Swaledale

How is it that sheep, as soon as you stop to photograph them stop behaving naturally and give you that ‘what are you doing?’ look before bounding away.

This is obviously one of this year’s lambs and its tail hasn’t been docked.

iPad drawing from a photograph.

Common Inkcap

Common inkcap at Newmillerdam. This one had been knocked over, revealing that its gills were turning to ink. Drawn on my iPad from a photograph taken with my Olympus Tough.

Pots of Pens

pots of pens

Well, one French yogurt pot of pens and two treacle/syrup tins plus an olive and a baking powder tin of them.

A few years ago, I couldn’t walk past a stationer’s or an art store without going in to see if they had an interesting pen for me to try. Today I’m happy with my TWSBI Eco T fountain pen so I stick with that, which probably is Eco-friendly, as – locally for us – all those single-use pens can’t go in the regular recycling and apparently end up in an incinerator, although Douglas Adams put forward the theory that missing ballpoint pens slip through a wormhole into an alternative dimension.

As usual, I’m using Noodler’s waterproof ink and Winsor & Newton watercolours.

Printing Booklets

Stapling
Saddle stapler, bone folder and long-nosed pliers for the occasional bent staple.

Printing booklets has been a cottage industry for me for the last twenty years. It took me all day to print a hundred copies of various walks and local guides, so it’s very labour intensive, however it’s satisfying to turn sheets of laser paper and card into A5- and A4-size booklets.

Surprisingly, there were no serious hiccups, other than the printer running out of paper and on one occasion running out of toner.

Dalesman Nature Diary

Dalesman September 2018

The September Dalesman magazine just dropped through the door and I’m delighted with how my Wild Yorkshire nature diary has turned out this month. The drawings have a bit more room to breathe than usual and the daisies and germander speedwells, photographed in Thornes Park this summer, give a suitably relaxed frame for my Pink Pig A5 sketchbook.

As usual the lettering and drawings were dropped in later, as it would be so difficult to get the exposure just right for each element.

Sketchbook v. Notebook

I’ve been using the sketchbook format in my articles for a year now but starting in the new year, we’re going to try something different as it so difficult to tell a story in the few paragraphs of hand-written text that can be comfortably fitted in amongst my drawings.

I’m hoping that I can still keep some of the quirkiness of the visual joke of popping a sketchbook down on the turf or on the beach, so perhaps I’ll go back to my regular text and illustrations for the diary but incorporate some element like a real feather or fossil resting on the page or a ladybird crawling across it.

A Curious Cat

Dalesman magazineSeptember’s issue of the Dalesman is, as usual, full of all things Yorkshire: the Wakefield’s Mystery Plays, Leeds Library (wish I lived nearer, I’d join), the dolls houses of Newby Hall and bird of prey conservation.

And yes, also as usual, my sketches are upstaged by watercolours and oils from Yorkshire’s artistic talent –John Harrison’s Healaugh and Chris Geall’s Mallyan Spout – but  my favourite image in this issue is Stephen Garnett’s double-page spread photograph of a back alley in Robin Hood’s Bay village.

How did he manage to find that comically curious cat which so perfectly matches the sun-dappled stone of the cobbles and cottages?

Links

Dalesman magazine

John Harrison: Drawn in Yorkshire

Chris Geall

Stephen Garnett photography

Common Darter

common darter

I realised that I stood a chance of photographing this male common darter, Sympetrum striolatum, because, as its name suggests, its hunting technique was to keep darting out from the corner of the herb bed then returning to sit in the same spot, soaking up the sun on the stonework.

Thinking that it would be too restless for me to get close to it, I went for my 40-150 mm zoom lens but, when it went on to settle by the pond, I could have got close enough to use the macro. The zoom couldn’t focus any closer than a couple of feet.

darterThe female common darter yellow, which gradually fades to dark olive.

When I cleared duckweed from the pond in the early summer, I came across perhaps a dozen dragonfly larvae which were about the right size to become darter dragonflies, each of which I coaxed back into the pond.

The highlight on its compound eye is hexagonal, as are the individual lenses that make it up.

It has yellow stripes running along the length of its black legs.

Potting Bench

Our greenhouse has a bit of a question-mark hanging over it because we’re keen to keep getting away in the springtime, which is just at the time when we should be getting things going in there.

Long Hot Summer

Last year while we were away, an earlier than expected scorching spell of weather withered the young tomato plants and they never really recovered, so it was a lot of work and watering for a few handfuls of not so brilliant tomatoes.

This spring we were away so much that we didn’t put any plants in at all but we were glad of that later when it turned out to be a record-breaking hot, dry summer. They would have struggled to survive in the searing temperatures that can build up in the greenhouse.

The drip irrigation system that I rigged up a few years ago for when we go away has never been as successful as hand-watering would have been.

Shuffling Sheds

Most mornings this summer it was too hot to enjoy sitting out on our southeast-facing patio, so hot that on occasion, when I sat down to put my gardening shoes on, I’d lay down my gloves on edge of patio because the paving slabs were uncomfortably hot to sit on.

We realise that we need a shady corner where we can sit out, so our plan is to dismantle the greenhouse, move the shed down there then construct a simple shelter in its place that we can use in either sun or rain.

The Modern Greenhouse

The Modern GreenhouseWhen bought our house thirty-five years ago, we were offered the greenhouse as well (at a price of course!), so it’s going to be a wrench to let it go.

What I can’t bring myself to part with just yet is my dad’s book on The Modern Greenhouse, as I’d like to browse through it to get a bit of insight of what his ambitions were during my school and student days when he got so into growing under glass in his cedar-framed greenhouse that he had a second, leant-to, greenhouse built against the high Victorian brick wall adjacent to it.

How up-to-date the book was in 1970, I’m not sure as my dad’s copy is the fourteenth edition of a book first published in 1938 and revised only once, in 1955.

My drawing of the potting bench (top) was made on my iPad in Adobe Draw, tracing from a photograph. I’d already reduced the photograph to pure black and white but I realised that I shouldn’t be too literal as I traced it, or it wouldn’t look like a pen and brush ink drawing, so I tried to be fairly free.

Poplar Hawk-moth

This poplar hawk-moth was attracted to the ultra-violet light of a moth-trap that I set up in our garden a few years ago. They like willows, watersides, woodlands and gardens, so our location here at the lower end of Coxley Valley offers a perfect habitat.

Unlike other hawk-moths, it holds its hind-wings out at right angles so that they project in front of the fore-wings.

Drawn from a photograph on the iPad using Adobe Sketch, my first drawing using the program.

Young Dude

Richard as a cowboy, aged about 5 or 6.

If I hadn’t become an illustrator, perhaps I could have had a career as a cowboy. This photograph from the mid to late 1950s of me toting six-shooters brings back so many memories.

Richard as a cowboyThe shiny new silver six-gun in my right hand fired the kind of caps that come in a ribbon while the old gold model in my left needed to be laboriously loaded for each shot with an individual paper cap, which wouldn’t be a lot of use if you were being attacked by a whole posse of baddies.

However, I remember that it was engraved with curlicue patterns, so I reckoned that if I ever got lost in deep in canyon country, I could use it as a map.

I can still remember the smell of gunpowder and metal.

I’m pretty certain that the holster was one that my mum had made from skiver, a thin sheet of sheepskin leather. Not sure if it really was green with red trim, but I did once have a waistcoat from a cowboy outfit in those colours. The hand-knitted Aran pullover was most likely grey but probably not the kind of thing that gunslingers wore in the Old Wild West.

My drawing was made as a way of getting familiar with Adobe Illustrator Draw, a vector drawing program, using an Apple Pencil on my iPad.

Oak Apple

oak apple

Oak apples are at their freshest – spongy and sometimes rose-pink – around the time of Oak Apple Day, the 29 May. The day commemorates the Restoration of the Monarchy in Britain on 26 May 1660, when Charles II returned from exile.

The summer generation of the gall wasp Biorhiza pallida, has already emerged. As many as thirty of them live in separate larval chambers in the gall but they’re often joined by parasites and by inquilines: live-in lodgers that don’t attack the resident larvae. The variety of species sharing the gall probably explains the different sizes of the exit holes that they’ve made.

The fertilised females will go on to penetrate the ground and lay their eggs in the roots of oak trees. The larvae usually spend two winters developing underground, each in its own root gall, then emerge early in the year. This early spring generation will all be wingless and all female.

The unfertilised females climb into the branches of the oak and lay numerous eggs at the base of a bud. An oak apple forms from each bud and, as in my photograph, often several of them are clustered together. Males and females develop in separate galls.

These were on a small sessile oak growing by the towpath alongside the Calder & Hebble Navigation, downstream from Horbury Bridge.