** edit: I have sketches from the National Gallery of London at the bottom! Expand the journal to see them. **
Last week I went to the UK for the first time with my husband on a little vacation. We stopped in Dubai just long enough to go to town and see the Burj Khalifa and have some cake, then landed in Glasgow, Scotland on the night of the 28th. It was cold, windy, and spitting rain on us every 30 minutes or so for the day and a half we were in that city, but I have an umbrella designed to be blown backwards as much as you please, so I was just dandy.
Glasgow was fun because our old friend from Montana now lives there and we got to catch up after not seeing each other for about 6 years. There is also tons of shopping and a few pretty buildings. I most enjoyed the University of Glasgow and its museum, and the Kelvingrove Museum was very interesting and diverse for a reasonably medium-small sized building (by personal standards/expectations).
On the 2nd of March we took a bus for £1 (!!) to our next destination: Ediburgh. There I have another old friend from England who I met when we went to Japan on exchange in university. We hadn't seen each other for over 8 years! Edinburgh was my favorite city on our trip. The Castle was beautiful and so was the city as a whole. It felt "old" and was full of gorgeous architecture and monuments that could be seen from almost anywhere. It is a very picturesque city. We had a ghost tour the night we arrived, sudden complimentary snowfall to accompany our drinks at the end, did indeed pay to enter the castle, climbed Aurthur's Seat, and finished at Calton Hill.
The next morning we rode a train first class to London, which took 4 hours. I enjoyed a full British breakfast and accepted sweet pastries from the bread cart every. time. it. passed. By the 4th time, they just looked at me before I could speak and say, "Would you like another one?" and made my husband and the passenger next to me laugh. After Edinburgh, London seemed like just another "city". It was very artistic and socially welcoming, though, and I miss that living in Japan where it can be quite creatively dull. We experienced the full front of the UK habit of leisurely J-walking, and by the end of our 6 day tour we were experts at crossing the street wherever we wanted to, whenever we wanted to. My legs had about had it by the 5th day of walking, but we still hustled on foot to every major sight of London to avoid insanely expensive public transportation. Maybe I'm spoiled by Japanese transportation, maybe I'm thrown by the fact that the British pound is twice - twice! - as expensive as the Japanese yen (£1 = 195 yen!), or maybe I'm just cheap, stubborn, and determined to prove that if I have legs, I'm going to use them. Anyway, for anyone who says you can't see London on foot, let it be known that you most certainly can. Luck would have it that our full day spent there just happened to be on the odd day of the Changing of the Guard, and the unveiling of the National Gallery's newest statue (a dead horse with an electronic display ribbon...). The British Museum was incredible! I'm so happy to have seen the Rosetta Stone and countless other famous artworks. The National Gallery was also a treat, and I spent a second hour-long trip there on my last day doing sketches (more below).
My camera battery had crapped out by this point and I was forcing it to turn on and take one picture at a time then shutting it down immediately (before it shut itself down within 5 seconds or less), but I still managed to take over 400 pictures. For a 6-day long vacation, that's not very much for me, as I tend to take 200-300 a day on most trips. A real bummer, but I captured what I wanted to capture.
About the National Gallery sketching bit, I decided to play a little game and act all "artistic" like lots of others in the gallery. I told my husband that he could choose any painting he liked, no matter how random, and I would draw it. He had to tell me these specific things: what tool to use (pencil, colored pencil, pen), how much of each painting to draw (the whole thing, just a figure, one face, etc.), and how much time. Even the short ones of 2~3 minutes made my back and arms tired! I stood in front of the paintings (sitting wasn't always an option, or it was too far) and held my little sketchbook while furiously blinking moisture into my day-dried contact lenses. As time went on, my sketches got better, and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the museum closed as I was in the middle of my last sketch and they pushed me out. I definitely tested their obviously short (something to do with the prior week's strike?) temper when I dashed back to scribble down the name of the last piece as fast as I could (the Rape of Ganymede). All of these images are stored in Sta.sh, so I hope they're visible to all. I just didn't want to upload them as regular submissions, because sketches shouldn't be. But I also can't select pieces from my "scraps" folder on dA to submit into a journal. Odd. Let me know if they don't show.
Here are the sketches I did in the order I did them, along with the restrictions/guidelines set by my husband:
#quicksketch no. 1
Charity by Anthony van Dyck (1627-8)
3 minutes with light pencil + 2 minutes with dark pencil
#quicksketch no. 2
Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula by Claude (1641)
John Plampin by Thomas Gainsborough (1752)
the man and dog only (no background)
The Annunciation by Nicolas Poussin (1657)
the Virgin and dove only
Portrait of the Comtesse Vilain XIIII and her Daughter by Jacques-Louis David (1816)
woman's face only
The Rape of Ganymede by Damiano Mazza (1575)
10 minutes set, but "ushered" out at 7 minutes due to museum closing at 6:00 PM
(you an also see the size of my pocket sketchbook here, dimensions 4.2" x 6")