I’ve been indulging in a bit of hand lettering, going through the opening Word Art chapter of a new free e-book from Apple Education, Everyone Can Create: Drawing, On iPad. They suggest using Tayasui Sketches School, a free version of the drawing program, which is what I’ve used here.
There’s nothing too daunting but if you were to take your time to follow each of the suggested projects you’d have covered a lot of ground and you’d have thought a lot about different approaches to drawing.
The Everyone Can Create series of e-books is aimed at 5 to 18 year olds but it’s equally useful as a refresher course if, like me, you’ve been drawing for decades and you’ve settled into what could be a rather too comfortably familiar way of working. It’s good to get back to basics.
If you can draw a smiley face, they suggest, you can make a start with drawing. I added a grey beard to my worried-looking emoticon.
Letterforms are a familiar way to get into drawing too, so they take you step by step through decorated characters, to 3D and inflated bubble lettering.
Patterns and Lines
As I’m so keen on observational drawing that I tend to forget that a simple line on its own can carry meaning, for instance horizontal lines can evoke calm and jagged lines action. There are a few simple exercises to get you thinking about line, pattern and shape.
THIS SKETCHBOOK drawing was made from the life drawing studio in Batley School of Art, probably in the winter months of 1968, looking down on Batley swimming baths. I came across it this morning when I was looking through some of my teenage holiday journals in the attic.
The box on the windowsill is one that we were set to design and make in the college workshop. In it I can identify a pen knife, pen holder, compass and ruling pen, the tools of my trade as a foundation student, and beside it are bottles of blue, yellow and green Indian ink.
The yellow box on the left contains children’s wax crayons; ‘Noddy’ crayons, branded with the name of the Enid Blyton character.
Rubbing these crayons on my sketchbook page laid the foundations for a kind of poor man’s scraperboard which I then, with difficulty, painted over with India ink which I could then scrape through to produce highlights such as mouldings, mortar and leaded windows.
This is a long and laborious way to produce a drawing but it’s evident that I enjoyed building up the textures.
It’s successful in bringing back to me the drabness of Batley at that time when smokeless zones were a recent innovation. I love the dour stonework and the glowering skylights which you can’t imagine would ever allow fresh air and sunlight filter down into the changing rooms below.
THERE’S SOMETHING special about a Saturday morning in the studio. I don’t manage it every weekend but it does happen now and then because there is less of a chance of being called away on errands, appointments and deliveries than on a weekday. I feel more relaxed because it’s a bonus session of work on my book. A gift.
A Saturday morning wouldn’t be quite complete without CD Review on Radio 3. As I write this, they’re playing a new recording of Mozart’s Haffner Symphony. Perfect!
First on my list this morning is an illustration of a blazing fire, the sort of blaze you’d get if you were burning wood-shavings. I realise how much I rely on colour because I always reach for the brightest yellow in my palette when I’m drawing flames but here I’m limited to black and white line, I can’t even add a half tone, nor can I stipple to my heart’s content because that would be just like a laborious, hand-drawn half-tone and it would be equally prone to clog up in the printing.
Flames and explosions are a staple of comic strip illustration so I could refer to my copy of the Step-by-Step Guide to Cartooning or to one of the comic strip books on my shelf but really it’s more fun to come up with my own simple home-spun solution rather than copy the best examples. That way I can keep some of the intimacy of the homely Victorian world that I’m building up in the illustrations, even though in this case there are no period details. I don’t want Batman style special effects. This sketchy version of a woodcut should be just fine.
My next subject, a skinny-ribbed person eating a local variety of porridge, prompts me to draw Oliver Twist with a touch of Stan Laurel. His second course could be this potato and onion stew.
The other day, untangling wool was my subject, today it’s picking twigs from a fleece. The people of Victorian Wakefield must have spent a lot of time preparing fleeces for combing and spinning.
I always dread being in the newspaper. I ramble on to reporters – this week it was the Wakefield Express Horbury reporter Victoria Turton – and then worry that I’m going to sound as rambling and incoherent in the article as I do in real life.
No worries; Victoria has summed up the story about the controversial proposed changes to planning legislation clearly and concisely and the Express photographer has illustrated the concept of concern for a local patch of ordinary, undesignated but much-loved countryside effectively in his picture. I did my bit by preparing a visual aid specially for this photograph; my sketchbook map of the local countryside that could be at risk if the government’s preferred option of ‘presumption in favour of development’ becomes law (see my post from last week; The Undesignated Countryside).
Two more little drawings and that’s enough for a Saturday; a mole and a crumbling block of stone.
I need to start laying out some sample spreads for the book to see how these are going to work on the page of a B format paperback (130mm x 198mm, 5.12 x 7.8 inches).
THIS Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris, has grown to about a foot tall with flowers three-quarters of inch across in the week or two since we last mowed the lawn. Ranunculus, the Latin name for the buttercup, comes from the Latin Rana, for frog, as this genus of plants grows in damp places.
In preparation for planting our tomatoes, I’ve been spring-cleaning the greenhouse. Below the staging, behind the plastic bags of compost and grit, as I swept up the winter’s debris, I disturbed the greenhouse’s resident Common Frog, Rana temporaria, which hopped off to find a damp crevice behind the water butt.
Nearby, in crevices in the concrete footings of the greenhouse, a couple of Smooth Newts, Triturus vulgaris, hunted invertebrates (the larger had some kind of invertebrate prey in its mouth – a small spider?) in a macro-habitat of moss plants that resembled a miniaturised version of the Giant Club Moss forests that its giant amphibian ancestors had swum and slithered through right here, 300 million years ago. I say ‘right here’ but at that time our part of the Earth’s crust lay near the equator. True flowering plants, such as buttercups, had yet to evolve.
I FEEL AS IF I’ve got out of the habit of sketching at every opportunity but odd sketches are beginning to appear in my A5 sketchbook again, so that’s a good sign.
Inspired by Fabrice Moireau’s Paris Sketchbook, a birthday present from Barbara, I’ve been trying to shift the balance of my drawings a bit from line to watercolour. Moireau also convinced me that it would be worth trying pencil again but these recent sketches have been done in odd moments when I haven’t had a pencil to hand.
Sox the border collie was snoozing in Rickaro Bookshop in Horbury.
The back garden of the Victorian villa (top) is my mum’s, drawn on a sunny afternoon.
And that’s it, except for an old wall by the co-op car park in Horbury. Not much to show for the last week or so but better than nothing.