Dick Whittington

Fitzwarren’s shop.

Who would have thought that copying the lettering on a Georgian satirical etching would be of any practical use so soon. The freely hand-drawn italics and capitals from Darly’s Antique Architect were what I had in mind when I added the name to the sign over Alderman Fitzwarren’s shop for the London scene in this year’s Pageant Players’ pantomime, Dick Whittington.

Talking of lettering, a little tip: if you’re fitting lettering into a particular space, work out which is the middle letter and start with that.

In the case of the ‘Fitzwarren’s’  shop sign, I started at the halfway point above the Georgian bow-fronted window and painted the second half of the word – ‘arren’s’ – before working my way, in reverse order, through the first half: ‘Fitzw’. Just be careful not to smudge the lettering you’ve already added.

I was careful not to look at a photograph of the real St Paul’s Cathedral before I added a pantomime version of the familiar landmark on the right-hand side of the London back-drop.

Sadly, this will be the last pantomime with our producer Wendie Wilby at the helm, as she’s stepping down, and I’ve decided that it’s a good opportunity for me to call it a day, after fifty-one years painting scenery for them. It’s a shame because, as one of the younger members commented today, being in the Pageants’ is like being part of a family; she was referring to the mutual support that helps members make progress, from complete beginners to – in some cases – a career in show business.

That certainly refers to our team of scenic painters today as we more or less completed the desert scene after the lunch break.

As this is Wendie’s last production we’ve thrown everything at it: beach, palm trees and even a volcano.

The Antique Architect

My iPad copy of the 1773 etching by M Darly. There’s no indication of colour in the original, so I’ve loosely based that on the Willison portrait, see below.

I was determined not to do any research for my comic strip, working title Adam and the Gargoyle, but here I go again . . .

My characters might have been reasonably convincing in the pencil roughs but, when it came to inking and resolving the details, it didn’t seem to be working. I realised that, for instance, I don’t know what kind of tailcoat my architect character, Robert Adam, might have been wearing c. 1770, when he was busy with improvements and decorative schemes for Nostell Priory.

Of course, I’m creating a pantomime version of Adam but it needs to relate the historical character so I was delighted when Google turned up a caricature, an etching dated 11th October 1773, by the prolific satirist Matthew Darly (fl. 1741-1778), now in the collections of the British Museum. It occurs to me that this might be the work of his wife Mary Darly (fl. 1756-1779), who was was also a publisher, satirist, teacher and caricaturist.

The ‘Antique Architect’, one of a series of Characters, Macaronies & Caricatures that Darly published, most probably depicts Robert Adam (1741-1797) as Robert and his brother James had recently published their first volume of Works in Architecture.

Porte Crayon

As I copied the etching on my iPad (in Clip Studio Paint, as usual), one detail that I found odd was the writing implement. It looks like a double-ended pen, topped and tailed with steel nibs, which I imagine would have been impractical to use.

Again, thanks to good old Google, I’m able to identify it as a porte crayon, a travel pencil: a piece of bamboo split at both ends to accommodate two crayon leads, with two brass rings to keep the leads in place. In the one that I’ve drawn from a photograph on an auction site, there’s red at one end and graphite at the other.

Robert Adam portrait

Image re-used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence

Robert Adam
George Willison (1741–1797) (attributed to)
National Portrait Gallery, London

Links

The Antique Architect, etching by M Darly at the British Museum

Nostell Priory and Parkland, National Trust

A Little Rough

First rough; having got that on paper – or at least on the iPad – I can now improve characters, dialogue and setting as I move on to the next layer and work in pen.

Whenever I think about drawing a comic strip I start to get white page syndrome. If I thought too hard about this little idea, inspired by the gargoyle that I drew last week, I’d likely break off to research the historical setting and the costumes.

After my recent experiments in drawing on the iPad in Clip Studio Paint, this is my first attempt at using the program to generate a comic strip, so I’m keeping the layout ultra simple.

Limiting myself to four squares, each with a ruled border around it, means that – if the final strip was ever used anywhere – it could be four horizontal frames or four vertical and if, as I intend, I was to draw five strips on the same theme, as you’d see in a daily paper, they could go together in a four by five grid, for the Saturday morning supplement, in comic strip tradition.

Layers in Clip Studio Paint.

I’ve always struggled with the concept of adding frames in Clip Studio, partly because there are several alternative ways to do that so I’ve gone with the method that I’ve become familiar with, treating each frame as a separate drawing.

The main difference is there’s no photographic reference this time, and I’m enjoying working from my imagination for a change.

The First Day of Spring

Hellebore: Noodler’s Ink won’t dry when it’s so cool.

Today is the first day of spring, at least meteorologically speaking, but, with a cool breeze this afternoon, the temperature here in the back garden is a wintry 45°F, 7°C.

As a change from Apple Pencil and iPad in the comfort of my studio, I decide to spend an hour drawing in the garden.

The Noodler’s Ink in my Lamy fountain pen won’t dry when it’s so cool, so I move on to a UniPin fine line fibre tip.

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

Perhaps encouraged by the supermoon – which was 10% brighter than the average full moon – a blackbird was singing at 2.30 this morning.

Long-tailed tits feed on the fat-balls a couple of yards away from me as I draw the hellebore.

wood pigeon flies overhead, spots me and veers away.

blue tit eyes me suspiciously from the feeding pole.

 

Snowdrops

The fibre tip isn’t fluid enough for me to work as quickly as I’d like on sketch of a log pile by the holly hedge, so I try my Lamy Safari fountain pen. Lamy ink isn’t waterproof, so it runs into my watercolour but I try to make the most of the effect.

Snowdrops do well around the pond and under the hedge at the end of our garden.

The Menagerie Lion

This stone lion, reclining on the lawn, always takes me by surprise as we walk past a large evergreen oak and it springs into view. Surprisingly, a real lion was once kept here in the Menagerie at Nostell Priory, just yards from the Doncaster to Wakefield turnpike road, behind a high stone wall in an old quarry. There’s a story that it once escaped and roamed around the area.

Once again it’s an iPad drawing, which has the advantage that, even after I’ve added the colour, I can hide the paint layer and turn it back into a line drawing with one tap of my Apple Pencil.

Nostell Gargoyle

This gargoyle guards a collection of medieval finials, pillar fragments and a battered font housed in one of the stalls in the stable block at Nostell Priory.

Drawn – closely following a photograph I’d taken – in Clip Art Studio with an Apple Pencil on my iPad Pro.

Link

Nostell Priory, National Trust

iPad Landscape

I’ve taken my iPad Pro on location for the first time and drawn this view over the Calder Valley around Mirfield from the shelter of Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, Whitley.

As usual, I used an Apple Pencil and the iPad version of Clip Studio Paint.

I started with the Transparent Watercolour brush then used the Uneven Layering Brush for the wet-on-wet blotches on the clouds.

On a new layer I used the pen tool with the G-pen nib to add the white patches were distant snow on the moors between Brighouse and Haworth.

I used mainly paint swatches directly from the standard palette but decided that the brown that I’d used to suggest trees and field boundaries was too dark, so I gently rubbed over it with the Soft Eraser tool.

Roman Villa at Lupset

In my art college days, back in the late 1960s and early 70s, if you looked down Manor Road, Ossett, towards the newly constructed M1 motorway (this section opened in 1968), you’d see, not the tree-fringed grassy slope Lupset Hill that I sketched last week (left), but the spoil heaps of Roundwood Colliery.

The name Lupset might be from the Norse ‘Lufa’s, or Luppa’s Headland’.

Mosaics, presumably from a Roman villa, were reported from Lupset in the nineteenth century, but they have since disappeared. As a boy, William Briggs, a market gardener from Thornes, saw:

‘Some Roman tessellated pavements just beneath the surface in the field between Snapethorpe Hall and the road leading to Ossett (Ossett Street-side) . . . he had bared them with his cap in order to look more particularly at the pattern.’

Wakefield, Its History and People, J W Walker, Chapter II

So, if you live between the A638, which follows the course of a Roman road, the Via Vicinalis, and the site of Snapethorpe Primary School (the site of the old Hall) and you keep finding small square tesserae when you’re digging the garden, you might be on the site of a long lost Roman villa.

Newsagents in Colour

Here’s the coloured version of Kershaw’s Newsagents, now no. 7, Queen Street, Horbury.

I’ve been able to narrow down the dates of the postcard that I drew this detail from to 1938-1939, so immediately before World War II.

The Savoy Cinema

It was the cinema poster than gave me my first clue. The Savoy was an out-of-town cinema, latterly a bingo hall, next to the Whinney Moor Hotel on Horbury Road, Wakefield.

I walked past it on what turned out to be its last night, walking back from an evening class in Wakefield. It burnt down that night and was eventually replaced by the Lupset Medical Centre. My evening class ran from September 1990 to June 1991, but I can’t remember the date of the fire.

Anyway, getting back to dating that poster:

Bank Holiday was a British drama film directed by Carol Reed and starring John Lodge and Margaret Lockwood. It was released 27 January, 1938. Being out-of-town, I suspect that the Savoy showed movies a week or two after their initial release.

Love Under Fire must have been showing well after its first screening on 20 August, 1937. An American drama, set during the Spanish Civil War, it starred Loretta Young and Don Ameche. Don Ameche had a long film career; he starred in Cocoon: The Return in 1988.

Radio Times

Despite being able to browse through every copy of The Radio Times for that period (see link below), I haven’t been able to spot a specific issue which featured the first broadcast of Elizabeth, the Queen Consort, (better remembered by my generation as The Queen Mother).

There was a lot of coverage of various royal visits in the Radio Times during 1938. This was probably due to the Government and Buckingham Palace trying to undo the potential damage caused by the recently abdicated Edward VIII and his wife (Wallis Simpson, as was), visiting the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, in October 1937.

If you do take a look through the Radio Times for that period and you spot a broadcast billed as Elizabeth’s first, please let me know.

Pearson’s Magazine

I can only decipher the title of one of the periodicals on display, Pearson’s, a magazine of speculative fiction and predominantly left wing political comment, which at that time was edited by John Reed Wade, who had been in charge since 1920. W.E. Johns, author of the Biggles stories, took over as editor in May the following year but the magazine ceased publication in November, which confirms that the photograph must have been taken pre-war.

The magazine or poster to the left of the news-rack, in the doorway, which is also visible in the window, shows a large ship with a crane in the background, so I’d guess that this is a feature about the building of the liner RMS Queen Elizabeth, which was launched by Elizabeth, the Queen Consort, at Clydebank, Scotland, on 27 September, 1938.

There’s what could be a comic in the middle of window. The Beano was already established at the time (although Leo Baxendale’s Bash Street Kids wouldn’t appear for another fifteen years, so probably not worth bothering with).

Queen Street Today


The Kershaw’s Newsagents is now Bike Medic, but there’s still a barber’s, Mister Lister’s next door. The shop fronts have changed a little but the drain pipe – and its top funnel – is still the original!

Before taking the photograph, Barbara and I had called for coffee and freshly baked scones (cherry, this morning) at the Rich & Fancy cafe, three doors up from the bike repair shop.

Local Colour

I couldn’t find any colour reference so I decided to try a bottle green for the newsagent’s, which I believe was a popular colour at that time.

For me it doesn’t ring true, even though I’ve faded it out a bit in my colour image (top), however the advantage of having drawn it as a digital image is that I could change the colours on the paint layer if I wished, without damaging my line drawing in any way.

I can also easily output the drawing in line, black and white half-tone or sepia.

I like the sepia but it does make the scene look too cosily Victorian, rather than Britain on the eve of war.

Links

Savoy Cinema

Bank Holiday, film, 1938.

Love Under Fire, film, 1937

Radio Times, the 1930s

Pearson’s Magazine

Newsagents in Pen

I’ve used the pen tool with the G-pen nib in Clip Studio Paint in this drawing of  Kershaw’s Newsagents, Horbury, in 1938. The effect is very similar to my regular pen and ink drawings, although bringing the whole drawing together wasn’t so straightforward; although I appreciated being able to zoom in on the different sections of the drawing as I worked, this did mean that it felt a bit like working on a jigsaw: I’d concentrate on one area, such as an edge, but I’d lose sight of the picture of a whole as I did that.

Adding colour was also unfamiliar to me, compared with using my watercolours. I’ve stuck to one brush to get the feel for that particular setting, but the result feels like colouring using a felt-tip pen.

The whole exercise has been useful for getting used to the range of marks that I can produce with pen and brush in the program. I’m sure that I’ll find it useful.