Saturday, 1st November 2003
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
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Inspired by Danny Gregory's new
book (see Thursday) I'm making
a point of sketching everyday objects. They don't come more everyday
than my desktop, which I don't remember ever drawing before. I make
a point of leaving everything exactly as it is at the moment I decide
to draw it; I don't want to start artfully arranging it as a still
Like the figures on the supertram
the other day I trust to chance to provide the most natural-looking
Only the mug on the CD coffee
mat at the corner of the table disappears as it was time for another
cup of tea anyway.
When I was a graphic design student
in Leeds in the early 1970s all the equipment that I now have on
my desk was spread over three floors of a dreary concrete block
that overlooked the ring-road. Now I've got all that:
- colour printing
right here on my desktop - and
a view over the wood and meadow instead of a concrete canyon.
In my art college days setting
a few lines of type meant half a day in the typography workshop
hand-setting the text (in reverse, mirror-fashion of course), leading
it and proofing it. For other jobs I might invest in a sheet of
Letraset: those rub-off sheets of lettering that I found so fiddly
to use. I'd browse through the Letraset catalogue thinking of the
possibilities of all the wonderful typefaces they had on offer.
I learnt a lot about letterforms
by tracing typefaces from the catalogue when my meagre grant wouldn't
run to a sheet of Letraset for a particular job.
stuff I couldn't then have imagined such as having Encyclopaedia
Britannica and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary available
to me at the click of a mouse, instead of a trip downstairs to the
college library - plus all the possibilities of the internet.
In the drawing my current small
sketchbook lies to the right of the monitor and that's my scanner
to the left. I feel that at last technology has caught up with my
I'm keen to reduce repetitive
strain so I use a Microsoft Natural Keyboard; I taught myself to
touch-type using Mavis Beacon and I find the ergonomic shape more
comfortable, especially since I have shaky hands and long fingers
that tend to trip me up when I'm working on a normal keyboard.
The foreshortening made the keyboard
a tricky subject to draw.
Those are gel wrist rests in
front of it. I'm not sure how effective they are but I thought I'd
give them a go.
I keep the wall behind the computer
plain white. I've thought about having a big pinboard there with
roughs of my latest book and postcards from friends on it but I
prefer a feeling of calm when I work. Well I try to create
a feeling of calm as I work but it doesn't always turn out that
I used a Rotring Sketch Pen with
a fine nib for the drawing but I felt the mass of lines of the jumble
of objects needed some further explanation so I used a brush pen
to thicken some of the lines to suggest shadow.
I know Ruskin frowned on this
illustrator's trick of thickened line to suggest form. Line (outline
that is) doesn't exist in nature and Ruskin urged his students to
be consistent and correct, not 'expressive' and slick.
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