Cartooning in Colour

I’ve got a strong idea in my mind of what the historical Robert Adam would have looked like, but this is a comic strip, not a dramatised documentary, and I’m going for a pantomime version of the character. I’ve pared down the drawing to a cartoony style, which I think should work much better.

I’ve delved into the colour wheel rather than sticking to a standard set of swatches as I previously did but this is just a start. I would probably also add some texture, for instance on the gargoyle, the original of which, at Nostell, has a scaly texture.

Pheasant Turning Circle

I can’t take full credit for this piece of land art. The pheasants, up to twelve of them at a time, worked hard over our long drawn-out winter circling the bird feeding pole, pouncing on any fragment of sunflower heart dropped by the goldfinches, bullfinches and others, gradually trampling away the grass and compacting the clayey soil.

Taking a tip from Nick Bailey on last week’s Gardener’s World, I sharpened my spade and half-moon turf cutter before starting to dig over the resulting bare patch. I went around the trampled area with the turf cutter first then dug spade-width sections.

A sharpened spade made it so much easier but, even so, I’m taking a break before forking it over, adding a bit of gravel and sowing it with grass seed.

Framing Up

I’m struggling to get into gear with my comic strip. On the one hand, I’m grateful that it’s not a commission, so there’s no deadline looming, but on the other hand, I only pick it up for odd moments in the evening, so it lacks the momentum you’d get from a freelance job.

I tried to get away from frames full of talking heads by adding a more dramatic first frame to this 4-panel comic strip by having the conversation taking place up on the scaffolding of Robert Adam’s edifice but then realised that I needed to focus on the relationship between my two characters, rather than the setting. My aim is to get a conversation going in the strip; action and reaction.

Initial rough for the first frame.

So glad that I haven’t got a client who needs the finished artwork in a hurry!

Yes, I admit it; it would be easier for me to create characters by doodling away, pen on paper, but getting familiar with the feel of Apple Pencil on iPad screen, is really the point of the project for me, that and learning Clip Art Studio.

 

The Wind over Whitley

With a low over the North Atlantic, we’ve got the prospect of warm winds coming up from France and Spain but this morning it’s blowing so cold that, by the time I’ve drawn the ewe, my eyes are watering so much that I can hardly focus on the twin lambs which are following her.

Time to go indoors here at Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour for coffee and scones and to draw the view looking up the Calder Valley to the moors.

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Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour

Memories of Morandi

Can I ever draw bottles without thinking of Morandi? Certainly not when I’m drawing the stoneware bottles they keep lined up on the window sills at Filmore & Union in the Redbrick Mill in Batley.

My first commission after leaving college was to spend a weekend drawing at a house, a Victorian vicarage, not far from Oxford. I took down my Natural History Illustration degree show at the Royal College of Art, got on the train to Oxford and enjoyed drawing for a long weekend. My favourite subject was the interior of the potting shed, which included a wooden wheelbarrow, tools, a trug and, of course, stacks of assorted terra cotta plant pots. That pen drawing became the centre spread of the small sketchbook that I produced, which consisted of eight or perhaps as many as a dozen pages, carefully extracted from my Bushey foolscap sketchbook, which they had bound as a slim hardback.

I remember thinking that if this was life after college, I could get used to it, as it was basically a continuation of what I’d done at college, just draw, draw, draw, day in day out, except that now someone was willing to pay me to do it!

Morandi Sketchbook

The man who I was working for had been in the British Army in Bologna during World War II, and had befriended Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) and, I think, helped him out during a difficult time. Morandi presented him with (or more probably, he bought from Morandi) a small sketchbook of drawings – of bottles, naturally. Morandi had used whatever had come to hand and my memory is that at least some of the drawings were in ballpoint pen on cheap paper.

Earlier this month, on a previous visit to Filmore & Union.

Morandi’s bottles were never as standoffish as the bottles in Filmore & Union, but I guess that’s the reserved character of British bottles compared with Morandi’s highly sociable Italian bottiglie, which were always getting together with boxes, jars, jugs and vases.

When I was a student, my favourite painting in the National Gallery was Vuillard’s La Cheminée but probably, if I had the choice today, the painting that I’d most like to live with would be a small Morandi.

Comic Template

Now that I’ve steadily gone through the basics of Clip Studio Paint EX, I’m ready to get the program working for me and to use its features to speed up my workflow.

As I’m sticking with the same layout for the whole series of Gargoyle comic strips, I’ve saved the four-frame layout as a template, which is simply the blank comic strip before I’ve added any drawings or text.

All I have to do next time is open the template and get straight on with the drawing.

The title of the strip goes in a fifth frame; the only difference is that this one has no border around it.

Clip Studio Paint EX, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

Frame & Paper

If the Frame as a whole is selected, you won’t be able to draw on any of the layers within that frame.

What once seemed obscure has now become second nature to me. For instance, when using the pen or pencil tool, I was often baffled when the mouse-pointer changed to a ‘No Entry’ sign and I was unable to draw. Now if that happens, I head straight for the Frames palette as it usually turns out that I’m attempting to draw on the ‘Frame’ rather than on the virtual ‘paper’ (my layers for roughs, pencils, pen and paint) inside that frame.

Colour Set & Colour Wheel

For my first Adam & the Gargoyle comic strip I kept the process as simple as possible by accepting all the defaults. I chose colours from the Default color set but I’m now starting to use the Colour Wheel, which gives an almost infinitely varied choice of colours.

Borders and Balloons

I’m now able to adjust the width of the border around each frame and of the border around the speech bubbles.

That elusive balloon-editing palette. I don’t normally keeping it floating in the workspace.

The latter isn’t that obvious, as you need to select the bubble with the Object Selector (left), not the Text Tool and you then have to delve down into the Tool Property [Object] Sub-tool Palette.

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Clip Paint Studio EX: the iPad version is currently free for the first six months, if you want to try it.

The Rudiments of Comics

I’ve enjoyed drawing this comic strip in Clip Studio Paint EX as it’s been such a learning experience. Every aspect of the strip could do with some tweaking to get it as I want but at least I’ve gone through every stage involved in producing a comic.

I’ve often thought how much quicker it would have been to draw it by hand, and, to be honest, I’d probably have preferred a hand-drawn, watercolour approach, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise for me; the main aim was to get to know the software and to shake my ideas up a bit by tackling an illustration project from a different perspective.

Hand-drawn Fonts

The hand-lettered font  used in the speech bubbles is CC Joe Kubert, a tribute to the DC Comics artist.

The bold face used for the ‘HEY! YOU!’ speech bubble is BadaBoom Pro BB Italic.

My own wobbly hand-lettering would have given the strip a gentler look but I love the way these bolder typefaces give the strip pace; the reader isn’t going linger, admiring the typefaces, as they might pause to admire the copperplate calligraphy that would be one approach to an a strip set in the eighteenth century.

The typeface for the main title was added in Photoshop CS5, as my iPad only carries a limited number of fonts. This is a typeface called Trattatello, which is the Italian for ‘tract’. It’s perfect for my strip as one of the characters, Robert Adam, has been on the Grand Tour to Rome and is determined to use the true Classical style in his architecture and interior design. In fact he’s written a tract about it, well a bit more than that; a lavishly illustrated coffee table book of his designs.

You can imagine that he’s not exactly going to hit it off with the gargoyle.

Character & Storyline

After the learning curve that I’ve been on in getting familiar with Clip Studio’s tools and palettes, the end result seems ridiculously simple. As you can probably see from the more involved drawing in this last frame, I’m now keen to get into developing characters and storylines.

The four-panel strip format is a great way to concentrate my ideas and I’ve got plenty of scenarios in mind, in fact I keep waking up in the middle of the night with some bright idea or another. It’s also inspiring walking around Nostell Priory Park, where the strip is set.

Hopefully I’ll speed up production and be able to work through a lot of these storylines. I feel that drawing comic strips is something which requires a feedback loop; by which I mean it’s no use planning your project to the nth degree, you need to see something on paper (or in this case, on screen) and react to and build on that.

The Old Scouring Mill, Horbury Bridge

After sorting and blending, the first stage in preparing raw wool is scouring: washing in hot water. The old scouring mill at Horbury Bridge is a reminder of the Victorian heyday of the West Riding woollen industry, when there were several large woollen mills at Horbury Bridge.

The mill closed long ago and is divided into units, some of them workshops with the one facing the road housing an antiques and second-hand furniture store.

Di Bosco coffee & champagne bar

I drew it from a table in the conservatory in Di Bosco, the coffee and champagne bar, which opened yesterday. Workers from the scouring mill must have drunk here often but at that time it would have been ale and porter, as this building was originally The Ship Inn, which dated back to at least the time that Sabine Baring Gould wrote Onward Christian Soldiers at Horbury Bridge. In 1865 he set up his mission headquarters in a terraced house, which still exists, midway between the Ship and the Horse & Jockey.

He certainly entertained decidedly un-Christian thoughts towards these two public houses, in particular the Horse & Jockey which, in his novel Through Fire and Flood, he has washed away in flash flood of epic proportions which cascades down the Calder Valley like a CGI sequence from  a disaster movie.

In reality it survived and it now has a good reputation for resident chef Michael Oldroyd’s traditional Yorkshire food and, sorry about this Sabine, the landlord’s traditional Yorkshire beers.

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Di Bosco coffee and champagne bar

Michael Oldroyd’s Nostalgic Kitchen at the Horse & Jockey

Shelducks

I choose the ducks that appear to have settled down by the pool at Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, but sleeping ducks are soon disturbed; preening ducks soon go on to the next stage in their routine; and all of them, as soon as I get my watercolours out, seem to remember that they’ve got urgent business in the duck shelter and they disappear out of sight altogether.

It’s such a pleasure attempting to draw them and, like my attempts at creating frames for a comic strip yesterday, I realise that all I need to do is keep at it, try my best and some of the character of each bird will come over in my drawing.

After dinosaurs, mallard drakes were one of my earliest inspirations for drawing natural history. They’re so handsome at this time of year and even a basic drawing soon appears mallard-like when you add the bottle green of the head, the brown of the breast and the yellow of the bill.

When Sir Peter Scott was a young school boy and wanted to paint nothing but ducks, his art teacher told him:

“Go away and paint a pudding, when you’ve learnt to paint a pudding, then you can move on to painting ducks.”

As so many of my sketchbooks feature drawings made in coffee shops and tea rooms, I think that I can say that I’ve now had adequate practise at painting puddings.

Bring on those ducks, I’m ready.