A mate and a V-8

OK, that title wasn’t great.  Look, don’t go.  It might get better.

This painting stems from a conversation I had with a friend of mine a while back.  Sian (for that is her name) and I both seem to have a liking for 1940s and 50s illustration and the general look of the period.  The result of the chat was that I would paint a picture of Sian in a 1940s pin-up style.

Here’s the main ref upon which the painting was based:


I had a vague idea that the picture would involve Sian sitting on a vintage car of some type, but I didn’t really have much more than that planned when I started it.  I  began by sketching a seated figure and studied the photo references of Sian while drawing the face.

This was a very quick sketch just to get the rough proportions rather than being particularly accurate, partly because I tend to refine it later on during the colouring process, and partly because I am very, very lazy.

Rough sketch…

The next stage was to block in some colours.  Again, I tend to do this is in a very rough and slapdash way to begin with, just to get an idea of the lighting.  Usually the colours end up being totally different, it’s just the areas of light and dark that are important.


From there, it was basically a case of refining it.  This involved lots of painting, adding bits, removing bits and changing bits, and working in smaller and smaller detail.  I also redrew parts of the sketch here and there.   I mostly concentrated on the face first, as this is the bit that most needs to look right, constantly referring to the reference photos.  I would have saved time here if I’d drawn a proper sketch in the first place.  There’s probably some sort of lesson there, but I refuse to acknowledge it.

Starting to take shape…
And a bit more…

I thought it was probably about time I decided what kind of car Sian should be sitting on.  It needed to be something pre-1950, and I’ve always quite liked hot rods, so in the end I decided on a custom ’32 Ford Roadster, like this one:

32 Ford

These tend to come in various colours (black seemingly most common, especially back then) and some have covered engines and some don’t.  Initially, I was going to paint mine red…

The car finally makes an appearance…

However, I decided in the end that a red spotty swimsuit might be more “1940s”, in which case a red car probably wouldn’t work.  I thought I might as well go for black for the car colour as it tends to allow for nice reflections.

I’ve always loved artwork from back then, but I’ve never really thought about exactly what it is that makes those old pics look the way they do.  To get more of an idea, I studied some illustrations from that period to try and figure out what it is about the colours that gives them that ’40s feel.  I’m still not quite sure.

After lots more refinement and messing about, changing various things along the way, I arrived at the final image.

I had painted the picture with the idea of a sunny day in mind, and painted the colours with that kind of lighting, but I didn’t decide on the specific background until quite late on.  I had been thinking of beaches and so on but in the end I went for a kind of “Bonneville Salt Flats” look, to fit in with both the sunshine and the hot rod.

So, here it is…


What’s black and white and wed all over?

A couple of friends of mine got married recently, and a few weeks beforehand Sarah (the bride) asked if I would draw an A3 sized picture to be put up outside the reception as a surprise for Tzevai (the groom).  Sarah intended to add some lettering to make a movie style poster.

Sarah and Tzevai are crazy about pandas and so the poster was to include a romantic panda couple and also to have a nautical theme to fit in with the maritime museum wedding venue.

With this in mind I sketched out a few ideas, which you can see below (click to enlarge).

Sarah decided on the last of the three, with a couple of small changes.  The sea was to be blue rather than the green-blue I had chosen and I was asked to have one of the pandas holding a yellow heart-shaped balloon, as there would be some at the reception (balloons, not pandas.  Having said that, I gather at least one panda did attend).

Sarah had a particular art style in mind, a sort of chalky, textured feel with that stencilled look that you sometimes see in magazine illustrations.  You can see the finished artwork below.

I tinkered with the layout for quite a while, basing it somewhat on the Golden Ratio.  This is a mathematical property centred around the value 1.61803 and represented by the Greek letter Phi.  Many people believe that paintings, sculptures, buildings and other objects which are proportioned in a way whereby the ratio between certain dimensions equals this figure have a particularly pleasing look.  Artists like Alphonse Mucha and Dali used it, as well as a lot of Renaissance painters, and buildings like the Parthenon are supposedly proportioned in this way.

It seems like this is something that may be in-built in humans and might account for why we prefer one particular layout of ornaments on a shelf, or one particular layout of furniture in a room to another.  It is claimed that the dimensions of things like televisions, playing cards and certain other everyday objects are based on this ratio, as well as certain things in the natural world.  Some even believe that the faces of people we find particularly beautiful are also proportioned in a way that follows this ratio.  A lot of this is highly debatable, but when laying out the poster I thought, “Hey, it can’t hurt, right?”.

In the picture below you can see a Golden Ratio grid overlaid on the poster.  Areas of the poster that lie roughly on grid lines or intersections supposedly tend to become focal points or feel more aesthetically pleasing, so for that reason the pandas’ heads are on one grid line, the horizon is on another and the sailing boat is on an intersection, with the mast on one of the vertical grid lines.  Also, the pandas and cliff sit roughly in the left hand portion of the three vertical divisions.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the Golden Ratio here (or in stacks of other places all over the web).

Anyway, that’s enough geometry.

The finished poster was sent over to Sarah, so that she could add the lettering.  After some thought, she came up with the final pun-tastic poster shown below.

I really enjoyed working on this, it was nice to do something a bit different from my usual cartoons and sci-fi stuff.  Apparently Tzevai was suitably surprised (hopefully in a good way), so it all worked out quite well.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Chong!

Shwiiiiiing (lens)

No drawings this time.  Instead, today’s post is all about my favourite camera, the Horizon Kompakt swing-lens panoramic.  I’m no photographer, but I do enjoy messing about with old cameras and different kinds of film, and the Horizon is the one I use by far the most.  Just in case you aren’t familiar with this delightful contraption, here’s Professor Mittens beaming in to explain further (as ever, click to enlarge)…

OK, so there was one drawing today.

Thanks Prof.  These days, of course, you can easily take a series of photos on any camera and stitch them together to make a panorama.  I suppose the reason I prefer the Horizon is that you can take it all in one go, including anything that might be moving, plus you can get all sorts of nice effects due to the fact that the picture curves as the lens moves.  The effect is more pronounced the further you get from the centre line of the shot.

I bought the camera years ago for about 30 quid second hand.  I’m glad I did, because they now seem to be going for extortionate amounts.  There is a more advanced version, the Horizon Perfekt, which has various aperture and speed settings, but it’s way out of my price range now.  Still, maybe one day…

Below, you can see a few examples of photos I’ve taken with the Horizon and I’ve also put some more in the gallery.


Render your Womble

I’m struggling with these “witty” artwork/drawing related post titles.  I’m not sure how many of you remember “Remember you’re a Womble” and will thus get it (not that you wanted it), but there we are.

My Dad told me that when he and my Mum bought me the Wombles song when I was a kid, Mum asked the man in Woolworths if he had the Wombles and he replied that it was just the way he walked.  He said he’d been waiting days for someone to ask that.

Anyway, Jamie (that’s Jedi Jamie from the earlier post) wanted a picture he could use on a T-shirt for his charity Mount Snowdon walk.  His group are called the Snowdon Wombles and he asked for an appropriately rendered Snowdon flag-planting pic.

If you would like to donate to Jamie’s Snowdon challenge, you can do so here.

Wombling Free


Your powers are weak, old man

People say that to me a lot.

On the subject of Star Wars (ooh, seamless), my friend Jamie recently requested a cartoon of himself as a Jedi, to be used as his 365th daily post on Blipfoto.

Here’s the reference photo:

Padawan Jamie

Step One was to try and capture a decent likeness of Jamie.  Although at this point I had a few vague ideas for the overall layout, I always feel like I can’t relax and draw the whole picture until I know I have the face sorted out to some degree.  So, to begin with I drew a quick outline sketch of Jamie’s face in blue pencil and then inked over it.  It was pretty rough as I usually just end up fiddling with the ink lines later in any case.  I also sketched out and inked a typical Jedi pose for Jamie at this point (based on me messing about in front of the mirror), but the need to get the face right was hanging over me, so I decided to concentrate on that first.

I find that rubbing out pencil marks tends to take some of the ink with it, but using blue means that I can select by colour and drop the pencil marks out on the PC instead.  Anyway, here’s the initial bash:

Sketching faces ain’t like dusting crops, boy

So far it kinda looked like him, but not quite.  As always, this is the point at which I panicked, drank a cup of tea and tried to reassure myself that colour and shade would cure all ills.  To that end, it was time to fire up the PC and scan the drawing.  I usually scan at 400dpi and in colour, and this was no exception.  I could scan in black and white which would automatically remove the blue pencil lines, but it also makes the ink lines somewhat jagged as there are slight variations in the blackness of the ink which are lost in a pure black and white scan.  Come to think of it, it may be possible to play around with the threshold of what the scanner considers to be black, I’ll have to look into that (I won’t).

I tend to colour using GIMP rather than Photoshop.  I have a copy of Photoshop Elements which was free with my graphics tablet (the bells-and-whistles Photoshop is out of my price range), but I’ve got used to GIMP over the years.  It seems to do pretty much everything I need.  I do occasionally use Xara for vector based work and for lettering and such.  It’s also pretty handy for converting to CMYK, rather than RGB, if necessary.  This particular picture was all GIMP, all the way baby.

After a little painting, I ended up with this:

The Force is strong with this one…

It was a bit better, but I knew it would probably need some tweaking later.  It’s in a fairly painterly style, but still has the black comic book ink outlines and a small amount of ink shading on the hair.  I did toy with the idea of making it more “comic-book-y” by using a reduced colour palette and using more black ink for shading.  However, Jamie mentioned that he wanted it to look like the Lara Croft picture I did a while ago, so I went with a similar approach.

With the panicky bit out of the way, I was free to work on colouring the rest of the drawing.  Jamie wanted a caption reading “May the Blip be with you” and also wanted “365″ to be in there somewhere.  As mentioned earlier, I had already drawn and inked the rest of the Jedi body, so now I needed to draw the rest of the picture.  I decided on a desert background rather than a star field or the bridge of a spaceship as when I think of Star Wars I tend to think of the emotional scene with Luke watching the sun set on Tatooine.  *Sniff* Excuse me, I have something in my eye.

I had a bit of a think about how to incorporate the “365″ motif, and decided to have it burned into a rock by Jamie’s lightsabre.  After painting a Tatooine-esque background, and adding the lettering, I made a few amendments to the initial drawing of Jamie’s face and arrived at the final image:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

You can check out Jamie’s fab Blipfoto blog here.



Toon Raider

My good friend Rhian recently asked me to draw a cartoon picture of her and, for reasons best known to her, she wanted to be drawn in the style of Lara Croft/Tomb Raider.  The final request was that the drawing should include her dolphin belly button tattoo, in case you’re wondering what that little thing is.

Here’s the reference photo:

Lara Croft…

…and here’s the drawing:




So, I thought it was about time I started a blog.

The main reason that my brain chugged to this startling conclusion was the frequency with which I had the following exchange (or a variant thereof) with my friend Tzevai over at the Dodgy Knees and Dirty Balls sports blog:

Me:  Here’s that drawing you wanted.

Tzevai: Cool.  Have you set up your own website yet so that I can link to it?

Me: I’m getting around to it, ok? Who are you?  The blog police?

And so on.

So I’m finally getting around to it.  I’m hoping to put up a post for each new drawing I work on, maybe with some progress notes and whatnot.  I’ll also add the finished pic to one of the gallery pages.  There are already quite a few in there, so have a look if you’re not busy or watching telly or something.

Stay frosty!