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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Starting the Shotgun commission.

Shotgun_sk_1©JonTremlett2014

A couple of posts ago I put up some colour photographs of a lovely red vintage drag bike called Shotgun. I’ve been asked by its owner, Nik Fisk, to create a picture of the bike for him. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get going but here is the first layout sketch done in preparation for the final picture. It’s done in black biro on heavy weight lining paper. When I was taking the photographs we discussed in some detail the view we wanted to achieve in the finished piece, something that hinted at the length of the bike, but also showed off the overall shape well and the fantastic old Triumph engine that sits at the heart of the beast. Having the right hand exhaust pipe nearly vertical we reckoned this would allow the curvature of the left pipe to be a feature and would also create a strong central element to the picture.

It would be far simpler, and probably much easier, to sketch directly over a printed photograph, or do it digitally using something like Corel Painter, but that would defeat the object of this exercise. In asking me to create a picture for him, Nik is looking for something created in a particular style, which we reckoned would be called something like “factual caricature”. This is not about creating a facsimile image, more about giving the image a degree of character which a photograph just can’t do. So with a picture up on the screen as reference I like to work freehand directly onto the paper, working out the relative positions and proportions of things as I go. It’s a rather organic process, one which not only makes you look carefully at the subject, but also embeds knowledge about that subject into your minds eye as you go. I find this part of the process invaluable and it enables me to make the slight scale and proportional changes which bring the caricature into the image. It allows me to do things like make the engine slightly bigger and bulk up the exhaust pipes to increase the sense of power of the unit for example. I always like to increase the fatness of tyres on bike pictures, in makes them look more planted in my view, but at the same time I need to make sure that the ellipses that outline the wheels are as correct as possible. This sketch shows a revised front wheel from the original sketch, done with some ellipse guides at a smaller size (my templates only go so big), rescanned and photoshopped into place. So when I’m freehanding the outline drawing for the final picture I’ve got some decent guidelines to work to.

The drawing is about 380mm from the back of the rear wheel to the tip of the front and sits very nicely on an A2 sheet, so a really good size which will allow lots of details to be shown. The next step is to check over this one, make some notes for adjustments and then use the light box to start the process of getting it onto the Bristol Board I’ll use for the final painting. This is going to be a lot of fun and I’ll be posting progress reports as things take shape.

Submit your work to a local art show.

small water colour 19cm x 16.5cm for Soulcraftcandy.

Every couple of years here in Ealing, there is a local art show hosted in the Gallery of Pittshanger House, in the northern corner of Walpole Park. It’s called the Ealing Open and it serves as an opportunity for local artists, both amateur and professional, to exhibit an example of their work. You are allowed to enter one piece of work for the show and the great thing is that there are no barriers to entry other than the work must have been completed in the last twelve months by a person living within the borough. As a consequence there is a huge variety of different styles, abilities, media and images on show. It’s great and is a fantastic chance to see not just how creative people are but, how many creative people there are all around us. I submitted one of the Cafe Racer biro drawings last time, back in 2012.

This year I’m submitting again and the image above is the one being entered. It’s a small piece, done in water colour, ink and a touch of gouache. Two weeks ago I was reluctant to submit it, I’d fallen out of love with it completely and was finding it hugely difficult to summon the energy to finish it. I’m not exactly sure why but, I think it had something to do with the amount of colour in it. Every time I looked at it, it just looked far too dense, too much blue, too much green and lacking in a depth of field that I thought I’d worked hard to achieve. But things change, and sitting down last weekend having taken a break from it for some time, it jarred much less and finishing it off took surprisingly little time and brought much relief. I’ve called it “Tom, Dick and Harry”.

My partner is submitting some work too, though her style of painting is much more abstract than mine to say the least, a grasp of which is seemingly beyond my comfort zone. It will be fun to enter such different pieces and to see where in the vast collection of entered works our paintings are hung. I seem to remember that last time there were in excess of three hundred entrants, so plenty to entertain the crowds for the month the exhibition runs for.

The Ealing Open, PM Gallery, Pittshanger House, Ealing W5 5EQ, 24 May – 21 June.

Drawing the Shotgun drag bike.

Shotgun_1

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.

Shotgun_2

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.

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.