As the light faded, I drew one of the ash trees at the edge of the wood using a new version of Clip Studio Paint for iPad. For the next few weeks, there’s an opportunity to give it a six month free trial.
It feels so much more direct than using the iPad with a wifi link to the same program running on my main computer and I appreciate the thought that has gone into redesigning the interface to make it more suitable for a tablet.
I started with a pencil drawing then, on a new layer, added a suggestion of colour, finishing with an ink layer for drawing with the G-pen.
However ingenious it might be, drawing on an iPad doesn’t have the familiar feel of pen and watercolour on paper. On an iPad, I feel that any mistakes I make betray a shortcoming in my technique while in a real-world drawing, such as this autumnal tree I drew yesterday, the ‘mistakes’ – wayward squiggles, ragged lines and minor smudges – are very much part of the medium.
On Friday,at the Thyme cafe, Cannon Hall Garden Centre, as a change from my usual pen and wash sketches, I launched straight into watercolour: the pale featureless sky first, then the lighter background foliage and finally the darker patches as the watercolour dried.
I’m a bit out of my comfort zone in pure watercolour though so, visiting friends yesterday, I drew my mug in pen and resisted the urge to add colour.
The wind has blown a few shoots off the yews in the woods around the lake at Nostell Priory. Yew, Taxus baccata, is dioecious – each tree is either male or female – and these mini-Brussels sprouts clustered on the stem in the axils of the leaves are the buds of the male flowers.
They will open in February to shed yellow pollen.
Female flowers are less conspicuous and are solitary, borne at the end of the stems. They produce berry-like fruits each with a single poisonous seed surrounded by a bright red fleshy cup, the aril.
10.10 a.m., 52°F, 12°C; sun filtered through a high veil of cirrostratus: This bindweed escaped from the hedge and started climbing the golden hornet crab apple. Hopefully in the new year I’ll be more consistent in pulling the strands of bindweed out of the hedge as they appear.
This is hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium, the species with the large white trumpet-shaped flowers. We’ve fought a successful battle against its smaller relative field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, in the front garden where it was spreading over the flower bed, the lawn and the pavement, simply by mowing it and cutting it back over the years.
As I draw, a robin and a dunnock hop about in the hedge and a chirruping rabble of sparrows erupts into the branches of the crab apple above me.
The crab apple looks at its worst at this time of the year; all the apples have turned to squishy brown pulp.
The fog lifts only briefly at midday. Although the hills of the Peak District rise above it, just as forecast, we decide not to drive for 25 minutes through such poor visibility in order to enjoy a walk there.
Looking for something suitable to draw in a drift of autumn leaves on a lawn in foggy Ossett I realise that they are all sycamore leaves; three sycamore trees stand alongside the little track beside the garden.
Rather than stand outdoors drawing the soggy pile, I choose one dry leaf that has been caught in the branches of a Russian vine and settle down to draw it in comfort indoors.
We didn’t get out to walk over a landscape of ridges and channels but I can explore a landscape in miniature by closely observing the undulating surface and the network of veins of the leaf.
I remember when I was at the Grammar School here in Ossett and we had a few art lessons from a student teacher who got us to draw a close-up of a leaf – just a small section, about the size of a postage stamp, not the outline. She then got us to take it a stage further and work up a design from it. I stuck pretty much to what I could see, just adding colour, which at school was powder paints, mixed in a plastic palette.
I remember getting totally absorbed by the repetitive but varied detail. Drawing it must have been a semi-hypnotic process, like getting lost in a landscape of rolling hills and rivers.
Upper lake, Nostell Priory: The seed capsules of bladdernut contain hard seeds that have been used as beads. Bladdernut, Staphylea pinnata, is a deciduous shrub or small tree, native to central and southern Europe and Turkey. It was introduced to Britain in the 16th century.
Catmint and geraniums are attracting bumble bees in the walled garden at Nostell Priory.
It’s as if someone’s thrown a switch and we’re suddenly in the peak of springtime. In the last two weeks we’ve had a covering of gravel-sized hailstones and just last weekend the crowds were braving wintery showers to cheer on the Tour de Yorkshire cyclists. This morning as we follow the towpath to the Navigation Inn (which is still struggling to get fully up and running after the December floods) we’ve got peacock butterflies and orange tips flying alongside us. Greater stitchwort, dandelion and green alkanet are freshly in flower.
A canal side oak is bursting into leaf and amongst the catkins on its branches we spot a few oak apples, made by the gall wasp Biorhiza pallida. The wingless unisexual generation of this gall wasp has spent the winter developing in galls on the roots of the tree then emerged and climbed the trunk to lay its eggs on the buds. The buds develop into the reddish spongy oak apples and from these the bisexual generation will emerge.
A blue butterfly (holly or small blue?) flies up from the rock face which creates a south-facing sun trap at Addingford Steps. On the River Calder near the old Horbury Bridge woollen mills two male goosanders are diving.
A lapwing swoops over the Strands where I drew in the aftermath of the winter floods. There’s a warbler in the tall grasses. From it’s song Barbara thinks it’s a sedge warbler, from it’s appearance – not streaky – I took it to be a reed warbler. But I’m struggling to get a decent view with my little monocular: I must bring binoculars next time!
Our neighbour Sandra tells us that she’s been enjoying watching our rowan, which she looks out on from her kitchen.
‘It’s beautiful, I’ve been watching it come into bud and it started from nothing just a few weeks ago.’
‘I like it at this stage,’ I tell her, ‘just as its opening up.’
This prompts me to draw the buds because most are already well on their way to unfurling. I notice that there’s a complete package in there: the unfolding leaves are protecting a flower spike.
It’s done well because last autumn we gave it a good trim back. We’d missed doing this in the previous autumn when my mum was in hospital and the tree which is about twelve feet tall was making a break for freedom, sending out vertical shoots to another three or four feet above the crown. We also cut out some of the crossed branches to allow more light and air in amongst the branches.
When I say ‘we’ I’m including Paul the gardener who comes and helps us out occasionally and offers expert advice. Not all of which I take because I aim to be 100% organic: no glyphosate here, thank you, even though it would save us an awful lot of work.
I’ve got a pair of tree lopping shears with a telescopic handle, so I’m taking that as the height to trim it to. I know that it could soon tower if not over the house at least as high as the gutters, so I’ll make sure to give it a light trim again this autumn.
12.15 p.m., 60°F, 15°C: As I draw the blackthorn from the end of our garden, rival blackbirds are singing about a hundred yards apart at the edge of the wood. It’s a great stereophonic accompaniment for me as I work and it occurs to me that the less mellow, hurried song of the dunnock sounds like a tape being rapidly rewound.
I’m also hearing great tit, wood pigeon and a crow cawing.
At the edge of the meadow, a small tortoiseshell flies past, low over the grasses, bramble and the ferny rosettes of emerging cow parsley.
Later I see a magpie fly down to our garden hedge, alarming the resident male blackbird. The magpie disappears into the hedge but emerges, I’m relieved to see, without any evidence that it has located and robbed the blackbird’s nest. Keeping an eye on the fracas, a carrion crow flies down to next door’s apple tree, a song post for the blackbird.
At Cannon Hall country park the newly arrived chiff-chaffs are singing.
We’re visiting the garden centre in search of plants for the bed in the front garden. Some of the plants that we’re after, such as salvias, can be tender, so those aren’t yet available. We decide to limit our colour scheme to blue/purple and yellow. We go for a variegated sedge, hebe, pale yellow primulas, miniature pansies and tête-à-tête daffodils. We’ll get the bed prepared, mulch it with chipped bark and plant those and keep adding more plants as they become available.