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

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

  1. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Here is another post to put some more pictures up on this thread...

    Unfortunately, as the complexity of this piece started to dawn on me I let the photographic diary keeping slip. I'm glad that I did remember to take some though!

    Having already mentioned my concern for the fragility of the medium and considering just how long each picture takes to complete, I have found it necessary to always start work at the top left corner.

    While accepting that individual artists will adopt all sorts of different techniques, generally speaking, those who work in oils enjoy the ability to allow a painting to "grow" on the canvas. By that I mean; If some part or colour doesn't work as intended, the paint can be scraped or cleaned off and then new applied. As my medium of pencil and gouache is not fully opaque and relies heavily on the background paper colour showing through and influencing the finish, it may be evident that I have almost no room for manoeuvre once I've started!

    From the very first marks applied at that top left, I have to maintain a very clear idea in my head of exactly how the rest of the picture will look!

    That may be many weeks, but more often several months later!

    If I am distracted during this time by some other tasty, intriguing project, I usually find it extremely difficult and occasionally almost impossible to "pick up the thread" from where I left off. I have ended up abandoning rather too many pictures, and indeed other jobs, that are the result of this!

    It may therefore come as no surprise to anyone that I do suffer a form of "stage fright" when the prep is finished, and that critical start point is reached? The last two or three pictures that I had been working on had all "gone horribly wrong", and that was quite a while ago as well, so this time my confidence was at a fairly low ebb.

    Getting this important picture off the starting blocks was imperative ... and so I had rarely felt more like running away?!

    I didn't though...!


    The whole upper part of the image had to be smoky and thus deliberately "soft" toned.

    This requirement was twofold; for it was not just an integral part of the overall scene, but had to allow the book title, either in open text or on some form of banner to sit over it without being overwhelmed. That was something that added even greater concern than usual for me!

    I let it get the better of me, and ended up thoroughly overworking it!

    Oh dear, not a good start?

    Spending a couple of extra full days fighting with it rather set me back. Perhaps that is why I was not too keen to take photographs before moving on to the next stage?

    Now for the interesting bits...


    Ooops! Some of those "Vinolia Soap" lines were a bit off there?

    The sooty stuccoed retaining wall and arches had provided a welcomed relief though... (Sorry)!

    Underpainting all the signage. Sometimes tedious and always very time consuming, strangely I rather enjoyed this part! There is some extra pressure with this though, as we are so familiar with graphics any mistake has the habit of glaring out for all to see!


    That was a couple done... but with a good few more to go...!

    There are also a couple more details that I would like to point to here as well:

    So far, no photographs have come to light showing the interior of Walham Green station in the chosen period. All the signs had to be selected from nearby and/or contemporary images. All of course where black and white.

    Having collected more than sufficient examples, I then spent hours trawling through loads of auction websites. Search-words only ever seem to work occasionally, but more often throw an awful lot of confusing and confounding rubbish up at you too? Perhaps the more appropriate description would be "ploughing?! Anyway, at the end I had enough good matching examples showing the original colours to work from.

    But then I'm not actually mixing those colours.

    This part of the picture represents a surface that is furthest away from the viewer - and seen through a slightly smoky atmosphere! Every tone is basically a mix of yellowish, brownish, blueish grey!

    Again I had to be careful. Overdoing it even slightly could really cause dreadful problems when I got to the foreground?


    Mmm..., maybe could still have done with knocking it back a bit more...?

  2. john lewsey

    john lewsey Western Thunderer

  3. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    Simply stunning - thanks for posting. :thumbs: :thumbs: :thumbs:
  4. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thank you to everyone for all your likes and kind comments!

    I expect some of you might find this amusing, but when some pictures throw up more difficulties than expected or take longer to complete than I would have liked, I can end up completely losing sight of it! There are three ways to get around this problem:

    1. Hold up a mirror and study the reversed reflection of the picture.

    2. Turn the picture upside down on an easel. Slightly more extreme and takes a bit longer to get used to, but at least I don't get arm and neck ache from using the first method!

    3. Leave the room for a while, then suddenly rush back in and surprise it!

    Such desperate measures were thankfully not yet required with this one!

    Here is some more progress:


    Ghosts of commuters past begin to materialise on the eastbound platform!

    The station nameboard came out a bit too rich in colour (as seen above), so had to be toned down a bit later (below). I was also worried that I had drawn it a touch oversize. Later still, the book author expressed some concern that the colour was too light, and that it was much too small...!!

    I did do the tiniest bit of tweaking - and only right at the finish - but otherwise left it pretty much as was.

    By that time my clients may have been regarding me as a fully paid up member of the Awkward Squad? In truth, I'm afraid that I am, but on this particular occasion I had faffed about with it too much already. One more coat of paint on that sign, however thinly applied, and genuine shadows might form beneath the letters?!

    I couldn't resist the temptation to indulge in a touch of humour, although the legend on the poster seen behind the nearest gentleman's left shoulder is perhaps a little tongue in cheek?
    Conscious of the need for diplomacy, I would rather not elaborate... But for those in the know...(?)


    Uh - oh! You've been spotted!

    That chappie came out quite dapper?


    Although I was now working much further to the lower right than usual, I felt that a plain, solid black and white shadow and highlight underpainting job would be reasonably durable enough, but would help me to settle on the middle ground shades with greater confidence?

    It also had the effect of covering much more of the image, and giving me a greater impression of notable progress than was actually the case.

    There was an awful long, long way to go yet!...


    I must confess that I was really looking forward to observing the effect of the Vermillion and black lining on a "Dark Olive" ground.

    Many commentators usually describe the District Railway livery as plain green. Even relatively close examinations of prints from old glass-plate negatives appear to support and reinforce the idea. Having previously seen very few models or paintings of the subject, and all of those were thus finished, this much more elaborate scheme came as quite a surprise to me!

    All seemed to be coming along nicely...

    But there were a few more headaches and heartaches to come!

  5. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

  6. Dikitriki

    Dikitriki Flying Squad

    It's wonderful to see how the thought processes work and how it all comes together. Not least because the standard of the work is so staggeringly high.

    Really liking this.

    Len Cattley, Osgood and Dog Star like this.
  7. SimonT

    SimonT Western Thunderer

    thank you for posting this thread and giving us a small insight in how you true artists work. Fascinating.
  8. Ressaldar

    Ressaldar Western Thunderer

    Fascinating indeed, watching how the detail changes , the arrival of the umbrella and the bowler in particular Can’t wait for the next episode to be posted. Talent at it’s highest level.

    Kind regards

  9. john lewsey

    john lewsey Western Thunderer

    Hi Peter with the loco part painted it almost has a3D effect I love this truly stunning work
  10. Osgood

    Osgood Western Thunderer

    I love the ghost-like effect of these part-finished pictures.

    Not far removed from Michelangelo's David - which left me a bit underwhelmed, but just around the corner was a similar sized chunk of marble with the vague beginnings of a figure emerging. Now that was electrifying!
  11. farnetti

    farnetti Western Thunderer

    I still cannot understand how you do this stuff, it is brilliant.

  12. Osgood

    Osgood Western Thunderer

    I should add I don't think I shall be underwhelmed by this finished piece......:oops:
  13. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thank you to all! I'm glad that are enjoying this thread!

    As I have got an awful lot of work to catch up with now, I am rushing through with these posts a bit. What you are looking at actually represents many weeks worth of struggle!
    The other day I was chatting with a highly respected children's book illustrator and retired art school tutor. When I mentioned that I had thought it would be a good idea to keep a tally of the hours spent on this illustration (in order to try and work out what it was truly worth) he said;
    "Oh, no, no , no. You should never do that!"...
    The erudite gentleman continued;
    "I always warned my students never to do that. Just do the job I told them, and never mind how long it takes! You might never want to do it again if you worked it out?!"

    Sadly, that vital bit of advice came a bit too late for me this time, and I have got rather depressed!

    I can barely imagine how long it takes to sculpt marble to such a high standard of finish, but the fact that there are so many incomplete works does not entirely surprise me, and can sometimes even make me feel a wee bit better about my own snail like progress.

    So, to continue with the illusion:...


    Quite a jump forward?!

    And a bit of frustrating error adjustment had to be done in between.

    No, the number and pattern of rivets is hopefully right for this particular loco - I had felt the need to be to be especially careful about that! Goodness knows how many recounts were carried out?

    Nope, it was the jolly headcode that got me!

    It took me flippin ages to pick out the detail of those gorgeous oil lamps. But the code indicated a train going off on the wrong route to Ealing Broadway instead of Putney Bridge or Wimbledon! Fortunately for me, only the nearest lower one had to be redrawn, reduced and relocated on the lower centre socket. Care had to be taken here too as the socket is longer than the others in order to hold the lamp further out and allow clearance for the destination nameboards!

    I had also assumed, based on some models and another artist's work, that the ends of the timber headstocks were painted red? I had carefully followed suit!
    Close examination of some genuine photographic prints (including contemporary ones) however revealed that whenever the loco's were lined, the ends were treated with the black, green and vermillion also!

    Red pigment seems to be the most persistent of all, and was an annoying set back to try and cover it over with a new green panel!


    I got into a spot of bother with these chaps too! Some serious questions were raised about the crew poses.

    "Why" I was asked "If the engine is halfway down the platform, has the driver still got his hand on the regulator, and not the brake?"
    "Why was he not facing the direction of travel?"
    "Why is the fireman still firing when there are only two more station stops to go?"

    Good questions! I fear that my answers might sound like excuses?

    Admittedly, I wanted a bit of action going on the footplate. The glow from an open firehole door was desirable, though I confess to deliberately over egging it a bit for effect!
    The boiler is long but of quite small diameter, and is fairly low slung on these engines. The said firehole is so close to the floor that it is tempting to imagine that coal could almost be swept into it?! In truth, the fireman is probably not stooping down enough? But then again; is he firing anyway?
    Maybe he is just having a spot of bother, and is employing the old trick of holding his shovel on the ring and observing the state of the firebed?
    As for the driver? That footplate is not particularly ergonomic and is extremely narrow, with the small boiler and wide tanks, while the ashpan is twixt the driving axles. It is quite a long walk forward to the reach the backhead!
    When the reverser is set back, the driver cannot stand behind, nor to the outside of it. In order to reach the regulator or brake lever he will be standing in front of it and right in the fireman's way. Squeezing over to the left, he could have one, or perhaps even both feet on the reverser quadrant. If he was standing in that position - with his back to us, he may have been able to see forward over his left shoulder, and reach the brake with his right hand, but the regulator would then have needed a bit of an upper body twist to shut it off?!
    I did not want that driver to have his hand on the brake anyway as the valve is set below the top of the tanks, and would therefore be out of sight.

    It might be in part technically incorrect, and possibly open to further debate, but I do hope that the composition is no worse for my choice?


    After making a start on the rails and timber platform faces I noticed that I had drawn chairs of the wrong pattern!!

    In for a penny?

    Having got this far it would be a shame not to bother now, so out with the jolly brush again?


    I especially like those distinctive, trademark Beyer Peacock wheel castings!

    Flattened, squared spokes with subtle taper and curves on to those deep bosses. It appears that the shaped axle ends were a fairly common feature of the factory as well?

    For the life of me, I cannot remember the proper name for the key, or cotter that locks the wheel on the axle? Whatever it is called, I had forgotten to add it as well! It stands quite proud of the boss and facing the crank, so would cast an obvious shadow.

    Fairly easy to put right this time?!

    Last edited: 24 July 2018
  14. Osgood

    Osgood Western Thunderer

    Were keys sometimes called a gib in those days?
    simond likes this.
  15. PaxtonP4

    PaxtonP4 Active Member

    I think that you are thinking of a Woodruff key. However I would be surprised to see one in this situation.

    Digressing - what do you think of the Strathmore 500 range of papers?
  16. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thank you PaxtonP4 for the digression!

    I must admit that I have not come across Strathmore papers before. I should get out more often?

    Just had a quick peruse, and it looks quite interesting! The website colour chart can only give a rough idea of the shades available though.

    Further search has revealed that Jackson's stock it, and they have a shop at Dalston, which is rather handy for me to go and have a poke, prod, and feel!

    Thanks again!

  17. Scale7JB

    Scale7JB Western Thunderer

  18. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Thanks for posting the link JB. That is indeed quite a beastie.! If, as I imagine, the originals were a bit of a pain to fire, this one might require some rather nifty technique to do the same while on the go?!
    Then again, at least the driver wouldn't have to lean forward and stretch right over a tender to reach the footplate?!

    Anyway, Here are the last few pics of the Pic - part one! …


    Talking of footplates: A closeup detail shot for study.

    In the end I forgot to add the loco number that was painted in gilt shaded black and applied centrally on the inside of the weatherboard, just above the pressure gauges. Very remiss of me?!

    Just to the left of that thumping great, "submarine hatch" like tank filler is one end and outer edge of the previously mentioned timber cladding. This is not only missing (both sides) on the LT Museum Met. No.23, but was a vital standard feature, as well as being common to type! I have yet to observe it included on most models, nor is it present on any drawings that I have seen so far either!
    Photographs reveal that originally there were short extra sections forward, and leading up to the weatherboard, but these were usually left off later, thus providing a handy "hotplate" to keep engine oil and the necessary tea cans nice and warm!

    Although I had read that the condensing gear could bring the tank water up to boiling point, and that it had to be drained and refilled after every trip, I had wondered how the injectors would work under such conditions? Over lunch at Love Lane yesterday, Mrs. JB (That's the other JB's wife) asked the other (other) JB, whose patient and generous wife was not there, but had allowed him to be with us;
    "I thought injectors needed cold water...?"

    Double coned injectors seem to be a perfectly plausible answer, but without having copies of the relevant drawings to hand...?
    Although it is merely academic now, a definitive answer about how Beyer Peacock addressed the problem would still be welcomed!

    There was another awkward problem that had occurred to me at the last minute for this picture too:


    Although I had corrected the chairs, I remembered that when book covers are printed, extra "bleed" is required to allow the image to be folded around the top, bottom and right hand edges! Having carefully balanced the composition, and not knowing how much the printer might crop off, I was afraid that too much could be lost! There was only one thing to do:

    Another days work adding and blending a strip all the way up either side of the picture. You might notice that I have started the process at the bottom left, and am working upwards this time? I have absolutely no idea why I was making the task even more difficult for myself, but can only serve as proof indeed of a somewhat contrary nature!
    Unfortunately, the original bleed line was impossible to completely obscure on the artwork. Hopefully it will not be noticeable when the print is reduced in size and to dots?!
    We used to have a saying (amongst many that are too ribald to repeat!) in the old studios:

    "Don't worry mate, the screen will smash it up anyway!"

    I subsequently applied the vertical mount guide in line with the indented mark, and my excellent framer did a grand job as usual. That extra work is now hidden forever.

    Balance and composition restored!


    Just a shadowy snapshot, with a temporary plain white mount, but enough I hope to give an idea of the finished article - ready for the proper, professional photographer's attention!

    Now at last I could get on with some other rather late and overdue jobs...!


    Not long before this point, the publisher had emailed me with a plea;

    The book text had turned out to be too much for a single volume, so could I do another illustration for a second...?!

    Lucky me?...???!!!

  19. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    This is superb Peter and thank you for taking the time to demonstrate the technical illustrator's art which I presume is a now rare skill since the advent of computers.

    I expect this is how some of the iconic album covers of the 1970's and 80's were produced such as Out of the Blue and Discovery (both ELO).

    It is also gratifying to see the the District Railway given some prominence over it's more well known Inner Circle rival.
  20. unklian

    unklian Western Thunderer

    Wonderful work Pete and congratulations on sticking through with it. Dare we look forward to volume 2 ?