Supporting a good cause.


This blog of mine started out as something that happened in the background as I pursued my life as a freelance designer and maker, providing a motivator for my interest in developing my drawing and other creative outlets. Over time it has started to include, every now and then, things that happen in my professional life as well. Being a freelancer, though an often precarious existence, allows you to branch out from your core skills when the urge takes you. As a result I have been able to undertake some graphic and illustrative work which is interesting, challenging and different. Some of it is paid work, which helps to balance the books, and at other times it is not. The great thing is that the choice to undertake unpaid work is mine and mine alone, and so what often precedes this is the question of whether or not the subject interests me.

In this case it did. The image above is a small water colour and ink drawing that I have recently finished. My niece Rose, who is currently resident in Berlin, is involved in a campaign to promote the many benefits of cycling in the city. As part of their strategy to increase awareness of these benefits they are exploring ways to communicate the freedom that cycling gives both the city’s inhabitants and visitors alike. Hence she asked me if I could come up with an image that did this that they could use on promotional materials that they could sell, helping to raise funds for the campaign. It was a very open brief and one I felt I could find an answer to.

Needless to say there was a good deal of head scratching and sketching, and at one point I began to doubt my ability to find something to work through. And then out popped this idea, centred around the idea of cycling being a means of spreading freedom, joy and good health. The heart shaped balloon (symbolic of love, joy and good health) flying over the city, powered in a highly sustainable way by a cyclist, hints at the freedom that cycling gives you to go pretty much anywhere whilst benefitting yourself and the city at the same time. The inclusion of the iconic television tower as a recognisable Berlin landmark contextualises the scene and helps to bring a lighter more comedic flavour to the sense of freedom that the picture hints at. Rose peppered her request with words such as quirky, whacky and unusual, and I tried to bring these to life in the “mad inventor” character and his extraordinary machine, drifting high above the city much to the astonishment of local bird life and observers in the tv tower.

The final image was first traced in pencil onto some heavy water colour paper on the light box and then stretched onto a board. I’ve discovered that stretching the paper after you’ve placed a drawing onto it doesn’t seem to distort it in any way, and can save you hours of painstaking redrawing from your original sketches. With some photographs of the tower and views of the city it was then simply a case of laying the greys and colours on in light tints to slowly build up the the tones that I needed to achieve. This takes a while, but enables you to bring the image up to where you want it without overdoing things. Painting the cityscape was the hardest part, forcing oneself to be abstract is a good deal harder than I realised. When all the colour was down and the image dry, it was then a case of outlining with technical pens to bring some definition to bear.

I’m told that it has been very enthusiastically received, though I am yet to see what they will do with it. I really hope it brings some further recognition to their campaign and puts a smile on a lot of faces. It was certainly worth doing and I’m very happy with the result. I hope you like it too.


Accessing embedded knowledge works.

An early drawing using early knowledge.

Following the magnitude of the last post it feels as if my brain needs a kind of rest, a short period to recoup and spend some more time considering drawing from imagination, what is starting to feel like a very big subject area. This won’t be the last time it comes up for discussion but, a bit more thinking time is required to crystalise my thoughts further. More often than not, insights arrive at unexpected times and from unexpected directions and letting them do this randomly relieves the pressure of sitting down and trying to think of what they could be before their arrival. It’s a bit like having your best ideas whilst having a bath I suppose.


It can be so easy to get distracted from ones core activity, in my case creating my pictures, and this has been happening a good deal of late. The process of clearing the backlog of drawings for posting needs to come to an end and there’s only one way that’s going to happen, putting them up here. This posts title image was done just over nine months ago, and why it didn’t get posted remains unanswered. What’s interesting about it now is how different it is from the later drawings that have gone up over the last couple of months. In the previous post I wondered whether familiarity breeds more embedded knowledge that we can access subsequently. Looking at this drawing I would posit that the answer to that question is yes. Later drawings are much more detailed and intricate, partly through design but also due to the mere fact that I know more about the subject matter, and crucially can access that new knowledge without necessarily realising it. Result.

The idea wall in action.

One other aspect of this exercise that has caused some pondering is that of subject focus. Since starting this whole bike drawing thing I’ve quite happily jumped from one type of subject to another. A dragster, then a road bike, then something else etc etc. All well and good you might think, but actually it was starting to be problematic in the sense that it was becoming hard to separate certain specific thoughts and ideas for one image from another. In simple terms, details for one drawing were ending up on another and vice versa. This probably had, or has, something to do with my habit of having two or three drawings on the go at any one time. As an attempt at remedying this a different approach was needed. So now instead of multiple drawings of multiple themes, the latest project concentrates on a core theme with multiple drawings around it. It already feels a better way to work as there seems to be a greater cohesion in what’s being created. This first series is about cafe racers and I’ll explain more about it in the next post. For now here are some of the preliminary sketches that are currently adorning the small wall of the studio.

Messing with different views.Speech bubbles could make a comeback.



The Captain.

Here’s another slice of the mixed fruit cake of drawing that goes on around here. The picture above shows a guy I have been playing about with for some time, and he’s the closest I’ve ever got to developing a character. He arrived in my life some time ago whilst working on a communications project. An opportunity had arisen to use a character to promote certain messages the client had in mind. This guy was not a direct result of that exercise but was born during a moments idle sketching one evening. The project had been about communicating expertise and my mind had wandered in the opposite direction to contemplating ineptitude and how to communicate that. The idea of a bungling, idiotic and ineffectual “superhero” type had a strange appeal, someone with all the gear and no idea.

Not long after his arrival he was given a name, Captain Shark, after my small design business whose logo he wears on his chest, and for want of anything better at the time. He rapidly went from a slightly muscular bloke to this rather podgy individual graced with abundant enthusiasm, an overly fertile imagination and elevated sense of his own abilities. A sidekick in the form of a small dog appeared soon after and my sketchbook at the time bulged with sketches of him trying to engage with the world in one form or another. And there he has remained for some time now apart from a few select outings like the watercolour above. This has very much to do with not knowing exactly what to do with him.

Over the last year or so he has undergone some experimental name changes, I closed my company so the shark reference doesn’t have the same ring to it, and a dormant attempt to turn him into something else, like a mad inventor or suchlike. So he’s very much still a work in progress.

What he does have though is staying power as frequent visits are made to that particular sketchbook to move him on a bit further or simply play around with him.

Whatever fate awaits him, he is immense fun to sketch and draw. Because his body form consists of a series of rounded blobs he is moderately easy to pose and the tight fitting spandex outfit lends him a kind of elasticity that is fun to exploit. Being a cartoon he is a great vehicle for trying things out, for instance, if I’m stuck on something else like a posture it’s often faster and easier to work it out using his bendy body form first and then develop from there. He is essentially like a bit of 2 dimensional modelling clay and a handy catalyst for getting ideas moving. More about him soon.