Bedding Plants

The borders are looking more colourful as we’ve just put in an osteospermum and a dianthus, otherwise known as Livingston daisy and carnation. The osteospermum is cinnamon orange, the dianthus two shades of pink and they’re surrounded by three punnets of pansies, twenty-seven plants in total, in saffron, deep purple, pale lilac and lemon. It reminds me of Kaffe Facett’s philosophy when knitting Fair Isle jumpers: when in doubt, add another colour.

The Tang of Tarragon

The herbs that we’ve also just planted have already added a spot of colour to our lunch; Barbara roughly chopped a sprig of tarragon, which added a bit of oomph to our lunchtime tortilla, along with a few chives and some fried-up tomatoes and potatoes.

Plants, Plastic and the Planet

It’s great to get that instant effect but I felt guilty consigning the plastic pots and plant trays to the domestic waste bin, as they can’t currently go in with the regular recycling, although we’re assured that there is some further sorting for recycling before the waste goes to incineration.

When we did a lot of growing from seed, I’d save every pot and tray that came our way, but, after the long and sometimes dreary winter, we like to get off on short breaks as often as we can in the spring.

The Buzzard’s Stratagem

As I typed this, there was a commotion from the pair of crows that seem to be regulars at this end of the wood.”Karr! Karr! Karr!”, one of them croaked, as they began to repeatedly fly up, then dive down on a buzzard that was flying away from the wood. On one dive, one of the crows appeared to make contact with the buzzard’s wing.The buzzard’s strategy seemed to be to find a thermal and gradually spiral up over the meadow, using up far less energy than the irate crows, which gave up the chase after a few minutes.

iPad Pond Photography

I’ve typed this post on my iPad Pro, out in our back garden, and hoped to finish with a photograph of common blue damselflies in tandem, touching down together to lay eggs individually in the pond, but that was beyond my skills and patience as an iPad photographer, so I settled for an easier subject: a frog amongst the duckweed.

Right, time to continue my Battle of the Bean Bed against the chicory that is making such efforts to take it over.

Newtricious

Back gardenThe female blackbird from the nest in a hawthorn at the end of the garden has found a way to feed her hungry brood; she perched on a rock in the pond and plucked a newt from the water and immediately flew off into the hedge.

As I write this, on location in our back garden, her mate is checking out a more conventional foraging habitat; you can just see him in my photograph, immediately to the left of the narrower set of alkathene hoops, behind the polygonum flower-spikes, on my mini-meadow area, which I strimmed this morning.

After a number of attempts to get a meadow going here over the last twenty years, I’ve decided on a change this year. My problem is that I unwisely introduced chicory, which thrives in the rich soil and spreading, as it does, by underground rhizomes, it can pop up in any odd space and it easily out-competes the meadow flowers such as birds-foot trefoil that I’d prefer to get established.

I spent this afternoon removing chicory from the veg bed nearest the meadow, which we’re about to sow borlotti beans in.

The only way that I’m going to prevent chicory dominating my meadow area is by cultivating it as I would any other part of the garden. It will be interesting to try something new here.

Serifs at a Stroke

Following the advice of Quentin Crisp and A.F. Stuart, I’m getting bolder; here’s another version of my heading after I’d spent an afternoon hand-lettering the captions for my article.

In Versal Letters, as Stuart & Crisp point out in Lettering for Brush & Pen, the serifs are drawn with a single stroke, which I think works well for a sketchbook heading.

I’ve read that serifs should appear to grow naturally from rest of the letter, rather than looking like something stuck on later but my tendency to draw them with the same care that I’d take in drawing the thorns on a rose or a hawthorn can make them look fussy.

I think the single-stroke serif works just fine.

Outline Lettering

In the first version, I filled in each letter as I went along; I think that I can build up a better rhythm if I stick to outlines only first.

I’m trying to get more of a rhythm going by drawing the outline of my lettering first, then going back to fill the gaps. I noticed when I took a close look at a Georgian print recently that hand-lettered headings don’t have to be drawn with pixel-perfect precision.

As A.F. Stuart and Quentin Crisp wrote in Lettering for Brush & Pen (Frederick Warne, 1939):

“The outlining should be done boldly, and not in a painstaking manner, a certain amount of irregularity being permissible owing to the individual effect of the style.”

They were talking about medieval Versal Letters, but the same thing applies to the sketchbook headings that I’m drawing for my July Dalesman article. Hopefully the more lettering that I do, the bolder I’ll get.

 

Cartooning in Colour

I’ve got a strong idea in my mind of what the historical Robert Adam would have looked like, but this is a comic strip, not a dramatised documentary, and I’m going for a pantomime version of the character. I’ve pared down the drawing to a cartoony style, which I think should work much better.

I’ve delved into the colour wheel rather than sticking to a standard set of swatches as I previously did but this is just a start. I would probably also add some texture, for instance on the gargoyle, the original of which, at Nostell, has a scaly texture.

Framing Up

I’m struggling to get into gear with my comic strip. On the one hand, I’m grateful that it’s not a commission, so there’s no deadline looming, but on the other hand, I only pick it up for odd moments in the evening, so it lacks the momentum you’d get from a freelance job.

I tried to get away from frames full of talking heads by adding a more dramatic first frame to this 4-panel comic strip by having the conversation taking place up on the scaffolding of Robert Adam’s edifice but then realised that I needed to focus on the relationship between my two characters, rather than the setting. My aim is to get a conversation going in the strip; action and reaction.

Initial rough for the first frame.

So glad that I haven’t got a client who needs the finished artwork in a hurry!

Yes, I admit it; it would be easier for me to create characters by doodling away, pen on paper, but getting familiar with the feel of Apple Pencil on iPad screen, is really the point of the project for me, that and learning Clip Art Studio.

 

The Wind over Whitley

With a low over the North Atlantic, we’ve got the prospect of warm winds coming up from France and Spain but this morning it’s blowing so cold that, by the time I’ve drawn the ewe, my eyes are watering so much that I can hardly focus on the twin lambs which are following her.

Time to go indoors here at Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour for coffee and scones and to draw the view looking up the Calder Valley to the moors.

Link

Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour

Memories of Morandi

Can I ever draw bottles without thinking of Morandi? Certainly not when I’m drawing the stoneware bottles they keep lined up on the window sills at Filmore & Union in the Redbrick Mill in Batley.

My first commission after leaving college was to spend a weekend drawing at a house, a Victorian vicarage, not far from Oxford. I took down my Natural History Illustration degree show at the Royal College of Art, got on the train to Oxford and enjoyed drawing for a long weekend. My favourite subject was the interior of the potting shed, which included a wooden wheelbarrow, tools, a trug and, of course, stacks of assorted terra cotta plant pots. That pen drawing became the centre spread of the small sketchbook that I produced, which consisted of eight or perhaps as many as a dozen pages, carefully extracted from my Bushey foolscap sketchbook, which they had bound as a slim hardback.

I remember thinking that if this was life after college, I could get used to it, as it was basically a continuation of what I’d done at college, just draw, draw, draw, day in day out, except that now someone was willing to pay me to do it!

Morandi Sketchbook

The man who I was working for had been in the British Army in Bologna during World War II, and had befriended Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) and, I think, helped him out during a difficult time. Morandi presented him with (or more probably, he bought from Morandi) a small sketchbook of drawings – of bottles, naturally. Morandi had used whatever had come to hand and my memory is that at least some of the drawings were in ballpoint pen on cheap paper.

Earlier this month, on a previous visit to Filmore & Union.

Morandi’s bottles were never as standoffish as the bottles in Filmore & Union, but I guess that’s the reserved character of British bottles compared with Morandi’s highly sociable Italian bottiglie, which were always getting together with boxes, jars, jugs and vases.

When I was a student, my favourite painting in the National Gallery was Vuillard’s La Cheminée but probably, if I had the choice today, the painting that I’d most like to live with would be a small Morandi.

Comic Template

Now that I’ve steadily gone through the basics of Clip Studio Paint EX, I’m ready to get the program working for me and to use its features to speed up my workflow.

As I’m sticking with the same layout for the whole series of Gargoyle comic strips, I’ve saved the four-frame layout as a template, which is simply the blank comic strip before I’ve added any drawings or text.

All I have to do next time is open the template and get straight on with the drawing.

The title of the strip goes in a fifth frame; the only difference is that this one has no border around it.

Clip Studio Paint EX, iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

Frame & Paper

If the Frame as a whole is selected, you won’t be able to draw on any of the layers within that frame.

What once seemed obscure has now become second nature to me. For instance, when using the pen or pencil tool, I was often baffled when the mouse-pointer changed to a ‘No Entry’ sign and I was unable to draw. Now if that happens, I head straight for the Frames palette as it usually turns out that I’m attempting to draw on the ‘Frame’ rather than on the virtual ‘paper’ (my layers for roughs, pencils, pen and paint) inside that frame.

Colour Set & Colour Wheel

For my first Adam & the Gargoyle comic strip I kept the process as simple as possible by accepting all the defaults. I chose colours from the Default color set but I’m now starting to use the Colour Wheel, which gives an almost infinitely varied choice of colours.

Borders and Balloons

I’m now able to adjust the width of the border around each frame and of the border around the speech bubbles.

That elusive balloon-editing palette. I don’t normally keeping it floating in the workspace.

The latter isn’t that obvious, as you need to select the bubble with the Object Selector (left), not the Text Tool and you then have to delve down into the Tool Property [Object] Sub-tool Palette.

Link

Clip Paint Studio EX: the iPad version is currently free for the first six months, if you want to try it.

The Rudiments of Comics

I’ve enjoyed drawing this comic strip in Clip Studio Paint EX as it’s been such a learning experience. Every aspect of the strip could do with some tweaking to get it as I want but at least I’ve gone through every stage involved in producing a comic.

I’ve often thought how much quicker it would have been to draw it by hand, and, to be honest, I’d probably have preferred a hand-drawn, watercolour approach, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise for me; the main aim was to get to know the software and to shake my ideas up a bit by tackling an illustration project from a different perspective.

Hand-drawn Fonts

The hand-lettered font  used in the speech bubbles is CC Joe Kubert, a tribute to the DC Comics artist.

The bold face used for the ‘HEY! YOU!’ speech bubble is BadaBoom Pro BB Italic.

My own wobbly hand-lettering would have given the strip a gentler look but I love the way these bolder typefaces give the strip pace; the reader isn’t going linger, admiring the typefaces, as they might pause to admire the copperplate calligraphy that would be one approach to an a strip set in the eighteenth century.

The typeface for the main title was added in Photoshop CS5, as my iPad only carries a limited number of fonts. This is a typeface called Trattatello, which is the Italian for ‘tract’. It’s perfect for my strip as one of the characters, Robert Adam, has been on the Grand Tour to Rome and is determined to use the true Classical style in his architecture and interior design. In fact he’s written a tract about it, well a bit more than that; a lavishly illustrated coffee table book of his designs.

You can imagine that he’s not exactly going to hit it off with the gargoyle.

Character & Storyline

After the learning curve that I’ve been on in getting familiar with Clip Studio’s tools and palettes, the end result seems ridiculously simple. As you can probably see from the more involved drawing in this last frame, I’m now keen to get into developing characters and storylines.

The four-panel strip format is a great way to concentrate my ideas and I’ve got plenty of scenarios in mind, in fact I keep waking up in the middle of the night with some bright idea or another. It’s also inspiring walking around Nostell Priory Park, where the strip is set.

Hopefully I’ll speed up production and be able to work through a lot of these storylines. I feel that drawing comic strips is something which requires a feedback loop; by which I mean it’s no use planning your project to the nth degree, you need to see something on paper (or in this case, on screen) and react to and build on that.