier to do later, working within the confines of the outline after it has been inked in.

Norton_ink1

With the core of the image coloured, it’s time for the first pass with the technical pen, and being an old fashioned kind of bloke I’m still very fond of a good Rotring pen, in this case a 0.25mm nib width. The tightening of the detail that this achieves also has the benefit of allowing you to see where you may need to apply a bit more colour, or even a different colour, to an area which needs a bit more punch. You’ll notice I’ve also applied wash to the front and rear brake areas in this step to put myself in the position where the core of the bike is very much done. The frame rails, which were washed all in grey are now mostly black apart from a highlight line and I’ve applied solid black in selected areas to bring other details to the fore and create some depth.

Norton_wash2

This second wash stage involves getting the rider figure underway and laying the base colour pieces to the wheels as well as getting that tricky curving exhaust sorted out. As with the frame I put grey on the wheels and tyres in the places where I know I’ll leave gaps in the black of the ink, and apply this same method to parts of the rider like boots, helmet parts and goggles. Now, a quick word about that exhaust. Back when all of us budding designers were drilled in the fine art of marker rendering, it was obvious after a while that the practice involved learning a few, what I would call, conventions. Little techniques for doing curved surfaces, metal parts, areas of high gloss, textures and chrome amongst others. Although I haven’t picked up a marker in years, some of them remain useful when dabbling in other media. Shiny exhaust pipes are a case in point. A grey line to denote a horizon below which a brown area denotes ground reflections, and finally a blue upper area to signify the sky. Simple and effective, with some extra colour tones around the cylinder head exit where the metal changes colour due to the heat.

Norton_ink2

Time for more ink using the same approach as before, tightening detail and bringing definition. The wheel outlines get some attention using an ellipse guide for neatness, to be honest my freehand ellipse drawing is not what it used to be, and picking out a couple of details on the jacket and such will remind me not to wash over these at the next stage. The bike’s going to be a golden yellow colour so that’s what is coming in the next installment.