IT’S A LOVELY Easter Day and also the last day of March so it seems the perfect opportunity to trawl back through my sketchbooks for the first quarter of the year to pick out the drawings that I never got around to putting online.
My first sketch was drawn from a photograph that I took on our first and sadly so far only walk around Langsett reservoir back in early January. The two stones are gateposts of an abandoned farm called North America.
Quarter of a mile further on you come to a cleared area of plantation sheltered by a belt of silver birches. The habitat has been opened up to encourage nightjars and other birds to return.
A View from the Cinema
We had most of the house decorated in February so I felt that I couldn’t settle down to work at home and as the weather was impossible for getting out drawing I took the opportunity to escape to the cinema a couple of times. This was drawn as I waited for the matinee showing of Lincoln. I wrote;
A few black-headed gulls and a carrion crow patrol the car park. A few tiny patches of snow linger on the fringes of the rough grassland. Dull bare trees shroud the busiest section of the M62 – currently being widened. The valley is more or less snow free, the higher ground snow-covered It’s easy to spot the cars that have come down from higher ground because of the 3 or 4 inches of snow that they carry on their roofs.
Since I started writing the nature diary for the Dalesman I’ve been reading up on the history and the natural history of the Yorkshire Dales and, despite sleety, snowy weather, we managed a shore break, staying at Carperby in Wensleydale at the Wheatsheaf, the hotel where James Herriot and his wife spent their honeymoon. I’ve got out of the habit of packing for drawing trips so I printed out a check list that I’d made when we were touring eastern England a few years ago. One of the items on the list was a clutch pencil, not something that I normally think to take with me so when we stopped for lunch in Grassington I gave it a try. It’s probably marginally quicker than pen and the lighter tone brings the sketch nearer to watercolour than my normal pen and wash approach.
There’s a walk across the fields from Carperby to Aysgarth falls, where I sketched again in the Mill Race tea rooms. In the craft shop in the old mill there are photographs of Kevin Costner filming Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves at Aysgarth. The production spent four days here filming the encounter between Robin and Little John and, according to the caption next to the photographs, Costner’s wife had admitted that he was terrified when it came to the fourth day and he had to launch himself backwards several times into the foaming waters of the falls (flowing at 100 m.p.h. according the caption!).
We sheltered in the Dales Folk Museum on the Friday, familiarising ourselves with the history of the area and I drew the view from the cafe during our coffee and lunch breaks.
This gave me the chance to return to another medium that I haven’t used much recently; my Pentel Brush Pen. This forces you to work quickly and once dry its waterproof so you can add a watercolour wash.
There wasn’t much opportunity to draw as we made our steady progress around the museum and I found it difficult to choose just one item to sketch before we headed back to Carperby. I wrote;
This Bronze Age cup found at Crayke Farm near Hawes wouldn’t have been of any use to drink from as it is perforated by small holes, as if someone had pricked the clay with a cocktail stick around the base.
9 March; This morning at Wakefield One, the metropolitan council’s new headquarters, you’re greeted by dancing caymans and wandering minstrels. The smell of freshly cooked medieval food wafts from the booths outside while inside there are the squeaks and occasional pops as balloon are made to order.
I’ve been invited to the opening of the new museum galleries as a thank you for helping out with some of the illustrations for the Charles Waterton exhibit. I squeeze in at the back of the crowd that has gathered on the landing by the library. Some students from Leeds camped out from 5 in the morning to be sure of getting a place but they’ve now had to close the doors to the queues outside.
Standing next to me is a six year old boy wearing a cayman suit.
‘Have you been dancing?’
He’s overawed at the spectacle but his mum explains that no, he wasn’t one of the dancers but when he heard what was happening he insisted on wearing the costume. He reminds me of the boy in Maurice Sendack’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Councillor Box, leader of the council introduces ‘a man who needs no introduction’, Sir David Attenborough.