Black Freighter, Yellow Pen

poachers, Lamy Safari penfisticuffsBlack humour, everyday characters but real menace; that’s just the atmosphere that I’m looking for in my battle with poachers scene for the Waterton comic. This morning I’m getting a bit of inspiration from Radio 3; Lotte Lenya singing Pirate Jenny from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, lyrics by Bertolt Brecht. Jenny, the much put upon maid in a ‘crummy hotel’ conjures up a ‘Black Freighter’ with 50 long cannons and a pirate crew running into hundreds to reek her dreadful revenge on the entire town, with the exception of her ‘crummy hotel’.

fight sceneIt’s funny but chilling and there’s a mischievous, improvised quality to the performance. I feel that I can learn from it by aiming to build a feeling of menace in a situation that has an underlying ridiculousness. Hitchcock did that so well. The poachers episode of the Waterton story has elements of the petty villainy of Bill Sykes but also of Laurel and Hardy slapstick. Not to mention Brecht’s Mack the Knife.

In these eight panels of the comic strip, Charles Waterton risks being shot, stabbed and strangled but, at the end of the tussle, he and the poacher end up with each other’s hats. Which is what really happened.

Lamy Safari Broad Nib

Lamy Safari with Z24 converter and broad nib, filled with Noodler's Black ink.
Lamy Safari with Z24 converter and broad nib, filled with Noodler’s Black ink.

I ordered a yellow pen so that I don’t confuse my new Lamy Safari with the three Safaris and the AlStar that I’m already using. I’ve gone for a broad nib because I feel that the foreground figures need to stand out more.

lamy fine and broad nibs
As you’d expect, the broad nib is freer flowing than the fine.

I like the bolder look so much that I use it for the whole scene. In my first attempt at adding the shadows to one of the frames I went for a traditional woodcut look in which is areas of black are surrounded by hatching (below, left). But I’m not totally comfortable with this style as I don’t have a background in printmaking.

Woodcut versus Hatching

Hatching and cross-hatching.
Hatching and cross-hatching.
Woodcut effect.
Woodcut effect.

What I’m used to is sketchbook drawings which involve no forward planning, other than deciding where to start on the page. I like to pick up a pen start making marks. This may produce a fussy effect that the preplanned graphic crispness of the woodcut style, but it can also give a more improvised look.

It’s a rather naive way of working, one which reminds me of Glen Baxter’s parodies of literal Boys Own Paper style drawings of unlikely misadventures. That seems appropriate for Charles Waterton’s Quixotic adventures, provided that I can keep a hint of menace running through it.

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