Charles Waterton was a hands-on conservationist so as he set about turning the grounds of his ancestral home, Walton Hall, into the world’s first nature reserve, visitors sometimes assumed that he was a gardener or labourer. In the first frame of my comic strip, a railway surveyor mistakes him for a tramp but when I put the meeting in its location by the Barnsley canal, he looks more like a bargee.
Sitting on the Fence
How do I make him look more like an idle bystander? How would that come across in his body language?
Instead of standing on the towpath making a mock-deferential bow, I try him sitting on the fence. And instead of having him wear a shirt and a waistcoat like a bargee, I give him a battered top hat and a rumpled tailcoat.
Waterton could climb trees with ease right into his 80s but I’m struggling to make him look at ease while sitting on the top rail of a fence. Barbara suggests that no one is going to look comfortable sitting on a fence so why not have him reclining on the canal bank?
Barefoot in the Park
Waterton liked to walk barefoot which helps identify him as a dishevelled tramp-like character but to look down at Waterton’s bare feet as well as up at the tree tops of the park beyond that high defensive wall means that I have to fall back on that old cheat used by illustrators, rubberised perspective. It’s not so much of a cheat though because, if this was a film, which is the way that I keep thinking of it, and this was a panning shot, the perspective would keep changing as the camera tracked across the scene.
Yes, Waterton has ended up looking like Willy Wonka, but I think that this version tells the story more clearly than my first rough. It also leaves plenty of space for the three speech bubbles that we need in the space between the characters.