A small commission.

Sidecar commission by Jon Tremlett at Soulcraftcandy

The sharing of pictures which are completed as gift commissions is always a little tricky. Firstly you need to wait until the gift has actually been given, and secondly as in this case, I was waiting for it to be published on a club website before picking up my small trumpet and giving it a blow.


This depiction of slightly exuberant sidecar piloting was done for the brother in law of a very good and old friend of mine Ben, whose approaching 50th birthday required a special kind of gift. Adrian, the brother in law, is an ardent sidecar enthusiast and is setting out this summer on a european tour on his outfit with his wife Polly. Over a coffee with Ben, we agreed that a speeding outfit with fresh french produce bulging out of all available spaces would be particularly apt.


When undertaking an exercise such as this I like to work from some decent reference material and Ben duly supplied me with some photographs of Adrian, Polly and the big Honda outfit. Whilst one doesn’t want to slavishly depict every detail exactly, a cartoon is an interpretive exercise after all, it’s good to have all the information available for feeding the distortional process which occurs when the pencil hits the paper. I’ll openly admit that my skill in creating facial likeness is not very good, a frequent obstacle in undertaking any commissions, but thankfully in this case I was rather saved by needing to show him riding and so with a helmet on his head. Background information really helps here too as you can pick up little things which you can include in the image which help to flesh out the character you’re trying to show, like the soccer team scarf and riding gear.

Sidecar commission by Jon Tremlett at Soulcraftcandy

The pencil layout before applying the colour washes and ink.

This one was drawn onto Bristol Board before being coloured with watercolour washes and then inked up using technical pens of various widths. I thought it came out really well and was thrilled to hear that Adrian was chuffed to receive such a unique gift.


Lovely imperfect paper.

The picture above is the latest of my attempts at finding some different and interesting compositions around the sidecar outfit theme. This is very much a sketch rather than a thinly veiled shot at a finished piece. The density of the line work has ended up covering a tangled nest of construction and guide lines and the wonder of modern technology has enabled me to virtually obliterate the swathes of Tippex correction fluid useed in the early stages. This more loose approach to a drawing is really working its way into my system to the point where they hold as much enjoyment as the more tight and precise drawings I have previously shown you. This one is again done on heavy weight lining paper, a habit that is proving hard to break for want of finding a good substitute.


Some time ago a friend pointed out, quite rightly, that this paper is not acid free. This has its upsides as well as its downsides. Not being acid free means, as far as I know, that the paper will age badly, yellowing and discolouring over time, and finally disintegrating into a pile of dust after a decade or three. Not good if you want your work to survive many years of ownership and admiration. If you’re worried about preserving the image rather than an original work, then I suppose it could be scanned and printed out using the Giclee process or similar, to provide with something that will last in perpetuity.


The upsides to using this paper, at least as far as I’m concerned right now, are twofold. Firstly, as I’ve said before, it possesses a surface unlike anything else. It has a course almost gritty nature to it which takes ink from the pen in a subtle way. One can employ a lightness of touch so that the pen is almost skating over the surface to leave very light, whispy lines, and then one can really build up the image by working the surface quite hard. It seems to be able to take no end of punishment from the tip of a ball point. A bonus feature is that you can apply light washes to loose sheets without suffering too much warp and distortion.


The second reason I like this paper is perhaps a bit more idiosyncratic and concerns the idea of patina. For as long as I can remember I have found the idea of objects gaining patina through their use a very appealing one. During years spent designing products the notion of how ones ownership effects the physical nature of a product over time always interested me. I found it fascinating, particularly from the point of view of someone living in what is essentially a disposable age. The way that a paint finish would rub off the corners, how once bright metals would dull through repeated handling, and how the accumulation of myriad tiny scratches and dents imbued a product with a kind of documented history. All lovely stuff. Yes, there is a mild sentimentality running through all this but, it does not purely account for my appreciation of a well used tool or favourite pair of old motorcycling gloves. So the idea that this paper will age disgracefully, take on unforeseen hues because of sunlight or pollutants in the air, and get visibly old is very appealing. Why can’t a picture show its age?

The image above shows the drawing at an early stage. Over time it kind of faded into view. I quite like the idea that it could fade out of view too.


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.



Sidecars part deux.

Completing the drawing featured in the last post it was clear that there could be something in this sidecar thing. It’s great to “bank” a decent drawing early on as it provides a good spur to stick with a subject for a while and see where it takes you. It can be so easy to look at a picture and allow your brain to say “right, that’s that done, now for something else”. Your ability to say no to your inner self is a small bit of discipline that can take a heck of a lot of learning. So I thought I’d play with the subject for a while.


Initially I wasn’t too sure exactly why sidecar outfits are suddenly holding my attention but having thought about it for a bit there are some very good reasons why this is the case. Catching the televised coverage of this years Isle of Man TT races I realised how much I enjoyed watching the sidecar races and how utterly bonkers the whole thing is. It’s a kind of controlled madness and as such is very exciting. The machines today are a good deal faster and the whole dynamic is much more violent than in yesteryear, but it still amazes me how they do it. Modern outfits are more streamlined bullet than bike and sidecar combinations of the past, and it is these old solutions to solving the same problem that offer a great opportunity for some fun images. There’s more exposed machinery to try and capture, an engine you might get a glimpse of, some extreme gymnastics on the part of the passengers and everything about the machine is straining to follow that fine line between going fast and tipping over completely. It’s a target rich environment as it were, and one that I hope to spend some time having a look into.

The post images today are small sketches done following the bigger drawing. The top image is a quickie to see how the idea might look with some colour applied. The half finished view is how it looked before I caved in and added the sky and track edge detail. The final image is another very quick sketch where I’m thinking about including more than one outfit in the shot. A big colour drawing is definitely on the cards as a result and there are others that I’m working on now which are helping me explore some new techniques and media. They will be up here soon I hope.



Sidecars, an unexpected delight.

Sidecar No.1

Those of you who have been visiting the blog over the last few weeks and months will have heard me mention on more than one occasion that it’s a bit of a habit to be working on more than one thing at a time. You will also be familiar with my list keeping that helps to organise the workflow and assist in prioritising the order in which things happen. You would think, perhaps rightly, that these two things would conspire to keep the imagination fully fueled from now until some point in the distant future, and generally you would be correct. But sometimes a proverbial “curve ball” comes in from nowhere and changes the game plan completely.


On this occasion the disruptive little agent of change came calling whilst sat on a bench in a local park. I was deep into the Cafe Racer series and pretty sure what I was going to be doing next. It wasn’t a particularly nice day to be lost in a reverie on a park bench but that moment of free thinking just threw this word at me: Sidecars. I reached for my trusty A6 Moleskine notebook and made two very quick sketches which are shown below. No notes were made, just these two little scamps.

Back in the studio, pen hit lining paper with a rare intensity and within a very short space of time I had the bare bones of a much larger drawing, the big one at the top of this page. It’s rare to find myself able to work this fast, or this accurately, straight to paper. But knowing these moments don’t always come voluntarily lends them an exciting urgency which is best served by going with it for as long as it lasts. The drawing was “finished” the following morning, in the sense that it had reached the point where adding any more would have spoiled it.


It’s fantastic when this kind of thing happens. It’s so easy to get sucked into a situation where a schedule that you’ve created in an effort to ease any anxiety about what to do next becomes constraining, is actively removing flexibility from your working. It’s a psychological thing as much as a practical one obviously, and you’re never really tied to your plan, but it’s there to give you purpose. The unexpected game changers are great because if you’re open enough to engage them when they occur, you quickly realise that as important as it is to have a plan, it’s equally important to have the courage  and ability to change that plan and not be a prisoner of it.


Go with the flow, and see where it takes you………….