The Pictoplasma Festival kicks off today in Berlin. If you are a character designer, illustrator, animator, painter, sculptor, whatever, GO! It’s such an inspiring gathering of artists, and it feels like the whole city takes part in a wonderful celebration of character design.

I haven’t been to Berlin since the 2009 Pictoplasma Conference, when I went with my friends Jude Buffum and Jon Gibson for the ich bin 8-bit art exhibit we installed as part of the Pictopia Character Walk. Our friends Andy and Inga flew in from Belfast and helped us install over 10,000 Post-It Notes on the walls and windows of Neurotitan Gallery.

My bed in the artists residency flat in Haus Schwarzenberg

The Pictoplasma Conference at Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt

Graffiti wall with an original Miss Van piece

Me in the bathroom of Neurotitan Gallery

I could go on and on about how awesome the conference is, and how much I wish I was there with my friends right now. But, this is a travel/photo blog so I will try to stay on topic.

My measly budget was $400 for a 10 day trip. Thankfully, I got to work out a work trade for my plane ticket from LAX->Heathrow->Tegel Airport. Then Neurotitan Gallery so very graciously hooked us up with this amazing pre-war historic flat as part of the artist residency. Now the flat didn’t have a bathroom (it was 3 flights down in a nook under the stairs), the transparent shower was in the middle of the kitchen, the walls were concrete and I had to share the small space with my two manpanions. But I have not a single thing to complain about — it is actually one of my most favorite places in the world. I still miss the shredded curtains and the articulated metal insect sculpture that squeaked outside my window at night.

I was really lucky (and I’m very grateful — Vielen dank!) that I got a free plane ride and a free place to stay. (For you creative types, look up artist-in-residency programs in cities you want to visit.) Food however was an issue. Well, not exactly food, but water. A bottle of spring water was around €4.90-€5.90. While a bottle of fine German beer was around €1.90. Needless to say, we drank beer all the time. I mean, including breakfast. I actually love beer, so drinking it wasn’t a problem. But it doesn’t exactly go so well with an English muffin in the morning.

$400 was enough to get me through 2-3 meals a day and local transportation for 10 days, plus a couple of souvenirs and snacks for the plane rides back to the states. (Gummy bears aka Gummibärchen were invented in Germany!) I still had about $30 left over when I landed back in L.A. Pretty decent. I just tried to keep every meal at $10 or less. (It helped that service charges are generally added to restaurant and hotel bills in Berlin, making tipping unnecessary.) I ate a whole lot of currywursts and falafels on the cobblestone streets, and they were delicious!

Anyway, Berlin is truly an amazing city. It reminds me of what New York City was like when I was a kid, so vibrant and full of mystery. I’ve been twice already and I think it’s one of those cities, that if I had an abundance of disposable cash, I would consider purchasing an artist’s flat in.

One traveling tip though: the first time I went to Berlin about 5 or 6 years ago, Jen and I had the flu. Alas, most of the apothecaries don’t speak English. So the pharmacists would just shrug when I asked for Nyquil or cold medicine. (I later discovered that Nyquil is only available in the U.S. and the Netherlands for some reason, so now I always bring it with me on trips, just in case.) I wound up getting a small bottle of what might have been contact lens solution and we squirted it up our noses, hoping it would clear our sinuses. (It didn’t, but at least the Toblerone I got helped.) Still, even with that daunting experience, I love the damn city!

I took 80 bazillion pics while I was last there. You can see my photos in these Flickr Sets:

    1.) Berlin 2009
    2.) Pictopia – Pictoplasma Conference
    3.) ich bin 8-bit art installation
    4.) Joystick (Let’s just say this set is Not Safe For Work)

But I never got around to posting the pictures from my old Sidekick LX phone. I just unearthed them on an old hard drive, so here’s a set of never-before-seen pics! (I was traveling pretty light, so you can see my DIY makeshift tripod/light stand made out of a ladder and painter’s tape.)

Andy and Jude swoon over a dreamy German Idol, the Bieber of Berlin

For those of you in or near Berlin this week, be sure to drop by the 2011 Pictoplasma Festival and my friend Rilla’s exhibit and book readings for Her Idea. And if you’ve never been to Berlin before, definitely add it to your List of Places to Visit Someday. It’s one of the must-see cities of the world that I hope to visit more often.


    – Bring your own cold & flu medicine if you can, but if you don’t have it, Toblerone might help
    – You don’t have to tip at restaurants, it’s already included in the bill
    – Expect to drink a lot of delicious beer because water is apparently for wimps
    – Don’t expect cab drivers or store clerks to speak English, so bring a translator app or book, unless you prefer to mime things out
    – Turn off data roaming on your cell phone before you go abroad, or get an unlimited international mobile data plan for your trip
    – Be sure to use a lot of mega awesome superlatives in conversation, they totally love that there (okay, not really…)
    – The thrift stores are a great place to buy used leather chaps and studded vests, by the kilo
    – The women wearing ski outfits and fanny packs on the street at 3AM are not actually going skiing, like I originally thought they were

Here’s a toast to my friends in Berlin. I miss you guys and hope to see you and your lovely city again soon. Prost!