What I Did Over Christmas Vacation, and Afterwards

So, in December 2016 my wife and daughter and I took a trip to the British Isles. While there, I took pictures, and I also took notes in my journal. I had daydreams of making sketches in my journal while travelling, but the reality is I am not that good of an artist. So, instead, when I got back home I used a camera lucida, combined with the pictures I had taken with my camera or smartphone, and drew the sketches into the journal after the fact. It was an entertaining way to recall the trip afterwards.

If it was 2016, why did it take you so long to post the results? Because I did not have a deadline for it, I suppose. But better late than never.

One thing one must understand about a camera lucida is that it does not turn you into a master artist. For example, I learned first thing that it would just be better if I did not try to color in the faces, because when I tried to the results could be pretty scary. Click on the button next to the image if you want to see the result. You can click back again afterwards.

juliet at airport

Once we got to London, we ate at Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin's. My wife and daughter look pretty chipper considering that they are seated on dead people. Meanwhile, my sketching is getting only slightly less hideous, mostly because I just leave the faces paper-colored. Click on the button next to the image to switch from photo to sketch and back again.

cafe in the crypt

Some of these must have been taken on a different camera, or else I have somehow lost the original, so you will just have to look at my sketch and imagine what it looked like. Which is frankly what sketches are good for, and really maybe photographs as well. [Edit: wait, I found it!]

C and J on the pedestrian bridge

Most definitely, I leave out a lot of details even though I'm using the Camera Lucida. One could argue, though, that the sketch may be more true to the reality of the moment, because it only shows the part you are most concerned with. For example, the "omg I am in front of the Globe theater" grin shows more clearly on the sketch than in the photo. Yeah, I know it's a recreation and not the original Globe, but still.

R at the Globe

By the way, did I mention that, when drawing, faces are hard? I am going to stop telling you that every one of these you can click on the button to see the sketch, and this seems like maybe a good one to stop on, because I'm not sure if I want you to see.

C and J on the train

I did these sketches using coloured pencils, but I have to say, if it weren't for my wife and daughter I could have thrown away all the colours except grey and brown.

C and J tower of London

Of all the places we went, I think maybe York was the one that Cassandra liked the most, although the whole trip was fun. There was something about York in particular that appealed to her.

C and J York

I am also not going to be able to render subtleties of texture very well, partly due to my lack of skill but also because the paper I am drawing on is handmade, and a bit rougher than normal machine pressed. Thus, for example, you might not guess what these fellows are, from just the drawing.

J Gert and Henry's

Another good example. Can you guess what that statue behind J is made of?

J ice sculpture

Some of the pictures were taken by Juliet, dealing with the fact that there was no front-facing display so she had to more or less guess if she was in the picture while taking it. Here we are walking on the York city walls.

J York

From sunny and balmy England, we went north to Scotland.

J Edinburgh

Well this time I, for real this time, appear not to have the original photograph, so you'll just have to imagine it.[Edit: found this one, too!]

J Museum Childhood

As I recall the place was called the Museum of Childhood, or something like that. It showed you how childhood clothes/toys/living conditions/etc had changed (in Scotland anyway) through the last few centuries.

R and J Childhood Museum

Also, if you thought England was lacking in colour in December, Scotland will not give your coloured pencils much to do.

R Edinburgh

Another thing I learned; drawing food is often annoying; there are lots of little picky details and you don't know how much you need to include. This is at the Elephant Cafe, supposedly where J.K.Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book.

C and J Elephant Cafe

Huh, another photograph I cannot find the original of. You'd think electronic files would be easier to organize and keep from losing than paper drawings, but no. This was on the walls of Edinburgh castle, and I swear Cassandra did not actually look like a hunchback, but we don't have the original to be certain, now.

C Cannon

By the way, I give you one guess as to who was mostly figuring out where we were going and how to get there. Well, it was Cassandra. I had a picture here showing her looking at a map, navigating while I did things like take pictures of her, but she didn't like the picture I took so we are not showing it. I wasn't exactly ordered not to, but I was given a Strong Hint.

Everything we saw in Edinburgh, I found myself wondering, "did this influence how JKR wrote the first Harry Potter book?". A similar thing would happen at Oxford.

J owl

I think by this point we had gone on to Chester, an impossibly picturesque little English town.

J gate

Yeah, this was definitely Chester. I did a lot of imitating of statues and signs, which sadly you don't get to see all 137 (approx) of. But here's this one.

R Chester bear

Then, it was off on a ferry to Dublin, Ireland. I notice that sometimes my drawings make Juliet look ten years older, and sometimes several years younger, than she actually was.

J ferry

Dublin was very nice, but C wasn't feeling so great while we were there. I notice I have changed her expression in my drawing.

C J Dublin alley

I quite liked Dublin, better than most capital cities. It may have something to do with the size, it's not so large as London, it was a pleasure to walk around the city center. Another thing about sketches is that you can quite easily fix the lighting.

J Dublin bridge

We went to there Dublin Leprechaun Museum, which was very cheesy and also quite fun.

J Leprechaun Museum
J Leprechaun Beard

Oh I guess you get one more of me with a statue.

R Santa

I have to admit that, for some places (like Dublin's Trinity library), it is hard to do it justice in a drawing with my skill level. Hard to do it justice with a photograph, actually. The expression does look more like how I was feeling inside, though.

R Trinity library

Did I mention faces are hard? But, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a visual pun on the family name "Hartshorn". Even if that's an Irish elk's horns.

J Dublin Bestiary

Just about every city we went to was one I would wish to see again, but Dublin in particular.

J and R Dublin

Oscar Wilde, in all his wry languid glory.

J Oscar Wilde

Juliet sometimes found all the travel tiring. Here we are taking the ferry from Dublin back to Cardiff, this time to stay for a couple days.

J asleep

I did not feel well when we were in Cardiff, so I can't say much about it. Juliet seemed to like it a lot though.

J smiling

As did Cassandra. They went out and about while I stayed at the hotel room and felt ill.

C Cardiff

I am led to believe they spent most of that time doing Dr. Who-related things.

C J Tardis

One advantage of drawing afterwards is you can mash together different moments. Here Cassandra and Juliet are at the Dr. Who Museum in Cardiff, posing next to "The Face of Bo", whatever that is.

C J Face of Bo C J Face of Bo

Actually, I could even reconstruct scenes that happened, but for which I had no camera. This was at the St. Fagan's Museum, which is an assemblage of real (albeit mostly moved from their original locations) buildings, from different centuries. You could go inside them and see how homes, workshops, stores, farms, etc. changed in Wales through the centuries. It was fascinating, and we all three loved it. If only we had a working camera with us at the time. No worries, I later found online pictures of the buildings we had seen in real life, and drew one of them with Juliet in front of it. It really happened, but this is not from a photograph.

J St Fagans

I notice that I also have a tendency to draw Cassandra as more willing to look at the camera (when I am holding it) than she was in reality. Here, we are in Oxford.

C Oxford

The door behind me says it is to the Bodleian Library, although as I recall that might have not quite been true anymore, as I think maybe the library had moved to another place since then. But anyway, it's Oxford, and a sign about the Bodleian library, and you don't get much cooler than that. For my version of "cool", anyway.

R Oxford

Speaking of my version of "cool", more than one person said that Cambridge is a better place to visit than Oxford. I don't dispute this, but we couldn't make time for both, and we had to stop at Oxford, so I could do the utterly geeky thing of stopping in at the Eagle and Child pub. My God, I actually appear to be smiling, even in the photograph.

R Eagle and Child

Inside, it turned out to be quite cozy and not at all touristy. I could imagine enjoying going there every evening now, if I lived close by. The portrait behind us is C.S.Lewis.

J and R Eagle and Child

Last but not least it was back to London, where we stopped off for a bit at the British "We Loot the World (tm)" Museum. It really is quite impressive.

J British Museum

Lastly, we take the London bus, I think maybe on our way to the airport to fly home.

J C London bus

So, what have we learned?

As for the camera lucida, in case you're curious, this is the one I got, and I am happy with it. But, as I have not tried any others, I cannot say if it is the best or not, just that I was happy with it.

I would like to go to Great Britain and Ireland again, and Christmastime would be a nice time to do it, although there is the money issue. I think Cassandra wants to retire in Yorkshire. I am not quite as fond of London as it has the "capital city disease" of being too crowded and in a hurry, but even it has some nice bits. Dublin in particular I would like to visit again someday.