Shotgun dragbike – Finalising the layout.

Shotgun layout by Jon Tremlett 2014

It’s been a very busy month since my last post, one that has seen this picture progress to being finished along with some other stuff too. rather than jump straight to the final image, here is a slightly retrospective look at the process I have been through in completing this commission.

So this first image is of the final layout sketch which will now dictate how the picture will be in its final form. This one is traced through, using my little lightbox, on to an A3 sheet of good quality drawing paper using the previous sketch as an underlay. This stage is when I do most of the adjusting, moving things around slightly, changing some proportions here and there, and generally tightening things up. For the first time the drawing takes on a kind of crispness which really helps in being able to see properly what’s what and get the view finalised. Once I’m happy with this version, it’s pretty much ready to go and ready to be transferred onto the sheet of Bristol Board for the final rendering. This transfer stage is normally quite quick and easy, but this time was a rather fraught event. The size of the Bristol Board sheet was too large for the lightbox, the last thing you want is to crease or damage the paper whilst tracing through. Instead I had to rig up a makeshift lightbox using a small glass topped table and some desk lights and kneel on the floor to draw. It was hot day and the heat from the lights made the whole thing a rather nerve wracking affair, the board starting to warp after only twenty minutes. But it got done soon enough and I was really itching to get cracking with the colour phase.

Shotgun_engine©JonTremlett2014

So this image is of the the engine after a couple of painting sessions. I don’t know exactly why, but I always like to start at the centre of the picture and work outwards. With the bikes this invariably means doing the engine area first. It’s actually a really good way to get started. The main constituent colour here is Payne’s Grey, either on its own or mixed with other colours for different hues and shades. Keeping the paint quite thin, colour and tone are built slowly in layers, it gives more control, and allowed to dry every now and then to stop paper warp and the surface from degrading through sogginess. Once I’m happy with an area I’ll get the technical pen out and start the process of outlining and blacking to start to bring the whole thing out of the surface and give it some punch. This also helps to set the early tone for the drawing and acts as a guide for putting down subsequent colour areas. Looking good so far.

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It’s very green.

103_Nail_It©JonTremlett2014

Just a brief post this time as there is still much to do at the end of this Bank Holiday weekend and we are all back at school tomorrow.

So here above is the finished picture that was shown in a part done state a couple of weeks ago. Safe to say it’s very bright and colourful and has turned out pretty much exactly as I planned. I love using a bright orange on the bike tanks and so it seemed only logical to offset that with a blazing green for the background block. And because the bike’s standing pretty much on its nose, then angling the coloured area around it seemed like a good way of emphasising the the dynamic of the image.

This one’s done on a much smoother water colour paper than the usual fare and it makes a real difference to how the inking goes down and the control that one can exercise in the coloured areas. I hope you like it as much as I do. Gotta dash.

Trying something new.

Stoppie©JonTremlett2014

Most of the fabrication work on the bike refresh is now complete and, as I mentioned before, the last big bit of the jigsaw puzzle is coming up with a new paint scheme for the fuel tank and spraying it up. I’ve got something I’m pretty keen on and it’s sitting in the “mulling” section of my brain right now while I have a final think about the colours.

In the meantime here are some pictures in way of an update of what else is happening in the creative microcosm that is Soulcraftcandy. The first is a little sketch I knocked out a while back which immediately demanded a finished version. I’m unsure as to why it sent such a strong signal but I think it’s got something to do with putting the pink bits into the drawing as well as the stance and angle of the whole thing.

Stoppie_prog_1©JonTremlett2014

Needless to say the pink hasn’t survived the move to a more finished image but the idea of using bright colour has, and I’m hoping for quite a punchy little picture when it’s done.

Soulcarftcandy art by Jon Tremlett

These two progress shots show working up the main part of the bike, painting and inking as I go. I find this a good way to work as it enables me to keep an eye on what I’m doing and keep things in control. I find that bringing focus to the picture as it moves along helps me see what I want to do with the next bit, rather than leaving it all rough and inking in everything at the very end. From here I’ll move on to doing the rider figure and then finally the background. Excuse the odd hue of the pictures, it seems to be a consequence of photographing these things in daylight as I can’t fit the backing board onto the scanning bed.

Soulcraftcandy art by Jon Tremlett

This last one is a slightly different animal, an image on which I’m trying to do something new (for me anyway). Firstly I’m trying to paint much more of a complete scene and this is forcing me to think harder about background, middle ground and foreground and the focal relationships between them. In all honesty I’m finding it quite difficult, but it’s rewarding to try and rise to the challenge. My difficulty probably stems from all those years of design drawing where one is not expected to create any sense of depth of field, presentation visuals being very two dimensional in nature, and so it all feels a bit alien and intimidating. So in order to help myself as much as possible I’ve divided the image into three planes, big bike at the front in focus, two smaller bikes on the second level and then the landscape on the third, mainly. The desire to try a bit of freer brush work, which I’ve mentioned before, now gets a chance to play on the background levels and will hopefully minimise my chances of making a muck of it all from the outset and build some much needed confidence in being a bit more loose with how I apply paint to the paper. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Creative energy spreads.

102_Cafe_smoke©JonTremlett2014

With all of the making happening in the back garden and in the makeshift workshop that is the garden shed, it would have been so easy just to forget about the artworks for a few days. But these things never sleep, whatever’s on the drawing table in the studio lets you know it’s there every time you walk in the room. The hope was that some making activity would bring a fresh spur to the drawing work and so it proved. By splitting my creative time in this way, both fed off the energy that was now available seeing as I wasn’t going to be working for a few days.

This picture above was started a while back but was taking ages to finish. Procrastination had set in as a reaction to my being a little daunted by pushing it along. I wanted to see how I’d get on with some heavier textured water colour paper, and whether I could hold the detail given the rougher surface. It was also a challenge to figure out the best way of rendering all of that smoke, something I’d not had much success at in the past.

In the end the detail concerns were pretty unfounded, the technical pen worked out ok on the paper once it was fully dry, though I would say that it does tend to get a bit “hairy” if you labour the pen too much. The smoke bit on the other hand was a tad more tricky. I had kind of promised myself that I’d have a go at being a bit more free with my brush work a while ago and saw this as a perfect way to get some practice. Smoke being of a very “wafty” nature I thought it would suit a more loose approach. What I didn’t reckon on was actually how hard it was to do. I take my hat off to all those whose water colour style is more conventional than my own, the impressionistic feel they give to brush work is a hard won prize indeed. Initially I was far too deliberate, the cloudiness needed just wasn’t there and no amount of blending the marks I’d made seemed to work. In the end I plumped for just loading up a No.4 brush and smearing, can’t think of a better word for it, wash all over the required area and trying to blur it all with more water whilst still wet. It kind of worked but I failed to achieve any consistency across the whole area. Not wanting to overdo it I left it at that, though I will be having another few tries at getting the looseness I’m after on some other pieces which are coming along behind this one.

It’s bright, I’m happy and it’s shipped.

The Thumper © Jon Tremlett for Soulcraftcandy 2014

Those little thieves, that like to pinch bits of your time when you’re not looking are still hovering around the studio, turning hours into minutes. I’m experimenting with various strategies to combat their fiddling, the most effective so far being to shut down the email at certain times and turn the phone to silent mode. It’s working but it’s not a long term solution.

 

Despite these distractions I have finally managed to finish the picture featured in the last post, and it would be fair to say that I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. For a long time I wondered if the speed streaks would work, and was tempted on many an occasion to just leave them out. I’m glad I didn’t, they add a bit of direction and dynamism to the image which wouldn’t be there otherwise. It’s a detail I need to work on to get absolutely right but for a first attempt it’s none too shabby. I’m also very happy with the balance, between cartoon and reality, I have managed to strike. It is such an overwhelming temptation sometimes to get utterly carried away in the painting and start working too much realism into the colouring.

 

As for that background, well it just needed something massive and punchy to lift it off the paper and grab the eyeballs. I did it in Dr. Martin’s liquid water colour with an airbrush, using two variations on orange. First a layer of orange and then some tangerine layed over the top. I always find using the airbrush completely nerve wracking. Laying down the masking film is enough to give me the jitters on its own, and then cutting out the mask with a scalpel and removing the pieces turns me into a shaking wreck! Spraying seems to be the easy bit. The ink takes ages to dry properly and in the end I had to remove it from the surface of the film with a carefully placed piece of blotting paper and a roller. Only then is it safe to remove the mask, very, very slowly.

Detail of the Thumper by © Jon Tremlett 2014

As I mentioned before, I think I’ll leave this level of detail painting for a while and have a go at being a bit looser with things. I’ve been sketching out some other pieces in good old fashioned pencil this week and I want to take one of those onto a suitable paper and play with washes. I’m hoping it will be a bit experimental and free up the brain a bit, loosen the creative muscle as it were. I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

 

Virtual interactions.

Soulcraftcandy cartoon cafe racer.

Two posts ago I talked about the many distractions hanging in the air these days, they are all mostly still there though my mind is slowly learning to ignore them. After all, one can only do one thing at a time and besides there are quite a few things to finish before immersing myself in a new medium, material, technique etc. Best get those done then.

 

Here is a more completed scan of the picture featured in that very post. The bike and rider are now done and it’s background time, again. I wanted something impactful but simple, colour but not complicated. I’d settled on a sun and sky combination and wondered about treating it as a series of concentric arcs of colour across the page. Sounds simple enough I thought, though knowing also how easy it can be to make a complete mess of a decent picture through the application of an ill considered final detail, I resolved to “sketch” it out in Photoshop first. So now we get the image shown below.

Soulcraftcandy cartoon cafe racer.

It is not looking too shabby at this stage, but I’m already wondering whether this is achievable in ink and paint given that the paper is Bristol Board, not the best thing for getting large areas of really flat colour. This is one aspect that Photoshop and other similar softwares can’t mimic. The digital space is a nigh on perfect canvas, free of the foibles of papers, boards and other physical media. Ones brushes are consistent in their behaviour, even when using a tablet as I do, and their “feel” is experienced through your gliding across the uniform surface of the tablet and the application of tiny variations in pressure. All lovely, but nothing like the real thing. So whilst I’ve got myself a scheme that seems to tick all of the boxes for me, the real challenge now will be rendering it in the mucky, unpredictable and unforgiving analogue space, where water manages to help and hinder all at the same time.

 

 

Are you ever unhappy with your work? Perhaps this is why.

Red_Jacket_Racer_by_JonTremlett2013

What do you do whilst thinking about how to finish a picture? This question is usually answered by going and doing something else for a period of time while the imagination, now freed from staring at the problem, finds a solution in its own time. In this instance though, the answer was to promptly do another picture. It’s smaller and was done a bit more quickly. When I’d finished it I was quite happy with it, the red jacket experiment worked well. The following day however, with fresh eyes. I didn’t like it at all. Something wasn’t right, and while I wondered what was suddenly wrong with it, I got to thinking about what it was inside me that would not allow the picture to enjoy any approval. This episode brought to mind a quote from a recent book about creativity by Seth Godin, “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly”, which was shown to me by my partner a couple of weeks back. To me this quote goes some way to explain why we self appraise our work, not just that we do, and illustrates the relationship between the two agents of this internal process, ambition and taste. here it goes:

 

 On Good Taste.

 

Ira Glass understands how you feel.

 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get passed this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have…… And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work, …… It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions”.

 

What I also found interesting about the above was that it explained to me something that has bugged me for ages. Have you ever allowed a friend or family member to see a piece of work? Has that viewing resulted in a spout of gushing praise that made you feel uneasy? After graciously accepting the praise, have you then struggled to explain why to you, in spite of their protestations, the piece is not very good at all and you should do better? I’m sure it’s not just me. The introduction of the ideas of taste and ambition really help to frame the argument you want to make, your only real challenge is to find the right words to use. Let’s face it, people get very upset if you tell them you’ve got better taste than they have! It’s surely about the education of that taste, and we are all responsible for our own in that regard. I must read this book.

 

Here’s to closing the gap.