Little Book, Big History

A little book with an intriguing connection to Lawrence of Arabia; Richard Knowles tells the story. I filmed this afternoon at Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury.

I’ve added titles and, if you  watch the video, you’ll realise why we went for Caslon as the typeface.


Rickaro Books

Leventhorpe Lagoon 1973

I’ve been making a start on archiving a collection of colour slides taken by Richard Brook (1943-2017), for many years the Conservation Officer of the Wakefield Naturalists’ Society. He photographed the East Ash Lagoon at Leventhorpe from the lagoon’s northwest corner on Sunday, 2 September, 1973. Pulverised fly ash was pumped from power stations into lagoons and left to settle out.

Richard could see the potential of these lagoons as nature reserves and he documented every one of them – along with subsidence flashes and sand quarries -within five or six miles radius of Wakefield, so his collection of slides form a unique record of post-industrial West Yorkshire.

Dust & Scratch Removal


I’m gradually learning my way around the slide scanning option of my SilverFast scanning program and also learning easier ways to remove specks of dust and other blemishes from the slides.

In Photoshop CS5, I’ve just discovered the Dust & Scratches filter, which is hidden away in the Photoshop Filter Menu under the heading Noise.


It’s a lot quicker than using the Spot Healing Brush to individually remove blemishes, although that has it’s part to play too: Dust & Scratch Filter for the whole sky, Spot Healing Brush for getting into more detailed parts of the image.

Eco-T Fountain Pen

First sketch to test the new pen.

This Eco-T Fountain Pen, by TWSBI of Taiwan, is chunkier than my regulars, which suits my large hands. The grip is triangular, or rounded triangular, which means that it’s easy to be sure that you’re holding the nib at a consistent angle to the paper.

The view from Charlotte’s this morning, a bit of a change from last Monday, when there were still snow drifts on higher ground.

The screw-off cap and the filler at the end of the pen also have a triangular cross section so it’s just the transparent barrel that is cylindrical. This pen doesn’t have an option to pop in a cartridge so the whole barrel can serve as a piston filler, giving extra capacity.

It comes with a small plastic spanner, which is used for maintenance on the piston filler: you can lubricate this with silicone grease, a small bottle of which is included in the kit.

The youngest of the alpaca clan at Charlotte’s. Like it’s cousin, the arrival of this one last year came as a complete surprise.

This is the version with an Extra Fine nib, so, filled with my favourite Noodler’s Brown Ink, these drawings are probably indistinguishable from those that I’d make with my Lamy Safari or Rotring Art Pen, but after just a few days of using it, I think that I can say that the Eco-T is going to be my favourite, mainly because of that extra chunkiness but also because it has a firm, positive feel to it. At first I felt as if I’d be holding it a bit too close to the nib but as soon as I got into drawing and became less self-conscious about the unfamiliarity of a new pen, it felt perfectly natural.

Sussex cockerel: the hens of this old breed supply the eggs that are used in the scones they bake at Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour.

It was supplied by Pure Pens, so thank you to them for flagging it in one of their e-mails and, after I’d ordered on the Friday afternoon, for getting it to me via first class post by the next morning.

The lime green is a new colour but it’s definitely the one for me to go for, as it’s different to any other pen that might be lurking in the front pocket of my art bag.


TWSBI at Pure Pens

Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour

Desk Top

When I’ve finished a project – such as the Dalesman nature diary that I sent off this afternoon – it’s such a relief to be able to create order out of chaos again and clear my desk . . . but, before I get started, surely I can spare half an hour to  draw a corner of clutter.

This is drawn with a new pen, more of  that later, with a rapid wash of watercolour added, just as information, rather than getting in to the light and shade.

Wild Garlic

In yesterday’s post, I’d got as far as the pen and ink for the ransoms or wild garlic for my woodland flowers spread. Adding the watercolour makes such a difference. As I painted it, I started thinking about the wood in spring with a waft of garlic drifting through the shadier, damper valley bottom by the beck.

Despite the recent snows, it’s young leaves are already beginning to appear, so I couldn’t resist tearing off a small piece yesterday morning, to crush it between my fingers to release that gentle scent of garlic.

In a month or two, when it’s at its lushest amongst the crack willows and alders alongside Coxley Beck, it looks rather tropical. When we moved here, thirty or so years ago, that area was open and meadow-like. Alder saplings started to colonise the open ground; now it’s alder woodland with ransoms spreading like weeds. Except ransoms isn’t a weed – in the sense of ‘a plant growing in the wrong place’ – because in Coxley Wood, it’s growing exactly where it should be growing. It’s good to see a wild flower doing well and spreading for a change.

Another drawing that’s been transformed by a wash of watercolour is the yellow archangel, which is one of my favourite woodland plants, as it’s supposed to be one of the indicators of ancient woodland. My original drawing, in my Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield, was just an inch and a quarter across, line only, so it resembled a Victorian engraving. Adding colour  reminds me how this plant brightens up the odd corner alongside woodland paths.

Wood sorrel isn’t nearly as widespread as lesser celandine, wood anemone and bluebell in the wood. I like those clover-shaped leaves, which are usually, if not always, folded back.

Next stage is to drop these scanned images onto a sketchbook background for my May nature diary spread in The Dalesman magazine. I realised that I’d need landscape format this time, not a double-page portrait sketchbook with the spiral binding in the centre, which is what I’ve used so far for my articles.

As luck would have it, the afternoon light was still suitable for me to go out to photograph an A5 sketchbook on a mossy rock on the raised bed behind the pond. I look forward to putting the whole design together and adding some lettering: not too much as I don’t want to crowd out the flowers.

Woodland Flowers

I’ve decided to feature woodland flowers in my Dalesman magazine nature diary for May, but it’s still early in the season so I’ve dug out a copy of a drawing I made over forty years ago, in the 1970s.

Unfortunately I no longer have the original artwork: they were pen and ink drawings which I cut out of my sketchbooks – something I hate doing! – and pasted onto large sheets of card in same-size page layouts for my first book, A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield. A few years after the book was published, I made the difficult decision to throw out the paste-ups. I really regret that now!

Each page was A5 landscape, so the individual drawings, made on location in Coxley Woods, were each only inches across. My original drawing of the ransoms or wild garlic was just 6 cm across, less than 2½ inches; my new version (above) is 8cm, 3 inches, across.

Bluebell, soft-grass, wood anemone and dog’s mercury.

I scanned the page from the book and blew it up to A4 size, then put it on a light-box to trace the outlines onto cartridge paper before re-drawing the whole thing as near as I can line for line. It’s fascinating to follow so closely the marks that I made all that time ago, a way of getting back into the thought process I used at the time. I can see that I was at pains to follow as closely I was able the curves of stem, leaf and vein, so pretty much what I’d attempt to do today.

The original was dip pen and India ink, the new enlarged version is Lamy Safari, filled with Noodler’s waterproof ink. I’m pleased when, despite my shaky hands, I can follow a line more smoothly today than I could when in my mid-twenties. But then I would have been crouching uncomfortably on the woodland floor, not sitting at my desk in the comfort of my studio, overlooking those same woods. The Indian ink that I used then didn’t flow as smoothly as the Noodler’s I use now.

Even with a white flower like the wood anemone (above), adding a watercolour wash adds information and clarifies what is going on the drawing.

The yellow of the lesser celandine adds a little brighter colour and I’ve still got to add watercolour to the yellow archangel in the top right-hand corner of the page. It should make an suitably spring-green nature diary spread for the May issue of the Dalesman.

Snow over Shelley

I thought about calling this post The Last Snows of Winter, but who knows?

We passed a van and a car that appeared to have been abandoned in the weekend’s snow. Up on the ridge around Emley snow had drifted in the sunken country lanes.

Coffee table at Barbara’s brother’s house.

The sky wasn’t really green – I’ve got out of the habit of using cerulean blue and it didn’t turn out as I’d expected on the warm cartridge paper of my Daler sketchbook, especially as I’d added a light wash of Winsor lemon.

Sketching Shoppers

As we sit in Pizza Express in the White Rose Centre, there’s a constant stream of passers by. As there’s so little time, I start with one man’s head but then add the next man’s body. No, that’s not going to work because everyone has a distinct overall character: Man One wore an anorak, Man Two had a brisker gait and held his head more erect.

If I mix and match, I’m not going get the jizz, as birdwatchers used to call the characteristic impression given by a particular species.

So the remaining four figures are mental snapshots. I follow a figure’s progress across the entrance hall then, only when they vanish from sight, attempt to draw the whole figure.

I add the watercolour twenty or thirty minutes later, after a Leggera Padana pizza, when the Noodler’s ink has dried. I can remember the colours of the coats pretty well but there’s a bit more guess work on the colour of trousers, bags and footwear.

Leggara Padana pizza, only 465 kcals . . . chocolate brownie to finish, er, another 235, then there’s the cappucino . . .

The Final Curtain

It was an emotional finale to Dick Whittington last Saturday when our producer for the last twenty years, Wendie Wilby, retired. The presentation included a framed copy of my sketch of her which I drew a few years ago (greatly enlarged here, but it brings out the texture of the watercolour better than a same-size scan).

The Pageant Players are also going to miss the support of her husband, retired joiner and pigeon fancier, David, who has been stage managing the shows for almost as many years. The only thing that’s missing from my portrait of him is the pencil behind his ear that seemed to be a permanent feature.

Dick Whittington

You’ve already seen my working drawings for the backdrops, so here’s the cast. I took a particular interest in Alderman Fitzwarren because he – or should I say ‘she’, as this is a pantomime – was wearing a three-cornered hat of the type that I need to practise drawing for my Adam and the Gargoyle comic strip.

As so often in a pantomime, the baddies get all the best parts, so Queen Rat (above, left), was greeted by enthusiastic boos from the audience whenever she appeared.

The End! – OH NO it ISN’T!

After fifty-one years, I’ve said that will be my last production with the Pageants. With Wendie stepping down it seemed like a good time to go but I’ll be interested to hear how they get on. Like many drama groups they’re now faced by sky-rocketing rents for theatre space. The price per hour in Horbury Academy is still quite a bargain if you are requiring the room for just a few hours, but the Pageants need their set-building weekends, three technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals and the four evenings of performances, plus a Saturday afternoon matinee.

Audience: Awww!

Pageants: No, it’s much worse than that!

Audience: AWWWWwwwwwww!!!

Scones and Sketches

Lemon & raspberry sponge, Rich & Fancy.

Reviewing my A6 postcard-sized Pink Pig landscape format sketchbook for this winter, you might think that my life has been dominated by a search for the perfect scone. It has, and we’ve got our visits to Nostell timed to coincide with when the scones emerge from the oven, however these freshly-baked scones, were at the Rich & Fancy Cafe on Queen Street, Horbury.

Woman in audience at Wakefield Naturalists’ Society.

But I don’t insist on Bake Off standard cakes to draw; I equally enjoyed drawing the salt and pepper pots and the sauce and vinegar bottles on my brother-in-law’s dining table. These drawings are all larger than they appear in my sketchbook because I like the texture of pen on cartridge paper, which I lose at screen resolution. Drawn with my favourite pen, a Lamy Safari with an extra fine nib filled with brown Noodler’s ink.

I’ve got another Lamy Safari filled with a cartridge of Lamy black ink, which I blotted with a water-brush to get this wash effect on a brooding morning at Charlottes. Again during a coffee and scone break. A pattern is emerging.

View from Charlotte’s in line.