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.

What I Did on My Holidays: Part the First – Brisbane Airport and Oslo

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

This is a record of the slow-moving things I saw on my trip to Oslo and England for (among other things) the World Fantasy Convention 2013.

My flight out of Brisbane was delayed by 6 hours. Parts had to be flown up from Sydney twice.

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Raced through Changi airport (which is very long) and still made the connection! This is my confused impression of the flight. The part where I’m holding the blanket over my face is when I was watching Tarantino movies on too little sleep.

Scattered impressions: Flight

More sketches of the delay. But I and my luggage reached Oslo, via Helsinki (Helsinki airport is full of Moomins), as planned! I arrived in Norway as a blank slate, only having a few days and planning on spending that visiting an old friend. We had a lovely visit but Oslo, as it turns out, is also wonderful! We went to the Vigeland sculpture park, famous from lists of unintentionally terrifying statues. The inclusion on that list is unjust (also the least alarming of the statues). It is unsettling and beautiful – vast, weighty, humanist, nebulously meaningful and Giger-esque in the sense not of darkness but of belonging to a visual language which is almost but not-quite intelligible.

Also: Viking ships! A spare, dignified museum, with lines and artistic language utterly intelligible, but astonishing for scale and fluidity.

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It was getting cold and late, so my sketches from the Norse folk museum are merely “remember-to-come-back-here” sketches. But oh, that museum! It is acres of outdoor paths – a museum of buildings and streets, relocated entire. It was like walking through an Eyewitness Guide in the 20th century part, and back into East of the Sun, West of the Moon everywhere else.

The next day we went to the city hall. In my experience, civic buildings are usually either ancient and weighty or modern and utilitarian. This was 20th century and pregnant with meaning and detail – norse myths, World War II, vikings, mid-century art, painted ceilings, murals, mosaics. It reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’ technologically developed fantasy worlds – deep, foreign and familiar.

Then some photography students asked us to pose for an assignment.

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It was too short a stay, (although quite a long time to have “To Noroway, to Noroway, to Noroway o’er the foam” stuck in my head) but I had to fly again – this time to England.

Next stop: Dartmoor.

I have returned!

Sketch7

I am back, I am dealing with jet lag which I never adequately believed in before, the sketchbook is scanned and I will begin posting it shortly.

However, to begin with, many congratulations to all the nominees and winners of the World Fantasy Award, and of course particular to Vincent Chong, winner of the Artist category with his sepia-soaked, textured worlds, and to my fellow nominees Didier Graffet and Dave Senior, with their clean effective design, J.K. Potter‘s dark collections and Chris Roberts‘ bright nightmares.

Off to travel in…

Time & Space

Early sketch developing ideas for the Once Upon A Time exhibition.

I’m off to the World Fantasy Convention and will be travelling for a month – Oslo, Dartmoor, Brighton and destinations as yet undecided.

Updates may happen here, but there is a higher chance of seeing sketches, cartoons and updates if you follow on Twitter, Facebook or (which I am still learning to use) Tumblr.

American Sketchbook – Part 3: San Francisco and LA

General notes: This is Part 2 of my sketchbook – Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. These are sketches with (mostly) Pitt Artist Pens in a little Moleskine sketchbook. You can see larger versions by clicking on the pictures, which will take you through to their Flickr page.

So then I flew to San Francisco, where Katharine and Matt collected me at the baggage carousel, having recognised me from behind based on my hair in my sketches of myself.

We wandered the streets, ate in Chinatown and the next morning went to Alcatraz, where we made up facts and discussed possible adventures which could take place on the island. Escape from Alcatraz with Evil Clowns?

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