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.
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.
As mentioned before on the blog there are always things going on in the background while work on the larger finished drawings is progressing. Sometimes this takes the form of working sketches which will form the basis of larger works, at other times they are small drawings that are used to practice techniques or develop an idea.
Above are a small group of what are known here as bikeheads. Invariably the larger drawings contain a character or two and it is often a challenge to get them looking right for the given context that they find themselves in. Finding the correct pose and body shape is never simple and the same goes for facial expression, and how this reflects the characters personality. The former are dealt with purely through sketching out varying forms but, the latter is harder, especially when you realise that even the slightest variation in line can change a facial expression completely. So as an aid to get things going I have started a kind of character bank in which to keep all the doodles of heads and faces that appear through the sketch sheets. It will then be easier to have a look through and find some inspiration when it’s needed. Adding some colour to these helps to bring out the character and keeps my colour pencil technique up to scratch too if it’s not being employed elsewhere.
Which leads me neatly onto this second group. Back in December a post contained some small groups of varying bike styles I was playing with at a reduced scale. Those had been completed in crayon and ink. These above were done purely to see what would happen if they were done using liquid inks and watercolours. To find out how intense the colours would be and how much of the detail could be held given the very liquid nature of the medium and the coarser paper used. Very fine Rotring pen has been applied too, to firm up[ the outlines and add extra black where desired. The paper was fine for the paints but proved to be a bit too “wooly” for the finer stuff subsequently done with the pen. Next up will be a test on harder paper.
Some say you can’t learn to draw from a book. This may be so, or not, but a couple of really useful books I refer to regularly are Action Cartooning by Ben Caldwell, here, and Cartooning The Head & Figure by Jack Hamm, here. Both are invariably out on the desk when character sketching. Neither will teach you a style but, both will inform whatever your personal style may be. Great books.