Monday, July 30, 2007

San Diego Comic-Con 2007

We're back from the Comic-Con and just as I thought, my camera is definitely broken. I just off-loaded the few salvageable shots. Strangely, the only pictures that turned out were shots my husband took from the ninth floor balcony of our hotel. I shot only a few at the convention so, I didn't actually lose very much. I had a feeling this would happen, so I didn't bother to take may since I was pretty sure they wouldn't turn out anyway. So, sadly, no pictures of men in colorful spandex to post. Based on our very critical assessment of cosplayers, what's hot this year seems to be Naruto, Bleach, pirates, and Star Wars, (well, Star Wars is always hot with this crowd). There will probably be some photos at the official website though, and elsewhere online.

The convention was fun as usual. After attending four prior years, we've gotten pretty efficient when it comes to scouring the exhibit hall. We kind of know what we're looking for and more or less where to find what we want. I bought a couple Charles Vess illustrated books which are very cool, but I have to say my purchasing highlight this year was three French import books that we found at Stuart Ng's booth: A La Recherche de Feerie, Tomes 1 & 2 by Jean-Baptiste Monge and Erle Ferronniere and Carnet de Croquis (more of a sketchbook) by Jean-Baptiste Monge.

They are absolutely beautiful books. The two Feerie books are essentially the French answer to Faeries by Brian Froud & Alan Lee - very similar. Import books = $$! I think they may be the most expensive books I've ever bought for myself. I wouldn't normally do something like this, but I thought it's possible that I'd never find these books again and if/when I do they could be even more expensive. So, I broke down and bought them and I'm so happy I did! They're arguably one of my best Comic-con finds so far - like uncovering buried treasure! After this purchase though, I forbade myself to buy anything else. I saw a very tempting copy of Golem by Trina Schart Hyman and an old unicorn picture book by Michael Hague, but I resisted.

The art and used booksellers are definitely my favorite stops in the exhibit hall. I usually send Chris off on his own while I'm browsing because I meticulously comb through the shelves and this can take some time. My favorites sellers - Stuart Ng, Anne Hutchison who appears to sell through, Bud Plant Comic Art (a lot more than just comics), and Margaret Mannatt Fine Books to whose website I can't seem to find any working links. I always strike gold at one or more of these booths every year.

Comic-con has grown so much and so quickly over the last couple years that it seems like the massive convention center in downtown San Diego can barely manage it any more - although I can't imagine a facility any larger than this convention center. I heard last year there were 100,000 attendees. So I would guess that this year was similar especially since tickets were sold out so quickly. With such huge attendance come problems - namely, lines. Last year was the first year we ever had to wait in a line to see a panel, but we did manage to get in. This year was all about waiting in lines for panels we never got to see (and we were in line an hour before the panels were set to start!). I had really wanted to see the panels for Heroes, Joss Whedon, and Supernatural, but we couldn't get in - very disappointing. We did get to go to some panels featuring various comic artists and those are always interesting, so that was good. I'm hoping the good people who put together the Comic-con can come up with some sort of solution to all of the line issues - perhaps a ticket system... I'm not the sort to wait in a long line just to buy or watch something. It just seems a shame to sit around for an hour or two for nothing when there are so many other things to do. Frustrating...

Frustration aside, we did learn our lesson from past experience and now we make dinner reservations in advance and we've had some truly memorable meals in San Diego. They have really great restaurants in the Gas Lamp Quarter right near the convention center. This year the highlight was Confidential which had kind of a Vegas atmosphere - way over-the-top dramatic setting. Sometimes the atmosphere of these kinds of places overpowers the food or serves to disguise that it's not really that great, but the food was really good. Small plates. Very eclectic. Just a really good experience all around. Last year, it was Chopahn which serves Afghani cuisine which, of course, I'd never had before. It was quiet, kind of off-the-beaten-path with really good food too.

I should get paid for all the advertising I just did! Or at least a store discount or something, don't you think?!

So now, we're back in the real world and back to work. I love taking this little mini-vacation. Seeing all of these working artists really helps to energize and motivate me. They make me want to work faster and be more productive. Hope to have some art to post later this week...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Autumn Chickadee ACEO

Chris has to work this weekend and last weekend he was sick, so we haven't been able to get outside and do any hiking or much else for a while. I did manage to finish up my commercial work this week, so yesterday, I sat down and painted up my little chickadee ACEO. I know I haven't posted any art in a while so here you go - it's not much, but better than nothing - I hope!

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. Looking at it now, I think I should have made the leaves larger. I could not decide for quite a while what to make the color scheme. I knew I wanted an autumn theme, but I couldn't picture the background colors very well. I finally remembered a beautiful orange-green color scheme from an illustration in Helen Cooper's Pumpkin Soup and drew my inspiration from there. I'll probably put it up for sale/auction eventually, but not for a while. If/when I do, I'll probably re-post it here.

Next weekend = San Diego Comic-Con! I'm so looking forward to it! I think this will be our fifth consecutive year attending it. Oddly enough, in the past, it's never occurred to me to take the camera with us. So I'm going to try to remember it this year and actually use it while we're there. Although, I'm a little worried because I was just off-loading pictures a few minutes ago and it looks like the camera may be broken. Several pictures showed up black and the LCD display shows nothing but static. How can I get it to work by next weekend? I guess I'll have to have Chris take a look at it...

Monday, July 9, 2007

Solstice Canyon

Well, a belated Happy 4th of July to all those celebrating. Hope everyone had a relaxing day off. We lazed about the house, watched neighborhood fireworks from our balcony, and finished the evening off watching "Miss Potter" which I very much enjoyed. As a children's illustrator, I'm somewhat mortified to admit that I think I've only read one or two of Beatrix Potter's books, although I adore the illustrations. We have a book that's a collection of a few stories, but I think I'd like to get the entire collection in the small format in which they were originally printed. I think I'll add it to my Amazon wishlist...

Still no new art to show - hope to be back with some soon. So I'll post some pictures of this past weekend's hike. The beginning of the trail in Solstice Canyon (Malibu) was paved and followed a spring-fed stream. The scenery was nice, but kind of ho-hum - nothing we hadn't seen before. After a while we came upon the ruins of the Roberts' house and things started getting interesting. The house was just about completely gone, but patios and portions of walls and a ridiculous number of fireplaces dotted the landscape:

Just beyond the ruins, and upstream, the creek consists of a series of multi-level rock-pools and small waterfalls decorated with maidenhair fern. We decided to boulder-hop our way upstream to see what we could see.

After a long walk along the creek took a couple different side trails both of which traveled up out of the canyon and along the mountainsides into dryer terrain and sweeping views of the land and ocean.

We traveled back down into the canyon, boulder-hopped a portion of the stream that we hadn't seen yet and then, exhausted, took the next opportunity we had to get back onto a level trail to head back to the car. I'd love to go back after some rainfall - some people we ran into said the water level of the stream used to be significantly higher in the past and that there used to be really great swimming holes all along the creek. There's also supposed to be a 150' waterfall at the end of a different trail - maybe we'll come back some day for that one!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Castro Crest

I'm busy working on illustrations for a magazine assignment right now, so I don't have any art to post this week, but as usual, we did go hiking this week and I have a few pictures. We tried to go to Solstice Canyon in Malibu. I figured a park along the coast would be cooler than inland and a canyon would be shady, so we could avoid the heat that we've been experiencing here in the valley. When we got there, the parking was completely full so we left, unsure of what to do. We remembered that the trail head for Castro Crest was at the end of the road we were currently driving. So after a long, winding, and slightly harrowing drive high up into the mountains, we ended up at Castro Crest.

So much for avoiding the heat. Just a little ways inland from the coast and it's significantly hotter. We arrived around 2 pm, so the sun was pretty brutal for a good part of the hike. I think the trail we hiked was a segment of the Backbone Trail which runs through Ventura County and Los Angeles - really long! The first portion of the trail which is a slow decent to a canyon appeared to have burned within the last year or two. The undergrowth was growing back, but the trees were blackened. From certain angles, you could see the bark peeling off the trees and the white wood underneath looked almost like silver in the sunlight.

The trail crossed a dry meandering creek-bed several times. We noticed a lack of wildlife. We didn't see as many lizards as usual at this park. We did see three small rabbits on our way out, though. Perhaps they become more active late in the day when the sun is going down.

If the sign-posts were accurate, I think we did about six miles all in all. Exhausting! We went and got some Jamba Juice and kicked back at home for the rest of the evening.