Tag Archives: art

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


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.

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

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.

behind hart

hart hall rear april 2015
Well, that was annoying. It’s the day after the General Election in the UK, and, well, what a let down. I did manage to vote this time, from afar, little difference that it made. Anyway, I’ve not posted in a while as I did a little traveling (and also, you know, lazy), but I have a whole bunch of recent sketches to post so I’ll have them online soon. I went to LA, sketching beaches, bars, buildings and more hydrants. I also sketched more toys at home. But this one, well, it’s a quiet moment of repose, sketched at the rear of Hart Hall UC Davis early last week. Back in the UK, five more years of the Tories, but this time without any Lib-Dem cling-ons. Sigh.

someone sang a song and i sang along

Bistro 33 Davis

I went to see Belle and Sebastian last week. That has nothing to do with this sketch, but I am telling you anyway. Now if you have followed my sketches at all you will of course not know that probably at least 75% of them were sketched while listening to Belle and Sebastian, except that I use lyrics from their songs as blog post titles with alarming frequency. They have a pretty unmatched residency on my iPod matched only by David Devant, and the various podcasts I listen to ( which are headlined by “Football Weekly”, “The History of the English Language” and “Rachel and Miles Xplain the X-Men”). But the Belle and Sebastians, they come up Most Played, and so when I saw that they would be playing in Davis at the Mondavi Center, I had to go. And it was a brilliant show. The Mondavi is a great venue, and in fact it was the first time I had been to a show there. Yes, in almost ten years – this was well worth the wait. They played an incredibly varied set, mixture of old ones, new ones, fast ones, slow ones, and the lead singer Stuart was actually really funny. My wife came and she loved it. She knew all the songs because, in her words, “they remind me of being in the car with you”. I actually started listening to them around the time we first met, back when we lived in France that one year, I had bought the Boy With the Arab Strap album at a CD shop in downtown Aix-en-Provence (that I used to go to like every day) and have made her listen to everything since. Really though, they remind me of my time in Davis. Their 2006 album The Life Pursuit had a really distinctive sound, and every time I play it, I am brought back to 2006, that first summer in Davis, the epic heat, the bike rides around town, my discovery of watercolour and starting to sketch everything a lot more. That album came out on the very last day of my twenties. The funny thing is, I hadn’t actually listened to it for ages. I wasn’t, for some reason, on my iPod where everything else they did was, even more obscure stuff. I don’t know why I shunned it, I think part of me didn’t want to be reminded of my first year here, when everything was so new, so different, exciting. Looking back it was a tough transition, settling in a new country. I worked two jobs to keep me busy, ploughed into my art, and when I think of that year I think of this album (this, and Mr.Solo’s first album which I also listened to endlessly). Now in my tenth year over here I’m older (and fatter), more cynical (yeah right, like that is even possible), I have a fast-growing son (I live in a house made mostly of Lego and Pokemon cards), I feel different. It’s only natural. So when Belle and Sebastian played a whole bunch of songs, LIVE, from that very album, songs that I absolutely loved (particularly “Another Sunny Day” and “The Blues are Still Blue”) I was brought right back in a great way: the people who actually came up with these songs are actually playing in this actual city. Yeah, I liked that a lot. As soon as I got home I dug the album out and put it straight on my iPod, mystified as to how I’d not uploaded it on there before. I love their new album “Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance”, there are some cracking tunes. “The Power of Three” is my current listen. So, a great show, an evening to remember in a really lovely venue.

As I say none of that has anything to do with this sketch, I didn’t even listen to them while sketching it (it was a BBC History podcast about Galipoli). This is Bistro 33 in downtown Davis, a restaurant based in the side of the old City Hall, a building which has been a fire station, a police station many things over the years but is now a restaurant with a pretty large outside seating area. I kept it quick because frankly my seasonal allergies have kicked into gear in an epic way this week, and on that Sunday they were starting to destroy me a little. I would not have gone out at all but that I really needed to sketch some stuff. This whole week has been a bit of a sneezing-induced ‘mare. I ended up escaping inside to the adjoined City Hall Tavern to de-pollenify, before heading home. I’m still sneezing.

wright here wright now

Wright Hall

This is Celeste Turner Wright Hall, a colourfully painted building on the UC Davis campus, home to the Main Theatre and to the Department of Theatre and Dance. Yes, that’s spelled “Theatre” not “Theater”. This building was named after Celeste Turner Wright, who was the first tenured female faculty member at UC Davis. She was also the first drama instructor on campus; you can find out more about her long and illustrious career here. This building was built in the 1960s and was famously photographed by Ansel Adams. In front there are a couple of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads called “Yin and Yang”.  I sketched it last week at lunchtime, furiously drawing as much as possible. but added most of the colour later. Oh, click on the image if you want to see it larger.

Hey I thought you might like to see this, the first time I ever sketched it, which was back in November 2006. I remember doing this and loving playing with all the paint, still actually one of my favourite Davis sketches, mostly because it’s so different from what I do now, but also it was still that first year here, still discovering everything. Looking back, it really took me a lot of time to settle in, even though I worked both on campus and downtown and explored whenever I could, riding around on my bike in the stupid, ridiculous heat. Well, I’m still here, still exploring.

2006 Wright Hall sketch