The Papal Ring Master

Pius and Edmund roughToday’s frame from my Waterton comic; Edmund, son of Charles Waterton, has gone into a Frodo-like trance as he examines a papal ring. The pope, Pius IX, looks on; is that a blessing or is it the gesture used by a hypnotist when he takes control of his subject’s mind?

I find myself wanting to yell out ‘Don’t trust him Edmund!’ but, with his waxed moustache, Edmund himself looks like a smooth-operating Victorian villain.

pius and edmund

pius ix

This looks like a Punch cartoon but I can’t decipher the signature of the artist.

In my original rough I’d imagined the pope as a distant figure but, when I googled Pius IX, I found portraits of a shrewd looking character who I’m guessing was very hands-on in his Papacy. I’m sure that he would have known every member of his staff, and known how to handle them. You can see in his portraits that he could project a good-natured spiritual radiance, but he doesn’t come over as a reclusive monk-like figure. I think that he would have had no difficulty winning the day at the First Vatican Council, which established the doctrine of papal infallibility.

Edmund rose as far as a layman could in the Catholic hierarchy, so the two men must have known each other. Pius died in 1878, one year after the death of Edmund who was thirty-eight years younger than the pope he served.

Pius reminds me Marlon Brando in The Godfather but not as sinister. Perhaps he acted as mentor to Edmund, rather like the relationship between Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter.

Victorian cartoonists could see that Pius was as capable of raising two fingers in admonishment as easily as in benediction.


Detail (about 3 inches square in the original) of Edmund from my comic illustration. Lamy AlStar with Noodlers black ink, Winsor & Newton watercolours.

Edmund became a collector of rings and part of his collection will be on display at Wakefield Museum towards the end of this year. One of his interests was in papal rings. These are oversized, apparently designed to fit over a glove, and made of base metals. They typically carry the coat of arms of a pope, or sometimes those of a king.

At Home with the Watertons

Waterton, Eliza and HelenI’ve enjoyed the detective work involved in researching the scene in my comic strip biography in which we meet the Waterton family at home in Walton Hall. I’ve been unable to track down any portraits of Charles Waterton’s young sisters-in-law, the Miss Edmonstones, so photographs of their close relatives have been the next best thing but I’ve also found a clue from art history.

As I understand it, Eliza and Helen, were, like Waterton’s late wife Ann, half Scottish, half Arawak. Whether this is true or not, I can take Edmund, the only son of Waterton and Ann as my starting point for the Edmonstone look. In photographs, he has a broad face and tightly curled hair which I’ve also found in a photograph of a Josephine Waterton, who I assume is Edmund’s daughter.

St Catherine, detail from an etching by Maratta.

St Catherine, detail from an etching by Maratta.

Ann Waterton died shortly after the birth of Edmund in April 1830. Charles later acquired a painting of St Catherine by Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) which he felt bore a close resemblance to Ann. I’m unable to track down this particular painting but Maratta’s models for St Catherine and the Virgin Mary do have a similar look to the photograph of Josephine.

The hair style and the full-sleeved dress in Maratta’s etching of St Catherine aren’t so different to the fashions of the early 1830s that I’m using in my illustration.

Charles Waterton's seal on a letter dated 2 June 1855.

Charles Waterton’s seal on a letter dated 2 June 1855.

Although I’ve yet to discover a portrait photograph of Charles Waterton himself, there are contemporary sketches, a bust and a portrait, plus a death mask which I have yet to arrange to see.

Links; An icon in York Art Gallery, Virgin with a Breast on her Neck appears to have links with Edmund. He liked to style himself ‘Lord of Walton Hall’ and he collected rings so I think that the flamboyant seal on the back of the York painting must be Edmund’s. Charles Waterton’s seal (left), was a simpler affair.

My reference for fashions from the Wonderful 1830s, from Whilhelmina’s Antique Fashion blog.

Ann Mary Edmonstone on the Overtown Miscellany website

Moon Lighting

Waterton's room in colour

Final inked in rough.

Final inked in rough.

Waterton looks suitably sepulchral as, in 1830, in what could be seen as a kind of penance, he takes to sleeping on the bare boards of his work-room after the death of his young wife soon after she gave birth to their son Edmund.

In a moonlit room, the lightest tone is going to be the sky seen through the window but I’m going to have to redraw all or part of this frame of my section of the Waterton comic because I need more emphasis on the figure of Waterton. Your eyes adapt to the varying levels of illumination as you look around a dimly lit room, so I feel justified in introducing silvery highlights to the main subject. Could I also introduce a few beams of light streaking down from the window. That might be overdoing it but it would be fun to try.

Waterton the Box Set

room set

I rearranged the furniture slightly from my first floor plan, using doll's house furniture made by my great great uncle Joe Truelove for my mum c. 1924.

I rearranged the furniture slightly from my first floor plan, using doll’s house furniture made by my great great uncle Joe Truelove for my mum c. 1924.

Any of our Pageant Players’ dramas or farces set in a room called for what our producer called a box set, which was constructed of 12 x 4ft flats, one or two with doors in them. There were often French windows too. I feel as if I’ve been designing a theatre set for this introductory scene to Act 2 of my Waterton comic.

After thinking about the spaces on the upper floor of Walton Hall, I’ve focussed on one corner into which I can fit all the points mentioned in Norman Moore’s description of Charles Waterton’s work-room. I was going to omit the fireplace but as an old map of Guiana hung above the mantlepiece, it has to be included.

In this scene, Waterton is lying awake with a tear welling up in his eye. I’ll have to leave that detail to the reader’s imagination because I want to include the whole of his recumbent figure, lying there on the bare boards like an Egyptian mummy. The lighting and the bare boards serve to tell the story of his loneliness after his bereavement.

Designing a Victorian room that reflects eccentric interests and a colourful adventures of its occupant makes me think of the various room sets that I’ve seen for Sherlock Holmes’ consulting rooms at 221b Baker Street.

lightboxI’ve found the Huion light-pad that I bought for tracing my roughs equally useful for sorting slides, when I was searching for my 1977 photographs of Walton Hall before its restoration.

Batley School of Art, 1969

batley 1969

The one thing that I didn’t remember designing when I squinted at this slide was the book cover on the shelf. When I blew up the picture I could see it was the book from the art school library that I was reading at the time; King Jesus by Robert Graves, who was my favourite author in my art school years. I read everything of his that I could get my hands on.

While searching for my Waterton slides today, I came across a storage box of slides marked ‘Artwork’. The first two slides go right back to my final show at Batley School of Art. I’d left school after my O-levels, against the advice of my headmaster, because I was keen to study art full time.

My two years at Batley centred on graphic design but I also qualified as a member of the Institute of British Interior Designers and Decorators (hence the theatrical designs for a theme pub), plus there was A-level art, art history, textiles, photography and ceramics. How did they fit all that in? During one year I remember having two, probably three, days a week when we worked from 9.30 in the morning until 9 at night. As I lived a two mile walk and a twenty minute bus ride away, it was hardly worth going home really. I’d treat myself to a fishcake sandwich, eaten as I walked briskly past the textile mills of Batley, to catch the late bus from Shaw Cross.

Batley baths drawn from the life room.

Batley baths drawn from the life room.

It was a delight to be encouraged to extend my skills in several directions at once. To try to extend my skills, I should say because my efforts were dissipated by such a range of tempting subjects; I remember that my final report, written by Mr Clarke, who taught exhibition design, 3D design and printmaking, was something along the lines of ‘Richard’s work is all over the place but he should eventually be able to find a specialist niche for himself’. Mr Clarke put it more diplomatically than that, though!

The typeface Carousel, traced from the Letraset catalogue and reproduced as a linocut.

The typeface Carousel, traced from the Letraset catalogue and reproduced as a linocut.

Looking at these slides, I notice how much hand-lettering we were encouraged to do. Instant Letraset rub-on lettering was something of a luxury. You could set type by hand, which was a wonderful introduction to typography.

batley 1969

Lincocut of Tattersfield's newsagents, where I worked as a paperboy during my time at Batley. I'd drawn a tiny sketch of this as I worked as a teller in a local election in which my dad was standing. Strong influence from cartoonist Trog, who drew the Flook cartoon strip in the Daily Mail.

Lincocut of Tattersfield’s newsagents, where I worked as a paperboy during my time at Batley. I’d drawn a sketch of this as I worked as a teller in a local election in which my dad was standing. Strong influence from cartoonist Trog, who drew the Flook cartoon strip in the Daily Mail.

As soon as I’d completed my O-levels, I’d started painting scenery for the Horbury Pageant Players and took every chance to design a poster for their productions and for other groups. The Lilac Domino poster was screen-printed professionally (at the time when screen-printers would hand-cut waxy stencils, which were then ironed on to the screen) but I printed the Men in Shadow poster on the big offset litho press in the college print room, which had a huge rubber-covered roller which ran on a kind of cog railway.

It wasn’t an unqualified success because the Pageant Players found my hand-lettering so unreadable that they also got the local letter-press printer to run up the usual playbill style poster. But I remember my pride at seeing my poster on display in the window of the garage opposite the town hall in Horbury (with the readable version displayed in the window next to it!)

One of my favourite options was the Friday morning photography course, run by Fred Sergeant. I was fascinated by techniques such as solarisation, bas-relief, high contrast black and white and reticulation.

I’ve still got a folio that includes almost all the artwork from my 1969 show.

Waterton’s Workshop

The Organ Gallery, looking towards the Water Gate (on which Waterton set up the crucifix).

The Organ Gallery, looking towards the Water Gate (on which Waterton set up the crucifix).

Walton Hall on its island in the lake, from the south south -west.

Walton Hall on its island in the lake, from the south south -west.

Today I’m doing a little research for a set design for my Waterton comic. John Whitaker, a curator at Wakefield Museum (and the author of the comic) has referred me to a description of Waterton’s work-room, written by Norman Moore in his introduction to Waterton’s Natural History Essays (p. 127);

On the top floor of the house, in the opposite direction to the organ gallery [part of Waterton’s museum], was the chapel, and a small room which was at once Waterton’s study, bird-stuffing workshop and bed-room, if bed-room it could be called when there was not any bed. The Wanderer always slept on the boards, wrapped up in a blanket. His pillow was a block of oak, which had been originally rough, and in course of years had become almost polished by use. The entire room revealed at a glance the simple tastes of its occupant. Some prints and pictures, which in his eyes had a meaning superior to art, hung on the walls, some shelves contained his favourite books, his jug and basin stood on a chair, and he had a little round looking-glass and a table. Over the mantel-piece was an old map of Guiana, a record to him of living scenes and loving memories. For mere ornament’s sake, there was nothing. To the sleeping eye all rooms are equally blank, and when Waterton was awake in his work-room he was mostly intent upon inward thoughts or outward occupations.

The Organ Gallery

The Organ Gallery, 1977. Apologies for the exposure on this Kodachrome slide.

The Organ Gallery, 1977. Apologies for the exposure on this Kodachrome slide.

I remember the ‘Organ Gallery’ with its oak panelling which I assumed was salvaged from the Tudor/medieval Walton Hall when the present hall was built in the eighteenth century. There were chests, with initials and carved dates from the 1600s built into the window bays. Unfortunately all the panelling was removed when the hall was converted for use as a country club and hotel in the late 1970s. This corner room became part of the manager’s flat and a kitchen was installed. This might be the only existing photograph of the Organ Gallery, which in Waterton’s day housed an extension of the museum, which was displayed almost entirely on the staircase.

First thoughts on a room plan.

First thoughts on a room plan.

If Waterton’s room was ‘in the opposite direction’ that might mean the south-east corner, with the best view of the lake. If it was on this corner it would have light throughout the day, which Waterton would need for his meticulous work, so that’s what I’ll go with.

In older photographs, the sash windows of the Hall were divided into six lights, top and bottom, so they looked more Georgian than in my photographs.

This first floor room was, according to my mum when we visited in 1977, the room in which I was born.

This first floor room was, according to my mum when we visited in 1977, the room in which I was born. When the hall was converted into a hotel and sports club, the hospital partition walls were removed and this became part of a spacious function room where Barbara and I had our wedding reception in September 1983.

When I was born in Walton Hall, then a maternity hospital, there were tales amongst the midwives that at a particular hour of the night/very early morning, there would be the sound of movement upstairs which they put down to the spirit of Charles Waterton, a devout Catholic, rising early to say his morning prayers in the upstairs chapel.

My mum, who had arrived at the hall after dark, remembered the following day seeing a flock of birds fly past the window. The nurses told her these were Canada geese flying up from the lake which surrounds the house like an overgrown moat.

The Poachers Re-poached

knifeworkI’ve been struggling to get this knife to break out of the frame, cutting across the border in the program that I’m using to lay out my comic strip artwork, Manga Studio EX5. Even after watching a YouTube tutorial by Manga Studio doyen Doug Hills, I’ve had to go back to Photoshop, which I’ve been using since the 1990s, to the cut around the artwork. There must be a way to do that in Manga Studio, but I’m not there yet.

first pagesPasting up the comic on screen is a flexible way of working but the finished product will be printed on A4 paper so, as I’m now a quarter of the way through the project, I decided it was a good time to print out my pages to see how it’s all coming together.

I like the splash of colour in the opening frame and the low key colour of the soap works page but my favourite frame so far is the one where the poacher is forced to drop his knife. And it looks even better with the knife looming out of the frame and coming towards you!

Link; Doug Hills Manga Studio 5 Webinar; Drawing Digital Comics for Beginners

One Eye Closed

The squireIt’s time to move on from this first page of the Waterton comic, but here it is at last. I feel that I’ve overdone a scene that should have been given the lightest of touches but, having worked out the staging and the details, I can always come back to it later, when I’ve had more practice and I’ve developed a house style.

page 1I don’t think that it harms to overdo artwork occasionally, you need to feel free to experiment, so I’m glad that I’m not up against a tight deadline.

I was surprised how difficult it was to get Squire Waterton to look as if he is winking at the reader. Although I’m always thinking in terms of scenes from a movie, a single drawing represents just one moment, much as I try to relate it to the next or the previous frame.

A wink depends on the recipient of the gesture seeing the start and finish of the movement. One eye kept closed indefinitely doesn’t have the same meaning, but in a single drawing, it’s difficult not to give the impression that an action is frozen in time. A freer style might suggest the the movement was in progress.

Sheffield Blitz, 1940

Two pages from my ‘Exercise Book Encyclopaedia’, drawn in January or February, 1965, when I was aged thirteen. From my mum’s account I’m describing the bombing raid in which the family portrait Boy with a Hoop was damaged.

I can see the influence of the magazine ‘Look & Learn’ which I read as a schoolboy. I very rarely read it cover to cover but I always devoured the pictures and layouts and I can still recall many of the spreads.
blitzDecember 12th 1940; 
at 7.15 p.m. the sirens went. There had been some bombs before this . . .

My grandma and grandad Swift were having tea, my mother was reading at 77 Netheredge Road. Hearing the sirens they downed everything and headed for the shelter in the garden.

They went into the shelter grandad designed. Next door my great grandma.

[Note what appears to be a periscope my grandad added to the shelter. Or is it a ventilator? I like his ingenuity. Wish I’d known him better!]

blitzMy grandad remembered he had left some rum in the house. He decided to go back for it.

Just as he is almost at the house an unearthly lot of bombs drop nearby.

He goes back to the shelter.

[Great] Grandma had stayed in her house. It was bombed. An incendiary was dropped near the shelter.

When they got back to the house after the raid there was a mess. The bathroom wall was on a slant.

They got grandma out of her cellar [via the coal chute as the house had been flattened]. She went to a rest home. When she got there she sent them back for her bird who was a little shaken. My mum, grandad and grandma went to the country.

Mum; Gladys Joan Swift, aged 22 in 1940.
Grandad; Maurice Swift.
Grandma; Ann Swift, nee Jones.
Great Grandma; Sarah Ann Swift, nee Truelove, widow of George, the Boy with a Hoop.

Boy with a Hoop

head and shouldersframeMy great grandfather George Swift was born in Sheffield in 1840 so I guess that this portrait of him was painted around 1845. As far as I can tell, the painting isn’t signed.

It reminds me of those formal Victorian studio portrait photographs which often have a formal park on a painted backdrop.


My mum remembered as a toddler being prompted to look at this painting and say ‘Granddad, pull your sock up!’

The urn of flowers is a corner of the painting that appeals to me. I can imagine the portrait being produced by a team, with one artist adding the floral flourishes.


George SwiftThe pleasure dome in the background looks like the artist’s invention but the setting reminds me of Sheffield Botanical Gardens, a place that my great granddad George was familiar with.

When we drive past the gardens, I always find myself remembering my mum’s story that, when she was a baby, George would push her in her pram to the gardens but he complained that;

‘This baby always starts crying as soon as I get to the gates! And I have to turn around and bring her back to be fed.’

His good looks have come down through the generations and we’ve got photographs of one of his great great great grandsons standing by the portrait, hoop in hand looking very like his ancestor.

I had some difficulty photographing the painting because of the glossy varnish. Surprisingly, even though I had my camera on a tripod it came up with a ‘blink detected’ warning! I think it’s more likely that great granddad was winking at me.

Blitz Damage

versopatchThe canvas has a tale to tell. Two patches of rubber glued to the back show where it was repaired when a bomb hit my granddad Swift’s house during the Sheffield Blitz.

lips1846rowneyThere are two maker’s stamps on the back of the 3ft x 2ft 6 inch canvas. Geo. Rowney & Co. supplied the canvas, and perhaps the stretcher. I can’t decipher that London address.

There’s a clearer stamp from H. Hodgson of 39 West Street, Sheffield. It appears that Hodgson was a ‘Carvre & Gildre’, so presumably the carver and gilder who supplied the ornate frame.

1846hodgsonIf you’ve any ideas on that last line of Hodgson’s stamp, please let me know. Could that last word be ‘Stationer’?