le petit

cheeky boy
Over eight and a half months old, baby luke is becoming little boy luke, and is getting himself around and into all sorts of mischief: what i didn’t draw here were his surroundings, a pile of dvds he just pulled off the shelf. Life is about to become a whole load of fun. He already loves to tear magazines apart. My sketchbooks will be hidden far far away.

This was drawn in baby’s journal. I can’t quite get his face right yet though. Eyes are wrong, face too round, hair too dark. Then again each time I attempt a drawing, he changes a bit more. They really do grow so quickly at this age, just like everybody says; I can barely keep up.

smelled the spring on the smoky wind

la cuve à bière

Between 1999 and 2000 I lived and worked in Charleroi, Belgium, as my Year Abroad while studying French. Who could love Charleroi? The sprawling decayed post-industrial mess at the heart of the slag-dumped Pays Noir, derided as a bed of crime and shady politics, and the place where a lot of England fans threw a lot of chairs and got hit in the face with big water-cannons for their efforts. Well, grimy as it is, I do love Charleroi. The people are warm and welcoming, and down-to-earth, and beneath the soot and neon there is some gorgeous art-nouveau archtitecture to be found. It’s the home of some of Belgium’s most beloved BD (comic book) stars, such as Spirou and Lucky Luke. Yes there are rats the size of small cows, but so what? (I tripped over a massive rat here once, actually tripped over it – it ignored me and just shuffled along, watched by a prudent cat).

And the beer is amazing. This is la cuve à bière, a little pub I used to visit several times during the week, largely because they had a TV that would show match of the day on BBC1. I’d sit and write or draw, taste new beers, eat cheese. Sometimes, Tel would come over from England and drink Kwak. I remember that on cold sleety nights I would walk through the doors, my glasses would steam up instantly, but by the time I’d wiped them clean and gotten to the bar, my beer would already be there waiting there for me. I don’t even know if la cuve is still there; I hope it is. When I’m back in the UK this december, I might pop over there to find out.

E-B-G-D-A-E

strings

This is my illustration friday for this week, theme “strings“. Pretty obvious.

I absolutely hate stringing the guitar. It’s my least favourite thing. It takes me hours, and it is torturous. I am constantly afraid of one snapping and cutting my lip, or ripping a hole in the fabric of the universe or something. It’s almost like my fear of bunsen burners, but more stupid. I’ve considered just giving up the guitar for good while restringing in the past, it’s been that bad. The guy in the shop when I bought these offered to string my guitar for me, but it would mean bringing it in, I just don’t have time. He did also try to sell me some really swanky looking guitar strings called Elixir, but I decided against them because they sounded too much like a packet of condoms.

thro’ each charter’d street

Eagle-eyed visitors to London can see my drawings on the latest info-packed leaflets for London Walks (see walks.com), which you can pick up in any tourist-area pub in central London. They’re the oldest walking tour company in London, and I’ve provided the illustrations for their forthcoming book (all will be revealed). My mum and my sister came across the leaflet (see left) while out one day by the Thames, and mailed it out to me. The drawings are pretty small, but then I do draw pretty small.

Several years ago, I used to be a tourguide myself on the streets of London, mostly as an open-top bus tourguide for the Big Bus Company, but I did a few long walking tours as well. Those buses, now that was an education in tenacity, let me tell you. When it’s pissing with rain, the microphone has stopped working so you have to shout above the London noise, when you’re stuck in thick traffic on Bayswater or scrambling round corners in Mayfair while being attacked by trees (I was actually knocked down the stairs by a tree once; I carried on speaking, “…and on your right, that’s where the Queen was born…”), being verbally abused by cab-drivers and asked strange questions by tourists (“why is it called snappy snaps?”) or being corrected on the tiniest details by smug locals (and subsequently smirked at for correcting their correction, none more smug and local than I), and making Americans laugh with a hilarious spontaneous-sounding joke I’d actually been told by another American on the previous tour, oh I enjoyed those days a lot, and I really learnt a lot. I actually loved tourguiding in London almost as much as I love drawing, so it’s a fitting pleasure that I’m illustrating this new book by these particular tourguides who, I’m told, really know their stuff.

dial M for redrum

Just as you get off the freeway at downtown Davis. Caffino is a drive-thru coffee booth, and Murder Burger is an old-school american diner that does incredible burgers and amazing milk-shakes. Oh, sorry Redrum Burger.
caffino & murder burger

They used to be called Murder Burger, and to most Davisites they still are. But a few years back they opened another one in some other dog-knows-where town, and someone complained that Murder Burger (“so good they’re to die for”) was not appropriate as a place to eat (even though appropriateness is usually measured by the money something makes). So they decided to change their name, and asked their customers to vote on a new name. The name that won with an overwhelming majority was, in fact, Murder Burger. So they went with the second choice, Redrum Burger (yes, I thought it meant the horse at first).

I don’t eat red meat anyway.

going strøget

copenhagen, strøget

Drew this from a photo taken on my first trip to Denmark (strawberries, adidas shorts, 1995), strøget in Copenhagen. The photo itself is bright and sunny and colourful, but for some reason I changed it to sepia and old-fashioned. Well, it’s historical, for me. I was nineteen and adventurous (and skint). I just decided one day to go and pick jordbaer in the south of Fyn, meeting lots of interesting people along the way. Back in those days they didn’t have the long road bridges between the isles: a trip across Denmark meant getting on lots of ferries. There was a great ferry that the train rolled onto, and off again once in port, straight onto the tracks. That hot summer, the night in Copenhagen came last. I must have had about ten quid’s worth of krone left. Doesn’t get you very far in Denmark. I went to an atrociously bad hostel, paid my money, sat on the bed (with the hudnred or so other beds in the converted gym around me, got up, went to the front desk, got my krones back and went off into the night. My bags were locked at the station, and went to a karaoke bar, and while singing ‘going underground’ I told Denmark about my predicament, and I swear I didn’t have to buy another drink that whole night. I was younger then. I got on the bus for London the next morning (the bus! Back before the cheap flights boom, the 24 hour eurobus ride from hell was the way the poor travelled) I had one Danish krone left, one of those coins with a hole in it. I threaded a piece of string through it and made it into a necklace. I probably still have it somewhere.

I’ve been back a couple of times since, each with different stories. A friend of mine just had his stag do in Aarhus, another place I’ve been a couple of times; wish I could have gone this time! I could at least afford the drinks now.  I love Denmark, it’s expensive but the people really are the friendliest.

bang bang rock’n’roll

I spoke before about my dead Ibanez. It sat, headless and broken, in the corner of the room waiting for the return of the king or something, gathering dust (but not cobwebs, spiders would not dare). I finally laid it to rest, by beating the townshend out of it, and here you can see how it was done:

I’ve never destroyed a guitar like that before. It felt pretty good. I taught that chair a lesson too. That was the last day of moving out of our old apartment. Incidentally the soundtrack was made with this guitar’s shiny electric replacement.

Next week: pete destroys a moleskine.

choc and awe

milky way
A quick one; a cup of tea and a chocolate bar. My illustration friday entry for the theme of “sugary“.

The chocolate bar is a Milky Way, but don’t let that deceive you, British friends – American Milky Ways are nothing like our Milky Ways. They are in fact almost exactly like our Mars Bars. They also go very well with tea. The Milky Way/Mars Bar thing is one of many instances where our two cultures look different and call itself different things but are in fact the same. I can’t be bothered to name any others.

I got that mug at the Getty in LA. And you know what? I didn’t actually drink this cup of tea from that mug, I drank it from a different one, with my name on it. I just thought the colours and pattern would be better next to the milky way. I used to have a funny way of eating Mars Bars: I’d eat the sides first, then I would nibble off the top, and then the rest. A friend at college once gave me a king-size Mars Bar for ny birthday with a big note on it saying “eat it properly”.

i’ve got a pocket full of pretty green

So the 700 billion dollar bail-out was passed. That is an absolutely incredible amount of money. Seems like even more considering nobody else has any. My own bank, Washington Mutual, went under – biggest bank to collapse in this country since the Great Depression. I loved the way that, when the House republicans voted down the bill, they actually blamed Nancy Pelosi and the democrats for making them vote that way. Incredible. But the bail-out has passed, though as Bush warns, we’re still up shit creek.  This economy, so long left to bailed outits own devices and unregulated, is in free fall. Thanks President Bush!! Thanks a lot!! Just when you thought the mess of Iraq would be your legacy, or your utter mishandling of Hurrican Katrina, your presiding over the biggest economic collapse in decades comes along and trumps everything. Well done! Probably another reason why a failed businessman should never have been put in charge of the country.

Even your own party’s candidates, though they show no sign of actually changing any of your policies or doing things any differently from you, are denying any knowledge of you. I actually felt a bit sorry for you during the VP debate the other night, the way Sarah Palin seemed to whitewash you, the way she shot down Joe Biden every time he dared mention the many mistakes of your administration – seriously, who on earth was she kidding with all that “you’re just looking backwards” and “say it aint so, Joe” bullshit?

Oh dear. We had one unqualified idiot run the country, now we have this vacuous Palin, one heartbeat and a stolen election away from the government. They are saying that, well, she didn’t lose the debate, because she didn’t make any ridiculous mistakes like she did in the interviews. (By the way, are we going to see a spate of ‘Palinisms’ desk-top calendars now?) Debate? She answered no questons, reeled off a series of monologues that had little or nothing to do with the topic at hand, droned on and on (the palin-drone) about her family as if the simple fact she comes from a family makes her electable (please! please! anybody can go onstage and say that folksy rubbish, it doesn’t mean they should hold executive power!), and threw out a few of those stupid ‘this will get talked about’ buzzwords such as ‘Joe sixpack’ (seriously, what on earth?), ‘doggone’ and the aforementioned ‘say it aint so, Joe’ which must have taken the republican campaign writers hours to come up with, only for her to fluff it. Fluff. So much fluff. And I’m sick of the constant decription of McCain as a Maverick, like it’s a good thing – you never know what irresponsible thing he’ll do net. She offered no substance whatsoever. Anyone or anything she didn’t like was dismissed as an ‘east coast elitist’, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. She wants to change Washington? How exactly? She showed she has absolutely no regard for Senators, or the Senate – does she then have no regard for the American system of democracy? The talk of her ‘loyalty tests’ back in Alaska when she became governor, and even when she became mayor of Whassitcalled, are pretty bloody sinister if you ask me – will she insist we all take such loyalty tests? I tell you what, all of the things we hear about her, the troopergate inquiry, the links to that pro-Alaskan independence party, if any of this had been the case with the democratic candidates they would already have been blown out of the water by the media.  

Case in point: John McCain. First he says the fundamentals of the economy are strong, then says the opposite, then says he was talking about the American workforce (the businesses who ship jobs overseas don’t agree, and you made it clear in your acceptance speech that you support those businesses and their outsourcing practices when slagging off Obama for wanting to penalize them). Then he said he wasn’t going to attend the debate, and then he was. He said he was dead against the bail-out (probably because, being Bush’s idea, he should be against it, just because), then decided he was for the bail-out… why is the word “flip-flop” not being bandied around every time his name is mentioned? Because, during the last election, that was the word the media most commonly associated with John Kerry (rather than ‘war hero’), and it undermined his whole campaign. The McCain/Palin ticket appears to be made up of the cast of Rainbow (specifically Bungle and Zippy – we don’t talk about George any more), surely a campaign this bad cannot hope to win, and yet… Bush won the last two elections, didn’t he?