I'm a cartoonist. I strip for a living... cartoon strips that is... I draw chuckles and silly situations for a living. Somehow, I get paid for this.
I try to find the funny side of life... write about it.... and then share. Humor is a powerful thing. N'est pas?
Okay… the French have it all over us with groceries! Sure, they have the local Monoprix (has groceries and everything else)… but street markets are the total best! We try with our local farmers’ markets… but the food here is simply amazing! It is so much fun gathering fresh fruits, nuts, veggies, olives, chevre (goat cheese) and even wine at the street markets. The markets are daily and they rotate from Place to Place. This one is in the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) area.
So with euros in hand, Judy and I picked up a melange of ridiculously good olives, walnut sausage (yes, they make the sausage with the walnuts right in there!… sooo tastey!)… and a loaf of artisan olive bread (with the olives right in there! so tastey!), WAY fresh garlic (that keeps the mosquitos away), a 5 euro bottle of local wine… Chateau de Vaucouleurs (which was rather good), and Oh… I’ll just show you a few pictures of some of the meals that we’ve conjured up (yes, I take pictures of our food…. for art purposes and proper photo-documentation)…
So the TGV is one of those fast trains that takes you through the gorgeous French countryside… we passed sunflower fields and a few lavender fields on the way down. It was a couple hours to the near bottom of France. We had good seats with a fine window… I managed to sleep on the train a bit… thankfully the folks around us were pretty quite except for a french gal who interrupted my snooze to ask if she could borrow Judy’s stylo (pen)… it’s a good thing Judy didn’t want to write anything, because the gal had it for quite some time (I would have provided Judy with any number of art pens I brought… and there are many!)…
When we arrived at the Aix train station, there were few cabs to service the waiting departed train passengers. When one finally showed up, the rather nice young fellow had a lead foot… and Nelson noticed that he was reaching 100 mph… or maybe that was kilometers… anyhow… 70 was the limit.
When we got to the apartment… a rather nice British couple met us… they were the property managers. They showed us up, and helped us carry up our luggage the seventy-two steps to our place on the top floor… whew! The temperature jumped 20 degrees half way up! But…. the view is gorgeous with a view of the red tiled rooftops and the St. Jean de Malte’s Church (we hear bells in the morning)…
The weather here is HOT… no fog like we are used to. We have been keeping the fans on and the windows open when we are here. Walking about is cause for exhaustion… and we keep l’eau (water) with us at all times. But, our place is wonderful, the food and local outdoor markets are another blog altogether… and we are just loving it here! More, of course to follow!
We started out yesterday with a 6am wake-up call so we could get to our first Train ride. Sans coffee or breakfast, we got to the Embankment Tube station before 6:45. We drug our big fat American luggage down the 68 steps (Judy counted) from our London flat over to the Tube, on the Tube to Euston Station… then pulled them over to San Pancras International Train Station. Ok… by 7am, I am sweating like a pig because one, it was a workout… I’ve got a nylonish backpack strapped to my back (where Harold is strapped to the outside of), I have my computer case, and then my medium sized rolly luggage. AND two… London is experiencing a heatwave… so it was getting warm already!
Once inside (still no breakfast/coffee, mind you) we make our way to the Eurostar security line (it’s international, so it’s like the border… we put in our paper ticket into a machine and it okays it… then you go thru the scanner thingie… like airports except you don’t take off your shoes… and there is a nice person there helping you throw your luggage and belongings onto the conveyor belt. You go thru to the little window where the French guy didn’t even look at me. Then it was to the lounge until our train was at the platform. This was our 20 minutes to go stand in another line for breakfast. Cafe Nero. It had some yogurt (which by the way, London and France make the BEST YOGURT EVER! I am telling you!) in a honey flavor, we brought this onto the train, deciding that coffee should wait until our luggage was on the train (they would have coffee on the train).
So the Eurostar Train went thru the Chunnel, which was only about 20 minutes of our trek, to Paris… where we’d take the Metro to Gare d’Lyon where we’d hop the TGV to Aix. The Metro is a nicer subway train in itself, but the station is more confusing… or maybe it’s just that everything is in French. But we had a little layover there at Gare d’Lyon, which was good because we were having ticket issues. The little ticket machine wouldn’t print ours… so, we went to the ticket line… and in typical French fashion.. huge line, 2 windows open. Judy theorizes that they are so long because the French want to give you time to figure out the problem before you get to the window. Which we did…we tried another ticket machine. But not before we witnessed a “line-jumper” which we were warned about in the book, “The Sweet Life in Paris”…. it was fantastic, because this older fellow cut twice… the second time he cut in front of a woman with several small kids… uh uh… she gave that guy so much grief… yelling and elbowing him after he pushed past her to the window. She would not let him win! And it worked! He went back to the line… and people kept pushing him back further in the line until, I presume, he missed his train and gave up. Such drama francais!
I will leave this blog entry here, as it is quite long. I will pick up from Paris to Aix in the next entry.
Well, my watercolor palette got a bit, er, messy in traveling. The colors that apparently weren’t dry ran. But luckily, it warn’t too bad. The red didn’t infiltrate, the black just jumped to the other side of the palette and the sepia mixed with the black a bit, which isn’t total disaster.
Here’s a page… ode to the Costa Bowl of coffee… I haven’t actually been doing too much watercoloring as yet. Mostly it’s just been pen. I find that we’ve just been on the move mostly… trying to fill in our time with doing stuff with not a whole lot of loitering down time. This page was done at the little Costa Italian Coffee joint at Embankment Place (under the Waterloo Bridge). It’s where we’ve been getting our joe every morning. The Baristas are friendly, Middle eastern… but I always have to ask them to repeat what they say as their accents are really thick.
The Cartoon Art Museum is this charming little place on Little Russell Street, London, not far from The British Museum. It houses over 200 original cartoons and comics… including an engraving by Hogarth, Cruikshank and Searle (as in Searles’ Cats). They also had originals of Posy Simmonds (Fred the Cat), and Steve Best and a lot of stuff from the now defunct Punch Magazine. Granted, many of these names and titles I’ve not heard of, like Simon Thorp’s Mrs. Brady Old Lady, and Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre, but I love discovering new things! Comics on this side of the pond are just different… they even have their own Dennis the Menace (who looks more menacing than ours).
The museum itself is small. There’s an upstairs with random original drawings by a variety of cartoonists as well as a room for creating toons aimed more at kids, a main room which changes every-so often and a permanent gallery with the history of cartooning in Britain. The rotating show was on toys… I just missed the show on Ronald Searle, to my disappointment. But the “toy show” was impressive with animation sketches with a Wallace & Grommit or two, Famous Fred, and Morph among others.
I met a budding cartoonist who remarked on my sketching… she was from Dallas, Texas. I gave her a Squid sticker and she asked me lots of questions like, what sort of pens do I use? and how do you draw your character from the side? We chatted for a bit and I gave her a Micron 01 and a sketch of Randie. She seemed pretty happy.
The gift shop was impressive for the museum size with lots of different books on cartoons and cartooning. By this time in the afternoon, my cohorts were getting tired and restless, and I didn’t really get a good go at the books. My hope is to return to get a better look at the selection and make an informed purchase. If anything, The Ronald Searle exhibition book will come home with me.
One last thing… they didn’t let you photograph individual works at the museum, but you could take general museum photos… so I have a few posted on Flickr. Have a look.
We just returned from seeing a play at The Old Vic Theatre… It was my first time seeing As You Like It by Willie Shakespeare… and, although it was quite long, I liked it.
I do funny things when I am at the THEE-AH-TER… I sketch, write and draw. I took only my sketchbook and a writing implement (Harold stayed at the flat for this one… I think he was still a bit tired from the late night previous) and I didn’t stop my scribbling activities from the play’s start to its finish. I filled up 3 or 4 pages in my Robert Bateman sketchbook. I filled those pages with quotes and a few quick character sketches and faces of theatre patrons.
And there is something intriguing about set design and art direction and costume work. The creative use of lights, sound and suggestion. A shadow can be a major tool… the suggestion of a forest by the use of ten wooden (tree) trunks and a shadowyness of leaves is rather genius. And changing the scene entirely with the addition of a hanging lamp and a few light pieces of furniture. I love the setting of this play with its mix of up-to-date suits (for dirty henchmen) and the 30’s inspired hobo look for the bannished Duke and his men. The Dylan-like wander/traveler Jacques. Nicely done, indeed.
The Theatre itself was a 20 minute walk from the apartment and a pleasant stroll by cafes and busking musician-types on the Waterloo Bridge. A clarinetist, a string band on a break and a latin/brazillian? band with a lively beat rounded out the lot. The play started at 7:30 and ended 3 hours later. And since we came thru a few “dodgey” South Bank areas on the way over, on sound judgement, we chose a London cab for the trip home. The London Eye, whose bright blue lights sparkled on the Thames, contrasted the orangey-yellow of Big Ben and Parliament. Sigh… I love London.
I’ll load up more pics on Flickr tomorrow of the Cartoon Museum (OH yeah! that’s another blog entry) and the Queen’s Embankment Park (whose musical selection today was a Jazz Band from “home”)…
Okay, it’s 7:45 California time… and its like 4 in the morning here. It’s warm… and I’m wide awake.
The apartment here is just up from a swinging place called Gordon’s Wine Bar. It’s a little hole in the wall… you go downstairs into a cave-like place.. and there’s barrels and all manor of wines, ports, sherries and the like. But part of this establishment is this outdoor corridor that runs along the Queen’s Embankment Park. It’s got barrel tables and Londonites and tourists alike buy their bottle/carafe/glass of wine and sit all along this corridor. It’s a very happening place. The clinking of glasses and hum of the crowd is quite nice… except for the “F-this and that” girl who was somewhat irksome.
Jet lag is a crazy thing… so forgive any grammatical errors and such… But, in order to get accustomed, we’re staying awake…
And so from our 8ish hour flight (this seemed fast to me) on British Airways, we consumed a good lot of caffeine at Costa Coffee in The Death Star (I mean Terminal 5)… then we caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington (which was entirely done up in scaffolding and remodeling materials)… we topped up our Oyster cards (that we had from the last trip) and took the Tube to our place in the York Building just alongside the Thames River. The Tube was super screechy… and a nice Brit lady told us that when it gets warm and dry (like today is) the trains squeal a lot more. When we got off the train, there was an orchestra playing Porgy & Bess at the Queen’s Embankment Park (a spit from our flat). And for that matter, it seems like everywhere we go, they are playing American music.
We dropped our bags at the flat… and proceeded to the HaHa Bar & Grill… by our place. Keaton, our American Actor waitress, chatted with us and we happy to have “lemonades” (Sprite with a lime) and some rather tastey wraps to nourish our poor beat, traveling selves. From there… a walk about that took us to the comic book stores all along St. Martin’s in the field and whatever street that turns into. In a few days we’ll return to visit the Cartoon Museum… it was nearly closed when we walked by.
We strolled by a local convienience market and picked up eggs and naan bread for dinner… the naan bread was super scrumptious… and we put some Stilton (how British of us) on the eggs. In just a bit there’s another walk and a pub visit… There’s a pub nearby called the Theodore Bullfrog… maybe a lemon Shandy there? or just a glass of sherry.
The toons are done and sent off to the FTP sites… and I am finally breathing normally! Quel Relief! …or something like that. (I should’ve studied my French a little harder).
So the bags are packed, the camera is charged and most of my affairs are in order. Here’s the plan…
I just upgraded my personal Flickr account so that unlimited photos can be uploaded… etc, etc… so along with this blog (right here where you are), I will be uploading photos from this trip here: Brigtoon’s flickr …. it is also a tab on the right.
Harold is thrilled. He fits in my “Euro bag” quite nicely. Euro bag was bought specifically for my last trip to Europe two years ago. It is a PacSafe product with heavy duty zippers that clasp and slash-proof straps (to guard against those wily gypsies I was warned against. It is the most comfortable backpack I have ever had… and I happily recommend their products. And Harold seems comfortable enough IN it.
This coming Monday my people and I are leaving for a three week trek in London, Paris & Provence.
So for this First Friday, July 2nd, the Cartoonery will be sporting a little Euro flavor. That’s right… We’ll have some tastey European inspired treats for happy munching. Judy will be offering Absinthe Cake in honour of our tour de France … and shortbread for our London travels. So come see me and Harold off … (this is his first European adventure and keep track of his sight-seeing online here!)
The Cartoonery, 5 East Gabilan St., Suite 205, Oldtown Salinas, CA… 5pm – 8pm.
… expression is the conveyor belt of art… or is it the other way around?