Tag Archives: bridges

the short and winding road

bridge at UC Davis
This footbridge crosses the bike path which runs between Shields Library and Olson Hall at UC Davis. I have never sketched it before so it was well overdue. If you have spent any time at UC Davis this is a very familiar sight. How many of us have cycled down this curve, avoiding other bikes as they dash in unlikely directions? All of us. Well, Davis is the #1 Cycling Town in the U.S. Yes, it’s official, as was announced by USA Today just last week. Well done Davis! Is it the #1 sketching town? I dunno about that, but I have given it a good go myself these past few years. I wonder what town would win #1 sketching town in the U.S.? San Francisco or Portland, of the places I have been, but then again I’ve not been to that many places. It’d be fun to find out!
map-behind-shields sm

Oh by the way, Happy Easter!

sunday in portland

food carts in portland
After an evening in the company of pirates, a lazy Sunday in downtown Portland. I didn’t go anywhere new or explore too much, just did what I enjoy – eating en plein air, going to Powell’s books, lining up for doughnuts and sketching a bridge. Many of the food carts weren’t open, including the delicious Thai one I ate from last year (“I Like Thai Food”, and I really do), but I grabbed a curry lunch from one (it was so-so, but really filling) before pottering off to Powell’s. I love Powell’s Books, you could get lost in there forever, and in fact you should. The bookstore covers an entire block. I love the smell of bookstores. After getting a t-shirt and a pint glass (I am such a tourist) I did another touristy thing and went to line up at Voodoo Doughnuts.
voodoo doughnuts, portland
Well, naturally I sketched it first – the linework anyhow, I added the colour later. I stood across the street and tried to guess how long it would take me to queue up for doughnuts by figuring out each person’s position, but after fifteen minutes I realised that line was actually two lines, doubling up on each other. Ah, so longer than I though. I lined up anyway (it too about twenty minutes or so; I had to endure the touristy family in front of me being all touristy, unlike me huh) and eventually got to choose my doughnuts. Despite all that time in line I still couldn’t quite make my mind up so just spent down what little cash I had left and carried away a big pink box to take back to Davis. As I got myself together outside a man passing beamed, “ooh did you get a dozen?” I was confused (stranger in street starting conversation, does not compute) and replied, “er, dunno, I just said words and they gave me a box of things,” which made a lot of sense I’m sure. I was tired. So I headed to the river, always a good place to start or finish a trip, and sketched a bridge.

P1130952I have been using a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook I bought in London, it was cheap and the paper is smoother. But there has been something about it which is just not quite right, sure the watercolours don’t take the same way as with my watercolour Moleskines, but I don’t know, something’s been feeling a bit off. Anyway I brought with me a new sketchbook, a brand new landscape-size Alpha book from Stillman and Birn. I love the Alpha paper, but have been waiting for the right moment to start this one, so I used it to draw the Burnside Bridge (see below). It was a joy t use! Even though I didn’t add any paint to this one, it’s lovely paper to sketch on, though not smooth like the other book I was using it’s more to what I am used to.
burnside bridge, portland

And that’s it! Until the next time, Portland, until the next time.

‘ighgate

"Suicide Bridge", Archway

On my full last day in London, I took the tube down to Archway to meet my cousin Dawn for some sketching around Highgate. This was my old neighbourhood before we moved to the States., and I still love it around there. I used to live on Hornsey Lane, a few doors down from the bridge above, Archway Bridge. Of course, this bridge is better known as Suicide Bridge. Unfortunately, it’s a name more commonly earned than I realised before I lived up there. Dawn (who also lives nearby here) and I sketched beneath the bridge, beside the busy Archway Road, where the 134 bus charges down on its way into central London. Because I lived higher up Highgate Hill I would not come up this way much, so it was fun to come back and explore a bit more. We popped into one store full of second hand stuff and I saw (but did not get) a full set of Worzel Gummidge dvds. We grabbed a sandwich at Tescos (I love that about England, proper normal-size sandwiches everywhere, not the doorsteps you get over here) and sat opposute the Jackson Lane building, an arts centre not far from Highgate tube station.

Jackson's Lane, Highgate

We walked around inside there, and I picked up leaflets for events that of course I can never go to, but I’m always dreaming of us all living in Highgate again some day. It’s my favourite part of London, along with Crouch End. We walked further up to Ripping Yarns, an amazing antiquarian bookstore stacked to the brim with wonderful books. Hardly enough room inside to turn around. They specialize in old children’s books but also have lots of other books as well. We spent a lot of time in there, I was looking through many of the old annuals, Roy of the Rovers, the Beano, Topper, all those I used to have on my own shelves. I did pick up an interesting (and slightly quirky) little book, The Observer’s Guide to British Architecture; it’s quite hilarious in its description of Saxon building practices, dismissing them as “primitive”, “uneducated” “crude”, complaining that “they built their churches piecemeal like children playing with bricks”. It does give a comprehensive history of architectural methods with nice little illustrations so it’s a great find, plus it has that old old book smell.

We sat opposite the bookshop and sketched it, and then it was time to go. It was lovely spending time with Dawn and you should check out her incredible work on her Flickr site.

Ripping Yarns, Highgate

I had a few more things to do in London, no more sketching unfortunately (I bought an Ireland  football kit for my son), but this was the day that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour so lots of people were hanging around waiting anxiously for the big news. I was already home packing my suitcases when the as-yet-unnamed heir to the throne was announced. The next day we flew back to America. I still have to post my Barcelona sketches; those are coming soon…

how i sketched this bridge

I got a new camcorder, so I thought it would be fun to try it out by videoing a quick sketch in progress. Easier said than done of course! Here though is a quick demonstration on how I approach a sketch. I had to use the waterbrush (I prefer a regular brush and a little jar of water, but had forgotten it), and this being quite impromptu was rushed a little but, as Alan Partridge might say, you get the general idea. This is a bridge in the Arboretum. Once I’ve got the hang of this I’ll do a nicer video of me sketching a building or something. I can’t stand drawing foliage…

arboretum bridge

another sketchcrawl in the arboretum

Let's Draw Davis March 2013
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.
sketching the arboretum

just to make this dock my home

AT&T Park, San Francisco
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.
drawbridge 3rd st SF

“waterway to have a good time”

pdx broadway bridge
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.
pdx factory by river
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…”

join me by the riverbank

pdx hawthorne bridge
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.
pdx steel bridge

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…”

you gotta go away, so you can come back

portland ship
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.

sketching by the willamette, portland

get to portland

steel bridge, portland
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!