Friday, April 25, 2008

We've got a puppy!!!!

Meet Horace, the newest addition to our menagerie. He's a red toy poodle pup. HOW CUTE IS HE??!!

Humans/squids: ecstatic
Cats: curious/contemptuous
Pup: mad with delight and very hard to photograph because he never keeps still!


(My theory confirmed: cats are all Hamlet, doggies are Laertes. Maybe older dogs could also be Horatio.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Slings & Arrows

Thanks to my buddy Greg, recommender of good things, I recently had the great pleasure of watching the first season of Slings & Arrows, a Canadian mini-series set in a provincial theatre company beset by more dramas than they ever bargained for.

In season one, the company is attempting to mount their flagship production, Hamlet. Prominent among their many problems is the grudging return of Geoffrey Tennant (the absolutely enormous spunk pictured here), an actor who lost his mind while playing the Dane seven years earlier. He's back to fill the position of artistic director, not to play Hamlet, but in real life he is the truest of Hamlets, antic disposition and all.

Although he's not actually performing the role, his character was the best Hamlet I've ever seen. He was precisely my idea of what Hamlet should be like, with just the right mix of ballsy-ness and sensitive melancholy. Oh, and he's a big hottie. I mentioned that, right?

Anyway, as well as being a rollicking good show to watch, and hilarious in parts, I found it very instructive. It's been said a million times that Hamlet is a role that can never be exhausted and whose mysteries will never be fully plucked out. So I gobbled up this take on the character, and learned a lot from it.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the way the show looked at the enormity of the role, how daunting it can be for an actor, and how attempting to encompass it can drive a person mad. This certainly resonated with me yesterday. Of course I'm playing all the characters' roles on paper as well as directing and bloody well drawing the thing, but without a doubt the hardest part is "playing" Hamlet. The other characters fairly leap from my brush, but I really have to sweat to get Hamlet's expressions, posture and timing right. Having laboured over his first appearance and dialogue with King and Queen for two consecutive days of 12-hour desk marathons, by the end of day two I was feeling pretty wild-eyed and crazy, let me tell you. Fortunately, though, I went easier on myself today and spent the day reviewing and redoing some of that work, to good effect.

All good fun. Whoever said we scribblers were obsessive, eh?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The rest is silence

Well, not quite. But I have been very quiet blogwise the past couple of weeks, and we can thank the Dane for that. I've been madly, passionately - ok, maniacally - absorbed in working on Hamlet, and have barely made time to eat, sleep and otherwise behave like a normal human being. It is cracking along very well, despite the little hitch of my Wacom tablet giving up the ghost and having to be replaced on Monday. I expect the discarded one to return any day now and ask its successor to take revenge on me for killing it.

I'll just pause from my madness to mention that Allen & Unwin are launching Bruce Mutard's new graphic novel, The Sacrifice, on Wednesday 23 April, and it looks like an excellent read. Set in Melbourne in the shadow of WWII, the book deals with war, ideals, family and love. Bruce will appear in conversation with the lovely Bernard Caleo.

Wednesday 23 April 6.30pm
Readings Carlton - in Lygon Street of course.
Free, but but please book on (03) 9347 6633 or RSVP on Facebook.

Sadly I can't attend, because parent-teacher interviews have been inconveniently scheduled that evening. Damn!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Inky goodness

Hamlet is in progress! I've done eleven pages of the final work (yes, eleven down, 390 to go!) and am so excited about it, I'd work at it 20 hours a day if I were physically capable of doing so. And if I didn't have to go to the office...

I won't show any finished pages here because my illusionist's instinct tells me that until the dove is ready to be flourished out of the hat, I should keep it hidden. Very hard, when I can barely contain my excitement!

Instead, I'll introduce a new favourite product - Pebeo's black "graphic" india ink/encre de chine. Here it is with its perfect partner - a box of fabulous vintage bowl-shaped nibs that I bought on eBay:

The ink was recommended by the very brusque-and-busy manager at Deans Art - clearly a man who knows his ink. I'd complained about the erratic behaviour of my big bottle of Winsor & Newton (my battles with W&N seem to be a recurring theme...) and he seemed completely unsurprised by this report. He tossed this plastic Pebeo bottle at me, saying "this is good stuff, and it's cheap". I didn't actually look at the price, so keen was I to find a black ink that I actually liked.

And I'm very happy to say that this is indeed the goods. Very black, shiny, sits nicely on top of the paper, and with just the right amount of whatever it is that gives it that satiny feel. No bleeding into the paper, and no stickiness. Yippee!

This was also my first try with the new/old nibs from the magic cave of eBay. They took forever to arrive after being caught in a UK postal strike, and then I ignored them for months while continuing my extended romp with the brush pen (which remains my main tool at the moment, as Hamlet is a largely nib-free affair). But it is a pleasure to simultaneously happen upon a superior ink and what seems to be the ideal steel nib! These are large bowl-shaped nibs with a sort of rounded bobble on the upper part of the point, making them slightly less hard and scratchy. They glide, they're not too flexy and they have just the right amount of line variation for my taste. And the best part is, I've got 114 of them! No more wondering if my one-of-a-kind nib will last the distance for an entire book! I used just two nibs for the main drawing work of Gatsby, and after approximately 1,500 drawings, they were both worn away on a very rakish tilt indeed. And by rakish I do mean prone to raking the paper.

In other news, Gatsby has been listed as a "notable book" in the Children's Book Council of Australia awards this year. Lovely! Speaking of the CBC, I'll be on a panel at the CBC conference in Melbourne in May, talking about graphic novels together with Queenie Chan (manga queen) and Neil Gaiman (!!!).