After leaving Yosemite, we drove through Arizona and past some rather odd places including the Area 51 Alien Centre and Brothel (don't ask). The views were desolate, I'd never seen cacti so big before, we really were in the middle of nowhere for a lot of it. Passing through towns with less than 20 people living there, it was worlds away from home.
It was van appreciation day because the drive from Yosemite to Las Vegas was not a short one, but I really loved listening to Tame Impala and Foals on the radio and just gazing at the landscapes passing us by. A lot of it doesn't look real, more like the backdrop to a movie, I think the whole trip felt like that, like being in a movie. On our arrival in Vegas, the sun was glorious and after quickly getting checked in at The Golden Nugget hotel we headed out to check the place out. I was starving so I grabbed a slice (two slices which was a mistake and definitely too much food), it was delicious and a carb loading was needed as the night involved hitting the strip in a party bus. Fairmont was right near our hotel, the place was bright, bold and had some rather scandalous street performers that you couldn't really miss. I found a souvenir patch and headed back to my hotel room to get ready for the night.
What Happens in Vegas
Vegas is an odd place, I don't quite no how else to describe it, the difference between day and nighttime is unbelievable. Our party bus experience took us to the Vegas sign which was quite and emotional stop, as there was a memorial for all the victims of the recent shooting. Underneath the sign were hundreds of cards, flowers and gifts that it made it difficult to not get a little swept up in emotion. Next we drove to the Bellagio to see the fountains, these did not disappoint (the video of them in action is in my Trek Vlog on my Youtube Channel). They were breathtaking, the wealth in this part of Vegas was very clear, it's the location of Oceans Eleven and The Hangover (we did see Ceaser's Palace, not the real one of course) so you can't help but feel like you're surrounded by fame and fortune.
The next day I had plenty lined up, we hit the hotel pool which had a huge shark tank in the centre and a slide that went straight through the middle. After a morning lounging we were picked up in a Humvee to go to Battlefield, a shooting range for a few of us who had opted to try this out. I've never heard gunfire in real life and it was surreal to be surrounded by live ammunition, I couldn't have predicted the way it would make my stomach turn. Firing a Glock/ Pistol just like Lara Croft was something I have always wanted to do, but the reality is so much more powerful. After this we headed out for some food and onto the Stratosphere which overlooks the entire city, there's also a couple of rollercoasters on top of this tower if you're particularly brave (I wasn't). The views were unbelievable and it was a way to take a step back out of the madness of the city and just appreciate the beauty from above.
It Sure is Grand
We headed out of Vegas and towards The Grand Canyon, stopping by the Hoover Dam first to walk across it. This I hadn't been expecting, it was definitely a pleasant surprise (yet again the weather was on top form for us, so we welcomed the chance to stretch our legs). It's a very impressive structure and we walked across the state line from Nevada into Arizona to continue our adventure.
Our arrival into the Grand Canyon was unique, our Tour Leader Andrew made us cover our faces with paper bags to do a grand reveal. Holding onto the person infront, he led us towards the ridge (we half expected to fall of the edge somewhere), lined us up, and filmed us taking the bags off our heads. There had been some controlled fires recently and so the place was covered in smoke which made the whole place so atmospheric. It was definitely how everyone should see it for the very first time!
It's such a strange place, you know its big that's why they call it Grand obviously. However, until i was stood in the presence of the Canyon I could never have quite understood the magnitude of this stunning landscape. I've been in the forest before and mountain climbing, so as I said before Yosemite had this familiarity but not The Grand Canyon, it was unlike anything I had experienced before.
We got two days here, the first was spent walking along the ridge and taking plenty of photographs. We gathered the whole group together to eat pizza whilst watching the sun go down, a bucket list moment I didn't have on my list but it should have been there all along. The pizza was delicious but the view was better. Once the sun had gone down, we climbed back into the van and all spent the night playing Mafia around the campfire.
The next morning we split into two groups to go watch the sunrise, the more adventurous of us decided to hike into the canyon (it's important to note you hike down, so it's coming back that really tests you). At 5am we sleepily climbed out of our tents, threw some bagels into our bags and grabbed a quick campfire brew before getting into the van. This trip required we get a bus to our trail. The second group continued onto another point to sit and watch the sunrise, but our view would be a little bit more intimate. The hike down was very steady, we were so distracted by the views you didn't really notice how steep it would be coming back. One mile in we hit OOH AAH point, this was were we would stop with our breakfast and take it in. I had a hoodie on with the air being quite fresh but as soon as the sun hit the ridges, we all began stripping down our layers.
A couple of poses and after a clamber onto the canyon ledges, we knew it was time to climb back out the way we had come. We stopped briefly to let some cowboys and there herd of mules pass us by, quite a surreal thing to witness, and continued the challenging hike out of the canyon. It was definitely a good way to start our day, wide awake once we hit the ridge again there was a sense of achievement that washed over our little group. Not everyone will get to experience this place and that makes my heart sink because I know people who would have adored the place as much as me, and I hope they get to see it for themselves, one day. Whilst heading back to camp we did come across a couple of Elks, who in the heat were taking a sneaky drink from the water taps pools. I don't think I've ever gotten to be that close to a wild animal before, it was incredible.
Seeing the sunrise over the Grand Canyon after hiking to OOH AAH Point, was a memorable moment that stands out from the trip (it's in the top 3). I found myself enjoying getting lost in these moments, whether in the forest or the desert, being surrounded by natural beauty makes me feel a sense of calm I don't get in day to day life. Time doesn't matter, my problems don't matter, I just breathe and for a little while everything in life is perfect. It was very difficult to leave Arizona but we had to move on towards Route 66 and our final destination, Los Angeles.
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Inktober is all about going back to my creative roots (not tattoos which some people have thought). I've been into design since primary school but the tools of the trade have drastically changed! Where I once used a pen or pencil and a scrap piece of paper, I now use the entire Adobe Creative Suite, an apple pen and massive iPad. The results while much cleaner and colourful still all start out as doodles in my notebook, but nobody ever sees that side of it.
Inktober is all about this process, illustrating in the old fashioned (classic) way we don't see as often thanks to the rise of technology. Every day in October you are challenged to draw something that's it. Simple enough, they give you a set of words to work from (I don't think you have to if you don't want to but I've included them above), these are meant to inspire ideas! You could just draw something everyday that you want to but I think this makes it more of a challenge. Now, I don't get as creative as a lot of people, the amount of work I have on and projects all over the place mean I've kept my designs very small with sketchbook doodles. If you search on Twitter you will find some amazing masterpieces though, seriously I've been blown away with the quality of work.
Capturing a word with a picture is something I pride myself on being able to do. Words are meaningful, but illustrations in my opinion are so much more expressive and vibrant. The best part is that a single word creates different images in everyones minds. I may draw something you wouldn't have even thought of doing! It's so imaginative and inspiring to see how people interpret this creative brief, in their own unique styles. I want to do a whole series once the month is over and redraw the illustrations in my usual style of illustration to create a final set of postcard prints.
For now here's a little sneak peak into some of my inktober pieces so far...
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I've had my head down lately, with my sister and boyfriends birthdays coming up, preparing for my Trek and working... I'm sure you can understand writing about what I'm doing gets difficult. I have tons of posts saved but have yet to finish them so please bare with me! If you want to keep up with my daily activities my Instagram is the best place.
This post is a little update on my other creative projects, I recently set up my own page over on Thortful.com selling cards. I've always wanted to design greetings cards. I love browsing the stands in Paperchase of cute and quirky designs. These next couple of weeks are going to be very family and design orientated (sorry no more mountains or trips until America) with my portfolio needing a makeover and getting my current mountain of illustrations and designs in order. I want to get this all sorted before my TREK so I can focus on the content I'm going to produce from that (there's an exciting idea coming, if I can get the right content for it while I'm away).
I've added a bunch of stuff to my Society 6 page and plan to update the images on my website plus my Behance portfolio is missing my latest projects as well (as you can see I've fallen slightly behind). Maintaining a balance between work and social life is difficult as a designer because I seem to take on or create projects for myself, which then invade my weekends and evenings.
I've included a bunch of images showing some of the designs I have available (above) I've found this to be a good outlet for all my doodles, by actually turning them into something that has a purpose. The feedback I've had so far has been very positive!
For Danny's birthday, as he loves my illustrations (he's always giving me ideas) I decided to do a personalised one. Turning him and his dog Amber into Pop Vinyl Figures. The final result (below) I was pretty impressed with and since then, I've done one for my friend Becca of her boyfriend and kitten Luna. There's been a few people interested in these as prints to give as gifts and so I've got a couple more to be working on. As you can see my creative head is very firmly attached lately, I'm hoping it continues as I've had one of the most productive years of my life so far. (I even included the lego version of Danny because I'm working on a bigger illustration as a Christmas present).
Now the pop vinyl people are in progress, I've stepped back from the greetings cards to design my own family and friends personalised Christmas cards. I've started the festive shopping already, with gifts on their way! Before you know it my blog will be filled with boozy hot chocolate and market posts, home decorating tips and christmas fashion hauls. I can't wait to buy big knit jumpers and pom pom beanies.
I'm going to get everything up to date before I go away and then when I come back I'll be focusing on the Youtube content and writing up my diary from the whole TREK. Sorry, I'm a little all over the place but it's one of those months when everything happens at once. Hopefully I'll have my life back in order soon but for now let the chaos continue.
Feel free to check out my prints and cards (even better if you'd like to order some!). If you have a personalised idea in mind send me a message on my twitter or instagram and I'll get back to you ASAP.
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Last weekend, I took an unexpected trip back down to London (after just visiting a couple of weeks ago). Friday morning at 5.21am, I was sat on the train heading down to a place I’d consider my second home. This trip was for Carnaby Fashion Festival and with London Fashion Week taking place I took advantage of the sights to get some 'outfit of the day' style shots done.
We arrived in Euston at 8am, whilst most Londoners were busy heading to work on the tube, we walked from the station down to Benugo’s (next to Vogue House) for a welcome breakfast and spot of wifi. The plan was to get the action camera out as well as snap some colourful city shots for my photography portfolio (also known as Instagram). I began in Carnaby the amount of typography and artwork around this city is incredible, every time I visit I always spot something new, even in places I’ve been to a hundred times. There was a vibrant wall I noticed on arrival, painted with palm trees (not sure how long it's been like this), I took a little outfit shot in front of. Not going to lie I did look a little like a powder puff, with my pink fluffy top (Zara) and the Pom Pom trainers (Topshop).
Next I ventured into Liberty for a nosey at their Christmas section, only to stumble across their very impressive stationary section. I’ve been really into print illustration lately and found myself drawn to the huge selection of humorous and sarcastic cards on offer. After a good hour (or two) of window shopping, and a couple of Christmas baubles later, we headed down to try out the new Farm Girl Café! (I went here last time, but this store is brand new and opened the week after my last visit) I was served the most adorable chai latte (who doesn’t want a puppy with there morning coffee) while the place bustled with excitement for the following day of donut decorating and glitter roots!
A few shots later and it was lunchtime, so I picked Benito’s Hat (burritos, nachos, tequila & rum, what more could a girl want) you can't go wrong here! The food is delicious and for the price you get pretty generous portions too. We actually bumped into Josh Widdicombe, a comedian/ co-host on ‘The Last Leg’. He was so lovely, and it turns out I know where the cool kids eat (he features in my blog briefly). Whilst strolling down Oxford Street we came across so many creative displays. My favourite being Topshop! They had models walking the runway (mini treadmills to be precise) right in their windows. Every 15 minutes the models switched out and we got new outfits to drool over.
The rest of the day included a trip to Selfridge’s Food Hall (the most amazing peanut butter cupcake ever was found here) and more walking, snapping signs and typography. This often confuses people as I tend to find the more abstract or obscure things appealing to photograph, you won't find me snapping selfies in front of Big Ben. We headed to our hotel, after a food and fashion filled day. I was functioning on 3 hours sleep (thanks to a long shift and early train, bad combination) and it was certainly taking its toll on me. A hot bath and nap were both desperately needed! The hotel we stayed in was absolutely stunning, very old fashioned with ornate windows and staircases over one half and some modern décor used to expand the space in the middle (Crown Court Hotel).
More Issues Than Vogue
For the second day, I decided to do something a little touristy, while we were just a few stops away from Baker Street, it only seemed fair to stop by Sherlock’s house. There’s so much history in London and I don’t often visit the more touristy hot spots because I prefer to avoid the crowds. This is why I’ve never stopped off in Trafalgar Square since I saw it when on my first London visit, I prefer getting lost in the side streets and walking when I can, you can miss some gems by just hopping on the tube between locations.
I purchased a new pair of Autumn boots on my trip (it was fashion week after all so I needed to look my best), and took to chance to get another candid shot (shown top). The setting was perfect, a piece of board covered in ‘GUESS’ advertisement pages, some torn and peeled back, it created a very edgy backdrop for my outfit of the day. I didn't do too much shopping on this trip, it was more about capturing the city through its artwork and architecture, I'm at my happiest when I'm out snapping away, my camera in one hand and a coffee in the other.
Heading down Regent Street, I found Maddox Gallery off a side street, they had created a huge bouquet outside there window which could have made it easy to mistake them for a florist (I wasn’t the only person who stopped by to snap the stunning window display). We passed multiple street performers and singers who had more talent that I could hope to in that department (pretty sure I’m tone deaf), who just brightened up the city and showed the variety of artists that occupy the huge creative hub that is London. It was a particularly sensational Saturday on the streets, vibrant in the culture on offer.
I found potentially my new favourite shop for gifts called ‘Sass & Belle’, they offer the cutest little creative knick knacks and I left with an adventure notebook for my upcoming Trek (matching my passport cover I ordered from them online last month). It will be handy to jot down little comments ready to write my blog on my return from the states. Another couple of coffee breaks along the way, including a Starbucks (basic I know) stop off for the seasonal Pumpkin Spice (I even treated myself to the loaf cake this time). It was getting into the afternoon, my camera was filling up and we headed back to Euston to catch our 4.45pm train.
On the walk back to Euston I passed by a group of people painting a shop front in a rainbow of colours ‘Watch This Space’ in bold font across the front. I don’t know what shop is coming but I got very excited about the prospect. We got to Euston with an hour to spare, I filmed the people coming and going before it was time for the train journey home. I’ve said this again and again, London never disappoints! It doesn’t matter if you go with money burning a hole in your pocket (there’s no better place to go shopping) or if you go simply with a camera and some spare change for a coffee, there’s plenty to see and experience.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
With 23 days to go before Trek America I think the next few weeks will involve packing and staying up North for the time being. I plan on a trip to the Vegan Food Festival in Manchester this weekend, not sure how well that will fit in with my holiday diet but if it’s vegan it’s healthy right?
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Aby, 24. Northerner.