Last Saturday the sketchers of Davis got together for another sketchcrawl at the lovely Arboretum. Eight of us there were, and some lovely sketches were made. I didn’t do a great deal, just a couple of pages, but it was a pleasant afternoon. I wanted to draw pages of foliage, but didn’t get very far. Above is fellow sketcher Carrie, sketching at the Arboretum Terrace. In the bottom left corner, a turtle sat basking in the sunshine by the creek. Below, sketchcrawl regulars Marlene and Cynthia draw bridges, and so do I. Nice place, the Arboretum. Peaceful.
San Francisco, CA: the idea was to walk down to AT&T Park, sketch the ballpark from the other side of McCovey Cove, then go somewhere else. I wasn’t sure where yet, this having been rather an unplanned visit to the city. I didn’t even have any cash on me to catch a bus, so I’d have to walk about the city on foot. Not really a problem, I like to walk, San Francisco is small; though I prefer to spend my limited time sketching. Anyway, I got over to the Willie McCovey statue, and the view, while nice, didn’t look like it was worth the sketching time, just too long. Then I heard some sort of growling voice behind me, there was a homeless guy perched on the base of the statue with his big bag of things, “yeah get out of here, there ain’t nothing you wanna see here, you wanna get out of here, mumble mumble, etc”. Guy was wearing a massive set of headphones and sunglasses, but I couldn’t see him at first. Despite being a pretty popular photo spot this was obviously his patch. I ignored him, and moved away to find a better and preferably safer viewpoint, but I could see him standing looking at me and making some sort of birdlike chirping sound, still remonstrating. It reminded me of the time a squirrel kept getting in my face and throwing nuts at me from a tree I was sketching next to once. Dude, I’m not trying to claim your turf. Still, I didn’t fancy ending up at the bottom of the Cove with all of Buster Posey’s baseballs (actually I think they float, but you get the picture), so moved elsewhere. There was a decent view over by the Embarcadero which had the stadium sign in it as well, so I drew that instead. I had promised my wife, a big Giants fan, that I’d sketch this ballpark and dammit I was going to sketch it. I also sat by the ballpark and drew the drawbridge that crosses the Cove into China Basin. It’s called the Lefty O’Doul Bridge, or the Third Street Bridge. I have wanted to tackle this structure for a while. It looks like the frame of an enormous Trojan horse. As I sketched, a cyclist pulled up to tell me that this bridge was built by in 1933 by one Joseph Strauss, who also built the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh wow, thanks man, I’ll remember that. He also designed the Burnside Bridge in Portland; well you’re nobody if you haven’t designed a bridge in Portland.
You may have noticed before that I like to sketch by the river. Apologies for the shameless Alan Partridge reference in the title there; nobody throw a dead cow at me. This was on my last day in Portland (though there are several more PDX posts to come, I still haven’t finished scanning, there’s a couple of bars, some food carts and a whole bunch of pirates yet…). The rain had stopped and the sunshine opened up my paintbox up. I was planning to wander the Pearl District, where the USk Symposium had been in 2010, but, oooh, that river. I found a quiet spot on the banks, amid the rocks, between Steel Bridge and Broadway Bridge, and drew the latter. Though it is very industrial down this stretch of river, there is an inherent beauty in such architecture – not for me the grand sweeps of baroque opulence, give me a factory and a couple of big metal bridges and I’m happy as a, er, um, insert ‘happy’ simile here.
Hey guess what, I have put together a Flickr set with all of my sketches of bridges and riverbanks in it, it is called “Bridges, Riverbanks…”
When the rain comes, I don’t run and hide my head. I do however stroll about and look for a little bit of cover so I can do some drawing. I love sketching bridges - no trip to Portland is complete without at least one bridge sketch. I like drawing bridges more than fire hydrants. Partly it is because I like being beside the river (as opposed to crouched just off the kerb hoping cars don’t hit me), but also because bridges represent that great connectivity of humankind, our ability to create cities and urban landscapes in tandem with the forces of nature, those big powerful (and very much alive) rivers. London exists because of the Thames, and prospered because it had a bridge (which admittedly kept falling down but that is another story). So when it rains, as it did in Portland (and occasionally in London too, I’m told), surely bridge sketching is a perfect sport?
Not exactly. For one thing to get out of the rain you often have to go beneath the bridge, which makes drawing the thing a bit trickier. Thankfully decent covered vantagepoints do exist for the more intrepid urban sketcher. On Sunday lunchtime, with a modest hangover from the previous night’s PDX craft beer samplings, I made my way down the southeast waterfront to the Hawthorne Bridge (above). The rain was coming down in bouquets (Portland rain is sweeter, as I’ve said before) and there were lots of people milling about the water’s edge. Boating crews lined the river, and were one-by-one taking to the water, cheered on by colourful umbrellas dotted along the bank. The road that comes off the bridge is high and curving, and I found a spot far beneath where the driving rain could not touch me. Joggers and other happy, soggy people jogged and plodded about the path in front of me, so I stood slightly back on a slope of grass and sketched away as best as I could. I think my slightly swaying demeanour comes across in the sketch, and that’s why I like this one at the top so much. After about forty minutes or so it was time to move on, and walk through the rain.
I had another rainy bridge experience the day before, at the end of a Saturday afternoon. I had spent the morning sketchcrawling (well, sketching, not so much crawling) with the fabulous Portland Urban Sketchers in two indoor locations in Old Town (that post is yet to come), and afterwards went to the Saturday Market. I drew Steel Bridge on my previous visit, but it’s a lovely structure and deserves to be sketched many times. This one, below, took a lot less time than the 2010 one, partly because I was sketching in almost direct rain. It wasn’t heavy rain, just a light sprinkling really, but there really wasn’t a good location beneath Burnside Bridge to sketch the view I wanted, so I took my chances. Still, once the pen started to protest at this treatment, I wrapped it up, but I was happy with it.
If I could spend my days drawing bridges by the river I would be one very happy fellow. Incidentally here is a set on my Flickr stream called “Bridges, Riverbanks…”
Everybody needs a weekend away every now and then. This past weekend, I flew up to Portland, Oregon, a city I had first visited two years ago for the first Urban Sketching Symposium. I wanted to come back and see some places I had previously missed, catch up with some local urban sketchers I know, eat from food carts, sample local beer, and spend time by the river. I like it down by the river. This was the first sketch I did after arriving at the hotel and light-railing it downtown, a big boat on the Willamette. The bridge in the background is the Burnside Bridge; those spiky towers belong to the Convention Center. As I sketched, cyclists cycled by, joggers jogged on, and gaggles of geese giggled at my goggles.
You can expect the next week or so of posts to be about my trip to Portland, either in a linear or nonlinear or scrawled comic or urban dance form. I got rained on rather a lot, but that was ok, it’s Portland rain which is sweeter than other rain, and contains beer and voodoo donuts.
This weekend I am going to be in Portland! The one in Oregon, not the one with the Lighthouse and the Bill and the Fear of Rabbits. Just a weekend away sketching, food-carts, micro-brews, book/comic-shops, sketching. And bridges, I must sketch bridges. And old signs. I was last there for the first Urban Sketching Symposium in 2010 and loved it, but didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked. I never even had a single Voodoo Donut. So I will be remedying all of that, and I don’t care how much it rains (after this long hot dry Davis summer, a bit of rain would be welcome*)
So, any sketching/local-beer/food-cart/comic-shop tips would be welcome!
Also, if you are Portland-based and fancy meeting me for some sketching I will be meeting the some of the Portland Urban Sketchers this Saturday Oct 27 for some sketching around the Saturday Market in the morning, and then perhaps some bridges and river (or some food carts or some old town) in the afternoon. We will meet at 10:00am at Floyd’s Coffee, on NE Crouch St. I am looking forward to it. They have a great group of sketchers in Portland, and were one of the original ‘regional’ Urban Sketchers blogs to be set up.
Also, on Sunday evening I’ll be going to Dr.Sketchy’s Anti-Art-School event on SE Morrison, at 7:00pm. I’ve never been to one of these before so it will be intriguing. Details about that can be found on their Facebook page. There will apparently be pirates to draw. Something different to fire hydrants and bridges!
PDX here I come! If you see me, say hello.
*that said it finally started raining in Davis yesterday after many months, and there was a tornado warning!
It is too hot. I’m sorry Davis, but you have to sort out these summers. Hundreds, and getting hotter, so KCRA3 Weather Plus Chief Meteorologist Mark Finan says (you have to use his full title or he makes it get even hotter). This lunchtime, I went down to Putah Creek and stood beneath the shade of a big bridge and drew it. There are all these little wooden barriers, dams even, up and down the Creek at the moment. A whole crowd of ducks pulled up at one point, stared at the wooden board quietly, looked around at each other, and then started quacking furiously. I could translate what they were saying as WTF?!?! (Or QQQ?!?! in duck-txtspk) It was like in Donald Duck, you know when he gets angry and goes red and steam comes out of his nostrils and he boils up into a rage, it was like that but with about twenty-five ducks. Actually it kind of reminded me of a bunch of commuters. Now they would have to get out of the Creek and walk, oh QQQ, it’s hundred quacking degrees and I have to quacking waddle? For duck’s drake. Actually, being the Olympics I’m wondering whether it’s not some sort of dressage or hurdles thing, perhaps they are expecting the ducks to jump over them. Not quacking likely.
‘Bunting’ is a word which, sure I had heard of, but had completely forgotten. It’s not a verb, not that I know of, it’s the stuff you hang up all over the place with the coloured triangles, to decorate in times of celebration. Not a word I hear very often, I don’t think it’s used in America. Anyway, the bunting was blowing wildly in the wind on this day, while I was sketching beside Southwark Bridge on the south bank of the Thames. It was the first day of the Jubilee weekend, the Jubilee stewards were already out keeping an eye on things (one kept coming over to see what I was sketching, but in an interested way not an ‘oi what you doin’ way), and people and tourists (who are people too) strolled this way and that. A rather terrible street band played in the underpass behind me, correctly thinking that the tunnel would amplify their music. Nonetheless, the general mood was upbeat, and I rather enjoy sketching this part of London.
Here is another sketch drawn by the river – it is a pretty looking house right in between Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and Tate Modern. I was drawn to the red door, though workmen kept coming in and out, busy preparing for some big event it would seem. When I was done, I went and read the little stone plaque beside the door. It turns out that none other than Sir Christopher Wren lived here during the construction of St.Paul’s Cathedral, which is directly opposite across the river! For those who are not familiar with London’s architectural history, Wren designed and built many amazing churches in London after the Great Fire of 1666, but St.Paul’s is his masterpiece and greatest legacy. Pretty convenient location then, you may think, well they didn’t have Millennium Bridge in those days, or even Southwark Bridge, so he would probably have had to take the ferry across. I’m actually a little surprised he didn’t think to be a bridge builder as well (actually, he did design a bridge built in Cambridge).
More London sketches to come…
I love Hungerford Bridge. I can’t express this enough. Not so much to draw, but to draw from. The old Hungerford Bridge was a nightmare, rattling and rusty, a walkway tacked onto the side of the real bridge itself (a railway bridge, stretching south from Charing Cross station). My memory recalls it as like an urban version of one of those rope bridges from Indiana Jones or something, with the deadly brown Thames rolling beneath the cracks. The most annoying thing was that it was on the wrong side of Hungerford Bridge, for those who want a nice view of Parliament and the City of Westminster. While the railway bridge is still there, a decade ago they finally built two modern and spectacular new pedestrian bridges on either side of it, thereby giving us access to the amazing view above. I am still in awe that this bridge exists (technically it is now a trilogy of bridges, the two pedestrian ones being more properly called the Golden Jubilee Bridges, nice shiny name but a bit of a mouthful). One day I may draw it, but the novelty of drawing from it has not gone away just yet. I had promised my son I would include the London Eye in one of my sketches – I do like the wheel, but really don’t like drawing it! The bridge is Westminster Bridge, and the clocktower, commonly called Big Ben after the large bell inside, is siply called the Clock Tower – for now. The powers that be decided recently that they would like to rename it Elizabeth Tower, in honour of the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee (the tower on the other side of parliament is called Victoria Tower, renamed from the previous King’s Tower for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The Thames will always be the Thames, however (unless Britain gets totally broke and sells the naming rights, the JP Morgan River or something; I am surprised they haven’t considered such things already).
After completing the first sketch, I then decided that I needed to do a full two-spread panorama from the eastern span, looking out towards the City of London. It was an incredibly windy, sunny day, and lots of people passed by as I sketched. It took me nearly two hours to draw the view below, the skyline of London, ever evolving. In the right hand side, the tall glass 1984-ish Shard building pokes into view. St.Paul’s of course is in the middle, the dome being the symbol of London, and on the right is Cleopatra’s Needle, which of course pre-dates Cleopatra by centuries. Spanning the Thames is Waterloo Bridge, designed by the same fellow that gave us the classic red phone box and the old Bankside power station (now Tate Modern). Click on the sketch below for a larger image.
Yesterday was our latest “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl, this time at the UC Davis Arboretum. Eleven of us met at Wyatt Deck, which turned out to be a great place to meet for a sketchcrawl. I think I chatted more than I sketched, so I was slow starting (pretty typical on Davis sketchcrawls for me), but it was good sketching conversation, and I learned a lot from speaking with others. I sketched in my Stillman and Birn (gamma) sketchbook).
And the redbuds are blooming right now, so whole stretches of the Arboretum are bathed in deep pink. This is different from the pink blossom on many trees (though my sketch doesn’t really show that distinction!). The last sketch I did was the one at the top. I enjoyed that one the most.
The next Let’s Draw Davis will be on April 14th (a week before the Worldwide Sketchcrawl, which is the same day as Picnic Day), and will be on G Street. More ‘urban’ than here! But I must say I always enjoy the Arboretum Sketchcrawls, it is such a pleasant spot to sketch.