Go West (country)

Ever in tune with the zeitgeist, our family summer vacation last month was a rather modest affair in comparison with some of the exotic trips we’ve enjoyed in recent years. No pagodas, minarets, gold Buddhas or souks this time round; just pasties, pints of Doom Bar and rain-lashed beaches as we opted for a one-week staycation in Cornwall, like everyone else. This was partly a financial decision following the worryingly work-free start to the year but also due to relative flood of work that has come in subsequently, which would have made it very awkward to disappear for the usual fortnight.

We stayed in a charming, crooked little house right in the centre of St Ives, twenty seconds walk from the quayside in one direction, a minute from Porthmeor Beach in the other. The reference to ‘rain-lashed beaches’ is slightly unfair – the heavens only opened in earnest on one occasion, albeit for an entire morning, which confined us to quarters but did at least present me with a rare quiet moment to dig out the sketch book.

This was made from the window seat in the kitchen, looking down along Fore Street which had been transformed into a river of brollies, cagoules and traditional British stoicism. The rain rattled the cobbles and an intoxicating smell of baking drifted up from the pasty shop next door, just under the striped awning and the unforgettable Virgin Street sign. Regardless of the quality of the final image, the very act of drawing the scene before you requires a level of contemplation that rarely occurs at other times and the memory of the moment is all the more vivid as a result. A snapshot of the same scene would be over in an instant and simply wouldn’t evoke the same intensity of recollection. That’s not to say that I don’t take snaps; I usually return from holidays with hundreds of them but they generally don’t exert the same Proustian effect as old sketches.

Here’s another example; this drawing immediately conjures up not only the time of day (around 5pm, with the beach beginning to empty), the bottles of beer I’d nipped back to the house for, the dozing offspring and bookish spouse, but also the fact that it quickly became a race against the incoming tide and had to be finished off in a rush before we were forced to transplant ourselves further up the beach. The snap, by contrast… well perhaps the less said about that the better.

The holiday was a brief hiatus in what has become a very busy period of work. This has mainly been a continuation of the educational projects mentioned in previous posts but there was one little job that came in shortly after our return from St Ives that provided a brief but welcome breath of politically-incorrect air; an editorial piece for an old client from FHM US who is setting up a new magazine ( I won’t reveal the name in case it’s not yet been announced) and wanted several images of lascivious-looking human-headed sperm to illustrate an item on male infidelity. Great fun and a nice antidote to the rest of the work that’s currently dominating my in-tray. Here are a few of the chaps in question:

The frantic work schedule of late has left little time for drawing that’s not directly related to the illustrations in question but I did find time to knock out another finger-painting on the iPod, a process I always end up enjoying enormously. This time it’s a Picasso-esque self-portrait, which currently serves as my Facebook profile pic.

Enough wittering for now. Back to the drawing board.


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