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.


Clip Studio Paint

iPad Pro

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.


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.


Drawing Words & Writing Pictures



Continuing to experiment with drawing comics in line only, I’ve made a start on trying to capture memories of my class teachers from junior school days.

Miss Andrassy – I think she was ‘Miss’, not Mrs – was our teacher when we started at St Peter’s Juniors in Horbury.

Miss Andrassy was keen on art and I remember her setting up a still life for us to draw.

In our second year, Mr Harker, then in the pre-fab in the playground, was the teacher who first introduced us to dip pens and joined-up writing.

I’ve got strong mental impressions of these characters but some details of their appearance are guesswork, for instance did Miss Andrassy wear glasses?

I’ll come back to her after I’ve drawn Mr Thompson (third year) and Mr Lindley (fourth year), as I’m sure I could get nearer to the character I see in my mind’s eye.

Mr Harker didn’t tax my memory to the same extent as I saw him earlier this year in Debenham’s cafe in Wakefield, and he’s very much the same personality that I remember from almost sixty years ago.

Low Alpine Edge 22

Because I mostly draw in pen with a watercolour wash, when it comes to black and white, I find that the most natural way for me to use brush and ink is to add solid areas to a pen drawing.

Line drawing before inking the dark areas.

I’ve drawn my new Lowe Alpine Edge 22 hiking day pack (our old pack was starting to tear along the seams) with my Lamy Safari with the B nib filled with Noodler’s Black Ink then used a number 6 sable and Rohrer’s Indian Ink (see previous post) for the dark areas.

The grey straps and a few shadows in the side pockets were the only areas that I thought would merit solid black but I’ve used a lot of fine brush strokes, often following the weave of the material, for the grey areas. In fact the bag is monochromatic, in two shades of neutral grey.

I like the way that you can tail off a brushstroke to get a pointed line to represent a graded tone. The crisp lines give a woodcut effect.

I used the threshold adjustment in Photoshop in the final version of the drawing (above) to reduce the drawing to pure black and white.


Lowe Alpine Edge 22 hiking day pack

Black Gold

Close-up of my drawing below.

The chapter Black Gold in Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden discusses inking comics with a brush. It’s written in such an entertaining and practical way that I thought I’d like to give it a try.

I’ve always struggled when drawing with a brush because:

  1. My hands are so shaky.
  2. I find myself thinking of calligraphic Chinese brushwork and realise that my technique is always going to fall short of that calm fluency.
One of my Merrell Jungle Lace shoes, drawn on Daler Rowney 250 gm Bristol Board.

Abel & Madden highlight some appealing aspects of brushwork that had never occurred to me, for example that brush dries more quickly than dip pen.

They take you step by step through the process of inking. I like their method of dampening the brush before dipping it in the ink, which works better than going straight for the ink. Dipping the brush several times and “tipping off” on the rim of the ink bottle helps build up a reservoir of ink in the brush without overloading it.

My drawing of the shoe took just two brush-loads of ink.

Daler Rowney Aquafine Sable Round, 10 and 6.

I used a number 6 Daler Rowney Aquafine Sable Round and Rhorer’s Black Indian Ink. I feel that I can clean the brush more easily when using the Rhorer’s than I can with my other Indian ink, Lefranc & Bourgeois Nan-King.


Adjusting the threshold level, before and after: in the original, the ink varies in tone but adjusting the threshold level in Photoshop turns the drawing to pure black and white and gives it the look of a lino-cut or woodcut.

In a chapter on reproducing inked artwork, Abel & Madden go through the process of scanning. Over the years, I’ve scanned hundreds, if not thousands, of pen and ink drawings but I still picked up tips from their suggested workflow; for instance, to reset the resolution (dots per inch) in Photoshop before adjusting the threshold levels (the balance between black and white).

I now feel ready to progress to their follow-up book, 
Mastering Comics, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures Continued, which amongst other topics, moves on to colour.


Drawing Words & Writing Pictures website

The View from the Terrace


Looking east from the balcony at Filmore & Union, I sketch the terraced houses of Commonside, Crackenedge. A section of the Kirklees Way footpath, a 72-mile circuit taking in the valleys of the Colne, Spen and Holme, which runs along the top of the slope.

The ‘cracken’ in the place name doesn’t refer to the sea monster, the Kraken, of Viking myth, but it probably does derive from a Viking word, meaning ‘crooked’ or ‘broken’; a suitable description for the escarpment of Thornhill Rock, a sandstone. Hanging Heaton Golf Club lies on its plateau, above the 130 metre contour of the outcrop.

With the temperature at 24°C, 75°F, it feels continental out here, overlooking Redbrick Mill’s leafy courtyard garden. When we first visited the Mill about fifteen years ago, Stephen Battye, the entrepreneur behind the project, pointed out a pair of kestrels that were nesting here.

It’s our first time out on the balcony and also the first time that we’ve tried the turmeric and goji berry scones; delicious with a bit of honey and a latte.

Nine Little Piggies

Four weeks old now, and the piglets at Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour are larger and leaner.

I choose a couple to draw that seem to be settled but soon another piglet nuzzles in to sleep beside them, then another squeezes in between them.

The piglet’s concave snout fits comfortably into the concave contours of its sleeping partner.

Another sign that the piglets are maturing: today, when the sow finishes feeding and disappears into the shelter, the piglets are grunting, rather than squeaking, as they did when they were younger.

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.


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.