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.
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
September’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?
I love the printmaking effect that I can get by converting one of my sketches into a vector graphic in Adobe Illustrator CC 2018. I’ve reproduced this image at almost its full screen size (the original sketch is much smaller) because I didn’t want to soften it by reducing it too much.
I’ve downloaded the program this morning as part of my year’s subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and I’ve been going through the beginner’s tutorials as it’s so many years since I last used Illustrator.
I’d never come across the option to automatically trace a scan or a photograph of a drawing and turn it into crisp black and white vector artwork. I immediately started thinking of how I might use that in my work.
For instance, I’m currently working on a historical article for the Dalesman magazine and I feel that vector graphics could give the effect of a woodcut. Even after a lot of practice, I’m more used to drawing with a pen than an Apple Pencil, so this might be an effective way of combining the freedom of drawing with the graphics effects available on the computer.
In both of the examples above I went for the ‘Shades of Grey’ preset in the Trace Image dialogue.
We haven’t caught up with our friend Diana for a while, which gives me more time than I usually allow myself to sit and draw and, for once, PC the black cat is in a cooperative mood and doesn’t decide that the sitting is over after ten or twenty minutes as he usually does.
The A6 sketchbook that I’ve just finished was so handy for slipping into a pocket or into my smallest art bag but the A5 format that I’ve just switched to gives me the opportunity to keep starting again when PC moves, building up a page of different poses.
In this larger art bag I’ve got room for crayons as well as my usual watercolours, so I’ve used them for a change. Obviously black is the colour that I’ve used most but I could see that PC was picking up a bit of reflected light on his glossy coat from the carpet, although this looked orangey to me rather than the pinkish red of the carpet.
Later PC’s friend, a long-haired Siamese, strode in through the conservatory. He didn’t pause to return PC’s greeting but carried straight on to the food bowl in the corner of the kitchen. He knows his way around.
Room for one last little landscape sketch in my postcard-sized Seawhite Watercolour Travel Journal: a stubble field at Field House Farm, Overton, seen from the Seed Room Cafe at the Horticentre. The houses of Thornhill Edge sit amongst the trees on the ridge in the background, on the far side of the Smithy Brook Valley.
The original sketch is 9 cm, just over 3 inches, across.
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.
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.
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.