The Grand Tour Part Two: Dartmoor

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.

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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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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!

The Grand Tour Part One: The USA

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

I’m back! More to come

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I’m home at last! Six weeks was a little long for living out of a too-large suitcase (but I had to take art supplies and boots). America and England were full of friends, Norway full of babies. Iceland was beautiful and so new. You can see the geology happening.

 

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I climbed over a lot of rocks.

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I’ll post more sketches (and a few photos) once I’m near my scanner for long enough.

 

Illustration Friday: Prince

Illustration Friday: Prince

Life has been somewhat fragmentary lately (more or less under control, but more commuting than usual). So here are some sketches working towards the Illustration Friday topic. I keep a separate little sketchbook for working through ideas, just playing around and chasing associations, crown angles, etc.

Dancing, and ducks: Sketchbook update

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I frequently post pictures of my sketchbooks-in-progress on Facebook, Twitter etc, but hadn’t realised how long it has been since I uploaded the scanned pages! The sketchbooks themselves were taking longer to complete, as well, since if I wasn’t in the office I was working on commissions. But I’m catching up now!

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Here’s a taste, with some dancers from late 2014.

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(Clicking on the photos of the full pages will take you to the Flickr page, which should let you see a larger version).

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Ducks are always rewarding.

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Skimming: A brief history of flight

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In 2015, at the inspiration and instigation of Laura Goodin, the Australian Flute Festival and Conflux Science Fiction Convention staged a joint concert in Canberra, combining original compositions, short stories and art.

I designed the logo and a series of cut-paper illustrations to accompany Houston Dunleavy‘s original piccolo composition “Skimming”, performed by Melanie Walters. The piece was approximately six minutes long, so the illustrations are compiled into the gif, above, at a much faster rate (approx 1 minute, repeating). When putting this together I accidentally hit play on a swing-dance track, which makes it look like the opening credits to a silent-film-era space opera.

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At the concert, I also sketched the flautists in action. A sub-contra-bass flute is an impressive piece of musical engineering.

Cabinet of Oddities sketches

American Sketchbook 2014 Part 3 – Western Massachusetts and World Fantasy Convention

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