My third son was gifted a session at Go Ape for his 11th birthday. My oldest son had done Go Ape back in Britain for his tenth birthday but this was a first experience for the other boys. The three older boys were eligible to do the full course under the supervision of Mr Pict and their grandfather. My youngest son, being too wee for the full course, had a ticket to spend an hour on a junior course which my mother-in-law and I could supervise from ground level.
It was just as well I could supervise from the ground as I don’t think I could have managed even the junior course without my fear of heights causing me to go into a panic. The staff at Go Ape were fantastic. They were competent, of course, but they were also great with their encouragement and praise and creating challenge. My youngest son – who is completely fearless – got the hang of the course pretty quickly so they encouraged him to try and beat his own personal record, then to do one of the routes backwards, and to try different types of jump on the zipline. He had a whale of a time and absolutely loved it.
Once our time was up with the junior course, we headed into the woods to track down the others and see how they were getting on. We had seen them getting fitted into their harnesses and being trained and at that time they were all smiles and excitement. We wondered if, almost two hours in, they were flagging or finding it was getting too challenging. We met up with them just as they were doing the fourth stretch of the course. They were definitely feeling challenged but were still enjoying the experience. It made me queasy seeing how high up they were. Shortly after we met up with them, they had a choice to make as to whether to take a difficult route over to a platform or an extreme route. My oldest son wanted to do the extreme route which meant his father had to take a deep breath and accompany him. They had to move between a series of short scramble nets which were dangling in the canopy of the trees. It was pretty terrifying to watch even from ground level. Meanwhile, our birthday boy was having an attack of nerves as he found the combination of height, wobbly platforms, and wind to be overwhelming. It took him a while to collect himself but, with some advice and encouragement from a member of staff on the ground, he took a first step and then another and then in no time he was across to the next platform. That experience, however, meant that once he was back on the ground, he decided he was staying there. He was done. So were his 12 year old brother and grandfather. My oldest son decided he wanted to complete the course in its entirety, however, which meant one final set of challenges. Since he had to be accompanied by an adult, that meant his father had to complete it too. This included what my husband declared was the scariest part of the course: a just-too-long drop off of a platform to swing across onto a net. Once they ziplined back across the lake, they too were done.
Every member of Team Pict had challenged themselves and felt a sense of accomplishment. Just maybe even my mother-in-law and I get to include ourselves in that since we overcame our anxiety enough to spectate and offer encouragement. Everyone was hungry after hours spent in low temperatures in the woods, especially those who had been burning calories swinging here and there, so it was time to eat. The birthday boy wanted to have pizza for dinner so we headed to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza and had some delicious food. Once we were home, he had his special birthday dessert, a platter of cannolis, one of his favourite things.
I finally reached the final page of my Inktober sketchbook! Finally my extension of Inktober could come to an end. So many of my illustrations have been inspired by horror movies that I thought it would be fitting to close with another reference to a horror movie. I decided to depict Rosemary’s Baby or how I want to imagine that little devil baby looks. I think the resulting illustration is of a baby a wee bit monstrous but fairly adorable.
As I have stated several times before, my kids and I are Potterphiles. I, therefore, decided to draw a Dementor in my sketchbook. Dementors are horrible creatures in the universe of the Harry Potter novels. They drain people of joy, happiness, and hope and feed on darkness, negativity, and despair. Furthermore, they suck people’s souls. In terms of their look, they are reminiscent of wraiths or the Grim Reaper. My Dementor sketch, however, looks like it has been drawn by someone whose soul has been sucked and drained of creative energy or artistic ability. I regret not underpinning this drawing with a pencil sketch because it went wrong from the get go, when I placed the dark inky ovals for the eyes and mouth. So at least that was a lesson learned.
I needed a quick line drawing for my sketchbook page one morning when I was dashing all over the place. My kids and I happen to have been having a discussion about bubonic plague – as one does over breakfast – so I decided to draw a rat. It’s a bit scrappy and the rush shows but I think at least this rat doesn’t look too cutesy. I don’t think he would be anyone’s pet.
So far my Inktober sketchbook includes a Phantom and a Ghost but I decided I needed to up the creep factor with my drawings of spectres. I wanted to try and illustrate the kind of ghostly figure you really would not want haunting the dark corners of your home. Is it just me or did she end up looking like some weird fusion of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford?
I cannot believe how long I am stretching this whole Inktober business out for but I am still determined to fill the remaining pages of the sketchbook and to do so before the end of the year. My latest drawing is hilariously awful. ‘King Kong’ was one of those monster movies that made a huge impact on me as a child because – as with ‘Frankenstein’ – I felt sorry for the monster character. I also loved the stop-motion of the giant gorilla in the same way that I loved all those Greek mythology movies. So the other night I thought I would sit down while watching something on TV and draw King Kong. The result was wretched. I really struggle to draw primates for some unknown reason. Despite my best efforts, I am very hit or miss. Last year, I painted Queen Kong into my altered book of monsters and I think I did a pretty good job with the ape face. I absolutely should have pulled that book out to use as a reference when drawing King Kong because the face is dreadful. It looks nothing like a gorilla. And, of course, I was drawing in ink so had no means to erase or otherwise obliterate all that had gone wrong. It does at least qualify as being monstrous so there is that.
My Inktober sketchbook seems to be filling up with my favourite movie monsters. I guess I am combining two of my passions: art and cinema. ‘Beetlejuice’ is another favourite of mine. I love the style of it and how anarchic it is, the way it plays with the idea of haunting, and the vividly kooky vision of the afterlife. I decided to draw the scene where Beetlejuice is forcing Lydia into marriage. I think the characters are recognisable even though neither drawing looks remotely like the actors. I fiddled and fidgeted and fussed over Beetlejuice’s mouth but I just could not get the shape right for it to look like that tight but toothsome thing that Michael Keaton does with his mouth. I added a sand snake not just to somewhat frame the characters and fill a blank space but also because I wanted to get some of Tim Burton’s black and white stripes into the illustration given that I had decided to draw Beetlejuice in his wedding garb rather than his striped suit.
Are you a fan of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’? I am not the biggest fan of the original Roger Corman movie but I love the musical version. I would be thrilled to see it on stage some time. Aside from the wonderful musical numbers by Ashman and Menken, the man-eating plant from outer space, Audrey II, is an inspired and fantastic movie monster. Audrey II, therefore, had to appear in my Inktober sketchbook and proved to be an ideal drawing on a day when I had zilch free time. A quick, simple line drawing was just the ticket.
It is creeping closer to the time of year when we can start watching all of our favourite Christmas movies again. I am very much looking forward to evenings tucked up on the sofa with my kids greeting these movies like old friends. ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Muppet Christmas Carol’, ‘Elf’ and so many more movies will start to get us in the festive mood. One of my favourite Christmas movies, with a slightly different vibe is ‘Gremlins’. The mogwai and gremlin characters in that movie are a joy and I love all the B movie elements it parodies and celebrates. I was tempted to draw a sweet and pure little mogwai in my sketchbook but concluded it was more apt to stick with my monster theme and draw a gremlin, namely the leader of the gremlins, Stripe. Since I forego using reference photos, I realised too late that I had drawn Stripe standing rather too erect. In actuality, Stripe does not have the best posture and has more of a slump or hunched pose. Never mind. Let’s imagine that this is what a gremlin would look like after a visit to a chiropractor and some yoga.
I am a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, have been since childhood. I think I started with the ‘…Presents’ TV show and then got into the movies but it may have been the other way around. I was so wee that I can’t actually remember. ‘Vertigo’ is my favourite movie after ‘Jaws’. I also love ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ and ‘Rear Window’. When I first visited Northern California, back in 2000, I made sure I visited several filming locations of Hitchcock movies. These included Bodega Bay where I ran around like a nitwit pretending I was being attacked by birds, as I am sure when visitors do. ‘The Birds’ is one of those movies I enjoy precisely because it defies resolution in the same way that I enjoy ‘The Shining‘. I won’t discuss it more so as to not risk spoiling it for any reader who has not seen it but I like that it is ambiguous and mysterious. I think it contributes to its unsettling atmosphere. My mother, on the other hand, absolutely hates ‘The Birds’ for the same reason. All of which preamble is to explain why I chose to draw an iconic scene from ‘The Birds’ – based on the movie poster indeed – as the next illustration in my Inktober sketchbook. You will note that I still pretty much suck at drawing birds. These are definitely cousins to my Raven.