One of the missions I set myself was to draw old pubs in Soho. Pubs…they are a dying breed these days. Remember pubs? they’ll say one day. Pubs were great. So many are closing down, old ones like the Nellie Dean, an old favourite of mine, and those that remain are often modernising, sterilising, losing their uniqueness. I say that, but still I managed to find many great old pubs in London, and people still drink a lot, despite the massive hikes in the price of a pint. Wow, beer is dear now. But for me its the existence of the pub, and the old architecture of the British public house, that I’m drawn to (I actually don’t like a lot of beer in London these days, I prefer the brews of the west coast of America). While back, I did stop by an old favourite, the Ship in Wardour Street, for a great evening. This pub, The Lyric in Great Windmill Street (http://www.lyricsoho.co.uk/), sits on the cusp of Theatreland, and while I’ve never actually been in I have walked by many times wanting to sketch it. So on my first day back I made sure I drew it. I stood opposite on an extremely narrow pavement while delivery vans stopped and started and a local workman, presumably some sort of security guard, I wasn’t sure, stood chatting away on the phone the entire time, joking with his colleague about something called a “jelly cab” whatever that is. He was friendly, and asked if I was an architect, I said no, they work longer hours than me. I did most of the inkwork and some of the paint, but finished off the paintwork later. It is nice taking sketches home to colour in, it gives me more time to sketch other things! Which I promptly did. Anyway I am very pleased with the result and here is another London pub added to my collection. I love Soho.
I’ve been away for a little while…but now I am back. Jetlagged, with lighter pockets. For just over three weeks I was back in my native city of London to see family and friends, and to feel like a tourist. I even organized a sketchcrawl. I did a LOT of sketching, so I will undoubtedly be scanning and posting for the next month or so, but it’s about time to get started already. On my first morning in London, I awoke bright and early (well it was not quite bright yet), did a panorama sketch of my old street from my old window (to scan and post later), and hopped on a train down to Piccadilly Circus, the crazy traffic and tourist filled pulse in the middle of London. I generally dislike Piccadilly Circus, especially now that there are no big record stores worth going there for, but they do have that big Waterstones bookstore a little further down Piccadilly, and of course they have Lillywhites. That is a huge sports store, to which I primarily go to look at the massive collection of football shirts (you may not know this, but I’m a football shirt nerd, oh you did know? Oh yeah, see all my previous posts this summer…). I got down there early, before it opened, and took a spot outside their big windows to sketch the Angel of Christian Charity, also known as the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, but known to Londoners and sign-posts as Eros. I usually avoid this spot due to overcrowding but at this time of the morning it was immeasurably more pleasant. I sketched in a large spiral-bound Stillman and Birn Alpha book, and stood looking towards Regent St and Shaftesbury Avenue. After a while, some police officers showed up, dressed in bright yellow overcoats. They were just hanging around, and then more came. Some photographers also started gathering, and then more police, and then two officers mounted on horseback, all in a jovial mood, all happy to pose with tourists. There must have been over forty police officers there, and they all stood together and said “cheese, guv” and had their photo taken in front of the statue (“Ello, ello, ello, what’s goin’ on Eros then?” I nearly quipped). I had alreayd drawn most of it by then but I did add a couple of coppers for good measure. A young woman from Germany, holidaying in London, stopped and watched me sketch for a while, even sitting down when I crouched over to add the paint. I was in a good mood for my first out-and-about sketch in London, and when I was done I said goodbye to the circus, popped into Lillywhites to look at all the new football shirts, and set off to sketch the narrow dusty streets of Soho.
One of the buildings in Davis I have sketched a few times is the Dairy Queen, on 5th St. The DQ was very popular here, with its iconic sign, a place to take grandkids for an ice cream, and I even sold a couple of my sketches of it. Finally of course, it closed down, and the site has been bought by a developer. However, the developer has not torn the whole thing down, as you might expect, but has kept the shell of the building, specifically its iconic curving roof. I can’t wait to see how this ends up. When I heard about this recently I took myself back up to this spot on 5th St, which I never pass as much any more now I live in north Davis, and sketched from across the road. Goodbye Dairy Queen. I’ll probably sketch this site again before they’re done redeveloping.
By the way, here’s how it used to look…
Sketchers of London! I would like to invite you to join me for another sketchcrawl on the streets of Britain’s capital on Saturday, August 2nd. I’ve organized a couple of sketchcrawl events in London over the past couple of summers, last years being themed upon the Whitechapel of Jack the Ripper, and this year I wanted to indulge my life-long love of the London of Sir Christopher Wren, the late seventeenth century architect and scientist and the genius behind St. Paul’s Cathedral.
We will start at 10:30am at the base of The Monument (nearby Monument tube), and from there we will sketch solo or in groups (as you prefer), taking in as many of the great Wren’s buildings as we can fit on our pages, before reconvening by the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Wren’s masterpiece, at 4pm, to look at each others’ sketchbooks. From there we may have a quick pint at the Old Bell on Fleet Street, the only pub built by Wren on our ‘crawl.
WHEN: Saturday August 2, 2014
START: 10:30am, The Monument
FINISH: 4:00pm, outside St. Paul’s Cathedral
As always this sketchcrawl is free and open to anybody with an interest in urban sketching, artists of all levels and ages are welcome. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on (oh and maybe a snack). I will be providing hand-drawn maps for you to choose your own route. I hope to see you there!
Let’s draw London!
Urban Sketchers London
Last week was the event of the 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl. Regular listeners will know I have been on many of the worldwide sketchcrawls over the years in many cities. Last Saturday morning I woke up, and decided: I’m going to Berkeley. The sketchcrawl was on the UC Berkeley campus, which for me was significant as one of the first sketchcrawls I ever took part in (it was in fact the second, the first being in Davis at the end of 2005, but I did not do much that day) was at UC Berkeley, in March 2007. On that day I sketched a lot but kept to myself, too shy to talk to other sketchers. I’m not so shy these days, but I did sketch solo, though it was great to meet and talk to other sketchers. I also remembered just how much I love being in Berkeley. The theatre above, the Calfiornia, I sketched in the morning before meeting the sketchcrawlers. I remember one of the last times I was in Berkeley saying, I must sketch that next time. That was five years ago, so I got there eventually.
Above, my first sketch of the day. It took about an hour and a half, and I had intended to colour it but I haven’t yet. All of the colouring in I did was done later, because I didn’t bring a little jar of water for my paints (of my two small jars, one was lost and one broke, I haven’t found a good small one since). I don’t really do the waterbrush thing any more. So, it gives me more time for penwork, diving into the details. This is South Hall. Davis has one of those too, but it’s not as nice as this. This radiates grandeur.
This is a building I have sketched before, Bowles Hall further up the hill. It looks like an old English country public school (Americans note, ‘public’ school in England is actually what we call private schools; our public schools are called ‘state’ schools. Mine was always in a state, anyway). I sketched it in 2007 on a much sunnier day (sunnier, but through the fog I actually still got burnt last week, stupid deceptive weak bay fog). This time there was construction going on in front of it, so I imagine this view will look different next time.
I went down the hill to the southern edge of campus, to the corner of Bancroft and College. This building is called the Free House I think. I was enticed by the colourful newspaper boxes which again, I had to colour in later, but spent a good deal of time (just over an hour) sketching all the little marks on each one. By the time I was done it was time to reconvene with the other sketchers, back at Sather Tower. There was quite a gathering. Here I am with a few fellow sketchers (left to right) Jana Bouc (one of the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers and whose own sketchblog Jana’s Journal in fact inspired me to start this very blog you are reading); Pete (that’s me there with uncoloured version of sketch above); Gary Amaro (also an original Urban Sketchers correspondent, see his work online at garyamaro.blogspot.com); and Flory Nye-Clement, a sketcher from Benicia (who by the way is organizing a sketchcrawl at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park on August 23, starts at 11am). Results of the sketchcrawl in Berkeley are being posted on the forum at sketchcrawl.com.
I’ve been quite a hermit lately in terms of sketching, and I must say it was very nice to get back out there and meet fellow sketchers again. It’s always good to rub shoulders with other people on this planet who ‘get it’. Hey, there are a lot of us urban sketchers out there!
One of the other reasons I’ve been so busy lately is because we just moved house. Still in Davis, not even far from our old place but moving al the same. I love every single aspect of moving. The boxing up of every single thing no matter how miscellaneous, carrying heavy boxes of books, moving furniture, going through all of your things and saying, do I need this, do I need that, and then saying yes I do, remember the last time we moved? All the cleaning, taking down the curtains, filling in the holes where the pictures hung, figuring out if the furniture you have will fit in the shape of new place, all of the stress thinking about it which makes you really ill for a week before the move, I love it, it’s my favourite thing ever, even better than airports. Not really. Two weeks after the move we’re still unpacking, fitting into the new space, getting used to the quirks, but it’s a nicer place and I like it. Before we left our old place I decided to sketch it. So now we live in our fourth place in Davis since 2005. A new chapter!
And so, finally back to posting some sketches, if I can even vaguely remember what that feels like. The World Cup is over! Gone for another four years, what will we do? It’s not like there is any other football to watch in that entire time. Haha. I enjoyed going over the kits so much I may even torture you all with more, from the clubs, as many as I can possibly do. Mwahahaha. And football-puns? You ain’t, as they say, seen nothing yet. Oh, alright I’ll lay off the puns for a while, it is pre-season after all. I need to train for a few weeks to get my football-punning back up to match fitness for the new Premier League season starting in August. Expect to see me jogging around the green belts of Davis trying to make punchlines out of Pocchetino and find an angle on Van Gaal (you see? Much training needed). But in this time of world-cup-football-ness, amid all the dodgy haircuts and the acrobatic goalkeeping and the constant non-stop biting (it was only the one bite, wasn’t it?), I did manage to do some sketching. This was a panorama I did over two lunchtimes at the Wyatt Deck in the UC Davis Arboretum. Technically it was three lunchtimes but on one of them I didn’t do any sketching as I forgot my pen (doh!). I had intended to add paint to it as well but I decided I preferred it like this. I listened to a History podcast while sketching and it was a man who was a South American football historian talking (among other things) about the great Uruguay team of the 20s and 30s, the River Plate team of the 50s, and what football meant/means in terms of national identity among the nations in South America, how historically it was able to strengthen their differences while also presenting them with an opportunity to announce themselves globally (at the Olympics and later the World Cup). Very interesting. It’s funny how what you listen to when you sketch gets so involved with how you see the sketch from thereon – none of you will see any reference to Paraguay’s style of play or the founding of great Brazilian clubs by British immigrant workers in this drawing of some wooden buildings at the Arboretum, but I see those great south American football names in every line drawn. Except in the middle, which will always be about Batman, because I was listening to another podcast by that point which talked a lot about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Again, you can’t see that, but I do. Now I always wonder what was really going through artist’s minds when they were creating their work. I look at one of Mondrian’s compositions and I think, I wonder if he was thinking about getting a cat and in between colouring in those squares whether he went down to the pet shop to look at kittens, I don’t know. You don’t know. Or when Van Gogh painted that portrait of himself with no ear, maybe in fact he was listening to his annoying unemployed next door neighbour practicing their singing really badly day in, day out, and he just subconsciously painted himself with no ear without even thinking about it, you just don’t know do you. Or when Damien Hurst was putting that sheep into the formaldehyde, maybe at the same time he was listening to his favourite gardening show on the radio? And now every time he sees that sheep he keeps thinking, ooh I’d better water the petunias when I get home. You just don’t know.
By the way, click on the image above and you’ll see a bigger version. What you won’t see is any reference to Boca Juniors or Bruce Wayne.