early morning, norwich walk

Norwich Walk

Here is the last drawing done during my London trip this past summer; click on the image to see it in larger format. Well the last one I’m posting; chronologically this was the first one I did, but I only just recently remembered to go back and finish it (add colour, finish all the bricks). This is Norwich Walk, the street where I grew up and where my mum still lives, as drawn from my old bedroom window on my first early morning back in the UK. I was jetlagged of course so awake at ridiculous o’clock, with the window open wide and the bright dewy air softening the world. Of course our house isn’t one of the ones in this row because I was inside it when I was drawing, perhaps on the next trip I’ll draw the panorama from the other side of the road (but maybe not at 5:00am in the morning). This was my view every day for a few decades. I’ve drawn it before, in fact I recall drawing several felt-tip pen versions for my art homework back at high school. It hasn’t changed that much, but I remember when those driveways were all gardens; I think it was the Daniels family’s house to the right who made the first one, followed by ours, then everyone else followed suit. There are still a couple of front gardens left but not many, however there are no cars parked on the street any more. In my youth they were all parked on the other side of the already very narrow road. I spent a lot of time in that house in the middle as a kid, first when the Glennon family lived there, then when the Edwards family lived there. I remember when it got pebble-dashed, that was popular in the 1980s wasn’t it. One of my memories was just outside there when I got run over by a white van one Saturday afternoon. I was seven years old, playing with my friends Natasha and Simon, my Star Wars figures all over the front doorstep. This street was our playground, as were all narrow Watling Estate streets to the kids who lived in them. We ran over the road to knock for our friends Robert and Victoria. He couldn’t come out though so we went back across the street. I was going first, didn’t look where I was going, and then BAM, all I saw was white. Then I woke up on a couch with everyone screaming and crying around me, so I passed out again and woke up in hospital. They kept me in overnight; I was alright, had a big scar on my head for a while but I got some new Star Wars toys when I got back home which was wicked. I remember getting the AT-ST ‘scout walker’ and my big sister helping me create a landscape on the carpet with a blanket for all the Star Wars toys. I also got a card form everyone in my class, everyone except my friend Wayne who I sat next to, because as weird coincidence would have it, on that very same day he also got run over, but he injured his legs and was out of school for a lot longer. I was a lot more careful crossing the street after that, but these days it is much easier for kids to see oncoming traffic now that everyone parks on their driveways!

I sketched this in the panoramic ‘Alpha’ Stillman and Birn sketchbook (a great sketchbook that), before having a proper English breakfast with my Mum, and getting on the early tube to go and sketch Piccadilly Circus. I love that ‘first morning back home in Burnt Oak’ feeling. I wish I could get back there more often!

first street real estate

First Street Real Estate
This is First Street Real Estate, on the corner of 1st & D in Davis, sketched yesterday afternoon. We had just been to see Big Hero Six – amazing movie by the way! – and I had a couple of hours daylight to draw. I haven’t been out sketching enough lately due to an unusually busy work period (though I did just draw a big complicated space-themed advent calendar; I have been doing art). The sun goes down so early now that my windows of sketch-opportunity become smaller. Oh it’s nothing new, happens every year, and soon those pesky leaves will be off those trees and I’ll be able to see the buildings better. My best Davis stuff always comes in the winter-time, I feel.

Anyway I wanted to sketch this place because I have spent a lot of time there this week hanging many of my other sketches, originals and prints from Davis, San Francisco and London, for this month’s upcoming exhibit. They will be on their walls through the end of December (and available to buy), and this coming Friday, November 14, there will be a reception as part of Downtown Davis’s 2nd Friday Art About. I will be there between 5:30 and 7:30 along with some sketchbooks, so if you want to come and say hello I’d be happy to meet you!

boards don’t hit back

boards at the quad oct2014 sm

(Click on the image to see a close-up). This time of year sees a noticeable increase in the number of these wooden sandwich boards that you find all over the UC Davis campus. Most of them advertise fraternities, sororities, clubs, groups, chapters, paragraphs, commas, and other things I do not understand. There’s a sign that simply says ‘Join Alpha Sig’, so I thought, ok board, you told me to so I will. It is probably some kind of Canadian mutant super hero team. And then I thought, actually I had better not, Alpha Sig might be the name of some alien robot (it certainly sounds like it) whose mission is to enslave the earth, and I can’t be getting involved in that sort of nonsense. And then I thought, why would Alpha Sig, with his (I am just assuming he’s a he, thought it’s probably not a question I would ask an alien robot, “oh by the way oh evil one, oh actually nothing it’s none of my business, get back to destroying that city”) advanced alien technology, why use such an antiquarian painted-wooden form of communication, in this age of social media and facebooks and hashtags. By the way, young people of Davis, please don’t say the word “hashtag” in front of other actual words at the end of your sentences, seriously, just don’t. Not out loud. Speaking of which, all the while I sketched this I was forced to listen to a group of young people talking in that way they talk, those ‘conversations’ they insist on having, where one person says something and then another person and so on. I had no headphones to listen to football podcasts because they were broken (where was Alpha Sig and his/her advanced alien technology when I needed it? Painting wooden boards probably). There they were talking about young people things like going to class, partying, and how absolutely awful their one other room-mate who-isn’t-there-right-now is. Almost an hour of whiny nonsense. I know people have this idea that overheard conversations are great catalysts for all sorts of creativity but they’re wrong, because they aren’t, they’re just boring and you should avoid them always. And so there’s all these boards, colourful and inviting, wanting you to JOIN IN and be PART of them, and evidently they work because those frat houses dotted around the outskirts of campus don’t just trash themselves you know.

These boards are up on the north side of the Quad, next to the Memorial Union (and the CoHo, where I get my lovely Thai curry pho). I couldn’t be bothered to draw the rest of it.

brimful of davis on the 45

boy scout hut, davis

Last Saturday was the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, when hundreds of sketchers around the world embarked on sketchathons in their cities and towns. It was time for another ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl – it had been a year since I organized the last one – and about seven of us met down at David Commons and sketched about town all day, before meeting up again at the E St Plaza. My first sketch was of the Boy Scout Hut, above, which sits across Richards Boulevard on First St, with the ‘art garage’ in the background there. (It’s called the ‘art garage’ because there’s a load of recently commissioned murals and art in there now by local artists; not me though, my drawings are a little too small!). The Boy Scout Hut is no longer used by the scouts, but is now part of the John Natsoulas Gallery.

E St orange court oct2014 sm

I have sketched this stretch of E St before (above; click on the image for a larger view), but wanted to add this stretch of Davis to my collection of two-page full-colour panoramic spreads. Orange Court is an interesting little spot, which includes such local favourite spots as the Hotdogger, Haute Again, the Dumpling House (they still have the London Fish & Chips sign but I don’t know if they still do it; only ever ate there once, back in 2005 or 2006, it was ok but London fish & chips it wasn’t), and of course Sophia’s Thai Kitchen & Bar, whose curries are my total favourite in this town. Further down the street to the right is the Thai Canteen, who also do really nice food, quite different from Sophia’s, I especially like their green curry rice. Further down the road still are Sugar Daddies (they may be called something else now actually but it still says that in the window) who do amazing cupcakes and I love their Nutella Milkshake. Did I just say “Nutella Milkshake”? Yes I did, yes I did. Come to Davis.
yeti restaurant, davis
The last sketch of the day (because the panorama took two hours, and I only did about two thirds the colour, finishing off the rest afterwards), was this quick sketch of the colourful front of Yeti Restaurant. I left it in black and white, partly because I used a pen which I knew would run with a wash (the previous sketches were in brown uni-ball signo um-151; this was in the black). I’ve never eaten there, but it’s in a good location on the E Street Plaza. The remaining sketchers from the day met up near here to look at each other’s sketchbooks, and that was nice to see how everyone had interpreted the town. It’s taken me a week to post (what a week it’s been, this depressingly busy October can’t end soon enough), but I’ll be putting them on the Sketchcrawl Forum shortly too. Why not check out the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum, and see what everyone else in the world has been sketching? There’s a lot of great urban sketching out there!

By the way, here is the map I drew to give to all participants:

Davis map Oct 2014 full

And we had stickers too…

LDD sticker purple LDD sticker yellow LDD sticker blue

for a glance of my sweet molly mogg

molly moggs
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.
charing x road map

doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to

monmouth and neal streets sm

(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.

shaftesbury map sm

the live action shot

the live action shot

and the moment will come when composure returns

Haring Hall (rear), UC Davis
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.