Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Getting things straight

I've been looking back over the past week of posts. The subjects discussed have been as varied and as eclectic as ever but included (a) drawing with a mouse, and (b) the things we inherit from our forbears. Curiously enough, I realised today that these two disparate subjects are in some way connected. And the connection is straight lines.

One of the many things I inherited from my late father (and he from his own grandfather) was a box of cigarette cards. When I was a kid, Brooke Bond used to place cards inside boxes of tea and we would try to collect the whole set. Usually there were 50 different cards in each set and they ranged in subject matter from Inventors and Inventions to The Race into Space. Once you had your set you could purchase a special illustrated album to stick the cards into (little realising that in doing so you were destroying their value completely for future collectors). I still have many of these albums to this day. In the USA, the same hobby involved not boxes of tea but packs of gum. How delightfully stereotyped is that? British = tea, American = gum.

But before tea cards, the UK had an altogether more unhealthy way to get us all collecting - smoking. Every packet of cigarettes would contain a collectible card and the idea was that you smoked yourself half to death to get a full set. The various sets included caricatures of cricketers and rugby players, football and tennis players. There were sets depicting Cries of old London (the unique calls of street traders), another of Hollywood stars and yet another set with engravings of breeds of dog. I inherited a big old box of these cards - all too tatty to have any value - and I still have them now. My favourite set was called Straight Line Caricatures and featured exactly that; fifty famous people captured by the artist Alick Ritchie using just straight lines. The set dates from 1926 and was given away by Player's Cigarettes. They do provide a fascinating snapshot of who the celebs were in those far off days. No vacuous teenage pop stars here I'm afraid. They were all very worthy and also very male. Some of Ritchie's caricatures were very detailed. Others -like the Earl of Balfour (always my favourite) - were simplistic and very funny. Inspired by these cards I can remember as a kid trying to make drawings of people and animals by just using straight lines.

And that's the connection.

All of the things I've drawn with a mouse this week were drawn using straight lines. The only exception was using a shape tool for the circles of the eyes. It's actually been quite good fun - it took me right back to my childhood - so I decided to share the fun with you. I've scrabbled together a short video demonstration of how to draw with a mouse the Stevyn Colgan way. It's actually more like sculpting than drawing as I use the mouse to chip away at a basic shape and then mask off areas and shade them or lighten them. So here you go. Enjoy.

video

And yes, I did it in a hurry and forgot to give the poor little beggar any nostrils. Or ears. Or, indeed, a body. What do you expect from a two minute demo? Guernica?!

18 comments:

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

So are you snowbound, my mum in Little Chalfint was at 4:30pm my time! Just bizarre!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Sarah - Yup. It's 1am here on a Wednesday morning and there's a couple of inches of snow all around. Very odd for this time of year. Snow is normally a January/February phenomenon these days. Still, the dogs were enjoying it earlier!

Even more strange ... isn't it bizarre that here we are chatting across oceans and continents ... and your Mum lives six miles from me! Madness.

willow said...

First of all, your cigarette cards are just about the coolest things I've ever seen! I LOVE them!!!

And the easy going music made your mouse drawing demo seem like a piece of cake.

Snow? Wow! We had a few little flurries in the air last night but nothing on the ground, here in Central Ohio.

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Yes bizarre, but it makes me smile, as hopefully we can all meet up for a bevvy next summer when I pop back home.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Willow - They are wonderful. Someone called Mandomaniac has kindly scanned the whole set and put them up on his/her FLICKR site here if you want to see the set. And yes! Snow! We get very little snow in the UK compared to some countries so it's always a surprise when we do. And because it's so uncommon, we can't cope with it! More than a couple of inches and the country descends into chaos.

Sarah - Damned right! Mine's a pint of Theakston's Old Peculiar. Or, if it's hot, a nice cold cider with tons of ice. Did you recognise the music accompanying the demo BTW? It's a piece called Leftbank Two but for a generation of Brit kids it means 'The Gallery' where our drawings, paintings and collages were shown on BBC's Vision On (and later Take Hart) TV show.

chris hale said...

I was an avid collector of PG Tips cards in my time. My dad still has albums full of 'fag cards', as they were colloquially called. One very interesting set is called 'Air Raid Precautions', which shows you variously how to blast-proof your windows or extinguish an incendiary bomb. Another set features photographs of 'beauties' from around the world, which I think must have been produced in the thirties.

A fascinating insight into a world where smoking was positively encouraged by some doctors as being conducive to good health!

Protege said...

Stevyn, your post about drawings using a mouse has inspired me to find the drawing I made an eternity ago.:)
I found it and posted it today. I enjoyed remembering the time it was created.
Love the cards, by the way.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Protege - The horse is fantastic! You are one very talented artist. Hey! The rest of you! Go and look at this! Clever ain't she?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - I have loads of these cards some, sadly, in a poor state or in albums but many in pristine nick. They're great fun.

Protege said...

Stevyn, you are way to kind, now I am blushing!
The drawing is somewhat naive and too romantic, but thank you for the attention.;)

Debby said...

Interesting post. I've heard of cigarette cards before, never seen them. Thanks for making the mouse drawing look like something any moron could do. Next thing you know, I'll be trying it, and disappointing myself with the results, and then... Yeah. Thanks Stevyn.

:^D

Stevyn Colgan said...

Protege - Never be ashamed of your art. I learned that long ago. There are so many people who wish they could draw - treasure your gift!

Debby - Well, it was more of a 'This is how I do it' rather than an extensive tutorial. But I do reckon that the way I've done it is simpler than actual drawing. It's like colouring in an area you've defined or cutting that area out rather than freehand drawing.

I'm not convincing you am I?

Lump said...

Are these cigarette cards kind of like pokemon cards? wait I'm a idiot. One has to purchase pokemon gum in order to get the cards. so nevermind. Either way that kind of gum and cigarettes are still bad for your teeth.

I doubt I will be able to draw with a mouse because I would rather not touch one. ;)

Stevyn Colgan said...

Katie Lump - Pokemon Cards prey upon the same oddly hard-wired behaviour that fag cards and gum cards did. They prey on people's (mostly boys it seems to me) need to have complete sets. For some it becomes obsessive whether it's train numbers or fag cards or bottle tops. Collecting can be like an illness when it gets extreme.

And mice are lovely! Though I'm told they taste a bit gamey.

Spud said...

see?. you just "got it" Colgan!!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Spud - Yes, I've fallen on my pencils ...

joelmead said...

I used to love tea cards as a kid. I remember getting ones about strange events like the Crystal Skulls and the Tunguska event.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Joel - Oooh ... I don't know them. But I guess you are 10 years younger than me! The ones I have were about space travel, the world under the sea, inventors and inventions, prehistoric animals and the history of aviation. The final card - Number 50 - was often a peek into the future. The 'Inventors and Inventions' set has a TV the size of a hardback book and predicts that such transistorised marvels could be in every satchel and handbag by 1980!