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.
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.
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.