Jennie the Cook

Google Street image of Lawson Court, 17 Lawson Road, image capture May 2017.
Grandma, Jane Bagshaw, at Vine Cottage, Sutton-cum-Lound, in the 1960s.

My grandad, Robert Bell, always referred to my grandma Jane as Ginny. That name must have gone back a long way because, delving back into my family tree on Find My Past, I’ve found that she was entered on the 1901 census as ‘Jennie Bagshawe’ (in fact, that should be Bagshaw, but I think that extra ‘e’ adds a certain cachet).

Then aged 22, she was working as cook in the household of Helen Taylor, widow, alongside Clara Holmes, 21, housemaid, who was born in  Eckington, Derbyshire. Also resident at Mrs Taylor’s was her son, Joseph G Taylor, aged 37, a saw manufacturer.

Sheffield was heavily bombed during the World War II Blitz so many of the homes of my ancestors, including my mum’s family home and my great-grandma’s home next door, were destroyed, so I was delighted to find that the house where grandma cooked so many meals was still intact, along with its gateposts.

I can imagine Jennie and Clara sharing the attic room. I once asked grandma what was involved in domestic work and she recalled that it was a long day, starting with setting the fires very early in the morning.

I remember that she was a good cook and it was amazing how she and Robert could create a Sunday dinner, Yorkshire puddings included, for seven at Vine Cottage with just a single ring on a paraffin primus stove and the oven in the cast iron range, heated by a coal fire. The kettle, with its handle insulated by string wound around it, went on some kind of a rack in front of the fire.

In 1975 or 76, I cooked her my signature dish at the time, lasagne, and I think that she was quite impressed. As she made her way back down the stairs from my first floor flat, she fell and rolled down several steps at the bottom of the first flight but just picked herself up on the landing, giggling. She was in her nineties at the time!

I once asked grandad why, as a country boy, with a job in the stables of a big house, he’d headed for Sheffield.

“Because a certain young lady had gone there!” he replied.

It’s all rather romantic and I’m glad he made the journey as, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been here today.

Now, thanks to Google Maps and Find my Past, I know where she worked at the time. Did she ever look out of that arched window and spot young Bob coming to call on her on her day off?

Mr Lindley

I’ve struggled with this sketch of my fourth year junior school teacher, not just because I’m still trying out new techniques in Clip Studio Paint but also because, although I’ve got a vivid image of him in my mind, I find it hard to capture that in a drawing.

Barbara thinks that I’ve made him look too young and I think that’s partly down to exaggerating the size of his hands and face.

I found my previous year teacher, Mr Thompson, easier; he was nearing retirement and was a larger than life character. Mr Lindley was a  great teacher, in mid-career – he went on to become a headmaster – and he didn’t have the kind of foibles that lend themselves to caricature.

I might try the headmaster Mr Douglas next and come back to Mr Lindley when I’ve improved my technique.

Market Day

I’ve dropped a few sketchbook drawings into a comic page template. I don’t know if I’ll ever master the technique of hand-drawn lettering using a graphics pad but at least with these frames from Clip Studio Paint, I’ve at last succeeded in creating the effect of a drawing bursting out of a frame.

Drawings from Ossett; di Bosco, Horbury Bridge; and Epworth, North Lincolnshire. The two on the left are pen and watercolour, the building on the right was coloured in Clip Studio.

I’m struggling to take in all the options available but I’m learning; for instance, when exporting a comic page like this for the web, you’d think that the sharpest JPEG image would be the best but a midway quality setting produces a smoother image, fewer artefacts, such as fringes around the lettering.

Cushions in Colour

I drew these cushions in pen and ink at Barbara’s brother’s the other day but left the colouring for later, to give me some practice with the Clip Studio Paint watercolor brush tool, in this case set to opacity watercolor. As usual, the pen layer stays on top, in crisp monochrome.

In keeping with my current interest in comics, I’ve included a hand-drawn border. Any detail in a comic should help to tell the story, so I tried to bring out the character of these cushions, as if they were set dressing in a scene.

As characters, I’d say these cushions are laid back but a little rumpled and worn at the seams. Perhaps they’re the louche, laid back, Lotharios of the cushion world, slouching suspiciously in the corner as they hatch their next scheme.

Or perhaps they’re just ordinary cushions but guilty of a bit of overacting.

Ring-tailed Lemurs

lemur sketch

Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre, Heckmondwike, 11.15 a.m.: One of the ring-tailed lemurs is keeping an eye on the silver fox in the next enclosure. It backs up to a post and scent-marks with its anal gland, rubbing against the timber, then turns around to check, pressing its nose close to the spot.

It relaxes with a little grooming and pauses to watch a bit of thistledown drift up in front of it.

A male settles down to take a look out of the far corner of the enclosure. Soon the female comes over and displaces him and he climbs out of her way instantly, without any dispute. Lemur society is matriarchal.

One of the females does a handstand to leave her scent mark on a post but I get the impression that it’s mainly the males who act as look-outs for the group. They’re the ones getting up on their hind legs at the back of the enclosure staring at me as if they’re thinking ‘What’s he up to?’

There are four or five lemurs in the Ponderosa group.

The males appear to have scent glands on the inside of their wrists. Often when a male sits looking out of the enclosure at me or the other visitors, he’ll rub the end of his tail between his wrists. I don’t think that I saw a female do this; females seem more likely to use their anal glands for scent-marking.

It’s surprising how long they are when they stand on their hind legs or when they jump up onto the the mesh at the front of the cage, apparently to challenge me.

When one of the lemurs yawns, the shape of its jaw reminds me of that of a dog. In the brief glimpse that I get of its teeth, I think that I can see a pair of small canines at the front of the jaw.

Their feet look rather like hands. They bound around balletically with backs alternately arched then stretched.

I made a couple of quick colour notes then added the watercolour as we waited for our lunch. It was surprising how ochre, grey and black, plus a spot of dull amber for the eyes, brought the drawings to life.

As you can see, with these visual notes; I was observing behaviour rather than trying to complete a portrait of a particular animal.

Link

Ponderosa Centre

The origins of place names in the Huddersfield area, including Heckmondwike

A Lot of Duckweed

I haven’t turned on the hose pipe during this long dry spell but this weekend the pond had got so low that I felt I had to. The surface was entirely covered with duckweed, so I put on my arm-length waterproof gloves and pulled it out around the edges, then used a pond net to scoop up the remaining clumps in the middle.

A A Milne’s poem Bad Sir Brian Botany came to mind. The bit where Sir Brian gets his comeuppance from the villagers:

“Sir Brian went a journey, and he found a lot of duckweed . . . “

I left the piles of duckweed at the water’s edge to give the pond life a chance to find its way back and gave a helping hand to a few ramshorn snails, dragonfly larvae and black water beetles that I spotted struggling.

I didn’t see any frogs or newts but I was skimming the surface layers and they were probably lying low. Continue reading “A Lot of Duckweed”

Goodnight to Flamboro’

Another link with Yorkshire composer and pianist William Baines (1899-1922)Alan Cuckston’s 1990 recording of a selection of his piano music is the only CD that I’ve ever provided the cover artwork for; a pencil and watercolour of one of Baines’ favourite places, drawn on location at Flamborough Head.

The centre piece of Cuckston’s recital, recorded at Leeds Grammar School on a Steinway piano, are two sea pieces, published as Tides (1920):

“Tonight I have written a lovely mind’s-eye impression. . . Goodnight to Flamboro’. The waves persistantly roll on the rock and in the caves. . .  A beautiful ecstatic sorrow surrounds everything about. . .”

William Baines, 1/7/1920

“This is an important disc,” Baines biographer Roger Carpenter tells me, “because it includes several items not otherwise issued commercially, such as Glancing Sunlight and Island of the Fay.”

At the Grave of William Baines

In 1995 Eric Parkin recorded a CD of the Piano Music of William Baines, which includes the Seven Preludes (1919) and Twilight Pieces (1921).

There’s a Baines connection to the music included on Robin Walker’s CD, I thirst. His piano piece At the Grave of William Baines was composed in 1999 to mark the centenary of Baines’ birth in Horbury. Walker writes:

“He was a composer who lived in his own reality, was solaced by Nature, and composed with a wild spirituality that always retained musical integrity.”

Links

Alan Cuckston’s Goodnight to Flamboro’ on Music Web

Eric Parkin’s Piano Music of William Baines in the Gramophone

Robin Walker

Clip Studio Sketch

After a bit of a break, I’ve gone back to Clip Studio Paint on the iPad Pro, drawing with an Apple Pencil. Struggling to draw from memory on the iPad (see below), I decided to re-familiarise myself with the process by drawing three India ink bottles that happened to be sitting on my desk.

As usual, I started with a pencil layer, which proved useful because I made the third bottle that I drew a bit too small compared with the others. I realised that it wasn’t going to work as I inked it in (below) so it was easy to go back to the pencil outline, to correct the proportions (right). Virtual erasers don’t chew up the virtual paper.

I created a new layer labelled ‘pen’ and drew with a G-pen, one of the standard pens in the Clip Studio toolbox.

I added a ‘paint’ layer and painted with some of the watercolour brushes but then felt that I needed some darker areas, so added another layer for different ink brushes.

I decided on a tonal background rather than the white of the virtual paper, so used the rectangle tool to draw a box around the subject which I then followed on one final layer, using the pen tool to trace around the box, so that the line matched the drawing.

Teacher in Tweed

This is the drawing from memory that I was struggling  with. It was supposed to be one of my teachers but I haven’t caught his character as I remember him. After a bit of drawing from life, I’m ready to try drawing from memory again.

Links

Clip Studio Paint

iPad Pro

William Baines Leaflet

Following a discussion on the Horbury and Sitlington History Facebook page, I looked out a copy of my leaflet, The Yorkshire of William Baines, produced as part of my Major Project on the Communication Design (graphic design) course at Leeds College of Art.

The project grew and grew until it included an exhibition and a recital by pianist Eric Parkin at the Harrogate Festival in August 1972, followed by another recital in Horbury, Baines’ home town, in the November (the 50th anniversary of his death, aged just 23), when Parkin was joined by contralto Caroline Foster, who performed five songs by Baines. I transcribed the songs from copies of the original manuscripts but fortunately pianist and singer were able to perform despite my inevitable errors.

Since my degree show days, my enthusiasm for pen and ink drawing and my interest in local history remain undiminished, but I’m so glad that my struggles with Letraset Times New Roman are a thing of the past. Letraset was rub-on lettering supplied on a plastic sheet, which was almost impossible to apply successfully. I wish that I could have had access to a time machine to pop forward 46 years to set up the project on my current iMac!

Victor Ambrus

My pen and ink style was heavily influenced by Victor Ambrus, at that time a prolific illustrator of history and children’s books, and later a regular on Channel 4’s Time Team. He incorporated finger prints into his drawings, so, so did I. I felt that if I could use the same pen and the same paper as he did, I might be able to achieve the assured springiness of his line.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask him about his technique when he did a session at a Children’s Book Fair in Leeds. I remember him telling me that he used layout paper for pen and ink work, and some readily available dip pen nib (if I remember rightly, he didn’t use a mapping pen).

Gathering material for the leaflet, I borrowed photographs and drawings from residents and former residents of Horbury and ordered copies of documents and photographs from the Baines archive in the Additional Manuscripts department of the British Library, which was then housed in the British Museum.

The publication was to be a booklet, but one of my graphic design tutors, John Daffern, persuaded me at a late stage to try something more adventurous, so it became two broadsheets in a card cover plus a facsimile of a career-changing telegram that Baines received from composer Arthur Eaglefield Hull. All this in a decorated envelope, that I sent out mail order, stamp stuck over the price tag – 5p – in the top right-hand corner.

The leaflet is currently available from the Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury.

Links

Rickaro Bookshop

Horbury and Sitlington History Page Facebook group

Mastering Comics

I’ve drawn comic strips since since I was aged eight or nine and I’ve published a few of them, from as early as 1979 in my Sketchbook of the Natural History of Wakefield, so you might think that I’ve left it a bit late in my career to read Mastering Comics, the sequel to Drawing Words & Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.

I’ve learnt a lot from it and I’ve especially enjoyed being immersed in all things comic: writing, planning, printing, binding and trying to make a living. It reminds me of the years that I was lucky enough to spend in total immersion in graphics and illustration during my time at art college.

Comic creators Abel and Madden teach the subject at New York’s School of Visual Arts, so they’re well aware of the practicalities and the questions that are likely to arise during the creative process. I can’t get to New York to take one of their courses, I’d get a lot out of that, so this is the next best thing.

Homework

Perspective homework: examples by Jessica Abel and Francois Ayroles. An activity I’d like to try for myself.

I decided to read right through the book but I’d like to go back and try some of the activities they suggest:

  • a sketchbook comic drawn entirely on location (which still evokes some kind of story)
  • a comic with no people that includes examples of different perspectives and viewpoints
  • a traditionally coloured comic using black line and CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) colours.

Link

Drawing Words & Writing Pictures