Spring back into Sketching

View from Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, yesterday morning. Even in the mist and rain there’s something to draw in the panorama of the Calder Valley.
Houseplant, Howarthia, a South African succulent, a member of the lily family, Filmore & Union, Redbrick Mill, Batley.

In search of a drawing for my latest Dalesman article, I’ve been delving back through my sketchbooks of ten and eleven years ago. Browsing through pages that I drew while we were travelling or at family gatherings, I realise that it’s time for me to get back into everyday sketching

As a small start, here are a few pages from my current pocket-sized Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. It’s paper isn’t intended for watercolour but, inspired by those 2007/8 sketches, I feel that colour adds a lot to rapid line drawings; not just extra information but also mood.

If you use a sketchbook as a visual diary, colour can evoke a memory more effectively than black and white.

So far, it hasn’t been a hard winter, but it has often been drearily wet so the veg beds in our garden are sodden and the paths in the wood muddier than usual, but snowdrops and winter aconites have been in flower for weeks and we do keep getting brighter days, encouraging Barbara and I to begin to thinking about setting off for the coast or the hills or to take a city break or a Eurostar break.

When we do I want the sketching habit to have become second nature.

Spurred on, I drew people on the platform at Leeds station last week, adding colour from memory later.

I’ve taken to scanning my sketches a high res, 300 dots per inch, then scaling them down for the web, but seeing the full res version on screen, I realise that I lose a lot of texture in the smaller version. In fact, I can see the drawing better blown up on the screen of my iMac than I can in the original sketch.

This figure pulling along a case is just an inch and a half tall in my sketchbook.

Hatstand at Peter’s Barber’s shop.
Peter the barber, drawn yesterday in Ossett.

 

 

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

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.

Newsagents, 1938

Tracing from a vintage postcard in Clip Studio Paint.

I recently joined a local history group on Facebook, focussing on Horbury and neighbouring Sitlington. This newsagents caught my attention; it appears in the left-hand corner of a postcard of Queen Street, Horbury, one of series which Helen Bickerdike, administrator of the group, has been posting.

I’ve been doing a bit or research into the film titles on the poster for the Savoy Cinema and into what I can decipher of the newspapers and journals. I’ll explain more when I finish the picture and can pick out some of the details but it must have been taken a year or two before the outbreak of World War II, perhaps in January, 1938.

The shop, which was Noble’s Newsagents in until the late 1960s, appears, second from the left, on the cover of my booklet.

Like the digital painting of Coxley Beck which I posted the other day, I’m doing this as a way of getting thoroughly familiar with the program Clip Studio Paint.

When I was writing my local history booklets, such as Around Old Horbury (1998), I did a lot of drawings like this, initially by sitting on street corners with my sketchbook, but later using my own photographs as reference.

I had a unique opportunity when I redrew the cover illustration as a wrap-around design for a china mug. When I arrived in Horbury, one Sunday morning, I discovered that they’d closed the High Street for resurfacing and I was able to sit on my fishing stool in the middle of the road, to get a perfect view of the sweeping curve at the lower end of Queen Street.

Link

Around Old Horbury on my Willow Island Editions website (£2.95, post free in the U.K.)