July has always been a special month for me - the obvious childhood links of being on your summer holidays probably laid the foundations but the realities of adult working life means that by far, the Tour de France is what makes the month. At worst, a Eurosport pop-out window sits in the corner of my monitor most days. On top of that, this year has seen an unusually beautiful summer of high pressure, lots of travelling, two large jobs coming to an end and business generally on the up.
I started the month busy, working in London for a few days before a week of moving about to Fife for a partial install and then off to Barcelona for the 4th Urban Sketchers Symposium. It was then back to Scotland before heading to the Isle of Man, on to Edinburgh to meet a new client and then straight to Dunoon for a weekend of old friends, another weekend away in Newcastle and ending up with a final site visit to Douglas. You will forgive me for being a bit tired. I could easily not have gone to Barcelona but work has been so constant and I have found (valid) excuses not to make the other conferences that it felt almost necessary to kickstart my involvement in USK.
The highlight was inevitably Barcelona - what an utterly great city. The experience of meeting some of my drawing heros and managing to draw with them and find out about what makes them tick was fascinating.
The city was hot, busy but also welcoming, diverse, creatively inspiring. And there was a beach! I need to move over there! It almost made Ryanair palatable.
Posted by stupot at 05:57 PM Friday 2 Aug
The weather was fairly average when we left Glasgow, for the time of year. With our destination as wild and remote as Tiree there was no-one expecting calm and sunshine though; hiking boots and layers kept us overdressed for what was a quiet International airport but requiring the usual ridiculous security search (I'm tempted to let my trousers drop every time I take off my belt such is my contempt for authority), blast of perfume and hanging about in the ground floor gate which preludes most light aircraft island flights.
Continue reading "Tiree Automatic 3 Partick Thistle 0"
Posted by stupot at 05:05 PM Wednesday 2 Jan
GLEN PROSEN - BRAEMAR
When I planned this trip I didn't actually know that there was a significant climb north before the Lecht. Hazy, non-cycling, teenage memories of Braemar and Blairgowrie did nothing to remind me of Glenshee - all I could remember was a ski hire joint in Blairgowrie - and we didn't even go back to visit. Useless!
The snaking around the outcropping Eastern Cairngorms / Angus Glens was enough of an early morning wake up call and the gels were certainly being being broken out today. The overall height not the issue but the constant steep troughs.
PITLOCHRY - GLEN PROSEN VILLAGE
It was a jolly, coffee and cake, start to our second day at the welcoming CAFE BIBE: the raspberry bakewell was amazing and they were cool about putting another shot in a weak coffee. Oblivious to the weather forecast for the coming few days we dragged ourselves up and over the first climb of the day. This recurring theme is obviously a side-effect of taking quiet B-roads. Like any other modern dilemma, you have to weigh up if the side-effect is worth while to make life more positive. Of course, on roads where sheep out-number motor vehicles, the decision is easy. The road to Kirkmichael was a joy and we rolled down toward the village for more coffee and cake at THE VILLAGE SHOP, eschewing energy bars for the time being.
RANNOCH STATION - PITLOCHRY
I'd had a brief week after our holiday in Turkey with some late nights and weekend working and so was looking forward to getting away again for some physical excertion and spending some time in a part of the country I (realised last year whilst driving through) have sadly neglected from my travels.
I'd mapped and calculated the route 2 months previously, booked the accomodation and then basically gotten back to a very heavy shift of work. As with 2011, there were last minute adjustments to the bike (at Rannoch Station) and also a reminder of the route on the train up. We were only focussed on the fist day and it was to be a pretty straight forward roll to Pitlochry so we got moving along the lochside and headed toward Kinloch Rannoch past silver birch, fern, the first of many serious (victorian) civil engineering projects and toward lunch. I'd been to the village in my childhood but more recently in June to visit Mr Penman so I was confident the hotel would do alright scran.
The pub at the back was closed so we were ushered in to the Hotel proper with it's tired surroundings, tired music and tired staff. They were actually playing bagpipe laments at lunch time - "the older clientele like it". Amongst sporadic chat the visitors looked like suicide might be an agreeable alternative, the saving grace being a baby's gurgling and a stuffed, ginger badger that Ross had found an affinity with. A young Caribbean guy came in with three 50 somethings. I met him outside when we were packing up as he had come out for a macdoobie. Grenadan's certainly show up locals for friendliness and welcome. On the way out the young staff had suggested that playing popular music would be "a tragedy" so I started singing the Bee Gee's classic as we left them to their 1970's tartan take on tourism.
The most interesting thing about going on a package holiday to Turkey is watching some people's reaction to telling them it's a 'package holiday'. A lot of people I know go on city breaks and squirm at the thought of someone organising a trip for them by a beach. I was a bit like that until I went to Fuerteventura 10 years ago and had the most relaxing two weeks of my life. Most people who squirm have never done it or found somewhere good enough. From the beginning, it's been a case of finding a good hotel with a company that chucks in flights pretty much for free, entertaining a rep who may or may not give you some handy local hints and then doing what the fuck you want for the rest of the time. We got a hire car thrown into our deal and had a beautiful, small and quiet hotel away from Daily Mail Central that was the middle of Kalkan.
Everyone talked about how bad the driving and roads were: compared to Britain the roads aren't well marked and aren't built up at the side, and sometimes people don't indicate - but apart from that I found drivers to be courteous and relatively slow (the cost of petrol was probably the main factor).
You can be sceptical of people selling you stuff but the 75 year old fisherman who approached us as we were fresh into town, gave us a great deal and a lovely day on the water. I tipped him with a sketch of his boat.
The guys who chat you up on the street to get you into bars are salesmen, but if you give them a chance and chat to them they can be intelligent, interesting people - far more astute, witty and politically knowledgable than their British counterparts. I had a great education about Ataturk by one guy and, wanting the drawing I'd been working on, in the end let me buy my food and beer with ink and paper.
I actually grew to liking these encounters - more than many places I've been (aside Morocco) drawing was commanding great respect and even worked as a currency.
One day we pulled up to a road side eatery in a very local setting and, with no menus or conversation, ordered 'food'. Our trays of goodies, water and bag of bread came imminently and we ate a feast. The lunch service was finishing and chairs were being loaded into a van. We didn't think anything of it until when we went to pay were told there was no charge - this was a pre-wedding party and lunch was on them. Now that's hospitality.
Posted by stupot at 01:30 PM Wednesday 29 Aug
We'd never been over to Eigg and despite being quite at home on the Mallaig line I had no idea what awaited us on Eigg - how open or cliffy it was in reality. What mystical beasts lived there. There was a few obvious AWAY GAME friends on the train and at Arisaig more gathered from cars to stow inside the wee Sheerwater vessel that Captain Ronnie would use to take us to our new (temporary) society. Moods were good, expectant, happy to meet all these new interesting people. We nibbled sunflower seeds on the boat and the sun baked us as we drew closer to the island. The nationalities were becoming obvious - it was predominately a Celtic mix of Scots, Welsh and French - the latter being the suave ones with the good skin, cool shades and tartan blankets.
The Housemartins were my first fascination as far as bands go. I don't think I was overly aware of their socialist / communist opinions when I started listening to them but the lyrics gradually grew on me for their poitical message as much as the music had with the catchy tunes. Record and cassette sleeves were gleaned for information and the NME was fine-tooth-combed for any further reading on their exploits. I followed Beats international (marginally), the Beautiful South and Fat boy slim a bit as well as keeping up with news of ex-members' activity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Whitaker
It is Paul Heaton though, the voice and writer of the Housemartins, where my appreciation lies the most and so it was with immense excitement that I learnt he was doing a tour by bike around local pubs. It was about 15 years ago when I last saw him with the Beautiful south - at the Barrowlands - and I was tipped off by a man I have not seen win as many years. Ali, an old school friend with whom I shared many interests as a teenager, let me know 'Heato' was playing his local in Pitlochry and so we hatched a plan to meet up, catch up and go see the man.
I met the boys in a lay-by near Gateside. We layered up with gloves and waterproofs and headed towards the quarry. Calum had phoned the day before, still fairly fresh from mineral spotting in Mozambique for the best part of the summer. Terry and Calum have been coming to the hole for 10 years but this was my first outing. I heard a lot about it and it didn't fail to deliver - even as a complete novice, the limestone deposits which had been blown out of the bedrock we littered with fossils and, eventually, with prime mineral deposits.
The weather was slightly drizzly but still, a trait well known within the world of quarry. Looking down on the space it was reminiscent of Blake seven or Doctor Who from the seventies - probably due to them being filmed in similar spots. A dormant JCB sat in the middle of an eerie silence. The guys honed in on a spot and started hammering at the layers exposed by the mining. And I sat and drew as Calum described the place as being a lagoon somewhere near the equator 200,000,000+ years ago in Pangea. That one sentence altered my complete take on the world.
Posted by stupot at 02:44 PM Sunday 30 Oct
St Peter's seminary lies just north of Cardross, before Helensburgh on the Dumbartonshire coast. The setting is slightly elevated, amidst woods and by a large burn which acts as the soundtrack to an otherwise lifeless space. I knew of the work of Gillespie Kidd and Coia before I knew of their name, my school in Ardrossan being close to St Peter in Chains Church on the south beach. I've since known of them via St Brides in East Kilbride and the BOAC offices in Sauchiehall street, Glasgow.
The lovely Hollie at Folio 14 has published a wee interview with me today on their site.
Many thanks Hollie!
Posted by stupot at 12:58 PM Wednesday 12 Oct
They're filming a zombie blockbuster in Glasgow just now - it's good fun. 'American' Cops queue in the local bakery for their lunch and street signs have been changed to names like 'J F Kennedy Boulevard'. The traffic lights have even become yellow to mimic Philly. Reputedly, the joke in nearby Edinburgh is that there's little difference between the zombies having temporarily taken over and normal life here. There's a good vibe about 'George Square' and locals and tourists alike try to get a glimpse of Brad Pitt, the star in World War Z. I was meeting my Dad for lunch at Jamie Oliver's place so squeezed out a quick drawing of the 'Snappers' as I waited who seemed, like meerkats up their ladders, to be equally vying for his mugshot.
Posted by stupot at 01:01 PM Friday 26 Aug
It had been stressful week brought on by the fact that the surprise bank holiday on Monday combined with Friday off meant a lot had to be crammed in to a few days. Fortunately Tiree, as a destination, is the perfect remedy to anxiety, a full brain and too much time around a computer. As we flew low over the Inner Hebrides and Argyll with perfectly clear views down to inlets of white sand, cliffs and turquoise waters I leapt from one seat to another trying to gather as much of the views as possible. It was a bit like hanging over a huge, intricate, moving map. Jura, Mull then Flotta were highlights as we circled around and descended over Coll to our destination.
After the local bus (which had been briefed by our hosts) picked us up and dropped us off we had a cup of tea, inspected the front garden (the shore) and got the bikes ready for a trip over to the southerly bay around the peninsula. The sky was clear blue, the wind light, so we donned trunks and ran as fast as we could into the Atlantic - like Victorians trying to cure an ailment. in our case, possibly another long winter.
Posted by stupot at 05:03 PM Tuesday 7 Jun
From Wednesday, the 25th of May, Wil Freeborn and I will be having a small exhibition of drawings at
Coffee, Chocolate and Tea in Glasgow. Please come along if you can. We are also having a follow up exhibition in Edinburgh next month which we can post more about nearer the time.
Posted by stupot at 11:14 AM Sunday 22 May
The ultra pleasant weather continued well into this week and May Day was no exception. It was nice that May Day fell on a weekend so it could be celebrated proper. I followed a march around the east side of the town centre before finishing at the (incredible and vintage but) gloomy fruitmarket where, eventually, some speeches took place. The most upbeat version of John Martyn's over the hill I've ever heard was part of the pre-speech soundtrack and similar minded people ebbed and flowed around a hall filled with stalls promoting CND, Palestinian freedom or Che Guevara. It was a good vibe but the lure of the sun was too much until I ducked into St Andrews Cathedral to see the Peter Howson exhibition and my dad chanting with others at their choir practice. Both provided excellent venues and soundtracks for sketching but I was happy to get some sun on the way home.
Posted by stupot at 05:04 PM Friday 6 May
The eternal quest for finding work, for me, always seems to be closely linked to leaving the office / being away from your desk and / or being out on the bike. That could be as much about meeting people sociably, through work or simply not waiting for the phone to ring. Last week I couldn't calculate what others were taking off (it used to more simple) so took a few days off amidst the bank holidays. We meandered to Bute on the non windy Thursday and had a wonderfully sun drenched tour around the island. It was textbook Scotland - friendly ferry staff, good information kiosk, basic breakfast with average coffee, quiet roads, egg roll, ham and tomato roll, map out, deserted beaches, tearoom, chips on the harbour, victorian toilets, a wee bit of sunburn about. And the phone ringing for new work.
Posted by stupot at 12:49 PM Friday 6 May
It wasn't quite Cycle Mode in Osaka and Cervelo didn't turn up with some new prototypes but the inaugural Scottish bike show had a few highlights. Manchester and Edinburgh based Dynamoworks were punting screenprints in their good clobber, the lads at Trakke were punting their local, good looking bags and rennersport were launching their new Scottish / Belgian collection. And the sun even shone (outside).
Posted by stupot at 01:19 PM Monday 18 Apr
Organised by fellow Glaswegian Blair Thomson, there will be an exhibition this Wednesday in support of survivors of the Tsunami in March. The exhibition will take place at the Royal Glasgow Institute Kelly Gallery on Douglas Street near to the Glasgow School of Art and will be opened by the Japanese Consul General Mr Masataka Tarahara. The five artists showing work have close ties to Japan and works have been inspired by the country.
Posted by stupot at 01:38 PM Monday 4 Apr
Unusually early for a meeting in the east end, I stopped to get a drawing of the construction of Scotland's new Velodrome. Currently there is an old outdoor track in Edinburgh or the next nearest is British Cycling's home in Manchester. Many people ask me if I think it will actually get used. I suggest that below all the Olympic and World Championship gold medals we have, there is perhaps a community from which these medal winners are produced.
In fact I hope the problem will be more getting anywhere near it when it opens to the public because of demand! A man passed me on a bike and smiled and commented on how difficult it is to navigate through the road works. Not long now I said - soon this will be Mecca!
Posted by stupot at 06:17 PM Thursday 24 Mar
I'm very lucky to live so close to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and park. This cafe is just a one minute walk away. The view from my flat of Kelvingrove is very much vertical; the doorway and central turrets framed by the two rows of blonde, sandstone tenements of Regent Moray street. In contrast, I like how the length of the building is framed here by the windows of the cafe.
Posted by stupot at 03:29 PM Tuesday 8 Mar
To the right of where I was standing a new glass, dark and steel building by RMJM stands. The rest of my view is old Glasgow: the shearing shed that is city barbers with all its sports memorabilia, the graffiti and the glazed white brick of the Glaswegian rear elevation. I like to document plots like this before they are covered by office or retail space.
Posted by stupot at 10:25 AM Tuesday 8 Feb
Filing tax, despite the adverts, is taxing. You get into the swing of it but it's hard work. Instead of the popular hobby of smoking, I now wander the streets drawing to get away from my desk and clear my head. Yesterday I returned to a lane I'd recently found as a shortcut. Despite the grandeur of Glaswegian stone buildings, the rear is almost always brick. Fortunately rear elevations were often considered by the Victorians and aside your common red brick; cream, glazed bricks are popular throughout the city and used to wonderful effect. Of course this blog entry is just more procrastination!
Posted by stupot at 12:17 PM Wednesday 19 Jan
We've had a good amount of early snow this year which partially explains my lack of activity for drawing as well as blogging. Spending Christmas in North England allowed us to visit Hadrians wall - what was the most fortified border in the Roman Empire. The build quality is very impressive given that it is almost 2000 years old. A lot of pride was obviously taken by the work force - stone-cutters initials on show, sporadically, amongst the bricks. Drawing time was reduced to about 5 minutes - my digits don't have much heat in them at the best of time.
Posted by stupot at 11:13 AM Friday 14 Jan
I downloaded the wallpaper* amsterdam city-guide which I thought was a good idea, and it was - despite all the spelling mistakes and the fact a physical book would have been easier to navigate with: just as a real map beats google in the quick reference stakes. In any case it was easyjet's city guide on the plane which suggested I visit Amersfoort, and based on their pretty good suggestions for Glasgow and Edinburgh bars (Gandolfi and Blue blazer) I thought I'd get on the train on Monday. The place was dead on arrival - it appeared that no-one else was taking the hot tip. Or it was Monday morning. The weekly holiday, as it turned out, didn't make me feel so bad about not wanting to get out of bed on Mondays. I should move there. People started their days slowly as I wandered in the crisp November weather eventually finding the medieval gate to the town and getting a few sketches done. Soon it was populated as normal and I headed back to Amsterdam on my favourite double-decker trains in anticipation of seeing Gorillaz that night.
Posted by stupot at 01:41 PM Thursday 18 Nov
Gmbh is a new shop attached to the Modern Institute in the Merchant city between Mono and the Tron. It sells Roleur and other design and illustration specials so it's well worth a peek if that's what floats your boat. I'm glad to have found a sister to Edinburgh's Analogue. It's run by Neil, a chap I've cycled with in the past, so it has the benefit of a friendly face.
Posted by stupot at 12:12 PM Monday 1 Nov
On Friday, after a wet run on the bikes up Gleniffer Brae, we returned to beautiful coffee at Coffee, Chocolate and Tea at Cranstonhill. It brought a whole new meaning to drip coffee - we had half of the downpour lying on the floor beneath us. Beneath that, and through the glass floor, you can see the coffee bean sacks in the basement. It's a nice place with a huge roasting machine in the window which helps heat the space (formerly MacCallums fishmonger) in the winter. We even got a wee lesson in roasting and a chocolate to try after John's gentle persuasion.
Saturday was a much better ride with blue skies, if wet roads, south west to Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir and back.
Posted by stupot at 11:52 AM Monday 1 Nov
I suffer from poor circulation and as a result I struggle to draw outdoors from October to March (I have been reminded this week). I picked up some new gloves from the unlikely shooting section of the Barbour shop in Edinburgh at the weekend. The middle, index finger and thumb tips all pull back to allow you to have grip and feel when squeezing the trigger - or on a less aggressive level - when moving a pen about a page. So far so good. Whilst I feel a little sad that outdoor sketching will become more of a test of willpower for the foreseeable, it's also good to be reconnected to clothes you forgot were in your wardrobe.
Posted by stupot at 03:53 PM Wednesday 13 Oct
I met up with fellow Scottish Sketcher, Wil Freeborn, and Aussie, Liz Steel, yesterday in sun bathed Glasgow. We sat and drew the new transport museum and had good, hearty chat. I went off to visit a friend who lives in the new harbour side apartments (not flats). We basked in the sun discussing the state of the country (he works for the Scottish Government) and Jimmy Reid.
Jimmy died a few weeks ago and was a great trade union activist on Clydeside during the slow decline of the shipbuilding industry. He addressed Glasgow University as rector and his speech was reprinted in full in the New York times, them describing it as "the greatest speech since President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address".
"A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are Human Beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement............"
Posted by stupot at 12:49 PM Sunday 5 Sep
I've never really considered Greece as a destination for a holiday and now I can't understand why I would ever have had any reservations. Perhaps snobbery that to get there I would have to go with a tour operator. Perhaps because of the reputation of resorts being full of Brits getting wasted on Ouzo. "Street's like a jungle, so call the police" as Blur once described the 18-30 phenomenon "....following the herds, down to Greece".
Wow. Big news abound - The Literary and Philosophical library of Newcastle are hosting an exhibition of artwork by Viz. The opening was catered for by Greggs and it seems like we'll be able to visit on the 30th. Seeing my obvious envy of a signed Viz annual Laura had acquired in her youth, I was presented with a signed canvas bag by Mr Bennison. Who says Christmas comes in December? and where's the framers number?
Posted by stupot at 11:05 AM Tuesday 17 Aug
After a pretty somber Friday we headed east to the land of Fife. The sun came out and we eventually got to the lovely Craigdene B&B in Colinsburgh and dinner on the front at Elie. With the sun still beating down on Saturday, we secured a couple of seats on the boat to the Isle of May and pottered around Anstruther. The Fence Collective had a shop open in the library, for the week, as part of the Haar Festival in the Neuk with lovely cake stands and iphone covers.
With picnic in bag we bobbed and dipped on the slow chugging boat, with 80 others, over to the nature reserve of May. Immersed in Ornithology and History I would only find out later how much I was also being immersed in sunshine. The boat trip by the cliffs full of Puffins, Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters, Shags (there were no jokes) and the hook-nosed sea pigs that filled the coastal waters was fantastic. We had a few hours on shore amongst the rabbits, lighthouses and other birds before making the slow but calming trip back, sucking on an IPA.
We met Laura's mum and dad in Crail at their lovely wee rented pad in the old maltings and had suppers and a walk by the harbour. The haar had come in the next morning as we headed to Pittenween for the arts festival. If there had been a list it was being ticked off at pace. Some of the artists, in the various garages and gardens, were very highly skilled. Others were charlatans. The ice cream shop and the walk on the harbour in the sun were never going to be let-down's though and we basked with others licking our cones on the front, eyes half closed in the sunshine - staring out to sea.
Posted by stupot at 09:23 AM Tuesday 17 Aug
Posted by stupot at 12:19 PM Thursday 12 Aug
Thursday was a lovely day for a change but I decided to spend it inside a small bar off Leith Walk. It was encouraging to see people waiting outside and a table full of wine, cheese, sausage and bread inside. A very small corner of Edinburgh was En fête. The doors opened late with a disappointed owner who was struggling to get TV reception - a problem I tend to associate only with the decades of my childhood. "who's got a freeview box?" is the twenty first century cry. A group of strangers are given free drink, food and start to chat about tactics on the climb and the crash they heard about before they left the house. Oh - and Sastre is 2 minutes ahead in a break: Topics usually lost on friends.
We wait a quarter of an hour but soon all head to another pub on the corner which changes from it's usual men with whippets and racing posts to 20 cycling enthusiasts. The proprietor is a little thrown by the influx but obviously sees the potential. Soon all 4 screens are showing the strained faces of mountain goats pulling their bikes up the highest climbs in Europe - the screen apparently showing static from the cloud they are cycling through. The picture freezes occasionally - another problem from the eighties I thought we'd have overcome - from the same cloud surrounding the camera motorbikes. It adds to the tension. A few more come in to watch Schlek and Contador stare each other out and a few shouts come out as the two approach the last kilometer. I head back to the Tourmalet with the two Irish fellas I've met as well as Laura and a local, well spoken, soak (of which there are plenty in this town) for post match analysis after Schlek pips the Spaniard to the line and eventually head home satisfied.
Posted by stupot at 01:47 PM Saturday 24 Jul
Ardvourlie - Garenin
We woke from a great sleep and still the trees whipped about outside. We doubled up on porridge and headed out into the elements and Lewis proper. Feeling slightly guilty we trundled along, off the higher ground of Harris with, our now good friend, the sou' western tail wind. Eventually we go to the left turn which would take us to Garenin and we now had to feel more of the wind than either of us wished - the view south, back to the mountains of Harris was recompense enough though, as we glanced sideways trying to keep the bikes upright.
Berneray - Bowglass
The wind is still battering against the small windows of the blackhouses but sun now lights up the white horses in the green sea. As with the night before we make a dash from our sleeping quarters to the living and eating space situated in the next building. We repack after porridge, swap some advice with the others and head off for the ferry. Despite the terminal being only a mile away it takes an eternity and some skill to keep the bikes upright - the head wind buffeting us and occasionally trying to lift our feather-light front wheels.
Castlebay - Bernaray
Finally we made it to the ferry and at last we were on holiday proper - £29 would get us to Barra, over to Eriskay, from Berneray to Harris and from Lewis to Ullapool. The Lord of the Isles didn't command the harbour as much as I had expected and as soon as we passed Ardnamurchan point and literally hit the Minch, the undersized ferry truly didn't come into its own. The ferry was heaving - in both senses and our place in the bar was fortuitous once we realised that we had fiddles and an accordian in our midst. Unfortunately this didn't stop the sea sickness - I lay down when Chris went for a walk which kept down the lager and pork chop I was struggling with. Others weren't so lucky and as the 6 or so hours passed the toilets were not worth bothering with unless you really had no choice. We later heard some real horror stories about the Friday sailing which by some accounts saw passengers vomiting from smelling the vomit. Not a position you want to find yourself in, especially if you were one of the runners in the 'Barrathon' on Saturday.
Sometimes Friday evenings are meant for getting your feet up.
Posted by stupot at 01:24 PM Saturday 26 Jun
The sands of Morar is a beautiful spot - 40 miles west of Fort William. The scenery is spectacular as six of us make the trip up to celebrate the longest day. It's a long drive but well worth the winding roads to be met by the natural beauty of the place. It doesn't get fully dark this far north and we were granted good weather, camping on the silver beach itself, soaking up sun, eating from the fire and watching the steam train pass on its way to Mallaig. It's a long winter but trips like this are so much more appreciated as a result.
Posted by stupot at 10:59 PM Monday 21 Jun
I was in Glasgow last week during my west coast retreat - a few meetings and a design talk by Marque - part of the Long Lunch series put on by Andy Neely and Rusty Spiller. I had time to kill and needed to eat so headed for Stereo for some vegan magic (the Calzone and Ice Cream Sundae could be my desert island food if it wasn't for Gandolfi's crab linguine). I realised that I was in the old Daily Record print works - a Mackintosh building - and was about to head up to my old haunt, the Glasgow School of Art. His building's aren't ten-a-penny so it's nice to still have a link to the west of Scotland's modernist maestro. Damn, that lecture theatre is uncomfortable (read: good design).
Posted by stupot at 05:57 PM Sunday 30 May
It has been a very modern election - American even - what with the TV debates. I personally found them dry and consistently uninspiring: bad suits and a firm lack of passion. The lamp-posters which this year were not allowed until the final week could tell us a lot about the parties. The Lib dems do not appear on this post - have they been sabotaged? On most other sites they were way at the top. The Greens have a simple party slogan on thin substrate and secured with twine. The Tories do not even name a party here - quite the opposite from the party centric advertising in the Conservative strong hold of Hexham, at the weekend. The Scottish Socialist party get to the point with a red star and Labour hang on to the 1997 over-design which appears to put the emphasis more on voting than the party or candidate.
Posted by stupot at 02:22 PM Wednesday 5 May
We visited Hexham on Sunday - an old market town with traditional brick buildings and the odd flash of Sandstone. It's also an area with a surplus of archaeology - like in Orkney, you stupidly become blazé about what incredible sites surround you. After Hexham we drove into the Toon and on my way back from Gateshead stopped to pen the famous bridge that appears on Newcastle Brown Ale bottles and also in Sydney Harbour. Fulmars or small gulls or whatever they were (loud, white, webbed feet) perched below me on the columns and windowsills of the buildings beneath the bridge, which act as an incredibly accurate man-made cliffs, guano lining the street below.
Posted by stupot at 02:18 PM Tuesday 4 May
"What's the name of the Gateshead multistorey?" I ask Laura. "I don't know" she says - "I just know it as the 'Get Carter' car park." A lot of people say the same about Trinity Square, the prominent brutalist structure behind the Tyne Bridge. The site has been Tescos for quite a while now and demolition can be only a matter of months away (they've been saying that for 3 years) so I walked over the bridge from the University in a quite excited frame of mind. The reality is a bit different: Gateshead is not a rich place (The Barbican works well, for example, but isn't it remarkable that so many of these buildings were tested in poorer areas) and you wonder if a high street with a rash of pawn shops benifits from a gap site with an aeriated concrete block shadowing out the sun for yet another three years. I found it mildly depressing on what was a relatively nice day but then there is no life crawling on it - I do think that the cafe on top was a great idea - I would have gladly gone there for a look at the North sea and the Toon. When it was built people thought motor cars were a good idea and concrete was a suitable material for the cladding as well as structures in the north. Hindsight was not available. A bit like getting the public to bang a load of E's in the early nineties and waiting until sometime in around 20 years to see what the effect is.
Posted by stupot at 09:22 AM Tuesday 4 May
I'm standing in the middle of Kirkwall and it's deadly quiet - save for the twenty or so crows building their nests above me: a murder if you will. I was never sure about that collective noun but you just have to be around them to understand. It sounds like Punch is murdering Judy. There's a seriousness to them when it's quiet: you're on your own, lunch time in a small town, you might have taken the wrong road. Hitchcock didn't make that scene on the climbing frame just for it's visual appeal. They make you shiver and a bit paranoid. Perhaps it's because I'm near the harbour, but the term 'crows nest' seems well founded - when I look up at the birds they are looking down on everyone else, but I'm glad to see it's just a couple helping each other fix twigs to their nest. You can't choose what accent you're born with I suppose.
Posted by stupot at 02:07 PM Tuesday 20 Apr
My drawings are featured this month, with some others from the Urban Sketching gang, in TAM airlines inflight magazine called RED. The spreads are really nice - it features work from last years Morocco trip.
Post script: Bizarrely, I just got up from the computer and the hard copy arrived from Argentina - unfortunately it's the wrong issue!
Posted by stupot at 08:50 AM Tuesday 20 Apr
Orkney was great fun - I cycled over to Deerness when Laura went to meetings and savoured the early spring weather after having had a day in Kirkwall on Monday. On Wednesday we went to the harbour village of Stromness (Kirkwall is a city thanks to its cathedral) with the house gables pointing to sea, suggesting just how severe the weather can be in Winter. The pier arts centre is a wonderful place with a great collection of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson work. The rest of the village seems oblivious to the little modern building (hidden within old buildings), instead getting on with mending nets and going to school and delivering letters. Perhaps Stromness is more endearing because of it's proximity to the sea and the backdrop of the great hills and cliffs of Hoy.
Posted by stupot at 01:35 PM Sunday 18 Apr
Posted by stupot at 01:33 PM Sunday 18 Apr
The west side of Edinburgh always has a thick, hoppy smell about it and the source is only a mile from my house - Caledonian Brewery. When I was a kid we used to drive to my Gran's and the smell would lie thick in my nostrils as we hit the city limits. I now know it for producing my favourite tipple, Deuchars IPA. I thought of David Macaulay as I drew this.
Posted by stupot at 09:56 PM Wednesday 7 Apr
There, I said it - shoot me.
Most locals either dislike it, put up with it or just avoid it.
I'm not technically a local though, so I don't abide by those rules.
I've never lived in a city this beautiful - somewhere thousands flock to everyday just to see the grandeur. When you've lived in less attractive places (even if they may have more charm and character) you learn to appreciate beauty. In mid summer and during the festival, walking through the middle section of the Mile can be like having a dance in a phone box so you do need to exercise caution. For the past year or so and mainly due to traffic disruptions, I have ploughed a course east, through the city via the mile - which has been increasingly enjoyable as I've learned to slow down to a tourists pace and enjoy the living museum around me. Thanks, mum and dad, for the replacement watercolours!
Posted by stupot at 04:34 PM Wednesday 17 Mar
A lovely Interview with Britain's main man illustrator - a good reason to watch channel 4 for your news if you don't already.
Posted by stupot at 11:36 AM Friday 5 Mar
This was drawn in the village of El burgo, over an impressive descent from Ronda in Andalucia. We went to watch the big boys gruelling through a very unseasonally wet tour. The day stayed dry though, and we sat on a roundabout eating a picnic as locals gathered. Finally the peleton sped through and the small village returned to a much more leisurely pace. We returned to ride the mountain 2 days later - a combined ascent that day of 2600m. Emotional.
Posted by stupot at 02:48 PM Thursday 4 Mar
In design it is hard to know how the outcome of a project will be received - you can never predict - especially when it is a prevalent subject. You can have a good guess if an idea is simple and effective enough. Frankly, you know in your head when a concept hits the target or fails, straight away. The ideal is not always reached but the best attempt made.
The excitement of the snow is over and now discarded Christmas trees litter the streets.
Posted by stupot at 08:14 PM Monday 18 Jan
A cold, cold wind runs through Newcastle train station in December. Luckily a warm, quiet coach and a hip flask eased me back to Edinburgh after Christmas. Drawn on the cover of an over used sketchbook with sign pen and white pencil.
Posted by stupot at 01:18 AM Wednesday 30 Dec
It's okay - it wasn't permanent.
Posted by stupot at 03:28 PM Thursday 17 Dec
It's gotten cold here. Our more typical wet weather from the Atlantic has thankfully given way to a dry, cold front from mainland Europe. I love it. Scotland has been shrouded in a blanket of freezing mist the past week. Thankfully I had Christmassy colours at hand in Cafe Rouge today - the guy outside on the right is doing up his zip.
Posted by stupot at 09:05 PM Saturday 12 Dec
I've broken out the water-colours again after a very long break. I've never been that great at them but I've loosened up a lot - I think it also helps a lot having the proper paper - I bought a cold press block of paper which seems to right the paper after it gets wet - a hint from Tommy Kane. I seem to be doing well with minimal skies - perhaps because they are just that: simple - perhaps subconsciously after viewing all the talent on Urban sketchers - who I almost forgot to post about being 1 year and 1,000,000 views old - some feat from the one and only Gabi Campanario. Felicitations! My colours are quite weak but I think there's a great danger in over loading the brush with colour. That or I'm just scared. Wil Freeborn does some amazingly rich colour work as well as Tommy.
Posted by stupot at 04:14 PM Tuesday 17 Nov
Down a good few layers by the water of Leith, lies Dean village: a beautiful, if slightly dank (it gets little sunlight in winter) neuk by the new town. I stood at the top of a flight of stairs, by the turkish baths and watched the very slight comings and goings of an ancient neighbourhood. A woman saw a guest to the door with a "tatty-bye" which made me laugh - we got into conversation and she told me of a chinese student, years ago, who was sitting in the snow drawing the same scene. She was whisked in to warm by the fire. I didn't even get a cup of tea so I must remember to go back in February.
Posted by stupot at 06:19 PM Friday 13 Nov
The buses in Edinburgh are pretty good. There's a decent amount of them and you know when the next one is coming. 60 years ago there used to be a problem with men in bowler hats and pipes playing 78's on old gramophones - the space they took up, not to mention the poor sound quality and racket. 30 years ago the 'Boom-Box' and 'Walkman' became equally annoying disturbances on a quiet journey and, with the advent of ear-plug headphones, I thought the syndrome of leaky music was over.
Continue reading "Modern Etiquette #164 - bleeding ears"
Posted by stupot at 04:59 PM Thursday 5 Nov
The forth rail bridge always has some work going on - There are bandages all over it just now. 'Like painting the forth bridge' is what people commonly refer to a task taking forever. It's still as much a marvel to look as an adult as it was as a child. I stopped on the bike for a quick draw yesterday but soon started seizing up - I finished 1/3 of this in the warmth of home. Bare knees and standing about in autumn don't mix.
Posted by stupot at 03:51 PM Friday 23 Oct
'Up' was pretty damn good but we were all blown away before it even started - by this trailer. It looks like all you could want and more: Spike Jonze Directing and a magical soundtrack are gonna make it contend with In the Loop for my film of the year.
Posted by stupot at 01:46 PM Monday 19 Oct
I passed through Waverley Station car park on Saturday and glanced a grand view above me, up to the heavens on top of the old Scotsman building. I vowed to come back and managed to within the week: it's a quiet, open spot - seldom used - in the middle of town. An audience of pigeons would occasionally clap their way off a nearby platform as intercity passengers arrived readying themselves for travel to York, Inverness or London. A boy starts to cry somewhere above and out of sight and a solitary red balloon drifts up into the distance.
Posted by stupot at 12:39 PM Sunday 18 Oct
Wednesday was the day (off) after a wedding in Glasgow so we took the luxury of going to a matinee at the GFT (the new Shane Meadows film). We lounged about in the Brunswick Hotel - a place I've not been in much since my own wedding, 10 years ago. The place is holding up well and has good food and great service. Hula, our lunch venue, had even better food.
Posted by stupot at 04:06 PM Saturday 17 Oct
After climbing Arthur's seat on a glorious start to Autumn we sat in the secluded cafe at the bottom of the royal mile looking out to the Scottish Parliament. Interestingly you can read the Parliament website in Scots as well as Gaelic.
Posted by stupot at 07:42 PM Sunday 11 Oct
Exhibition of drawings starts this Friday in Ayrshire.
Pop along then or sometime during October if you can.
Posted by stupot at 03:48 PM Tuesday 29 Sep
It's the first time I've been to Africa, and despite the European influence Morocco is very much what I thought it would be like: vibrant, magically inconsistent, scooters, incredible food, friendly, constant, noisy, fume filled, markets, beggars, monkeys and dust. I felt a bit out of place to begin with - blonde hair, posh clothes, sunburn - but the sketching soon had me squatting in the street, drawing with kids leaning up against me and having conversations in bad french with cigarette vendors. From being a sales target, sketching was an effective way to meet locals properly - more than anywhere else I've travelled.
Posted by stupot at 11:46 AM Tuesday 29 Sep
Urban Sketcher Liz Steel continues her tour of Europe and popped into Edinburgh for tea and sketching - her book overflowing with drawings, watercolours and tea room paraphernalia. Liz has been prolific - watercolours with bags of character. She was terribly well equipped for stand-up sketching - bag arranged with everything at easy reach. It was lovely to meet a fellow sketcher and share the reekie.
Posted by stupot at 02:45 PM Saturday 26 Sep
Last weekend of the festival included Sunday lunch by Edinburgh's windswept, but none-the-less beautiful, Portobello beach. Heading off to Sweden on Thursday saw still unsettled weather but with a view ahead to cosy nights in with an open fire, a good book and even better company.
Posted by stupot at 10:58 AM Thursday 10 Sep
10am and I popped down a close off the Royal Mile for a quick draw in the morning sun. The occasional person trotted through the square where the Museum of Writer's sits. A tour group came by, disturbing the peace but at least I gathered some free facts from the guide "Scotland is the only country to have a soft drink that out-sells Coke and Pepsi"......"Irn-Bru is not fit for sale in the US"..... I don't know if these are actual facts but it reminded me of Disani coming to the UK a few years ago. Irn Bru is well known for it's edgy adverts.
Posted by stupot at 07:33 PM Thursday 27 Aug
The Fringe is immense - with hundreds of comedy, theatre, dance and music venues all over Edinburgh and I think the Pleasance sums up the Fringe. Usually part of the University - it's a sheltered courtyard busy all day with people gathering to drink, meet and queue for one of the many venues here. Today was blistering hot and sweat dripped from my forehead as I drew. The official Edinburgh Festival starts at the end of this week but the fringe is what it's all about these days.
Posted by stupot at 06:20 PM Monday 10 Aug
The Recoat gallery's 2nd anniversary seemed to be a great success last night with some top drawings, bespoke bikes on parade and lovely people. It was a luxury to spill out on the street and drink whisky mac's on the pavement in the sunlight (courtesy of Ancnoc). My favourite stuff was from ilovedust but it was a shame the digital prints weren't screened. Niall, Sam, Corrina, Derek and I hobbled to the Doublet for a couple more as fixed gear bikes slalomed home around us.
Posted by stupot at 05:18 PM Saturday 8 Aug
This Friday at Recoat on North Woodside Road, Glasgow - check it out!
Posted by stupot at 02:59 PM Saturday 1 Aug
Edinburgh Castle esplanade becomes an auditorium in Summer - like for about half the year. Until the festival and the Tattoo arrives Crosby, Stills and Nash, Duran Duran and the likes come to play open air to many, invariably wet, fans.
Posted by stupot at 08:23 AM Saturday 25 Jul
Been taking some images off my phone - this original, if optimistic, application of chalk for advertising in the meadows, Edinburgh. I think the rain actually held off.
Posted by stupot at 11:35 AM Monday 20 Jul
As I was drawing yesterday I thought about it as a pastime, and then cycling, and why I do them. Firstly I suppose, I wouldn't be writing this if it weren't for the amount of focus that comes from both - they can equally become meditation time or thinking time. I believe, although they can often be lone pursuits (cycling empty country roads and drawing down uninhabited lanes), they also open up the possibility for interaction.
With drawing, especially when seated, people are intrigued by what you're up to - they will come and sneak a peek and possibly have a chat. The chance encounter - a rare luxury in modern life. In a city this can also happen with a fellow cyclist at the lights or in the country when passing another two wheels - something, I imagine, the motorist will rarely encounter in a life-time.
Cycling allows you to understand the land intricately - what seems like a flat to the motorist is in fact a long climb, however shallow. Avoiding pot holes means you become fluent in reading roads - you know the exact sequences of traffic lights - you know the pedestrians who will underestimate your speed - you know the drivers who will open their door on you. You know that white lines become ice on a wet day in summer and you know if you don't take a metre then you will be the one taken advantage of.
Likewise drawing allows you to understand the dynamic of a corner of the world like nothing else. You think about Darwin as you subliminally notice the behaviour of insects and birds. Tree's mesmerize you as they sway. A lone, still puddle is violently displaced by a car just as you finish to record it - things will never be the same. Sunlight comes and goes in an instant and shadows gradually creep east. A secret, unmarked building suddenly has a purpose as the tenants return. The unseen demographic can only be identified by footwear and speech. And cobbles, eroded over centuries, tell their own tale.
Posted by stupot at 10:17 AM Monday 20 Jul
Passing a lovely wee nook coming home from a friends yesterday, I decided to pop back today to draw. The building, middle right was very nondescript. Then, in dribs and drabs, traffic wardens came back to their lair for tea.
Posted by stupot at 07:00 PM Sunday 19 Jul
Garden Detectives is the last of three temporary exhibitions I've helped design at the National Museums - opening two weeks ago. I had the pleasure of working with Jill Calder who did all the illustrative work - it really made the exhibition. It didn't take much to get the team to agree when they saw her work early on - childish yet dynamic was I think how I sold it in! Great internal team too - Graham Rotheray the laid back curator, Maureen Barrie the 'badgering' Project Manager, Tom'll fix it Chisholm, Emma 'ideas' Webb and Lisa 'details' Carrington. Matt Black, the long suffering joiner and friend who has to make my drawings was also there on the night of the opening. A demanding project with budget and time constraints from the off but sad to say goodbye. The phone has already gone for freelance work though!
Posted by stupot at 01:32 PM Thursday 16 Jul
Today was really muggy before the inevitable downpour mid afternoon. I sat on my bike far below the castle listening to some new, old music before my friend Sam appeared on her bike and we nattered. Other cyclists passed by, whistling away in the warm weather. I finished the drawing as a seagull poked away at a rubbish bag and a curious man in a car took photo's from his seat. I imagined he was a private detective.
Posted by stupot at 06:44 PM Wednesday 1 Jul
Back in sunny Glasgow today to do some drawing for a client - I'm so happy to be getting illustration work. It wasn't on my list but I stopped of at some of their housing on the Clyde river to do a quick sketch. It's not the richest area in town but it was quite calm and quiet and I enjoyed drawing there in the sun with an occasional child or dog running by. I could hear the now thick foliage without any sound of traffic.
Posted by stupot at 10:30 PM Wednesday 10 Jun
Hottest weekend of the year and the first Nocturne criterium (circuit race) in the Grassmarket was a huge success. David Millar was in attendance and won by a large gap after the 1 hour and 5 laps of 1.2kms. The pace difference between the elites and the next level was incredible - the difference between doing it for a living and fitting in training around a busy schedule. I was marshalling on Candlemaker row and it was somewhat surreal to watch the pros descend the beginning of my commute home over the rugged terrain which falls away from the museum. The cobbles up Victoria street must have been a shock for one or two of them as well. Now they know.
Posted by stupot at 02:57 PM Sunday 31 May
Felt like summer today as I sat by the National Gallery drawing in the sun. Bagpipers passed me on occasion, on their way to work (the tourists). I saw the Turner exhibition - some of the watercolours reminding me of Will's and Joao's work. All three very adept. I was intrigued that Turner looked to struggle with people a bit! (made me feel better) His large, hazy land / seascapes were a sight to behold though - the reason he's a Master. Must try harder with colour.
Posted by stupot at 02:57 PM Friday 29 May
Long weekend in Britain - I headed off to Pittenweem in Fife with a friend on Friday and had a very relaxing time. Beer and food watching the sun go down.
The wee villages of the East Neuk of Fife, leading around to the comparable hustle and bustle of St. Andrew's, are very pretty indeed. If you go to Legoland in Denmark they choose to portray Scotland by a huge expanse of water (with oil rig) and one of these villages with mountains behind. A literal perspective looking west.
Posted by stupot at 08:07 PM Sunday 24 May
Weather's been quite mixed recently but yesterday was calm with cats meandering below the ever-changing-but-generally-blue sky. Small birds fleeted about and the wind blew through the trees before drying laundry. It was a good Sunday.
Posted by stupot at 08:06 PM Monday 18 May
It wasn't my first time but I was quite blown away by the Lake District during my recent visit. It was perfect - like out a film - The dry stone walls of farmland and buildings were stunning. I visited the guy I was best man to when I lived in Osaka, who was there with wife and parents. No cycling but we went to the Pencil museum (of Rexel Derwent). They even had hollowed out pencils with maps of Germany for troops in the war who were behind enemy lines - James Bond-tastic.
Posted by stupot at 06:20 PM Saturday 16 May
When my reliable, seven year old commuter bike developed a crack the size of the Nile in the frame, I was as sick as a parrot until I realised I had an excuse to buy a new bike. Immediately I toyed with fixed gears, couriers, foldables - everything was possible. Typically, however, I knew that I wanted something unfashionable - I don't want to be able to pull off a fixed and they're just not comfy enough.
Hankering after something classic and practical I stumbled upon Pashley's 'Guv'nor' - and got one sent up from my local shop's Manchester store to test ride. It was a head turner as soon as it was rolled out - a British icon - but a beast - heavy and tricky to steer - but still one of the most beautiful bikes I've ever seen. Even the staff were excited. Fortunately the £825 price tag was enough to dissuade me as much as a reliable friend who reminded me of the nightmare a 1935 race bike would be in city traffic.
I met a friend the other night but had 40 minutes to kill so it was nice to get some fresh air and draw this fire escape. It's kind of a nothing scene but there's definitely something aesthetically pleasing about fire escapes. Be it the repetition or intricate black metalwork versus sandstone.
Half way through the drawing, the sun appeared and created the longest shadows from the stairs. I also learned these doors were for people's flats - you would never have guessed. Meanwhile in the background all those great lane experiences were happening - great smells wafting from restaurants, an occasional siren fleetingly passing - mostly silence interrupted by office heels clicking to the pub. Later, bizarrely, we ended up right behind where i was drawing at an exhibition opening.
Posted by stupot at 09:06 PM Tuesday 5 May
Spent 10 days in rural Andalucia, Spain last week with the following regime each day - bakers for bread, 4 hours cycling, pasta lunch, siesta, drawing, tapas dinner, beer and bed. With the smooth tarmac, warm weather and good company it was almost perfect. Hitting Easter week with the catholics in full celebration mode was a sight as well - from the evening 'death march' and sinister robes of Thursday, to the ultimate drunk bull run on Sunday - it's a far cry from the Church of Scotland festivities! The bull run was in Arcos de la Frontera - the following drawing is from Ronda. Some children played loudly in the lane to the left. There was still a nip in the air so my bum was cold after sitting for a while.
Posted by stupot at 12:07 AM Saturday 18 Apr
My trip to Andalucia was mainly cycling and then eating a lot. We took on a big carbohydrate lunch which we made with local tomatoes and chorizo / black pudding. It was hugely tasty but more function than experience. For that we ate out, and the best place was Bar Vanencia in Ronda - full of locals, big Paella, great tapas and friendly staff (more so after they saw the drawing). Spot the piglet on the counter.
Posted by stupot at 12:04 AM Saturday 18 Apr
This is just a model of the new trams - albeit at 1:1. We're still a few years off the real ones rolling down the street but lot's of people are keen to get in for a nosey - despite the controversy of the project. Inside it looks rather like, well, any other type of public transport you get on. The council are taking advantage of the digging up of the roads to put new water pipes in but they've a long way to go to regain public favour. The saga continues and taxi drivers keep taking their beta-blockers and temazepam.
Posted by stupot at 05:10 PM Saturday 28 Mar
A supplier (forbo) took us away to Amsterdam for 3 days and I managed to mix drawing with hangovers. The sun shone, the architecture was great, lovely locals, community feeling with lots of bikes, better English than in Scotland - definitely could live there. After a tiring day at the factory which was also enlightening, we went to the west side of town to some furniture shops on Saturday. The solid cork stools I'd seen in a showroom were 280 euros so stayed where they were. Tired but satisfied. Photos.
Posted by stupot at 10:26 PM Friday 27 Mar
Just around the corner from work, I spent half an hour sketching Victoria street at lunch time. Lots of tourists migrating between the Grassmarket (below, left) and the Castle (above, right). I've drawn the street before from the railings which finish up in the middle of sketch.
I had the weekend away from the capital and travelled to my home town on the west coast. Good company and food, coal fires and a bracing walk. The light here is inspiring - the skies are very big. As I'd just finished my sketckbook, I used a manila envelope which is an ideal colour for drawing sandstone buildings. And the beach!
Posted by stupot at 01:10 PM Tuesday 17 Feb
I was in a book shop the other day surrounded by Welsh. I passed some more on the street. Nothing unusual in Edinburgh. Then some people were talking about lots at the airport. It turned out the Six Nations rugby has started and after watching a very poor Scottish performance on the goggle-box, I decided to nip down the road to see the fans leaving - Murrayfield is a stones throw and i fancied a draw. Sketching people is tricky for me, but people on the move is another league! There's good, friendly banter after rugby games opposed to the animals that come out of the fitba'. Today was also kilts galore being an international: the welsh were even at it! The chap on the left was on a wall I never drew.
Posted by stupot at 10:25 PM Sunday 8 Feb
I read, with jealousy, liz Steel's post "too hot to go out sketching". The fine, dry but cold weather continues in Scotland but there's a limit on drawing time as fingers go numb: good discipline! This is a wee newsagent near Stockbridge which I love because of the visual madness outside: there's about 5 newspaper ads, a fruit stand, magazines stacked up in the window and random adverts for lost cats. It's a welcome contrast to the supermarket experience.
Posted by stupot at 05:59 PM Saturday 7 Feb
In yet another attempt at putting off doing my tax return, I went out to get some air and do a sketch. There's a bike park near Haymarket station, amidst all the roadworks, which looks like a graveyard. When the troubled tram line, new hotel, and station are finished I'm sure no one will remember a thing........
Posted by stupot at 01:36 AM Monday 26 Jan
This place is just around the corner from my house. I got blown off my bike and hurt my arm last week (to the hilarious commentary of "you need to put some weight on" from many a comedian over the coming days). I have a relationship with both businesses in this drawing - one a public house - the other a carpet retailer - but decided to pop in to the former for a cheeky Guiness after freezing myself in the name of the sketch.
Back to Osaka, I'm afraid - I just found a bunch of sketches I forgot to scan from a month ago. This is down town, south city, in Shinsaibashi - the backstreets east of the Midosuji, a main shopping drag. This type of scene is my favourite because it's a mis-match of signs, cables and couriers. It's a great area to see during the day as everything for the coming nights entertainment is delivered fresh by running men from tiny vans.
Posted by stupot at 05:31 PM Sunday 21 Dec
The most emotional trip of my visit to Japan was cycling to Dorogawa Onsen. I was barely back from Iwate before heading out from Nanba on my way down toward the mountains of south Nara. I went alone as Dan had been inundated with work - a big blow but it meant that I could have his bike and helmet. I stopped in for new brake blocks at Everwin and then headed for the mizukoshi Pass which would take me over to Nara. The weather was perfect and the further I got out of Osaka, the happier I became. Osaka is no city for cycling but the surrounding mountains are ideal.
Whilst in Iwate I decided to go to the famous Jodogahama beach with its rocky outcrops which jut from the sea and create a calm stretch of water. Iwate was freezing but this day was incredibly warm in the sun. I took my jacket off and drew as a few other visitors came to talk. I got the bus back into the edge of Miyako and drew a few of the hundreds of boats as a local eventually asked me what I was drawing and happily told me about the local seafood. The town was quiet and subdued. fishermen mended nets in the sun in their oilskins. Late afternoon I took one of only four (single-carriage) trains a day back over the snowy mountains to Morioka.
Posted by stupot at 11:28 PM Sunday 14 Dec
After being in Kyoto I took the Shinkansen to Morioka - almost at the top of Japan's main island - and stayed with old friends from Glasgow. It was good to get into more rural surroundings and break out the long-johns again. This was the view from their balcony with frozen rice paddies in the fore-ground (apparently deafening with the sound of frogs in spring), shinkansen flying by at high level and ski slopes to the back. The onsen we visited was near these slopes: a magical place.
Posted by stupot at 11:31 PM Tuesday 9 Dec
Despite only having been in Kyoto for two nights, it's a wonderful place to draw - so here's another sketch, this time from the Pontocho area. Behind this lane, the restaurants open up onto stilts over the Kamogawa river which cools diners in the summer. I once went with friends, impromptu, to try to get a table and was given a look like we were trying to get a booking at Dorcia. Again, it was freezing here and even tourists scuttled by, keeping warm. A girl at the bar on the right came out and gave me an orange after I'd checked they didn't mind me loitering. And my cold was indeed kept at bay.
Posted by stupot at 12:52 PM Sunday 7 Dec
Posted by stupot at 08:39 AM Friday 21 Nov
I'm on the verge of so many colds at the moment - drawing outside demands wooly hat, long-johns and the fingerless gloves I don't possess. I am beginning to wish I'd booked a holiday somewhere warm. This is a famous pub just around the corner from work. It stands just near the old city wall and the building was put up to mark the opening of the nearby infirmary. Thus the name. It's where you go for a 'cure' the next day.
Posted by stupot at 07:59 PM Friday 14 Nov
Our old celebration of thwarting those early terrorists on the 5th seems to have passed me by this year - probably due to Guy Fawkes night being mid week and coinciding with a deadline. I popped up to the castle today - a working garrison and its war museum being part of the National Museums five sites. If we go up out of hours to install part of an exhibition you have to pass the lone, armed sentry - a bit of a shock first time around. Today there were kids in the forecourt drawing which was really nice to see. It seemed fitting to note some names of the fallen. Earl Haig - who gave his name to the Scottish poppy appeal - was overlooking the proceedings upon his horse.
Posted by stupot at 06:12 PM Tuesday 11 Nov
Really chilly again today with a blustery wind from Scandanavia. Blue skies for the most part though. This was drawn on a back street just near where I drew the cheesemonger earlier in the year. Quite a posh part of town. The building on the left was put up in 1650 and now home to a Thai restaurant. Noise around is car tyres on cobbles - you can hear them a mile off. Cobbles are a nightmare on a bike! We hit a deadline on Friday at work and off to Osaka next week so hope to update from there.
Posted by stupot at 11:13 PM Sunday 9 Nov
I like weaving between back streets in a city - as well as seeing how the place is serviced they are also a calm within the madness. Atholl crescent lane sits behind Shandwick place and the road mimics the curve of the more grand frontage. The lane looks a lot more like how the city would have looked a hundred years ago - few cars, few signs, little noise - at one point during rush hour all I could hear was a church bell. visually, the down pipes are just as prominent as the repetition of the gable ends - cobbles camber down to large stones which act like a gutter - I like the function.
Posted by stupot at 05:26 PM Sunday 19 Oct
Have a bowl every morning!
Posted by stupot at 10:49 PM Sunday 12 Oct
Shieldaig - Applecross - Bealach na ba - Shieldaig
Despite the weather getting better as we neared our destination, it would have had to have improved considerably to shake off the wet and mirky conditions which hung over us from the Forth bridges to north Perthshire. In the end we settled for what was not an unpleasant September day on the Applecross peninsula. The views started to take over from conversation and Gregor was keen to swap accelarator for the other, rotating type of pedal. Shieldaig is a lovely wee village with its houses hugging the shore overlooking the nearby island in the cove.
Headed up to the bunk house at Strontian for the weekend with Ross and Calum for fishing in Morven and Coran. The night fishing for Dogfish with toads and Stag enroute was amazing even if the weather was mediocre. Ross' poncho kept us dry though and most of the rain was quick to pass. Calum's expertise allowed us to pick the right spots and at one point Ross had 5 mackarel on his line. We got some polock as well but they're not quite so much fun to reel in.
Posted by stupot at 09:18 PM Monday 25 Aug
people study while hiding from the rain last month.
Posted by stupot at 06:41 PM Tuesday 5 Aug
I really love trains. Seeing my dad off on the old fossil fuel locomotives with their compartments, the means of escape to the big city as a teenager, the way to travel through Europe by seeing places and meeting people, the disbelief of a shinkansen approaching for the first time, getting on one as you would a plane and seeing the sky when you bank, sitting at a table with an ever changing view and having no-where to go. gradually arriving somewhere and understanding the climate, architecture and agriculture before you meet the people.
Popped down to Manchester today for work - I used to go down quite a lot about 5 years ago with the company I worked for and I really enjoy it as a city - despite most people I speak to having little good to say about it. The office I was visiting is in Deansgate so I got off the train at Oxford road and managed to make my way past Harry Hall Cycles for what has become part of my routine when I visit. It was the first time I'd been in since his passing last year. Last time, I bought some arm warmers and as my knees have been playing up a bit I decided to get some knee warmers today. The neoprene wrap I wear sometimes is a bit too thick for summer so these look good. I was not surprised to find out that my goat-like legs equate to a size S. The amount of passengers on the train back was horrific to start with but eased up past the Lakes. I felt, for the first time in a long time that I needed to be wearing a watch so hastily drew one to get over the urge. I'm thinking about getting a tattoo without hands and adding in for appointments.
Posted by stupot at 10:34 PM Friday 11 Jul
a day of trains. a peaceful roll through the countryside. helsingborg. malmo. danmark. turbines. blustery beach houses. grey to sun and back. houses growing out of fields. no roads. different rocks. feminine pylons. off at Kopenhaven. dirty air. white caps on trucks. drunk. hotel in red light district. confusing tourist information prices. beer in 7-11. manic streets. fast bikes. incredible buildings. wide streets. amusement park. timeout. side streets are needed. sit with a beer and people watch. rickshaws scream by with tanned bear chested drivers. best chicken and bacon roll ever. six quid but.
Posted by stupot at 07:08 PM Sunday 15 Jun
ILE - TAIRBEART - TIGNABRUAICH - GLEANNDARUEL Dist: 45miles
After the day off and an early ferry to catch, I wasn't enamoured by the young trees being thrashed about outside the window. If ever it had looked like rain it was now. I had a quiet breakfast and left my food for others before packing well and applying some Ralgex I'd been forced to by at the end of day two. For almost half the journey I kept small and ground round the pedals but by the time I reached Bridgend - a nice wee village at the mouth of the loch - the clouds had lightened and I changed direction to take the high road to Pt Ellen. It was a bit like the never ending road of dips but soon enough, after passing the occasional car with sleeping wean in rear, I was going downhill and heading for the ferry. I was made a roll in the spar by a man who seemed to resent the business but his staff kept me entertained by the young girl, whilst unpacking crates of cheap brandy, asking the time-served one - "so why is it they like this so much?" - "Compared to whisky?........... It's got more of a kick."
And with that I left this whisky mecca and rolled on to the ferry waiting for me just around the corner.
ILE - REST DAY
I woke up to a little bit of wind. The Guiness I thought.
It was also breezy outside - something that was becoming as typical a part of the day as the sun was, breaking though mid to late morning. for the first time on the trip I made my own eggs and bacon in the generous sized kitchen. Pans and crockery were laid out with military precision and after I'd turned out the fluorescent strips in the dining room I could relax and look out the windows to the hypnotic swaying of the trees and rolling waves. A friendly fellow from East Kilbride and a Swedish Chef shared breakfast with me and we discussed our respective days.
GEARASTAN - TOBAR MHOIRE DIST: 61miles
It's been a long winter. The sun deprivation was getting to me. Scotland's not the first place you might choose for guaranteed rays but if you get it, you get it good. May is always a good bet and it didn't disappoint. I started the Islands tour the day after Jeni and George's Ceilidh in West Kilbride to celebrate the new vets opening - a great time was had by all but it has to be said that young lassies cannae burl no more. The seventy year olds were throwing us 'round the hall!
Richard Scarry was a massive influence on me as a child and probably still is. His books (notably 'What Do People Do All Day?' Collins 1968) gave, for the first time, a real insight into what happened in the real world, quite literally but with a very sensitive touch. And damn, could the man draw. Sasek, Steadman and Herge were other huge influences on wanting to draw, create and explain 'stories'.
Posted by stupot at 02:48 PM Sunday 25 May
May has produced it's typically fair weather (remember exam time at school?) and it's nice to sit out the front and draw. You can get the idea of how close my neighbours are to me by the drawing above. The wee shop on the other side has put up a satellite dish with no-one's permission. The colonies are listed so I wouldn't imagine it'll last long. Just got a BBQ in last night before the rain came tumbling down. And so starts summer......
Posted by stupot at 02:29 AM Saturday 10 May
Today is warm and sunny and the wind has calmed for the first time in what seems like a very long time. The park was heaving with out-of-practice frisbee players and new wardrobes had been un-boxed. Yesterday there was a hanami party in the Meadows and it was fun to talk a bit of Japanese and meet some other devotees whilst viewing the blossom. Next week should be as good as the flowers had barely opened. I took some edamame and Karaage and later met a few Osakans. I could spot the first who turned up late with some discounted wine from the supermarket. The second was a guy who came a little later and was spotted slugging from the same bottle. You can take them out Osaka but you can't take Osaka.......
Drawing is of one of the breweries which give Edinburgh its distinctive smell. Was looking forward to the drawing but I wasn't in the mood.
A well-to-do area in Dean village lie these lovely old mews buildings. Down a cul-de-sac, a few expensive cars drove by and the drivers grimaced. A friendly chap waved from an old MG which gave hope for humanity. It was warm in the sun but still there's a cold breeze around. Cherry blossom is poking out....
Posted by stupot at 03:11 PM Saturday 19 Apr
A colleague suggested I visit the Union canal basin at Fountainbridge, five minutes from Haymarket. The area has been renovated with new offices and coffee shops although old workshops still exist which stop the place from becoming too sterile. New flats canteliever over the water and contrast with the old riveted, iron bridge. Start of cobbled bike routes too.
Posted by stupot at 05:04 PM Wednesday 16 Apr
It was quite a nice weekend down in Ayrshire but it was still raw in the wind and there was an occaisional spitting of rain on Saturday. Despite the blossom pushing. I popped into Irivine Harbour on the way back from the bike shop - my second bike, which I haven't used since Japan, looks like it was squashed a little in transit and the drop-outs need straightened before I can take it up north. I also can't find my old ortelieb panniers so looks like I may have to buy some new ones......... or borrow. Offers on a postcard.
Posted by stupot at 08:03 PM Tuesday 15 Apr
Edinburgh was full of cheer on Saturday night after we beat England to win the calcutta cup. Droves descended on the pub when the Murrayfield emptied, the place becoming smothered in tartan. This morning I nursed my head again and stood waiting for the bus, sobering up in the freezing wind looking west as the reek of malted barley filled my nose.
I'm doing some drawings right now for an ad agency in Manchester who are compiling an annual report - they're mixing the drawings with photo's and it seems to working pretty well - especially the more linear, which suits my style. Should be nice to see the finished article when it comes along.
Posted by stupot at 10:01 PM Tuesday 4 Mar
During their visit I was reminded at the beginning of the year by Gunnar, the son of my first Japanese teacher, that Edinburgh is swamped with Tardis from Doctor Who. A lot of them are now coffee stands but I can't help thinking the dormant ones have huge, circular control rooms with flashing bits of perspex and a guy with a long, colourful scarf inside running around trying to set the dials to teleport away from cybermen!
Posted by stupot at 08:06 PM Saturday 23 Feb
Went to see the Rascals last night - the Arctic Monkey's Liverpudlian step brothers. I met a few friends at the classic if sterile City cafe before heading to Cabaret Voltaire which was a well sized venue for the band. Afterward I flew home on the bike, peering through the haar that could have been hiding burke and hare down the lanes.
Posted by stupot at 10:01 PM Tuesday 19 Feb
This is the view out of my living room inspired by a joan eardley sketch I saw last month at the exhibition in the national gallery. I'm always intrigued by what others surround themselves with and so this is what surrounds me. You can see the upstair doors to my neighbours I tried to describe in my last entry.
Posted by stupot at 06:18 PM Sunday 17 Feb
HAPPY NEW YEAR! AKE OME!
January's been a bit of a slow burner - such is the darkness outside the window which slowly turns to snow flurries set against a grey background. I forgot what Scottish winters can be like. On the plus side I'm living in a lovely new house in the west end of Edinburgh - one of the colony houses in Dalry which were originally co-operative houses built for railway workers. It's a close-knit community with a narrow path running between the gardens and no cars in sight. The people who live above access via stairs to the rear and those below access from the front, with respective gardens. It's pretty tight living but doesn't have and urban feel. I met a neighbour walking through the gate the other day and we slowly walked up the path chatting, stopping on the doorstep, just a fence width apart, to finish our conversation. Edinburgh's a bonny place and hopefully I'll get more drawings up soon now the energy is returning......
Posted by stupot at 09:32 PM Monday 28 Jan
Are you one of those people who see faces in common objects? There are measuring scales behind the sink in the house and I always see a big mustache with screws for eyes and the brand name as the mouth. It reminds me a lot of the rotund, copper robot from the Return to Oz film.
Posted by stupot at 10:27 PM Wednesday 14 Nov
Waiting for a delayed flight this afternoon I was reminded how much the local airport has changed over the years. It still retains it's 50's charm though - with the hanging, sherical speakers of the PA system and the tall, glazed facade. My lasting memory as a child is seeing off the Canadian contingent of the family in the days when going to the airport really was an event and when Prestwick used to look like something out of 'catch me if you can'. Incredibly the Ryan air hub still lives off Elvis' visit from the sixties and there's even an Elvis bar. I think it's all good fun but you wonder if there's not something about the local area you might try and sell more. When I rode back into ayrshire on the bike yesterday I was reminded that the county's slogan is 'gateway to Arran'. As kind to the island as that is, you feel that being simply a transition point doesn't quite do the place justice!
Posted by stupot at 06:37 PM Monday 29 Oct
Nardini's in Largs is an institution. The main, art deco clad restaurant is being 'refurbished' but I'll believe that when I see it. Fingers crossed. Fortunately there are still three cafes in and around the town and the one just across from the ferry slip offers as close to the Italian experience as you might find locally. The service is fast and the coffee is good. The last time I was in, I realise, was four years ago before the annual time trial around the isle of Cumbrae when we had espresso to get us going. The hastily drawn sketch shows chatty but efficient waitresses in aprons, a reassuringly well stocked bar (for a cafe) and a barista curious as to why I keep looking over. This time I was with my sister and nephew after a bracing half hour at the swings. I had a caffe coretto cognac which was an espresso with a shot of brandy - a drink from a bygone era which I think I'll be seeing a lot more of now I know it exists!
Posted by stupot at 09:03 PM Monday 22 Oct
I spent quite a lot of time in Glasgow over the past week upgrading the flat, working and going to a wedding. It was nice to be back in Yorkhill in at my old local, popping in on old friends and I forgot how at home I felt there. I popped in on my lovely old neighbour Joyce who gave me tea and told me how bad I looked on a hangover, "you'll need to do something about your eyes," she said to me as I bounced off to the wedding.
Tipped off by Hannah at the Recycling Project, I headed around the block and down the train lines to the studios of SWG3. When I lived here it was almost soley an unofficial club venue, tip off's would often come about gigs on the night, in the pub. There was a good wee exhibition on reused materials as products, including african masks from skateboards I'd seen on the web a while ago. Great space, shame there's a hundred people on the waiting list.
Posted by stupot at 09:50 PM Thursday 11 Oct
When I came back to my hometown this year, so much had changed. The town won the DTI's UK craft and design town of the year last year thanks to all the work done by the local initiative and councillor. For the past few years there has been lots of craftspeople and designers making use of the subsidised studios which were redundant shop units a few years ago. I noticed, however, that there was no smaller items for sale that people could buy if they were just passing. I've put together designs for merchandise and the mugs are the first things to be completed. Hot off the press - mail me if you want to buy one! These boys are 8oz bone china - say good bye to strained arms when picking up your tea!
Posted by stupot at 08:55 PM Thursday 27 Sep
I seem to remember mentioning my shock, earlier in the summer, at the baton being passed from bad skin to malfunctioning airways. The heavy chest remains and I'm now a few weeks into a regimented stint on the inhalers and keeping a diary which includes diet and lung capacity. It turns out I eat a lot of chicken, pig, egg and salad. I'm fairly honest about the donuts too. Now I've been asked to start cutting out wheat - which can affect asthma - and can be added to the fish, nuts and dairy products already off my shopping list (anaphylaxis). It's a slightly restricted diet but fortunately vodka has been ruled out as a trigger.
Posted by stupot at 10:36 PM Monday 24 Sep
There's a competition to design the graphics for campagnolo's bora wheel. Since it's carbon fibre there's a nice black canvas to work on - I decided to sketch out (and invert) some key innovations the company has produced (quick release skewer, derrailleur) and I've interwoven ribbon between them. The colours represent those worn by the world champion (many of whom have ridden campagnolo over the years, not least Eddy Merckx). Deadline next Friday.
Posted by stupot at 06:12 PM Wednesday 5 Sep
I came across the web site of the highly talented Jill Calder and dropped her a mail to tell her how much I rate her drawings. When I asked where to check out in Edinburgh I got two great suggestions that I'd pass on to anyone - the current Picasso exhibition of pottery and lino prints at the Museum of Scotland and Analogue books by the Grassmarket. I'd urge anyone vaguely interested to head on down. I think Analogue has become my new favourite shop - packed with loads of illustration and design books as well as a gallery and prints to buy. I spent lots of satisfying time and money there. Thanks Jill!
Posted by stupot at 12:59 AM Monday 3 Sep
Posted by stupot at 07:42 PM Sunday 19 Aug
Coal certainly seems to have been the running theme over the past few days. With the visiting Japanese, the first half of the week was devoted soley to seeing the west coast. We first visited the mighty Mount Stuart house on Bute (funded largely by coal sales) and then today we headed to Mallaig on the Jacobite Steam Engine also powered by the black stuff - flakes of which are landing on me as I write, through the old slide windows above the table. The type of train is one which I just remember as a child when our local village station still had two functioning platforms, a bridge and a waiting room. We'd see my Dad off to work having his ticket inspected and boarding through a narrow, hinged door with handle, two steps up. Now that everyone drives and our railway stations have become lifeless and trains sterile, it was nice to remember how we used to do it. Some of the best views in Scotland were helped by the rare summers day and after a picnic overlooking the harbour, we headed back to Fort William on the Hogwarts Express.
Posted by stupot at 09:17 AM Wednesday 15 Aug
The Edinburgh festival officially started yesterday. I didn't actually know until we reached Princess Street and the parade was about to start. After a leisurely coffee with Ali and her friend Ruth, I went off to have a draw before I picked up my Gran. I wanted to go to the Warhol exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy but I decided I'd be too rushed so I opted to draw the building and return to see inside on the 25th. Princes, George and Rose street were already filling up with an international crowd at 9.30 on Sunday morning and I remembered the special feel Edinburgh has with its focal point of the gardens and castle. It started raining so I got the bus and headed out of town, feeling a bit guilty - as you do - for the tourists.
Posted by stupot at 01:57 PM Monday 6 Aug
As Dave finally reached maturity we decided to surprise him by taking him to a cottage on the other side of Arran for the week. The fishing rods were packed, the weather held and fortunately birthday boy remembered his hair straighteners. So no tears. Carradale, between Tarbert and Campbeltown, was a great place to chill out with all of us bringing our respective weights on shoulders but managing to discuss possibilities for a more ideal future. We had a few walks planned with the OS maps at the ready but we found that sitting fishing with a beer and good company was at least on par with a good walk, though perhaps even better. Despite the allergy I can see myself getting down the pier of a sunny eve to catch maw and paw's tea - great meditation. Ross and I managed to get in for a few dips in the sea before dinner on two days - invigorating stuff and partially x-rated. In the evenings we played with alcohol and abused the wii. So Callum didn't manage to work off the beer belly but quality time it certainly was.
Posted by stupot at 08:42 PM Wednesday 25 Jul
I notice there hasn't been any entries regarding food or trains since I've been back in Scotland - it's no coincidence. Infact I've used trains a fair amount since I've been back and still find a romance much more like that of the ferry than cars or airplanes. It's the being able to wander freely and sit across from and talk to your fellow passenger which must make the difference. Even if the prices are a bit high. There's a real grandness to British stations and Glasgow is no exception. Sadly the old, large faced clocks have been replaced by digital ones but such is life......
Posted by stupot at 06:41 PM Friday 13 Jul
I had lunch in one of these nice 21st century places that serves decent food the other day. You know - like Toast or Pret or somewhere like that. Growing in popularity but at complete odds with the traditional British mentality of waxy chocolate and prawn cocktails. I was sitting across from Harrods on Brompton Road and got in a quick drawing with my coffee. I also drew a nice jewellers on Old Bond Street despite being constantly sized up by the well dressed security, who seemed to think I was casing the street. It reminded me of the Blackadder episode where he orchestrates getting an MP blind-drunk and gets him in bed with a prostitute before ordering Baldrick to fetch "the fastest draughtsman in London town" to document the scene for blackmail pruposes. One of the security guys stood across the road eyeing me side on before walking very slowly over, passing me and hanging around behind me like a bad smell. Another came a few minutes later in the calm, slow walk that is surely much less subtle than they believe it to be. The two lingered together behind me before I told them they were making me nervous, smiled and they eventually meandered away to size up a bus party of primary school children.
Posted by stupot at 01:16 PM Tuesday 10 Jul
This was the Flemish Scottish Temperance League offices on Hope Street in Glasgow - just around the corner from Central station. It also sits on Renfield lane (a notorious place known for it's crime and violence) down which is the Mackintosh designed, but largely unseen, Daily Record print works. Now the offices have been overhauled and sometimes I work in the loft at a friends studio.
Posted by stupot at 12:37 PM Tuesday 26 Jun
I've fallen in love with cows and sheep again - they had all but been wiped from my memory whilst I lived in urban Japan but now I can see them every day and my smile is certainly wider. There's a beautiful herd of belted galloways just outside the village and I stopped to say hello this afternoon. Cows always strike me as being very content animals with their big friendly heads and placid expressions. The moors are littered with sheep - occaisional cycling spectators and an altogether more uptight family who roam freely only limited by the subtle and baffling cattle grid.
Posted by stupot at 05:04 PM Sunday 24 Jun
Posted by stupot at 10:51 PM Monday 18 Jun
The ferry we sailed on from Aberdeen was pretty new so it eased the 'moderate' sea levels for the more weak stomached amongst us as we chased the sun up to Shetland. Mid summer is, after all, only three weeks away. Actually, the lack of darkness has been by far the biggest shock of moving back to summer time. Three years on I still instinctively remember that I have to give the shed door a very well timed kick while locking it yet the nights being light until eleven had just left my system.
The crossing was only a little bumpy but nothing a few pints of eighty and a couple cinnarazine couldn't sort out. When we arrived on Thursday morning the wonderful calm of Island life could already be felt: the loudness of the birds, the wash of the tide, the narrow closs' of Lerwick with fishing nets lying at out to dry, the deserted, white beaches. You can have a peerie peek.
Posted by stupot at 11:05 PM Sunday 3 Jun
If you live anywhere near Ayrshire, you should definitely check out the graffiti project at Kelburn Castle. We headed over after the stormy start to the weekend had passed and had a blast. Basically the roughcast is being replaced in a few years and so it's a great excuse to go to town with the cans. Kelburn is an amazing place to go if you have kids - we went with the nephews and there's stuff to keep you amused for hours including the timeless adventure playground. The walled garden and walks keep the ageing amongst us amused.
Posted by stupot at 04:34 PM Wednesday 23 May
There's something to be said if you can find beauty in a draincover, but it's not that difficult in Japan. They often act as a clue as to where you are - being the visual embodiment of an area in just a few lines. When I escape a new subway station I always look for the north arrow you find at the entrance, just to get my bearings. I also like to see what the place is known for and for that I try and find a drain cover. In Taishi it's the twin peaks and temple complex. There's a wonderful selection here which illustrates the diversity and beauty of such a common item. On the flip side of the deal, when it rains, draincovers are a cyclists worst enemy. Today it rained and so caution was observed.
Posted by stupot at 12:04 PM Sunday 22 Apr
I gave a talk at the Apple store in Osaka on Tuesday to a design group that meets once a month. Good bunch of folk. I don't really talk in front of big audiences so it was a bit strange. Everyone said they liked it though. Met some really good people as well which was a nice bonus. There's some pics here if you really don't have anything better to do.
Posted by stupot at 05:22 PM Saturday 21 Apr
Posted by stupot at 01:24 PM Saturday 21 Apr
'It's getting pretty busy. I'm sitting right in the middle of kitashinchi, late on a friday afternoon, and the pace of deliveries to Osaka's entertainment district is at it's weekly peak. Old 'butchers' bicycles, mopeds and mini-vans litter the street before driving off and being replaced, minutes later, by the next delivery. Mainly it's all alcohol around here - I'm sitting outside a sake-ya, the workers busily filling crates with expensive whisky and sake. Fish, meat and vegetables arrive from around the city and face cloths come too. So many trades are involved. It's non-stop and exciting. Satisfying for those involved. A few tourists come and go but middle aged women in kimono far out-number them. The suits they will please later in the evening already out-number the kimono, but for now, the men in aprons out-number all. This is a thriving community with it's traditions and wealth and payment system of trust - the sights and sounds of which warrant an hour or so of study.'
Posted by stupot at 12:17 AM Saturday 21 Apr
you can see some photo's of kyoto here.
Posted by stupot at 03:28 PM Thursday 19 Apr
Having survived the partying of last week it's back to the quiet life in the country once again. Strolling around the upper, old town of Taishi is great - the alley's, the kids playing, the cherry blossom fluttering about, the peace. Today I met a few local's slightly bamboozled as to why someone would not only stray as far as their village, but attempt to draw the impossible Japanese roof. I was wondering the same.
Posted by stupot at 05:00 PM Monday 9 Apr
Yesterday was Dan and Miko's wedding and the best man speech has thankfully come and gone. As has 4 days of being drunk (my body is not happy). I went out a few weeks ago, in what was still winter, to draw Dan and Miko's wedding venue - the Sakai Suji Club. Nice Gaff - a colonial bank building near Nagahoridori. In the end I left it as just black ink because I thought the slpotches of rain that bled into it looked nice.
Posted by stupot at 06:05 PM Saturday 7 Apr
Posted by stupot at 06:50 PM Thursday 5 Apr
After visiting the ward office to change my address and national health insurance (it took about an hour and a half and, at one point, 6 public servants), I came home via Chikatsu Asuka Museum (Ando Tadao, 1994). It's only about a kilometre and a half from my house in Taishi and whilst it's not the kind of architecture I'd like to live in, the design actually does, and will continue to, blend in to it's surroundings. I reckon in 100 years it'll look great. I drew by the edge of a nature trail before getting up, with a numb arse, to go and jot down a couple of details. Today was surprisingly cold but people were happy to greet strangers along the way - something I've missed in the city. The women in the cafe did a double take when I spoke to them, in that way rural people do when they're confronted with foreign country people speaking their own language - even just to say "one coffee please". There were a few hardy family's up the trail doing hanami but I know how chilly it was to be sitting about. The fresh weather will hopefully prolong the sakura though.
Posted by stupot at 06:52 PM Tuesday 3 Apr
I had some small errands to do today so I went into nearby Tondabayashi on the bike (20 mins south from Kintetsu Tennoji stn). I managed to change address using the ATM at the bank and find a framers. Afterward I passed through Jinaichou - a place I had only been once, at night, about 2 and half years ago when I got lost on the way home. It's a beautiful old village within the town which I promised myself I'd revisit. I sketched at leisure and listened to an elderly local who was happy to have an ear. I got a bit of what she said - managing to distinguish between the Meiji and Taisho architecture by window details and building height. I thought about the fact that toward the end of the Meiji era (it finished in 1912) the 4 storey sandstone building where I used to live in Glasgow was being built. Oh yeah, and the Kousa came today - visibility was down to a few kilometres.
Posted by stupot at 05:14 PM Monday 2 Apr
Posted by stupot at 06:14 PM Saturday 31 Mar
So finally I got to see Keirin. The Japanese cycle racing that replaces the dogs and horses with weightlifters. We went to the relatively local Kishiwada track in south Osaka (Haruki station - Nankai airport / Wakayama line from Namba) and enjoyed the rusting structures and old men's chat in what certainly feels like a bygone era. Keirin's a lucrative sport though - over 20 million watch every year and betting is just as popular as in any other country. Because so much is at stake, there are tight standards for bikes so that no-one is at an advantage. Being Japan, you can believe rules and regulations are adhered to. After working out the betting form with some help from the vets (it's diffficult enough in english) we started putting small bets on. Nothing came of them until the final race when Matt, Lukes mate, on holiday - and a keen Keirin fan - chanced a top two finish (each way) and cashed in 14,000 yen from a 100 yen bet. that's pretty good odds by anyone's standards! All the fun of the fair.
Posted by stupot at 12:18 PM Friday 30 Mar
There was a 'get together' in my honour later in the evening so on the way to the tournament, dressed traditionally, I sneaked glances of the yukata-clad sumo wrestlers, furoshiki's in hand, as they stared at my skirt and smiled. Traffic was moving slowly and hundreds stood outside waiting for the arrival of their heroes as we were perched across the street in the sun, munching on kebabs and trying to shake off our respective hang-overs.
Met Dan and Miko last night to discuss their impending wedding which will no doubt be upon us faster than you can say 'holy matrimony'. I had half an hour to kill so I got the sketch-book out across the road from Daimaru department store on the Midosuji - one of the few, fairly nice-looking buildings in Osaka. I had to give up due to blue fingers - my whole body was chilled in the wind that was blowing from north and east. We went for mexican at El Pancho which was great, as ever. I filled the drawing with colour very quickly in photoshop this morning.
Posted by stupot at 01:52 PM Monday 12 Mar
level crossings are an integral part of most neighbourhoods. I can't imagine living right beside one but the bar I was in the other night was by the tram line and after a while I had gotten quite used to the noise. You get accustomed to being very up-close-and-personal with trains here. I like how colourful level crossing's are - the one near my house has a shrine behind it which is the only place you can find old trees in the city. Usually they have their sacred straw and paper bow wrapped around which now-a-days feels more like a good luck charm to ward off the real estate people from knocking them down.
Posted by stupot at 06:46 PM Wednesday 7 Mar
A drawing done last week of the garage across from the flat I was going to move into 2 years ago. Do you ever pass an old house or somewhere you almost bought and wonder what tales go on inside? I'm glad I didn't move there - not much of a view and I don't like the smell of cars.
Posted by stupot at 07:32 PM Friday 2 Mar
Jesus. City life can be brutal. I headed to the back streets of Nanba and the smells were ever-changing but tended to be of shite, going in and out of tramps pish by way of old mince. The woman preparing her restaurant for business was giving my subject matter very suspicious looks in that way that it's okay to draw a temple but not the smallest car park in the world. It was her neighbourhood - perhaps she should have taken it a bit more as a compliment. Or maybe she no longer sees the devastation that is her surroundings.
Posted by stupot at 07:21 PM Tuesday 27 Feb
Was meant to go skiing today but the weather in the mountains/workload of my companion was not conducive to a day in the snow so I was contented with a lazy day drawing. I headed for Tennoji and walked a route through the old town I'd always meant to. Looking for something interesting, I realised I had never been to the Hitachi tower - Tsutenkaku - a major landmark of Osaka (which is kind of fitting as it's both industrial and dilapidated looking). The weather held out and I spent a nice hour or so amidst the madness of a tourist haven - it wasn't actually busy but there were still small groups who seemed to come off each train and enough business men having lunch and Friday beers. The locals were fairly jolly and squatted to chat on occaision.
Posted by stupot at 06:01 PM Friday 23 Feb
Wednesday's drawing of a typical Junior high school (and one that I work at). It seemed to resemble a battleship as much as a school. Inside half the crew slept.
Posted by stupot at 06:25 PM Wednesday 21 Feb
It was another nice evening so I headed out after work to draw an old sake shop in my neighbourhood. Just when I was finishing, a wee woman who lives beside the shop came out to take a peek at my drawing. Suddenly a small gathering of elderly housewives swarmed me from out of nowhere and a typical conversation ensued while I towered over them. How long did it take? Just pen? How long have you lived here for? Do you have a big sketchbook as well? To the last question I answered 'no I didn't' as I kind of stumbled over the difficult word which I didn't really understand. Soon enough she was off into her house and came back out a few minutes later with a lovely, unused sketch book for me. A thousand apologies later I headed home, a wad of paper the richer and the new talk of the steamie.
(Interestingly I decided to leave the denchu (telegraph poles) out of my drawing for a change. It's amazing the difference it makes. With the trees in the background you could almost imagine it's not Osaka).
Posted by stupot at 05:50 PM Tuesday 20 Feb
I was walking underneath the umeda sky building today and was going to draw it but a) the sun was in my eyes, b) it's ugly and c) I found this much more interesting, run-down coffee wholesaler.
Posted by stupot at 07:55 PM Monday 19 Feb
Posted by stupot at 06:54 PM Saturday 10 Feb
Korean yakiniku (bbq meat) is always a favourite in Osaka. I go out with the boys from time to time for a huge tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) and always regret it the next day when I have massive amounts of smelly wind: quite the departure from rice and veggies and man, do the guys take the 'all-you-can-eat' literally. This picture is a wee skanky, if typical, eatery in Nanba. Crates piled up outside, storage and kitchen bench on the street, numerous extractor fans winding their way around the building, bins on show.
Posted by stupot at 08:31 PM Thursday 8 Feb
I headed over to the bike shop on Sunday to ogle things I didn't really need and found myself coming back via the huge Sumiyoshi Taisha. The reason I'm often at a shrine is because they're basically the only open, uncontaminated places around - a bit of solitude in the madness of the city. There's a lively flower market that's on every week and you can try your luck with the auctioneer. It's a lot chillier than the spring but still people love to come and hang around. I bought a coffee and a pastry and had had the hindsight to take along pencils and my pop up stool so that I didn't catch a cold as I did drawing in Kyoto in November.
Posted by stupot at 07:54 PM Wednesday 7 Feb
As we hit the quiet back roads in the mountains, on this morning's ride, I could see crushed beans all over the road - remanents from yesterday's setsubun festival. I headed to the local temple with friends at about 9 last night and we soaked up the atmosphere. Everyone was out to celebrate the equinox and the full moon shining in the distance was both a reminder of the old lunar calendar and of how cold it was. The stalls ("de-misay") are half the attraction - Abiko fills with hundreds of them, selling everything from toy guns to delicious castella sponge cake - a Portugese import which is very popular at festivals. It's kids heaven. I had some taiyaki - a fish-shaped sponge with red bean paste (anko) inside.
Winter is a strange time. Dark and mysterious. Cold and pure. In Kyoto earlier in the month, perhaps around dawn and drifting in and out of conciousness, I could hear the clack of wood on wood in a slow rythmn - a sound I've only heard in Japan - primitive and a bit eerie. It's a simple and natural sound you hear monks making but around Osaka, in winter, the sound of wood on wood is also used in the evenings to warn people against fire. In the relative safety of Japan - one of the biggest concerns is that of fire and its potential to spread through the warrens that are Japanese neighbourhoods. Having witnessed an urban residential fire on a windy day last year I can vouch for the anxiety. I also post a general diary entry from my notebook. These scribbles tend to be a lot more personal than the blog itself, which is more a means for me to air my thoughts on Japan.
I headed to the local temple today and sat in the late afternoon sun drawing the water trough where you wash your hands before praying - the chouzuya. There were quite a few vistors and lots of, albeit calm preparation going on in advance of next weeks big setsubun festival. Trees were being pruned, temporary buildings set up, lanterns hung and piles of neatly stacked timber with messages in red ink sat ready to be burned. There was a general air of anticipation but things were just as normal - kids chased pigeons, people prayed, the sun set.
Posted by stupot at 05:35 PM Saturday 27 Jan
This wee gaff is totally inconspicuous but that's exactly why I drew it - it's the kind of place I pass every day going to work. My neighbourhood is full of similar looking tiny businesses. The elderly couple living upstairs come down in the afternoon to start preparations for the evening punters. With the amount of restaurants in Japan I wonder how they all stay alive - I suppose that working out your house saves on rent. I believe that you could count all the restaurants in Glasgow, if you were so inclined, but I really don't think that such a thing is possible in Osaka. That almost goes for hairdressers too. I love the old Sprite sign - a relic from 30 years ago? The main sign is almost totally faded and there's no co-ordination in colour or materials - it's just evolved at it's own pace and, like so many other similar small eateries, relies on local knowledge and the strong coloured noren curtains for trade.
Posted by stupot at 01:53 PM Saturday 27 Jan
I finished work early today and stopped on the way home to draw. There's a tiny vintage Honda that I've wanted to draw for a while. To give the thing some scale you only have to look at the telegraph pole. The number plate is possibly motorbike size. It was a nice, sunny winter's afternoon which actually resembled autumn more than late January. It's still not really cold yet. As I stood and drew, old people met each other on the street and quizzed each other about what day it was and what time they'd meet tomorrow. Kids met each other and travelled off to anothers for tea and cookies, shouting "car" whenever one was about to meet their chaotic path, just as I had done on the small street where I grew up. Some old geezers eventually approached me when they returned from the corner shop and we had a quick chat - certainly something that doesn't happen when I take photos. On the back of my adventures with an albino snake last week - I saw an albino Japanese woman today. A pretty rare sight. Which was probably what she was thinking about me as I stumbled down the road towards her.
Posted by stupot at 04:03 PM Thursday 25 Jan
I don't have any pictures of the harrowed looks that dave and I were putting out at 5 o'clock, through sheer tiredness, or the faces of the girls in short tartan skirts as they passed me in my kilt later in the night, but yesterday was ultimately great fun and a satisfying end to our work. We took 4 hours to set up (much to the apparent dismay of our - all-be-them-paid - hosts) and then sat back with red bulls awaiting our public. In Japan, galleries are often rented for a week at a time and set up times are equally as short. Allowing 2 hours to set up is making a rather bold presumption that you have, say, 10 standard pictures to hang. 50 pieces later and without an inkling that the walls would be made of kevlar, saw us eventually finish early afternoon much to the relief of everyone. it was nice to see a few curious people wander in as we were finishing and look genuinely cheerful for having seen the work. I have to say it did look quite interesting on arrival - many, very colourful pieces . A decent crowd had appeared by 8 and I was glad to have quite a few positive comments about my power-line drawings.
A week on Tuesday is the opening of my first exhibition in Japan. Dave and I will be having a party that evening (28th) from 7pm - 9 so if you're in Umeda please come around. The drawings, paintings and photo's will be on show until December 3rd (jesus, it's almost December) so feel free to pop in any time should you have a minute.
If you ask a visitor about Naoshima they'll possibly know of it. If you ask a Japanese the chances are much more slim. It's one of the hundreds of islands between shikoku and honshu and, perhaps typically, is part industrial (recycling centre) and part unspoilt. We were staying at the swanky Bennesse house hotel on the south coast which was just beside the two art galleries also designed by Ando (a treat from my folks). The coast and nearby village has a scattering of installations and sculpture which make the place a wee bit like the set of the prisoner.
Live painting is very hip in japan just now - that is to say, painting in front of an audience. Karl, a new aquaintence from Kyoto, was talking about the demand for it at the last design matters talk at the apple store and sure enough, yesterday, when I visited the art show at River Place in Osaka there was some going on. The show comprised of about 50 stalls with local painters and deisgners and there was a live painting wall for joe public to use too. It had quite a carnival feel and had that surreal quality you get when random people walk about with oversized goats heads and cardboard boxes over their heads. There was also a random guy hitting bits of woods which is the kind of thing, as a child, you don't get and when you're older you still don't get. I guess I could imagine what he was trying to suggest were I to give it the time, but people were interested and it put a smile on my face so I guess he did his job. good fun.
Posted by stupot at 04:38 PM Monday 23 Oct
As I've always liked drawing, I've always liked going to stationery shops and Japans is like the Mecca of stationery. The delight of becoming excited about buying a very cheap material posession, that most people take for granted, is a nice feeling to have. Especially if you're as tight as I am. Like cash will never die in asia, neither will the mark - it is after all, why the fax machine put email back by 10 years. The mark is such an important part of the culture in Japan that pens are constantly being redefined here. As much R+D seems to go on at pilot as does at honda. If you've ever tried to write complicated Kanji (Japanese characters) on a typical application or order form in Japan then you'll appreciate why there are so many different thicknesses of pen. Going by shelf presence, Pilot's Hi-Tec C is the best selling pen in Japan. I've used one since I was in the UK but a few years ago they were getting difficult to find there. The quality of line that the Hi-tec gives is pretty flawless and for only 210 yen. I recently said that you should visit a builders centre if you ever visit japan. You should also add a stationery store to the list. Tokyu Hands in Osaka has a huge section that any creative would salivate at but the wee local dusty places still possess the charm and prize finds you can't get in department stores.
well, the invites for the show arrived today. I guess that means it's really happening. excitement is mixed with the usual pinch of anxiety. for anyone in osaka or nearby who is interested - there's info below. the show, scheduled for the end of november, will no doubt be here faster than you can say 'what happened to octob....' hope you can make it.
despite my frequent rants on the ugliness of osaka there are occaisionally little gems to be found. not far from the picture I posted last friday, you can find this quaint, traditional house with thatched roof. of course your view will always be scarred by a telegraph pole though.
I'm not sure what this is - I suppose I've always thought this was a barn - it's one of those things you don't discuss and forget to ask about. or like a brand you see everyday but never say outloud and when you do it sounds alien. the proportions and openings at odd heights make me think it's some kind of a barn - perhaps for drying crops and storing equipment (it's not unusual for this to be within the city as rice paddies can be found well into the urban area). these days you're much more likely to see a thrown together corrugated iron shack than a well kept traditional structure like this and so it's lovely to see one in such good condition as a reminder of how beautiful japanese architecture once was. can anyone clarify what this is?
I met up with benjamin and satoko in kyoto who managed to make it down for the weekend on their visit from NY to kamakura. it's been two years since I saw ben and the first time I met satoko who was, as I'd suspected, just lovely: we had a wonderfully relaxed time being lazy tourists. on saturday we strolled up the west side of town from kiyomizutera, through gion, and watched the live music being played below the stilted, outdoor restaurants on the river. after checking into our ryokan we had the much anticipated hot bath which ben, never one to pass up the opportunity of getting naked, was really getting into during his brief stay in japan.
I've become obsessed with overpasses. even as a kid the sight of the 'spaghetti' junction just east of glasgow filled me with awe and a subconcious respect for that level of engineering. I remember watching bladerunner and metropolis and wondering if places like that really would become reality. how wonderful they looked and how free we could be.
Designing a motorway to run through the centre of a city is, of course, crazy: people have to live there. a city is not somewhere you just travel to to work - cities are for people and not cars. last year we saw some soul destroying apartments which sat between overpasses and shook like new york apartments from those movies in the sixties and seventies.
we're lucky to live near a complex of shrines called sumiyoshi taisha. apart from anything else there is a bit of space and big trees which tend to be a rarity in osaka. however, sumiyoshi is a real historic site with ancient shrines similar to those at ise (in the back you can see the antler type roof details from the building behind). as I haven't sketched from real life for a while I thought I'd take advantage of the good weather and get the pens out. sketching really gets you understanding a subject so well - that's the beauty of it - you absorb the most minute details that you usually skip. well out of practice but good fun and worked on the tan.
Posted by stupot at 11:59 PM Thursday 1 Dec
for posterity I thought I'd record this hair cut. popular with young men at the start of this century, and popularised by hide nakata (now plying his trade in sunny lancashire), this was spotted on a student studying in a coffee house in kyoto. although it's very much accepted now, I remember I studied with a guy who had this cut at art school about eleven years ago and people used to think he had escaped from a (different type of) institution. funny how much goes around comes around. eventually. I like to refer to this style as 'the reverse monk' but perhaps there is a more scientific name out there.
Posted by stupot at 11:50 PM Thursday 1 Dec
Posted by stupot at 10:56 PM Thursday 22 Sep
Posted by stupot at 11:52 PM Friday 1 Jul