Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Lavender Image

Here is a new illustration for the Irish Faerie Tale project I'm currently working on entitled Lavender Blue and the Faeries of Galtee Wood. This is the point in the story, near the beginning, where things are just starting to get interesting. Lavender is encountering what appears to be a unicorn - what she thinks is a unicorn -  in a moment she will find out what it really is. The story kicks into second gear, right about here - poor Lavender.

More soon.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Travel Update 4 - Drawing

I believe I have mentioned before how much I enjoy getting out for a little impromptu life drawing. It's such good practice. Give me a sketchbook and a public place and I'm set for hours. There is just no replacing the kind of observations one can make when drawing in real life from real people. Any place will do - shopping malls, libraries, parks - wherever the people gather. This is of course true when traveling on "the other side" as well. The Faerie Realm is a great place to observe and draw people, which brings me to today's post.

One sunny afternoon last autumn I found myself at a table in the yard of the Forget Me Not Inn on the Old North Road near Gwelf. There were several occupied tables nearby which inspired me to take out my sketchbook and make a few notes.

What first caught my attention was a table of very intimidating looking old women who were having a lively meeting at one of the out lying tables near the trees. There seemed to be an unusual number of birds and cats in their general vicinity who were making themselves quite at home on and near their table. The other thing I noticed about them was that there drinking glasses remained full despite the fact that no one seemed to be serving them, and I shouldn't have to tell you that they were working their elbows quite regularly. I couldn't help but start drawing these ladies right away. What a group of terrific old characters they were.

The importance of discretion in a situation such as this cannot be overstated. It's best if you don't get caught drawing in public, especially if alcohol is present or the subjects have spell casting capabilities. You could have your sketchbook torched, your fingers frozen or your eyes crossed for even the mildest misdemeanor, and heaven help you if some more grievous offense, real or imagined, was suspected. I continued on cautiously from a safe distance.

There was also a table of monks close by who seemed to be more than interested in what the old ladies were up to. They were taking notes and whispering intently among themselves as they kept their disapproving eyes on the boisterous ladies across the way. The brothers were all drinking what is locally known as "Tar Ale" which is very similar to Guinness in most respects but somewhat sweeter and a tad thicker. I also was drinking this, although it had not yet started to show in the drawing.

The last of the occupied tables was populated by a group of Foresters who I had seen earlier in the day clearing some recent storm debris from one of the local side roads. Many hours of wood chopping and heavy hauling had led them here for dinner and drinks. They were all wearing their distinctive Forester caps and boots. They were not showing the least bit of interest in either the monks or the ladies. To a man they were interested in only one thing - our joyful and charismatic waitress, Tandy Loomis.

Tandy was a fabulous server who had an uncanny ability to know exactly what you wanted and when you wanted it about ten seconds before you did. She made a lot of money in tips as you can well imagine. Tandy was cute and funny and made you glad she was your waitress. She was really working her magic on those poor Foresters who didn't stand a chance in the face of all that natural faerie glamour. I could only guess at how far under the spell I was. There was no way to know, but I did know this - I wanted to give her a tip, as much as I could afford. Luckily for me I was smart enough to bring no more money with me than I was prepared to lose.  Experience had taught me that lesson. Caution is always required.

Happy Travels everyone and peace be with you.

More soon.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Travel Update 3 - Booby Trap

Traveling on "the other side" can be a lot of fun and very exciting but it can also be tricky or even dangerous. Today I want to talk about a close call I once had and how falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book meant disaster for someone else.

It was a cold and wind swept Saturday afternoon in late November.  I was doing my best to keep up with a kid in front of me whom I had been following for the past several hours. He was leading the way south along the Kenilworth Station Road, heading for the now popular King's Head Tavern, a cozy little pub still a few miles ahead. I was hungry and cold and wanted nothing more than to get there as soon as possible, sit by the fire and have a hot meal.

We had reached a bend in the road when he suddenly stopped. As I closed the gap between us I could see that his attention was fixed on something sitting by the side of the road. I got closer and was able to make out a wicker basket containing a half dozen apples, apparently left there by the owner who was presently out of sight but likely close by. I had been warned about situations like this but had expected to encounter one so soon in my career. I was just about to say something clever like " I wouldn't do that if I were you" when he reached for one of the apples. He must have been as hungry as I was because he took a bite, but then immediately vanished. His now empty clothes, with nothing to support them, fell to the ground in a heap. His cap hit the ground last and rolled into the ditch.

Instantly my ears began to ring and there was a strong smell of sulphur in the air. The tell-tale signs of a dark magic spell having just been worked. I was rooted to the spot. A wave of vertigo was overtaking me. From the trees at the side of the road emerged a very unwholesome looking woman, her eyes looking straight at the pile of clothes nearby. Her skirt came right to the ground but could not hide the fact that her feet were large and bird like.
She moved right past me and out onto the road where she picked up the clothes and cap. She then went back into the trees to whatever evil purpose she had planned for the boy. Something very lethal had just crossed my path and only luck and a bit of good advice had saved me.

I was now alone on the road. The sun was going down, it was getting colder and I was immobilized.  The heavy cloud of sulphur was beginning to clear and I started moving, somehow making it safely to the King's Head Tavern. I booked a room upstairs and spent a sleepless night watching the road from my window. There was no sign of the woman or the unfortunate boy. I left the next morning, but only when the sun was well up and there were other travelers on the road.

The King's Head

It was very unlucky for the boy that he had not been made aware of this kind of trap - all too typical on the roads "over there". Fortunately for me I had been warned and I'm passing the information along to you - safety first.

More soon and happy traveling.

Peace be with you.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Travel Update 2 - Albion Bridge

We started our travel posts last week with a trip to the Belle Flower Inn and I thought it might be fun to head back that way again this week to investigate one of the local landmarks. I was directed to the Albion Creek Bridge by Wilton Plowright, a pipe smoking card reader and guest at the Belle Flower whom I encountered the last time I was there. Albion Creek Bridge was his recommendation and I now pass it on to you. I'm sure you will find it as interesting as I did. I would suggest packing a small lunch as you will have to hike several kilometers east down The Old North Road to get there. This I did bright and early the next morning.

Wilton Plowright

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the bridge but was told, with a wink, to plan on staying for a little while and so I found a pleasant looking bit of grass and made myself comfortable. Before long a bearded fellow turned up and stationed himself on the bridge overlooking the creek. He stayed put and I waited, watching and listening. The sun was warm.There were several long billed grackles in a tree nearby chattering away. The bees were buzzing and the dragon flies hovered on the breeze. It was very relaxing. I was content, and so apparently was the chap on the bridge whose eyes were closed.

Albion Bridge

 I was beginning to feel quite at home in my little spot on the sun lit grass when I noticed that all of the toad stools in the immediate area had little faces carved on them. Someone had obviously sat here, for some hours, and carefully carved a unique little portrait on to each mushroom cap. Who would do such a thing? It then began to gradually dawn on me that the muttering birds in the nearby tree were actually speaking to each other and that I could almost make out what they were saying. They hadn't sounded this way before. But when did they stop their bird chatter and begin speaking in words? I couldn't recall and was surprised that I had missed something so obvious. They were chatting back and forth in a calm, conversational tone. If you weren't actually paying attention to the words they were saying you might almost think they were a couple of lawyers casually discussing a case. But I was listening to the words. They were speaking in bizarre poetic riddles with odd foreign accents. None of it made any sense and yet I felt as though I was right on the verge of understanding them. I was still examining the mushroom heads when it occurred to me that the artist must have sat right here, presumably listening to this same nonsensical dialogue, and created these little caricatures. Had the grackles inspired this little flood of creativity? Who could say? I was beginning to get rather drowsy. Listening to these birds was starting to have an intoxicating effect on me. I nodded off. Their voices diminishing into the hazy background of sleep.

Long Billed Grackles
I awoke sometime later to find  my shoes on the wrong feet and that I was wearing someone else's socks. I quickly checked all my belongings to see if there were any other unexpected changes, but there were none. I had been lucky. The grackles were still there but had fallen silent. The man on the bridge was gone. I was feeling completely calm in spite of recent events and even mildly euphoric. It felt as though a message had somehow been conveyed to me and that I now knew a secret, although I couldn't possibly tell you what it was. The good mood lasted all day. I went back to the Belle Flower, had dinner and slept soundly. The next day I had an exceptional breakfast, left the Belle Flower and continued my journey in high spirits.

Happy adventuring everyone and peace be with you.

More soon.