Paris and Rome

My boy Jack and I had a fantastic time in Paris and Rome. We saw every inch of both towns and took a night train in between. Eight days of croissants, pasta, art, sunshine, laughter, and lots of drawings:

I didn’t really think before I left and just took my book and a fountain pen. Fortunately, Jack remembered to pack my old Windsor Newton watercolor set. I haven’t used these paints in ages and seeing them on the page made me feel like I had stepped back a decade. My colors look faded and dull after a couple of years under the care of Dr. Martin and his wee bottles of transparent technicolor magic. I pushed them and the Niji waterbrushes as hard as I could but they don’t have that gem-like pizzazz I yearn for.

Anyway, it  was still loads of fun and Jack was an awesome travel companion and even more fervent a devotee of the travel sketchbook than his old man. You can read all of my ramblings on the pages below — just click the thumbnails and they’ll spring into big images.

I’ll post some scans of Jack’s pages soon.

Welcome to Paris 
Notre Dame in the rain
Touristas Eiffel
Parisian critters
Blind Contours
Louvre courtyard
Sleeping boy
Last day in Paris
Mes Pieds
Train to Rome
Piazza Navona
Domes of Rome

A hearty recommendation

I am very proud to be included in Cathy Johnson’s newest book, “Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures” I have to say it is the most lovely and inspiring book I’ve contributed to — I have spend an awful lot of time going back and forth through it. It’s chock-a-block with great pages and tips from old friends and new discoveries. I urge you to learn more about the book and grab a copy of your own.

High in Dubai

Barj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, stands across the road from my hotel. Last night, as I was on my way to the hotel gym, my colleague waylaid me and insisted I come to the top for a sunset cocktail.

Minutes later, we were at the foot of the building, the sun bobbling on the horizon.

Our friend had made reservations at the bar, Atmosphere, and we were ushered into the express elevator. Seconds later, ears popping we were on the 123rd floor.

We descended a flight of stairs and got our first glimpse of the view.

The city stretched before us. Zillions of wild skyscrapers, all lit up. It was like looking out of the window of a plane, too high to even trigger my vertigo.

Many of the buildings are still under construction. Their windows are dark but cranes are strung with lights.

After a martini and some snacks, we paid an exorbitant bill, and descended to reality again.

At the foot of the building, a crowd of thousands watched computer-controlled fountains dance to the theme from Bonanza and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Hours later, as dawn broke, we began our next day of filming.

We had to start early before the sun grew unbearably hot.

Our cast and crew worked together to make swift progress.

By 9:30 a.m., the sun was baking down. We had to take a break till mid-afternoon; we’ll return to shoot into the setting sun.

Desert diary

I am in Dubai for ten days, shooting in the desert and other parts of this exotic, peculiar place. Late June is probably not the optimal time to visit this corner of the planet — I have never experienced the sort of oven-heat that suffocates the place over after 9 a.m.

I’m making commercials that will be shown here and around the world. We are shooting in English and in Arabic. We are also making a film about the shoot itself. It’s all quite complicated.

90% of the people in Dubai are not from here. They come in search of opportunity and a piece of the oily pie. Our crew is English, American, German, Pakistani, Indian and me.

A horrible accident. I somehow sprained my pinky. Forty eight hours late, I was miraculously healed.

My journal looks a little more austere than usual. I only brought my trusty Lamy Safari fountain pen with me and a Q-tip made a serviceable brush. If you click on this picture, you can see a blowup of the page and read my most intimate thoughts.

Some thoughts on my neighbor, the world’s tallest building.

I’ll try to post some more notes over my remaining days in Dubai.



I have been a bit crabbier than normal this week. No real reason, particularly as the weather has been lovely and springular. My treatment for boredom and curmudgeonliness: spend time with people and make stuff. I had three separate dinner dates with friends and the téte a tétes helped a lot. I also filled a number of pages in my journal and, though the paintings reflected my mood, they helped to lift it too.

Focussing on details helps to overload my head and force my Critic into a back corner where his voice is muffled. Here’s what I have been looking at.

Dip pens, pencils, and watercolor detritus on my desk. I am mixing dozens of new shades of pink.I am mixing dozens of new shades of pink.
I am mixing dozens of new shades of pink.
Good news arrived in the mail today. Jack's summer plans are set.
The illusion of organization. Well, that's a little unfair. I do have a pretty sweet setup in my studio though I have to remind myself to use all these supplies before they dry out.
I have a few shelves of filled-up sketchbooks. They are my favorite possessions.
This is my Patti shrine. It's in my studio and I confer with it when I need help. She always has good advice.
A detail from my new book. Dip pen, sum-i ink and the vaguest hint of watercolor.
I think this flower painting is a bust. It started out trying to be super delicate, then I got frustrated and piled on too much color.
A detail from another frustrated page. Eventually I figured out how not to hate it.
Another version of the previous painting. I am starting to be okay with this one.
A detail of a Patti portrait from the book.
Patti as a pup. I find it hard to believe I painted this.
This is my favorite P portrait so far. It feels like her.
My old hound, Francis Albert Gregory.
I like this kind of a lot.
This is cartoony but it feels like her. She had a longer neck than she would acknowledge.
Pregnant Patti portrait.
I like the way Joe looks here, nice and sausage-y.
This is another painiting that seems to have been guided from outside me. I really like it but am not sure how I made it.
Crap in my studio. I like the colors.
A tiny detail of a big page. I made this lady I was working with far prettier than she really is. Now I remember her as the painting, not as she actually looks.
I drew this bottle and glass from memory even though the real things were sitting right on front of me. Not a good habit.
This is what it's like to hold my tiny hound, Tim.
Pink Patti, the taxidermied squirrel.
Doodly drawings of dead people.
More self-deprecation, The Critic escapes from his cell.
I like this dude's 'tude.
More dead men not walking,
Me feeling crabby and old.
I like this gloominess. It's a tiny detail of a reflection of me in the background of a big crowded drawing,
My home. Calligraphy done in thick gloppy white ink with a clogged pen.
Peewee and some art inspiration.
More shelves in my biblioteque.
The top of Patti's desk including Pink Patti, the taxidermied squirrel.
Some really ancient journals from my extensive collection of crap.