On the Fringes of Things

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The Fringe! Everyone, it’s the Fringe! Are you at the Fringe? Have you been there? It’s the Fringe.

At the moment I spend every week yo-yo-ing between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but even when I’m unfortunate enough be in Edinburgh all of August I tend to spend the month on the safer side of Lothian Road. Now the Edinburgh Conference Centre is a Fringe venue so I can literally see Ed Byrne’s enormous and terrifying face from my bedroom window- but such is life, and at least it keeps the tourists happy.

This is a rundown of things that I have looked at this week. As a great man once sarcastically said, “I hope you’re wearing a sturdy hat because this may blow your mind.”

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On Monday I bought a new sketchbook, which is why our first page here says “James’s New Sketchbook.” This drawing shows a man sitting by himself and eating a burger so it had a lot in common with a lot of Fringe events, being both unfunny and watched by only one person.

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But don’t hold it against him! I scurried down to the Book Festival one night. The Book Festival is very fun but unfortunately fulfils many of the stereotypes of a book festival: The main stereotype (apart from the large number of books present) is that most people wear glasses.

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Seriously, everyone.

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This guy had a mohican and dungarees too, because he was cool.

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This is a picture of Joe Sacco. It’s drawn from life because I went to hear him talk, so it’s essentially a form of reportage and I think Mr. Sacco would be pretty proud. I have to be honest though, I’ve never really liked Joe Sacco; between the weight of his line and sheer number of words on each page, I find his books rather hard-going. I went to his talk in the hope that he would persuade me, but he didn’t really. I can see why people like him, but he’s not to my taste.

It also occured to me that if Joe Sacco and Guy Delisle had a fight, Delisle would win because he looks like a Guy Ritchie hero, while Joe Sacco is surprisingly tiny.

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It’s worth pointing out that I only write these blog posts after I’ve drawn the pictures and I basically make them up as I go along, so I only just thought of the idea of Joe Sacco and Guy Delisle having a fight but haven’t had a chance to draw it. Therefore I propose A Competition where I encourage my readers to draw pictures of Sacco and Delisle brawling in a picturesque landscape (probably Israel/Palestine) and the best picture will win a prize.

Anyway, afterwards I went to the pub, but not before running into Chris Haughton of all people. He’s very charming and tremendously modest- so modest in fact that I had no idea who he was, and so probably said some very silly things to him without realising that he was a great illustrator.

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After finally figuring out how famous he was, I went to the pub. Here are some pub-people.

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When we re-emerged into the real, illiterate world, it was time to do some dancing. What else does one do in the Fringe? I went to see my friend’s band, who have a Fringe show in Henry’s Cellar Bar (like I say, the Fringe has crossed onto my side of Lothian Road!) It was great and I drank lots and didn’t draw too much, but got a bit done:

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Jazz guitar!

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Jazz fans too. Good, eh? There are actually many, many pages of drawing from that night, but they are all terrible. I only discovered them the next day when I woke up with sore feet and a hangover.

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I recovered in a coffee shop in the hopes of avoiding anything more strenuous, much like fellow above, who was rather timidly eating his cake. I then strolled around town to look at tourists and draw pictures.

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Where better than the museum? As you’ve gathered, I draw a lot of cafés and pubs, and they only rarely have racing cars mounted on the walls.

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It’s also one of the best places to draw because a) it’s out of the rain b) there are loads of people milling around c) they are all relatively sedentary. I used to take students here too, but I kept losing them.

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After that it was time to get some lunch. I went to Brew Lab with my friends. Have you seen that place? It’s so hipster-y. I drew a couple of people and a man with thick-rimmed glasses told my girlfriend not to put milk or sugar in her coffee. She said “You’re not the boss of me!”, which I think is a perfectly reasonable response to people telling you how you ought to like your coffee.

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Then I went down to Bristo Square, which is now called the Underbelly and has a tremendous purple cow. Strangely, I had no compulsion to draw the cow itself, and thinking back to it I’m not really sure why I missed out such an obvious bit of subject matter. I just drew people instead.

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Everything there is cow themed and the tables are set in little enclosures, which may or may not be there to make the place look more like a livestock market.

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It did start raining though, and drawing is obviously disrupted by even the slightest bit of rain, so I had a lovely hangover pint in the livestock enclosures instead.

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By that point it was getting late! My Fringe-drawing tolerance was getting worn down, as was my tolerance for getting hassled by people giving out flyers. I left without drawing the incredibly obvious giant purple cow and headed for the Royal Mile. For those who don’t know it, it’s the very epicentre of the Fringe and is the top spot for getting hassled by people giving out flyers.

It’s funny, some people leap at you with great excitement, but my favourites are the ones who are clearly only doing it as a favour for a friend and just stare dead-eyed as they prop up a sandwich board. But such is the way of the Fringe. The Fringe is so open-ended that you get some pretty mixed things. My favourite flyer was from someone urging me to see a “Horror version of Pinocchio set in the 1950’s”. If anyone gets the chance to see that show, please let me know how it was.

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The other great thing on the Royal Mile are the buskers, which by and large are much better than the sword-jugglers and things. So I’ll leave you here with this picture of some beardy Spanish Flamenco players. Happy Fringing!

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p.s. I’m serious about the Joe-Sacco-fighting-Guy-Delisle Competition idea. If anyone sends me a really great drawing of it I’ll send you a proper prize.



Filed under Sketchbook

4 responses to “On the Fringes of Things

  1. oolung

    Yuck, have to say the word “Fringe” is making me cringe right now, because I’m trying to sort out some performances at the Beijing Fringe Festival and it’s mental. Lovely drawing, though, I admire the on-the-spot quality!

    • Oh yes, the Fringe Cringe! Are you organising performances? That’s exciting- though I imagine much like exhibitions, organising these sorts of things is much more stressful than they should be, and much less fun than actually performing… Glad you like the work though and have fun in Beijing!

      • oolung

        Ah, I wish it was that glamorous. What I’m doing is I’m sitting in an office in Poland and trying to arrange two Polish groups’ performances in Beijing, getting increasingly frustrated over the actors’ airs and the festival’s non-professional approach (“yeah, sure we want them! But can you pay for everything? Ah, okay, we can cover the technical side. But wait, we don’t have the lighting. Or the amps. Or the dance floor. We actually don’t have anything. Could you bring it with you, please?” That’s more or less the picture 😀 (I am going to Beijing with one of the groups though! Although I still think Edingburgh would be more chilled out and fun to go to. But at least I’ll get real Chinese street food and maybe even a few minutes to draw a picture or two!) 🙂

      • oolung

        ooops, long rant alert on the previous comment 😀

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