If you’re trying to track down one of my books, this bookshop on Horbury High Street is a good place to start. In addition to my local booklets, walks guides and sketchbooks, bookseller Richard Knowles often has copies of my long out-of-print titles such as my first, A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield; I spotted two copies of the paperback version on his shelves recently.
This is the first time that I’ve tried the Adobe Illustrator trace option on a colour photograph. The results remind me of the British Library’s reprints of vintage detective fiction, which often have a period travel poster or similar artwork on the cover, hence my book cover design (all I’ve got to do now is write the mystery novel to go with it).
I could learn something from Illustrator when it comes to being bold and confident in the use of colour. In comparison with this posterised effect, my watercolour is soft and tentative. Not always a bad thing but bold and confident would be good from time to time.
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).
THE DONKEYS are coming to the rail to be petted and photographed,enjoying the fuss being made of them by the children at Charlotte’s ice cream parlour this morning.
Guinea fowl are foraging in the grassy pen next door.
Despite my recent efforts with photography and video, I’m still keen to pick up my pen and draw whenever I get the chance. I fit in a brief sketch of shop fronts while my mum waits for her appointment at the opticians.
When I call for Barbara at the bookshop, I often get the chance to sketch Tilly the border collie. On Monday Rickaro bookshop is hosting not only a meet-the-author but also a meet-the-cartoonist. Ian McMillan will be there, accompanied by Tony Husband to promote their latest book 101 Uses for a Flat Cap.
We can’t persuade Tilly to wear a flat cap to celebrate the event as she can be in turn either too self-conscious or over-excited. We don’t have a flat cap in her size anyway.
This gives me the perfect excuse to play about with Photoshop; resizing, skewing, cutting, erasing, pasting, brushing and layering.
IT’S RARE for me to have a whole hour free so to make the most of it, while I wait for Barbara to finish work, I draw the bookshop, starting with the door frame and working across the double-page spread, running out of ink halfway and borrowing a pen from Barbara to finish.
With any complicated subject I have to establish an anchor point before I can start mapping everything in its place. Those long verticals of the door frame that I started with on the left weren’t much help and it was only when I established the leaded window above the door that I was able to get a grip on proportions. The 45° pattern made a useful grid.
You can see where this went slightly wrong as the window started going into perspective on the right, my drawing equivalent to the distortions you’d get if you were photographing the scene with a wide-angle lens.