At last I’ve found a pen that doesn’t go through the absorbent paper in my Wainwright sketchbook; the Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5, with an extra fine fibre tip point;
It’s waterproof too but of course the watercolour that I’ve added still bleeds through the page.
Looking at an angle through the double-glazed window at Charlotte’s at Whitley this morning I wondered if I was seeing double but those are the twin transmitters Moorside Edge on Pole Moor, Slaithwaite, ten miles to the west on the crest of the Pennines.
Yesterday I drew Crackenedge, Hanging Heaton, from the Cafe Casbah in the Redbrick Mill, Batley. The place name Crackenedge might be from the Viking krøkjen, meaning ‘crooked or bent edge’.
The Thornes Park Canada geese are used to passing dogs but still a bit wary of them, timing their morning traipse from the duck pond to the adjacent football field until there’s a break between dog-walkers.
‘Come away!’ says one dog-walker, ‘not everybody likes dogs!’
Well, you’d have to be very anti-dog not to like this quiet, wide-eyed, little white terrier – looking freshly shampooed and as if it’s going to a fancy dress party as one of Bo-Peep’s little lambs. It doesn’t want to walk past without pausing to check what I’m up to. Not to fuss me, or to yap but just to take in what I’m up to as I sit on the park bench.
I assure Ms Bo-Peep that it depends on the dog and, to be honest, I would have done a quick sketch of it if I’d had time but it does illustrate why I find that I can be more productive heading for Old Moor bird reserve for the day. I can sit amongst the herbage and get absorbed in my work.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like breaking off to chat to passers-by but there are only so many hours in a day for drawing.
I was ten minutes early for an appointment and driving past the park and thought why not have a ten minute break at the duck pond rather than arriving early. So, I’ve only spent a single minute of my precious time chatting but scale that out across a day and I could happily while way 10 percent of the time available!
Here are a few recent sketches from my urban sketchbook (the Wainwright one that I’m keen to get to the end of).
Two men were sitting with A3 sketchbooks in Café Costa, not drawing the passing scene but in an animated discussion of a storyboard for a film. I’d have loved to have eavesdropped on the process but I could see that the guy in the baseball hat was going through a shooting script while his colleague, after listening intently, would start sketching out ideas.
When you’re watching a movie the storytelling – when it works – just flows along but a huge amount of planning and choreography goes into it.
We invariably head to Charlotte’s ice cream parlour after my mum’s weekly eye appointment. She doesn’t usually get out during the rest of the week but the short excursion to Whitley is about as much as she can manage these days.
The view taking in Holme Moss and a great meander of the Calder Valley is unbeatable and the activities of peacocks, goats, donkeys and hens add to the interest.
The rhea inevitably reminds me of birdlike dinosaurs. A pair of them make a tour of their enclosure. Curiously expressionless eyes almost seem to look through us, as if we were a dull and harmless part of the environment. It’s the kind of gaze that I can imagine looking out on the world during the Cretaceous era and ears like that (the round spot behind its eye) must have heard the occasional Tyrannosaurus approaching.
The Chair and Eye
A haircut and my mum’s regular eye appointment give me a couple of chances to draw chairs. I can always use more practice because I find that as I move down the page I run into problems with the proportions, for instance making the legs too long. I keep switching to observing the negative spaces to double-check that I’m on the right lines, for instance the wedge-shapes between the starfish-like feet of the hairdresser’s chair.
Occasionally I find myself in a chairless environment, such as while waiting for Barbara outside the fitting rooms at M&S. Rows of clothes on hangers didn’t strike me as interesting subjects so I drew the handbag. I can see that the designer has made several decisions in the look of the handle alone to introduce some character; dependably chunky and in it’s unashamedly utilitarian details perhaps harking back to a simpler era, such as the 1950s.
In Debenhams there wasn’t even a bag rack nearby for me to focus on so it was back to drawing my hand.
This rather spindly wild carrot was growing in a sunny south-facing clearing amongst the willows, alders and dragonfly ponds at RSPB Old Moor nature reserve.
I was drawing the fly which settled on my left arm when a fresh-looking comma settled on my right leg. The fly then moved to my nose and, as it had a suspiciuosly long beak-like proboscis, I had to brush it away, losing my chance to sketch the butterfly.
Even on a fifteen minute journey on the 232, if I’ve got the enthusiasm, I’ve got the time to make a sketch and even add the colour. I’ve been reading a few books on urban sketching recently which are encourage you to try sketching even in the least promising situations, such as here on the bus, which is lurching forward and swaying from side to side.
Bookshops now have a section devoted to sketchbooks, writer’s notebooks and inspirational adult activity books encouraging you to draw, doodle, scavenger hunt or even to ‘destroy this journal’ so I think that you’re much more likely to see someone on a bus scribbling away these days.
I’m using my least favourite sketchbook today, the A5 hardback decorated with Wainwright drawings. Although they’re supposed to encourage to put pen to paper, the fact that when you do the ink soaks through two pages at a time is rather off-putting!
I’ve been using my current scanner for years but I’ve only just spotted that the software has a ‘gutter shadow reduction’ option. It no doubt works better on pages of text where it can tell where the gutter is supposed to be. It doesn’t seem to have made any difference to the strip where my drawing straddles the gutter.
At least as I’m so keen to get to the end of this sketchbook I don’t mind starting a page as we wait for our coffee in Masserella’s.
The lower floor of Salts Mill houses an art materials and art bookshop the size of a couple of tennis courts. I try out a Moleskine sketchbook for size in my bag. Can’t wait to get started on it.
There are inspirational books galore including Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs, who I used to be in touch with in his Beanie sketchbook journal days. I’ve got more subjects clamouring for me to ‘draw me, draw me!’ than I can manage, so I don’t need Michael’s attractive and encouraging book to spur me on.
I can only indulge myself in one inspirational art book this morning so I go for Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, as I enjoyed his Show Your Work (and, who knows, one day I might put some of his suggestions into practice!).
I’ve always preferred to use cartridge for sketchbook work and to save the more expensive watercolour paper for my finished work but I’ve recently moved over to Pink Pig’s Ameleie watercolour sketchbooks, which I think is a step in the right direction.
Today as I set out to a golden wedding garden party I grabbed an A5 landscape format Langton sketchbook. Langton is traditionally mould made fine grained 300 gm (140 lb) ‘Not’ paper. ‘Not’ means cold rather than hot pressed. I thought this might be too absorbent and textured for ink but there’s no sign of bleeding, which makes a welcome change from my current ‘Wainwright’ sketchbook.
The ‘hammered’ surface of the paper is enough to give a slight stippliness, which adds character to a watercolour wash.
Sketches made over the last two days at RSPB Old Moor, South Yorkshire. Having practiced some botanical illustration in the studio last week, I wanted to see how I could carry that through into sketchbook work.
It was so warm at lunchtime today that I took shelter in the family hide, which was pleasantly cool with all the flaps open and light; unusually for a hide it has floor to ceiling windows. Again with improving my observation in mind, I concentrated on one species, the lapwing, until a black-headed gull chased it away.
Great burnet and yellow-rattle.
A variable species, this was growing in a dry area, by a hedge near the visitor centre.
Marsh orchid, probably the Northern Marsh Orchid.
Scrambling amongst vegetation by the marsh.
Melilot, a tall leguminous herb on drier ground.
Lapwing in moult. I guess that it’s an adult but it could be a juvenile coming into its adult plumage.
Purple loosestife – my last sketch of the day and it proved quite a challenge with all those interlocking stems and foliage, especially as it kept blowing about in the afternoon breeze.