Todays stunt, the Wheelie. As much as they are displays of machine control and skill, they are also a perfect expression of the utterly boyish exuberance and confidence that infects us when we’re out on our bikes. It’s a lot of fun to depict them in images, though capturing that moment, like a camera snapshot, presents its own challenges. If you drew up some kind of list of all the variables one could consider before putting pen to paper, you would probably never start. For me the essence lies in capturing that sense of fun and confidence such a display gives off. It is after all, nothing more than showing off to an audience, so trying to get that into the picture is important. It would be far simpler to draw the whole thing as a straight elevational view but that would be too easy. Like a camera lens your eye can be a pretty wide angle device, and so creating a sense of depth and perspective is the main challenge. Which part of the image is almost flat to the viewer, and at what angle does one see the rest of the subject are aspects that present an interesting challenge when drawing from imagination. Too little and things look rather flat, too much and you get a kind of fish eye effect that turns the subject into a kind of banana. In perspective terms these are not perfect depictions but I hope they do enough to convey the idea. Cartoons invariably bend the rules a bit, but I think you can get away with it when you admit that that is exactly what you’re creating.
This one is Wheelie 1, and yes, that means there is another one coming along shortly. I hope you enjoyed it.
Finishing the big drag bike drawing was a kind of watershed moment. I had a strong feeling that I didn’t want to do full colour images just yet, which I’ve covered in previous posts. There was also something else bothering me about it. It had elements to it that ticked the right boxes as far as content was concerned; the exaggerated engine, slightly extraordinary profile, big wheel(s) etc. But it lacked other things too. Straight off it was an image that said “bike as object”, not what I was after. It also lacked any context or connection to anything and a human element. Without a rider, or a place to go and do what it does, a bike is just a collection of parts that remain inert. What I wanted to get into the drawings was some of that action, some dynamism and direction.
I put away all my previous sketches and took out a fresh pad, a pencil and started again. the drawing above is what came out.
Now this is more like what I was after. Apart from the fact that drawing in soft pencil was an absolute pleasure, the drawing is starting to encapsulate the elements that had up until now eluded me. Putting a rider on the bike brings a fresh perspective and gives the image some new found purpose. It acts to lend a much needed sense of scale to the image and presents me with a whole host of small details to play with to influence my reaction to it. Facial expressions, arm and leg position, outfit and pose all come into play. It’s still elevational but I’ve started to bend the viewing plane to give some perspective to the extremities of the wheels. This bending, as if looking at the whole thing through a wide angled lens, also starts to give the feeling of motion.
It’s still a cartoon, which is a good thing, just a much better one than I’d been doing before. It gave me a huge spur to push things more into this new direction.