It’s been quite some time since I spun the wheel and went shopping for inspiration at Reddit Gets Drawn. For those newer readers that might not know: I have a colourful, uber-glamorous Wheel of Fortune-esque spinner, adorned with various time limits. I spin it, and it gives me the time limit for a drawing. Simples. I used to do it as a weekly thing on Saturdays, but after completing the first wheel, Christmas came and went and my routine was knocked about. Now I’ve settled on it just being a sporadic, whenever-I-darn-well-feel-like-it kind of thing, which will do me just fine.

Anyway shut up Jacob and get to the point. After a dusting off and a fresh coat of glitter, the wheel played ball, and gave me 130 MINUTES to work with my latest subject.

What an absolutely adorable photograph! I couldn’t resist. This time limit was generous, and thank goodness too – I must have abandoned and restarted shading the face five or six times in the first forty or fifty minutes. The shading just wasn’t working, there was either not enough contrast or far too much. Needless to say, this stumble worried me somewhat, ever more mindful of the ticking clock, but thankfully I managed to get something sweet out of it in the end. I focused heavily on the cheeks and chin, trying to really bring out that grin.

I’m happy to devote more time to the face than the clothing, it was well worth it, but the issues encountered meant there wasn’t perhaps as much time on the outfit as I’d have wanted. I think that’s clear looking at his trousers, and something about the truck doesn’t sit right to me – I think its too clear that I just did it on another Photoshop layer, thrown on… perhaps more shading on/around it would have helped. There was a lot more charming decoration to his tanktop too, but I left that out in the interest of time.

Much as I am picking holes in it, I am chuffed with the result. I think I captured some of the sweet little boy in my drawing. And now I find myself wanting a child of my own.

Here is the Reddit post and comment thread – keep an eye on it as others might upload their own efforts.

herringfleet-2bIn yet another lurch away from any kind of propriety as far as Time-Tested is concerned, I left Reddit Gets Drawn, and also went further into Corel Painter, this time having a look at its pastels. Why ever not pick a medium with which I am frighteningly unfamiliar and far from exceptional? One day I might post my oil pastel self-portrait from my GCSE exam a good few years ago… stuff of nightmares, it is (and I mean even more than I deserve from a portrait!).

With that slight tremor, I moved away from portraiture and decided to make a pastel landscape instead. This is Herringfleet Mill, a smock mill situated just outside of Somerleyton in Suffolk. Standing beside the River Waveney, and quite a way from road or rail, it is a wonderfully peaceful setting, and it’s no surprise that it has become such a hot pick for photographers. It’s also one of the very few broadland mills that can still work – quite a treat it is to see those sails turn, though, one mustn’t stand too close, as I did once; as the structure is quite small, the sails almost clip the ground, never mind your noggin!

In another departure from the norm, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to give myself for this, but ‘finished’ – or rather was exhausted – at just under two and half hours. To begin with, I tried to force ‘expressive’ by using my non-dominant (right) hand, which explains the sails. The blocks of colour fell quickly; a huge chunk of the time was spent blending, nitpicking and adding strokes here and there – I’ll let you be the judge of whether you think that a success or not! It’s produced something very different, and with hints of loosening up in that I disobeyed the photograph on many elements (though there’s a long way to go in that regard – I just need to dredge up the courage). I’m uncertain about the result compared to my usual, but I guess that’s to be expected. Twas fun, anyhow, and Corel once again proved its impressive worth.

Wheel be ba.. oh I must stop doing that. See you (wheel) soon… in February, I expect!

reddit-15-70It’s a dreary, dreary January day, but hey, Time-Tested is BACK! (hears lone, distant woop) And on a Monday too, just to surprise you even more. I need to get back into these, and there’s no time like the present!

After a quick dusting and a new coat of glitter, the wheel commanded a time limit of 70 MINUTES for a drawing from the trusty Reddit Gets Drawn.

I admit I picked this handsome chap purely for his body. I’ve not done a figure study in a long, long time, and so this was a great opportunity to try one against the clock. With that objective in mind, I actually spent a relatively short amount of time on the face compared to my usual plan of attack, which might show a little, as it’s not terribly accurate. I’m happy to have made that compromise, though; working on the torso was refreshing, and of course a lot of fun. I continued my love/hate relationship with hands and feet; indeed, the left paw and flipper were cut from the photograph, and I half-heartedly tried to improvise them in the last few minutes, as it looked plain odd without them.

I coloured this one a little differently, as I began on a grey canvas instead of black or white as I normally do. With that, I drew both shade and highlight, rather than one or the other, which is something I’ve not done often in my time here. It’s given a pleasing softness to the contrasting tones and I think this works well for this job, ie rendering skin under intense time pressure and having to sacrifice extreme detail. It’s useful to have been reminded of that.

I did start to experiment with colours, which is why there is a curious glow and a slightly orange tinge to areas of our subject’s skin. Sadly, that was where the alarms started going off, signalling the end of the exercise. Oh well! Probably one of the more enriching TTs I’ve done for a long time (though I’m aware I probably say that every edition).

Until next time. Monday, Saturday, or whenever the heck it is! Wheel see you then!!!


Just when you thought it was safe, here we go again! Another whirl of wittering as I hop over to Reddit Gets Drawn and insult the handsome volunteers of the site with time-tested (and sometimes patience-testing) drawings. This week, I was granted 55 minutes for such a pleasure.

With a powerful expression, striking facial features and wicked goatee, this photograph was hard to pass over. Mindful of trying to capture said features, I found myself spending longer on the outlines than I would normally have with a time limit so relatively short as this; the eyes took a particularly long time to get to the level you see. Consequently, these blunders impacted the time I had available for shading (I got to the shirt with about a minute left, so didn’t have time to complete it) so it didn’t turn out perhaps as well as I’d have liked – I think the dip in confidence is visible, compared to some of my other similar efforts. I think it’s a similar story to my 60 minute piece, which would make sense given the mere five-minute difference; happy likeness, not so ecstatic shading… but it was a fun exercise.

Be sure to give the comment thread a gander, as there are some particular beauties in there, far superior to this.

It’s getting close to Christmas, so I’m not sure if I’ll have time to do one of these next week. We’ll have to see! There’s suspenders for you.


I have decided, after some debate recently, that I am going to continue with the timed challenges for the foreseeable; they’re challenging and fun! With that, I redressed the wheel with a fresh set of values, which should be sufficient for a couple more months of time-tested fun, at least. This time around I was given 180 minutes to work on a drawing referenced from the wondrous Reddit Gets Drawn.

And what a photograph we have this week! A stunning ensemble and wicked pose, I would have been a fool and a half not to have had a go with this. I was quickly thankful, though, that this was a three-hour exercise, as it’s unlikely I’d have got anywhere near completing the garment with anything less. I created the stripes using the polygonal lasso tool – it was a bit fiddly at times, but came out with smoother and more accurate lines than my brush strokes were doing on first attempt, and indeed the end result looks a slight departure from my usual angle, which is a positive, though I’m not sure if neglecting most skin tone was a good idea. In the dying moments, I added a sepia gradient map just to try and scream ‘period’ even more.

This would probably look lovelier as a vector piece if someone wanted to take to Illustrator (or similar) and give it a punt; my skills with vectors still leave a lot to be desired, and I didn’t fancy trying it in the time limit.

I enjoyed this. The outfit was a slog, but a fun one nevertheless.

Here is the comment thread, which contains many other lovely recreations of this photograph.

Until we spin again!


Our weekly spin of the wheel and foray into Reddit has taken a slightly different turn this week… well, actually, a completely different turn, given that I didn’t go to Reddit Gets Drawn, nor did I use the wheel to determine the length of the exercise.

It’s time for me to miss a button my shirt, leave my collar on the wonk and then trip over the red carpet (or my chair… again), as I’ve been nominated for an award!

The man to blame for this is our subject this week, one Charlie O’Shields, keeper of the doodlewash blog, who nominated me for the coveted Liebster Award along with nine of his other most crazed fans. What better way to exhibit one’s gratitude for this wonderful gesture, than to roundly offend the kind gentleman with a whistle-stop portrait? I’m sorry, Charlie. Please can we still be friends?

I think I pretty accurately captured the smile, and indeed I did all in my power within the three-and-a-half hours to show a sunny character, for that is, I think, what best describes doodlewash – a warm, friendly and addictive artistic community. And, like the sun itself, we all warm to Charlie, who is in the centre of it all and somehow manages to be entertaining and endearing on a daily basis. He also spends a great deal of time championing other artists from around the world, which is deserving of recognition in itself.

I suspect 90 per cent of my followers came from doodlewash in some way or another, but if you are one of the minority, go follow! And do it now!!

Now, in accepting this award, I’d like to thank my mu… oh, time’s up already? I’m being given fingers by the floor manager! I thought that kind of stuff only happened in rehearsal…

We’ve reached the stage where I now have to share ten (only ten!?) blogs who I think deserve this honour. With such a small number, I did, as Charlie did, rely on WordPress stats for the most part, to show who have been the most prolific on the site as well as who have been following me for the longest time. I also left out a couple of potential nominees because Charlie beat me to it. What I’m saying is, please don’t hate me if your name does not appear. I still love you.



I would of course have added Charlie in here myself, but I believe the rules are policed as tightly and seriously as playground touchy – that is, there are no touch-backs.

(blows party horn) Congratulations all round! In accepting the prize, you should show the Liebster Award badge, nominate ten people of your own, and then answer the questions below. Participation is, of course, not obligatory.

Yes, as mentioned just there, before I can scuttle off to my uproarious after-party, I apparently have to undergo some form of interrogation, answering ten taxing questions for your own perplexing pleasure. Well, here goes nothing:

Oh blimey, first one up and this is already getting to ‘phone a friend please, Chris’ territory. I don’t read many books, actually. I should probably read a lot more. In fiction, I rather enjoy thrillers, and non-fiction, I enjoy anything to do with history, design, or melding the two. A relatively new-found literary love, though, is poetry and verse. I wish I could write a decent poem or a good old sizzling sonnet.

Patently, Top and Toby – A First Book of Letters… I can tell you how that one goes from cover to cover! Failing that, probably Treasure Island, as it’s the first book I can remember picking from the library and reading myself.

I can’t say I’m passionate about a book at this moment. Honest answer. Moving on.

I’d be bored stiff otherwise. That, and having the concept of the blog there pushes me to continue with what I’m doing, which is trying to make art (incase you hadn’t gathered). It’s like a muscle, it requires training and it’s easy to atrophy, so having the community there is a wonderful thing.

I bounce wildly from one to the other. My digital files are all stored with impeccable order, my daily routine is very rigid, yet my space definitely deserves the label of ‘chaos’.

Somewhere bracing and out of the way. Norway, for instance. That could be fun.

Hmm, both are beautiful, but probably the stars. They seem to stimulate my imagination more than a sunset.

Again with the books. Lots of the newer books I do own are in e-book form. It’s a godsend, really, as I don’t have room in my extensive library for any more hardbacks.

This is probably why my writing is so poor – I don’t read enough. I’ve always enjoyed writing, though mostly as a hobby. When I was a teenager I spent summers penning Batman screenplays and a children’s book, so maybe there is a writer in me somewhere.

I would think it crude to slam them while writing on a social network, but indeed one should be careful what they share and who they interact with. I don’t do Facebook, Instagram or any of that stuff anymore – I only use WordPress. It seems the nicest of all and I’ve certainly met a lot of wonderful people in the time I’ve spent here.

There we are then.

I believe there’s a conga line to the after-party due any minute. Thanks once more to Charlie, and well done again to all nominees!

reddit11-100cYes, here we are again – time for another lionhearted spin of the wheel, and this week it brought me 100 minutes in which to create a drawing from the ever expansive selection of Reddit Gets Drawn volunteers. After last week’s terror with thirty and sixty second rushes, it was a relief to be gifted one hundred leisurely minutes for this week’s exercise. A good job, too, because this guy deserved every second.

I’ve continued my streak of making the subject look twenty years older than the photograph submitted suggests – the side in shade I think is largely responsible for that, and this chiaroscuro style of portrait is a concept I need to practice more – but I’m happy with how that rather sumptuous beard came out, well within the time limit too, actually, though I decided against any Photoshop fiddling. I also like how in trying extra hard to create the texture of his jumper, I actually ended up giving him what looks to be either a leather jacket or raincoat, I can’t decide which. It’s okay, though, we know how badass both of those garments are.

I’m not sure what to do with this series as we head toward the point where I’ve cracked virtually every space on the wheel. I feel I’ve sped up quite a bit with the aid of these challenges, and that was the only real aim, so perhaps I’ll just redress the wheel with more specific spaces, or maybe I’ll just tackle them at whatever speed I want, so that I can try some completely different approaches without having to rush. Who knows? Either way, I’m sure the Reddit images will continue. The site is a goldmine for those out for practice – do check it out if you haven’t already.

You may also wish to have a peek at the comment thread, in which many others have uploaded their interpretations of this photo.

See you next time – you be sure of it!

timetested-30-2timetested-30-1I’ve been a bit drained today, not least with the awful events in Paris (of course, my thoughts go out to all who have been impacted by this absolute nightmare), so this challenge is coming very, very late. It’s also actually the second go this week. The wheel originally gave me 30 seconds for this week’s time trial, which I was initially quite excited to get into. To be honest with you, though, they really didn’t amount to much at all (what was I expecting?), and they certainly weren’t very good, so I didn’t think them worth uploading and stringing out into a post.


See what I mean? I think the Reddit guy who offered that shot would chin me if he saw that. So yes, with that in mind and a bit of a quandary thrown my way, I basically broke the law and cheated the wheel (!!!), doing a couple of 60-second drawings instead – one Reddit, one not.

The dog is the wrong shape, but still looks canine, so that’s good, and I seem to have given it a cool foreshortening which the photograph doesn’t have. I did rather forget about the fact of facial features, though, and had to do that in the last few seconds.

The man you see at the head of the page is actually meant to be Freddie Mercury. Did you figure that out? Gold star for you. It was all going terribly until I added that little stroke below the eye, which seemed to lift it enormously for me. Not quite sure what went on with the arm, though… I guess I just got a little frantic!

Well, I’ve not a lot more to say about these, really – basically, drawing at this speed wasn’t as fun as I have memory of it being at school and college. Perhaps I’m just out of such practice, or need to loosen up. Bah. It was worth a try – let’s put this to bed hastily, and soldier on. Until next time!


Here we go again, around and around the wheel goes and the people of Reddit Gets Drawn cower in the thought that I might have to draw them – perhaps in seconds. Well, thankfully that wasn’t the case this week – the wheel actually landed on 20 minutes again, but for now I’m not doing repeats, so I spun again and was given 90 MINUTES to work with a volunteer. Hmm, the wheel seems to have something against picking any of the sub-60 second spaces, which I think are going to be the most fun/terrifying… but alas, we must never question its motive.

There were a few credible candidates this time around, but ultimately my attention fell to this. It’s quite an eye-catcher of a photograph – interesting lighting, a handsome pose, and the inclusion of the collar and shoulder, parts of the body that I find quite tricky, as I probably demonstrated in my rush with André the Giant last week, so the prospect of practice here in so many different areas wasn’t to be sniffed at.

With a (mostly) ginormous soft brush, this actually came together rather quickly, and I was largely happy with it with ten or twelve minutes still to go. Never one to waste precious time in an exam, though, I began playing around with colours and created a Gradient Map that would warm the tones up with a heavy orange, but also have that offset by a deep blue in darker areas. The result is as you see – quite nice, though I’m not entirely sure if I should have tampered with it. I shall let you be judge! Even if he does look a touch older around the eyes than the photograph suggests – sorry about that! – I’m pleased with the general finish, and the main thing, I had a lot of fun.

Here’s the thread, which contains several other fun interpretations of this engaging gentleman.

See you here next week!


Anybody want a peanut?

The Saturday spin is here again – it’s especially early this time around, isn’t it? This week, the Wheel of Time gave me 20 MINUTES to knock out a drawing. This was a space I’d been looking forward to tackling, with it being the halfway house between the 15 MINUTES and 30 MINUTES exercises, whose results saw quite a difference in quality.

I’m skipping the Reddit bit this week, as I didn’t find a spooky-goofy Halloween one that took my fancy, which was a bit of a shame – I expect they’ll appear in flood-loads now that I’ve done something else. I did actually do one of a chap in goggles and surgical mask covered in blood, but indeed thought that a little too gruesome to post. So, I just went to the scariest guy I could think of: André the Giant, of course, looking most unhappy, and clearly coming for you. I’ve sketched André countless times over the years. I love to do so, as I find him a captivating subject for obvious reasons, however, I’ve never tried this swiftly before, so it was sure to be interesting.

I used the same brush that I used on Mini Me – I wish I could say through design, but actually it was just because I forgot to switch back before starting to draw. The colour overlay doesn’t make it darker as I hoped it would, but it makes the image as a whole look better than it probably deserves, softening the variation in skin tone and thus appearing smoother, though visibly there are strokes which stick out like a sore thumb – I’m not entirely sure what’s going on around the clavicle, but it was over too quickly to fret about such things. I was going like a madman on this, to be honest, partly because of the time limit, and equally just because of the time! I’m quite chuffed with the face, though – it has a markedly different feel to my normal plan of attack, and that’s pleasing!

Well, that’s time up for another week – back to Reddit victims next week!