Sabine’s Christian Soldiers

Sabine Baring GouldcrowdWe’ve got a recital coming up of hymns written by Sabine Baring Gould, including Onward Christian Soldiers, which he wrote during his time as a curate at Horbury Bridge. For the poster I’m showing him handing out copies of the hymn at the start of the Whit Walk from the mission at Horbury Bridge to the mother church, St Peter’s, in Horbury.

dogI drew the figures separately, scanned them into Photoshop then rearranged them on separate layers to get a coherent crowd scene. To break up the rhythm of figures, I added a dog, tail wagging, one ear cocked, listening to the band striking up.

Sabine in a hurryI considered putting the focus on Baring Gould by having him running towards camera, doffing his hat to greet us and clutching a wad of sheets of his newly printed hymn beneath his arm but I think that it’s more appropriate to emphasise the community involvement which was the whole point of him writing his ‘hymn for children marching with banners’ in the first place.

Boletus in Stoneycliffe

Oaks, Stoneycliffe WoodStoneycliffe Wood YWT nature reserve, 3.50 p.m., 52°F, 12ºC

boletusWe’re getting misty mornings and still sunny afternoons as we’re under high pressure. With no breeze and no birdsong the woods are surprisingly quiet as I walk up Coxley Valley for a short sketching session.

There’s a clatter of wood pigeon’s wings in the oaks above me. Mallards are quacking on the upper dam. Brief calls from jackdaws and a thin desultory song which I take to be a robin.

There are plenty of fungi about following the recent rain and this settled spell of fine weather including this boletus.

The Palace of Curiosities

Mr OxleyI’ve spent so much time during the last three months sitting at my desk drawing men in top hats, so what do I do now that my contribution to the Waterton comic is finished and I can get out to social events again?

This is Mr Oxley, proprietor of the Palace of Curiosities, a Victorian Traveling Sideshow that has rolled into town as part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of the death of Charles Waterton 150 years ago.

To rival Squire Waterton’s Nondescript, John Bull and the National Debt and the Noctifer, Mr Oxley is showcasing a ‘completely genuine’ mermaid, mummies and a grisly selection of Grand Guignol horrors.

Link: Palace of Curiosities

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