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1. i wanna say, i wanna tell you

 On Saturday I got to be part of a lovely event in Covent Garden, which was brought about by Moleskine in collaboration with Urban Sketchers. I was absolutely stoked to be asked to contribute, to the event, in way of presenting a 'learning session' to anyone interested in Urban Sketching. I was surprised, to be asked, too, as I'm not normally recognised for that kind of sketching - although I am an active member of Urban Sketchers Yorkshire - I suspect I was invited because I am a prolific Moleskine user and fan.

And so, I found myself up at an ungodly hour and on the six o'clock train down to London.
Which is, of course, when I started drawing.

 My first stop, on arrival in the city, was a Timberyard café in Covent Garden, where I met the Moleskine team and the other three sketchers, Adebanji Alade, James Hobbs and Olha Pryymak, taking part in the event. This, too, was a privilege as I have admired these guys work, from afar, for years. Then we were joined by members of the press and bloggers to discuss all things Urban Sketching, before moving on to our venues.
James and I were based at the wonderful London Graphic Centre for the day. I'd never visited before, but it really is a must for pen/stationery/notebook geeks (you know who you are). If you're in London, and you are such a geek, don't miss this place. Three or four stories of awesomeness, I have no idea how I didn't spend a fortune. Well, I do; I was kept busy, drawing the day.

In the afternoon it was time for my Learning Session, in which I talked about my journey from being a secret private drawer to taking that leap, joining an Urban Sketchers group, and drawing outdoors and in public. I also discussed some of my coping strategies for making that move, how it has changed my drawing and how it's changed how I view the world (now EVERYTHING is a drawing opportunity). Then we took to the streets for some more sketching.

It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. And, again, it is another reason I love 'sketchcrawling' - just getting in that zone with a bunch of people who are passionate about drawing, talking, not talking, but always sketching. There were sketchers of all ages, too. Above are a couple of my sketches of the youngest sketchers.

Now, I know what you're thinking, and, no, there aren't that many moose roaming the streets of London. This one was on the wall of a flower shop - the one that Emily is drawing above. I know it's not what you might expect of Urban Sketching, but that was part of my class; there are no rules when it comes to creating. Just get out and draw.

If you feel intimidated by the big picture, by drawing a whole scene or street or building, then start by drawing little bits of it. Just draw the signs, or the bins, or the windows, or the people. The rest will come. You can add the rest of the scene in later. If you want. But, if you are curious about drawing outside, stop putting things in your way. I speak from experience. I came up with so many excuses for not doing what I wanted to do, but finally letting go of that was the best thing.

I don't have all the drawings that I made, to share, here, as at the end of the day we tore them out of our books and hung them at the London Graphic Centre and the Moleskine shop. We didn't just tear up our sketchbooks though. No siree, we'd been drawing in Moleskine's new square Sketch Album which has perforated pages. Another great idea from Moleskine. Above are a couple of drawings by James and myself.

And, finally our day was finished. It was exhausting but exhilarating. There is nothing I enjoy more than talking about and sharing my love for drawing. I wish I could do this every day of the week. I guess I, kind of, do that online - which is great and all well and good - but, there is something about doing it with real live actual people!

As Adebanji finished his last sketch of the day, James and I went for a final coffee before I got my train home. But, as always with obsessive sketchers, a view from the window of Stanfords bookshop café proved to be too tempting. So, I squeezed one last drawing in before departing.

A big thanks to Moleskine and to Urban Sketchers for letting me be a part of this Moleskine Story, to the other artists and everyone who came along to sketch on the day. I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks y'all.

 Did, I say that was my last sketch of the day? I was lying. What else do you do on a train journey?

One observation I will have; if you are on the same train, in the same carriage, as a VERY drunk man then it's very comforting to be sat at the same table as a huge tattooed body builder. Even if he is wearing pink. Just saying.

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2. guess i'll have another round

I seem to have been spending a lot of time sketching in pubs over the last few weeks. It's kind of become one of those unintentional themes. An enjoyable one. What could make a better subject matter than a lovely old pub? And, I've been visiting quite a few. On Sunday evening I attended Pubscrawl in Sheffield; ten pubs turned into art galleries, or exhibition spaces, for the evening, hosting ten different artists. Such a great idea. Great to view art in these great British institutions.

The drawing below is from a Pubcrawl Sketchcrawl that myself and a friend hosted, here, in the High Peak. That day we took in seven or eight different pubs, drawing inside and outside of them. I drew this in the beer garden of our final stop.

So yeah, there's a definite theme going on. One that I'm quite happy to continue.


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3. take me up to the top of the city

So, it's nearly time to say goodbye to August, and summer, and Hello September. I like September. It feels like a month when changes can and will happen and I always welcome that. Plus, autumn is most definitely my favourite season. Even the word 'autumn' is lovely.

September, before it has begun, has a theme to it. I am paying three visits to our capital - which feels exciting and sounds expensive. At the end of the month I am going to see, and I can't quite believe I'm saying this, Kate Bush in concert. I know, how crazy is that? I hope she hasn't had a big strop by then and called the rest of the dates off. You wouldn't put it past her. And, I love her for that.

Mid month I am finally going to see my bookbench. It's been a long time coming, but at last, just days before it retires from the city, I'll get to see it, in situ, on the streets of London. Well, actually, in a churchyard in Greenwich. The photo, below, was taken by, and of, a couple of friends who recently visited.
Then there's next weekend and a rather fabulous opportunity that presented itself to me. You know, sometimes, a little gem of a 'job' pops up in your inbox? Sometimes, you don't even take it seriously because it sounds too good to be true? Yeah, that.

Next weekend, on Saturday 5th of September, I will be drawing for, and representing, MOLESKINE and URBAN SKETCHERS in COVENT GARDEN. It's true! Please come along. We're there all day for a big old sketchathon. Come! Draw! Plus, rumour has it, that there may just be free Moleskines. Oh yes. You'll need to get there early to catch one of those lovely worms.

Oh, oh, and I forgot to mention the rest of the Covent Garden sketching team. I'll only be sketching with, ahem, Urban Sketching correspondents Adebanji Alade, James Hobbs, Olha Pryymak. Eeeeek! I already feel like a fraud.

Full details of the event can be found HERE. Even though our Learning Sessions are sold out still come along. We'll all be hanging out, sketching, all day. Hope to see you there.

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4. me, myself and the Gents

Me, drawing, by Paul Gent
I'm very lucky to have met some really wonderful artists over the last few years. Artists from around the world. I've met them online, then met them in person. In many lovely parts of the world. Plus, as well as that, I regularly meet up with some brilliant artists closer to home.
Me, drawing, by Miriam Gent
These drawings, of me, were made by a couple of extremely talented friends, Miriam and Paul Gent. They were created, just a couple of weeks ago, on a local Sketchcrawl/Pubcrawl that we three planned (in the pub). It was so local it went through the streets we live on.
Me, drawing, by Paul Gent
It's amazing, when you look, what and who you'll find on your doorstep.
I couldn't love them more; the drawings and the Gents.
 

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5. Nora

 Look who's turned up.

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6. i am still right here

For everyone feeling like shit today.
A new range of products, lotions and potions that I may, or may not, be bringing out in the future.
Probably not coming to my Etsy shop very soon.

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7. COMING SOON!

Coming soon, to my Etsy shop, limited edition, Wonderful Women Book Bags. Starting with, Nora, the original tattooed lady.

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8. and it all comes back to you

Drawing by Jeeda Barford
Phew! I've just wrapped up my time teaching at Sketchbook Skool for this semester. Thanks to everyone whose taken part in my classes - and been so kind about them! And, hello to everyone who has found my work via the Skool. Plus, a HUGE thanks for all the orders, of books and zines, from my shop. I am wading through them all. Please bear with me, I sign, wrap, package them all myself. And, wasn't expecting quite as many.

Here, in this drawing you can see a) the generosity shown to me by the students and b) some of the things that I talked about on my course, like, drawing room plans, making an illustrated letter and handwriting exercises. 

Big thanks to Jeeda for this lovely drawing. I feel a little embarrassed, and certainly overwhelmed, by the attention. It's quite surreal.

Thank you for having me Sketchbook Skool. It's been a blast!
And, if you'd like to enrol on my course, next time it comes around, you can do so HERE.

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9. have you ever had it blue?

Damn, I'm going to miss this place this year. These are drawings of Clermont Ferrand. They're a kind of mixture of realism and imagination, fact and fiction. I like that place in between both. I have an idea for a small series of these drawings. So, if I will not get to physically visit this year, I will travel there through drawing.

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10. now it's closing time, the music's fading out

Photography by Rod Walton
Now, if you visit this blog regularly, you'll be aware that I do bang on about Dr Sketchy every now and again. Well, not only am I hooked on the whole concept of these alternative life-drawing events, but, I also co-run the Dr Sketchy Sheffield branch, with my partner in crime, Lara Gothique, so, you know, a little banging on is allowed, right? And, to be honest, when we create these kind of amazing events I think we have every right to bang on. They're great!

Drawing by me
The photo, at the top of this post, is of me in action - or, more to the point, is of Tallulah in action. The drawing, above, is the end result. We are so lucky to have a couple of great venues to hold our shows. This one, the Old Clubhouse, Buxton, is a former Victorian genlteman's club. To say that it worked beautifully, as the saloon bar, in our Wild West themed evening last Wednesday, would be an understatement.
Photography by Eric Murphy
I have to say that seeing these images makes me hugely proud of what we achieve; the whole Dr Sketchy Sheffield team, that is. The models, the guys who volunteer their services - in the way of music and photography - just everyone. So, we don't make a penny out of it. But who cares? Success can't always be measured by money, right again??
Drawing by me
Which brings me on to our sketchers. Not only are the photos stunning, but the artwork produced on our evenings is insanely good and so varied too. You can see what I mean in our Facebook Group HERE. Plus, when all the sketchers leave saying they had a great time then that's how you measure success, I reckon.

Photography by Rod Walton
Oh, and making scenes like this, above, happen to.

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11. well my time went so quickly, i went lickety-splickly

 I've just made these really quick sketches whilst watching a series of interviews with Bette Davies. They took a couple of minutes each. It's by doing these fast and furious portraits, from the tv, that I've become comfortable with drawing faces and people. I've made hundreds and hundreds of them over the past few years. They're not amazing. They're not going to set the world alight. But that's not the point. I've learnt so much from doing them, and more than that I really enjoy creating them.

There's another blog post HERE, from two-ish years ago. Back then, it seems, I was still not confident drawing 'real life people'. Which just goes to show how quickly you can build your confidence through practice. Jeez, I'll draw anyone and everyone now - from the big screen to the real life.

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12. cabbages! two for a pound!!

 Books for sale! Books for sale! Andrea's book for sale!!

Excuse me for peddling my wares, but you know, being a freelancer in the creative industry really is as reliable, financially, as it sounds and sometimes you just got to shout about what you do. Usually, when you've just got a couple of big bills in.

Anyway, you can get my book HERE. It is full of drawings, thoughts, sketchbook pages and what have you, from the last eight years of my obsessional drawing.

I'll shut up now. Fangyou very much.

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13. days that used to be

Back to the bookbench. So, after spending all that time doing all the work on the front (a lot more work than I'd anticipated as it just seemed to grow and grow and grow) I had to do it all again on the back.
Now, because I'm terrible at updating (or not updating?) projects, I just leaving them hanging midway like some cliff-hanger and annoyingly you never get to see the final episode, I thought I'd post the end result of my bookbench. Well, this isn't quite the end result, this the penultimate stage. So there's still scope for me to leave him hanging off that cliff.
These two photos, above and below, are a couple of moments that I like. Apologies for the quality of the photos. I took them all on my iPhone and have still not got to grips with the camera.
The drawing on the back of my bookbench was the tidier version of the one at the top of this post. Our girl has interrupted her reading to tidy up - by shoving everything under or behind the sofa.
And so, my bench also came with instructions (below). All the objects that you could see on the front of the bench can been found on the back, tucked under cushions, etc. You've got to search for them. Yes, I really did draw it ALL again. I like to bring that interactive element to drawings. It was what rocked my world, about books and illustrations, when I was a kid.
My bench is now actually out on display, with the 49 others, in London. There is a trail and map so you can go and see them all. Mine is on the Greenwich part of the trail in this churchyard. I've been told that the church backs onto a couple of schools, and they have already planned school visits to the bench. I hope the kids have fun finding all of the objects and stuff and nonsense.
I'll post the final stage soon; which was adding a little colour, and then the most nerve-racking bit of all adding the varnish. Until that point I had no idea how the marker pens would react to hard core varnish/resin. Would all that work bleed once the varnish hit it? Would the whole drawing be ruined? 
DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!!!
 
PS, if anyone is in London, and visits the bookbench, please take a photo of yourself there. I'd love to see it. Send it to me.

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14. i've been waiting for you

Okay, so these may not be the greatest sketchbook pages. They're not going to set the world alight, but, I just needed to shout about the fact that I went to see Neil Young on Sunday!!! Damn, I love that man. He's the most inspirational artist to me. So, we may work in very different fields but how he continues moving on and changing creatively is so very inspiring. I wish I were that brave.

 Above is the inner cover of the little Moleskine sketchbook that I took with me. I drew it as the arena was filling up. And, I drew it over the page where I created THIS VIDEO (the one that shows you how to write your name!). I cannot leave a blank space alone. I just can't stop fiddling.

 I'm often asked about what I do if a page in a sketchbook 'goes wrong'. My answer is usually 'collage', but it's also where a good quote or lyric comes in handy. The page above didn't so much 'go wrong' but the girl I was drawing moved away, just as I got my pens going, so I was left with just a few squiggles. You can see them behind these Neil Young lyrics; behind the top two lines on the right hand page.

 Anyway, you know what? Not every sketchbook page should set the world alight or be all singing and dancing. In my opinion. To me the unremarkable, quiet little pages act as a comma or a pause in a book. Some time for a brief reflection. A page to get your breathe back before you dive back in.

And, the lyrics and quotes; a great place to practice your handwriting. Or better still, make up a whole new kinda handwriting.

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15. Ask Andrea

I am currently beavering away, creating my fourth zine in the 'How To Draw' series. This one is, again, about drawing with the ballpoint pen and I'll be taking a closer look at the colour ballpoint. For the first time, I'll also be including a 'problem page'!

So, if you have any questions about drawing with ballpoint pens please ask away. I'll choose a few that I'll endeavour to answer in the new zine - available at the beginning of August.

I'd better get my socks on!

Previous zines available HERE.

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16. every dune that we fell into left a mark upon us too

Where did June go? Did anyone see where it went? I'm sure it didn't happen this year. It must have been cancelled.
Guys, I'm currently slap bang in the middle of a couple of amazing projects that are happening NOW. Like, right now. Firstly, that fine figure of a man, above, is none other than Danny Gregory. One of my drawing heroes. The guy who created Everyday Matters - which is where I my drawing journey began way back when, eight or nine years ago. I'm rubbish at dates. But anyway, anyway, I can tell you it was quite a moment for me to be asked by Danny to become a teacher at Sketchbook Skool. It felt like coming home.
The new semester starts TODAY! You can see the fabulous new website, and get your place on the course, HERE. I'll see you in class. Make sure you're on your best behaviour!
Then, as if that isn't enough, as if that isn't crazy enough, a couple of days ago my bookbench hit the streets of London. Yes, she has left home, flown the nest, and gone to the big Smoke to try and make her fortune. I just hope she doesn't end up living on a park bench. Oh.
You can see another spanking new website with the whole story about this Books About London project HERE and read all about my bench HERE.
If anyone should visit my bench (it's in Greenwich from July-September) please take a photo of yourself at the bench and send it to me. I'd love to put a little album of them together.
I will be back with actual drawings soon. I do have new stuff to post. I just need the time.
June? Anyone?

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17. the maker makes

A bit of retro here. This is an oldie. It's actually six years old - where did that go?
Anyway, I'm having a clear out of all my old cassettes, so, this too is up for sale.
You can get your hands on it HERE.

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18. inside the artist's head

I found this drawing recently. Well, I found half of this drawing actually. I then finished it off with some added text and added nonsense.
 
It's for sale HERE.

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19. cupid stunts

On Saturday night I went to sketch a Vaudeville extravaganza in the gorgeous Art Deco Library Theatre in Sheffield, called 'The Velvet Burlesque presents Cupid Stunts'. The show was all down to the sheer hard work and creativity of my Dr Sketchy partner, Burlesque teacher and performer, Lara Gothique.

I sketched the whole show, from beginning to end.
I sketched from before the doors opened...
 To the audience members arriving...
Some of them dressed to the nines...
 I sketched all the amazing acts. From fabulous Burlesque...
to a Victorian strongman.
And, I also sketched all those unexpected moments, that didn't go quite to plan, in between... 
 Plus, I sketched the audience's reaction to those moments...
 
I've wanted to sketch a whole show like this for a while. It's fast furious drawing. These are just a fraction of the sketches I made. Not bad for, basically, drawing in the dark.
 
Next time I'd like to venture backstage and draw the build up to the show too. Really get amongst the sequins and feathers. What do you think, Lara?

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20. fruit tree, fruit tree

So here's another thing I have on this month; I am exhibiting, as part of the Derbyshire Open Arts weekend, on the 24th-26th, at Pear Tree Café in Whaley Bridge. That's if I have anything to put on the walls. I've never had so much work on. I'm not complaining. I just can't quite keep up.
I'm off to Amsterdam shortly to film my classes for next semester's Sketchbook Skool. And then there's the little issue of the MASSIVE book/bench, in my living room, that I have to start, I mean finish, by the end of this month. That'll then be making it's way down to the streets of London ready for the Books About Town trail which begins in July. 
 I'm exhausted just thinking about it all. Coffee! Please!! Make mine a quadruple espresso.

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21. tulips (drawings) from Amsterdam

Last weekend I had a trip to Amsterdam to film my classes for Sketchbook Skool. I'll be a tutor in the second Semester, which kicks off on July 4th. I was met by the co-founder of the skool Koosje Keone and we spent two full days of filming.
I have to say I was more than a little nervous. I am not a natural in the front of the camera, in fact it's probably one of my biggest fears so if you are signing up to the second semester then please understand!
I really enjoyed the whole project, though. More than I thought I could, which was thanks to Koosje. I think we worked well together and I hope that my videos will be enjoyable, informative and useful, despite my awkwardness.
As well as filming we got to hang out in Koosje's neighbourhood a little. We ate some great food (those guys really know how to eat well) and, of course, we did a little bit of drawing.
I remember, at one point, discussing, with her, some of the other sketchers I'd met over the last few years and saying "some of them are REALLY obsessive, really hardcore sketchers". I then proceeded to make 17 drawings in my short stay! Turns out I might just be a little bit obsessive myself.
Here are thirteen of the sketchbook pages I made. I also did a couple of 'finish at home' jobbies - which I'll post later. And, of course, one drawing that will be revealed at Sketchbook Skool. The other sketch I made was so bad NOBODY will ever be seeing it. Koosje asked what I do if one of my pages goes wrong. I said "collage". Her musician husband, Pascal, said "ah, in music we call it a medley". I liked that quote.
One evening we sat outside a great restaurant, in the sun, where Koosje and Pascal are regulars. I drew the  guy in the cap, below, whom Koosje called 'an old sock' - which is an expression for a young guy person who has an old soul (I guess). Again, I liked that expression and the magpie in me will be flying off with these and storing them for future use.
Koosje also remarked on how quickly I made my sketches. That, again, is something I'd never noticed about my own drawing. And it came as a surprise to hear, as over the past few years I've sat labouring over drawings that take hours and hours and hours. But, she is quite right. It's true.
I've taught myself how to draw really quickly more recently. Yes, I still do my long highly worked up time consuming drawings, but I've also learnt to capture things as they are happening. It's not only a totally new way of drawing for me but it has also opened up a whole new way of seeing the world. I'll tell you how I did that sometime - but that's another film/class/blog post.
So, that was my weekend. I had no idea at the beginning of May that I'd be making this trip so it was an unexpected surprise. I also got an extra day in Amsterdam to wonder around, in the sunshine, drawing whatever took my fancy.
When I look at the drawings I made there it makes me realise how far I have come in the last few years. Just two or three year ago, I'd never have been able to do this stuff. I'd never have drawn people on the plane, in the park, having coffee. But that's what keeping a sketchbook or illustrated journal does. It's not just a place to document your life, but also somewhere to work on your skills and techniques.
 And, just one more observation I made on this trip; if you ever thought that being cabin crew was a glamorous job then you ain't ever been on the weekend stag-party flights from the UK to Amsterdam. Those guys deserve medals.

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22. get out of town, think i'll get out of town

 Here are the two sketchbook spreads that I mentioned in my last post. Both were made whilst in Amsterdam filming for Sketchbook Skool and both were finished when I got back home.

The top drawing is a drawing that I wanted to make when I went to Amsterdam. I guess I wanted to make it before I went out there. I knew that I wanted to get at least one drawing of those old Dutch tall, thin houses along the canal banks. But, that's not all. When I saw this drawing in my mind, this is the style and these are the lines I wanted to achieve. And, that doesn't always happen. Sometimes, I have no idea where the pen will take me.

The second is a sketch I made at Erasmuspark in Amsterdam. I just added colour pencil at home. I shouldn't have bothered with the lettering though.


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23. comes a time...

 ...when you just have to stop pissing around, avoiding what needs doing, and buckle down to it.
 This girl, and bench, will be leaving for London VERY soon.
As usual, I've left ALL the work until the last minute, but there's nothing like a deadline to get things moving.
 Anyway, just thought I'd give you a little update on how this project is looking (excuse the poor quality photos).
And the poor quality words too. I've lost the power of speech. Still, just a week of sleepless nights ahead of me and then I'll be back to normal. Whatever that may be.

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24. How To Write Your Name


Lots of people tell me that when they buy a new sketchbook (especially something like a Moleskine) they get new sketchbook nerves; the fear of the blank sketchbook. I'm quite the opposite. I can hardly wait to get it home before unwrapping it and laying my pen on the paper - that is why I have a hundred unfinished sketchbooks, though.
So, with those of you in mind, and for all of you guys who are starting the new semester of Sketchbook Skool and getting your school bags ready, here's a little video that'll take away the fear. See starting your sketchbook as an exercise too. Hope this helps!

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25. it's a dogs life

Here's a little sketchbook drawing - the likes of which I rarely get the time to make these days.
Sometimes I long for those days when I was just drawing and blogging for fun. But then I remember that I'm making a living (just about) (ish) at it these days and what could be better than that?

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