I’m back from a great vacation. I always take two or three weeks off after Comic-Con International (this year’s show was my best ever — thank you!) and treat my family to a trip. I book all of the hotels and lodges way in advance so that I can get exactly the rooms that I want. After carefully researching and cross-referencing all of the attractions and restaurants, I then write up a detailed itinerary. I illustrate the itinerary in full color (often with cartoons of the family in clothing or costumes appropriate to the location) and then print them up for my family members. These itineraries can get pretty elaborate sometimes!
I began these itineraries as both an exploration of possibilities for our trip (other than the pre-booked lodgings, the itinerary is flexible, full of suggestions) and as a teaching tool for my boys. Peppered throughout the itinerary are historical, geological, geographical and natural history facts about the places we’re visiting. Getting the itinerary in advance of the trip also gets everyone excited about our journey; plus, I never get asked “What are we going to do today?” It’s all there within the illustrated sheets. Eclectic music fan that I am, I also make a whole case full of casette recordings of music appropriate to the region in which we’re traveling to play while we’re in the car. I like both high and low American culture, so I plan our trips to include both art museums and roadside attractions, the National Gallery of Art and Gator-Rama. I think both are important in defining whom we are as Americans.
Last year we went to Washington, D. C., Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. This year we took off for Glacier Waterton International Peace Park in Montana and Alberta. I chose this place for two main reasons. One, I wanted to see the Glaciers before they disappeared (they’re melting; there are only 30 glaciers left now out of the original 270). Two, I have this goal of staying at all of the great lodges of the western National Parks — and Glacier has got five of them! I love their incredibly beautiful and very American (for the most part) architecture, much of it executed by the WPA. So, we leisurely traveled around and through the park, staying at each lodge. Now I only have one National Park lodge left on my list: Mount Rainier.
We didn’t see as much wildlife as I thought we would see, not like I always see in Yellowstone. I did shoot three rolls of film on mountain goats, though, which we encountered up close and in abundance at Logan Pass. I painted eight plein air studies of some of the landscapes there. I got up at 6:00 AM each morning and painted them on our balcony while my family slept. Sometimes I’d paint a late-in-the-day picture after dinner as well. I took James on a half hour helicopter ride over the glaciers. It scared the bejesus out of him. He loved it!
After each trip I write up an annotated non-illustrated version of the itinerary and send it to my mom and brothers to guide them on what to see, what to avoid and where to eat (and not eat) should they choose to vacation at the same place.
Next year will be easy for me. For my son Andy’s graduation present (he’s graduating from Yale, said his proud father) I’m taking him and our family on an Alaskan cruise. We’re also going to explore Denali National Park and Tombstone Park in the Alaskan interior. I’ll still make one of my itineraries, but most of the daily planning has already been taken care of by Holland American Lines, our cruise company.
I’m back in Pasadena and I’m heavily re-involved in my murals for the San Diego Natural History Museum.
A couple of weeks ago I participated in the American Cinematheque celebration of the 20th anniversary of the release of “Return of Living Dead”, my first film as production designer. It was held at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The place was packed and the screening was extremely well-received. That little movie really holds up! Afterwards I participated in the Q & A with the cast of the film as well as the film’s writer-director, Dan O’Bannon. It was great to see everyone looking so good after all of these years! There was a lot of love in that room that evening.
I love show biz tales. I can currently recommend to great TV shows about the Industry: The Comeback (with the incredibly brave and talented Lisa Kudrow) and Entourage (with Jeremy Piven), They’re both terrific and both on HBO. Both shows are very truthful about the biz; both are extremely funny, too (The Comeback somehow manages to be both funny and painfully sad at the same time). If you can find someone with tapes of the years-past FX show Action (with Jay Mohr), that’s a pretty amazing, hysterically funny (and truthful) show, too.
Now that summer is over I plan to resume my regular biweekly Ebay auctions of original drawings. I just put three new drawings up on Ebay. After this long absence, I need to beef up my PayPal account! So if you see something you like, don’t be afraid to bid!
Love to you all!