IT’S RARE for me to have a whole hour free so to make the most of it, while I wait for Barbara to finish work, I draw the bookshop, starting with the door frame and working across the double-page spread, running out of ink halfway and borrowing a pen from Barbara to finish.
With any complicated subject I have to establish an anchor point before I can start mapping everything in its place. Those long verticals of the door frame that I started with on the left weren’t much help and it was only when I established the leaded window above the door that I was able to get a grip on proportions. The 45° pattern made a useful grid.
You can see where this went slightly wrong as the window started going into perspective on the right, my drawing equivalent to the distortions you’d get if you were photographing the scene with a wide-angle lens.
THIS SKETCHBOOK drawing was made from the life drawing studio in Batley School of Art, probably in the winter months of 1968, looking down on Batley swimming baths. I came across it this morning when I was looking through some of my teenage holiday journals in the attic.
The box on the windowsill is one that we were set to design and make in the college workshop. In it I can identify a pen knife, pen holder, compass and ruling pen, the tools of my trade as a foundation student, and beside it are bottles of blue, yellow and green Indian ink.
The yellow box on the left contains children’s wax crayons; ‘Noddy’ crayons, branded with the name of the Enid Blyton character.
Rubbing these crayons on my sketchbook page laid the foundations for a kind of poor man’s scraperboard which I then, with difficulty, painted over with India ink which I could then scrape through to produce highlights such as mouldings, mortar and leaded windows.
This is a long and laborious way to produce a drawing but it’s evident that I enjoyed building up the textures.
It’s successful in bringing back to me the drabness of Batley at that time when smokeless zones were a recent innovation. I love the dour stonework and the glowering skylights which you can’t imagine would ever allow fresh air and sunlight filter down into the changing rooms below.
I never swam in these baths.
Wall Rue, British Ferns, 1861
Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria grows alongside the Rusty-back Fern in the crevices of an old wall in Ossett. It is a common fern of walls and limestone crevices.
Leathery leaves and long wiry roots are useful adaptations for conserving water.
Like the Rusty-back it is a member of the Spleenwort family, used as a herbal remedy for diseases of the spleen and also in the treatment of rickets.
The Rusty-back fern, Ceterach officinarum, has rusty scales on the backs of its leaves. These cover the spore-producing sori and probably help prevent the fern from drying out. During dry spells the fronds roll in at the edges.
Growing to just few inches, this fern is found in dry crevices in limestone and in old mortared walls. A small colony grows on a north-east facing sandstone wall on Station Road, Ossett.
It is best grown in a cold frame, potted rather high, among loam mixed with a large proportion of brick-rubbish, and not over-watered.
Thomas More, British Ferns, 1861
Rusty-back or Scale fern, drawn by W.W. Coleman, British Ferns, 1861.
Rusty-back fern is a member of the spleenwort family and was used to treat diseases of the spleen. Legend has it that Cretan sheep with spleen disorders would greedily devour its rootstock.
It’s scientific name Ceterach is said to derive from the Arabic ’Cheterak’ the name that Eastern physicians used for this plant.
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 IS the kind of building that I find myself drawing when I doodle; a series of triangles, semi-circles and rectangles. I like those interlocking roofs. The tower has a compact sturdiness, like a pepper-pot or a chess-piece.
The clump of ash saplings and one or two shoots of bramble (top), growing in a courtyard amongst buildings is the kind of subject that Frederick Franck often drew in his Zen of Seeing books. Unlike the building, you can’t simplify this tangle of vegetation into geometric shapes, you’ve just got to let yourself go and hope that the rhythms that run through the clump will appear in your drawing.
A man-made object such as a fence-post or old wall would give some definition and contrast but all that I had available was the grid of the paving slabs.
WHEN WE saw the flashing warnings for a queues ahead we thought that it was just the normal morning rush but unfortunately there had been an accident involving seven cars on the approach to junction 35 (the Rotherham junction of the M1, heading south). As we waited, drivers were strolling about chatting to each other while police cars, fire engines and ambulances hurtled along the hard shoulder to reach the scene.
My way of dealing with an unspecified period of waiting would normally be to draw anything from the natural world, a way of escaping from the situation, but although there is a belt of woodland along this stretch of the motorway I felt the need to keep looking ahead, just in case the traffic started moving again, which it did after an hour and half, giving me plenty of time to draw what I find a difficult subject, the cars ahead.
OLYMPIC GOLD medallist Alistair Brownlee loves to run on the hills of West Yorkshire: “You want to be inspired by your surroundings, and you want to go out and be motivated training in nice places. I like to run anywhere around Otley Chevin.”
Horbury and Ossett have a mini-Chevin, Storrs Hill; and anyone who has struggled up to it at the end of a school cross country deserves some kind of a medal! An acre of golden gorse overlooking the Calder Valley, in Victorian times it was ‘a favourite spot for Sunday afternoon strolls’.
Storrs Hill c.1890 by Frank C.J. Cockburn, from ‘Cockburn’s Ossett Alamanac’.
Unfortunately the free access that we’ve enjoyed for over a century has been very badly abused and there’s been so much vandalism that I’m not surprised that drastic action has been taken to protect the boundary with Rock House.
The panorama path was recently restored but I was sorry to see the once grassy lumps and bumps being levelled, not only because they were part of the landscape but also because in the process I guess that the hill’s colony of Grayling butterflies has been obliterated. Graylings, which aren’t as dull as they sound, are rare and in July 2002 this was the first colony to be discovered in West Yorkshire.
In the Olympic opening ceremony a grassy mound with a stunted thorn on top was used to represent Britain. Wouldn’t it be great if Storrs Hill could remain open to public access; a place for strolls and, for those more energetic than me, for running?
I HAD a little longer than usual for this drawing of a gardener’s truck parked on a roundabout. It seems a long time since I did an elaborate drawing. Perhaps the time is coming when I’ll take a day off and go somewhere to draw just for fun.
THE LAST NUMBER that Drighillton Band play at the Flock to Ossett carnival is Singing in the Rain. Fortunately it stays fine until the grand parade that rounds up the proceedings when papiere mache sheep are paraded around the market square. At Halifax at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations a few weeks ago, heavy rain turned a papiere mache spit roast ox soggy and it fell into the flames and caught fire. No such disasters today.