Early Saturday evening, mid-August, Charing Cross Road, which I used to call my favourite street in London (there were more bookshops in those days). Also the place of too many Night Buses. This is Molly Moggs, a little pint-sized pub on the corner of Old Compton, which despite walking by a million times I’d never been into before, though I did pop in with my friends Roshan and Big Lee shortly after sketching this. Across the street from here is Macari’s music shop, which is where I bought my current acoustic guitar, back in 1996. London is full of old stories for me. Molly Moggs was named after a lady in a poem by John Gay, “The Ballad of Molly Mogg” (“The Fair Lady of the Inn”), about a real woman who worked at a tavern in the eighteenth century. From the decor inside it seems to be a very popular place for performances by drag artists, cabaret, burlesque type of thing. We didn’t stay long enough to see any, moving on to an old favourite pub of mine, the ever-unchanging Ship on Wardour Street. There was no more sketching that evening, just lots of catching up with good old friends.
(To see a bigger version, click on the image, or just move the screen closer to your eyes). It was a Saturday in the middle of August, and it was LONDON, and I was going to meet up with some old friends for a night out. So I went down to London a few hours early to clock another panorama into the sketchbook. This turned out to be my last London panorama, not getting another opportunity in the days before I flew back to America. I’ve wanted to sketch down this way for a long time, but it’s a complicated setup of streets. This is just off of Shaftesbury Avenue – the St.Giles / Covent Garden end, not the Soho / Chinatown end – where it meets Neal Street (on the left) and Monmouth Street (on the right). Monmouth Street then meets up with Seven Dials and all hell breaks loose, honestly. It’s a complicated labyrinth and one of my favourite parts of the capital. I used to dash through here on my way from the 134 bus stop to my Medieval English classes at King’s College. On this day there was some kind of festival going on down at Seven Dials with music and balloons and a food cart here or there. I stood on the corner and sketched as much as I could, occasionally giving directions to tourists (have you maybe wondered why several of my London sketches are done standing next to those handy maps with the yellow top that are dotted around the city? It’s because I can’t remember enough to give directions any more…). One young lad, an American, did stop and ask me, “Say do you know where I can find a pub to watch the Arsenal game?” Well you’ve asked the right person! I beamed, and gave him directions to a pub I knew would be showing Spurs. Not really, I didn’t really. As I say, I don’t know the answer, so I just sent him to the Intrepid Fox, a pub I know had actually closed down years ago. No, no I didn’t do that really either. I actually waved my finger Obi-Wan style and said “You don’t want to watch Arsenal. You want to go home and rethink your life.” Ok so back to the sketching. The two yellow-jacketed security guys on the right, they kept coming over to have a peek at my progress. So, I just had to add them in. Even though they’re impossible to make out who is who they both said “that’s me! that’s me!” and were very excited about that. One thing I like about doing panoramic pictures like this, you aren’t drawing a picture of something specific and small details can be a lot of fun, and when they are people they usually blend in and are generic but occasionally they can give a sketch an anchor, something to literally draw us as humans into the scene. Also, and more importantly, it meant I didn’t have to attempt to draw the stuff that was happening in the street ahead, so I was glad the guy was leaning on the barrier at that moment. This took me a couple of hours, including time for phone calls with friends, and I did manage one more sketch before meeting up for dinner. Here though is the map of where I was when I sketched.
Here’s one from Davis. To say I’ve been busy lately is an understatement. Yeah yeah we’re all busy, aren’t we, but I’ve been excessively busier than usual and my email inbox overfloweth too, so I’m trying to catch up there. I’ve not been sketching as much. I’m told that it is “Inktober”, but I’ve only just realised that it’s “OCTober”. October… yet the hot, hot weather has not gone away, not yet. However on one particularly galling day I just had to find a quiet spot at lunchtime and sketch. Admittedly the bus terminal at the UC Davis Silo isn’t exactly a quiet spot but I was too exhausted to go searching for somewhere more serene, and I didn’t want to sketch the Arboretum. I sat at a bus-stop and listened to my iPod (in fact I’ve been listening to “Rachel and Miles X-plain the X-Men”, a really fun and informative podcast about the X-Men universe). This is the back of Haring Hall, UC Davis, and well, that’s about it really. One of those lunchtimes where I just needed to sketch something different, though in Davis, I often feel like I’ve sketched everything.
Ok, more London sketches posted way after the fact. So if you were reading carefully you will have seen that on a Monday I sketched the Dublin Castle pub in London, and then the very next day I sketched a pub in the actual Dublin (not far from the castle, funnily enough). Well the story doesn’t end there. On the Friday, I sketched another pub in London, this one called…the Castle. Ok that’s enough doo-noo-noo-noo spookiness. This is the Castle in Holland Park. I came down to Holland Park to meet my friend Simon, who lives nearby in Shepherds Bush, and after dinner we came to this pub he told me about a while ago. I’d liked to have sketched the outside but it was too dark on this occasion, so we went in and we both sketched and chatted. I forgot to bring my chessboard; we usually like a game of chess when we meet, Magneto and Charles Xavier style (I’m Magneto of course). Hey look, the pub is on Twitter, according to the sign on the wall.
Join us in downtown Davis, CA, for the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl! It has been a while sicne I organized a sketchcrawl in Davis – a year, in fact, a very busy year – and so I have decided that this month (the busiest month, no less) is a good time to kickstart the sketchcrawls and join other local sketchers out on the Davis sidewalks!
We’ll meet at Davis Commons (1st Street), by the green outside Whole Foods, at 11:30am. We’ll then sketch in groups or individually around downtown before meeting up again at 4:00pm at the clock fountain at E Street Plaza, to share each others’ sketchbooks and see how we have all interpreted our town..
As always this sketchcrawl is free and open for anybody to join. You don’t even have to stay for the whole time, just come downtown and do some sketching! All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on.
Please let your other local sketching friends know. Hope to see you there!
(Click on image to get a bigger view) And now a return to posting, with something very special. While I was back in the UK, my family and I took a little jaunt across the Irish Sea to Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland. In case you were unsure. This was a big deal for me; my whole family is of Irish origin, with many of them being either from Dublin o having lived there, and the Irish thing was a big part of growing up in my corner of north London, in my family and community. I grew up around all forms of Irish music from the Wolfe Tones to, er, Daniel O’Donnell. I own a lot of Ireland football shirts, and a few Celtic ones too. I like my lemonade red. However, I’ve not been back to Ireland in a really long time. Seventeen years in fact, so I have long been overdue a visit. I have been told how much the place had changed in the past couple of decades, with the influx of money and the housing boom (and the subsequent recession), and they even have motorways there now. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Dublin, and my mum, who came with us, hadn’t been to Dublin in even longer. We were then very pleased to see that, yes lots of things had modernized and there were way more people and traffic than years ago, but it was still very much Dublin, there’s no changing that! One evening, my mum and I got fish and chips from a local chip shop, where a group of kids, aged about nine or ten, just started chatting away to us all friendly like about this and that, as if they’d known us for years; that was the Dublin I remember! It was my wife’s first ever trip to Ireland, and my son’s as well, in fact the trip there was all his idea. We stayed near the Liffey not far from Christchurch, it was nice talking with my mum about various great-grandparents that lived not far from there; we of course do still have a lot of family in Dublin but haven’t seen them in decades, wouldn’t know them now. We did a lot of walking about, there were crowds, but it was just nice to be back in Ireland after all these years. My mum and I joked about the characters that used to go up and down O’Connell Street years ago, long gone now. On the first night though, everyone was exhausted, so by myself I walked a block around the corner to the Brazen Head pub to do my first pub sketch in Ireland – my one and only sketch in Dublin, as it happened. It was a lovely place, too.
The Brazen Head proudly calls itself “Ireland’s Oldest Inn”, established in 1198. It has a pretty good claim too, and I’m basing that on at least one person saying so, so it must be true. The present building is from 1754 and the pub is referred to as far back as 1613 but it was built on the site of a tavern dating from 1198, apparently. It is said that Irish heroes Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins drank here (not at the same time necessarily), as well as literary figures such as James Joyce and Brendan Behan. Ah, I know this type of factoid from my London tour-guide days, the old ‘Dickens used to drink there’ story; Dickens drank everywhere, there was barely a pub he didn’t sink a pint in. I believe a lot of people came here though, and it is still popular – it was filled with a good mix of tourists and locals. I sat and sketched one of the bars (there are several bar-rooms) from a little table opposite. Live music wafted in from the bar-room next-door to this, There was an enormous amount to draw – for some reason there were a large amount of souvenirs from U.S. police departments (I can’t think of the connection between American police departments and the Irish). I had an Irish cider, which, given that my stomach was feeling very unusual all day, turned out to be a pretty bad idea. I finished up my intensely detailed sketch without adding any paint and wandered home (an apartment a block away) along the Liffey, feeling pretty sick. And I wondered, warmly, how many of my forebears stumbled along this very river feeling this very way (presumably after more than a single pint). I wonder how many of them were sketchers?
It feels weird that this ended up being my only sketch in Ireland, having waited all these years to come back, but it was a pretty busy family trip, we rushed here and there about Dublin and took the train down to the beach at Bray, and then flew back to London. I did go back to the Brazen Head the second night we were there with my wife to watch some of the live Irish music, a bunch of guys surrounded by tourists sat on bar-couches playing traditional music. Sure, the sort you get in Irish-themed pubs everywhere, but this was in your actual Ireland and that was good enough. This was a brief trip, but it was really nice to be back. And I even stocked up on my favourite chocolate bar, Cadbury’s Tiffin. Erin go Bragh!
Camden Town, ladies and gentleman. There’s no way to properly describe Camden, it’s just Camden. It’s grimy and tacky and great, and vibrant and awful and touristy and local and rough and everything, it is Camden and can be everything at once. Everyone in north London has their own Camden I think. I for one have a lot of personal history around here, nights out, days about, the odd gig, too many night buses, a good few birthdays, and of course my stag party. I haven’t sketched much around here, so I wanted to do a bit while I was back. I chose the Regents Canal, specifically Camden Lock, well Hampstead Road Lock. I stood, with the sun shining, and sketched the lock, as far as I could. I didn’t do any colour except the red cross of the flag. The clouds were rolling in, oh big black clouds, scary looking but not enough to stop me. And then, whoah, massive thunderstorm, super heavy rain – good job I got the ink done, because this rain was stupendous. People dashing about like mad things, and I took shelter in a doorway. When I added the colour later I left it as the luscious N1 summer blue sky, pre-tempest.
This is the Dublin Castle pub on Parkway, Camden Town. It is approximately 1994. No no, wait, it’s 2014, I got confused there. It’s easy to get confused, it hasn’t changed in the slightest. Well, maybe the price of beer. Anyway, I arrived soaking wet, having run through the rainstorm from Camden Lock (see the handy map below to figure out my route), to see if this old haunt had gone the way of the so many London pubs – gentrified, sanitized, or worse, closed. Thankfully it was still the same, though being the daytime it was practically empty. I got a beer (actually wasn’t expensive, for London) and sat and sketched the red interior. As I was sketching the big ‘Madness’ poster, I heard a guy talking to a woman at the bar whose voice was familiar, and it was in fact Suggs himself, the Madness singer. Now he does have a long association with this pub and this area (here’s his ode to the area) but still it was fun seeing him in there, briefly, especially as I was drawing his poster (he’s on the tube-sign one next to it too). Oh, this old place, many evenings were spent in here, back in the 90s and early 00s. Playing the Who on the jukebox. Talking Serbian poetry with students from Belgrade. Watching very serious unheard-of bands while surrounded by record company band-scouts. Getting my drink knocked vertically across the bar by bouncers steaming past quickly to conclude a fight. Dancing to Anarchy in the UK while my friend Tel threw up in the toilets. Yep, there’s a lot of social history in a place like this. I sketched here until the sun came out, before heading back to Burnt Oak for dinner.
And here’s the map…