It is probably very different for those who can maintain the discipline of posting to their blogs every day, but for the rest of us, who invariably post when we can, gaps appear in our flow and by the time we have seen them it is too late to close them up or fill them in. Such is the way of things. When posting relies quite heavily on making progress with a project or piece this is something you pretty much have to live with, cope with and try and overcome through trying just a bit harder. So, gaps are awkward but not the end of the world. My posting habits are erratic at times but this does not mean that nothing has been going on in the background.
Following the last post, showing the journey from blank sheet to finished picture (see below), work has continued on that small series, sketching out, drawing up and starting colour work on the last three images that will take me to the complete set of nine that I want. In the photo above, taken today in the mini-studio, you can see two of these remaining pictures. In the foreground is number eight just over half way through with most of the inking in done and only bike colour and background to finalise. Number seven, in the top left, is all done and only awaits a background block and final fiddling. I will of course post them up as they get fully finished. I thought this shot would also be useful for the fact that you can clearly see my technical pens lying next to the picture, which gives you a clear sense of the scale I am working at with these. Small.
This second shot shows the current state of my ideas wall. I am trying to develop the habit of changing it’s contents a bit more regularly though doubtless some of what you can see will appear very familiar to those who have been following the blog for any time. On the right hand side though you can see evidence of what has been occupying my blog-time of late. I have been getting some of the drawings ready for printing as small cards with the intent of selling some through the Soulcraftcandy BigCartel store. The top row shows some run-offs of the first set from the original Cafe Racer series done last year and below them are some prints off the home printer looking at how best to size these newer images for their own card set. Getting all the files clean after scanning, colour balanced and nice and crisp takes a good deal of time but hopefully the results will be worth it. So there is lots happening and I will be reporting on progress as the journey to print continues.
If you spotted it and guessed correctly, yes that is a picture of one of the cats at the very bottom of the shot, but fear not, this blog is not about to be overtaken by feline inspired craziness.
With five of the small Cafe Racer colour pictures done and posted there is one left to do which will complete this set. Rather than merely post up the final finished version of it I thought it might be interesting for people to see more of the process I go through when creating these images. So for this one I’ve scanned the various stages as I complete them.
The first step, once the overall composition had been decided, happens on the newsprint pad where I rough out a couple of sketches to get a feel for what I’m after. Often this involves sketching it out a couple of times as in this case. The first sketch is really just about working out the proportions, rider position and the general look of the bike in the image. Once you’ve got something then you’re in a position to make changes as you see fit.
So with this done, I decided that I wanted a slightly different looking bike and to move the rider up the tank a bit, good reason to do another sketch. I wanted to base this drawing around a twin cylinder Norton and a quick search on the net yielded the right picture which could inform me about engine details and other bits and bobs. I can now start to work these into the drawing.
With these two sketches done there is enough information on the sheets to allow me to transfer the image onto the A4 Bristol Board for the final version. This is where my handy little light box comes into its own. If there is a need to blow up or reduce the sketch size for this stage then it is simply a matter of printing out a quick scan at the right size before hitting the light box. For the pencil stage I need a good point to the pencil so use a 2mm leaded technical push pencil, with an H grade lead, which keeps a point well and isn’t so hard as to leave big grooves in the paper when you erase it. Most of the drawing is done freehand though I resort to my ellipse guides to get the wheels nice and tight. At this stage I’m building in all of the details gleaned from reference pictures like the engine case shapes, cylinder head position and brake details. I love density in these drawings so put a lot of effort into distorting things slightly and filling in all of the big gaps that normally exist when looking “through” a motorcycle. It’s also a good time to get all those tiny details in. I don’t necessarily need accuracy here but I do like things to be reasonably believable, if that makes sense. With the bike and rider done, I loosely put a box around it which will approximate the background block. By the time this pencil layout is done, my mind has already started to think about what colour to paint the bike, the riders helmet design and the background colour. Time to get the brushes out and a look at the various painting and inking in the next post.
This is the second version of FlyBy. There wasn’t anything wrong with the first one, it just seemed like a good idea to do another one, and bring in some more of the classic cafe racer details like a black leather jacket with patches on and a big silver tank on the bike.
The background got really patchy on this one but once it had dried out fully it didn’t seem too bad after all. The colour works really well with the bike image and it would have been foolhardy to think that it could be rescued or changed in any way by adding more liquid. I’m really pleased with the reflections on the exhaust and the engine side cover, I confess I referred to some photographs to truly try and get a handle on these parts. There is certainly a “way” of doing these things, and it is reliant on being able to pick the information you want from a photo as it is in being able to access ones embedded knowledge. The former certainly feeds the latter, the photos serving purely to inform what I’m doing rather than be representative of the only way things can be rendered. More of these to come.
This is a great book.
On another note today, here’s a really great book to recommend. It’s called “An Illustrated Life” by a chap called Danny Gregory. Essentially it is a collection of features on various creative people and their sketchbooks, including he author, though the books are very much the heroes. It is a fascinating look into other worlds where the books are used as journals for recording everyday life, through to how various artists use them as repositories for ideas and laboratories for creative experimentation. To accompany all of this visual candy there is also plenty to read, each featured person is given plenty of column inches to explain what they use their books for, how they do it and, just as importantly, why they do what they do. It is all very enlightening and interesting stuff, I can’t recommend it enough as a source of energy, inspiration and delight. For any of us who spend any time slowly filling sketchbooks all this might at first seem a bit intimidating, but go with it and it soon becomes clear that we are all doing the same thing, just differently and individually. It’s readily available through all the usual channels. Here’s a link: To the book.
I mentioned in the last post how hard it can be sometimes to keep track of ideas, organise them and maintain connection with them as you go. Those thoughts were prompted by a session going through the piles of loose sheets that don’t get put on the wall in the studio and the ideas that they contain. It’s amazing how fast one can build a pile of paper, and how much time one can spend subsequently sifting through them.
The new year has brought with it a desire to try and bring some kind of order to how ideas are collated and stored, and then how to access them a little more quickly. A solution, which I’m now trying to make a habit of, was found in a book and I don’t mind admitting as much. I’m lucky that here in Ealing I have access to a public library which has escaped closure. It is a fantastic resource for all kinds of things aside from books and is completely free. They have quite a good arts section and a good few books about all aspects of drawing and painting. One publication I borrowed recently was by a cartoonist and animator. An interesting book though much of it was very specific to his latter trade, but what struck me was how he organised his work. There were many examples of worksheets he created for each project which explored everything from frame compositions to colour palettes and other tiny details. Although most of it was way too complicated for my needs, it was the central concept of the worksheet that stuck with me. The sheet above is one of my first worksheets, or ideas sheets. I haven’t gone as far as making a grid of boxes to sketch in or scribble notes in but getting the ideas down this way helps with any grouping I may want to create, and more importantly it is now possible to increase the density of ideas stuck up on the wall by a considerable degree. So simple, so effective.
One of the consequences of conducting ones creative activities in a small studio room, essentially a converted child’s bedroom measuring barely 10×6 feet, stuffed with bookcases, desks, computers and all the required paraphernalia, is that keeping track of things is a perpetual challenge. The question “now where did I put that?” rings in my ears all the time. Any activity, creative or otherwise, brings about default behaviours in us like how we file things, store items and arrange our work area. We create our own individual systems which are very particular and often not logical in the eyes of others. I’m also sure it’s a truism that we spend countless hours every year modifying our little systems in the search for an ideal solution. I know I do, and it’s not always about easing the process of finding stuff. Being able to see your ideas is a very important part of stimulating the creative process. In the past I’ve enjoyed the luxury having lots of sketches and drawings laid out to view, it helps with seeing where you’ve been and also where you’re going, or would like to go with an idea. The challenge is being able to maintain that connection between your vision and the work in progress. This applies as much to images we collect as reference as to our own output.
I have a wall in here upon which I stick sketch sheets and stuff, but it never feels big enough. As a result it constantly changes, acting as a road map for current work and keeping the connection going with ideas and thoughts which still hold my attention. It would be fantastic to sit in a studio the size of an aircraft hangar, but that’s not going to happen any time soon, so making the best use of what’s available really counts. The computer, which holds a huge resource in my image bank, and provides access to the universe of the net only has a screen that is so big. So to cram as much into this space as possible these compositions of ideas, as shown here, are a great way for me to see lots of ideas all at once, make decisions about them, and assist myself in direction finding.
Welcome to the first post of 2013, a new year hopefully full of promise, creativity and unbounded potential for us all. Whilst trying my upmost to remain in a creative mindset over the holiday period, I have to confess I found it monumentally difficult to maintain any momentum. Still, there are some things to show today so the time wasn’t wasted completely.
The small doodles from the previous post have received a goodly amount of attention in their transfer from the sketchbook into the A3 Newsprint pad. Taking them up in scale quickly helps greatly in the process of nailing the views one is after and is a great way of giving the old freehand skills a good work out. The newsprint paper is possessed of a beautiful kind of softness which takes Biro pen really well, and so drawing is both fast and furious, though it has a strange resistance to certain media like chalky pastels. That said, it can withstand a healthy level of abuse for such thin paper. This stage of the process also provides a great opportunity to throw some colour about, just to see how things might work if that’s the chosen way forward. For this I’ve used some very old Caran D’Ache Neocolor pastels that have been with me for years. They don’t crumble like normal oil pastels, so less mess, but they still maintain a fair degree of smudge-ability, so you can blend and overlay the colour. Sat here writing this I’m of a mind to perhaps try them out on a much larger format sometime, once I’ve visited the art shop to get a few more colours that is, currently the small tin holds the remnants of perhaps half a dozen or so. There are quite a few of these little sketches to work up, so more coming in the next post.
Aahh, back to the blog, at last. It seems to be a never ending consequence of working freelance that just when you’re getting into the flow of something, another job comes along and completely consumes you and all of your creative energy. This time it was the construction of some very large card models in what’s known as poly-board, a foam cored board with thin card faces. In this case 10mm thick, they were really big models with large curving surfaces, which requires a very particular approach to construction and problem solving. I won’t go into any more detail here but, I’m of a mind to expand on the subject further in future posts. Needless to say the time scales for these kinds of work are short, the working days long and brain fatigue a constant companion. But it’s done now, until the next one.
So, while the above has served to get some income in, it has prevented me from getting on with a stack of drawing stuff that was all lined up. But this down time is never wasted. My trusty sketchbook, currently an A5 Moleskine with lovely creamy paper, comes with me to work every day and allows me the chance to have a scribble during my lunchbreaks. Armed with a couple of the ideas that were waiting to be developed further, these snatched chunks of time enable some thinking to occur and help to satisfy the daily drawing need.
These three little doodles are about trying to find a progression on the ideas I’ve been having lately about cropping and framing the images to create little story snapshots whilst still maintaining some dynamism to the pictures. At the moment they seem like glimpses, captured in a moment and an attempt to try and say more through showing less, if that makes sense. Currently they are all pretty small so working them up a bit at a larger size will help to give them a bit more purpose. With the Christmas break upon us one can never be too sure how much free time can be given to some quality drawing time but here’s hoping we can steam into the new year with a bunch of fresh and exciting ideas on the go.
Finally, it just remains for me to wish all of my followers and readers a very Happy Christmas and thank you to you all for staying with Soulcraftcandy over the past year.