Sketching at Mértola.

Every once in a while I just need to recharge my visual batteries. For the last three weeks my partner Esperança and I have been doing exactly that, roaming around Portugal’s Alentejo border region with Spain, in the south and east of the country. It is a part of the country we have not visited for over thirty years and at that time it was a rushed visit, so we decided to do a deep dive this time, working our way up from the south and then spending the last week in the beautiful hill town of Castelo de Vide, a few kilometres from the Spanish border.

5-6000 year old Dolmen in a farmer's field.

We have spent a lot of time in rural Portugal, mostly the north and east, land that I love for its boulder strewn landscapes, and old stone. There is something distinctly un-tarted up about the Portuguese landscape, raw and sun-baked at times, but with the history of millennia everywhere you look. A lot of peoples and cultures have made their home here for a very long time, with megalithic monuments dating back 7000 years. The Celts were here, and the Romans, Visigoths came and were assimilated, Moors as well. And all have left their mark on the landscape, giving shape to the towns and villages, leaving remnants still evident everywhere, especially in the sparsely populated border regions where time seems to stand still.

These trips are very important to me, a time to soak in the rich imagery, imagery that inspires so much of my comic book art. It is a time to leave my iPad and stylus at home and pull out my sketchpad and pens, to sit with a place for a couple of hours and record it in line on paper, study the shapes of trees and bushes, how plaster flakes off old walls, exposing the stone beneath. And when not drawing, just absorbing my surroundings, ancient stepped streets, crumbling walls, the dramatic landscape spooling out as we walk a medieval path that people have walked for centuries.

Here is my sketchbook from this trip, two executed outside our B&B across the river from Mértola, a sleepy walled village that was once a thriving Roman river port, and the others done during a glorious week spent in the centuries old Jewish quarter in Castelo de Vide. When we return home I will be throwing myself into the busy-ness of launching Quid Pro Crow (see details of the launch below) but at least I will be entering these weeks with my energy renewed and my visual batteries well-charged.

Quid Pro Crow to be launched at Take Cover Books, Saturday, May 18, 2023, 7 to 9 p.m.

So of course this is the big news, that the second volume of my Mordecai Crow trilogy, Quid Pro Crow, is landing in bookstores on May 18! That day I will be launching it at my favourite bookstore, Peterborough's own Take Cover Books, doing something a bit different this time. I will be giving a little talk about how the second book came about and sharing some of the pages with you. I really hope you can make it if you are in the area. The store is at 59 Hunter Street East in East City. Hope to see you there!

Quid Pro Crow at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Saturday, May 11, 2 - 4 p.m.

Signing books at the Renegade table, with my publisher,
Alexander Finbow at TCAF 2023.

I will be at the Renegade table again this year at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, signing copies of Quid Pro Crow and just generally hanging out, from 2 p.m. onwards on Saturday, May 11. If you are in the area drop by and visit - I would love to see you! This is a free event, held in the Toronto Reference Library just north of Bloor on Young. It's packed to the gunnels with indie comic book publishers from all over and with a full schedule of exciting workshops and panels.