Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bloody Australia Day

Ok, before any of you patriots get yourselves into a lather, I'm not bagging Australia Day. It's just that ours was bloody - literally. Big Squid was engaged in the traditional Aussie ritual of preparing meat for the barbie, when he knocked the chef's knife off the bench and attempted to stop it... with his arm. One ambulance ride, six stitches, a tied-off vein and a tetanus shot later, the Big Squid is fine - but it was pretty scary.

Some hours later, when we'd both recovered from all the excitement, Nurse Bug had a chance to read the lovely review of The Great Gatsby that came out in The Weekend Australian that same day. This is actually the first time the book has been reviewed in a newspaper. It has featured in quite a number of newspaper articles, and has been reviewed in lit/publishing mags, but this was the first newspaper review, and I was thrilled with it. It gladdened my scribbler's heart even more to see that the critic (Cefn Ridout - a comics specialist, I think) didn't start with the "graphic novels - now here's a novelty!" approach, but got straight down to a serious, in-depth review of the particular book. He also looked at Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese, and gave it a glowing rap too. Very happy indeed. Aha - and here's the review online.

In amongst all this I've been hard at work on those backgrounds for Hamlet, which of course are spiralling into ever-increasing levels of detail. Here's the second one:
Big Squid provided very helpful technical input for this picture. In fact, he caught me just in time before I ended up painting helical ice-stairs that were physically impossible. He pointed out that if I wanted them to look as they do, they had to actually be double rather than single helices.

He's a whiz, my Squid. And to celebrate his near miss, we went to see the most appropriate film on offer at our lovely local cinema: Sweeney Todd. Happy bloody Australia Day!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen

No, this isn't a little foray into relationship advice. It's an succinct summing up of the Art Supplies Situation at the moment. Seems that every art gear shop in Melbourne has ceased to stock two of my three favourite products, and most can't even order the stuff in. Naturally this minxlike coyness has me in a towering frenzy of desire for said products.

Magic Color inks, the subject of my ravings last week, are unavailable in Melbourne. I learned this on Monday. Most places have never even heard of them. Fortunately a good substitute does exist - Daler Rowney's "FW" brand of opaque acrylic inks - but they are expensive, and I suspect they may have a greater tendency to clot. Amazingly, despite the obvious wonderfulness of this medium, very few shops stock any opaque acrylic inks at all. Eckersleys (ah, Eckersleys!) in Melbourne is an exception.

Perhaps even more puzzling is the disappearance of Winsor & Newton's "Lana" range of drawing cartridge paper (which is actually no longer called Lana, apparently). You cannot get it anywhere - though once again Eckersley's came through and were at least able to order it for me (though with a wait time of one month!). I am especially keen on their big A3 pads of 220 gsm smoooooth paper. But not only is it unavailable, most shops do not even stock an equivalent product. This is astounding. What do you draw and paint on when you want lovely smooth (but not shiny) creamy paper that is heavy enough to support wet media? What?? The closest thing I could find was a series of bristol-type pads, marketed as "Manga drawing pads". Need I say more...

I know that my relationship with W&N's Lana is a special one, because it survived a terrible betrayal last year. I was on the home stretch of The Great Gatsby. After five years of Lana and I working away together without any assurance of publication, I finally had a contract in hand (not on Lana paper, mind you) and was so excited, I decided to pencil the last 50 pages and then ink them in one big batch. All fired up, I grabbed a new Lana pad and carefully cut out the 200-odd frames to size, serrated the edges with pinking shears, and pencilled them all. When it came time to ink - there is no other way to put this - the shameless skank did the dirty on me: every single page of that pad was defective. Instead of the ink sitting smoothly on the surface, it bled into little spidery hairs on every line. I had to ditch all 200 drawings and start again.

The things I said about Winsor & Newton at that time should not be repeated. But, like a besotted fool, I took Lana back. I love that paper. I haven't found anything else to compare. Call me deluded, call me a hopeless addict, but I really, really want a regular supply.

Four more weeks and my order will come through. Until then, I'll be anointing my remaining four sheets with obsessive application of opaque acrylic inks, and hoping that my coy mistress will be here soon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What I did on my holidays

After two weeks in Byron Bay, I am thoroughly relaxed, revived, and ready to bite into 2008. It looks to be a very busy year!

Our holiday was not all play, though. I took an extra little suitcase just for art materials, and spent a good two hours most days working away at the minute details of this painting, which is the first of my Hamlet backgrounds. If you look at it up close, you will see thousands of minute circles in the sky, and thousands of tiny "broken" tiles. As you can imagine, it was extremely laborious, time-consuming work, but I am very pleased with the result. Here it is, complete:

The "tiles" are inspired by the trencadis mosaic work of Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi's work is an endless source of delight for me, as well as giving me little pangs of nostalgia for the year I spent in Barcelona. The colour scheme was inspired by a beautiful new year card sent to me in December by my frield Will D. The card shows a detail of an oil painting called Thousand and One Nights by Vittorio Zecchin. It was painted between 1900 and 1912 - and for some reason Blogger insists on inserting the photo of it sideways! I love the profusion of detail in this style of painting. Here it is:

My picture is on an A3 sheet of cartridge paper, and both the background colour and all those tiny patterns are painted using a mindblowingly fabulous product: Magic Color acrylic inks. Super-opaque, super-fluid, and vivid enough to make your eyeballs quiver - I think this might be the perfect colour medium! Here are the little bottles of joy:
Well, better get back to it - I have thousands of tiny white dots to go on with this afternoon, and Big Squid is invading my drawing room and berating me about my truly atrocious "filing" system for all our paperwork. Sigh. Filing! Can't I just draw my dots??