Achtung, baby.

Last week Lynn and I returned from a week in Berlin, a city that has been on our ‘list’ for a good few years now and about which we’d heard nothing but positive reports.

With good reason. Be grateful this isn’t a travel blog; you’d be in for a long haul. Berlin is a city of profound historical significance while at the same time fizzing with creative energy and in a seemingly permanent state of re-invention. All very zeitgeist-y, appropriately enough. Were I not merely a humble doodler, there would now follow an interminable stream of unoriginal thoughts and observations on topics as diverse as Graffiti, cultural globalisation, the Stasi, brutalist architecture, Currywurst, Communism, guilt and atonement, post-modernism, public transport, Soviet-era euphemisms, ancient civilisations, bicycle lanes and the ampelmann. Think yourselves lucky.

The sketchbook accompanied me everywhere as usual but our typically relentless schedule meant it rarely emerged from my rucksack. Here’s a quick drawing from the hotel room (Room 101 – really!) the evening we arrived. It had been a long day.

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The only other two sketches from the trip were done during early-evening beers (about the only time of the day we sat down for any length of time) and so also feature Lynn, with barely a hint of Berlin to be seen, other than in the place-names and German phrase-book.

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Tuesday I was back in the SCAC life-drawing studio for the first time in three weeks for a splendid session with the always-inspiring Kate on modelling duties. I carried on where I left off last time, with my rediscovered joy of watercolours undimmed. They do make some lovely ‘marks’ – it’s like being an art student again!24Feb15-KateS@SCAC_1(lo-res)24Feb15-KateS@SCAC_2(lo-res)24Feb15-KateS@SCAC_3(lo-res)24Feb15-KateS@SCAC_4(lo-res)24Feb15-KateS@SCAC_5(lo-res)24Feb15-KateS@SCAC_6(lo-res)

 

And seriously, if you get a chance to visit Berlin – go.

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White stuff.

There was some pretty epic winter precipitation in the French Alps both before and during last week’s annual ‘Sonneteers’ ski trip to La Clusaz. To the extent that I’ll break my usual rule prohibiting photography on this blog and book-end this post with a couple of snaps by way of illustration.

Here’s Chalet Gingembre, looking particularly Alpine in its thick white coat. This was the first year we’ve actually had to dig our way in. The first full day, which would normally see us on the slopes, was spent clearing the entrance and parking space and shopping for provisions (a far more time-consuming process than usual!). IMG_0859

As ever, there wasn’t a huge amount of time available for sketching but I did whip out the iPhone during a couple of coffee stops to make quick portraits of Jan and Justin with the Adobe Ideas app. 2Feb15-Jan@Telemark5thFeb15-Justin@Telemark

Plus of course the traditional guest-book entry (see previous ski trip posts) which this year weaves the current batch of in-jokes and observations into an image based on a notorious painting by the famous Japanese artist Hokusai (exhibited as part of the wonderful ‘Shunga’ exhibition at the British Museum about a year ago). You’ll simply have to believe me when I assure you that everything is included for a reason; a full explanation would take forever.

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Here’s a shot I took of my skiing colleagues, Justin, Jan and Nick, at the top of the Aiguille run during a blissful break in the weather. If I’d had time to sketch it I would’ve – honest.Aiguille-Justin,Jan&Nick2015

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The beautiful game.

Another extremely enjoyable life-drawing on Tuesday with Naomi, a striking, flame-haired model – new to the club – who held a number of tricky poses with impressive poise to the appreciation of a packed studio.

This was sandwiched between a couple of sports-related events. On Saturday I was fortunate enough to be among the 6,000 Bradford City fans at Stamford Bridge who had the exquisite privilege of watching our team knock the usually-invincible Chelsea FC out of the FA Cup by the scarcely credible score of 4-2 in a match immediately labelled as one of the great giant-killing acts of all time. Everything unpredictable, dramatic, epic and euphoric about sport was encapsulated in those nerve-shredding ninety minutes. I could go on but I fear I might lose you. Anyway, a joy.

Then in a couple of days it’s the annual boys’ ski trip to the French Alps. Always terrific fun although likely to pose a sterner challenge than ever to my creaking joints this year.

Now, where did I put those elasticated knee supports…?

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Circus reduced.

Here are a few drawings of Michaela and Felix from last night’s trimmed-down Drawing Circus: Pierrot, Harlequin & Columbina at TOM. Some great costumes, incorporating lots of challenging ruffs and frills that I was happy to randomise in the interest of expediency.

Was lured off to the pub by fellow scribblers Paul Cemmick and Mark Harrison before I’d had a chance to draw Pierrot. I believe that sort of complaint comes under the heading of ‘First-world problems’.20Jan15-Draw@TOM-Michaela1(lo-res)20Jan15-Draw@TOM-Michaela2(lo-res)20Jan15-Draw@TOM-Felix2(lo-res)20Jan15-Draw@TOM-Felix1(lo-res)

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Too close to home.

This was almost yet another blog post about the appalling events in Paris last week.

Like most Europeans, I’ve recently been thinking about little else and felt that, as an illustrator and cartoonist myself, I should make some gesture of solidarity. I won’t pretend I was a reader of Charlie Hebdo – I was aware of the paper but it has a distinctly French outlook and sensibility and on this side of the English Channel we’re more likely to get our satire fix from the far more British Private Eye magazine. However, it was not difficult for me to identify with the victims; these were cartoonists, members of my tribe.

I produced a knee-jerk cartoon response to the atrocity which was heartfelt enough but expressed little more than disgust and anger. I did briefly consider adding it to the online tsunami of other supportive cartoons but was dissuaded by the small handful of people I showed it to, who mostly urged caution. Also, every attempt to fully articulate my feelings about all this in words stubbornly resisted brevity – and sprawling diatribes are not really what Drawstring is all about. This is too complex and depressing an issue for pithy one-liners.

Suffice to say, the values that Charlie Hebdo appeared to stand for, albeit in a deliberately crude and provocative manner – secularism, freedom of expression, an innate distrust of the rich and powerful and the importance of a sceptical, investigative press – are values I share. There’s very little else I can usefully add to the torrent of opinions that have been expressed since last Wednesday, perhaps the best thing to do is just get on with life.

So… here are a few life-drawings of the delightful Laura Kate from last Tuesday evening. A sure sign of life going on as normal if ever there was one. These were done in my latest favourite technique – pencil and watercolour (limited palette, just black, white, crimson, ultramarine and lemon yellow) on A4 sheets of 300gsm textured watercolour paper. I mentioned it in my last post, but I’m having such a good time re-discovering the simple pleasure of slopping down watery washes of paint and seeing how they transform as they dry. It’s a fast technique that is perfectly suited to the manic intensity of ten-minute figure-drawing.

At the pub afterwards there was much talk of… well, you can probably guess.

#JeSuisCharlie

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Back to class.

New year, new technique.

Well, sort of. It was the first Tuesday evening session of 2015 at SCAC last night and my first session in over a month, for reasons you’ll now be au fait with. I decided it was time to dig out the watercolour pad and paints that have been sitting in a drawer ever since I bought them last year, no doubt puzzling over their purpose in life.

It can be surprisingly energising to work with an unfamiliar medium, although I had misgivings about just how much actual paint I’d have time to apply during the ten-minute poses. The advantage of having to work quickly though, is that there is no time for hesitancy or over-analysis and on hearing Bill utter the dread ‘four minutes to go’ (happy birthday for yesterday, Bill), it was a case of dropping the pencil, grabbing a chunky brush and whacking down some quick washes using a very limited palette.

Our subject this time was Clementine – an actual French model. Her fabulous curly red mop was impossible to do justice to in the time available and almost deserves a session of its own; there’s some classic artistic shorthand going on in the drawings here. It also emerged that she had done conversational practice sessions with some old friends of ours who have been learning to speak French. What a delightfully small town Brighton is.

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Bookworms

 

You could be forgiven for concluding, on the basis of the handful of sketches I made during the last week, that the festive period chez Parkin was anything but. This image of joyless bookishness is misleading of course, merely reflecting the rare moments that family members sat still long enough for me to whip out the ol’ Moleskine.

Having said that, Chloë is entering her university home straight and Sam is currently trying to get his head around the fundamentals of accounting (not his natural comfort zone) so there probably was a slightly more studious atmosphere about the place than in previous years.

And once again I found myself ineluctably compelled to draw – or attempt to draw – our Christmas tree. Most fiendish of subjects.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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