Next stop: Minneapolis!

LGAL Fairl Dark

Next week, I’m leaving Northampton for Minneapolis. I’ll be attending a workshop given by Nico Delort at Light Grey Art Lab – and some of my work will also be on display at the gallery!

The opening night details are on Light Grey’s Facebook page: Fairly Dark Opening Reception.

The Grand Tour Part Three: ICELAND!

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).

Page 23 Detail - Rocks

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

Page 26 Detail - Notes

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.

Page 27 Detail - horse

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.

Page 29 Detail - Puffins

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.

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.

 

American Sketchbook 2014 Part 4 – New York again

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.

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.

ArtShow

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

American sketchbook 2014 part 2 – Boston and Salem

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.

Untitled-11Detail

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

American sketchbook 2014 part 1 – New York, New York

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.

So, as you may have noticed from my updates on this blog, I have been away for a few weeks. If you were following me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have gathered that I was in the USA, having a grand time and drawing all over the place. This was an illustration-focused trip (thanks to an Arts Qld grant), and as usual I kept a sketchbook instead of taking photos. In between I looked at a great deal of art and talked a lot (but not nearly enough) to many wonderful and dazzling people and ate everything except vegetables. But here, in accordance with tradition, is an account of some of the slow-moving things I saw. (1) People in hi-vis gear in international airports. (2) Spectacular views between LAX and NY (tip: if you can get a window seat in daylight on that stretch, do). (3) New York, being New York. Page 1 The week I arrived was (would have been) the week of Dylan Thomas‘ 100th birthday. After church (where I met three lovely ladies from Holland, with whom I met up for dinner the following night) I showed up at the sold-out production of his Under Milk Wood at the 92Y, and was able to get a ticket! It was a live BBC Wales broadcast, from the stage where it was first performed, with a Welsh cast directed by and starring Michael Sheen. I may have cried a little. (Tip: if you are visiting New York City, check out what’s on at 92Y). Then on to the Bowery Poetry Club (tip: if you’re visiting, check them out for events) for Dylan Thomas readings, featuring , Dr Elaine CanningBob HolmanKevin Powell and Gwyneth Lewis (which reminds me, she had an essay in the latest Poetry magazine and I should subscribe). Page 2 Afterwards, it was open-mic night, but there were so many poets left over that they pretty much alternated poets with singers, and I even stood up and gave a reading! (I read ‘Bears My Mother Brought With Her‘ and ‘Print is Dead‘). More New York the next day, including many gallery visits (I met a very nice lady from Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery at the 92Y and discovered many neighbouring galleries as a consequence). Page 3 A gorgeous exhibition of mourning dresses at the Met, but I was particularly taken by the humour in medieval art elsewhere in the museum. I find it easy to get a fossilised, received view of historical periods, and there is a delightful jolt of rediscovered humanity in seeing the actual artefacts. Saint Emerentia jovial and mysterious, crooked iron crows, misanthropic owls… Page 4 A visit to the Society of Illustrators for lunch with Irene Gallo and Greg Manchess (who are wonderful), followed by sketching Mario Reuben Cooper‘s choices in hands in the stairwell, and assorted details of the picture book exhibition. Page 5 Then I sketched hands on the subway and missed my stop on the way to the Village and McNally Jackson Books, where we (Kelly Link, Sarah Reese Brennan, Joshua Lewis, Alice Sola Kim, Greg Purcell and I) gave readings from Monstrous Affections before going out for far too much pizza. The account of exactly how I gave a reading from a comic is a subject for another post. Page 6 Next in the series is Part Two: Boston

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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

What I Did On My Holidays: Part the Fourth – York, Scotland, London

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version.

Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.

Part Two is here: Dartmoor.

Part Three is here: World Fantasy and Brighton.

Here is a picture of my grace and elegance demonstrated every time I went outside:

The Dance of the Seven Veils

In York, I crashed Lisa Hannett’s hotel room, and we wandered the town centre, the Shambles and snickleways, which look like something out of Harry Potter or Disney, only real. We also went to the National Railway Museum which was wonderful. I love the romance of all forms of transportation (my honours thesis was on the role of the railway in British children’s novels) while retaining a very tenuous grip on any technical knowledge.

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There are also some sketches from the train to York.

We went on a ghost tour, rambled round the Minster, climbed to the top of the tower, looked for the gargoyles from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and I sketched an archaeologist.

When Lisa journeyed on, I spent another day walking the walls and visiting Clifford’s Tower.

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I also had lunch at a church café in a 16th century parish hall, went to choral evensong again, climbed many tilted staircases in secondhand bookstores (acquiring in the end only a tiny red-bound version of the Rubaiyat) and sketched stone masons at the Minster. The next day I caught the train to Scotland, to visit Elizabeth Wein and her family. That is their cat.

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It was an exceedingly pleasant visit, featuring (among many things) icy mornings, piles of books, Lion King conversations, WWII ATA and airforce memorabilia, a constant undertone of volcano-construction and a toy accordion. She took me bellringer-watching again (I did not getting any more used to those tiny twisted staircases).

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And again, on memorial day. She showed me the Birnam Oak (Macbeth-Birnam, that is), and Scone Palace with its thick-iced fountain in the maze and slightly shabby winter peacocks.

I spent one day in Edinburgh, sketching at the Camera Obscura museum and Edinburgh castle, where I met a guide who had – as a very young man – interviewed an Australian (R M Williams) who caught a taxi from London to Scotland to obtain some poetry manuscripts.

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That night, I took the train to London, where I stayed (due to a colourful review) at the Pavilion Fashion Rock’n’Roll Hotel, in the War and Peace room. As the reviews suggest, it is not a hotel to be chosen for luxury or comfort, but for price and relentless (and hilarious) charm it is not to be surpassed. I loved it. How can the creakiest, hardest bed I ever slept in counteract the wonder of this miniature panorama of utter thematic consistency? I’m not sure, but the bathroom bin might even have been a shell casing.

War and Peace at the Pavilion

I spent most of my first morning drawing ducks and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

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I sprinted through the V&A, due to it being sunny outside, and spent the afternoon dashing in and out of bookstores near Charing Cross Road before going to see the musical of Mathilda with a friend from Brisbane.

The next day I planned to see more of London but changed my mind and platforms at Paddington and went to Oxford instead. I loved Oxford. The museum and café patrons are all erudite and enthusiastic, like characters out of Sayers or Walsh (depending on their age).

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The next day I started with three books worth of tourism in one blow – walking to Baker Street, travelling to the end of the Lewisham line and walking back to Greenwich, thereby netting the first line of The Magician’s Nephew: When Sherlock Holmes was living in Baker Street and the Bastables were digging for treasure in Lewisham Road….

I almost vanished forever in a junk shop, visited the fan museum, then went to the Royal Observatory where I drew people standing on the prime meridian and got teary-eyed over chronometers thanks Kendall’s poem “Five Visions of Captain Cook”.

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Below is a glimpse of my room at the Pavilion, from my vantage point in the canopied bed (you can see one foot). The bed was not comfortable, but the decor more than compensated. I think the bathroom bin may have been a shell casing.

I went for coffee with Stella at Egmont Publishing, which was lovely and exciting – especially the tour of the publisher and their library! – then went to Portobello Road for the sake of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and bought a marching soldier, a lead tiger and a box of tiny riderless horses.

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Then to the airport and so, by degrees, home again.

Returning

What I Did On My Holidays: Part the Third – World Fantasy and Brighton

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version.

Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.

Part Two is here: Dartmoor.

After a last farewell to Dartmoor, a walk along the Cobb at Lyme Regis, an altercation with a lorry near the New Forest (huzzah for steady-nerved passengers and comprehensive insurance), and the GPS in a final effort to establish its supremacy taking us to Arundel Castle instead of the Metropole, Ellen, Delia and I arrived in Brighton for the World Fantasy Convention 2013.

That is Brian Aldiss with the tea.

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I don’t sketch at conventions as much as I used to, now that I know more people (one reason being Artist at Large at the Brisbane Writers Festival was so much fun was that I was officially meant to be drawing over talking). So I had a marvellous time at WFC, but did not draw many pictures. Most of my drawing was scribbling ideas during panels, e.g. this during the “Broads with Swords” discussion:

Swords

I did sit at the signing tables during the mass signing in order to draw everyone else – I learned last year that was a good vantage point. And one person did come up and ask me to sign a book I have a story in (ahem), so that was thrilling!

Here are two panels  of people you probably haven’t heard of: A YA discussion with Delia Sherman, Susan Cooper, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Will Hill and Holly Black, and Nifty Shades of Fae with Tanith Lee, Joanne Harris, James Barclay, Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Grahame Joyce and James Barclay. There are also a few Irene Gallo cameos in the pages, because I usually draw the people with cameras.

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Unfortunately, I was taken violently ill on Saturday evening and had to leave the art reception early to be miserable in my room. The hotel reception sent up Twinings Peppermint Tea as a sovereign remedy. Ellen also plied me with medicinal infusions the next day.

Taken Ill

As a consequence, I only have a tiny picture of my art at the show. I will post some better images of the pictures later!

Pictures at World Fantasy 2013

Absence of pictures aside, I had a wonderful convention – talked to a lot of people, mostly, which is the point. It is difficult to narrow down particular highlights, as I keep remembering things and people to mention – charming ladies’ literary dinners (after the ladies in question unpacked our car in a team while I sat trembling in the driver’s seat), operatic serenades over dinner with the Australian contingent, lunches where no-one simply shared common gripes or tried to curry favour but simply waved their hands and discussed shared enthusiasms (stories, Dianna Wynne Jones and Dorothy Sayers). And of course I wasn’t drawing during any of those conversations – I will try to draw you all next time!

Following the convention, Aimee (Aimee L, not Aimee-my-housemate) and I went touring Brighton. I drew Aimee photographing the giant seagulls. We also ate giant meringues. I bought this marvellous panorama history of Aviation (I want the Nobrow Press Leporello series to be longer and also all of them) and we visited the Royal Pavilion, where we both fervently wished for a coffee book on the subject of wallpaper restoration.

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The most touching moment was seeing the paintings of the music room when it was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers in WWI. It had the most beautiful ceiling, which Aimee is photographing here. We ate horrible hotdogs on the pier and collected Shelley to go to Thor II, and all the English people in the audience laughed at the scenes in Greenwich.

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The next morning, I caught the train to York, en route to Perth and London

What I Did on My Holidays: Part the Second – Dartmoor

Note: If you click on a picture, that should take you through to its Flickr page, where you will have an option to view a larger version.

Part One is here: Brisbane Airport and Oslo.

Then I flew to Heathrow, hired a car and drove across England to the middle of Dartmoor. This was not as simple as it sounds. Reverse was in an unfamiliar location, I’d never used a GPS before, the lanes when I reached them were as wide as the car, I kept forgetting which side the indicators were on and for a while I didn’t think I’d ever escape the gravitational pull of Heathrow.

Scattered impressions:  Driving

But I made it to Dartmoor, unscathed. After a day I was scampering happily around the lanes, and did not have an altercation with a lorry until after Dartmoor was behind – but I am getting ahead of myself.

That week was enchanted. Art and music, poetry and puppetry, commedia dell’arte and rosehips, cream teas and rambling.

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Paths lined with blackberries, evenings with lady writers.

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Bells and pubs and bushy-eyebrowed lurchers.

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Driving over moors and meeting black dogs.

Scattered impressions: Black Dog

Dashing outdoors with my pockets full of pens whenever the sun shone.

Scattered impressions: Sunshine

Bell ringing and Jacobean manor house hotels.

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Musical evenings, with dogs and hearth pipes, violins and accordions.

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The haunting beauty of Wistman’s wood, like the garden at the heart of an emerald.

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Moor ponies and honour boxes.

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Endless kindness and hospitality, conversations, walks. The swift familiarity of a tiny town, the constant astonishment of finding oneself in any of a dozen fairytale landscapes. Quiet hours in the cottage with Ellen and Delia, writing and reading, brisk walks across town to visit everyone. Walls of art, Terri’s poem-lined walls, lives lived as art, indistinguishable from their retellings, sunlit studios, studios reached by a ladder through a trapdoor. Puppets and harps, masks and puppetrymusic, songs and bells. Painted worlds bleeding from the spaces of one house to the next. People and objects from movies which have shaped my life – from my Narnia, the goblin worlds. Trees and faces which I knew from illustrations in my favourite books – Middle Earth in a stand of oaks, the mists and tors of The Hound of the Baskervilles,  Virginia Lee‘s strong sweet fairytales, Rima Staines‘ crabbed and earthy myths. Houses through which the civil war was fought. Birch and alder gardens haunted by sculptures and geese. Words and books, stairs steep and twisted as a screw. Stiles.

I do not know how long would be enough, whether that week was a world which can be returned to. I hope it is.

Too soon, it was time to leave for Brighton.