We are back from a trip to Asturias (the boyf likes to fly fish, I like to surf and Billie likes sleeping with us in our tent) and we loved it as much as the first time we went, last year.
On Monday, we checked out the seaside town of Ribadesella. It was a beautiful spot, with an estuarine river that loops inside the old town and around the newer part, with its mansions built with the riches brought back from the colonies in the Americas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the early part of this century, Ribadesella celebrated its history with a fascinating installation. The writer, José Antonio Silva Sastre; ceramicist, Francisco Muñiz Muñiz and cartoonist Antonio Mingote Barrachina collaborated to produce a fantastic series of ceramics that showed the history of the town from prehistoric times to the present day. Here is a selection of them:
I’ve been very lucky as a cartoonist in the era of the internet. I’ve been able to work from almost anywhere. Because of my UK-Kiwi citizenship, I’ve also been able to live in a lot of places. So I’ve lived and worked in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.
But I always wanted to live somewhere where they didn’t speak English, where I could learn the language. I am rubbish at languages and hated trying to learn French and German in school. But Spanish is more logical. The way it is written is the way it is pronounced, once you learn the basic rules (unlike English: pare, pear, pair!!!). If I was going to be able to learn any language, it was going to be Spanish. I also wanted to live fairly near my family in the UK for a while. So Spain was the obvious destination.
My first Spanish teacher came from San-Sebastian and raved about it. It sounded idyllic – a small, with two beaches, world-beating food (at the time, it had more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than New York) and fascinating Basque culture. I visited in 2008 and was blown away. Duncan and I came back a few years later and enjoyed our trip, but discovered a place that was even better: Hondarribia.
Hondarribia is smaller than San Sebastian and a lot less touristy. It also has access to great beaches and it is easy to walk into the hills that surround the town. And the food and wine are fantastic and affordable. We moved here in 2015, planning to stay a few months.
It ended up being two years and we’ll be sorry to leave. I wrote up my experiences as an illustrated book, A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia.
You can see more of my illustrations that are in the book on my Basque Diary page.
I’m not sure about other cartoonists, but this works for me.
This is part of this month’s Illustrated Epistle: http://mailchi.mp/e4f7d27e5958/epistle-4-basque-diary-hondarribia
Last week, I took a train trip to Cadiz and Madrid because I’ve never spent any time in those cities and I love long train trips, especially in Spain, where the trains are fast, comfortable and cheap. I was hoping I’d be able to finish Don Quixote, but I’m still a couple of hundred pages short. I was reminded of this nearly everywhere I went in Madrid.
Cadiz is a sweet little place in Southern Spain. Being Andalucian, I found it very hard to understand people (as they say, they eat the ends of their words), but they were friendly enough when you got away from the more touristy bars.
One of the best attractions is a camera obscura, housed in one of the towers that the merchants used to use to monitor the comings and goings of their ships. You can’t take pictures, but you get a great 20 minute show of the town from above.
I dropped in to Cadiz Museum for an hour and I wish I’d allowed myself more time, because the displays of Phoenecian and Roman finds were fascinating.
Madrid was a lot more enjoyable than I expected (I’m not a huge fan of big cities). Partly because I made the most of the museums that have free openings at certain times.
Though Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza are stuffed with the greatest hits of art, my favourite was the little Joaquin Sorolla museum. I love his painting, but I also loved seeing all of his painting ephemera and the house and gardens.
Now I’m back to work and feeling inspired.
So that narrows it down.
If you want to judge for yourself, sign up below, or head to the archive here:
This month’s epistle covers the joys of travelling in a 1975 Land Rover, rhubarb and some other things that have escaped my memory.
More and more book sales are moving to Amazon and that means that book titles and keywords have become almost as important for sales as the content of the books. Perhaps even more so.
After coming up with the idea for today’s Arctic Circle comic, I thought it would be fun if the book existed for real, or at least digitally. 50 Habits of Highly Effective Grey Tabby Cats is now available on all ebook stores.
The book sets out to answer the question, “why are cats the most popular pets in the country?” with lots of cartoons, of course.
Pick up your copy now: books2read.com/u/bP1OAY
We have had some unseasonably warm days this month, so I have downed tools for some proper skiving (English English for not working when you should be). One sunny Friday, Duncan, Billie and I took the ferry across to France (a five minute ride) and walked from Hendaye, around the estuary to Irun to have lunch before taking the bus home. There were some lovely views across the Bidasoa to Hondarribia, a bar that we could stop at for a beer and plenty of pee-mail for Billie to get his nose into. A very industrial section was transformed by an enormous stretch of boardwalk, paid for by the EU. It was a definite highlight and I don’t know why…
Read more of this month’s illustrated epistle at http://eepurl.com/cGYRmn and sign up for more using the form at the bottom of the page.
I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and have found their website to be an incredible source of advice, tutorials and discounts for self-publishing my books.
ALLi is behind the Indie Author Fringe 2017. It’s an online author conference that updates self-publishers with the latest tips, trends and tools, with a great line-up of speakers. The “Fringe” relates to the book fairs it runs concurrently with. The first one runs from March 18th, at the same time as the London Book Fair. Unlike the LBF, you don’t have to pay to get in. You also don’t have to be a member of ALLi to take part.
I’m working on a video presentation for the Fringe:
It’s going to cover the essentials of what an author needs to know when hiring an illustrator.
And it’s going to feature lots of wombats.
Being a cartoonist is (mostly) fun. Yes, you have to deal with unrelenting deadlines, odious tax forms and computer meltdowns (the only things I miss about working in an office are tech support and the stationery cupboard), but mostly it is ace. This week, I got to draw a lot of hamsters.
Every two weeks, I try to come up with about 21 Arctic Circle ideas. Being a daily comic, this means I can build up a backlog for when I’m travelling, or deluged by other clients’ deadlines. To come up with ideas, I read a lot of news, blogs and other posts about the environment, science and technology. This week, I read that French hamsters are becoming cannibalistic because of eating too much corn. It’s lucky that doesn’t happen to humans, else some people would be in trouble, given the Western diet. So there will be a couple of AC comics about that for sure.
The other hamster I had to draw was for a lovely Australian client of mine, CSIRO. I illustrate their puzzles page and it happened to feature a hamster (not a cannibal in this case).
This is an extract from my monthly-ish illustrated epistle. For more, sign up at the bottom of this page.
I love getting letters. The real ones are best, but very rare. I have a friend who I have written to since we were in school. During the summer holidays we would often exchange 3 or 4 letters over the six weeks. Now we write once or twice a year, but I relish getting those pages of news, views and illustrations.
Email letters aren’t quite the same, but when I see one from a friend I haven’t heard from in a while and open it up and find it is more than a couple of lines, I make a cup of tea, sit down and enjoy being transported into their world for a few minutes.
I subscribe to a few email newsletters. Some of them are good for getting information (Amy Lynn Andrews’s Useletter is full of technology tips for those who work from home) and some of them are fun and lovely to look at (the illustrator, Wendy MacNaughton’s is a personal favourite).
My Illustrated Epistle probably won’t have much useful information, but I hope you find it fun and worth making a cup of tea for.
You can sign up for it at the bottom of this page.