travel


Part One: USA

Part Two: Dartmoor

As usual, this is a best-bits version of the trip, where “best-bits” = anything that stayed still long enough to be sketched. You should be able to see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, which in most cases will take you through to their Flickr page.

And so: Iceland.

The Light Grey Art Labs residency was wonderful: small, active (very physically active!), interested, entertaining. And Iceland was… I couldn’t process it at first.

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I spent my day before the residency looking around the Culture House and worrying about whether I would be able to work out how to process the lava fields I’d seen that morning on the way from the airport.

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Because Iceland is, above all, an exceptionally new country. It is horrifyingly young, geologically and in terms of its civilisation. Journey to the Centre of the Earth makes sense here. We all got the theme for Jurassic Park stuck in our heads. Parts seemed like a recently terraformed planet, the rocks are raw and rough and new, steam pours out of the ground.

Iceland 2016 - bubbling mud

They didn’t get people until 800AD (give or take a few hermits), and didn’t use wheeled vehicles before the late 19th century.

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We looked at sulfurous pits of boiling mud and climbed down lava tubes studded with ice and alive with spectral mists.

Iceland 2016 - Lava tube

Iceland 2016 - Lava tube

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There were geysers, and everywhere people made little piles of stones.

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Iceland 2016 - cairns

Brown stones on clifftops, white stones in niches and arranged in little standing spirals below basalt cliffs.

Iceland 2016 - rocks

(This evidence of people marking, decorating, understanding, playing was one of my favourite things).

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Iceland 2016 - Thingvellir

The lakes steamed. We scrambled over crevasses and into ravines.

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Iceland 2016 - Thingvellir

We marvelled at the pleated fans of basalt columns, drew volcanic plains and details of moss. Climbed. Watched. Took photos. Thought.

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Page 25 Detail - Jarred

It was wonderful travelling with other artists. Learning from each other over wine in our cabin on Blueberry Hill.

Iceland 2016 - workshop

Iceland 2016 - workshop sketches

We all approached work and landscape differently, but it was grand to be with people who understood spending half an hour recording the texture of a rock.

Iceland 2016 - rock

Or marvelling at light, or pointing out the rare welcome smoothness of a glacial stone after the raw sharpness of all the others.

Iceland 2016 - looking at rocks

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We fell in love with moss.

Iceland 2016 - moss

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Iceland 2016 - River

 

It wasn’t like a fairytale.

Iceland 2016 - white water

Fairytales feel older than Iceland does.

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It has fairytales, of course, but we had to learn to look at the land differently. And you start to understand where fairytales come from.

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Growing up in Euro-centric Australia, you know there’s ancient and continuous human history but don’t really see it. We’re not taught to see it. We see European history, barely over 2 centuries of it, and then we go to Europe and envy them their castles and forts and standing stones.

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Then to go to Iceland, and see their European history is longer than ours, but not by that much, relatively.

Iceland 2016 - farm

Iceland 2016 - Reykjavik

And before that? There’s no weight of human story.

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I hadn’t realised that I was aware of that, until I came home.

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But Iceland was exceptionally beautiful, full of curious microcosms and great raw new-birthed slabs and extrusions of uneroded mountain.

Iceland 2016 - rocks

Ash-soft plains.

Iceland 2016 - plain with artist

New-cut gorges.

Iceland 2016 - waterfall

Horizon-capping glaciers.

Iceland 2016 - Glacier

Sheep and puffins.

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Then I was back in Reykjavik for one more day: museums and movies.

Iceland 2016 - costumes

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Then on to Oslo.

Part One: USA

Part Three: Iceland!

As usual, this is a best-bits version of the trip, where “best-bits” = anything that stayed still long enough to be sketched. You should be able to see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, which in most cases will take you through to their Flickr page.

I was on a round-the-world ticket so I guess that is why I had to sleep in Helsinki airport between NYC and Heathrow.

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Once landed, I picked up my hire car and drove directly to Dartmoor – unexpectedly passing Stonehenge in the evening sunlight. I spent the whole week in one town and it was of course wonderful, because it’s the sort of town where even the local scandals feel like the start of a Midsomer Murders episode, and it is full of many friends who are busy writing and painting and making things.

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I was there a few days earlier than originally planned, but Terri soon found me hanging over this gate, drawing sheep.

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I spent my first few nights at Greenbank B&B, a 10 minute walk out of town, and I highly recommend it. They had poultry and a bad-tempered parrot and dogs and a great big Aga stove and lent me Cold Comfort Farm.

Some notes on Cold Comfort Farm.

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I went back to visit several times after moving on.

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And this was the road along the back fence.

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When drawing English plants, Liberty prints suddenly make a lot more sense.

 

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Sheep-shearing at Greenbank.

Page 14 Detail - sheep

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And one night, on sunset, I walked up the top of Maldon Hill barefoot in the cold golden light, which was chilly but felt important, especially as I was thinking about Picnic at Hanging Rock for academic reasons at the time.
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Here is Terri’s beloved Tilly, being mystical in the woods.

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For Ruth’s birthday, we went to a ’70s space disco in a Devon field.


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After Greenbank, I moved in with the lovely Elizabeth-Jane, harpist and dealer in sugar-mice.

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Her house was full of music and books, and one evening we went down to the woods where Alex was living and owls hooted overhead.

Also, I finally visited Chagfarm!

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Page 18 Detail - Chagfarm

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At the farm I drew goats and pigs (for reference), and one evening I drove out over the moors and drew the Dartmoor sheep and ponies.

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Showing my sitters their portraits.

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You have to drive carefully over the moor – the sheep and ponies are unruffled by traffic.

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I did leave Chagford once to go to Moretonhampstead and see the Widdershins exhibition with Virginia (whose hand and art are shown here).

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One of the many things I love is that you can just go… walking out over the fields and the moor: up behind the studios with Terri and Tilly, over the common with Alan and Virginia after tea, wandering over to Todd’s for maps, traipsing out by moonlight with Elizabeth-Jane in search of standing stones which look deceptively like sheep.

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One last sketch of goats and parking inspectors, then off to Heathrow again. The last song to play on the radio as I reached the airport was, suitably, “Jerusalem.”

Then, off to Reykjavik.

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Next: Iceland!

Part Two: Dartmoor

Part Three: Iceland

As usual, this is a best-bits version of the trip, where “best-bits” = anything that stayed still long enough to be sketched. You should be able to see a larger version of the pictures by clicking on them, which in most cases will take you through to their Flickr page.

So: Once upon a time it was almost winter in Brisbane, as you can tell by… the shawl on the left hand page, I guess. Then I flew north. I am reliably informed that was the only cold week Brisbane had this winter.

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At the airport I drew various hi-vis dramas out on the tarmac. This is one of my favourite things to draw.

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On the aeroplane, I drew Cinderella-Die Hard mashups but that is for another post.

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In LA, I stayed with Katharine (aka The Fictator: a lot of you don’t know her but you should) and in a surprise to absolutely no-one we talked about books and stories and old movies. She was the best person to stay with in LA because she actively loves its geology, geography, history and likes driving. She took me to very odd museums, such as the cumulatively bewildering Museum of Jurassic Technology which feels like it was created by the protagonists of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and had Borges in the bookstore.

We also went to the Last Bookstore.

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California is full of palm trees. Someone should have warned me. I got Josh Ritter’s California stuck in my head.

 

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NEW YORK! I like New York. I like the New York in which my friends live. Ellen and Delia sent me to the theatre (Something Rotten and Fun Home, the latter with Eliza and Karen), took me to the theatre (Shuffle Along) and to Klezmer concerts. I accidentally wandered into a theatre reading.

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I ate pastry with editors and lunches with art directors and found my pictures at the Society of Illustrators! (Thanks Irene, Miriam and Christine!IMG_0104
Genevieve took me to the Museum of the Moving Image and (almost as importantly) a grilled cheese cafe. We both promptly downloaded Ginger Rogers and the Mystery of the Scarlet Cloak.IMG_0079

 

Then a final evening of wine and chocolate among the New York rooftops before I caught the train to Massachusetts to stay with Kelly and Gavin.


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We had a lot of pool parties in Massachusetts. And writing, of course! It was a pretty productive week: workshopping novels and reading manuscripts and finishing illustrations off for Small Beer Press. I also met Cassie’s Scottish Fold, Maggie, a beautiful creature who regarded me with deep suspicion. And of course the writing barn which is even prettier than this article makes out.

 

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This were some of my notes from a workshop with Holly.

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Then: Readercon! It was my first Readercon, and I had a grand time, catching up with and meeting many very excellent people and lying around talking about theatre and Sayers, Broadway and Dunnett. If I try to list everyone I will (a) sound like I’m namedropping and (b) forget people.

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I moderated two panels, was on a third and gave a reading from my Masters novella-in-progress.

And the next day, I left for England.

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Next: Dartmoor

This July, I am off to Iceland for a week-long art residency run by Light Grey Art Lab.  Depending on uni timetables and money, I may do some other travel on each side (since a round-the-world ticket is cheaper than just getting to Iceland and home again), but that is yet to be decided.

I’ll be part of Team Mist, which is made of the following illustrators, artists, game designers, animators, graphic designers, Google Doodle creators, concept artists, graphic novelists, textile sculptors and production designers.

 

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Note: If you’d like to see more detail, just click on an image. You should go through to its Flickr page where you can look at a larger version of it.

The previous parts of the report are at:

And from there, back to New York. I caught a lift with Andrea back to Secaucus Junction, a train to Penn Station quite late in the evening and found a hotel – the Bellclaire, which was quite pleasant.

The next day, I set out for the Museum of Natural History.

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It makes for wonderful people watching. Everyone gets so excited about dinosaurs, the children flock to Lonesome George, and people get lost in the anthropological collections.

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I got lost in Central Park and rode the carousel (of course) before going to the Society of Illustrators’ Sketch Night.

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I am not used to drawing people standing still anymore, and digressed into making notes on the composition of the Leo and Diane Dillon exhibition.

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Then it all wound up too quickly. I spent the next few nights visiting Ellen and Delia, with whom I went to see the musical of The Fortress of Solitude, visited Michael Kaluta’s studio (and then got distracted discussing early aviation and obscure films), and went to see several delightful editors at the Tor/Forge offices in the Flatiron building, where I was loaded up with many extraordinarily beautiful books (which have just arrived by post).

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And then after viewing Ellen and Delia’s art collection it was, alas, time to sketch people in high-vis at airports again.

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There are still some assorted notes and scribbles to put up, but that is the end of the trip.

Note: If you’d like to see more detail, just click on an image. You should go through to its Flickr page where you can look at a larger version of it.

The previous parts of the report are at:

On to beautiful Northampton, full of authors and illustrators. It is my backup if the plan to become fabulously wealthy and move to Dartmoor falls through.

I arrived in Northampton in time to be swept off to another reading at Mystery on Main in Brattleboro, then off in the other direction for a Halloween  stayed with Small Beer Press, whose house is full of books and art, and we visited the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

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Here is the mask, and me in it (in a borrowed dress).Mousemask

Mo Willems was signing that day. Below is also some guest art by Ursula, who is also the cover artist for  Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #31 (which I am in!).

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I also caught up with some local illustrators and artists for a sketching session, and watched several versions of Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, and tried to climb out of my chair backwards. I was also introduced to The Vampire Diaries.

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It was a lovely few days – writing with Kelly and Holly in cafes, being attacked by a sabertooth tiger, visiting the R. Michelson Galleries, which were setting up for an exhibition of Caldecott winners. I saw my first real original Trina Schart Hyman illustrations, and they were from Saint George and the Dragon, too. There were others there, and I saw originals in houses of other people too, but that is my favourite. She is also one of the few illustrators whose originals were roughly the same size of the published work.

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I went there a couple times, to commune.

Then, on by train to Washington DC and Arlington, for the World Fantasy Convention. I had a brilliant time, met lots of old friends and new ones, and everything in the art show sold(!!). Below, on the left, is the art show setup (Angela Slatter helped me). On the right are sketches from the collections of the Library of Congress, of which we had a tour after Charles Vess gave a talk there. That is, they gave Charles a tour and a few of us tagged along.

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Proof I was at the art show, passing myself off as John Picacio.

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Sketches from the mass signing event.

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Music in stray corners late in the evening. We shared our hotel with the Rolling Thunder convention, who were convivial neighbours. And I slipped out of the convention after art show checkout, but before the banquet, to visit the Andrew Wyeth exhibition “Looking Out, Looking In” at the National Gallery with Irene, Greg and Shena.

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I was also on a panel on “Fantasy artists who take up the pen” with Ruth Sanderson, Charles Vess and Greg Manchess, but I do not have any sketches of that.

The Zipsers, who ran the art show, organised a tour of the fabulous Kelly Collection of golden age American illustration: Wyeths and Pyles, Teppers and Leyendeckers, Webbers and Rockwells. Utterly magical – I want to go back and take more notes on how they painted, and particularly on how they told stories, and also the stories which are told about them. Artists are such good story material.

This also meant I saw three generations of Wyeths (NC, Andrew and Jamie) in a week.

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Next in the series is Part Four: New York again

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This project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, part of the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts. thumbnail

Note: If you’d like to see more detail, just click on an image. You should go through to its Flickr page where you can look at a larger version of it.

The first part of the report is at Part 1 – New York, New York

I caught the bus from New York to Boston, through hours of autumn foliage. Here are some tree sketches from a moving vehicle, trying to approximate colour with a limited range of pens, and to catch the shape and pattern of leaves from a distance and at speed.

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Boston! Where the squirrels are tough and muscular and will beat you up for food. Also, Leif Erikson.

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A visit with Theodora Goss, full of books and fairytales. Then off to the Goya exhibition at the MFA! It is always striking to see paintings in the life. In the case of the Goyas, there was such a wonderful, candid, intense, scribbly nature to the art – both texture (ink and engravings) and air. The Family of the Infante Don Luis is enchantingly candid, like a photo during the setup for a family photoshoot – some are posed, some are wandering in or distracted by an adjustment, one man grins directly at the viewer…

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Francisco de Goya. The Family of the Infante Don Luis de Borbón. 1783

Lively and all of them full of more than one story – full of story.

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(I also visited the Jamie Wyeth exhibit, but was running out of time so only sketched one seagull).Goya, o guarda-sol

I then visited my first Blick Art Materials store, which was marvellous. Fortunately, I was travelling light on this leg, having sent my luggage ahead with Kelly to Northampton.  And on Thursday evening, I took the ferry to Salem.

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Halloween is an interesting time to visit Salem! Between the costumes, the views of early colonial American history are frequent and fascinated me because the visual vocabulary is so different from the corresponding period in Australia. Our European images really start off with Georgian aesthetics.

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Here is the detail of some notes on the progression of gravestones – the skull-and-wings which is most common in the earlier, pragmatic, puritan, ‘in the midst of life we are in death’, and is replaced by romantic imagery of angels, willows and urns.

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The Nathanael Mather inscription “an aged person that had seen but nineteen winters in the world” was used by Hawthorne in one of his stories, but I am not entirely sure what it means.

Next, the Peabody Essex Museum, which was full of small wonders, and a brace of brave figureheads.

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A lovely little velocipede. And I did visit the House of the Seven Gables, of interest for many reasons, including that the restoration for tourists was based on a novel rather than the history of the book, and is old enough (over 100 years) to of itself be of historical interest.

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By now it was Halloween properly. I sat out on the sidewalk with the neighbours to man a candy table in the cold (we had warming beverages), then went out to roam the streets, eat deep-fried confectionary and sketch costumes.

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Next in the series is Part Three: Western Massachusetts and World Fantasy Convention

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This project is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, part of the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts. thumbnail

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