Desk Top

It’s been a month since we had a weekend at home and my desk top is in need of sorting out but how could I resist drawing these tottering piles of books and magazines?

I’ve drawn it with an Apple Pencil on my iPad Pro. I’m using is Clip Studio Paint EX on my iMac, which is connected to the iPad by wifi through the program Astropad 3. Sometimes pen and sketchbook just isn’t enough!

I like trying to learn new programs and I thought that the best way was just to launch into it and do the simplest of drawings. I say ‘new’ programs but I’ve been trying to get proficient in Clip Studio Paint, formerly Manga Studio for the last five years.

Links

Clip Studio Paint EX

Astropad

Scanning the Horizon

Great Shunner Fell and Abbotside, drawn last week from a picnic table at the Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes; my first scan using SilverFast SE Plus software.

It’s that time of year again: Apple have updated their operating system – from Sierra to High Sierra – which is great except that my scanner, a CanoScan 8800F, won’t work with the new system, not surprisingly because it’s four years since Canon updated the driver. Luckily, I’ve come up with a solution . . . Continue reading “Scanning the Horizon”

Digital Mapping Pen

Imagine a mapping pen nib that doesn’t splay and twist if you press too hard or being able to splash on India ink without getting the odd drop on your fingers and desk top: welcome to the world of digital pen and ink.

This drawing of my trainers took about forty minutes, drawing in Clip Studio Paint using the pen tool with the mapping nib selected and the paintbrush with the India ink, darker bleed option.

Like the hand I drew the other day, it’s drawn with an Apple Pencil on my iPad Pro which was linked by a USB cable to my iMac, using the Astropad program.

I hope that as well as getting more familiar with the basics of drawing in Clip Studio Paint that I’ll also learn to free up my regular pen on paper drawings.

Back to Basics Booklets

Placeholder image for my speed test booklet.

It’s frustrating at times, but I have to admit that I’m enjoying going back to basics with my printed booklets, doing a bit of detective work to see where the hold up in printing speed is creeping in. So far, so good: this ultra-simple booklet with placeholder text prints out in a couple of minutes and it makes no difference if I use GIF images or larger format TIFs, which are about twice the size.

It’s such a pleasure to construct a really simple booklet, dropping little rough sketches in wherever I please, that it makes me want to design another booklet for real, perhaps taking a sketchbook and scanning the illustrations separately then typing up my handwritten notes.

I’m using Adobe InDesign CC 2017, a program which seems to have its quirks if, like me, you’re more used to Microsoft Publisher or Serif PagePlus.

Image manipulation and booklet printing get me every time: I always grab the frame rather than the image itself when I want to change its size, but surely by now I’ve learnt that you don’t select ‘Print’ if you want to print a booklet!

I’m steadily getting there.

From Sketchbook to Finished Article

Scarborough Castle, October 2015.
Scarborough Castle, October 2015.

I write my Wild Yorkshire nature diary for the Dalesman magazine five or six weeks ahead of publication so in the past week I’ve turned my attention to the October article, which really makes me feel as if summer is coming to a close!

Usually I have plenty of material to sift through but last October we’d only just got over selling my late mother’s house and we had so much on that Barbara and I managed only a book delivery excursion to the Peak District and a couple of days in Scarborough.

Moleskine sketchbook page, October 2015.
Moleskine sketchbook page, October 2015.

juvenile heronWith such a short time on the coast, I tried to draw whenever I got the opportunity but that meant that I didn’t get around to writing many notes, certainly not enough for my 800 word Dalesman article.

Barbar's notebook.
Barbara’s notebook.

Luckily while I was perching on the sea wall at North Bay sketching rocks and birds, Barbara was sitting on a bench nearby writing in a pocket notebook, so I’ve filled in the blanks in my article from her observations.

rocksIt reminds me of Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy: she wrote meticulous descriptions of the scenery and natural history that they’d encountered on their walks and he’d put them into verse, implying that he’d been wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’ (except for Dorothy following him and scribbling in her notebook).

Scrivener

In Scrivener you can easily move around the sections of the article you're writing using the virtual corkboard.
In Scrivener you can rearrange the sections of the article you’re writing using a virtual corkboard.

seaweedI’ve got the chance to be more productive than Wordsworth: I don’t have to lie on my couch ‘in vacant or in pensive mood’ because I can get my ideas together using my favourite writing program Scrivener, which is set up so writers can drop rough drafts in, rearrange them on a virtual corkboard and then go into a full screen, distraction-free writing mode (that’ll be the day, when I don’t get distracted!).

Even so it took me a couple of sessions to polish up the article so that it flows but, even using Barbara’s notes, I’d only got to 500 words. Having set the scene on the coast I didn’t want to change the location to the Peak District or to our home patch to finish off the article.

Halcyon Days

kingfisherAs I drew last October I’d been amazed to see a kingfisher fishing in the sea, diving in from a concrete post, so I decided to write a little more about that. I looked up the kingfisher in Birds of the Western Palearctic but even in the twelve pages of closely written notes of this nine volume handbook I couldn’t spot a suitably fascinating fact that would draw my article to a close.

the white goddessBrewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology weren’t all that helpful either but then I remembered my favourite study of the roots of classical mythology, The White Goddess by Robert Graves. I’ve still got the copy that I bought as a student. His explanation of the myth of the kingfisher mentions the account written by Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist, which I was able to track down via Google. Pliny describes the floating nest that kingfishers were believed to make at sea during the calm halcyon days of December:

“Their nests are truly wonderful; they are of the shape of a ball slightly elongated, have a very narrow mouth, and bear a strong resemblance to a large sponge. It has never yet been discovered of what material they are made; some persons think that they are formed of sharp fish-bones, as it is on fish that these birds live.”

That struck me as the perfect way to round off my article.

Links

Scrivener writing software.

Dalesman Yorkshire magazine and visitor guides.

Mountain Vue

mountain tutorialBack in mountain country and that lone plum tree looks familiar as I’m on a return visit to the first tutorial in Create 3D Like a Superhero; Chipp Walters’ introduction to the landscape design program Vue.

This is as far as I got with the high res render of the scene.
This is as far as I got with the high res render of the scene.

With tree, foreground and mountain in place, I try a full-screen test render. After half an hour my computer estimates that it will take another 27 hours to complete the image! Luckily smaller images take just a few minutes to process. If I ever need a larger image, I’ll leave it rendering overnight.

The clear blue sky is the default atmosphere but you can load alternatives, such as a ‘Lead & Gold’ sunset.

lead and gold sunsetChipp Walters points out that awkward transitions between objects can create an unreal point of focus in the landscape, so I experiment by introducing a cloud, which I scale down and drop into the valley to try and give the effect of rising mist. It looks more like a giant sheep.

I really don’t know clouds at all. But I’ll only learn by playing around with the program.

clouds

Links: Cornucopia 3D where you can download a full version of Vue Pioneer (the only limitation is that it stamps ‘Created in Vue’ on every render)

Chipp Walters’ blog

BookViewer

BookViewer
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.

Circles within Circles

Lunch time sketch (actual size two inches across) at the Seed Room, Overton; pan-fried hake, beetroot, mouli, radish with watercress in yogurt dressing.
Lunch time sketch (actual size two inches across) at the Seed Room, Overton; pan-fried hake, beetroot, mouli, radish with watercress in yogurt dressing.

tilly button

What should be something that I can do in minutes takes an hour or two of head-scratching. I’m trying to put circles within circles to create a badge (or button as the American’s would call it). So simple but there are three programs that I could use to do it and several alternative methods within those programs.

When even Google and You Tube can’t give you the specific information you’re after, there’s only one thing to do; phone a friend. In this case John Welding, comic artist and veteran Photoshopper is the man to call. In half an hour of patient explanation he gets me on the right track.

Sunday morning with Scrivener

using Scrivener
Full screen distraction-free writing in Scrivener.

 I like to keep things as simple as possible, which why I’ve pared down the pens and watercolours in my art bag to the bare minimum. It’s the same with writing. You might assume that pen and paper would be the ultimate in simplicity but if you’re like me and you go over and over your text trying to make it clearer and more succinct you can end up with an almost illegible mess of crossings out and rewrites.

Notes for my 'Walks around Ossett' booklet.
Notes written while researching my ‘Walks around Ossett’ booklet.

Lamy Safari fountain pen

Of course I’m talking about writing for books and magazines here; this online diary has to be more rough and ready!

Corkboard

Corkboard view in Scrivener
Corkboard view in Scrivener

My favourite program for distraction-free writing is Scrivener, from Literature and Latte, the people behind the Scapple mind-mapping program that I was using yesterday. Scrivener enables you to bring together your research and rough drafts. A useful option is the corkboard with post-it notes representing each section. You can easily rearrange them to improve the flow of your story.

This morning I’ve got my Onward Christian Soldiers Scapple mind-map propped up in front of my iMac and I’m writing a rough draft of each of the aspects of the story. I’m in distraction-free mode because I don’t want to get bogged down with my research. I’ll come back to that later when I’ve got the flow of the story established. If I can’t get readers hooked, all those names, dates and places won’t be of much interest anyway.

Over the last month I’ve occasionally updated friends on how I’m getting on with my article – the equivalent of an elevator pitch – and I find myself going back to certain vivid anecdotes. It’s a good test that if I find a story interesting, my Dalesman readers will probably find it interesting too.

pencil 3b

Links

Scrivener is described by Literature and Latte as ‘your complete writing studio’ but it’s worth going for Scapple too you’re doing a lot of research and brainstorming.