A Rain-lashed Weekend

Coxley WoodThe rain was lashing in with such force yesterday afternoon that it smashed out an already broken pain of glass in the greenhouse, leaving shards of glass on the ground. A short storm in the afternoon drove lashings of spray down our road.

This afternoon, I painted directly in watercolour as the fading light added a touch of drama at the end of a dull November day. 


carPerhaps the reason that I find cars so difficult to draw is that they’re almost human. Headlights can be like eyes, so, as when drawing a portrait of a human, if you don’t get the shapes or proportions right, you can lose the likeness. If I drew cars often enough, I might get to the stage where I could take liberties and come up with a caricature.

Fiat PuntoThe first car got driven off just before I got a chance to add colour. As I added colour to the second, a Fiat Punto, I realised that because a car is so shiny it mirrors its environment with a reflection of the sky highlighting the roof and the reflection of the tarmac adding to the shadows below.

Pens, Pencils & Rulers

pen drawerThe knife, fork and spoon slots of a cutlery drawer divider are ideal for pens, pencils and rulers. The section where you’d store your corkscrew and corn-on-the-cob skewers comes in for compass, Pritt sticks and pencil sharpener.

This A2 sized drawer is one from a six drawer unit from Ikea but every one of these drawers had sagged over the past three years. Last weekend I dismantled them and glued all the grooves that support the hardboard base. While I was at it, I sprayed some WD40 on the metal runners. And I even went to the effort of testing each pen on scrap paper to whittle down my collection.

propelling pencilThere was no lead in this propelling pencil, but it’s definitely one to keep. It was either given to me, or I claimed it from my mum in my school or student days, so my guess is that it could date from the 1930s.

The Book Cupboard

booksI’ve been familiar with these books since childhood and I even read one of them during my student days; John Earle’s Microcosmography, first published in 1628. I’m not sure that I’ll ever read The Wigwam and the WarpathAlpha of the Plough or Ballads and Ballad Poems but I couldn’t bring myself to leave them in the book cupboard when we had house clearance in before handing over the keys to my mum’s house at the end of September.

Mountain Vue

mountain tutorialBack in mountain country and that lone plum tree looks familiar as I’m on a return visit to the first tutorial in Create 3D Like a Superhero; Chipp Walters’ introduction to the landscape design program Vue.

This is as far as I got with the high res render of the scene.
This is as far as I got with the high res render of the scene.

With tree, foreground and mountain in place, I try a full-screen test render. After half an hour my computer estimates that it will take another 27 hours to complete the image! Luckily smaller images take just a few minutes to process. If I ever need a larger image, I’ll leave it rendering overnight.

The clear blue sky is the default atmosphere but you can load alternatives, such as a ‘Lead & Gold’ sunset.

lead and gold sunsetChipp Walters points out that awkward transitions between objects can create an unreal point of focus in the landscape, so I experiment by introducing a cloud, which I scale down and drop into the valley to try and give the effect of rising mist. It looks more like a giant sheep.

I really don’t know clouds at all. But I’ll only learn by playing around with the program.


Links: Cornucopia 3D where you can download a full version of Vue Pioneer (the only limitation is that it stamps ‘Created in Vue’ on every render)

Chipp Walters’ blog

Book End

book endtrack sideA carving that I made in the woodwork class at grammar school has come in useful for stopping my current reading collapsing over onto the modem on my bookshelf.

commutersA windy day disrupted the railways when we went into Leeds yesterday. On the return journey I drew bare trackside trees, a birch hanging on to the last of its ochre leaves and a gull weaving its way into the headwind.


This isn’t an actual title that I’m working on. I’ve pasted existing artwork and roughs into a booklet template.

This looks like a real life booklet but it’s actually a 3D mock-up generated in BookViewer, a feature included in the comic book program Manga Studio EX5 (but not available in the standard version of the program, Manga Studio 5). That’s going to be so useful to me. You can scroll through your virtual publication and tilt it to almost any angle.

I’ve made the most of a rainy weekend to explore the booklet producing capabilities of the program. As far as I can tell, you can’t easily print a booklet using Manga Studio, so I’m also reading up on the booklet design and printing capabilities of Adobe InDesign, which is specifically designed to paginate and print booklets, plus a whole lot more, of course. I’ll export the individual pages of the booklet as Photoshop image files from Manga Studio then paste them individually onto the page templates in InDesign.

Pencil and Paper

a4 paper trimmedI can get so far with the manuals, online help and video tutorials but to understand what the finished booklet would look like I’ve gone back to pencil, paper and ruler.

I’m printing at home on A4 paper but, like most printers, my Oki colour HD printer and my everyday HP Laserjet don’t print right to the edges of the paper, so I need to allow a 5 millimetre margin all around.

Bleed Area

I want to allow the artwork to bleed off the edges of the page so I’m allowing for a 3 millimetre bleed along the outside edges. Even so, I don’t want the text or anything else vital to the design of the booklet to go right to the edge of the page, so I’m keeping my main design area 10 millimetres in from the edges of the page and from the gutter.

Link; YouTube video Fanzine Export, Manga Studio Guide Episode 14 by Doug Hills.

Queen Scallop

Collected at South Bay, Scarborough, 17 October.
Collected at South Bay, Scarborough, 17 October.

The lower (right) valve of the queen scallop, Aequipecten opercularis, is flatter than the upper valve.

The ‘front’  or anterior ear of the hinge is always longer than the rear (posterior) ear, which in this specimen appears to have been chipped away still further. This scallop starts its life attached to the sand or gravel of the sea bed but it’s capable of swimming by flapping its shells.

Keel Worm and Barnacles

barnacles and keel worm tubesAmongst the tubes of the keel worm, Pomatoceros triqueter, there are several barnacle shells. The keel worm is an annelid worm, which catches its food by waving its tentacles. It can withdraw into its calcareous tube and protect itself by closing a trapdoor, the operculum, across the entrance.

Sea Mat

sea matDown between the ribs, centre left on this high res scan of the shell, is a small colony of sea mat, a bryozoan, which, like the keel worm, is a filter feeder.

Bulbs and Corms

crocus bulbsThinking of spring, we’re planting bulbs. The crocus bulbs are already putting out shoots, the Eranthis, better known as winter aconite aren’t showing signs of life but they should flower before the crocuses.

eranthis cormsThe winter aconite ‘bulbs’ are actually corms, swellings of the base of the stem of the plant. A bulb is a short stem surrounded by fleshy leaves or leaf bases.

The crocus is a member of the iris family, winter aconite, as you’d guess from its large, glossy yellow flowers, is a member of the buttercup family.

Redwings at Langsett

gatepostredwingsAs I’m drawing this old gatepost by the ruins of the farm called North America on the moor above Langsett Reservoir, three small flocks of birds fly across; first jackdaws, next redwings and finally a small flock of meadow pipits.jackdaws

It’s a mild day and, following the rain, there’s plenty of fungus in the plantation; shaggy inkcap, fly agaric and a smoky dove grey fungus which we guess might be blewit.

agaricI’m trying to learn lessons from my work on the Waterton comic strips in my quick sketch of the old gatepost by drawing in a livelier way. Twelve pages of comic strip took me three months to complete. It’s time to speed up a bit.