T-shirts, prints and shop fronts, it’s all go.

Bonnie_girl_design©JonTremlett2016

At the time of the last post I’d just sent the second batch of t-shirt ideas over to my contact to see if he would go for any of them. I didn’t have to wait too long this time for a reply, he picked the one shown here. It would be tempting to be a little disappointed with this result after all the work that’s been done, but this is outweighed by the knowledge that I learned a great deal during the process, and have actually ended up with some images that I really like and can do something with in the future.
So, one of the things that I’m going to do is create some hand made prints. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. With all these fresh images to now play with it seemed like as good a time as any to have a go. The way the designs have worked out, in very obvious black and white format, they will hopefully lend themselves very easily to a basic printing process.

Lino_cut_1©JT2016

To be honest with you I haven’t done anything like this for a very long time. Wondering which printing process to try led to lots of questions, the answers to which became self evident quite quickly. There are lots of different approaches to take ranging from the utterly basic to highly involved, simple block printing through to complex etching processes. I plumbed for the simple and settled on having a go with lino cut printing. The last time I dabbled with this process was back at school many years ago, so any learning that I had gained back then was gone and forgotten. Again, another opportunity to learn something new. The shot here shows my starting point. On the left is the design I wanted to transfer onto the lino sheet ready for cutting, on the right is it drawn out onto said lino. I have reversed the image, so that it will print the right way around and started to make some tentative cuts into the surface to create the relief to take the ink. This is as far as I’ve got for now and I’ll update the next steps in a subsequent post.

Bill_B's_New_shop_front2016

The final image here is something else entirely. Regular visitors to the blog may remember that back last summer I designed some t-shirts for my local bike shop, Bill Bunn Motorcycles, here in Ealing. It’s great to report that they’ve been selling well and the guys there wear their shirts religiously when working in the shop. I visited there a couple of weeks back only to find that they have undertaken the next steps in their shop refresh and gone and had new front signage made based around the shirt design. I had to take some pictures. They tell me the box signs are back lit, so at night it’s all illuminated which I’m looking forward to seeing sometime soon. I’m immensely chuffed that they have considered the design good enough to take it to this end. A big thanks to them for boosting my confidence and paying my work such a compliment.

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Putting your learning into practise.

Girl_T_Comp©JonTremlett2016

As you will have read in the previous post, I have been expending a lot of energy recently learning how to draw women as part of a project to try and produce some designs for t-shirts for women. It has not been as easy as it sounds, and to be honest with you I’m still not sure that I have cracked it, though I feel I’m certainly making progress.

The journey from the collection of sketches to some finished proposals has been a long one involving lots more sketching and redrawing in an effort to get some kind of unifying style working across the various ideas. This process is invariably made all the more challenging by the considerations and resulting constraints that come from thinking clearly through the whole process of how these shirts are made and printed. The quality of the final printed image is reflected in, and can be traced right back to, the quality of the picture you create in the first place. The shirts made from any of the selected images will be screen printed which means I need to aim for crisp line work and clearly defined details.

In the absence of a more detailed brief I decided that I would go forward with a combination of ideas. Firstly I picked two rather obvious ideas based firmly on a girl riding a bike, and then chose a couple of others based around a more emblematic approach. Each one was worked up as an inked drawing to start with, and done as neatly as I could manage. The girls on the bikes were reasonably straight forward to do in a general sense though I was really conscious of introducing something to try and bring some increased movement to the images. I’m not a fan of using speed lines and blurring to do this, my drawing style doesn’t work that well with them, so elected to simply try and show movement by trying to mimic hair blowing in the wind. The second two choices came from trying to approach them more like logos than pictures and incorporating some recognisable cues from the cafe racer scene like chequer pattern and jacket decoration.

Girl_T_Comp2©JonTremlett2016

Drawing these things is time consuming enough, but tidying up the high resolution scans can be even more so. Again, it’s back to the quality of the image you start with. Screen printers will invariably ask for vector based artworks and so each drawing needs converting from a scanned bitmap image to vectors in a program such as Adobe Illustrator. The software handles this with ease, but you have to ensure that your starting image is as clean, crisp and high contrast as possible. The vectorising process essentially traces your drawing creating paths and fills as it goes. By adjusting various controls in a dialogue box you are able to influence the fidelity with which the software does this task. The cleaner your starting point, the fewer options the process has for including or excluding small elements of the drawing and details. Once the drawings are vectorised though, you can easily include them in more complicated designs in Illustrator, edit them further, or simply use the resultant artwork as it is. If I was more proficient in Illustrator to begin with I might be able to draw these things directly in the program, but sadly my skills aren’t there yet. At least using this approach I end up with both a good quality digital artwork and a nice ink drawing for the portfolio as well. Because the digital images are now editable, one can make limited changes to them if need be, without the need of doing a whole new drawing.

112_T-shirt_comp1©JonTremlett2016

Finally I thought it would be fun to show the ideas as shirts rather than just images on their own. Plundering an image search for white T’s being worn, it was simply a case of pasting the designs into place to lend a degree of realism to the whole thing. I then sent these to my client/contact and began the waiting process. Let’s see what he comes back with.

Can you draw women?

Bike_girl_comp©JT2016

Ok, so here’s a thing, time for a confession, I’m pretty rubbish at drawing women. There, I’ve said it. This sounds like one of those introductory confessions one might be asked to make upon a first attendance at a therapy group. Like, “Hi, my name’s Jon and I can’t draw women”. This is neither something to be proud of or be ashamed to admit. Don’t ask me why this is so, it’s just the way it is. Some people probably find drawing people, whatever their gender or form much easier than others. Other folk probably find drawing men less hard because it is easier to express generic masculine traits and you can get away with portraying less good looking men (!?). And then there are those who find the innate curvature and character of the female form easy to capture because they just do. One thing’s for sure though, and that is that when asked to view a drawing of a woman most of us automatically make some kind of judgement based on the perceived beauty of the rendered subject, i.e. if your drawing doesn’t portray a pretty/elegant/feminine woman, it’s the first thing people will comment on.

The above is only intended to be a cursory observation, the whole discussion around how we render and view human subjects is much, much more wide ranging that this, but what it does do, I hope, is shed some light onto how difficult it is to get to grips with a subject area such as this. Not being someone who has ever really received the benefit of extensive life drawing classes or any formal training in figure drawing, I have arrived at a point in my creative life lacking the confidence to draw half the people who surround me. I’m sure I’m not alone.

This new challenge came about through a request from a contact about possibly designing some t-shirts for women. Throwing my usual caution to the wind I agreed to have a go and then quickly realised that I would have to do something about the fact that I have never really successfully drawn women who look like women. To be honest with you, when I’ve had to do it in the past I’ve either traced off a magazine picture or concocted something akin to a rather effeminate man. So, time to put all of that to one side and see if I could actually learn how to do it more convincingly. I don’t know which is harder, learning a new skill like this in a straight drawing sense or in the cartoonish vein in which I normally work? Time to find out.

BGsketch_comp©JT2016

Thankfully, and this is again where the internet comes into its own; one is not short of resources to study as a way of starting. One can not only gain access to myriad video based tutorials on YouTube etc., but you can also find every single kind of cartoon style referenced so you can easily see how different characteristics are emphasised depending on the style you want to follow. To give you just a couple of examples; if mastering eyes is problematic for you, there are hundreds of variations and iterations to be found within the Manga drawing style and if the classic hour glass figure is something that you want to focus on, you will find plenty of guidance if referencing mid 20th century lifestyle and fashion illustration.

My brief, such as it was, was “Marilyn Monroe in a Bell helmet”. Quite a broad brief to say the least, so plenty to think about. My first scribbles, shown above in the first selection from my sketch books was as much about the brief as it was about learning the distinct attributes of a woman’s face. Eye shape, size and position, the jaw line, the line of the brow, the position and proportion of the nose and the mouth. These all sound incredibly obvious but until you have to think about them and draw them, your brain just rumbles on telling you that this should all be easy as it knows all this stuff already. No it doesn’t, you have to teach it and at the same time convince your drawing hand to follow. This goes right back to previous posts I’ve written about the idea of embedded knowledge. You’ve got to look and look and look, and then draw, draw, draw until hopefully things start to feel natural. It takes work and there’s no easy way around it unless you want to spend your life tracing photographs.

I was also trying to think about shirt designs at the same time, so this had quite an impact on my sketching, both in terms of speed and overall feel. Some of my attempts are way off, some are starting to point towards something more workable. The second of the images is another compilation of sketches where I am starting to get the hang of it, though you can see I’m yet to get my eye shape and spacing anywhere near right. I must confess also, that by this point I’d had gone back to referencing some old lifestyle photos in a book to try and speed things along. It seems to work best for me if I am combining an iterative drawing approach with regular reference to other materials. Placing a crash helmet onto a woman’s head brought its own challenges and I ended up taking lots of photos of my own crash hat at various angles to give me an idea of how its many curves look when not viewed simply in elevation. The bikes I didn’t seem to have a problem with. Funny that.

More on this in the next post I hope.

New drawings and a wake up call.

Wakey wakey Jon!

Writing the first post at the end of an absence is the hardest thing. It’s not about working out where to start per se but, it’s more about avoiding the endless list of excuses as to why this has happened. This is not so much to make my readers feel some kind of sympathy for me, more to do with appeasing my own guilt at having been so neglectful. Ok, that’s the bit about feeling bad done with. There is one big excuse though.

CR_group©Jon Tremlett2016

You may have noticed in a couple of the pictures from the last post that I’m standing in front of a rather untidy brick wall. Well, that was the remains of my kitchen and was taken at a time when we had just embarked upon a major overhaul of the house. Various building works to remove some walls, make holes in others and finally fit a new kitchen were already turning our lives upside down. It went on for quite a few weeks. To finish everything off it was down to me, a form of self selected masochistic punishment, to build some big floor to ceiling cupboards, box out the under stair area and fit bookcases, all after redecorating the whole of the ground floor. It took a while and consumed my life until well after Christmas. All done now, until I need to get cracking on the first floor. A smaller project that one.

I was still doing some drawing but not making the effort to blog about it, so I’ll shed some light on what I’ve been up to on that front over the following posts. The photo above is of three black and white reductive ink drawings that were done after doing the t-shirt for my local bike shop (they sell like hot cakes by all accounts, which is good to hear). I have a contact in the US who fancied some designs for shirts of his own, having seen the blog post, so I set out to see what I could rustle up for him. Two of them made it through to printing and can be found in the apparel section of his web shop here, http://carpyscaferacers.com. They look pretty good combined with his type work so I’m hoping they’ll sell well and more work comes of it.

Thrux_comp1©JonTremlett2016

These next two pictures are really to shed some light on my process and show the preliminary sketches I do for these pictures so that you can see where things come from and how they change and develop as I move them through to inking them up. I invariably reach for my favourite blue biro for preliminary sketches, for no other reason than they’re lovely to use and one can achieve such a variety of line weights. This helps hugely when I want to move a line or change details. These are then traced off on the light box, making changes along the way, to give me a base drawing that I can then ink over. It may seem rather a long process, repeating a drawing two or three times but, it’s the best way to get it how you want it. The downside is that this is one of the main reasons why these drawings take so much time.

Thrux_comp2©JonTremlett2016

As before the inking is done with Rotring and Steadler technical pens so that I can maintain as crisp a line quality as possible and there is no ink bleeding on the thin Bristol Board I use. Because the ink is similar to Shelac based Chinese ink, it is very black which is a great help. You don’t have to go over everything twice to get great opacity and it’s just about sturdy enough to cope with tidying up the drawing with a small eraser after you’ve finished. The creation of printable artwork for shirt printing requires these drawings to be scanned and converted to vector paths in a graphics package, so the cleaner and crisper the initial scan the better. I’ll talk more about the whole vectorising thing in a later post.

I hope you like todays pictures and thanks for visiting the blog.

Back to the drawing board.

Image

Now that the freelance job has finished, for the time being at least, it’s time to return to the other kind of creativity that occupies the time not spent working on other peoples stuff. The great pity about so much of the freelance work I do these days is that I can’t share it with you, which would help to bring a hefty dose of making activity to the blog. Development projects are always shrouded in a bit of mystery and the ever present blanket of confidentiality to prevent development details from being compromised. Few projects progress fast enough for details to see the light of day within months of being completed, let alone a couple of weeks. In this case it is more likely to be a year or more before it’s safe to show anything and of course there are always permissions that must be granted too. As a third party contractor one must live with this apparent inconvenience but it goes with the territory. I suppose I’ll have to build another bike and get the making-o-meter back round the dial that way. Now there’s a thought…….

In the meantime it’s back to the drawing board and some action with the brushes and pens. There is still some work to do on some colour sketches which are sitting here and that means getting warmed up again for some painting.

So here above is yesterdays warm up exercise in the form of another “bikehead”. Not quite as successful as the previous attempt, a bit heavy on the colours, but it served its purpose.Yes, there are lots of things wrong with it, but these only serve to remind me that there is some way to go on the journey to a more confident and polished technique.

Sketch results in the next post.

Painting the bodywork.

 

The full list of parts that were to be painted consisted of the fuel tank, two side panels, front mud guard, rear mudguard and the small fly screen. Six parts in all. Before preparing their surfaces for painting it was important to make sure that all trimming had been done and that all edges were smooth and free from any swarf.

 

Although it would have been ideal to hang the pieces whilst painting them there wasn’t enough room so some stands were made out of scrap wood and card, and the parts could then sit comfortably on the spraying turntable during application.

 

Preparation for priming: Firstly everything was thoroughly cleaned and degreased. The tank badges were removed, mountings ground down and body filler applied to fill any recesses. For the plastic side panels a small piece of ABS plastic was glued behind the now empty badge holes to provide a backing for the filler. This was all then sanded flat and all old paint removed using fine grade wet and dry paper. Once dry everything metal was treated to some etch primer. After another rub down with fine paper (wet and dry, 800-1000 grit) it was all then coated in grey primer and left to dry overnight. No plastic primer was used as the straight cellulose primer adheres well to plastics like ABS without the need as long as the surface has a good key.

Application of base black coat. Another rub down to sort out any tiny surface imperfections and a final degrease to remove any finger prints it was time for the black. For cost and convenience reasons I’d chosen to use standard cellulose paints for the job, a litre each of black and white. These would be mixed with clean thinners to make the right consistency for applying with a small gravity fed spray gun. In effect the paint ends up being of a consistency somewhere between milk and single cream. Too thick and you need too much pressure running through the gun and risk creating an “orange peel” finish. Too thin and you risk the paint going on too wet and creating runs or “curtains”. In essence it is purely experience that guides you in balancing paint thickness, air pressure through the gun and controlling paint flow. Having said that it is invariably the case that building up the paint in a number of thin coats will give you the best and most consistent results. Runs and other imperfections can be rubbed out later but if you can avoid them all the better. Once sprayed all parts were then left to dry for a couple of days. It’s worth remembering that when paint feels dry it may be so on the surface but, often it remains quite soft underneath for some time and can easily be damaged by a finger nail or small knock.

 

Application of white stripes. With the black fully dry everything was rubbed down again with extra fine paper and water to provide a good “key” for the stripes. The stripe edges were masked off with professional quality 3M Fine Line masking tape. This is a plastic based tape so has a very crisp edge, unlike readily available paper based tapes which don’t, and as a result never give you a crisp line on your finished part. It was really worth finding this stuff and paying the extra for it. It comes in a variety of widths and is relatively flexible too, so you can create smooth curves as well. Lovely stuff. This was used on the edges and the remaining area covered in conventional tape and paper. Some white primer went on first and then the final white was built up slowly in light coats. The masking was removed after a couple of hours. Long enough to let the paint dry a bit but not so long for it to harden up and risk tearing. Again everything was left to dry for a couple of days.

Final lacquer coats: Although standard paints come as gloss finish straight out of the tin, they have a percentage lacquer content already, they invariably need a good polish to bring out the full glossiness once fully hardened. As a protective measure as much as for aesthetic requirements a separate clear lacquer is often applied to give the surface some extra depth to the shine. For all parts except the fuel tank, the plan was to give them all a good coating of cellulose lacquer to finish off. The tank itself was going to get some petrol proof lacquer I’d spotted in the auto shop. Unleaded fuel just eats normal finishes for breakfast unless you’re lucky enough to be using 2-pack systems. Not unusually the black and white had dried to a kind of sheen. This is not a problem as both would be rubbed down again using 1200 grit paper and water. This creates a very matt surface but provides enough of a key for the lacquer and the full colour returns upon application. The last thing to do was apply the small vinyl cut graphics that had been made for the side panels and the screen. These decals are cut from single colour vinyl sheet, so the red parts are separate from the white and were supplied by a friendly repro shop who have done stuff for past projects. Supplying your own artwork as a vector art file keeps the cost down and the lines crisp, and there are a huge range and variety of vinyls available if you ask.

Making sure everything is smooth, dry, clean and free of any dust is crucial before putting on any lacquer. Many pro paint shops use Tack cloths at this stage. Essentially these are a cloth made from a very loose weave cotton impregnated with a slightly sticky waxy compound. Passing one of these gently over your paintwork picks up and removes all tiny little bits of dust and grit from the surface. They are designed not to leave any residue on the paint either. So a quick once over with one of those and it’s lacquer time. Like the paint this is built up through many light coats carefully following the instructions on the tin. Go too heavy with this stuff and it runs very badly.

Lacquer, if it’s not 2-pack, needs to be left for a good week to properly harden up before polishing. A long time and it’s a real challenge to resist, but then again it’s a good time to take care of all those outstanding little jobs like tidying up the wiring, setting up the drive chain and adjusting the brakes. The next big job was going to be the final assembly so my fingers were crossed the seat would return in time.

 

Lights fantastic.

Been so busy with all of the drawing stuff that I’d clean forgotten to get back up to speed with the story of the 250 build, sorry. Actually it’s about time I started getting to the end of this otherwise it’s going to turn into the longest quick build in history.

So where were we? With the metalwork completed for holding the rear fender and the rear of the seat in place it was time to cut it down to its final length. and attach the rear lamps. I’d decided on a rounded end to the fender and made up a thin card shape template using a combination of large radii. The line was drawn on the fender with a Sharpie and then cut round carefully using a jigsaw, much noise and dangerous looking manoeuvres. I finished it off carefully with a metal file and some wet and dry paper wrapped around a block for a smooth finish ready for painting.

I’d made up the rear lamp assembly in accordance with my build philosophy, this was to be a workhorse bike. So I wanted easy removal of the whole lot if needed, tidy wiring and if the registration plate was integral all the better. I knew I couldn’t have the plate mounted on the side of the bike to keep the back end clean as this would have been asking for trouble in the parking bays of London, so on the rear fender it had to go. I’d cut and bent a short length of flat aluminium, drilled appropriate holes and created an assembly which could be mounted and removed as one piece.

When attaching the light assembly I didn’t want to distort the aluminium of the fender by bolting the flat mounting directly to the top of it. So I needed to make a block of something to cope with the curvature of the top surface. I tried a whole host of solutions from solid plastic blocks to bits of bent metal strip but nothing worked well enough. Time for a think. In the end I settled on cutting and shaping a large lump of quite firm neoprene foam to sandwich between the lamp cluster and the fender. I figured it would compress into the correct shape, which it did admirably, and that it would provide a degree of vibration damping for the lamp bulbs. Whether it would or not I’ve never really proved but it looked good enough for my purposes so I went with it.

I’d also received by now the exhaust muffler I’d ordered and bolted this to the back of the bike to start the process of working out how to attach it to the engine. I’d decided, for budgetary reasons primarily, but also because of time to use the existing header pipes and junction but, I had no idea where to make the cut to remove the enormous and heavy standard muffler. Reckoning that the pipe would pass into the muffler for a short length I reached for the angle grinder and cut through the muffler at its root. Low and behold there was a length of exhaust passing right up into the offending muffler. I measured the diameter and was happy that I could attach the new muffler to it and tidied up the cut by taking a slice at an angle creating a kind of heat shield detail.

So the pipe went on very quickly much to my relief. But it was loud, so I knew i’d have to do some baffling if it was to stand any chance of getting through the MOT test.