The First World War has survived as part of our national memory in a way no previous war has ever done. Below is an extract from Full of Hope and Fear: The Great War Letters of an Oxford Family, a collection of letters which lay untouched for almost ninety years. They allow a unique glimpse into the war as experienced by one family at the time, transporting us back to an era which is now slipping tantalizingly out of living memory. The Slaters – the family at the heart of these letters – lived in Oxford, and afford a first-hand account of the war on the Home Front, on the Western Front, and in British India. Violet and Gilbert’s eldest son Owen, a schoolboy in 1914, was fighting in France by war’s end.
Violet to Gilbert, [mid-October 1917]
I am sorry to only write a few miserable words. Yesterday I had a truly dreadful headache which lasted longer than usual but today I am much better . . . I heard from Katie Barnes that their Leonard has been very dangerously wounded they are terribly anxious. But are not allowed to go to him. Poor things it is ghastly and cruel, and then you read of the ‘Peace Offensive’ articles in the New Statesman by men who seem to have no heart or imagination. I cannot understand it . . . You yourself said in a letter to Owen last time that [the Germans] had been driven back across the Aisne ‘We hope with great loss.’ Think what it means in agony and pain to the poor soldiers and agony and pain to the poor Mothers or Wives. It is useless to pretend it could not be prevented! We have never tried any other way . . . No other way but cruel war is left untried. I suppose that there will be a time when a more advanced human being will be evolved and we have learnt not to behave in this spirit individually towards each other. If we kept knives & pistols & clubs perhaps we should still use them. Yesterday Pat & I went blackberrying and then I went alone to Yarnton . . . the only ripe ones were up high so I valiantly mounted the hedges regardless of scratching as if I were 12 & I got nice ones. Then I went to the Food Control counter & at last got 5 lbs. of sugar . . . It was quite a victory we have to contend with this sort of sport & victory consists in contending with obstacles.
Gilbert to Owen, [9 February 1918]
I have been so glad to get your two letters of Dec. 7th & 18th and to hear of your success in passing the chemistry; and also that you got the extension of time & to know where you are . . . I am looking forward to your letters which I hope will make me realise how you are living. Well, my dear boy, I am thinking of you continually, and hoping for your happiness and welfare. I have some hope that your course may be longer than the 4 months. I fear now there is small chance of peace before there has been bitter fighting on the west front, and little chance of peace before you are on active service. I wonder what your feelings are. I don’t think I ever funked death for its own sake, though I do on other accounts, the missing a finish of my work, and the possible pain, and, very much more than these, the results to my wife & bairns. I don’t know whether at your age I should have felt that I was losing much in the enjoyment of life, not as much as I hope you do. I fear you will have to go into peril of wounds, disease and death, yet perhaps the greater chance is that you will escape all three actually; and, I hope, when you have come through, you will feel that you are not sorry to have played your part.
Second Lieutenant Owen Slater ready for service in France. Photo courtesy of Margaret Bonfiglioli. Do not reproduce without permission.
Owen to Mrs Grafflin, [3 November 1918]
This is just a very short note to thank you for the knitted helmet that Mother sent me from you some time ago. It is very comfortable & most useful as I wear it under my tin hat, a shrapnel helmet which is very large for me & it makes it a beautiful fit.
We are now out at rest & have been out of the line for several days & have been having quite a good time though we have not had any football matches & the whole company is feeling rather cut up because our O.C. [Officer Commanding] has died of wounds. He was an excellent [word indecipherable] father to his men & officers.
Margaret Bonfiglioli was born in Oxford, where she also read English. Tutoring literature at many levels led to her involvement in innovative access courses, all while raising five children. In 2008 she began to re-discover the hoard of family letters that form the basis of Full of Hope and Fear. Her father, Owen Slater, is one of the central correspondents. After eleven years tutoring history in the University of Oxford, James Munson began researching and writing full-time. In 1985 he edited Echoes of the Great War, the diary of the First World War kept by the Revd. Andrew Clark. He also wrote some 50 historical documentaries for the BBC.
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I'm so honored to be able to show you this brand new cover of Karen's book. Karen has also graciously posted her tips to writing which is below the gorgeous cover!
Karen's Tips for Writing:
He Was Away Walmart-Exclusive Cover Reveal
and My Top Tips for Writing
Even When the Writing Gets Tough
My birthday falls in January,
just a few days after New Year’s Day. This
January, I received an incredible gift from my publisher, Sourcebooks
Fire. My young adult novel, While He Was Away, is being released
nation-wide into Walmart with a brand new cover!
When my editor at
Sourcebooks, Leah Hultenschmidt, graciously asked if I’d be open to this
possibility last fall, I blinked, breathed deep, confirmed I wasn’t dreaming,
and said, “Yes!” I held on to the
possibility until it became a reality.
Then, and only then, did I celebrate.
I won’t speak for all
writers, but for me, writing is an act of faith. I love the work deeply, or I wouldn’t do
it. I’ve generated a lot of pages that
have never seen the light of day, written multiple novels that I’ve relegated
to folders on my laptop. Keeping the
faith in anything, especially writing, can be hard.
The fact that Sourcebooks
believed enough in While He Was Away
to bring it to life the first time felt like a much-needed confirmation of
years of hard work. The fact that they
are standing behind my book again in this way . . . well, it feels like a
miracle. I’m truly grateful.
Without further ado, here are my Top Writing Tips
(they’ve help me a lot; I hope they help you in some way):
1. Read a lot. Read
voraciously. Read like a writer. Read some more. Read people who write in your
genre or in a style that is similar to yours and take note of how they do what
they do. Read people who write in a
completely different way to keep your head clear and give you new ideas. Just. Keep.
2. Develop a ritual
for your writing. I wouldn’t think of
telling you what to do. You need to find
what works for you, and sometimes that changes with your circumstances. This year, I’ve been working at an ad agency
in the city. My ritual is to hunker down
in the quiet car on the train and GET A LOT DONE. Previously I’ve written in the very same
quiet corner of my local library. In
basements. On couches. In bed.
By candlelight. I’ve found that
consistency and ritual can trigger my creativity. Ring the bell and I’ll salivate. Kind of like that.
3. Don’t be afraid
to be messy in your work. Don’t be
afraid to push forward even though it isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect! Embrace that reality, and be kind to
yourself. And forgiving of the words on
4. Fall in love with
revision. “I’m not a writer,” I once
heard a writer say. “I am a
re-writer.” I LOVE that. I love the word revision. Re-vision.
Seeing again, anew, as if for the first time. Revision gives great perspective. And I think it’s where the real work gets
5. Never give
up. Keep the faith. Years may pass. But the more you write, the more the very act
of writing becomes rewarding. Writing is
soul-work; it lends meaning to life.
That’s what I believe, and that’s what sees me through. Publication—well, that a wonderful
thing. But the writing—that’s where it’s
Not one, but two new blog editors! Alice Northover joined the OUPblog in January 2012 as our New York-based Editor-in-Chief. Social Media Manager here at Oxford University Press, you can also find her tweeting @OUPAcademic and Facebooking as Oxford Academic. Prior to joining Oxford, she worked in book publicity, annoyed colleagues about social media, argued semantics, and fantasized about running away to Paris and living as a late 1950s “intello.” Now she can be found wandering aimlessly around New York, obsessing about her cat, and still arguing semantics. And now on to a quick self-interview for you blog readers… –Herself
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading Is That a Fish in Your Ear? : Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos, which I picked up entirely because I saw the book trailer a few months ago. I’m a bit of a word nerd, which only got worse when I studied French and made a brief attempt at becoming a translator. When you come across a word that stumps you, just stealing that word into English feels incredibly satisfying.
Which word do you have to look up in the dictionary repeatedly?
I can’t remember. Why do you think I have to look it up so much? I’m fairly certain it begins with “p.”
What weird things do you have in your desk drawer?
I haven’t built up a drawer full of weird objects yet, but I do have band aids (“plasters” to our UK readers), lavender hand cream, nail clippers, and some heel inserts. I have two pairs of shoes in my filing cabinet and no files.
What do you look at on the Internet when you think no one’s watching?
I have an irresistible urge to look at slideshows of celebrity dresses after awards ceremonies. I’m very ashamed of this habit.
What’s your favorite bookstore?
A tough decision in New York — we have so many great bookstores. I’ve loved St. Mark’s Bookshop in the Village since my days at NYU. It’s small, friendly, and “curated” as people like to say when justifying the existence of independent bookstores. I’m also very fond of Book Culture on the Upper West Side, my go-to place for esoteric academic titles on Persian military garb or Byzantine political history.
If your friend were visiting NYC, what is the one thing they should do while they are here?
Go for a walk along the High Line, an old elevated freight rail line that has been converted into a public park. Walking among wildflowers while three stories up between (and sometimes under) buildings gives you an entirely different perspective on the city. And it seems crazy, but New Yorkers walk differently on the High Line. They stroll.
Which book-to-movie adaptation did you actually like?
I enjoyed the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Swedish films (haven’t seen the American one yet). One quibble: The second book has a killer closing line; why didn’
In celebration of National Picture Book Month and Veteran’s Day:
Give a Military Family a Free Book
11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph book
In celebration of National Picture Book Month and Veteran’s Day and to honor of our military families, download and give a free children’s picture book
to a military family.
THE STORY: “11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph”
When her father goes soldiering for a year, a girl decides that without Dad at home, it’s not a family photo album. Though her beloved Nanny is in charge of the album that year, the girl makes sure that photographs of her never turn out well. Photos are blurred, wind blows hair in her face. April rains bring umbrellas to hide behind. Halloween means a mask. This poignant, yet funny family story, expresses a child’s anger and grief for a Dad whose work takes him away for long periods of time. It’s a tribute to the sacrifices made by military families and to those who care for children when a family needs support.
THIS STORY IS A WINNER!
In conjunction with “The Help
” movie (www.thehelpmovie.com), TakePart.com
(www.takepart.com/thehelp) recently sponsored three writing contests: a recipe contest, an inspirational story contest and a children’s story contest. TakePart
is the digital division of Participant Media which aims to bolster a movie’s audience with a message of social change. THE HELP movie campaign emphasized the role of stories in people’s lives.
Notice: This site and the story are not endorsed by or affiliated with TakePart, LLC or the motion picture “The Help” and or its distributors.
READ THE BOOK!
Darcy Pattison’s story, “11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph” is the winning children’s story. It is a free download at www.takepart.com/thehelp, or download it here (pdf download).
You can also order it for your:
Read more at www.11WaystoRuinaPhotograph.
PLEASE pass this along to anyone who might know a military family or to anyone in the military that you know.
By: Maryann Yin,
Blog: Galley Cat (Mediabistro)
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To honor our veterans today, we’ve collected links to share books with our troops.
The nonprofit E-Books for Troops will help you share your used Kindle with our troops overseas.
Through Operation Warrior Library, writers share hundreds of books with military personnel overseas.
A Story Before Bed offered 100,000 free story recordings for our troops–military parents can produce videos of themselves reading a story to their children.
Finally, the Kindle community has setup a discussion thread entitled “Happy Veteran’s Day!!”
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra
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G.I. JOE , THE 'REAL' ONE DISCUSSES THE MOVIE WITH HIS NAME IN IT
BY Eleanor Tylbor
After a stressful period of being relegated to a toy factory along with his love, BARBIE and her ex, KEN, the real G.I. JOE is quite upset that a movie has been made using his name as a draw. In a hastily called press conference, G.I. JOE with BARBIE by his side in his words, "wanted to clear the air."
"This is really bisrusting," G.I. Joe blustered waving his trusty machine gun in the air to emphasize his emotional angst. "They've gone and used my name and they didn't even ask me if they could!"
"Disgusting, Joe" the designer-dressed Barbie commented, smoothing her body-fitting dress and smiling for the photographers.
"You said, 'bisrusting'. There's no such word as bisrusting," Barbie emphasized, fixing her blond, vinyl hair and cleaning her teeth with her finger. "It's disGUSTING."
"Yeah! You're right on, babe! It is disbust...disrust...whatever she said! This G.I. Joe movie thingie isn't even a real person, like me. It's a military unit! Nobody bothered to ask me, a gen-u-ine soldier if I wanted to be in it. I would'a liked to, 'ya know!"
"Um...GI - remember you lost a foot when we busted out of the warehouse," Barbie interrupted the rant. "
"So? I could have sat at a table or something and held down the fort! Nobody would'a noticed." G.I. explained. "On top of it all, some dudes who call themselves Duke and Ripcord got jobs! But not me, G.I. Joe, the original soldier. It ain't fair!"
"I'll tell you what's not fair," Barbie intervened, "to have to walk on tippy-toes all your life, like me."
"Yeah - you're right as usual, babe. That's much worse than having your leg shot off. Hey - wanna go see the movie with my name in it? I got free tickets."
Placing a crutch under one arm and leaning on Barbie with the other, the pair left the room.
"Do you have to lean on me so much?" Barbie commented. "You're crushing my hair."
Noralee Frankel is the Assistant Director, Women, Minorities, and Teaching at the American Historical Association. Her new book, Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee, is the biography of a woman who was constantly torn about her choices as a beautiful and intelligent woman immersed in the burlesque world. In the original post below Frankel looks at Gypsy’s patriotism.
Gypsy’s greatest triumph as an entertainer was not her performance at Minsky’s, at the World’s Fair, or even on Broadway; but her tours of military bases beginning during World War II. In December 1943, she hitched up her trailer to her car and drove from New York to places like Fort Bragg, North Carolina, haggling with gas rationers along the way.
Gypsy encouraged soldiers’ participation in her act, even though their contribution brought more rehearsals and a less polished show. One Friday night, Gypsy performed for Army Air Force pilots in training at Gunther Field, Alabama. Her number “Gimme a Little Kiss” depended on at least three volunteers. Another number, “I Don’t Get It,” included Gypsy and the Gunther Field Rockettes. With Gypsy supplying the costumes, soldiers dressed as strippers. The program indicated that Gypsy’s performance with the enlisted men was the first time the post had staged their own show. At Bergstrom Field in Austin, Texas, the male chorus line wore costumes with heart motifs and GI mops for wigs. Gypsy donated one of her outfits to a soldier who impersonated her amazingly well in a show entitled “This Is the Army.”
Gypsy also liked to parody gender roles in these skits and acted as the sexual predator against a poor, helpless enlisted man. In the scene, Gypsy took a soldier out on a date and then she would try to convince the soldier to let her come into his home. The soldier demurred, remarking on the lateness of the hour. When Gypsy tried to kiss him, he exclaimed, “Certainly not! I’m not that kind of boy!” He insisted, “I’d hate myself in the morning.” Gypsy responded that she loved him “like a sister.” The soldier retorted, “My sister never looked at me like that.” A military police officer misreading the situation once assumed the soldier had been bothering Gypsy. He ordered the soldier to move along.
In 1951, Gypsy wanted to perform for troops stationed in Germany while she was touring Europe, but the army refused, probably because she was blacklisted from TV and radio for her political views a year earlier. By the mid-1960’s, Gypsy was back in good graces and off she went to entertain soldiers, as she had 25 years earlier, only this time in Vietnam.
In her fifties, she no longer performed, but still thought of herself as a “sexy grandmother.”
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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BARBIE, KEN & THE REST IN PLASTICVILLE
(the continuing saga of life among the plastic people)
by Eleanor Tylbor
Our story so far:
EXILED IN A WAREHOUSE DUE TO AN UNFORESEEN PRODUCT RECALL, THE PLASTICVILLE CREW WERE UNDER SEIGE BY A DEMOLITION COMPANY, SENT TO CLEAR OUT THE WAREHOUSE
(struggling to lift the lid of her box)
Somehow...we've...got...to...show...that...we're...here. Can't...move...this...top. If...only my...legs...would...bend...
Stop your moaning, soldier! You're part of the proudest fighting machine in the nation! Ten-shun!
Earth-to-G.I. Joe! Earth-to-G.I. Joe! Knock-knock! Anybody home?
Who's there? Anybody-home-who? Love 'em knock-knock jokes! Go on - tell me the punch line
No Joe - it's not a knock-knock joke. It's not funny one little bit! Like...we gotta find a way to tell those people we're here or else it's curtains for us
Surf's up! I hear it and the smell of salt water!
Ken...Ken...Ken... What you hear is the sound of heavy equipment and the smell of gasoline. Get a grip!
Yeah - get a life soldier sissy-boy! (sniffing) I just love the smell of gasoline in the morning! Hey soldiers - I think I got me an idea. I'm not quite sure yet but I feel something happening in my head. Wait a minute... Yeah - it's definitely an idea. Sometimes it's just dandruff but this time it's an idea...
Oh Gawd! We're gonna die!
(ALL THE BARBIES', KENS' AND GI JOE'S' IN THE BOXES, ECHO KEN'S WORDS)
BARBIES, KENS, GI JOES (TOGETHER): 'We're gonna diiiiie!'
Ssssssh - quiet - everyone! The enemy is near! They think we can't hear them but I can. I've been trained to hear enemy talk. These aren't your run-of-the-mill, every-day, plastic ears, y'know! Keep your mouths shut and for gawd's sake - youze all, stop your snivelling! I can hear them... They're saying: 'Blow this place sky high!' I gotcha, you bastards! You ain't gonna get away with it! G.I. Joe is gonna blow us all to kingdom come! I got me one last grenade and...
No! Please! Listen to me, Joe! Babe! Soldier boy!
We're all gonna diiiiiie! I'm too young to die. I still got a lot of surfing to do!
KEN:(sung to: "Lot of Livin' to Do")
There are waves, just right for some surfing,
And I'm gonna get me a few,
Lots of curls waitin' in Hawaii,
Oh I got a lot of surfin' to doooooo!
Oh Ken - I love it when you sing! I almost forgot what a good voice you have
I know. Remember when I tried out for American Idol but they wouldn't let me sing to my surf board? Damn Simon! Damn Brits! What do they know about surfing? Oh babe! If only I could touch you! Remember how we used to watch the waves from your beach house, holding hands? The tips of our plastic fingers touching each other. It was magic! Waves came in...and then went out... Came in...and went out...
I get the picture. That seems like centuries ago! Oh why, oh why, must we deserve this fate?
Hey! As long as I got my one leg and arm - I'm gonna save us all! And don't forget I still got my teeth
...we don't have teeth, G.I....
Oh yeah. I knew that. Well...anyway. All I haf'ta do is pull this here string with my one good toe... And... Just a minute now...I'm almost there
No! Stop! You'll blow us all to bits!
Almost there...I got the end... just pull...
(SUDDENLY, THERE IS A HUGE BANG AND EXPLOSION. ALL THE BOXES AND THE LIDS FLY UP IN THE AIR)
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Surf's up!
My-my wardrobe! It's ruined! My life as a fashion icon is over! I am no longer the fashionista that everyone looks up to... The Bratts win in the end
Told you I'd get us outta here, babe! Look - there's my jeep down there! We're as good as free, babe!
(AS THEY SLOWLY FALL TO THE GROUND, ONE CAN ONLY SPECULATE AS TO WHERE THEY WILL END UP NEXT. WILL THEY BE FREE AGAIN OR ARE THEY FUGITIVES FROM JUSTICE?)
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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BARBIE, KEN AND THE REST IN PLASTICVILLE
BY ELEANOR TYLBOR
The continuing and sometimes funny, sad but always interesting story about life and love among the plastic people)
The story so far: Barbie, famous fashionista and media doll celebrity and cyber star of the continuing cyber soap opera, BARBIE KEN AND THE REST IN PLASTICVILLE, has now been relegated to a warehouse, somewhere, along with her friends, KEN, G.I. JOE, BLAIN, the BRATZ, due to a product recall. In stark contrast to their former lives of wearing expensive high end clothes and doing the club scene, they are now in the dark in the true sense of the word, stashed away in boxes.
As we pick up the story, they are in the midst of planning a rebellion to draw attention to their plight and get free in time for the Christmas rush.
Okay. Can we get started? Is everyone here?
Oh I’m here babe! Big time! All I gotta do is flip the trigger on this here weapon of mass destruction and then… Boom! We’re outta here big time!
Joe, Joe, Joe… Get this through that thick plastic blob sitting between your shoulders…
…I love when you talk dirty like that babe…
BARBIE…whatever. Like...has it hit you yet you are lying down flat on your back in a cardboard box, unable to move?
Has what hit me? Nothing hit me! At least I didn’t feel nothing… Uh-oh - it's the enemy planning to strike and I gotta act like…fast and protect youze all! All I hav'ta do is pick up my weapon here... Arm - move! It's gonna move now... I...think...I...feel...something cold...in...my...hand...
Like...just forget about your weapon. 'Kay? Focus Joe - focus!
I'm...not sure of...what...this is... I don't remember...them...making weapons with long tails. Then again...a soldier has'ta be prepared for everything and I'm the best, y'know
You’re a legend in your own mind. Ken? Are you around, here, somewhere?
I-I’m scared, Barbie! It’s so…dark here. And...and I'm soooo cold... Why am I so cold, Barbie?
'Cause it's winter and you're wearing your surfing outfit! You don't have to be scared. I'll protect you
Hey! That’s a soldier’s job!
Listen G.I. – like…let me lay it on you the way things are. You are stuck in a cardboard box along with the rest of us
Hey! A soldier is never stuck! A soldier always has options!
Mommy! I want my mommy!
Oh shut your trap, sissy boy! Act like a man and not a cry-baby for pete's sake! ‘I-want-my-mommy…’ This man’s army would make a man out’ta you. Ten-shun!
Like…how did this happen? Me, a former fashionista whose biggest problem was what outfit to wear and which club opening to be at? Look at what I’m reduced to? Can we get on with this meeting? Blain? Are you around somewhere?
Here! Trying…to…lift…this…top… Forgetaboutit. When I was in Australia…
There he goes again, talkin’ about that there strange soundin’ place ‘Stra-li-a! ‘Stralia this and Stralia that.’ We don’t care about your weird sounding place with a foreign name! Got that? Or maybe you need a little convincin’ with some lead…
Don’t listen to him, Blain. Like…his elevator don’t go to the top floor if you get my drift. Can we start now? Like…Christmas is almost here and like…we gotta be on the shelves in toy stores or we’ll never be here…forever! We hav'ta make our move, now
(sound of sobbing coming from KEN’s box)
There he goes again. ‘Wa-wa-wa!’ Be a real doll for once in your life, soldier! Ten-shun!
Know what’s really sad?
I’ll tell you what’s sad, babe! I could run out’ta bullets!
Like…I’ve been wearing the same outfit for like…months! I mean, a fashionista like me deserves better! And…and…nobody will wanna buy me because my beautiful blond hair will be flat and…and…
It’s okay. In my eyes, Barbie – you’ll always be the most beautiful sheila around
What’s that? Who’s Sheila? Did he make a pass at you, babe? ‘Cause if he did…
Oh Blain! If only…if only…we weren’t stored away in boxes and…and…we could like…reach out and touch each other…
We have to make a big push to get out. What if your friend, Joe, there, could shoot himself out of his box and then he could do the same for us…
Like…I dunno. The last time he fired his weapon, he shot his right foot off
Hey! You promised that would be our secret. Did I cry, huh? Did I? No I didn’t because I’m a real soldier! Not like sissy-boy over there… Anyway, I still got one good foot
Listen – we don’t have much choice, here. Um…G.I. – we need your services as a soldier!
Like…I dunno. I’m getting a bad feeling about this
QUESTION DU JOUR: WILL G.I. JOE BE ABLE TO FREE THEM FROM THEIR CARDBOARD PRISONS? MORE TO THE POINT, WILL THEY SURVIVE? STATE TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF “BARBIE, KEN AND THE REST IN PLASTICVILLE”
These are a bit more worked up, as you can see a few characters are from my sketchbook. Any feedback gratefully received!
I started messing around in Photoshop this evening painting a sketch of the pop star Pink I posted here earlier. I'm normally a vector guy, so I'd be really curious to hear any thoughts from some painters out there on my progress (or lack thereof).
Thanks in advance.