at the edge of the ocean

Santa Monica Beach

I do like to be beside the seaside. One of my favourite places to be beside the sea is Santa Monica. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and checked into my motel before walking down to the ocean front. I didn’t actually go onto the beach this time, but I stood up on the bluffs and sketched a panorama of the view looking toward the famous Santa Monica pier. It sure was windy. The sun was shining bright, so I stood beneath a palm tree and did my best. People walked by snapping pictures of them self (if only there was a word for that sort of thing), speaking in all sorts of languages. Behind me, the city of Santa Monica bustled. It was a busy Saturday.

santa monica cannon

I drew a cannon, as you can see. This big cannon sits up on the cliffs, it actually reminded me of Mr. Nosey, of Mr. Men fame. He was green of course but had the same general shape (in the old version, not in the newer upturned nose version, I really hate that version, it’s my Jar-Jar). As I sketched, people climbed on to have photos taken of themselves with a big cannon between their legs, if only there was a word for that sort of thing. After this, I had to go and watch Avengers Age of Ultron at probably the most comfortable movie theatre I’ve ever been to, the AMC in downtown Santa Monica. Massive reclining seats!!! I want to see every movie there.

santa monica pier

I did come back down to the Santa Monica pier again the next day for some last minute sketching, and I met up with my fellow Urban Sketcher and Santa Monica local Shiho Nakaza. I first met Shiho at the 1st Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland back in 2010, and she introduced me to that amazing brown-black uni-ball signo UM-151 pen that I now use all the time. You can follow her sketches at shihonakaza.blogspot.com. We didn’t have long to sketch, so we went out onto the pier and sketched the view. The waves were wild in the Pacific, and the sun was bright and strong. I had to finish up quickly though because I had to catch a bus back to the motel, and then to the airport (I only just made my plane!). I still have more sketches to post though, from (spoiler alert) Santa Monica’s historic Main Street, and from Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

westwood ho!

westwood blvd
Short break in posting…but here are some more sketches from my recent trip to southern California. I was staying in Westwood Village, Los Angeles, which is a pretty nice neighbourhood around the slopes of UCLA. Apart from the rumour of a Sasquatch wandering about the place. A Sasquatch? In LA? I don’t know about that. I had gotten off the bus from Hollywood, and a middle-aged woman at the bus stop said to me, all concerned, “I’ve just seen something really weird, something I can’t explain.” Ok, that’s nice, bye. “No honestly, it was a large creature walking about, tall, really hairy, I think it was a Sasquatch.” I mean, this was LA, so I’m not saying it was impossible, but Sasquatches, well you think more of like the Rocky Mountains or Canada. Perhaps it was a Wookiee, I thought, but I didn’t say that, because I have a feeling she may have really thought that. I had just come from Hollywood Boulevard after all, where I’d seen Darth Vader, Spider-man, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and even bloody Deadpool, so Chewbacca isn’t out of the question. “Thanks, I’ll keep my eyes open,” I said and walked off really fast. The next day however I did actually see a tall hairy man, but he wasn’t a Sasquatch, as far as I can tell.

Hairy abominable myths aside, Westwood Village is a lovely place. The scene I sketched above was not far from the Fox Village Theater, a gorgeous old cinema built in 1931. Loads of people had lined up the night I first got there to see Age of Ultron, many in costume. On this morning though, I stood on the street corner sketching while hairy Sasquatch man passed by me yet again. I did start to wonder whether I was really seeing him or if he was imaginary, but I don’t like to think too existentially while I am drawing.  I liked wandering about Westwood Village. There was a really interesting candy store, with sweets from all over the world. On my second evening there, I went for a drink after dinner at Barney’s Beanery, which I chose because it was an enormously sketchable bar. Click on the image below to see what I was able to do while I was there. People were friendly, and I chatted to some folks at the bar once my sketch was done. There were some Indian dentists out having a drink, talking to me about the upcoming boxing match between Pacquiao and Mayweather, you know the one which was about a million pounds to watch but was ultimately – gasp gasp – not all that. I said I’d not seen boxing in years so didn’t really care about it. They asked what the last boxing fight I had seen was. “Rocky III” I said, which is true.

barneys beanery

And of course, a fire hydrant. This one however was sketched at 2 in the morning. After getting back to the hotel from the pub, I was feeling peckish, so popped down to the Denny’s on the corner of the street for a nice milkshake. I noticed this hydrant, with a very slightly different design to any I had sketched before (it has a slightly different top) so I just had to draw it. I’m officially a 24-hour-hydrant-sketcher. I sketched another one in the wee hours the next night too, but you’ll see that in another post…
hydrant westwood sm

pete goes to hollywood

chinese theatre hollywood
More from the recent trip to LA. After checking into the hotel in Westwood, I jumped on a bus through Beverly Hills and over to Hollywood. I am from Burnt Oak, ok, so this is pretty much the stuff dreams are made of. An aside, buses in LA are awesome. Most of them only cost a dollar and the various networks go all over the place. It’s almost like it’s a proper city! (I’m being silly, of course it’s a proper city, and that’s why I love it – being from London, LA feels a bit more familiar to me in its massiveness.) You hear all the time that LA is only for the automobiles, but as a tourist, the buses are really excellent. So anyway I went to Hollywood and walked up to the Hollywood Boulevard, where I had last been in 2002. Tinseltown, they call it, but I didn’t see any Christmas decoration shops. It is of course tacky touristy mayhem, mixed in with a fair bit of grime, plus a whole bunch of famous names on stars on the ground. Come on, that is why we go. I wanted to sketch the world famous Chinese Theatre, made famous of course in Iron Man III. Ok it was famous before then. Note the bus-stop, I wasn’t leaving that out. A red carpet was being set up for the premiere of something, a small independent art-house movie called ‘Hot Pursuit’ which I presume is about the sadness of playing a game of Trivial Pursuit in a house where the air conditioning just won’t work. If it’s not then hey, great idea for a film, here’s my script Hollywood, MOVIE DEAL PLEASE. I sketched while Marilyn Monroe, Spider-man, and Darth Vader walked by, people dressed as space aliens and hookers (to be fair they may have both genuinely been either), and the occasional massive group of Chinese tourists. I have included a handy map in my sketchbook to show where this is located. This is the first page of the new Stillman & Birn ‘Alpha’ sketchbook I bought a couple of months ago, but I’ve been waiting to finish my current sketchbook before starting it. Well, I couldn’t wait, so after this sketch I reverted back to the Seawhite’s remaining pages for the other sketches. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this, you probably don’t care. Unless you’re some sort of Hollywood exec who sees a market in blockbuster movies about drawing in sketchbooks. I can see the trailer now. “He was a Sketcher, on the Edge…” etc.

Hollywood map

“Draw the El Capitan Theatre!” they all said. “You gotta draw the El Capitan!” Yes, yes I should, especially as they are playing Avengers there (the opening night was that same night). It’s really hard, the way I draw, to sketch that big neon sign, so I jsut went for the bare minimum before abandoning it. Perhaps I’ll give it a better go someday. Perhaps. But this is all you get.
el capitan hollywood
Fire hydrants! So, when you travel, well when I travel, it’s always good to sketch some of the local hydrants. This particular one was painted red, white and blue (and yellow), as were many on Hollywood Boulevard. This one was located however right next to Walt Disney’s star on the Walk of Fame. Around me, star-spotting tour buses loaded and unloaded en route to peek at the gates of famous people’s second homes, while homeless people shuffled up to see why on earth I was sketching a fire hydrant. But this one’s a beauty, so I couldn’t resist adding it to my collection.
hydrant hollywood blvd

IMG_3773

I caught a couple of glimpses of the Hollywood sign up in the hills, but as the early evening pressed on I wanted to stop and rest my feet, so I popped into the interesting looking Pig’n’Whistle pub. I was going to have dinner (it’s a restaurant too) but opted for a pint and a sketch. The light from the street was pouring through the stained glass windows, but the itnerior was spectauclar – the ceiling was old and of ornately carved wood, it was like being in an old mead-hall, but with very Spanish-feeling decoration. Yes, I’d recommend stopping in here. After doing this sketch, I popped back onto a bus to Westwood, and had a late dinner before watching the UK general election leaders spouting nonsense on the TV in my hotel room. Happy travels!
pig n whistle hollywood

varsity, again

varsity theatre, davis
At the end of last month was the 10th annual Davis Feminist Film Festival. Unfortunately I was away in Los Angeles so I missed it, but I donated a sketch for their silent auction, and this is it. This is the Varsity Theatre, as you probably know, I have sketched it before once or twice. I sketched it one lunchtime and was so pleased that red Mini was parked in front. I have no idea if it sold (the auction was silent!) but it was fun to sketch. Of course, the festival didn’t take place here at the Varsity, but at the Veteran’s Memorial Theatre, so the sketch was thematically apt but geographically wide of the mark…

Davis Feminist Film Festival: http://femfilmfest.ucdavis.edu/

sketching UCLA

powell library UCLA
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Los Angeles for a conference with work. It was at the UCLA campus in Westwood, and I had never explored UCLA before, so I made sure to bring my sketchbook. UCLA’s campus is pretty big, but it feels even bigger because it’s got a lot of hills and steep climbs; I think if I worked here, I’d be a lot fitter. UC Davis is very flat, very bikeable, spread out but nothing too far from anywhere. I did get a little lost at UCLA. At one point, while wandering about with my map, one student did stop and help me out. I’m glad he did, because I was convinced I was in one place but was in fact in the complete other direction. I found my way around in the end. The conference was just for one day, and the workshops were short. One particular time slot had nothing relevant to me (except for one slightly interesting workshop that filled up immediately), so I took that opportunity to get briefly lost on campus before finding Royce Hall (below), an epic building in an epic location. I sketched away as quickly as I could, before dashing back to the next session, and added the colour later on.
royce hall UCLA
I did do some sketching during the workshops, but this one below was of the Keynote Speaker. This was the UC Academic Advising Conference, and the speaker was Laura Hamilton of UC Merced, talking about her research into the inequalities inherent in the university system in the US, and how we can meet the needs of underprivileged students. It was a fascinating talk and worth the trip down there alone. I took a lot of notes.
UCAAC 2015 laura hamilton
After the final workshop was over we all dispersed, and I headed back up to where Royce Hall was to do a bit more. I also sketched the beautiful building opposite, Powell Library (see below, and the top image of this post). I stood in the cool arches of Royce Hall, in this very tranquil spot. As someone who has sketched UC Davis rather a lot, it was fun to be able to draw a different campus in our UC family. UC by the way means ‘University of California’. These particular buildings date back to when the Westwood campus opened in 1929 (though UCLA itself is a little older). Here is a little history of UCLA: http://www.ucla.edu/about/history.
IMG_3846

And of course, a UCLA fire hydrant! Sketched at the end of the day on the way back to the hotel. I did quite a lot of sketching while down in LA, and am still scanning it all in, so stay tuned for more LA-themed posts coming up…
hydrant UCLA

bustin’ makes me feel good

Lego Hulkbuster!

Avengers! Assemble! Literally! This is the Lego Hulkbuster, the latest Iron Man suit to be made into the plastic brick format, and the centrepiece of the epic “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie that came out over a week ago. This was drawn in the sketchbook of my son’s toys and stuff, though this one is actually mine. Wow, that was a big film. It will need several viewings to get my head around it, so much was packed in. Eagerly anticipated in our household it was, but when the trailer first came and there was, of all things, Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armour. It was pretty much my favourite sequence of the movie as well. This is a great Lego set too.

I saw the film while I was in Santa Monica, and loved it. There is generally a lot going on withe the plot, and much of it sets up future films in the Marvel project (specifically the Thanos-centric Infinity War), but Ultron is a barking mad robotic villain. There are smash-smash-fight-fight bits (just like the comics), confusing bits (just like the comics), funny bits, crazy bits, even some sad bits. The best bit for me though was the Hulkbuster scene. If you’ve not seen the movie (or the trailer or anything to do with this film at all), then spoiler alerts, Hulk needed some taking down, and Tony Stark calls in the Hulkbuster armour. Smash smash smash fight fight smash, one-liner here, one-liner there, and don’t mention puny Banner; I mean it’s not Shakespeare in the Park but it’s enormous fun.

Next up in the Marvel movie train is Ant-Man, the one I am least sure about, and then we go deep into ‘Phase 3′ with Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel (oh yeah!) and the two Infinity War movies. Oh, and Spider-man will be in there too, now he’s back. Then the Inhumans. Plus a whole load of Marvel on TV/Netflix (did you see Daredevil? Maybe the best thing they’ve done yet.) In the meantime I’m reading hundreds of comics on Marvel Unlimited, and of course, playing Marvel Disney Infinity on the Wii U, and building great Lego sets with my son. It’s a great time to be a Marvel fan!

Except I was reading ‘Secret Wars #1′ last week and – spoiler alert – the whole Marvel Universe just ended…

wii u

My son's Wii U gamepad
Another one from my book of my son’s stuff, this is the Wii U gamepad. He got a Wii U for his birthday a few months ago as a present from his grandad in London (cheers dad!), and he absolutely loves it. Yeah, I kinda like it too! We have a number of games already, but the one he spends most of his time perfecting is Super Mario 3D World. I always loved the Super Mario games as a kid, but don’t remember getting through it all with such ease as he does (and I was in my teens; he is 7). When I was his age, I got my first console, a Philips Videopac game system, which was a bit like Atari, but wasn’t an Atari. It was cool though and had some great games, like Asteroids (I think it was called), Othello, um, loads of games. It was a long time ago. But I still remember the poster which had all the games listed on it, they were all so exciting, like Asteroids, and Othello, and you know, all the other ones. MUNCHKIN! That was the one I liked. It was a bit like Pac-Man, but wasn’t Pac-Man. No, Munchkin was way better than Pac-Man. There was one where you were a cowboy, and another where you played Ice Hocket, and thinking about it I might be mistaken about Asteroids, that was on a little hand-held thing I had (which was almost more sophisticated). The one I’m thinking of had red and yellow space-ships and ocasionally a crazy alien ship you had to destroy; Space Invaders it was not, but it was great. And actually Othello was called something else, Samurai or something, but it was pretty much the same as Othello, I think. Oh it was all brilliant, simple thick pixels, primary colours and black backgrounds. The games were impossible to find, however, except at the odd car-boot sale.

Not long afterwards, my dad got me a Coleco-Vision. Now the Coleco-Vision was a massive step up in terms of graphics and game-play. It also had this weird ‘joy-pad’ – not quite a joystick, it also had some buttons in case the need for typing ever came up. The Coleco-Vision was a huge hit though, even though we didn’t have many games. We had ‘Turbo’, which with the steering wheel and pedal was one of the best arcade racing games of its day; there was Smurf, which, well the less said about that one the better; Donkey Kong, which was the first real classic game we had, and finally Donkey Kong Jr. The last two got a significant amount of game-play in my bedroom, despite being really quite simple and not exactly full of variation in screens. You just jump over things and get to the top, get all the bananas or whatever, make it to the next screen, and keep going over and over again. And over and over and over again. And over and over and over and over again. Now it’s worth pointing out that all of this gameplay over and over again didn’t actually mean I was playing it, rather my older brother was. He was ten years older than me (he still is, to this day) and used to play it for hours and hours and hours, often with his mate or my uncle, usually sat at the end of my bed. Waking up at 2am on a schoolnight with my brother sat there playing ‘Donk’ as he called it. He also spent many hours in the chip shop in Burnt Oak playing Space Invaders, so he had more form than me. Despite the limited number of screens in Donkey Kong it never seemed to get boring; the idea was to ‘clock’ the game, that is score as many points as possible until the points counter was reset, without losing all your lives. I must admit I am glad the games nowadays are that bit more sophisticated.

Fast forward past my sister’s NES (original Nintendo) and my SNES (Super Nintendo, with many years of original Mario Kart), plus the odd GameBoy and Ps1, with a little bit of Championship Manager thrown in, and here we are in the modern age and I still feel decades behind. I’m not a ‘gamer’ and there are whole universes of online games and platforms I do not even wish to understand. So with this Wii U, with these amazing games like Disney Infinity (I’m becoming a little bit obsessed with building in the Toy Box), I am sure my son feels the same way I did when playing Munchkin back in the early 1980s.