The Obsequious Mr Simpson

Waterton confronts SimpsonI keep imagining that I’m producing a stage play. Mr Simpson is really getting into his character as the villain of the piece, all sneers and sarcasm, but, as an illustrator I’m responsible for the bit part players too; fo their costume, make-up, even their back story, as far as it goes.

I can imagine the extra playing the labourer saying to me ‘What’s my motivation in this scene?’

‘Er . . . could you lean on your shovel and smirk, as if you’re thinking “this should be fun”?’

Waterton comic page 9I’ve learnt a lot about the strategy of producing a comic strip while working on this page. For instance, for those first two panels (which were the last to be completed) I drew them both first and then coloured them together, to save mixing the colours twice.

I realise that a decisive style is going to work best, rather than the soft tentative approach that I use for natural history subjects. Plenty of structure and drama is what’s needed in a comic strip.

Whatever my misgivings about this page, I’m now leaving it until I’ve finished the other eleven pages, then I can come back to it and review it. Hopefully I will feel that it still works in the context of the story.

How do I stop WordPress Compressing my Files?

Setting compression to 100% in the Media settings in WordPress. But it still compresses to 90%!
Setting compression to 100% in the Media settings in WordPress. But it still compresses to 90%!
So how come this image is so sharp? It’s a PNG and WordPress doesn’t ‘help’ you save bandwidth by compressing them.

Having gone to so much trouble, I’m keen that my work comes over as crisply as possible in this blog, allowing for the inevitable loss of sharpness that you’re always going to get between the paper version and the onscreen image. I’ve added a plugin to stop my web page program WordPress compressing my JPGs (which it does in order to save bandwidth) as this is what makes them lose sharpness.

Yes, I know that it’s a marginal loss of sharpness, but I’m an illustrator. We worry about such things!

Unfortunately the plugin that I’m using, WP Resized Image Quality, hasn’t been tested on the latest version of WordPress and, would you believe it, my JPGs, which I’ve already tweaked to perfection in Photoshop, are still getting compressed.

Any tips would be welcome!

Links; WP Resized Image Quality 

By the way, I checked with Christine Rondeau who designed Mon Cahier, the theme that I use for my WordPress posts, and she tells me the compression definitely isn’t happening there.

Red-tailed Bumblebees Cooling their Nest

Red-tailed bees at nest holeWe’ve had record temperatures today and the red-tailed bumblebees in the nestbox near the back door have been making efforts to cool their nest. The bee on the right with its rear end to the nest hole was fanning its wings.

This bee was fanning its wings but so fast that they were barely visible.
This bee was fanning its wings but so fast that they were visible only as a blur.

Every time that I looked out there was a bee on duty, acting as a fan. The first time I noticed them doing this, at 11 o’clock this morning, there were two vibrating their wings right next to the hole but the colony was so busy that bees returning or emerging kept pushing them out of the way. After that there was only ever one on duty and there would be breaks when three bees emerged at once.

red-tailed beesHoney bees have been observed taking water into the hive to help with cooling but I couldn’t tell if the red-tails were doing this.

In the spring we saw blue tits and house sparrows taking an interest in the box. Last year the sparrows ousted a pair of blue tits that had started nesting but the red-tailed bees are definitely in charge this year. Barbara watched them chase off a wasp which was trying to get into the nest.

Pall of Smoke

colouringI can see the influence of decades of scenery painting in these frames for the showdown in my Waterton comic strip. The perspective in the Soap Works in the background is similar to some of the village scenes that I’ve painted over years, except you can’t imagine the principles and chorus breaking into a rendition of On a Wonderful Day like Today with that pall of smoke hanging over the village of Walton.

But, dominating the stage, dressed in black with that stove pipe hat, ‘Soapy’ Simpson makes a very hissable villain. I can picture it now;

SIMPSON: Yes, boys and girls, I’m going to poison every tree in Walton. Ha! ha! Ha!

WATERTON: Oh no you won’t!


It’s been a rather mechanical activity producing three almost identical versions of the background but useful practice  for me to get myself into the habit of being consistent with colour, line and characters. I look forward to finishing this off tomorrow and dropping the scanned illustrations into the blank frames that I’ve created for the page in Manga Studio.