I’VE BEEN getting a new edition of Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle off to the printers today. I checked out all the routes and was delighted that there was hardly anything that needed changing and all those changes were for the better, for example some of the wobbly old stiles had been replaced by new metal kissing gates.
But I thought the new building – I think it’s the distribution centre – at the Coca Cola Enterprises site at Lawns village, Wakefield, should go in, so I redrew that corner of my picture map and managed to included a few facts about this ‘largest soft drinks plant by volume in Europe’.
From miles away it can look surprisingly conspicuous but strangely when you get nearer to on those leafy footpaths it often disappears altogether.
It sits pretty much in the centre of the Rhubarb Triangle, but as far as I know it doesn’t manufacture a rhubarb beverage. Dandelion & burdock perhaps but I can’t think of a rhubarb drink that they might try. Rabarbaro Zucca, an Italian aperitif, is alcoholic.
Link; Coca Cola, Wakefield
HAVING GOT to the end of one sketchbook with a short burst of drawing on reserves and in the farm park, I thought now would be a good time to set about bringing my other current sketchbooks to a close so that I can make a fresh start in the new year.
In compiling my Wild Yorkshire nature diary articles for the Dalesman magazine, I’ve realised how useful it is to have a straightforward chronological run of sketchbooks if you ever want to retrieve a particular drawing for later publication.
If you’re doing what I’ve been doing for the last year, keeping five sketchbooks in assorted sizes going at once, six if you include the large format sketchbook that I keep for book illustration in the studio, it gets very difficult to search for a drawing made on a particular date.
Perhaps I’ll rationalise this a bit in the new year and concentrate on a particular size.
Square versus Landscape
The A5 landscape Pink Pig spiral bound sketchbook that I’ve just completed seems a good compromise between portability and page size, but the 8 inch square of A5 format that I used at the weekend proved good for wildlife as there’s more space on a deeper page to add quick notes.
I find that anything that I write on location – about colour, incident or atmosphere, for example – is more precise than my later memories. But I’m reluctant to write when I’m out there because I love to spend as much time as I can drawing.
All these sketches are from an A5 sketchbook that fits neatly in the little grey bag that goes with me on everyday errands. The spiral binding on a regular A5 sketchbook won’t quite squeeze in.
Great binding, shame about the paper; fountain pen ink goes straight through it, watercolour soaks in instantly but blotchily.
I might try crayons until I finish the book but it’s a shame that it’s not more sympathetic for fountain pen drawing because when I’m grabbing the odd moment to draw it flows better than any fibre tip.
THE DONKEYS are coming to the rail to be petted and photographed, enjoying the fuss being made of them by the children at Charlotte’s ice cream parlour this morning.
Guinea fowl are foraging in the grassy pen next door.
Despite my recent efforts with photography and video, I’m still keen to pick up my pen and draw whenever I get the chance. I fit in a brief sketch of shop fronts while my mum waits for her appointment at the opticians.
When I call for Barbara at the bookshop, I often get the chance to sketch Tilly the border collie. On Monday Rickaro bookshop is hosting not only a meet-the-author but also a meet-the-cartoonist. Ian McMillan will be there, accompanied by Tony Husband to promote their latest book 101 Uses for a Flat Cap.
Tilly always has her nose in a book (at least, whenever Richard is holding a dog treat there).
We can’t persuade Tilly to wear a flat cap to celebrate the event as she can be in turn either too self-conscious or over-excited. We don’t have a flat cap in her size anyway.
This gives me the perfect excuse to play about with Photoshop; resizing, skewing, cutting, erasing, pasting, brushing and layering.
I HAVEN’T USED my smallest sketchbook, the little Moleskin, for almost two months but as I tie up one loose end after another I’m getting into drawing mood again.
Tilly has also appeared in my notebook. She pops up all over the place.
I had my first OCT scan at the opticians this morning. The infra-red scan mapped out a small area at the back of my eye and rendered it in 3D, reminding me of the 3D modelling I’ve experimented with in programs like Bryce and Vue.
She’s a restless sitter.
A shallow crater is where the cone cells for daylight vision are concentrated. These are particularly sensitive to movement but they’re useless in the dark so as the iris opens to let in more light a wider spread of rod cells takes over, with the crater of cone cells becoming a bit of a blind spot.
This explains why when observing a faint object in the night sky, such at the Andromeda Galaxy you have to do that trick of looking slightly to one side of it. It’s too faint to register on your array of cone cells.
My true blind spot, the spot where blood vessels and nerves enter the eye, looks less like a crater and more like a corrie surrounded by glaciated peaks.
AFTER THREE WEEKENDS away and another catching up, I’m finally getting back to ordinary life. I’ve just sent my latest article off so it’s time to clear my desk and get started on the backlog of drawing and writing that I’ve got in mind to do. But first, to draw a line in the sand after all that frantic activity, I decide to draw my cluttered desktop.
I feel that random compositions are often the best so I don’t rearrange a thing before starting. As a change from fountain pen I decide to give myself the challenge of working with a dip pen and Indian ink, starting again from scratch as it were, and this nib certainly gives a scratchy effect compared with the rounded nib of my fountain pen.
I’m amazed how badly I flounder on proportions and positioning with a captive subject like this. My struggles are most obvious on the one of the few diagonals in the drawing, the handle of the tripod, but books and magazines also get out of proportion, probably because I’m not allowing enough for the effects of perspective which are an important factor when you’re so close to a subject, about four feet from the nearest pile of papers in this case.
Also I’m happily listening to Radio 3 as I work so I might have been better giving my full attention to my drawing.
But at least I’ve made the attempt and I’m hoping that now we’ve settled down I’ll be able to take the odd hour off to draw again.
Publish 2013 Online
On Friday I’m looking forward to taking part in Publish 2013;
‘This online conference is for inspiring and equipping both children and adults to discover how writing works in the real world. See how your life experiences, passions, and creativity can become a springboard for becoming a published author or artist!’
My session will be on nature journalling. For more information and to book tickets or to sample the three free preview sessions please follow the link above.
I HAVE A HABIT of editing out the buses, vans and cars as I draw and I realise that for Horbury High Street I’m giving the wrong impression so, as I draw the Beauty Spa (originally a butcher’s shop) on the right, I add whatever figures happen to be passing at the time. The lad standing with his scooter adds a useful spot of contrast with his red T-shirt.
This is the view from Horbury’s newest café, the Caffé Capri, which the only one where you can sit out watching the world go by. It might just be Horbury on our weekly date with my mum’s shopping but in this weather it feels like being on holiday. Especially when accompanied by a small potato tortilla and a glass of chilled pinot grigio.
THIS MUCH-INITIALLED gritstone boulder sits on top of the Cow at the Cow and Calf Rocks above Ilkley. To get this view I had to perch on another boulder, which wasn’t comfortable enough to encourage me to sit and draw it there and then so I took a photograph and today I’ve been working from that.
When I’m working from photographs I tend to get hooked into drawing every detail. In the real world the level of detail is so overwhelming that a natural editing process inevitably kicks in, enabling me to take more liberties with a scene and to be less literal than I am with the photograph.
A simple solution would have been to include exactly the same amount of detail but to draw the background with a finer pen which might have given more of an impression of aerial perspective. To a certain extent I thickened up the lines around the boulder by reworking them but I didn’t want to overdo that.
Hopefully when I add the watercolour there’ll be more depth in the illustration.
Ilkley Moor; I’m starting this in pen and scanning that version before adding colour for the final illustration. Keeping my options open.
LIKE ME, my pen is a bit of a slow starter after a break. I draw a series of loops to get the ink flowing again.
It’s a cool rainy day, not the sort to encourage me to go out on a research or sketching trip, and it’s a pleasure to be sitting at my desk in my airy studio with the prospect of a whole day devoted to drawing. A rare chance to listen to the radio.
The excuse to draw all day is the main thing that attracted me to illustration as a career, so it’s a shame that so much of my time gets taken up with other tasks.
Making marks with a pen is such a pleasure and after getting the ink back in circulation I start writing ‘The quick brown fox . . .’ then go on to drawing circles, dots, rectangles and crosshatching.
This doodle (right) starts by looking like frogspawn and ends up looking like a multi-cored cable. I’ve scanned it here half as big again so that you can see the inky wobbliness. I think that both those qualities, the inkiness and the wobbly line, are important to me, hopefully giving a softer friendlier feel to my drawings rather than technically brilliant panache. I must be succeeding to the extent that no-one has ever described my work as technically brilliant.
These are all drawn with my ArtPen with the F, fine, drawing nib, filled with Noodler’s El Lawrence (brown) ink.
WE’RE A BIT limited as to where we can take my mum for a coffee now that she’s not as mobile but the ice cream parlour at Whitley has a lot going for it. Yes, it might be the same place that we brought her last week and the week before but the panorama, looking up the Calder valley to the tops of the Pennines is different each time we visit. It has greened up a lot since we were last here. But it changes every few minutes as shadows of clouds move across pasture, wood and moor.
It’s so good to have a short burst of the wide open spaces.
I like watercolours where forms are simplified so why do I find it impossible not to make some attempt to blob in every tree when I’m painting this view? The problem is that I’m so fascinated by detail. As I painted this I could see the blades of the wind turbines turning on the horizon, traffic passing on the motorway 6 miles away, crows bursting from the wood beyond the reservoir as a buzzard flew over . . .
It’s so difficult not to get hooked on the detail!