Wednesday, July 25, 2007

San Diego - It's German for... Comic-Con!

If you've seen Anchorman, you'll catch the 'German for' reference, but the main news is that I'll be heading down to San Diego for the Comic-Con convention. I have no idea what to expect as this will be my first Con experience. I guess sensory overload is somewhere near the top of the list. And I'll also most likely be in a state of delirium as Alex and I plan to drive down throughout the night on Friday. But what I'm looking forward to the most is meeting friends, old and new.... and maybe a few art directors willing to give me an illustration gig or two!

In Other News
  • I have a couple pieces hanging in the annual 'Mischief' show at the Studio Gallery in San Francisco, which is being held from July 18th to August 12th. Ill try to get a couple pictures up from the reception. Click here to take a look at some of the artwork. There's some really fun stuff up!

  • The new is finally online after several months of designing, redesigning, and redesigning the redesigns. An online shopping cart/store is currently in the works, featuring archival prints, greeting cards, hand pressed note cards, and other goodies. Of course, for those who can't wait, the DuttonPrints section is still alive and kicking (cough, hint!).
There's a lot more to share, such as my recent trip to New York with Alex, as well as a wonderful time hosting three illustrator friends of mine (Julien Alday, Tiffany Prothero, and Ben Foster), but that will have to wait until next time. For now, I'll leave you with a recent sketch before I get back to portfolio preparing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Italy - Finale Finally

Apparently, I'm a big fat liar, as I promised in my last update to have Europe all caught up in the very near future. The more I think about it, it's comparable to making Harry Potter movies; the same sense of urgency to get the whole thing wrapped up before the subject matter has grown too old, yet the magic faded somewhere around the fifth installment. Nevertheless, the show must go on.

Well, I've had Rome all written out for about a month, just waiting for photos and sketch scans (post production), but life in the present has been way too busy to allow me to continue writing about events that are now over three months old. I'm sorry to those who have waited so long only to get a hasty wrap, but there are just too many new things going on that I'd like to share with you before the end of this epoch.

That said, here's an edited version of what I wrote, along with some sketches, and a brief summary of our last two stops. I hope you'll enjoy.


Just as I was starting to get the hang of my Spanish, it was time for a new country. So with just a couple weeks left in our trip, we said farewell to Spain, and flew off to Italy, where we began the final leg (or boot?) of our tour.

Being a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and having visited a couple times before, Alex was understandably excited to be in Rome. I've never really known the city for its present day charm - I was more familiar with it in terms of history and maybe having seen Gladiator one too many times. But after just a few minutes of walking around, it was easy to see why Alex loved it here so much.

Some scenery... somehow, the institutional loveliness of our hostel room made the cut.

Speaking of walking around, we did more walking in Rome than almost all of Europe combined up until that point of our trip. Several reasons why: To enjoy the city more intimately, to walk off the weight we gained in the past two countries.... and Rome's subway system is a joke. Literally... the saying goes that every time they begin excavating a tunnel to expand their network, they discover ancient ruins. And it's mostly true, so to really cover long distances as a tourist, your best option is by bus.... or renting a Vespa. Well, the buses in Rome are ridiculously crowded so we skipped that option whenever possible. The one of two times we chose to ride one, Alex found herself sweetly flattered that a man offered so much as a bar for her to lean against (meanwhile, I made sure he wasn't picking her pockets). As for the Vespa option- well, let's face it, I'm no Gregory Peck....

Or am I? .....Alright, slightly creepy. I apologize.

Truth be told, I was glad for the slower pace. It made for frequent breaks where we got to sit and eat gelato, sip coffee, duck into a cathedral here and there, watch street performers or simply people watch, and wave our fists at all the quaint artisan shops that I couldn't afford to buy anything from.

I did pick up a pan of burnt sienna though. Yay for color in my journal. Above: a Chestnut vendor

Various locals and out of towners

Children relatively unimpressed by a pair of street performers....
who eventually became very funny so I stopped sketching.

I'd been reading My Name is Asher Lev (which should be required reading for all artists), and there's a section of the book that inspired me to study Michelangelo's Pietà in the Vatican City. Sadly, the one time we were able to get into St. Peter's Basilica without having to wait hours in line, the Pope just happened to be making an appearance, thus the Pietà was covered by a shroud as he made his entry via the same corner the sculpture was located. I sketched another sculpture in silent protest, while priests visiting from far off lands stood on plastic chairs, crying out,"la Popa!" as the tip of his hat made its way through a sea of people.

Ahem, not a very strong act of protest at that (left). Right: A fountainhead in front of the Pantheon.

I did get to do a couple Bernini studies, along with an outdoor monument in the Borghese Gardens

Let's now move on to Florence...


.... which was a lot like Rome, only seemingly more condensed. All the major landmarks seemed to sit virtually a stone's throw away from each other.... though I presume you are not allowed to throw any stones in Florence as the security in general was quite paranoid of people vandalizing the sculptures.

Florence definitely has its own kind of charm though. And as much as I like to talk about alleyways and quiet streets in just about every city we visited, what I really enjoyed about Florence were the tucked away shops within those alleyways. I think maybe it's because these shops are in such obscure areas that the window displays are dressed up so invitingly.

Right: My Venetian birds were very happy to finally have
better photo reference for masks.

Art-wise, Florence has an endless supply of pieces to study. But I had no desire to visit the Uffizi. Sounds crazy, but by this point of our trip, I was quite Renaissanced out. We visited a Cézanne show instead, which was a real breath of fresh air.

However, I thought it would be slightly idiotic not to see the David, so we jumped in the queue for the Accademia Gallery and barely squeezed into the museum before closing time. Unfortunately, this left very little time for me to pay my respects to Michelangelo's masterpiece, let alone his unfinished sculptures.

Very brief David study up top... wish I had more time, but security shooed us out. But I was grateful they let me paint. They were very strict about cameras, literally screaming in people's faces for snapping photos. Bottom: some random dude.

Strangely enough, watercolors were not permitted in the outdoor sculpture plaza, despite all the sculptures being replicas. Like I said, paranoid security. Watercolors would have captured the action in this study more adequately, but instead, it looks labored; like I was beating a dead horse... or Lapith, perhaps?

We only met one friend while in Rome, but it wasn't until our last night that we really hung out. Luckily, we had similar travel plans and met up with our friend, Sharif, in Florence. We had a great dinner (we began relying on the guide book after too many strikeouts in Rome), then went on a mini pub crawl, along with another friend Sharif met back in Rome, Rafael. Both were kind enough to let me sketch them during our crawl.

Sharif at the "Dublin Pub"

Rafael at "The Fish" - Painting noticeably looser after a few pints!

See? I told you those storefronts were oh-so-inviting.

Continuation of the Alex Naptime Chronicles.

Hmm, I think that about does it for Florence. It's funny that we originally planned to visit for the sole purpose of.... ahem, shopping. (I got the leather field bag I've always wanted, and Alex has a favorite stall in the marketplace for new skirts). Well, we enjoyed a four day stay instead, and had a great time with our friends. But now the time comes for the final part of our trip.

Cinque Terre - *sigh*

Two views from the beach in Monterosso

It's difficult for me to even type out 'Cinque Terre' without sighing, so 'sigh' is officially part of the name of this location. Cinque Terre Sigh was wonderful and sad at the same time because there was no prettier place to end our trip, which naturally made the fact that our trip was ending all the more clear.

Some initial thoughts from when we first arrived... this saves me from having to type any more than I have to. That is, if you can read my writing.

Our friend Jeff, who hosted us in Nottingham toward the beginning of the trip, joined us for a few days. Together, we all enjoyed plenty of great wine, fine dining, sun bathing, hiking the rocky coast, and generally doing what the Italians call il dolce far niente - "the sweetness of doing nothing."

first: Me and Jeff in Riomaggiore. Just a couple buildings to my left was the apartment we all stayed in.
second: View of Vernazza as we approach the village by a hiking trail.
third: Me and Alex in Vernazza.
last: view of Riomaggiore from the top of the village.

Nautical still life on the boat ramp below our apartment, as well my final sketch in Cinque Terre Sigh.

So, there you have it. Our honeymoon in a nutshell. Thanks for sticking with us through it all!

The honeymoon may be over, but the grand adventure is just over yonder.