I’M WRITING an article for a local magazine/newsletter and decided to take a closer look at the people that you see in the photographs and postcards of a century ago. Sometimes they’re going about their everyday business but more often they’re aware of the photographer, like this man leaning on the lamppost at Middlestown crossroads.
The Dickensian huddle of buildings behind him was later replaced by the buildings of the local Co-operative Society, including a cinema. The village’s fish and chip shop, The Grumpy Friar, and the pharmacy now stand there. I don’t remember it myself, but I believe that Middlestown Church stood on the corner to the right.
The sign points to Wakefield and Huddersfield to the northeast and southwest, Thornhill Edge and Overton to the left and the right.
Tinker the Mystery Cat
But I couldn’t remember visiting a cafe or a shop that had cats, nor had we been in anyone’s home who kept cats. But we’d obviously been introduced to Tinker, since cats don’t readily tell you their names (see T. S. Eliot).
Then I remembered that we hadn’t met Tinker indoors; he (or she?) is one of Paul the gardener’s cats, or perhaps I should say Paul the gardener is the cats’ Human, that seems to be the way it works, and Tinker, a rather sociable cat, was enjoying the morning sun in his garden in Horbury.
He’s a pretty laid-back cat.
Line and Tone
For me springy line is the trademark of his work but surprisingly he warned his readers off focusing on line when drawing people.
I’m used to Ruskin’s advice that you should draw outlines (such as the branches of a tree) with as much care as you would make a map (of a river delta, for instance) for a group of pedantic and litigious landowners.
Ambrus’s drawings have that kind of precision and you’d think that he’d have a similar method in his mind as he drew but he points out that you shouldn’t be looking for outlines as such. If you’re drawing a nearby figure (as opposed to a distant tree) you’re seeing three-dimensional forms, which, if you’ve got vision in both eyes, don’t have a precise edge. So, I guess he’s saying, draw the forms not the edges.
He also points out that tones don’t stop abruptly at the edges of the form. I’ve always thought of this as a problem (for instance when my grizzled, not to say white, hair blends seamlessly into a white background on a passport photograph!) but it’s something to look out for as you draw. We don’t live in a world that resembles a paint-by-numbers colouring book, with precise edges and abrupt transitions of tone and colour.
I tried to keep all this in mind as I drew my left hand!