Christmas is coming. Which means mince pies. These mince pies in particular were made by a fellow Brit at work, and who kindly made me a whole tin of these little bite-sized festive treats (thanks Jean!). They were delicious, and very nice with a cup or tea or three. So, I had to draw them. It was an act of unbelievable will power to sit and smell them in front of me while drawing and not eat any until I was done. Well, in fact I’d had a few first, but still, the rest of them didn’t last long afterwards. Hopefully I get some time to make some myself, though mine are always messier and uneven, not that I notice the shape as they fly into my belly.
Dear Americans who don’t know: mince pies are not made with meat. The “mincemeat” used is something else entirely. I must admit I stopped trying to encourage my American family to eat them some years back, because I realized that there would be more left for me. And Santa of course, who loves them. Home-made ones are much nicer; although in England I always used to get those yummy ones from Marks & Spencer. One thing about M&S mince pies though folks, they always seem to have a useful best-before date of December 24th. Make sure you give Santa the freshest ones.
One other thing you may be interested in, my American friends, when a Londoner says “mince pies” he might also mean his “eyes”, which is Cockney Rhyming Slang. I don’t really use that one myself, mostly because it makes me suddenly very hungry at the very thought. I really love mince pies.
This weekend past I went to Sacramento to do a little last-minute Christmas stocking stuffer shopping (ended up buying myself a couple of comics at Big Brother in midtown, one of which was Inhumanity #1, it’s very good), and topped of the afternoon with a sketch outside the Capitol building. This is where California is governed from, a huge white building at the end of Capitol Mall. The late afternoon December sunlight was golden, and the large Christmas tree was set up outside. People were gathering for some sort of caroling event that would take place later on, while at least one wedding party ambled by taking photos, the bride being in one of those massive dresses like you see in the olden days, you know the ones. I sat on the grass and sketched away, the cool afternoon turning quite mild by this point. Not long until Christmas now! Our own tree is up, chopped it down myself, and the place looks all nice and warm. I wish it could be Christmas every day.
It’s Christmas Eve! And for some of you back home in the UK, Father Christmas will be arriving soon so still time to be good. A while to go here in California, but the mince pie is at the ready for Santa, and a nice turkey dinner awaits us. Oh, and a trifle, I made a very nice trifle this year. Above is our tree. We cut it down ourselves from a local Christmas tree farm (in the rain and mud), a bit bigger than last year, and heavier too. Most of the presents beneath the tree are for that smallest member of our family, who has been getting up excitedly at 4:00am every morning to open the latest window on his spectacularly successful daddy-drawn advent calendar (it was a xmas-tree-shaped race-track).
I draw a christmas tree every year, so I thought you might like to see every tree I have drawn since 2006. I neglected to sketch the first tree after we moved to cA, 2005, but since it is the same fake tree we used to get every year you can just imagine what it looks like. I’m including a couple of my mum’s trees from visits back to north London as well.
2006: Davis (left), Burnt Oak (right)
2007 (well, Jan 2008, but the tree was from Xmas 2007): Davis. Not-yet-President Obama was on the telly!
2008: Davis (left, though in the background), and Burnt Oak (right)
2009: Davis (left); 2010: Davis (right)
2011, last year, Davis CA.
Happy Christmas to all, and have a very merry 2013.
As mentioned in the previous post, I drew the cover for Grace Cathedral’s 2012 Christmas Concert brochure. Last Saturday my wife and I went down to San Francisco, and up up up Nob Hill, to see the wonderful show itself, courtesy of the cathedral. Naturally I took my sketchbook. While last year I drew the impressive vaulted ceiling all the way down to the singing choir, this year I took a panoramic approach; you’ll have to click on the image for a larger view, I’m afraid. I did all the penwork during the concert, and added the colour when I got home (from my detailed notes – shirt=yellow, hair=brown etc). I have drawn in here a few times now so i am getting used to this impressive space. It is always nice to draw with a cathedral full of singing all around you. The Christmas Concert at Grace Cathedral is a San Francisco tradition, and I’m very honoured to have illustrated their flier and brochure two years in a row. Here they are…
The concert was majestic. I love all the old Christmas songs, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and all that; though I’m not a religious person myself, they make me nostalgic, somehow reminding me more of England than America, Christmas Carols, mince pies, junior school concerts, Harry Secombe on the telly, Shepherds washing their socks by night. There was, almost inevitably, one deeply sad moment: a verse of Silent Night, added to the set following the terrible event that happened the day before in Connecticut. It was a well attended concert, one of several that have taken place this month at Grace; this weekend there are performances of Handel’s Messiah performed by American Bach Soloists. Many thanks once again to Abby and Bruce for giving me this opportunity again. As I have said before, I do love drawing a cathedral!
Yesterday was our department’s (Statistics, UC Davis) annual holiday party. In all my years there I’ve never sketched any of our department events, but this time I felt the need to. I usually decorate the whiteboard for the party in dodgy dry-erase markers (and did so again, with snowmen – easy to draw – and a leafless tree – took a bit more time), but I don’t have a decent photo of that so you’ll just have to imagine it. Technically it’s my largest piece of public art. I had meant to bring a trifle too, and I went to the store and got all the ingredients, and quickly cycled home eager to put together my favourite favourite dessert, and realised I had forgotten one important thing. No sponge cakes. Back home I’d use either Jaffa Cakes or basic trifle sponges, but here, among other things, I’ve taken to using Twinkies. Well you all know Twinkies are now consigned to the big bin-bag in the sky, but I had cleanly forgotten to look for an alternative (Ladyfingers I’m told are good, but I can’t ask for them without thinking of Alan Partridge gyrating around a pole), and so it slipped my mind. I won’t make a trifle without this aspect of it, so the trifle did not get made. I considered burning the other ingredients ceremoniously, but I decided to keep them and make a trifle on a different day. I will probably use Pims (a near-equivalent to Jaffa Cakes, not the stuff you drink on a hot day in Surrey). Still, the food at this potluck was amazing as always, and I particularly enjoyed the vegetable biryani. Very festive!
This weekend is the Davis Art Center’s annual Holiday Sale, a big and popular event at the DAC featuring art, crafts, jewelry and many other lovely hand-made products. They are also selling cards with a selection of my Davis sketches on them, which look great! I came by this afternoon during a lull in the stormy weather (having spent the morning getting very muddy chopping down a Christmas tree), and after watching Beckham’s last game for LA Galaxy (they won the MLS Cup). After perusing the stalls, I whipped out the sketchbook and drew a scene in the main atrium. It was bustling with people, a friendly family atmosphere. If you are in Davis, tomorrow (Sunday Dec 2) is the last day of the Holiday Sale, so why not pop by and check it out? The Davis Art Center is on the corner of F St and Covell, by Community Park.
Davis Art Center
“It’s Chriiiiistmaaaaas!” Here is the Davis Christmas Tree on the E Street Plaza, downtown. I didn’t go to the Davis Downtown Christmas thing at the start of the month; I have been before, and it’s a bit crazy to be honest. I love all the decorations everywhere here though, and people’s houses get truly decked out. Last night we went to one street that must be vying for the title ‘Christmas Lane’, a little cul-de-sac in north Davis completely covered in all sorts of decorations, and very tastefully done, each house having some sort of theme in its wooden garden ornaments, and hundreds of lights and baubles on every tree. Of course it was a terribly windy night last night, so those baubles were flying off and rolling down the street. It was pleasant at lunchtime though, when I popped out to sketch this, after a thick foggy morning when even Rudolf would have had trouble.
Merry Christmas, everybody! (More Christmas tree stories to come by the way…)
This year I drew an Advent Calendar for my son. It’s approximately 13″ x 11″ in size, and was drawn on the saturday after Thanksgiving when we got back to Davis, and were feeling all Christmassy. It has been a big hit, to say the least! Behind the windows are pictures of my son’s favourite things (tv characters, cartoons etc). I drew it on two or three sheets of watercolour paper which I then cut and collaged togather, against a background of black construction paper. It’s all coloured with watercolours and drawn in uniball vision micro pen.
With this very busy January, I’d almost forgotten I still have loads of sketches from London yet to scan and post! So to warm your winter cockles (what is a cockle? is it a muscle?)* here is a sketch I did on Boxing Day at my mum’s house in Burnt Oak, north London. Boxing Day (for those who are unaware) is the day after Christmas. On the TV there is Alec Guinness playing Fagin in Oliver Twist. That’s a great version, that, and the guy who played Bill Sykes was truly villainous. Plus it has the dog from the Target adverts in it. Alec Guinness as you know went on to train Luke Skywalker in the art of picking a pocket or two.
*before you correct me, I do know what a cockle is. It’s a type of male chicken.
This little tree was the one we got for our first Christmas in Davis. It’s tradition to draw the tree. It’s tradition to draw everything…
Merry Christmas everyone! Stay well! Eat lots!