Here are a few stories and pictures during my travels to The Netherlands in late October.
As my flight prepared for departure from the San Francisco airport for Amsterdam the announcement was made to turn off all electronic devices. I gladly shut down and packed away my phones and didn’t turn them back on until my arrival back home in the states. I quickly and easily defaulted back to my days of no phones and no online access. I always feel good when I can temporarily disconnect from the grid, even if just for a day. I survived just fine without a phone, internet access or online maps. A little bit of pre-planning, local help, physical maps and asking people for directions on the streets kept us going in the right direction. It was quite liberating to be free of gadgets.
One of my favorite things about traveling is how I tend to look up and around when walking, rather than looking straight ahead and thinking about where I am going when I am moving about on my home turf. This picture (above) is looking straight up into the canopy of a tree that looked remarkably similar to our California Sycamore native trees. It was located on the edge of a walking path that ran along a channel of flowing water that bounced a reflective light along the large broad green and yellow leaves, with the blue sky peering through in the background. It was like seeing a rich pallet of animated oil paint constantly undulating on the leaves and branches. I sat and watched this light show for a while, completely lost in its beauty.
Coming from California, the nice weather experienced during our visit, which we were told was exceptional during our stay, was not that unusual for me to experience. But what was impressive was the clarity and lighting of objects during our stay. The days are shorter than where I live, and not just that, they sun travels lower across the Dutch sky making for morning to mid-morning light that blends right into a late afternoon and then evening light. The harsh and bright lighting that washes out color during the middle of the day that I am used to in California was non-existent. This made for perfect photography lighting during much of our stay in the Netherlands. It was like having a Hollywood film crew control the lighting to my advantage everywhere we went. Also, I didn’t have to get up early to catch the morning light.
Terry and Rachel Dodson, Mark Schultz, our pal Jim Reid and I spent the afternoon walking in Schiedam. Terry stopped a few times, pulled out his sketchbook and start drawing a scene that interested him. In this case, Terry was standing in the road to get the angle he wanted. I was watching for cars and bikes, while watching him work. He quickly blocked in the large masses and then continued to ease into the finer details. Twelve minutes later he got down what he wanted and we continued our leisurely walk through the city.
We had the good fortune to visit the Belgium Comic Strip Center. Unbeknown to us, a stellar special exhibit on the life and work of Will Eisner was on display. What was originally planned for an hour long visit, extended into a full afternoon of pure enlightenment. Our group this day consisted of Thomas Yeates and his daughter, Mark Schultz, Mark Thelosen, Terry and Rachel Dodson and myself. I would guess all, if not most of us had met Will Eisner at least once, if not multiple times. I would also bet most of us have seen numerous examples of his originals before. Even with those experiences, this homage to Eisner was staggering in scope, detail and display. There are hundreds of originals to view. The care and attention that the Center put into celebrating Eisner is a work of art unto itself. They did a remarkable job. I was impressed by every nuance and corner of the Comic Strip Center. Never have I seen comics and creators so well presented to the public in a museum format. I was delighted that here we were, in the middle of the week, and the place was busy with visitors. The respect and appreciation of the comic arts by the general public throughout Europe is far greater than here in the U.S. And here’s another interesting aside–there was practically no superhero art on display, a genre of which dominates the American comics culture.
Two days later, the Prince Valiant team of Mark Schultz (writer) and Thomas Yeates (artist) were asked to give a lecture and workshop at the art department of a high school in Breda, The Netherlands. This was done during the early afternoon on the day before the Strip Festival show. These guys are always willing to share some of their knowledge with future professionals. I left for a few hours, but found out later that Mark and Thomas came up with a Prince Valiant story concept and sketched out the strip in front of the class. That’ll teach me to go goof off.
Later on, we found another drawing by Dan inside an art supply cabinet. Thomas added his own drawing on the interior door. Even Mark drew a small dinosaur right before we left. I suppose I won’t be surprised if that door ends up missing one day. The justification being that it would make it easier to get to the art supplies.
I have more pictures which I’ll share once I find a spare moment.