Old Town San Diego

I've been trying to improve my watercolour skills but only get the time to practise intermittently . . . luckily one of those times presented itself while I was in San Diego for Comic Con, as I got to spend a day loafing around Old Town.
Turns out one of the key aspects of doing good watercolours is to take your time with them. Crazy! Each of these took about 90 min.

Cooking is Science

When the official cook was incapacitated by a fall from an iceberg in an unfortunate photography accident, other members of the crew had to step in and do his job. One of them was 'Atch' Atkinson, the official doctor and parasitologist, who was more accustomed to working in the lab than the kitchen.
This page in my sketchbook had a disappointing run-in with some coffee at CTN – this is why you scan things full-res the first time, ladies and gentlemen!


Because Comic Con happens the same weekend as the opening day at the Del Mar racecourse, it's always a bit of an adventure to take the train. At the best, you get to eavesdrop on some hilarious drunk conversations, but sometimes there are delays or cancellations. I quite enjoy taking the train, even when it's crowded or late, but even I have to admit this year was particularly bad ... nevertheless I got a couple of good sketches out of it.
The train was initially delayed an hour, so I got to make a detailed study of some elegant turn-of-the-century architecture. We encountered a number of further delays until we were running almost three hours behind schedule, so someone managing the rail network back east decided to cancel the train entirely. They dumped us all off at the Irvine stop where we could catch the next train, which was apparently about 20 minutes behind us (actually more like an hour). It was a beautiful day, and the Irvine station is bounded by fields on one side, but no one else seemed to appreciate this ...


I went to Chicago for the first time this summer. What a wonderful city! I thoroughly enjoyed walking around taking pictures, and while I didn't do as much sketching as I'd have liked, I never do, so that's not unusually regrettable.


I'd seen pictures of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (or 'the Bean' as locals call it), but I have to say that you really have to see it in situ to appreciate it – it's entirely mirrored, and reflections are three-dimensional, so it does all sorts of weird things to your perception of volume and space as you walk around, under, and through it.

Of equal interest was observing how others reacted to it.  I made a catalogue of the selection of reactions – pretty much everyone who came by did a variant on one or more of the behaviours noted here.

Toronto, Part 2

Toronto's been on my mind a lot, lately.  Then I remembered I never posted the remainder of my sketches from my trip there, when we went sketchcrawling at the Distillery.  It was super cool!  Unfortunately the sketches don't capture the amazing sky that day.


I know I spend too long on my location sketches, but I so enjoy being "in it" that it's hard to change focus too frequently.


A couple weeks ago Radio 4x ran a reading of Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and when I was doing a bit of housekeeping on my blog I noticed I hadn't posted my more recent Innsmouth-inspired drawings.  No people this time, just a froggy fishy thing I drew on a paper-covered table at a restaurant and then further exploration thereon from my sketchbook.

These last few weeks, one would get the impression I do nothing but listen to Radio 4x  and draw all day.  This would be incorrect: I also listen to Radio 4 and the CBC.  :)

Sredni Vashtar

A reading of "Sredni Vashtar" came up again on the oft-renamed Radio 4 Extra and just as last time it caught my imagination. This time, however, I got an illustration on paper before the inspiration fled.

It is a perfect summary of why I don't belong in the Disney story department that, when I hear this story, I think, 'That would make a great animated short!' We are . . . very much not on the same page.

Les Miserables – For Once, Not the Musical

Radio 4 Extra* has just recently finished a run of their epic radio play of Les Miserables, and as I've been very busy at work lately I actually managed to listen to the whole thing.  It's the closest I've yet come to reading the book (shame, I know) and it was very exciting, particularly the part where I got introduced to a character who is entirely glossed over in the musical, to everyone's loss.

First, the usual suspects, Marius and Eponine:


. . and then my new favourite, Combeferre! Completely aside from his being just a really great character (and played by one of my favourite radio actors, no less) what I especially love about Combeferre is the fact that, on the most important day of his life, he has a cold. How brilliantly mundane! No one ever thinks of that, but it makes him and his experience so much more real. He spends a good deal of time rhapsodizing on tomatoes and how it is impossible to find good ones in Paris, which led to this variant on the drawing. 

*which I will think of as BBC7 until I die


It is pretty much impossible to overstate how much I loved the Independent Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet, though people who have to deal with me in daily life will tell you I've been giving it a pretty good try. For everyone who wishes I would just shut up about it already . . . I will draw about it instead!

This is my best attempt to mimic the style of Tron Mai, who unfortunately doesn't seem to have a blog or website to which I can link for an example, so you'll have to take my word for it. It seemed a natural fit.

Hamlet was already my favourite Shakespeare play, so I can't say this production converted me, but it is now even more my favourite, because, and I cannot all-caps this enough, IT WAS AWESOME. I wish it weren't such a cliche so I could say 'the text came alive!' and have it actually mean something, but . . . really . . . they found so much life and humour that you would not expect in a famously long and morose play about a depressed prince taking a long time to get around to killing his uncle. I am thoroughly looking forward to anything they put on in the future.

Old Harry's Game

One of my favourite shows on Radio 4 is a sitcom set in Hell, starring Satan.

You just don't get entertainment like that on this side of the pond . . .

. . . of course, it has a standard of writing which lives up to the promise of the premise, and surprising moments of pathos and insight. It's a bit like The Screwtape Letters, only less preachy and actually entertaining. Sorry, C.S. Lewis, Andy Hamilton beats you on this round.


In trying to alternate Polar Explorer posts with ... well, anything else, I find myself making recourse to yet more observational sketches. These were done on a recent trip to Alberta, which was lovelier than I had remembered.


I've been doing a day-by-day recounting of notable events of the Scott Expedition over on my LiveJournal (much to the consternation of its readers I'm sure), and have been pretty faithful about it, despite life's occasional difficulties.

Even though the travails of the Expedition are ever present in my mind, it's useful to get a reminder every so often.

Sucker for Ships

I did these sketches about a year ago, a long way from home...

There was a ship, and I like ships, so I drew a few drawings. One of the days I was there they had tours of the ship, and the captain was interested enough in my sketchbook that he let me stay aboard after my tour group left, and go sketch in some of the areas behind the yellow rope. This was my first experience of the Power of the Sketchbook, and while I haven't been able to exercise it since ... who knows where it'll take me next?


Hollywood, Then and Now

Every so often I get bit by Sunset Boulevard and have to listen to the musical soundtrack on repeat for a few days. I'm not sure what prompted it this time, but it was vindicating to find I liked it just as much now as I did ten(!) years ago – it also takes on a whole new dimension when you've worked in the L.A. entertainment industry for a while.

With the rise of YouTube I've actually gotten to see some clips of the show I know so well only through audio. Unfortunately it seems most theatrical productions don't play Joe the way I believe he should be played, as a bitter burnt-out creative professional. Not angry, not really a jerk, not loud or abrasive or a New York shyster (it clearly states he's from Ohio), but rather devoid of any sort of passion; a sardonic, defeated fatalist who's just in it for the money. Entertainment is full of these people!

Our Cheerful Pessimist

Titus Oates was rather the Eeyore of the Scott Expedition. During the first winter, the officers and scientists gave a series of lectures, and one of Titus' was on the management of the ponies which they would use the following summer in their attempt on the Pole. According to Frank Debenham, "He gave us all a surprise as his slow way of talking hardly lends itself to the lecturing, but he lectured really well and his dry smileless humour was splendid."