Tuesday, June 29, 2010


One of the highlights of this trip was to learn exactly what gobsmacked means. This comes straight from Lynn, our friend and Oxford scholar, and verified by her husband Neil who knows a thing or two about gobsmackedness.

When something is so brilliant that you involuntarily get wide-eyed and smack your hand over your gob (your mouth), you're "gobsmacked."

I assumed it was just a goofy, meaningless expression, but nooooo, the British have put a lot of thought into this one. Refer to the attached scientific illustration.

Playing with IPad ArtStudio

The nine hour flight from Heathrow to Houston is the first chance I've had to play with ArtStudio, an app for iPad. The lack of control drawing with a finger on the touchscreen, plus the bumpy motion of the plane, makes for a more primitive and crude sketch, but that's often better than laboring over a more finished one.

Not a great likeness, but you probably guessed who it is, even without reading the caption. And some of you probably guessed Kiki or Louise Brooks.

Drawing session at the Tate Modern

Now that I'm on the flight from Heathrow to Houston I finally have a chance to write some blogs I didn't have time for before. Sometimes we were too busy, sometimes too tired, but most of the time just low quality WiFi service (yes, you Starbucks) or none at all.

I don't have WiFi on this flight (what is this? The dark ages?), but I'll post a few entries as soon as I get a chance, perhaps in Houston.

The drawing session at The Tate was run by two people from something called "drawing London." Just my luck, they decide to get artsy and experimental on the night I attend. Like having the models move continuously, or hold a pose for 30 seconds or so. Or 10 seconds. And no chairs or stools, just sit or kneel on the floor. For two hours. The art materials supplied are a hodgepodge of crayons, dried up markers, pencil and chalks ready for their last strokes.

But hey, it's The Tate, it's after hours, there's a naked model standing in the middle of the room. So I started drawing as fast as I could. Which wasn't anywhere near fast enough. I moved to the other side of the gallery where another model was holding her poses a little longer. But still, by the time I'd drawn an angle of the leg or arm, or two eyebrows for gawd's sake, the model would turn and completely change the pose.

At the end of the class, everyone put their drawings on the floor to show. I took some low- quality, bad-lighting iPhone photos of my favorite ones, including one of the only two of mine that I bothered to keep, titled "Brown paper with masking tape."

Even though I didn't get a lot of good drawings out of it, it was a unique and memorable experience, and a super cool gift from Robin.

Boat House furniture design at Cameron House in Scotland

Monday in London

Monday had more than it's share of tube rides and Underground stair-climbing. We tubes into London, visited The Monument, a 202 ft tall column with stairs to an observation platform at the top. 202 feet away is where the Kings Bakery was located on Pudding Lane, where the London Fire started and burned down a large section of London (late 1600s?).

We crossed over to the south bank of the Thames and found The Golden Hinde, a replica of the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the globe between 1577 and 1580. A golden hinde is a golden deer. The harbor where it's docked was a free harbor for people associated with the nearby church.

From there we tubed to the National History Museum, an amazingly beautiful building with some amazing exhibits, and then, a block away to the Science Museum. We didn't have too long at either museum because we were on our way to London's West End to see La Bête, a play starring Mark Rylance (creative director and actor at the Globe theater for its first ten years), David Hyde Pierce, and Joanna Lumely.

Scottish Tartan hat

In the Cameron House gift shop.

La Bête (The Beast)

Another unforgettable night of theater, this time at The Comedy Theatre, located in London's West End (legendary theater district), near Piccadilly Circus (the Times Square of London).
The play starred Mark Rylance and co-starred David Hyde Pierce ("Nigel" on the TV show "Frazier.")
Originally written in 1992, its revival has been selling out, mainly due to the Rylance performance, which is remarkable. The story is set somewhere around the 1700s (I think). David Hyde Pierce plays a playwright and his acting troupe who are sponsored by a wealthy princess. The leader of the troupe has been ordered to add Rylance, another actor/writer, to the group, to the horror of the current leader (Pierce), because he detests the Rylance character with a passion, knowing him to be an arrogant egomaniac who never shuts up and never stops praising himself.
When Rylance makes his entrance on the stage (after Pierce has ranted about how insufferable the Rylance character is), Rylance launches into a fast paced non-stop rhyming monologue of self praise that lasts at least 20 or 25 minutes without a pause, while the other two actors on stage just stand there with their mouths agape. Rylance's portrayal of the buck-toothed, offensive, bombastic egomaniac is hilarious, brilliant, and pretty darn mind-boggling.
it's a relatively short play, about an hour and a half, with no intermission. The set design, costume design, and lighting were fabulous. Three curtain calls and a standing ovation.
Above, a sketch of Mark Rylance, in character, using the ArtStudio for iPad app.

Theater patrons on the tube late at night after a play

Gotta get home before the tube stops running.