For today’s Inktober drawing I got to scurry back to my subject comfort zone: zombies! The Drawlloween prompt was “Entombed Tuesday” which could have been interpreted several ways but, of course, as a massive fan of zombies there was only one way I was determined to interpret it. I realised, however, upon putting pen to paper, that it has been really quite some time since I last drew a human zombie. Most of my zombie drawings are of zombie animals so it was fun to draw an undead human again, crawling and clambering out of his grave. This quick drawing has reminded me how much I enjoy drawing zombies and how I should try to find more time to draw them.
Today’s Inktober drawing was a challenge. The Drawlloween prompt was “Mechanical Monstrosity”. I have never drawn a cyborg before. I have that half-formed plan to draw myself as a bionic woman but I haven’t done so yet. I am not very capable when it comes to drawing machines, whether vehicles or other man-made items, not remotely, so I felt somewhat intimidated by the idea of drawing a cyborg. I almost steered clear and went off prompt but then my 9 year old told me I should draw a cyborg precisely because I have never tried before. He was right, of course. I am always encouraging them to be positive about challenging themselves and trying new things so I should apply the same ethos to myself. So this morning I sat down with my mug of tea and drew my very first cyborg. I hope I managed to fuse the organic and mechanical in a way that reads as “cyborg”.
Incredibly, today marks three years – three whole years – since I started this blog. I never would have imagined I would be capable of keeping this blog going for three years but here I am.
It is easy to remember my blog anniversary because I embarked on it a week after emigrating to the US from Scotland. Therefore, my immigration and my blog have always been inextricably linked. It was a friend who suggested that I start a blog so that folks back home could see what I was up to (though actually the overwhelming majority just use Facebook to do so) and so that I could have a record, for posterity, of my initial responses and reactions to my new life and experiences. For at least the first year, that really was the theme that dominated: finding my feet as a stranger in a strange land. There were lots of rants as I tried to navigate American bureaucracy, lots of observations about differences between Britain and America, and lots of first experiences. Gradually, however, by the second year, posts about those sorts of topics became less numerous and instead I started posting about my art work and about family life and about our various trips, travels and experiences as a family. It’s not that I am not still struggling with some aspects of American life because I sincerely and surely am. It is just that I don’t post about those things because they are either repetitive (I still hate the road system and it makes me neurotic and anxious) or boring (the tax system here is labyrinthine and even most Americans don’t understand it so I stand no chance) or too private for now (an ongoing battle with a particular authority regarding Civil Rights that causes me sleepless nights and awful stress).
So, for this blog anniversary, instead of a more traditional review I am going to do a version of something I did last December and review the search terms that are bringing people to my blog. Since that blog post was all words, this time I thought I might illustrate it with some quick, silly drawings. I picked five not quite at random but five among those that I thought might have a strong visual element to them. This is what I ended up with.
#5 “helen of troy for kids”
I regularly get people turning up at my blog looking for Helen of Troy. Who knew she was quite so popular? Whatever these searchers are looking for, I do hope they find some sort of answer when they land on my Helen of Troy drawing. But they probably don’t. I am encouraged that so many people are into the classics though. The “for kids” bit of the search term throws me a bit. Are they looking for a child-friendly translation of The Iliad? Anyway, in my mind I converted this search term into Helen’s abduction by a pair of kids who have her trussed up in their wagon.
#4 “mixed up animals art”
Lots and lots of people wash up on the shores of my blog because they are searching for some sort of art inspiration. I do wonder what that says about the appeal of the rest of my blog’s content but never mind. This search term sparked an idea, however, in that the word “art” could be a noun and was probably intended as such but it could also, just about, be a verb – I know my kids and I talk about “arting”. Let’s just pretend it is grammatically correct for the sake of my brain segue. I imagined mixed up, Picasso-like animals engaged in making art.
#3 “mondrian for children”
It’s great that so many people are looking for ways to introduce kids to the great artists. I hope my Mondrian History of Art lesson with my kids gave someone some ideas. Their search term made me think of Piet Mondrian campaigning for kids, being “for” something in the sense of protest. I, therefore, drew him with a placard that alludes to his style. My 10 year old asked why on earth I was drawing Hitler. Oh dear.
#2 “minotaur easy step by step”
My minotaur drawing gets a lot of visitors even two years after I drew him. Any suggestions as to why people are conducting internet searches for minotaurs? This particular search term made me think of a minotaur being sneaky and tip-toeing around the labyrinth.
#1 “packing tape pa”
This is one of those search terms I just cannot resolve. What on earth was this person trying to find? My assumption is that they arrived at my blog because “pa” is the PA of Pennsylvania but why would they be googling for packing tape in Pennsylvania? Just go the store and get some tape. No need to google it. But if it is “pa” in the sense of father or grandfather then what is the connection between the older male relative and the need for packing tape? I don’t know that I want the answer but that latter interpretation formed the basis of my drawing.
On Saturday we visited the Harry Potter Festival held in Chestnut Hill, another suburb of Philadelphia. This was our third year of visiting and it has become a family tradition to attend. We almost did not go this year as we had a three way schedule clash to contend with, I have a pretty debilitating chest cold, and the weather was cold and rainy. My Potterphile kids were aghast at the idea that we might not go along to the Festival this year, bottom lips pouting out like open drawers, so when our schedule clashes were cancelled because of the weather we decided to head on over to Chestnut Hill.
The first year we went to the Festival, it was a delightful experience. There was lots of space to wander around and really absorb the magical atmosphere and observe the efforts the people of the town had gone to in order to turn their town into Hogsmeade. There were also very few long queues so the kids could get involved in all sorts of activities and really make the most of the day. Last year when we went, it was evident that the organisers were struggling to manage the vastly swollen number of visitors. Longer queues and more crowds meant we had to get the kids to prioritise what they wanted to do because there was no way we could complete their wish list. This year, I would estimate that the number of people attending had increased tenfold. It was unbelievably busy for what, in essence, is a local fete – albeit one with a theme that has massive appeal.
We were very lucky to secure a parking spot a few streets back from the town centre so that our walk was not too long, especially given it was cold and raining. As soon as we hit Germantown Avenue, however, we were met with a wall of people. I will state that the atmosphere was still brilliant. A large proportion of those visiting were either in full costume or were wearing clothes related to Harry Potter. My own children were wearing Harry Potter themed t-shirts but did not have them on display since they were wearing two layers on top. We had a great time seeing people all dressed up, including a baby in a front carrier dressed as a mandrake and a dog with a harness that turned him into Fluffy the three headed dog.
The crowds, however, were just intense. There is no other way to describe it. They got so thick at the train station end of town that it was impossible to move other than be carried along by the crowd. I spoke to two cops who were being pushed along beside me and one commented that it was a bit crazy thinking about how challenging it would be for them to move quickly towards an incident. I do not do well in crowds at all. It makes my anxiety spike and makes me feel aggravated and, with the kids, a little panicky. Everyone was being completely lovely about being squashed together and were being very accommodating and understanding but it was still pretty stressful. The numbers of people also meant that the queues for every activity, stall, and shop were staggeringly long. I overheard a whole lot of people complaining about the dearth of portapotties in town and that queues were often an hour or more long for those that were available. We were lucky that none of us ever needed a comfort break.
We did manage to squeeze into a couple of activities. Two of the kids bought potions in the grounds of the Jenks Elementary School and the other two snagged the last two bottles of butterbeer. They also got to have a go on some manual typewriters which they loved. It was peculiar to me to think that a machine that saw me through my undergraduate degree was now being considered something antiquated and alien to kids. They had no idea how to operate them, tapping the keys way too lightly as they would a computer keyboard. Furthermore, the children (not just mine) seemed to have no idea what to do when they reached the end of the line. I could see mine searching the keys for a return button. I showed them how to push the lever and move the roll along. And then I realised that a mother standing next to me also had no idea how to operate a manual typewriter. That made me feel very old.
As Potterphiles, we will definitely return to the Festival next year. Hopefully lessons will be learned and adaptations made but I wonder if anything can be done (beyond more portapotties and perhaps pedestrianising a larger stretch of road) to really accommodate the massive crowds in attendance. But we will give it another go next year and see if things have improved so that we can enjoy the Festival again as much as we did in our first two years.
We were at a Harry Potter Festival yesterday so I thought it might be appropriate to draw one of the Potterverse’s dastardly magical villains in my wee sketch book for today’s Inktober drawing. Voldemort was the obvious choice, which was why I decided against him. I was deciding between Fenrir Greyback, Lucius Malfoy, and Bellatrix Lestrange and opted to draw the latter. I thought drawing her would give me the opportunity to challenge myself with regard to different approaches to mark-making with my fountain pen. Although I read the books in advance of the movies, I now find it impossible to imagine the characters as anything other than the way they were performed on film. In fact, I cannot recall how I even imagined them when conjuring them up from the page. This, therefore, is very much the Helena Bonham Carter version of Bellatrix even though it is most definitely not an accurate portrait. I did achieve my goal of trying out a wider variety of pen marks in the one sketch so that’s something.
It has been a busy day and I am still dealing with some nasty chest cold grot that has been waxing and waning for several weeks now so it looked like there was every chance I was going to have to skip a day of the Inktober challenge. However, I got into my pyjamas and snuggly housecoat as soon as I got home today and put pen to paper. Today’s Drawlloween prompt was “Bat-urday” so I decided on a vampire. In order to avoid falling into the trap of drawing Bela Lugosi, I decided to draw a tweenage girl vampire and some bat companions.
While yesterday’s Inktober drawing took me a good while, I had to keep today’s drawing short and simple. The Drawlloween prompt was “Phantom Phriday” and at first I thought of drawing the Phantom of the Opera. However, I painted the Lon Chaney version in my altered book last year and wanted to avoid simply replicating that but I could not think of an alternative version who would be freaky enough for my sketchbook. So then I thought of a phantom as being a ghost and that seemed much easier and simpler to draw in a hurry this morning. No filling in, just line work. Job done and so far I am keeping up with this challenge to draw daily.