Capturing history with lines and curves

Tonight we have a very special guest blog post from a fantastic artist, Stephen Bedser.  Stephen has previosuly written for LocoYard about how he came an artist who specialises in heritage scenes (click here) and he is nowly kindly agreed to write a mini series looking at how he does his paintings. I would strongly recommend you visit to see more of his fantastic works.  Stephen can also be found on twitter (click here), Facebook (click here) and has a wordpress blog (click here).  Without further ado, please read on!


The big question is, what inspires me? I’m always asking myself that question as I know that if I’m not passionate about the scene I’m painting the result of hours sketching, painting and inking will always be lacking in atmosphere. It’s fair to say that I don’t paint to be rich, famous or even to produce a piece of artwork that will hang on someone’s wall. I paint to connect with the scene that has sparked my interest. Most of my work is as much a historical reference, a record of the past, as it is a detailed and pleasing please of artwork. In many cases it’s an old, sometimes very old, photograph that gets me started or a moment in history that crys out to be captured in my own style.

Though my lines are erratic and brush strokes certainly not precise the detail is there. Pretty much everything is captured in a scene, from each connecting rod and necessary component to the finer ornate details, there are all there if you choose to take the time to look. Just don’t expect them to be photo perfect, camera’s do a better job and I wouldn’t want to compete or emulate!

Perhaps now is a fitting time to talk about the process, or at least the first steps. For this example  I have chosen a scene that features the new build that is 2007 Prince of Wales. Like its predecessor, Tornado, this P2 is to be the next in the line of ‘new build’ steam engines. This is another historic moment in time as it shows that the age old skills of steam engineering are still alive and achievable.


With the subject chosen I then, where possible, I refer to the past for the details. And so plenty of research is required, remember I live for the detail! I looked for photos of previous P2’s, including the famous Cock of the North. I referenced the mechanical details and shapes that make up the engine’s distinctive look and considered scenes to capture the feel as if I was actually standing beside this wonderful piece of engineering.

It may perhaps sound a little obsessive but it really does help me understand what I’m painting.

And so onto the artwork. The sketch comes first, it’s the backbone of the whole piece and marking the perspective and often complex combination of circles and numerous angles is really the key to a good industrial painting. Frequently, on complex paintings, I will draw the piece in reverse on tracing paper and then transfer the work onto the final canvas as repetitive drawing, rubbing out and redrawing on watercolour paper can take it’s toll on it’s thickness and texture. The pencil work is not a complete drawing, it simply defines the layout and key details.


Drawing aside it’s onto the first phase of ink work. Here I’m trying to set in stone so to speak the key lines I penciled in and expand on them by inking out more details. I’d say 75% of the pen work is done here, the rest will be led by the way the watercolour flows later. Referring back to my style, the shaky somewhat erratic look came partly from the fact that pain in my wrist restricts the precision and control that I can put into my hand. But it suits me fine and doesn’t stop the detail flowing!

Another quality to my artwork is the use of white space. When painting the brush dances around and rarely fills the shapes. Alongside this, and directly after inking, I use masking liquid to define clear lines such as boiler hand rails, numbers plates and points of light hitting sharp angles.

And so onto the watercolour paint!


Many thanks to Stephen for writing this piece and sharing some of his beautiful paintings.  Please do go to his website, it really is full of fantastic paintings!  Don’t forget, if you have a story, article or pictures that you would like to publish, you can do it here at  Please contact Locoyard if you do (click here!)

2 thoughts on “Capturing history with lines and curves

  1. Pingback: Steam flowing with watercolour | Loco Yard

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