Drawing all those frames for my flick-book cartoons has helped me to feel at ease using Clip Studio Paint on the iPad. One advantage the iPad is that you can zoom in to work on details with a pinching movement of two fingers and you can rotate the whole drawing, simply by rotating two fingers. These two actions were useful when it came to writing in all the titles of the books.

Once the iPad knows that you’re drawing with an Apple Pencil, it rejects any finger movements it detects as drawing but still responds to any gestures, such as rotation and zooming in.

Paper, Pen & Pencil

There are four layers in my original Clip Studio file: the default paper background (plain white); pencil, for my initial drawing; colour, using the watercolour brush and pen, using the ‘real G-pen’.

To make it more like a real sketchbook drawing, I left my original pencil lines visible. If I’d been aiming for finished-looking illustration, I could have removed all the pencil work with a single click of the mouse: no meticulous rubbing out with a soft art eraser.

Meet the Author

It’s our great nephew Henry Roman’s christening today and I’ve been collared by Oliver, aged eight, and Ted, aged six. Oliver asks me to draw a snake – I’m going to need a bit more practice with that – and Ted requests a husky, which again I struggle to draw from memory; I definitely wouldn’t trust that character to pull my sleigh.

Oliver, who has been reading my Deep in the Wood, which he claims is his favourite book, asks me which was my favourite out of all the books that I’ve written. The Britain sketchbook, I guess.

“Did you write all the books in the world?” asks Ted.

“There are a few that I didn’t write.” I explain.

He’s asks me to draw a Dalmatian (and also could I write a book, just about dogs for him).

“What’s it’s name?” I ask him, having been slightly more successful than I was with my drawing of the husky.



One Step at a Time

Newmillerdam walks mapDrawing maps for my booklets makes me want to go out and walk the route again.  After nine years it’s time to revise my Walks around Newmillerdam, not just because there will have been a few changes to the footpaths but also because the Friends of Newmillerdam and Wakefield Tree Wardens have been making all kinds of improvements to the country park. Continue reading “One Step at a Time”

From Watership Down to Warren Street

My drawing on cell for an overlay for a scene from 'The Trek' sequence of Watership Down.
My drawing, in dip pen, Pelikan Special Brown Indian ink and cell paint on an overlay for a scene from ‘The Trek’ sequence of Watership Down. This version wasn’t used in the film.
My impressions of the main characters.

Nearly forty years since its release, the film version of Richard Adams’ rabbit saga Watership Down is stirring up a bit of controversy (see below). It brings back memories of when I worked on the film for five or six months starting in the autumn of 1976 when a creative controversy was coming to a head at the Nepenthe Productions studio in Suffolk House, tucked away behind the Tottenham Court Road, near Warren Street tube station.

Producer Martin Rosen was, I guess, aiming to tell the story in a gritty and compelling way, getting as near as he could to the immediacy of a live action drama: a road movie come war film. pipkin

This was probably one of the causes of friction with John Hubley, his director, who was going for a more playful, graphically inventive approach by introducing the folk tales and myths of Adams’ rabbit world as stories within a story. The creation myth at the start of the film is about all that survives of this interpretation.

At my interview, John Hubley looked through my sketchbook and picked out a pen and watercolour sketch of a hawthorn branch: “I’d use this just as it is, with a white background and have the rabbits moving through the drawing.” Continue reading “From Watership Down to Warren Street”

My Homework and Other Animals

Mrs Durrell's dandy dinmont, Indian ink and dip pen, 1967 (when I was aged 16).
Mrs Durrell’s Dandy Dinmont, Indian ink and dip pen, drawn in 1967 (when I was 16).

yaniscorpionThe Sunday evening ITV series The Durrells prompted me to take another look at a comic strip of My Family and Other Animals that I drew in my school days. I was so lucky to have Gerald Durrell’s account of a naturalist’s childhood in Corfu as the set book for my O-level English Literature exam.

Continue reading “My Homework and Other Animals”

The Book Cupboard

booksI’ve been familiar with these books since childhood and I even read one of them during my student days; John Earle’s Microcosmography, first published in 1628. I’m not sure that I’ll ever read The Wigwam and the WarpathAlpha of the Plough or Ballads and Ballad Poems but I couldn’t bring myself to leave them in the book cupboard when we had house clearance in before handing over the keys to my mum’s house at the end of September.

Book End

book endtrack sideA carving that I made in the woodwork class at grammar school has come in useful for stopping my current reading collapsing over onto the modem on my bookshelf.

commutersA windy day disrupted the railways when we went into Leeds yesterday. On the return journey I drew bare trackside trees, a birch hanging on to the last of its ochre leaves and a gull weaving its way into the headwind.


This isn’t an actual title that I’m working on. I’ve pasted existing artwork and roughs into a booklet template.

This looks like a real life booklet but it’s actually a 3D mock-up generated in BookViewer, a feature included in the comic book program Manga Studio EX5 (but not available in the standard version of the program, Manga Studio 5). That’s going to be so useful to me. You can scroll through your virtual publication and tilt it to almost any angle.

I’ve made the most of a rainy weekend to explore the booklet producing capabilities of the program. As far as I can tell, you can’t easily print a booklet using Manga Studio, so I’m also reading up on the booklet design and printing capabilities of Adobe InDesign, which is specifically designed to paginate and print booklets, plus a whole lot more, of course. I’ll export the individual pages of the booklet as Photoshop image files from Manga Studio then paste them individually onto the page templates in InDesign.

Pencil and Paper

a4 paper trimmedI can get so far with the manuals, online help and video tutorials but to understand what the finished booklet would look like I’ve gone back to pencil, paper and ruler.

I’m printing at home on A4 paper but, like most printers, my Oki colour HD printer and my everyday HP Laserjet don’t print right to the edges of the paper, so I need to allow a 5 millimetre margin all around.

Bleed Area

I want to allow the artwork to bleed off the edges of the page so I’m allowing for a 3 millimetre bleed along the outside edges. Even so, I don’t want the text or anything else vital to the design of the booklet to go right to the edge of the page, so I’m keeping my main design area 10 millimetres in from the edges of the page and from the gutter.

Link; YouTube video Fanzine Export, Manga Studio Guide Episode 14 by Doug Hills.

Exercise Book Encyclopaedia

Self portrait aged 17 in  my Batley art college days. Page 683, the title page volume 11.
Self portrait aged 17 in my Batley art college days. Page 683, the title page volume 11. Perhaps I was being a bit over ambitious in my subject matter!

exercise booksThis little pile of exercise books spans a decade of my creative endeavours.

In the winter of 1971 in volume 14 (page 741 as I’d numbered it as if it was part-work) I wrote; ‘Exercise Book Encyclopaedia apologizes for any incovienience (I didn’t have access to a spell-checker in those days!) caused by the intrusion of notes for a thesis, an enquiry into the nature and causes of invertebrate illustration . . . ‘

In the final year of my diploma in art and design, I finally accepted that my real life projects had finally caught up with this naturalist’s notebook come comic strip part-work. It had been my blank canvas. I remember the milestone of starting a fresh, crisp new exercise book, but every fresh page was an opportunity to experiment with a different layout.

I walked past Mr Chapel’s print workshop on my way to school and dreamt of walking in there with my book and getting it printed. As he worked in letterpress, monochrome only, that would have been impossible. How on earth did people break into print?

eclipse 1961
Eclipse of the Sun, from my exercise book, Thursday, 16 February 1961.

exercise booksI’d started, aged nine on Tuesday 14 February 1961, by writing about a journey through the Pennines, collecting a sample of millstone grit for our natural history club museum and ended in 1971 as I started work on my thesis, on a geological theme too with an article reflecting the buzz of excitement that I felt about the then fairly new theory of plate tectonics.

I’m impressed by how far my work came on in ten years (which doesn’t seem a terribly long period from the perspective of my present age) and I’m glad that I’ve still got my schoolboy enthusiasm for geology and astronomy. I’m still so keen to try and understand the world.

Here’s part of that first article from 1961:

“I brought some rock back for the museum and found out about the life of heather. A parable goes seed thrown on rocks withers away. But this is not so with the heather. The seed falls on the rock the roots sprout and go along the rock with new plants sprouting all the time (this is why we find heather growing in clumps). The roots will not stop growing until they reach the soil. We also saw some fieldfares which I will tell you about tomorrow.”

My first drawing in the 'encyclopaedia', 15 February 2015.
My first drawing in the ‘encyclopaedia’, 15 February 2015.

I think that I could surreptitiously slip that passage into my present day Dalesman nature diary and it would just about get past my editor with little more than a raised eyebrow.