Well as I opened my eyes on the Sunday morning I had to wonder if “The Windett Curse” would again be rearing its ugly head and I guess by now you realise why...
You may want to order your supper and/or make a sandwich and a brew before embarking on this last and very epic episode of my second trip out to Malta...it is a biggie...you have been warned!!!
It was however the best start of the two days, so far and as I peeped outside of the curtains I was met with glorious sunshine...yes, now this was sunny Malta. Hurriedly I showered and got ready for breakfast, where I only came across Dave looking incredibly weary, who went on to explain he had not slept a wink since getting up on Friday morning. We sat and chatted over breakfast, and were soon joined by the organisers, Chris and Joanne Le Galle followed after a while by Fabio and Nadia (sorry I got your name wrong in the first Blog), Mark and Elaine and finally by Sean, Gary and lastly Liam.
The weather certainly had everyone much more invigorated and excited, especially the organisers who realised that in Malta folks stay indoors when it rains, which if that happened here in my part of the world would mean everything would be at a total standstill for most of the year.
It certainly seemed like the curse may be finally lifted, although Dave may have disagreed and credited it with his inability to sleep had I asked.
After breakfast we each returned to our rooms, I got changed ready for the convention and went down to the reception and then out to the front of the hotel to enjoy the sunshine. I was soon joined by the others, as one by one they sought out the sun. We posed for photos outside and were soon being whisked away back to Valletta and the awaiting convention.
Like it had been on the previous day the main convention room was a hive of activity and the weather did indeed seem to be attracting more folks to come along to see what was going on there. It seemed that all the hard work done by the organisers for months since the last event was finally paying off. There was even time for me to sit at my table for a while before that morning’s children’s workshop and do some more work on Martin’s commission, as I chatted with Inez’s father, Peter who was again manning her table whilst she took time out to mingle with the other Maltese artists.
I had no sooner started work on the piece however when it was decided to switch places with the organisers table to my left, which would give me a much better area for my display, which had been cramped on the Saturday and partly behind their table in an L-shaped affair.
This gave me much more room and better coverage of the products I had brought along. Last year the big sellers had been the Ashcans and Sketch Books this year it was the Ashcans, T-shirts and Posters, with everyone wanting to look at the painted pages of the Worlds End graphic novel, which got a lot of enthusiastic praise and bodes well for the future of the book.
Well, once relocated a couple of feet away, I again returned to work on the commission and was soon aware of the presence of Mike once more who was there to tell me that Olivier was ready and that the children were arriving for the workshop. So it was that once more the short walk across to the upper levels was made and like the second session on the Saturday these children were of junior school age and were ready to draw from the off.
It was in this session that I saw young Kimberley, who was a little cutie and her uncle Brian, whom I had met last year. They were the first people there and he told her I would show her how to draw lots of things, throughout which she bashfully smiled.
I looked around and there was no sign of Susan and with Mike and Olivier having gone off already I had to start without her. I later found out that she had had to sort out something else at the same time, so didn’t feel as bad about starting the session without her.
Many of the children’s parents often stay to watch what goes on at these sessions and the wonderful thing is I love to get them involved as well and truth told, that is rarely not an easy thing to pull off, as the parents enjoy it as much as their children do. So I showed this new group how they could create characters using my three trusted techniques, of basic shapes, the movement seep line and scribbling, all of which went down well with those attending.
The sessions although an hour long, I try to pack as much as I can into each, always seem to be short affairs and over before you know it, but the amazing thing is the amount of work the folks there actually get through and take home with them.
Once it was finished Kimberley and her uncle came over again to chat, as I packed things up ready for that afternoon’s adult workshop on storytelling. She asked if I would draw a sketch for her, so I did and told them that I would see them later, if they came around to my table.
Back at my table I borrowed my new artist mate from Malta, Laurence Paul Zrinzo’s acrylic inks to add some painted colour to Martin’s commission. The only problem was that although a very nice book for having sketches in, it was not ideally suited for colour to be added. Luckily I have been in this situation many times and realised I needed to add water to the piece first and then add small amounts of colour, building the art up in washes of colour. It took longer, but meant the colour adhered to the paper better and also didn’t warp the paper.
I soon found myself being whisked off once more to the Inspirations cafe/restaurant for lunch with the other guys and this time Gary joined us. Not, however, before I found myself being sidetracked and taken to see the display of Malta Collectibles by the owner of the company. We chatted for a while about the impact Manga had had on the island’s fans and collectors and toys and the comics industry and my career to date, all in around ten minutes, or so. Then, after having our photos taken, and bidding each other all the best, I found myself taking myself with Mike to meet the others for some much needed food.
The main difference this time with the lunch was the tables were split into places for four people, unlike all the previous times I have been whereby they seated eight at a time. This time I looked at the menu and it was the mozzarella, pimentos, capers and olives salad, which caught my eye and I discovered that it was a huge dish when it arrived a short while after ordering it. I also liked the look of Sean’s salad too, which came topped with one of my favourite toppings, sun-ripened tomatoes, drizzled in olive oil.
This lunch was much more relaxed than the one the day before with more time between the workshops, lunch and my attending to my table. The sun was still out and it was a lovely day.
Before long though we soon found ourselves back inside the venue and amongst the fans and I began to finalise the colour commission for Martin. Copies of The Golden Lizard were being thrust at me in ever increasing numbers and ever faster in their turn-over, which was great for the sales of the book, for me to add my signature to them. Like I say it was Malta’s first ever graphic novel and I was incredibly honoured to have been asked to produce the cover art.
It was soon almost three and time for one last adult workshop, this time about storytelling, which was again well subscribed by the adults there at the venue and we had a full house once again. I was joined by Susan for this one again and we had some great fun with the content of the workshop and also with the Q&A session afterwards once more. After one of my usual talks and demonstrations on storytelling I had the students draw me three equal sized panels, which had to contain the three characters I had asked to see in the same scene, but from different perspectives. I had asked them, how inventive could they be with layout and the dynamics of the panels and then proceeded to draw nine quick examples on the flip chart, whilst I faced it away from them so they couldn’t see until theirs were finished.
By the end of that I then opened the results to a competition, adding that if anyone came close to any of mine they would get a free Ashcan. It is always amazing the difference even a short time like this can influence and give people a better understanding of what is needed to produce work of this kind in a very creative way and this workshop was no different. The guys did great and received their Ashcans later that afternoon. Hopefully they will build on what they learned in the session and be in a position to bring along their artwork at the next Malta Comic Convention.
Susan gave her views on storytelling coming from a Disney/Warner Brothers cartoon aspect, which went down equally well with the attendees. I have to admit that like last year Susan and I gelled perfectly as a team, especially in light that we had never worked together before, in fact we had only spoken briefly on the Saturday morning as we were about to start the first of the children’s workshops, which goes to prove the disciplines are the same for most artists and that up to press the type of creative minds brought across to the convention have been very like-minded and also very accommodating to the other artist in question, which again is lovely to experience.
Then like all the others we had ran, so too this workshop was over almost before we had begun and we returned to our tables in the main hall where I returned to finalise once and for all the colour commission for Martin. Whilst I worked on the colour illustration the guys brought along another dignitary, the Prime Minister’s wife, and like the day previous when we had met the President’s wife I was extremely honoured to meet her and chat for a short while.
By this time I was still working on other sketches and signing and selling my stuff too in between times, but by and by the Worlds End piece was eventually finished and Martin returned to collect it and was really happy with the end result, which is always nice to see.
This was in my honest opinion, a true fan of comics, willing to travel abroad for his passion and also wanting to have many different types of art from many different genres and for me it was a pleasure to be involved in and I will say once more here on this Blog, just in case Martin happens by, that it was a pleasure to produce the piece and to thank him for being patient, as I wandered between workshops lunches and my table.
Well the afternoon was jam packed with excited folks all trying faster and faster to buy stuff, get stuff signed and ask for sketches before the convention was over and even then, as I sat and worked away on yet another piece for a fan, I remember thinking that the con was almost over again for another year...it was incredible to think how quickly the weekend had gone by without almost noticing it.
I looked up and noticed that some folks had begun packing up ready to leave, but I had a queue of folks wanting to buy things and sign things and sketch for them too, so I worked like a little beaver to make sure I accommodated everyone willing to come along to say hi to me.
By the time I heard the guys say it was time to pack up I still had two sketches to produce, which were already promised and some guys waiting to buy Ashcans and Bookmarks and some just wanting for autographs. I acknowledged the guys and continued to work. Last of the sketches were for my little mate, Kimberley and her uncle, Brian. Now her uncle had received a Batman sketch last year and this year he asked for Robin to accompany it, so I obliged and then produced a batman head and shoulders for Kimberley, who had asked me to draw him for her.
Then there was just time for a number of folks to have their photos taken with me and then I heard the shout which went out that the bus was here now and by this time, as I say, I had completed all the sketches, sold folks the books and stuff and signed autographs, until my head spun and then I began to pack my gear.
I took down the banner and posters and packed those and then proceeded to put everything else left into their respective places in the baggage. I was two items away from completion when Fabio came dashing up and shouted not to worry that the bus had gone and they would take me back to the hotel... had "The Windett Curse" struck again...thankfully no, as I spent the next hour, or so taking a few posters down for the guys, signing more of their graphic novels, lots more in fact and producing a Manga-type sketch for one of the recent additions to the organisation team, Tamara Fenech.
Then we left the main hall and waited for Fabio to bring his car around to the front entrance from where he had been parked and eventually looking reminiscent of a tin of sardines with the boxes of stuff, which surrounded us in the car, which would have as much use as the seatbelts in the case of an accident, we set off for the journey back to the hotel. Chris who was sat in the back with his wife Joanne and Nadia complained profusely about the positioning of the boxes on his lap and the precarious predicament he found himself in as a result – I’ll leave it to your imagination. Suffice it to say none of us especially Chris was going anywhere for a while.
On the way back the guys checked the time and asked me if I would like to accompany them for a meal out, as the chances were that the rest of the guests would already be out eating, so I agreed to go along – I certainly wasn’t going anywhere else for a while anyhow, as I have said.
We pulled up not too far away from the hotel, so I am told, it was dark after all by now, so I had no idea where we actually where. We then spent a pleasant time reflecting on this year’s convention over a meal in what the guys tell me is THE best kebab restaurant on Malta, and it was delicious too, so I guess they were telling me the truth. Fabio would not hear of me paying for my meal either, which was very kind of him.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, I took a shower, got changed and sent a text message to Sean to find out where everyone was. He called me back and told me he was in his room, or at least on his balcony having a glass, or two of wine, Renee, Gary and Liam had gone for a meal, Dave was trying to get some sleep and he figured Claudio too was trying to get some rest, as he still wasn’t feeling too well still with his throat infection, which was obviously bothering him.
The original plan had been to have a glass of wine and then go off to the bar downstairs, however it never transpired that way, as we spent a very enjoyable few hours chatting away about our work, comics and life in general on his balcony, as the folks below went about weekend life.
I left for some sleep and arose the morning after to the sound of thunder... “The Windett Curse” was back it appeared and with a vengeance. By the time we had been for breakfast, however the weather was beginning to break up somewhat. I met Dave in the breakfast area and then just as I had sent text messages to the other guys, saw Sean grabbing himself something to eat and Gary about to join us. A few moments later Liam replied he was awake, but not actually up yet and that he would be ready for collecting the bus at 10:00 a.m.
Checking the time I sent another informing him that the bus was due at 9:15 a.m., which I had learnt the evening before from Fabio over the meal. So it was that Liam suddenly had to get himself ready earlier than planned...so it looked like “The Windett Curse” was back for sure.
By the time everyone was ready and set to get on the bus we were late by at almost an hour. The bus driver, Topsy, was none too pleased with this, but aside from me everyone else was under the impression that we were to set off at ten and not nine-fifteen.
The weather as I say was starting to break a little and at least the thunder had passed and the sun poked its head out of the clouds more and more to our relief. This was the day of the trip around Malta, but this time we were visiting different places. We met with the guys in Valletta outside the St James Cavalier, where the convention had been held and once all the organisers arrived (so we actually weren’t late, thank goodness), which was good, we set off for the short walk through the capital to the Armouries to check out all the many pieces of armour from the Great Siege of 1565 and those predating that year.
We were introduced to the convention organiser’s contact at Heritage Malta, Russell Muscat, who then took us inside to meet the head curator.
The head curator and technical consultant of the Palace Armoury, Michael Stroud himself took us on our journey around the weaponry and armour, which began with the earliest chain mail through to the incredibly ornate almost pre-baroque styled armour of the 1400s and 1500s.
For all of us it was an incredible experience, but what made it so special is all the stops were pulled out for us as foreign visitors and Michael’s incredibly in-depth accounts and explanations of a large and very important part of Malta’s varied history up to the accounts of the Great Siege of 1565 were all part of the day. I took lots of photos of the amour and stuff whilst I was there.
As someone whose work is closely associated with fantasy looking at all the weapons, armour, cannons and the insanely massive cannonballs with their huge amounts of ornamentation on what were to cut to the chase, weapons of war and for dealing out death in a massively bloody way I found the close connection of the two opposing words, death and ornamentation fascinating.
Why bother to decorate in such a fashion implements that meted death out to those that faced them? The two things seemed to be in complete opposition. It was this level of decoration which will no doubt be implemented into my work at some point; such was its impact on me during this marvellous visit. I looked at the shape of the pike-type weaponry and saw my own designs for the Storm Serpents of the Aoevill horde in my own Worlds End graphic novel were not so far-fetched and removed from reality as I may have imagined.
The tour was well presented and made all the more enjoyable, because of the way in which the events and pieces were described by Michael and I for one feel incredibly lucky to have been present for the time we spent there.
We made our way back the short distance to St James’ and our driver, “Topsy” and his awaiting bus, which was now going to take us to the second part of our tour and a visit to the ancient prehistoric temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, something I had been waiting to see even before setting off on the flight to Malta some days before when I first found out we were due to visit the place.
By the time we had made it across the island via mini-bus the weather had again picked up and was sunny and hot. We were waiting for the organisers to meet us there and so went inside for something to drink and soon found ourselves sat down eating. I had a slice of cream roll and then when it was decided we would have lunch now, as the next tour would take us closer to our evening meal, Mark Ellul very kindly bought me lunch, which again was nice and just shows what kind of guys these are. Something about this trip made me look at the salads and choose those and this meal was no different, as I chose the Tuna, Capers and Olive salad.
Well, no sooner had we eaten and decided to set off on the tour, which again saw us having it conducted by an excellent tour guide in the form of Archaeologist, Joanne Mallia there was a sudden change to our surroundings. As soon as we decided to do so then the heavens opened up once more in a fleeting, but heavy shower. “The Windett Curse” struck again. It soon abated though and we found ourselves up the hillside from the tour centre in the sunshine once more. I took out my camera and low and behold “The Windett Curse” struck yet again, as the battery ran out after just one shot of the temples, so those below are courtesy of the other guys in the group, so thanks to Renee, Liam, Chris and Joseph for that.
Like the earlier one at the armoury this tour was both interesting and well conducted. It is incredible to think the structures we were being shown were over 4,000 years old. I had to touch them and thankfully “The Windett Curse” did not rear its head and the place is still standing...phew!
I wondered just how many people throughout those thousands of years had stood in exactly the same spot and how many had had the same thoughts; why were they built and by whom?
The structures were impressive, just by their immense size. Even today with all our state-of-the-art lifting equipment and high tech wizardry the stones would prove problematic, but with a lack of tools for even carving them with any great speed (at least using the same tools in the hands of modern man) that they were excavated in the first place and then shaped and erected afterwards is an incredible show of mankind’s ingenuity.
I love the outdoors and feel more kinship with the countryside than the towns and cities, but when you come across these kinds of places and their mystical looking monuments one cannot help but “feel” something different about the place, perhaps an energy, or a spiritual thing, as we get closer to nature and our true selves.
Just like the armoury this tour too, had my imagination going off all over the place and even now I am working on research along with the help of my friends in Malta to create a new graphic novel script.
These kinds of structures and rocks with ancient carvings on them are dotted about in a lot of my past work and especially the Worlds End book, which has ancient carvings on even more ancient stones and temples in the first volume, so you can imagine my interest peaking as I was shown around and listened to the speculated explanations as to what the structures potential uses could have been for and who the actual creators could have been.
The only unfortunate aspect of this particular tour was my camera battery going flat before I could take the photos I would have, but with the kind permission of the others in the group, like I say, I am able to show you guys using their photos what we actually saw.
There were two temples we visited, the first on the top of the hill overlooking the sea and the other much smaller temple residing as it does at the foot of the hill nearer to the sea. These impressive monuments have made a serious lasting impression with me and I would love the chance to return and view them at my leisure, perhaps even sketching and painting them in the summer months, sometime who knows.
Upon first seeing them I turned to John Bamber and mentioned that they looked like something out of a Quatermass film, especially as they were both covered by a state-of-the-art canvas covering that made the stone structures beneath them look like they belonged to a science fiction story.
The temples had rooms that we could see into, but nowadays are kept away from the footfalls of visitors due to the erosion of these timeless artefacts.
Next we paid a quick visit to a little part of the island that is riddled with coves straight out of Treasure Island, which is much like our own Cornwall here in England, a place with the name of, Blue Lagoon. The weather was quite blustery down so close to the sea, which was choppy as the waves crashed against the rocks below us.
On the journey back John Bamber received a call from Mike who asked to speak to me. Mike asked if I was still up for the TV interview, which had been mentioned to me on the Saturday and I told him I was and he asked if I could ask one of the other guys to join me and I told him I would. I elected to ask Liam, as I felt we would bounce off each other well as we usual do at conventions when we get together for any length of time.
Once back at the hotel I packed everything ready for the trip back home the following day and set about signing some of the new posters to give one to each of my fellow guests and the main organisers at the farewell meal. Once that was done it was time for a shower and a change of clothes and then, after a few text messages back home, off back down to the reception to meet up with the others and the bus, which was to take us to the restaurant where Chris “The back” Stellini – see last year’s Blogs, one of the organisers and a superb chef awaited our arrival.
I sat with Liam, Sean, Gary, and Claudio for a short time in the hotel cafe/bar chatting whilst we waited for the TV guys to arrive to make their short interview with Liam and me. Before long Frank Zammitt arrived with his camera man and we were whisked away to the reception area where the camera was set up and we were joined by the rest of guys who began watching us and he proceeded to interview us both, which seemed to go down really well. Frank had mentioned some of the things he wanted to ask us, but when you have been in the game as long as Liam and I have lots of the questions have been asked before anyhow, so it is just a matter of making it interesting to folks that have not heard what your views are before.
We both enjoyed answering the questions and I will be posting links to the interview here, on the Website and on a few other networks too, as soon as the files arrive. The guys left and we waited to go off for our meal.
A short while later we were joined by Renee and the only thing that spoilt the evening was seeing Dave, who gave me Mike’s sketch book (he had drawn Mike a sketch earlier). Now that may sound bad, but the reason I did so was he looked so ashen. He told me he was not going to be accompanying us to the meal, as he was absolutely shattered and he looked it and a bit wobbly on his feet too from lack of sleep. He asked me to apologise to everyone, but it was self-evident that he was in no fit state to come along. Was this the ultimate example of “The Windett Curse” reappearing?
We arrived at the Peperoncino Restaurant to be greeted by an obviously adrenaline filled Chris, who was anxious to start creating his magic for us with his team. Also there and this is also indicative of the attitude of the organisers were Laurence Paul Zrinzo and his girlfriend, as well as Martin the comic fan who had come all the way from Germany, just for the convention and also came along on the tour too.
My menu choices were Soup of the day, which we all got. This was followed by Pasta Peperoncino. Followed by Veal Scallop in Marsala sauce and I finished with Tiramisu and a coffee. It looked incredible and tasted even better. Chris will make someone a wonderful husband!!!
Well there followed lots of chatting, laughter and photos followed by hugs and promises to keep in touch and I have to admit this is the hardest thing about the trips so far, saying good bye to these most wonderful of folks and it does get quite emotional.
Soon it was time for the final group photo, which we ended last year’s convention with too. Then it was time for more hugs and promises to keep in touch and then we were on the bus heading back to the hotel. There was little time spent in the reception area that evening, as both Gary and Sean would be back up and on a flight home in two hours. As it was, for Dave, Liam and I, our flight wasn’t until early evening, the following day, so we had time to spare. That said, Dave and I still met early for breakfast and he looked massively better. The colour had returned to his face and he had managed to get some sleep.
We checked out and put our baggage in the storage area, whilst I bought some little gifts for the folks back home and then we sat outside in the sunshine outside the hotel cafe/bar and had a couple of soft drinks, whist we waited for Fabio to kindly take us to the airport.
The trip to the airport was an uneventful, but enjoyable one, as we chatted about the weekend and all we had experienced. Then it was time to say our farewells to Fabio and again it was quite an emotional time for me.
At the airport we joined Liam who had just arrived moments earlier and we passed through customs without a hitch. The flight home was a pleasant one, for which most of the time, Dave rested and Liam and I chatted about the industry of all things – perhaps the first time ever in our time of knowing each other from the late eighties that we have done so to such a degree.
After touching down, albeit about forty minutes later than scheduled, and collecting our baggage, Dave and I said goodbye to Liam who was catching a different train to ours and we set off back down the travelator to the trains, which hopefully awaited us.
Dave and I said our own goodbyes and he went to Platform 1a, whilst I went to Platform 2b to await our respective trains. It was then we saw the return of our old friend “The Windett Curse” again. Dave’s train had switched platforms and was now on 2a, but I need not have chuckled because within a minute or so an announcement came over the intercom telling all passengers to my destination and beyond that the train had been cancelled due to the late connections with the flights.
But there was light at the end of the tunnel, because I was told to catch the very same train Dave was hopefully now on. Lo and behold he was and we shared a short trip back to Bolton, where I left to catch my connecting train, which was now due in around forty-five minutes. I was by now feeling the freezing cold of the north west of England, which had dropped in temperature even more than when I left a few days earlier and after the heat of Malta was finding it much colder.
At length the train came, which would take me home and I settled down for the half hour trip, finding myself speaking along the way to a fellow passenger going my way who asked if I had been anywhere nice.
It wasn’t too long before I found myself being picked up by my wonderful wife, Margaret and relishing the much appreciated warmth of her car. Once back home I regaled her with the stories of my trip (read bore if you like - LOL) and gave her the little gift I had bought for her and it was back to normal after a much needed rest.
Below are some more photos of the trip I took this year:
After Party with Sean, John
After Party with Claudio, Gary, Mike, & Dave
Joanne & Chris Le Galle
Stefan & Hero from the Golden Lizard in the background
Kimberley and Uncle Brian with their sketches
Tamara catches me taking photos
Proud Dad, Peter, mans Inez's table
Stefan, Samantha & Tamara
Laurence and girlfriend
Liam & Fat Spidey
Ever the Hero, Fat Spidey
Laurence with his signed Ashcan
Working on Martin's Commission - Peter, Inez & Mum
Adding some colour to Martin's Commission
Brian, Kimberley with their sketches
A quick sketch and autograph for Jeanelle
Dave sketching for the fans
The incredible mural being worked on at the front entrance by Chris
Palace Armoury head curator & technical consultant, Michael Stroud
The magnifiscent display of weapons and armour: Palace Armoury
Streets of Valletta
Archaeologist and Tour Guide, Joanne Mallia
A scene from Quatermass? Hagar Qim
Gary watches on as Liam takes some photos
Over 4.000 years old and still looking great
Winner of the wet T-shirt contest, Chris Le Galle
Are we still on for the TV interview...are they kidding?
Gary, loving it all
Chris - Yes another one...Muscat
Anthony with his signed poster
The farewell meal
The traditional last group shot...lots of emotion
Waiting for Fabio in the sun
Chilling in the sun
Dave "bearer of the curse" Windett chilling in the sun
The Hotel Santana cafe/bar
Thanks again to those folks from whom I have “borrowed” your photos for this Blog.
I hope this little mini-series of Blogs from our trip to this wonderful island has served to whet your appetite to seek it out yourselves and ask your forgiveness for the length of this last little missive. I also hope you have enjoyed your stay with me, as I recounted my memories of my time with my colleagues/friends that accompanied me and my friends that live out there.
By the way the little in-joke about the curse was not only endorsed by Dave himself, it was he that gave it life as a joke.
I for one cannot wait until next year and MaltaComicCon3.
Until next time, have fun!
October 30th 2010