As you can see in the unfinished figure on the left, I start my figures off as stick-men with a small circle around each joint.

THE VICTORIAN world of my forthcoming book isn’t always so cosy and nostalgic. This morning I’ve got a fight on my hands.

The golden rule about illustrating a fight, according to the advice given by several comic strip artists, is not to show the moment of impact of the fist. It weakens the action. I imagine that the reason for this is that if you show the moment before or after the impact, the viewer has to supply the missing action, making the reading of the cartoon more interactive.

The blow has dislodged the victim's hat while I made the assailant hatless to enable him to be more dynamic. The bowler hat made him look too much like a Dr Watson-type action guy, a goodie.

But in my first pencil rough (above, left) there isn’t enough contact between the two protagonists for the kind of full on, sustained volley of punches that I’m illustrating.

Once again, I can’t avoid a bit of characterisation working its way into my finished pen and ink and Pentel Brush pen wash drawing and I find myself taking sides with the victim. The man who’s just dealt the decisive left-hook looks like a bit of a bruiser to me. I wouldn’t like to meet him in the tavern on a Saturday night.


I’m back to the agriculture in my next illustration of hand-weeding a cornfield, then, appropriately, a worker takes a well-earned break for a drink.

Well, yes, he has ended up looking a bit like a pirate. I wanted a change from giving him a hat so I went for a

headscarf, thinking of the heroic labourers in Work by Ford Madox Brown. But I might have to change that.


Frivolous or worse

Now this one really is difficult. I have to draw a woman who is ‘frivolous or worse’. As I have so few female friends who fall into that category I’ve gone for a cross between Nancy from the film version of Oliver! and a coquette from half a century earlier. And, come to think of it, there’s something of the flapper about her too. All the clichés.

It doesn’t work; she looks just a shade too sophisticated for the bawdy frivolity that I had in mind, as if she’s a toff slumming it (in the words of one the songs from Oliver!) rather than the bar being her natural habitat. She’s turned out a bit too much like Helena Bonham Carter hamming it up in one of the louche roles she enjoys so much. But I’m going to have to leave her for now.


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