The day before yesterday I travelled up to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire to meet a very interesting chap who’d invited me to come and take a look at his old bike. The fellows name is Nik Fisk and the bike in question is a Triumph engined drag bike called Shotgun built in the late sixties. Nik invited me over having made contact via the blog as he was very interested in commissioning a picture of Shotgun. I’d read about this particular bike in Classic Bike magazine and had also, unwittingly, taken a photograph of Nik pushing it around the paddock at a Dragstalgia meeting at Santa Pod Raceway a couple of years ago. Our email exchange put all of these bits of information together and I leapt at the chance to go and take a look at this bit or drag racing history and meet the man himself. Hence I spent a very interesting, amusing and pleasurable Saturday afternoon standing in the driveway of a house in the village of Podington, where the bike actually lives in Nik’s mates Gordon’s garage.
As the sun beat down we devoured home made sandwiches, supped tea, bantered a good deal and admired this wonderful machine. Nik was more than happy to fill me in on the long and varied history of the bike while Gordon, who does most of the spannering on it, elaborated on various technical points and added another layer to our rather humourous discussion. It was fantastic and the guys were wonderfully enthusiastic and knowledgable about both the bike and their experiences of the vintage drag race scene here in the UK.
So this is now my next project. I’m going to have a go at doing a picture of the bike for Nik that he can use in his promotional armoury as he shows it as well as rides it. I’ll gather up my facts and tell you more about this lovely old bike and its life in a subseqquent post but, for now I just wanted to share a couple of pictures of it because it’s a real beauty.
My thanks to Nik and Gordon for such a great day, I hope I can do their faith justice.
Applying the thousands of ink dots that make up the shadow areas in the “Slugger” picture featured in the previous post, got me thinking about what the image would look like if it was in colour. This short period of playful thought led to the creation of this second image based on the same drawing. It seemed like a fun idea to start by turning the bike into a street machine, but something built for short sprints like dashing between sets of traffic lights. So it needed lights, some different handlebars and a license plate, all fairly easy to include. It also felt right that it should be brightly coloured, a reflection of the exuberance of the activity it was created for.
So the main body of the picture employs the watercolour and pen technique used a good deal lately. I love the way it gives the pictures such a punchy look, almost jumping off the page and into your eyeballs. I so liked the dotted tyre shading from the last version I kept it in, contrasts nicely with the grey.
The bit I’m most pleased with though is the background, the bike really needed something big and bold behind it. I had a good fiddle in Photoshop before doing it, playing around with some ideas based around red, amber and green, the traffic light palette, but these merely made the whole thing look like some odd homage to Rastafarian culture. Needless to say they got dumped, too weird, too complicated, but the red element remained as it worked really well with the bright orange of the bike. This final version is simply primary red overlaid by a darker tint made by adding black. The background is air brushed using gouache paint. I covered the whole picture area with lo-tac film and cut around the bike very carefully with a craft knife, it always surprises me how little pressure is needed to cut the film so it pays to exercise the upmost patience. A solid red was then sprayed on and left to dry before removing the film. Another piece of film was then laid over and the lines for the wave forms were put on in very soft pencil. These were then cut out, again with a fresh bladed craft knife, and sprayed with tint made from the same red with some black added. Even though the picture already had a black ground line, the above process was repeated once more so that pure black could be sprayed on to give the gradient shading of the black area dissolving into the red. Challenging, messy and rather time consuming but the outcome is everything I wanted.
Following on from the last post, the point was quickly reached where the decision as to what to do with the rider figure needed making. Leaving him as a kind of abstract blank space didn’t seem to look at all right. A few basic outlines looked better but didn’t add that much to the overall image, so the third of my choices remained. Why we spend so much time agonising over these things sometimes mystifies me, especially when it’s such a small jump to achieving the finish and one realises that it wasn’t such a big deal after all. That’s life I suppose.
It would be good at this point to be able to offer some kind of critique of the finished drawing but I’m currently in that place where I have been looking at it for so long that it is hard to get observations in some kind of order. So for the time being you will have to decide for yourselves whether it works or doesn’t. Others eyes will see things that mine currently miss, so revisiting it in a few days will give me a fresh perspective, and the capacity to work out how to move things on from here. There is certainly something in this leaving areas blank idea, but it needs properly evaluating, experimenting with and developing further.
Finally today, and on a much lighter note, a small cartoon for consideration. Some of us have an unfortunate habit of being able to read a word or phrase and always manage to insert extra letters. An example, if I see a real estate sign that says “To Let” I cannot fail to see the word “toilet”. I’m sure I am not the only person to suffer from this affliction. Well, a well known helmet manufacturer released a new product recently, The Castel. Reading the press release blurb I couldn’t help but think that it was called The Castle. Suffice to say this stuck in my mind, and that morning over a coffee at a local cafe the sketchbook came in very handy. The biking world can be very dry sometimes, it’s good to poke fun at it every now and again. Enjoy.