Having tried out the process, I’m looking forward to improving my skills and uploading something a bit more substantial.
I’ve been trying to get around to publishing an eBook for years but it’s taken a short break in the Lake District and the latest version of Apple’s Pages desktop publishing software to get me started.
As you can see from the cover, I’ve been drawing from cafes again; the Lakeside Cafe attached to the theatre at Keswick gave us a view across the top end of Derwentwater to Cat Bells.
I managed only half a dozen sketches as we spent most of our days walking but I made efforts in the evening to write up notes about the day. With those, the sketches and a selection of my photographs, I’ve got the basis of a short eBook; an extended blog post.
The main purpose is to get familiar with the e-publishing process. Pages is a great starting point but, to keep things really simple, I’m sticking with a ready-made template, one was designed for a novel. I’ve got two other programs, Adobe InDesign CC2018 and Apple’s iBooks Author, which give more possibilities for tweaking the design and adding interactive features but Pages brings the process closer to using a regular word-processing program.
I’ll post a link to the finished eBook.
Pages by Apple
A little book with an intriguing connection to Lawrence of Arabia; Richard Knowles tells the story. I filmed this afternoon at Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury.
I’ve added titles and, if you watch the video, you’ll realise why we went for Caslon as the typeface.
There’s a twinkle in bookseller Thomas Gent’s eye,
As he sits by the fire with his port and mince pie:
“I shall go down in history in Old Ripon Town;
With my red Russian hat and my long college gown:
“On this fine Christmas Eve in the snow-covered square
By the Old Obelisk with my books, I’ll be there!
When the Wakeman of Ripon blows thrice on his horn
I’ll take up my sack and be busy til dawn.
“With six fine stags from Studley all yoked to my sleigh
With novels and poems, it’s up and away!
Now, Defoe! now, Dryden! now Shakespeare and Swift!
There’s nothing like books to give spirits a lift!”
Thomas Gent, Bookseller
When I saw Nathan Drake’s portrait of Thomas Gent (1693-1798), the Yorkshire historian and bookseller, I couldn’t help thinking that, popping up in that hearth-like alcove, sporting those luxuriant side whiskers and with his right hand extended, offering us a copy of his ‘quaint’ and ‘charming’ History of Ripon, he’d make a great Santa.
With a little Photoshopping, I was soon able to make a Fake or Fortune-style restoration of the painting and I felt that he also deserved a verse or two to hint that even an Ebenezer Scrooge lookalike might have had a hidden, softer side.
If you’d like to know more about the real Thomas Gent, you’re in luck because, just published this month, there’s The Autobiography of Thomas Gent, Printer of York, edited by his descendant, Frank Gent.
‘The name of Thomas Gent has obtained a wider celebrity than that of any other York typographer. Author, printer, and artist, his labours extended over more than half a century, and during that period many of the numerous productions of his pen, both in prose and verse, were printed at his own press, and embellished with engravings executed by his own hand. His works are, for the most part, below mediocrity, yet they possess a certain quaintness and eccentricity of character which are not without their charm’
Robert Davies, 1868
The Autobiography of Thomas Gent, Printer of York is available from Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury, where you can view the portrait by Nathan Drake.
(So far there’s no evidence that Gent ever acted as Santa Claus to the townsfolk of Ripon).
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
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.
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.
“What’s it’s name?” I ask him, having been slightly more successful than I was with my drawing of the husky.
Drawing 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”
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.
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”
The 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.