Tag Archives: fire hydrant

in the state of denmark street

Denmark St panorama sm

This is Denmark Street, just off of Charing Cross Road in Central London. I sketched it over a period of two and a half hours one Wednesday afternoon, having taken the morning off from sketching (I was up in the loft searching for my old collection of Fighting Fantasy books), and added the rest of the colour later on. Denmark Street is famous within British musical history as our very own ‘Tin Pan Alley’, home of music publishers and recording studios, and later of music stores. There are lots of guitar shops, as well as other instruments of course, and is also home to the famous 12 Bar Club. The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, all are associated with this street in some way (the Pistols actually lived here for a bit). Not only music – the comic shop Forbidden Planet was founded at number 23, where that red awning is in the picture now. It’s around the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue now. This place is steeped with history and it’s a street I have always had a lot of love for, being a bit guitar-obsessed when I was younger (it took me years to actually pluck up the courage to enter one of those stores though, very intimidating to a shy teenager!). I actually bought my current acoustic guitar from Macari’s, though it was from their other branch, on Charing Cross Road, back in 1996.

Denmark St panorama sm L Denmark St panorama sm R

So when I heard that Denmark Street was under threat of demolition, all part of the Crossrail redevelopment that has completely destroyed the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, I knew I had to sketch it while it still looked like this. Many of these buildings are ‘listed’, historic buildings of importance. Whether they will be knocked down or just somehow modernised is not clear, what it will mean for the historic character of Tin Pan Alley is also unclear, will the music stores be forced out in favour of latte shops and corporate office space is also not clear, but let’s face it. If Denmark Street loses its character it will be yet another blow to London.
Sketching Denmark St, London

Here’s my sketchbook. I used the watercolour (“art-plus”) Moleskine, with a uni-ball signo um-151 brown-black pen. Oh, and here is a map showing where Denmark Street is.

Denmark St map sm

And finally, I thought you might like this. As you may know, I like drawing fire hydrants, mainly because I find them exotic and foreign, for we don’t have them in the UK. Well, actually we do, but they are underground, with metal coverings on the pavement. Here is one I sketched on Denmark Street. So there you have it!

Fire Hydrant in London

oh you pretty things

18th st, san francisco

I could draw every single house in this neigbourhood, and never get bored. More work from my sketchcrawl day at the Castro, San Francisco. This sloping row of Victorians, had it not been taking quite so long (best part of a couple of hours, and I had to finish the colouring in at home) could have ended up as a very long panorama, all the way down the street, had I not wanted to, you know, sketch some other things and eat something (Thai red curry if you’re interested). But how enjoyable was this to sit and sketch? Immensely! This is right opposite Philz Coffee on 18th St, where the sketchcrawl officially began.  A couple of sketchers were sat on the steps behind me, still sketching when I finally got up and stretched my legs. ..

moby dicks, SF

After some sketching away from 18th St (these sketches are not completely posted in chronological order, rather they are in geographical order), I returned, clock ticking, needing a few more sketches before the meet-up at 4pm. It was getting windy. I sat on the corner of 18th and Hartford, leaning against a fire hydrant. I’m not sure if you can lean against a fire hydrant while sketching (and I don’t really need to know) but surely if anyone should, hello like. This is Moby Dick’s, a popular local bar (I assume; it’s in the locale, and there were people there, so presumably, hello like), and there down 18th you can see the iconic belltower of the Mission School. The rusty hydrant below (which was not the one I leaned against, but looked very similar) (I’m sure you are riveted by this) was a bit closer to the Mission High school tower, on the corner of the very crowded and very windy. The final meetup was nice,  I met quite a few new sketchers and as always was hugely inspired by what I saw; this is my favourite part of these sketchcrawls, seeing other people’s sketchbooks, real and in the flesh, not just online. Very cool.  You can see some other sketchers’ results on the SF sketchcrawl forum, and not just from San Francisco, but also from the rest of the world. Great stuff, world!

hydrant on 18th & church, SF

pyrohydrantophilia in portland

PDX hydrant

Let’s get these out of the way now, shall we? There are lots of different hydrant designs in Portland, most of which are orange, many of which are weather-beaten and full of personality, if you see personality in such things as I do. They don’t tell good jokes or anything, but personality goes a long way, and they do help put out fires.

 PDX hydrant

The top one was drawn after meeting with the Portland Urban Sketchers in Old Town, while the second one was drawn on my first evening in PDX, downtown. Someone in Portland did ask me if I really was obsessed with fire hydrants as my sketchbooks suggest, to which I was like, hello, like. As i’ve said before, we don’t get them in Britain so they’re still fascinatingly ‘foreign’ to me and remind me of Richard Scarry books I used to read when I was a kid. More than that, they are ever-present civic symbols, and really are different from place to place. When people ask me, oh what do you draw, I say “I draw fire hydrants”, it gives me something  more to say than “oh, you know, this and that, stuff”. It’s only really a small percentage of what I draw (most of what I really draw you don’t see, it’s scribbled cartoons of Magneto on any piece of paper on my desk) but I like them. In 2010 I did ‘NaNoDrawMo‘ and drew “fifty fire hydrants and other metal pipes that come out of the ground“, and promised myself after that crazy experience I’d never draw another. Yeah, that didn’t last long…
PDX hydrant
I think I might make a comic filled with fire hydrants who tell bad jokes. They stand there all day like a doorman or security guard thinking of jokes, and all of them are really bad. As you know I won’t be short of material on bad jokes or fire hydrants so it’s the perfect combination for me, should take me about five minutes to write. Perhaps I could invent a superhero who can see and hear through all the fire hydrants in the city, and when he/she sees crime can travel through the hydrant system and transform into Hydranto and beat the bad guys, put out fires, rescue kitties etc. Speaking of comics, I went to Floating World Comics on Monday, at the corner of 4th and Couch (pronounced cooch, by the way, it was named by Officer Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo). This comic shop came highly recommended by my comics-making urban-sketching friend (cheers Kalina!) and I was not disappointed – more zines than I have ever seen anywhere outside of ZineFest, lovely little independent hand-made comics, some of which I’d bought before in SF, but many many local PDX titles. Plus so many regualr comics, graphic novels of every kind; it was beautiful. I ended up getting a couple of small comics, “Jetpack Shark” and another called something like “Everyone in the world can fart except me”, which is a sad, sad tale. Also picked up one of the DC relaunched titles, the ‘new 52′, Superman #0. I have been getting a ‘comics-udaction’ these past few years by my comics-appreciating friend Roshan so hopefully one day he can go there too. I got there just before it opened, so I drew the fire hydrant outside, as the street dried out from the previous day’s rain.

PDX hydrant

So anyway, if you are a pyrohydrantophile (new word of the year award, please, cheers?) and want to see some more of these guardians of the galaxy, go to my Flickr set “Hydrants and Pipes“. But I’m not really that much of a pyrohydrantophile. I don’t even know how they really work.

santa cruz hydrants

Santa Cruz HydrantSanta Cruz Hydrant
Labor DSanta Cruz Hydrantay weekend, and we spent it in Santa Cruz, in the warm California sun. Well, quite a bit cooler than the usual super hot sun we have in Davis, so that was a nice change. I love being by the sea. Santa Cruz is a cool city, and we stayed near the Boardwalk. The hydrants here are different than in Davis so I managed to sketch a few of them. I am sure I look a right plum sketching these, but I don’t care, it’s more for the catalogue. Most are yellow (one or two were orange) but there was a greater variety in the ‘trim’, and I sketched a couple of orange ones, a red, a blue and a green. I don’t think I have drawn any of these models before either – very similar ones, but not exactly. Well maybe the blue trimmed one is similar to one I drew in Santa Rosa. Oh, I don’t know. I feel like one of those mad 19th century explorers sometimes, searching for and cataloguing new species of flora in the deep urban jungle. I really should make an effort when I find these new specimens to write down the manafacturer name, maybe the year if its legible, but it’s too late now. I’m not so methodical, I just draw the things.

Incidentally these were all drawn in my watercolour moleskine (moley #10) in uniball vision micro pen with watercolour. All were done on location, sat crouching in the street hoping I don’t get run over or weed on by a dog. If you want to see a whole load of fire hydrants (and other metal pipes that come out of the ground), then here is my Flickr set, “Hydrants and Pipes“. Or perhaps you thinks it’s a bit barmy. But hey, as they say – “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”, right?

Santa Cruz HydrantSanta Cruz Hydrant

i’ve got nowhere to go and so i follow my feet

hibernia bank building, san francisco
On Saturday, I took the early train down to San Francisco for a day of sketching and walking. I like to do that from time to time, just head down to the city and explore, before heading back. On this occasion I took the Amrtrak to Richmond and then the BART to Powell, intent on visiting the big Blick art store on Market, and then sketching this building – the old Hibernia Bank building, on the corner of Jones. I have never drawn it, put off by, well, the local Tenderloin personality shall we say. This building always reminds me of Marc Taro Holmes though, who has painted it so expertly on a number of occasions (such as HERE and HERE). The building has been due for redevelopment for some time now, and is still boarded up, but as one passer-by mentioned to me, it survived the earthquake in 1906, and do I have a dollar? Several people stopped asking for change (I presume they meant change of the monetary kind, rather than like change as in widespread reform or revolution, though they may have taken that too). As always in this part of the city there were lots of ‘shufflers’, people ambling about hither and thither with no particular place to go. There are a lot of panhandlers around here, and a fair few drug users, and one or two frequent drinkers; this area has long been an unfortunate byword for social problems. But the number of people who stand about on street corners just yelling at people or growling does make you feel a little uncomfortable. I drew for almost an hour before I’d had my fill, and then decided, for some reason, to walk through some of the blocks which were probably the shadiest and most dodgy-character-filled, especially on this Saturday lunchtime. I found myself trying not to stand out too much, by pulling crazed faces and growling at my feet, as if I was in that scene in Shawn of the Dead trying to fit in with the zombies. It must have worked, because I passed a rudimentary soup kitchen and the kind lady serving offered me free soup and fresh water. Eventually, I started to leave the shuffling, yelling Tenderloiners behind as the hill I was climbing went sharply upwards: Nob Hill. I stopped and drew a fire hydrant which had been comically wrapped in police tape. Someone had also stuck German football stickers to the top, but they can’t be seen. This city is an experience.

hydrant on nob hill

gee! let’s draw G street

G & 2nd

On Saturday, after a week of storms and rain and puddles, the sun came out and so did the sketchers, for the latest “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl. There were fourteen of us in all, and we met at the corner of 2nd and G Streets. The location of this crawl was along G street, which is a historic part of old downtown Davis, and makes for some properly ‘urban’ sketching. I took a while sketching the above scene, that big old white building on the northwest corner of G and 2nd, chatting to folk as they passed by. One guy I spoke to was back in Davis for the first time in 40 years, having lived there in the late 60s and early 70s, and so I was interested to hear about how Davis was back then, as he was interested to hear how I felt it was now. Below, a couple of international sketchers (from Spain and from Iran), both sketching the ‘Froggies’ bar opposite.

G St sketchers
G St fenceG & 5th hydrantG & 5th

Above, an interesting iron fence nearby to Ace Houseware, plus a fire hydrant on 5th and G and the brand new bank building opposite. I didn’t sketch quite as much as I would have expected (and there’s one sketch of a phonebox I’ll post separately because I want to say some hilarious things about phoneboxes), largely because I was getting a little frustrated with my Micron pens, which don’t like the Stillman & Birn paper as much as I might have liked, at least not in the way I use them. I felt like I was wearing them down much more quickly than usual. Still it was good to get out and draw stuff, and I was amazed at how productive some of my fellow sketchers were. We all met up outside the Davis Co-Op at 3pm (which in hindsight was a long way to go for a fairly short sketchcrawl), and checked out each other’s books, which is always one of the most fun parts of the day.

Let's Draw Davis! April 2012

Sketchbooks at the end of the day...

To see some of the other sketchers’ work, please go to http://www.flickr.com/groups/letsdrawdavis/, the Flickr group. The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be in May…date and place to be determined. If you can’t wait that long, this coming Saturday April 21 is Worldwide Sketchcrawl #35, in which hundreds or maybe thousands of sketchers across the planet will get out and draw their cities, and it sounds like there will be one in Davis too (I might make it the tail end, as I’ll be going to Picnic Day before that).

In the meantime, you may like to know we now have a Let’s Draw Davis page on the Davis Wiki, set up by fellow long-time Davis sketcher Pica (who produced the amazing accordion sketchbook above).

i’m only a droid, and not very knowledgable about such things

hydrant at kearny & vallejo, san franciscohydrant at union st, north beach SF

Wow, you MUST think I’m obsessed with fire hydrants, right? Well I am alittle. I can spot differences and everything now though. But I’m no expert, I don’t even really know how they work (it’s basically a tap, right?), and I know the colours on the caps signify some sort of difference in water pressure or something, maybe, but I like to think they’re just fashion choices on the part of the hydrant itself, which is of course a little robot with thoughts of its own. The one on the top left, drawn on the sloping streets of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, is related to R2-D2, but probably more of a ‘Moopet’ version, with a graffiti tattoo and chains. Perhaps those pentagonal bolts are really restraining bolts, like the ones fitted by Jawas. These larger, fat hydrants are common in SF. The green-capped one on the left was on Union Street. I actually sat a little bit off the sidewalk to sketch it from the preferred angle, shielded by a parked car. At one point though a girl came up and asked if she could photograph me sketching. I forget how odd I look when I sketch, all hunched over and tangled up.