Tag Archives: stillman & birn

pete goes to hollywood

chinese theatre hollywood
More from the recent trip to LA. After checking into the hotel in Westwood, I jumped on a bus through Beverly Hills and over to Hollywood. I am from Burnt Oak, ok, so this is pretty much the stuff dreams are made of. An aside, buses in LA are awesome. Most of them only cost a dollar and the various networks go all over the place. It’s almost like it’s a proper city! (I’m being silly, of course it’s a proper city, and that’s why I love it – being from London, LA feels a bit more familiar to me in its massiveness.) You hear all the time that LA is only for the automobiles, but as a tourist, the buses are really excellent. So anyway I went to Hollywood and walked up to the Hollywood Boulevard, where I had last been in 2002. Tinseltown, they call it, but I didn’t see any Christmas decoration shops. It is of course tacky touristy mayhem, mixed in with a fair bit of grime, plus a whole bunch of famous names on stars on the ground. Come on, that is why we go. I wanted to sketch the world famous Chinese Theatre, made famous of course in Iron Man III. Ok it was famous before then. Note the bus-stop, I wasn’t leaving that out. A red carpet was being set up for the premiere of something, a small independent art-house movie called ‘Hot Pursuit’ which I presume is about the sadness of playing a game of Trivial Pursuit in a house where the air conditioning just won’t work. If it’s not then hey, great idea for a film, here’s my script Hollywood, MOVIE DEAL PLEASE. I sketched while Marilyn Monroe, Spider-man, and Darth Vader walked by, people dressed as space aliens and hookers (to be fair they may have both genuinely been either), and the occasional massive group of Chinese tourists. I have included a handy map in my sketchbook to show where this is located. This is the first page of the new Stillman & Birn ‘Alpha’ sketchbook I bought a couple of months ago, but I’ve been waiting to finish my current sketchbook before starting it. Well, I couldn’t wait, so after this sketch I reverted back to the Seawhite’s remaining pages for the other sketches. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this, you probably don’t care. Unless you’re some sort of Hollywood exec who sees a market in blockbuster movies about drawing in sketchbooks. I can see the trailer now. “He was a Sketcher, on the Edge…” etc.

Hollywood map

“Draw the El Capitan Theatre!” they all said. “You gotta draw the El Capitan!” Yes, yes I should, especially as they are playing Avengers there (the opening night was that same night). It’s really hard, the way I draw, to sketch that big neon sign, so I jsut went for the bare minimum before abandoning it. Perhaps I’ll give it a better go someday. Perhaps. But this is all you get.
el capitan hollywood
Fire hydrants! So, when you travel, well when I travel, it’s always good to sketch some of the local hydrants. This particular one was painted red, white and blue (and yellow), as were many on Hollywood Boulevard. This one was located however right next to Walt Disney’s star on the Walk of Fame. Around me, star-spotting tour buses loaded and unloaded en route to peek at the gates of famous people’s second homes, while homeless people shuffled up to see why on earth I was sketching a fire hydrant. But this one’s a beauty, so I couldn’t resist adding it to my collection.
hydrant hollywood blvd

IMG_3773

I caught a couple of glimpses of the Hollywood sign up in the hills, but as the early evening pressed on I wanted to stop and rest my feet, so I popped into the interesting looking Pig’n’Whistle pub. I was going to have dinner (it’s a restaurant too) but opted for a pint and a sketch. The light from the street was pouring through the stained glass windows, but the itnerior was spectauclar – the ceiling was old and of ornately carved wood, it was like being in an old mead-hall, but with very Spanish-feeling decoration. Yes, I’d recommend stopping in here. After doing this sketch, I popped back onto a bus to Westwood, and had a late dinner before watching the UK general election leaders spouting nonsense on the TV in my hotel room. Happy travels!
pig n whistle hollywood

bustin’ makes me feel good

Lego Hulkbuster!

Avengers! Assemble! Literally! This is the Lego Hulkbuster, the latest Iron Man suit to be made into the plastic brick format, and the centrepiece of the epic “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie that came out over a week ago. This was drawn in the sketchbook of my son’s toys and stuff, though this one is actually mine. Wow, that was a big film. It will need several viewings to get my head around it, so much was packed in. Eagerly anticipated in our household it was, but when the trailer first came and there was, of all things, Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armour. It was pretty much my favourite sequence of the movie as well. This is a great Lego set too.

I saw the film while I was in Santa Monica, and loved it. There is generally a lot going on withe the plot, and much of it sets up future films in the Marvel project (specifically the Thanos-centric Infinity War), but Ultron is a barking mad robotic villain. There are smash-smash-fight-fight bits (just like the comics), confusing bits (just like the comics), funny bits, crazy bits, even some sad bits. The best bit for me though was the Hulkbuster scene. If you’ve not seen the movie (or the trailer or anything to do with this film at all), then spoiler alerts, Hulk needed some taking down, and Tony Stark calls in the Hulkbuster armour. Smash smash smash fight fight smash, one-liner here, one-liner there, and don’t mention puny Banner; I mean it’s not Shakespeare in the Park but it’s enormous fun.

Next up in the Marvel movie train is Ant-Man, the one I am least sure about, and then we go deep into ‘Phase 3′ with Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel (oh yeah!) and the two Infinity War movies. Oh, and Spider-man will be in there too, now he’s back. Then the Inhumans. Plus a whole load of Marvel on TV/Netflix (did you see Daredevil? Maybe the best thing they’ve done yet.) In the meantime I’m reading hundreds of comics on Marvel Unlimited, and of course, playing Marvel Disney Infinity on the Wii U, and building great Lego sets with my son. It’s a great time to be a Marvel fan!

Except I was reading ‘Secret Wars #1′ last week and – spoiler alert – the whole Marvel Universe just ended…

wii u

My son's Wii U gamepad
Another one from my book of my son’s stuff, this is the Wii U gamepad. He got a Wii U for his birthday a few months ago as a present from his grandad in London (cheers dad!), and he absolutely loves it. Yeah, I kinda like it too! We have a number of games already, but the one he spends most of his time perfecting is Super Mario 3D World. I always loved the Super Mario games as a kid, but don’t remember getting through it all with such ease as he does (and I was in my teens; he is 7). When I was his age, I got my first console, a Philips Videopac game system, which was a bit like Atari, but wasn’t an Atari. It was cool though and had some great games, like Asteroids (I think it was called), Othello, um, loads of games. It was a long time ago. But I still remember the poster which had all the games listed on it, they were all so exciting, like Asteroids, and Othello, and you know, all the other ones. MUNCHKIN! That was the one I liked. It was a bit like Pac-Man, but wasn’t Pac-Man. No, Munchkin was way better than Pac-Man. There was one where you were a cowboy, and another where you played Ice Hocket, and thinking about it I might be mistaken about Asteroids, that was on a little hand-held thing I had (which was almost more sophisticated). The one I’m thinking of had red and yellow space-ships and ocasionally a crazy alien ship you had to destroy; Space Invaders it was not, but it was great. And actually Othello was called something else, Samurai or something, but it was pretty much the same as Othello, I think. Oh it was all brilliant, simple thick pixels, primary colours and black backgrounds. The games were impossible to find, however, except at the odd car-boot sale.

Not long afterwards, my dad got me a Coleco-Vision. Now the Coleco-Vision was a massive step up in terms of graphics and game-play. It also had this weird ‘joy-pad’ – not quite a joystick, it also had some buttons in case the need for typing ever came up. The Coleco-Vision was a huge hit though, even though we didn’t have many games. We had ‘Turbo’, which with the steering wheel and pedal was one of the best arcade racing games of its day; there was Smurf, which, well the less said about that one the better; Donkey Kong, which was the first real classic game we had, and finally Donkey Kong Jr. The last two got a significant amount of game-play in my bedroom, despite being really quite simple and not exactly full of variation in screens. You just jump over things and get to the top, get all the bananas or whatever, make it to the next screen, and keep going over and over again. And over and over and over again. And over and over and over and over again. Now it’s worth pointing out that all of this gameplay over and over again didn’t actually mean I was playing it, rather my older brother was. He was ten years older than me (he still is, to this day) and used to play it for hours and hours and hours, often with his mate or my uncle, usually sat at the end of my bed. Waking up at 2am on a schoolnight with my brother sat there playing ‘Donk’ as he called it. He also spent many hours in the chip shop in Burnt Oak playing Space Invaders, so he had more form than me. Despite the limited number of screens in Donkey Kong it never seemed to get boring; the idea was to ‘clock’ the game, that is score as many points as possible until the points counter was reset, without losing all your lives. I must admit I am glad the games nowadays are that bit more sophisticated.

Fast forward past my sister’s NES (original Nintendo) and my SNES (Super Nintendo, with many years of original Mario Kart), plus the odd GameBoy and Ps1, with a little bit of Championship Manager thrown in, and here we are in the modern age and I still feel decades behind. I’m not a ‘gamer’ and there are whole universes of online games and platforms I do not even wish to understand. So with this Wii U, with these amazing games like Disney Infinity (I’m becoming a little bit obsessed with building in the Toy Box), I am sure my son feels the same way I did when playing Munchkin back in the early 1980s.

behold! your guardians of the galaxy!

guardians of the galaxy lego
I can’t stop this feeling deep inside of me…

Remember that movie last summer, the big gamble Marvel took on a space-hero movie made up of a group of characters that doesn’t make sense in the comics, let alone in a movie – a barely heroic scoundrel, the most dangerous woman in the galaxy (who is also green), an extremely literal and violent maniac (also green), a talking raccoon who loves enormous weaponry (also violent), and a giant walking tree (kinda violent but loveable). Let those last two sink in for a minute. Rocket Raccoon (don’t call him a raccoon) and Groot (he’s definitely Groot). Theoretically that sound as bad an idea on film as Howard the Duck (um, spoiler alert…). It was brilliant, and loads of people went to see it, and the script was cool and the soundtrack kicked bottom, and space was fun and colourful and, well, not ‘Interstellar’. It even had Thanos, the mad Titan on his floating space throne. Yep, I loved it. I went to see it in Leicester Square in London with my friend Roshan on a massive screen, and we spent the entire time in the pub afterwards talking comics, which we never do, usually.

My son loved it too, and for Christmas he made sure to put on his list Guardians of the Galaxy Lego sets. So this is what I have drawn this time, in the sketchbook-of-his-things.

Next up in the Marvel-movie-verse: Avengers Age of Ultron. Wake me up on May 1st!

gotta catch ’em all

pokemon cards
Pokemon cards. I thought that this was something from a long time ago, from the time of my nephews. When the odd card came into my son’s possession (thanks, McDonald’s Happy Meals), I thought it would be just another ‘thing’ that gets looked at, popped into the toybox, forgotten. Pokemon’s it seemed were a complicated mess and that was that. Wrong! It happened quickly. A few cards, then a few more, then the floodgates opened. All the kids were into them, all the kids were playing them. My son’s after-school daycare, it transpired, had organized a Pokemon club, and the kids loved it. Suddently the conversations were peppered with ‘Froakies’ and ‘Charizards’ and ‘Megas’ and ‘Mega-EXes’ and ‘this does fifty damage’ and all sorts of other nonsensical terms that were way over my head. And my son LOVES it. I’m not entirely sure he knows how to play the game itself, but thanks to spending his own pocket money and getting a whole bunch for Christmas and birthdays, he has a pretty big collection. This collection often covers our entire living room floor. He was delighted to receive a ring binder to organize them all, but for some reason they seem to have multiplied like rabbits. Water types, fire types, and they all have utterly bonkers names. It’s the first thing he is into that I’m not really part of at all, I have no knowledge or understanding of them, it is a different world. “How is it different from your Panini football stickers?” my wife asked. Completely different! Different also from my Marvel comics, my Legos, my craft beers and my massive collection of pens. Some parents become experts. My son spoke over Christmas with my older sister, who unlike her nonplussed little brother was enthusiastically going on about “Jigglypuff” and all her other favourites. Recently we went to a birthday party of one of his friend’s which was a Pokemon card-swapping party. Other parents talked about how this Pokemon craze had actually been helping the kids to learn how to trade fairly and other useful positive social skills. Additionally, my son’s reading skills just exploded as he tried to understand all the cards, as did his love of big-number maths. He even occasionally creates his own cards: we would build Lego monsters, give them Pokemon style names (such as “Dragaflow”) and he would draw the whole card, so it’s exciting his creativity as well, which was a surprise. Not that this craze was just some cynical marketing scheme to create big-spending pint-sized hungry robo-consumers, “Gotta catch ’em all”. This is a popular sport, and sets of Pokemon cards ain’t cheap (they also have a very different returns policy at Target than other goods). So I had to draw them. This is another page of the Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ book where I draw his toys and stuff, and I completed it over a couple of evenings. I still don’t know my Lucario from my Makahita, but my son absolutely loves them, and that’s all that matters.

ninja tech

ninjago thunder raider
“Jump up. Kick Back. Whip Around. And…Spin.” No, these aren’t lines from a popular book-turned-movie that is in cinemas these days (“Shifty Grades of Hay”, or whatever it’s called), but is in fact the theme tune to the rather more interesting and well written kids cartoon, “Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu”, based on the popular Lego toy line. Regular listeners will remember that I have drawn some of these toys before (my son has rather a big collection, and you need acrobatic Ninja skills to just get across the floor without stepping on one). Despite being an elaborate (and effective) toy commercial (hah, not like in my day! My favourite shows were Transformers and He-Man which, er never mind), it is actually remarkably good fun and a lot better than much of the nonsense on kids TV these days. At the end of the season three for example, when (spoiler alert) Zane (who is – spoiler alert if you don’t know this yet – a “nindroid”, ie a ninja who is also an android – hey it makes perfect sense, ok?) sacrifices himself to save his friends from the Overlord (who at the time was known as “The Golden Master” after retrieving the Golden Weapons from their hiding place on a comet and had rebuilt himself into a large robotic spider – look just go with it, alright), I was almost in tears. It was (spoiler alert) Ninjago’s “We are Groot” moment. It’s ok though because (spoiler alert) he’s not really dead because (spoiler alert) well, he is a robot after all, and becomes (spoiler alert) the Titanium Ninja. Look I promise you, this is a really good show. It’s not like that Kung Fu Panda show which was on every single bloody morning, where basically nothing happens at all, and they just talk about their feelings. Or the Amazing World of Gumball, or heaven forbid, Uncle Grandpa. God there is some annoying nonsense on kids TV these days. Not like in my day (my favourite shows were Wackaday and Grotbags which, er never mind). Anyway…these items which I have drawn here are tow of my son’s toys he got for Christmas, it’s actually all from one set, the “Thunder Raider” set. This is the name of the vehicle driven by Jay, the Blue Ninja, and is accompanied by the Earth Mech of Cole, the Black Ninja. A “Mech” is a kind of exoskeletal robotic suit. Come on look at it, you want one too. It can actually hook onto the back of Jay’s Thunder Raider. Of course as soon as I showed this to my son, he pointed out straight away that I have the wrong version of Cole riding on the Mech. A slight variation in the costume. Of course, always the perfectionist.

Drawn in a Stillman & Birn “Alpha” book in which I’m documenting a lot of my son’s stuff.

here be dragons

ninjago four-headed dragon
It had been a while since I drew in my son’s toys-and-other-things book, so I decided to get back to it with more Lego. This is his four-headed Ninjago dragon, part of a big Lego set he got for Christmas. Really big and a little unwieldy to actually play with (all the other Ninjago stuff is semi-permanently all over the floor, it’s a boy’s favourite) but was immense fun to build (I did all the hard work). The wing span is impressive when flying but I needed to fit it all on the page so it is in standing mode. Imagine having four heads. Well I suppose we all have foreheads. Some people (my dad for example) pronounce forehead as “forrid”, whereas I pronounce it like fore-head, which may lead to fork handles style confusion. So, the four-headed dragon from the Ninjago series. I have drawn erroneously with the golden ninja as the rider, but it should in fact be ridden by the green ninja, though they are in fact the same person a.k.a. Lloyd Garmadon, son of Lord Garmadon who used to be the main bad guy (having in his youth been bitten by the Great Devourer, a giant snake creature who lives underground until he was resurrected by snake people and who devoured the ninja’s flying pirate ship, until being defeated by Lord Garmadon himself after a battle with the Ninja and the four-headed dragon) oh and who also had four arms (not fore-arms) so that he could use the four golden weapons, resurrect an ancient being called the Overlord to destroy and rebuild Ninjago City in his image, until that went awry and Lloyd became the Golden Ninja to defeat the Overlord (though he would later return first as a computer virus and then as head of an army of cyborg ninjas before turning himself into a giant spider) and turn his father back to the good side where he became Sensei Garmadon and went back to having two arms and no longer wearing a bone in his hat. Oh and the dragon’s four heads represent the four elements of earth, fire, um, lightning and, er, ice.

Lego is waaaay more complicated than it was in my day.