It’s good to sketch.

Lots of folk who say they can’t draw actually can, and time and again one finds out after some very elementary enquiry that the reason they’ve got to thinking this is that they never take any time to practice, and so, when they do pick up a pencil or pen it always leads to disappointment. For those of us who draw a lot, this kind of existential dilemma is a less formidable obstacle to overcome. That doesn’t mean though that things are necessarily easier for us. We still need to practice, just as much as someone who plays a musical instrument does, it’s the way we keep our skills sharp and develop ourselves.

The greatest practice is sketching and the best thing about it is that you can do it anywhere and at any time pretty much. It doesn’t have to be from life, though keeping ones observational skills up to scratch pretty much necessitates it. With a whole world out there to look at there is plenty of subject matter to choose from and nothing to be intimidated by. I have always subscribed to the view that it’s ok to visit a zoo, for example, and simply draw a building or a tree. You sketch what catches your eye, what you naturally gravitate toward. if you don’t like drawing people then don’t draw them unless you actually want to improve this skill. Sketching can be so easily turned into a stick with which we beat ourselves with, and this removes the fun from the exercise.Sketching is a drawers play time, the serious stuff comes later, so enjoy it. I’m sure lots of us reckon we don’t do it enough, but no one is counting the hours. The important thing is to do it when you can.

Here are a couple of sketches done the other day on a visit to the RAF museum at Hendon in North London. I tend to go with my old chum Ben, who’s pretty handy with a pen, and this lends an extra dimension to the day as we are able to meet up after sessions and discuss our sketches and the views, angles and processes we’re engaging with. It makes it much more interesting. I took a brown paper sketchbook I bought recently and after a couple of roughs in soft pencil I thought I’d have a go with a brown ink pen, which works well with the paper, and splodge some highlights around with a thin white chalk. The first one is looking up into an open cockpit of a Lightning fighter with a dummy pilot sat inside. The second a cylinder head from the radial engine on the front of a Bristol Bulldog biplane. There is so much to look at at the museum that one is never short of a subject, the collection is huge and it’s free to visitors too. What more do you need?

Finally here’s an update of the cherry red bobber I’ve been working away on of late. For a background I’ve decided to mimic the kind of bold swipes designers sometimes use to back up their marker drawings. More about this in the next post when it should be finished.

Version 3, did it work?

The third version of this sketch is now complete as far as the main subject of the image is concerned. So as not to reduce the exercise to one of exact and complete copying I elected to change a couple of features about the central picture in an effort to try rendering certain details differently as much as to maintain my interest in it. So you’ll see that this time the main body of the engine is made to look black, the bike has taken on a two tone colour scheme and the rider figure has taken to wearing a check shirt amongst other small changes.


Third time around this was still a fun picture to create and the inclusion of a bit more detail in these small areas, such as the shirt material make it much more interesting to look at. It is often said that both God and the Devil live in the details and this is utterly true, ones treatment of detail can make or break a drawing or design, so a cautious approach is always a watch word when trying things like this. Is it successful? I’m not sure that success is the right word to describe it, though I would say that working at a larger scale, this drawing is only six inches wide, would help in depicting the finer points and relieve the need to try achieve things with a very small brush which is still too big.


This buff background arises from necessity as much as choice. I wanted to post the image before departing for a long weekend away so time is short. Some careful trimming of the scanned image and a block fill, with a little shadow, was the solution to time pressures. Judging ones own work is always tricky but in this instance I’d say it works quite well. The colours are suitably contrasty to give the drawing some “pop” and help it stand out. What really ticks the box though is the contrast offered between the very hand made nature of the painted image and the utterly smooth, flat nature of the machine made background. It would be interesting to see how this looks in printed form, something I’ll experiment with later perhaps, and equally, it would be interesting to see what happens when this flat colour is applied by hand using Gouache or Acrylic paints.


There is some black and white pen work which desperately needs attention lavishing on it so messing about with colour may have to take a back seat for a time. The challenge is whether this exercise has committed enough to memory for it all to move forward again the next time I pick up the brush.


Sketching, lots of sketching.

Dragster ideas.

With the print store now active, some space in the old brain is now free again to concentrate on filtering through influences and inspirations, sketching out ideas and hopefully generating some new images. Getting back into the swing of things as it were. It has also provided a moment to reflect on where things are going and how to try and incorporate various ongoing media experiments into the work flow.


The recent visit to the Dragstalgia meet at Santa Pod raceway has gone some way to rekindle interest in the whole dragster thing and this has started to filter through into the pages of the sketch book in preparation for launch into some more finished pieces. Like so many aspects of this motorcycling interest it serves up so much visual inspiration it seems often difficult to decide which bits to tackle first. There is a kind of blindness that descends upon you when venturing into an enormous retail store sometimes, there is so much stuff in front of you that you have no idea where to look first. It’s the same with some of these biking subjects, particularly if one finds oneself staring at the panorama of images downloaded from the camera into your photo library. The feeling can be that you are looking at everything and nothing at the same time. I find I can only get round this by switching it off and doing something else for a while. The subconscious is then somehow released to do what it does best and filter through the information before popping a mail into your mental in-box to let you know some form of direction has been chosen.


This is the time to sketch.

Dragster ideas 2.


Time to sell some prints.



A kind of hotrod.

So, another unscheduled gap in posting comes to an end, thankfully. Regularity and consistency remain difficult habits to develop but, this is very much a work in progress. It has been a busy time lately with much happening in the background, more about that in a moment, and the occasional distraction, for example a first time visit to Santa Pod raceway to see some drag racing and feed the imagination. All I can say at this juncture about that experience is that I have never heard anything quite as loud in my whole life. And spectacular too, despite it being a “nostalgia” meeting, much of the machinery looked anything but old or remotely passed its best.


What’s been happening in the background has been much more exciting though on a personal level. Prompted by a steady flow of positive comments, and encouraged to make something more of this drawing project I’m engaged in, it’s time for others to have the opportunity to enjoy the drawings as real things, beyond the virtual world on screen. As a result I am in the process of setting up a small internet shop through which you will be able to purchase high quality art prints of a selected group of drawings. I have been lucky enough to find a fantastic printer who I know I can rely on and whose attention to detail and quality of output are superb, so I am very enthusiastic about moving forward. The shop is not live yet but, getting this far has been an interesting journey through online service suppliers, low level brand fiddling, design, learning about print technologies, and cardboard tube sourcing. Currently the final details are being sorted out in readiness for the grand opening and are reminding me that there is no substitute for putting in the effort and getting it right first time. So the next couple of weeks is promising to be very interesting as things come together, and I will be posting regular progress updates as Soulcraftcandy enters a new era.


I have found a little time to do some drawing too. Not as much as I’d like but enough to keep the hand and eye in. Todays picture is a sketch in which I’m trying to do two things. The first is to draw at a slightly larger scale than before. This drawing is about 20 inches across, which is quite a bit larger than previous pictures and challenges my ability to make all of the proportional changes needed to jump up in size. Harder than it sounds.


Secondly I’m having a go at trying to concentrate the detail and tonal density of the drawing at the centre of the page whilst the outlying areas of the drawing fade away, and couple this with leaving the rider figure outlined but unrendered. The eye and brain, working together, have an incredible ability to complete an unfinished image, to fill in the gaps, if you can give them enough basic information to start with. This drawing may not be finished in the true sense of the word, but in another way it already is. In some ways it’s already a bit overdone but, finding that fine line between the two seems to be something worth spending some time trying to find.


Finally here is a very loose preliminary sketch for the above bike and I’ve got a funny feeling this isn’t the last time this one will be influencing another drawing. You will also notice the inclusion of a new logo, a small sign that things are changing. More about that next time. Watch this space.

Hotrod sketch



Cafe Racer No.6 – more progress.

Cafe Racer 6

While the urge to “ship” or complete any drawing or image is a strong one, it’s very much proving to be a case of “slowly, slowly, catchy monkey” with this one. Jacket and hands done, head and legs to follow, and then something to ground it. Pushing aside the daily distractions of everyday life to focus on a specific creative task, particularly when that task is not born of your normal world of deadline fueled rushing about, is a skill which all of us amateurs must constantly struggle with. I am no different. It is good to know though, that these periods of slow progress are more than balanced by highly productive phases when stuff just pours out of your head and hand, and across the page. these slower moments are also a great opportunity for reflecting on sketch work and ideas, learning new things, recharging the creative batteries and dabbling in other creative pursuits.It would be good to finish it off by the end of the week though.

Here above is another of the sketches done on lining paper a while ago whilst churning out ideas for the Cafe Racer series.I like the idea behind it but my execution of the idea went a bit off track which led to me not including it in the first series. Rather like with the previous sketch shown in the last post I managed to make a bit of a fudge of the front wheel and that kind of ran all the way up the front forks too. Must try harder. You’ll also notice, and fair dues if you haven’t, that the rider figure has a strange look about him. Amongst other things his nose is a tad weird and his chin’s gone the same way too. It’s only a sketch so one can’t be too critical but, these things matter if one is to learn from examining ones own work and improve things for the future. What works though is the bike, apart from the front bit of course. It has that solidity to it that I’m always looking for, a great big engine surrounded by a chunk of hefty engineering. Again this will likely get redrawn sometime in the future, perhaps in another medium, and much bigger even. certainly a contender for the pending file.