Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Around the World in 14 days

Sometimes you don't need to leave the house to travel. You can watch the travel channel, look through old photo albums, or exchange letters with a pen pal from overseas, although, sadly, that last one seems to be fading away. The internet is another way to travel, but when all is said and done, there is no replacement for the real thing. Instead, all of the above should inspire one to make plans and actually get out there.

As an illustrator, I have the option of drawing or painting far away places, which is another form of stay at home travel. Researching a foreign port, learning about new places, and seeing a hint of their beauty is also very inspirational. One of the benefits of Freelancing is that I never know what a client may want from me, and sometimes that takes me in unexpected directions.

Recently, Freelancing took me around the world... in only 14 days!

Yes, a client came to me to provide artwork for an Annual Report, which is a big deal for an illustrator. Unfortunately, by the time we decided I would illustrate ports from around th globe, we had about two weeks left until the artwork had to go to the designer, and the print ready files go to the printers!!

Thus began an incredible challenge that kept me from sleeping for two weeks, but also kept me very inspired and excited. Thanks to my well-travelled client, I starting learning about places I had never been to, and some I only knew very little about.

I'm not going to show you everything I did, because I ended up doing 10 or 11 illustrations in those two weeks, and several of them were two page spreads. However, I will share a few with you, and maybe even inspire you to learn more about these places, or encourage you to one day visit.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS The illustrations above are London, Venice, and Istanbul... although you probably already guessed that. :0)

PSS Artwork belongs to the American Club, so don't even think of borrowing it.

On my iPod? Fish, Sunsets on Empire

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indiana John and the Day at the Beach

They say that you can find adventure in your own backyard, and man was that point driven home the other day... on a trip to the beach! The sand was soaked with blood and I had a very close call with - well, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

The moment I arrived, I was looking for a quiet place to put my towel when I immediately noticed something... different. I realised quickly that the water off to the side looked funny, in this space between a 2 foot sewer pipe that disappeared into the waters and a stone jetty about 10 feet away from that. The water was brighter there, much brighter, so I dropped my stuff and sauntered forth to see why.

As I approached this tiny natural harbor the water flashed bright silver at the edges, and getting closer still I saw dozens of large fish being tossed by the tide! They were alive, but did not look happy, and I wondered why they were just letting the tide push them around. A few feet away a seagull appeared to wonder the same thing, as he cocked his head at the fish, and danced away from each wave.

The fish were all between 9 to 12 inches, with bright silver and bright brown scales, and there must have been about 50 or more all within arms reach. In fact, calling over some sand urchins to see the fish, I borrowed one of their buckets and actually scooped up one of the fish... a big one too at about 13 inches long. It flopped in the bucket wildly, so I went to release it, and then noticed the red mark on its back. I also noticed the seagull was looking at me kind of funny like, as if he thought I was mad to be standing ankle deep in the water surrounded by 50 unhappy fish. THEN I noticed the dark shadow swimming back and forth just behind the waves... a long dark shadow about 3 feet long that suddenly lunged at one of the fish in front of me and snapped it in half!

Well, I jumped out of the waves, the kids ran screaming down the beach, the seagull flapped its wings with excitement, and another shark-like creature made its appearance in the waves, with a flash of bright blue as it flipped through the piscene thrall and snapped the tail off of another fish.

So, a Nature Channel special happening right in front of me, with quite a few lessons to be learned. First of all, if a seagull is unwilling to step into the water after free fish, there might be a reason for it! See, animals and birds aren't as dumb as some people think. The sharks were also pretty smart, since it became rather obvious that they corraled this school of fish into this natural tiny harbor, setting themselves up neatly for an easy buffet. You can argue that it's all instinct, but how much of intelligence is 'instinct', after all? One of the sharks was always on herding duty while the other went in for an easy snack. Neither was in a hurry, and the feeding frenzy went on for well over an hour, and only really begun when the fish were so exhausted they could hardly swim.

My question is, though, is what kind of predator was this, gobbling fish at the Jersey shore? I spent some time watching, trying to get details, and the two acted like sharks, and swam like sharks, but I'm not sure. The top fin was veined like a fish, where the sharks I have seen have solid fins. Also, the head was not flattened like many sharks have, and was more fish like. The tail was vertical, and the two 'tines' were symmetrical, where sharks seem to have one tine much longer than the other.

Whatever they were, they were calculating, cool, and vicious. It was fascinating to see the advantages they had, as well; their bellies were bright blue like the sky above, and their tops were dark greenish blue like the sand below, making them nearly invisible except when thrashing after prey. Their prey swam in schools for safety, apparently, but the fishes lost a lot of their numbers that day.

But hey, this is a travel blog, so what's today's travel lesson? Oh yeah... you can find adventure in your own back yard. :0)

So the next time you find yourself wanting to travel, but short on funds, go someplace not too far away, but where you don't get too often. Adventure is right around the corner, and it does the spirit good to get away from the usual once in a while.

And since this is a Cartoonist's blog, I'm struggling to find the right illustration for this. I can't remember drawing anything about fishing, so let's visit The Inquiring Minds for a Predator/prey cartoon, of sorts.

Thanks for visiting, JOHN :0)