Tempus Fugit - Pete Insole's workbench oddities and other things

Discussion in 'Area 51' started by Peter Insole, 16 August 2017.

  1. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    Thanks for the tale, you are far too modest at times and despite the stress it caused I'm glad you could share the creative experience with us.

    I saw this the other day and thought it might be of interest - a different subject matter but it's nice to see the art of finely detailed pencil sketches is still alive and well. Like yourself another inspirational artist.
    The hyperrealistic drawings by this 11-year-old Nigerian artist are incredible
    allegheny1600 likes this.
  2. Alan

    Alan Western Thunderer

  3. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thank you Adrian and Alan for those links! Truly stunning, utterly humbling and thoroughly heartwarming!

    I really shouldn't say this here: I remember (I think I was about twelve or thirteen at the time?) one occasion when my dad, in a pique, slapped both his palms on his forehead and cried out;

    "Oh Peter, Peter, why are you not interested in painting landscapes, portraits or even wildlife?"....

    "But trains!.... trains!... why, why, why on earth... TRAINS!...?"


  4. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Anyway, on with the brand new idea!:

    One of the most distinct features of railway stations back in the mid 1800's was the profusion of enamel advertising signs, and the District Railway was no exception. An apparent lack of respect for architecture is not a new phenomenon. From the 1970's, London Transport seemed to almost wilfully despoil our inheritance with fearfully ugly fittings, along with the attached masses of pipe and cable runs! Back in the day though, the subject of frequent complaint was all that metal graphics that smothered everything. The Board of Trade even got involved, insisting that station nameboards and important safety signage was being obscured!

    Now that would make an interesting picture?

    capxdistrict 265.jpg
    I particularly like the bunker end of those classic Beyer Peacock 4-4-o condensing tanks. Quite apart from the all the curious and interesting "works" visible in this rather battleship style area, but from this position we would see one of those distinct and almost disproportionately large (5ft. 7'in.) driving wheels.

    I had also found perfect location, but more of that shortly.

    Meanwhile, I set to working out vanishing points, perspectives and proportions from the reference available...


    capxdistrict 265c.jpg

    While carefully researched and therefore technically accurate, here can be seen the start of a somewhat shameless bit of self indulgence...!

    The Daily Chronicle was originally a Clerkenwell (EC1) newspaper, and as I had cut my teeth as a commercial artist at a studio in that borough it seemed ideal. Also, the Partington Advertising Co'y., was the District Rly's., sole agent responsible for smothering every inch with all the stuff in the first place. It was not averse to collaring prime spots to write its own name rather large into the bargain!

    Although not related to the latter, a great family friend and fellow railway enthusiast shared that surname. Sadly, he passed away recently, so I thought it would be a nice tribute to him?

    I was especially keen to depict Walham Green (renamed Fulham Broadway in 1964) as the blind arches of the retaining wall opposite provided a near perfectly balanced geometry for this image.


    Although my best attempts at "painting" with a mouse are not very pretty, in fact pretty awful?!, I hope that it might go some way to describe what I was trying to achieve?

    The orange marks show the two identically sized circles formed by wheel and arch. Also that the gap at the right and left of same and the picture border is also identical.

    Drawing a yellow dotted line at a right angle from that drawn between the circle centres, runs perfectly along the nearest roof truss!

    A bit more of the roof was added, along with a proportional amount either side of the image later to allow that diagonal line to intersect another vertical line that just happens to drop slap bang through the wheel centre point.

    The blue and purple marks indicate matching rectangles to complete the visual equilibrium!

    I insist on versions of this approach in all my artwork - which is one of the main reasons why I don't want to do ordinary 3/4 views of engines!

    If I cannot find this sort of geometry somewhere in a picture, then I will look for an alternative location or viewpoint. If it still proves impossible, then I will drop the whole idea and choose another subject altogether!!!

    More anon...

    Last edited: 20 July 2018
  5. john lewsey

    john lewsey Western Thunderer

    Hi Peter
    I love that drawing there is something rather appealing about those tank engines and your work is superb
  6. Oz7mm

    Oz7mm Western Thunderer


    In 1961, as a callow 16 year old I set out to break the underground touring record. The date chosen was 9th September , the last day (or last but one) that Metropolitan line trains ran to Aylesbury. If we broke the record (we did) that version of the record would stand in perpetuity.

    I spent a lot of time poring over timetables to optimise the route, and in all my endeavours I never came across Walham Green. Methinks your usually infallible memory has let you down on this occasion and Walham Green must have been renamed before 1961. It appears to have been done in 1952.

    Yours very nerdishly

    John (Pedants''Us)
  7. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    Wonderfully atmospheric, Pete.
  8. phileakins

    phileakins Western Thunderer

    Superb - can't wait for the finished article.

  9. Mudhen

    Mudhen Western Thunderer

    You've all got a real treat coming when you get to see the completed work.
    As for the fascinating insight into John's ( Oz7mm) earlier life I can confirm the he continues to live on the edge, only last Wednesday he had a second slice of chocolate cake at the Love Lane group meeting.
  10. Oz7mm

    Oz7mm Western Thunderer

    Interesting Mudhen. I wasn't even there!

    All superlatives regarding Peter's pictures are entirely justified

    From the edge

    The other JB
  11. Mudhen

    Mudhen Western Thunderer

    Well someone looking very like you appeared at around 14.30. We seem to have a doppelganger in the group!
    fenman likes this.
  12. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Oops! I should have known better than that John! I can't even use that classic Eric Morecambe line; "I was playing all the right notes... but not necessarily in the right order!"

    I tend to forget at times that I only see the world around me in shapes and colours! Numbers are a complete and baffling mystery to me.
    Some of you might find this amusing, certainly puzzling but perhaps even enlightening? I will try to describe my condition thus:

    All UK road signs are standardised. They use the same "font" (or "typeface") and are displayed in both proportion and "weight". When driving, this makes navigation at junctions and roundabouts an absolute nightmare! You may find this perplexing, but, all the essential road numbers look the much the same to me!
    I frequently get hopelessly lost!
    Sat-nav might be the answer, but then I don't much like to put all my trust in that particular technology!
    The only way that I have found to get around this problem, and indeed just to get around, is to study a map before setting out, then writing the numbers in order on a notepad, each one marked in a distinctly different style! Placing the note on or near the dashboard for easy reference, I am then better able to recognise and distinguish the required numbers and hopefully end up on the right road!
    Goodness knows how I have avoided getting caught for speeding though?! I almost always immediately forget what the limit is after passing the dartboards - that's assuming that I hadn't misread them in the first place! More alarmingly, unless the needle on my speedometer is exactly on the corresponding number, I am never quite sure whether I'm supposed to be slowing down or speeding up!
    I usually err on the safe side and choose the former option, or decide to play safe and aim for the lowest likely limit?
    Guaranteed to annoy and frustrate any other motorists that may find themselves following me - I can't afford a fine, so sorry folks, but that's just too damn bad!
    After spending a lifetime trying to hide this peculiar disability by rattling off meaningless numbers in wanton fashion, I am bound to get caught out? You might think I would have learned by now, but old habits die hard?!

    As to the subject of money: I have long resigned myself to the prospect of perishing in penury!
    I almost always know when I have been ripped off - but by how much? I will never have the foggiest idea!

    Back to the commission now though:

    I am frequently asked what material I work on! So this is the stuff:

    Canson "Mi Teintes" pastel paper. It is acid free, as tough as old boots - it takes an awful lot of punishment when using pencils, and comes in some delightfully, and perfectly (appropriate) gloomy colours. By that I mean perfect for railway subjects;

    Rusty browns, brownish greys, deep greens and black, lovely gorgeous black... black... BLACK! (just couldn't resist that)!

    It does have two main drawbacks though.

    Firstly; it has become something of a monkey to get hold of, and second;

    It has a rather distressing habit of cockling (or rucking up) if any water based paint is applied. This latter medium is especially essential to build sufficient strength for "highlights" and to obtain depth and richness of finish.

    This latter issue had troubled me for years, but then I recently decided (nothing ventured etc...?) to try the old watercolourist's trick:...


    Cut paper to size required, but just less than the size of a suitable work-board. A brand new and unused piece of MDF is ideal - although new is the essential point here!

    After positioning taught at the corners, then good old fashioned "Gummed" paper tape is firmly and securely applied all around the border.


    Using a dampened (not too wet) sponge, quickly apply an even spread of clean water.

    The next part is to dry it rapidly again. I guess in the "old days" that placing the board facing the midday sun, or otherwise holding it in front of a stove would have sufficed?

    But now we can cheat...

    capxSAM_5397.JPG capxSAM_5399.JPG

    The end result is perfectly flat and is as tight as a drum skin!

    I can now apply as much, and as thinly mixed washes of paint as I wish, anywhere on the picture.

    Each application will immediately cockle the paper just as much as before, but then as if by magic, it rapidly settles back to that absolutely flat perfection!

    There is still a slight problem though:

    The paper is quite coarse - and awkwardly absorbent. The slightest and lightest pencil (or indeed any other type of) mark, including accidental and seriously unwanted ones are almost impossible to completely erase.

    So now here comes the (old fashioned) technical illustrator's trick:

    It is not a good idea to even touch the paper, let alone do any preparation work upon it, so all that is done separately on "detail" or tracing paper.

    I am free then to draw, trace and draw again (and often time and time again!) until I am reasonably confident that there are no lines that didn't aught to be there! The final copy can then be taped at the top, tacked at the bottom and a sheet of tissue impregnated on one side with graphite slid underneath.

    Using a hard, but not too well sharpened pencil, (there is the risk of cutting right through) the lines are carefully traced.

    capxSAM_5401.JPG capxSAM_5404.JPG

    What I get then is a network of little slightly highlighted furrows.

    By hopefully ensuring that I had only drawn those lines that represent a defined edge of any object within the picture, the task of "colouring in" is made very slightly easier.


    At least that is the theory...!!!

    Boy, does it go wrong sometimes. In fact, I cannot remember a single picture where I hadn't had to stop and try to work out how on earth I can hide one of those wretched furrows!

    I am quite frequently asked what happens if I make a mistake?

    It would be terribly impolite to give an honest answer to that...!!!

    Last edited: 21 July 2018
  13. PaxtonP4

    PaxtonP4 Active Member

    Canson "Mi Teintes" - try: Canson : Mi-Teintes Pastel Papers

    or: Canson Mi Teintes Pastel Paper A4

    Interesting stretching technique. When I stretch my water colour paper (not Canson "Mi Teintes" I should add) I dampen the paper before taping it down so that it shrinks against the tape.

    I also seal the surface of my MDF, as any water absorption causes the surface to rise.

    Last edited: 21 July 2018
  14. mickoo

    mickoo Western Thunderer

    When I go out exploring and taking photos I am often asked by my slightly concerned father "do you know where you are" in that fatherly voice fathers use on such occasions. At which point I turn and reply "I am not lost, I know exactly where I am, it's just not where I want to be at this moment in time!"

    Being lost is relative anyway, you might be on the wrong road, but I bet your in the right county ;)

    Besides, being lost is exciting, look at all the new things you see and experience, ones that you would never have sampled if you had not been 'lost' :thumbs: granted some are less pleasant than others, but that's what life is all about.

    Keep up the good work, the dialogue is interesting, entertaining and educational in equal measures.

    Mick D
  15. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Many thanks PaxtonP4.

    I can see now that pre damping the paper would certainly ensure against the likelihood of un uneven "pull", and is therefore a much more reliable way to do it!

    Thanks for the links too.

    The paper is indeed still quite easy to obtain by ordering online.

    The problem has been for me that unless I purchase complete packs of the stuff - and the cheaper A4 is far too small for my work - every single trader that I have ordered from to date had managed to damage the large individual sheets while extracting them and when rolling to insert into postal tubes. Although I accept that Mi Teintes seems to be particularly vulnerable to creasing? Every sheet has had awful "half moon" creases in them, and I have got thoroughly fed up asking for, and being refused refunds!

    As a result I'm afraid that I will now only ever purchase direct from a retailer - and absolutely insist on removing and checking each sheet before personally sliding it flat into my own specially adapted and strengthened carrying case! The trouble with that requirement has been that in recent years a "certain" large, very well known art materials producer with a very aggressive marketing approach has convinced most artist's suppliers to stock their cheap, nasty and practically useless alternative to Canson. This has meant searching ever further afield for some of the more elusive and vital shades! I always try to carry a decent stock, but you know how it always seems to work out, the very colour required for a new picture can be guaranteed to be the one that you have run out of?!!!

    I guess it sounds like a terrible fuss but...???

  16. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thanks Mick D too. That is a wonderful reply - it has really made me smile!

    And then I thought;

    "Alf a mo, you're not hinting that it is time I got lost again are you....???

  17. mickoo

    mickoo Western Thunderer

    Absolutely not :cool:

    I'm still looking, hoping to obtain a copy of your Stratford ticket hall at some point.

    Have to confess, that when I dabbled in water colours I did the same as Paxton and wet the whole sheet of cartridge paper and sticky paper, I didn't use MDF, but used some sort of fiber board smooth side up. Once I used a really thin piece and the paper tightened and tried to turn the board into a bowl, all be it square shaped.

    Mick D
    Last edited: 21 July 2018
    BrushType4 likes this.
  18. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Ah yes Mick, I would quite like to see that picture printed up too!

    The only obstacle that is standing in the way is finding someone able to make a half decent scan from a 5''x4'' Kodachrome transparency. At least one that is suitable for Giclée printing that is. There are many companies out there who make all sorts of claims, but my previous experiences all turned out to be expensive - and a frustrating waste of time - particularly depressing!

    I remain in hope that someone might have had a good experience and can show passable results? I would feel much happier to risk having another go on such recommendations!

    I'm sorry that I had put it on the back burner!

    mickoo likes this.
  19. Heather Kay

    Heather Kay Western Thunderer

    We ought to talk. I have a high end scanner, and other ways of getting a pos transparency into the digital realm.
    mickoo and BrushType4 like this.
  20. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thanks Heather, that would be good, and very much appreciated!