Tag Archives: fire hydrant

pete goes to hollywood

chinese theatre hollywood
More from the recent trip to LA. After checking into the hotel in Westwood, I jumped on a bus through Beverly Hills and over to Hollywood. I am from Burnt Oak, ok, so this is pretty much the stuff dreams are made of. An aside, buses in LA are awesome. Most of them only cost a dollar and the various networks go all over the place. It’s almost like it’s a proper city! (I’m being silly, of course it’s a proper city, and that’s why I love it – being from London, LA feels a bit more familiar to me in its massiveness.) You hear all the time that LA is only for the automobiles, but as a tourist, the buses are really excellent. So anyway I went to Hollywood and walked up to the Hollywood Boulevard, where I had last been in 2002. Tinseltown, they call it, but I didn’t see any Christmas decoration shops. It is of course tacky touristy mayhem, mixed in with a fair bit of grime, plus a whole bunch of famous names on stars on the ground. Come on, that is why we go. I wanted to sketch the world famous Chinese Theatre, made famous of course in Iron Man III. Ok it was famous before then. Note the bus-stop, I wasn’t leaving that out. A red carpet was being set up for the premiere of something, a small independent art-house movie called ‘Hot Pursuit’ which I presume is about the sadness of playing a game of Trivial Pursuit in a house where the air conditioning just won’t work. If it’s not then hey, great idea for a film, here’s my script Hollywood, MOVIE DEAL PLEASE. I sketched while Marilyn Monroe, Spider-man, and Darth Vader walked by, people dressed as space aliens and hookers (to be fair they may have both genuinely been either), and the occasional massive group of Chinese tourists. I have included a handy map in my sketchbook to show where this is located. This is the first page of the new Stillman & Birn ‘Alpha’ sketchbook I bought a couple of months ago, but I’ve been waiting to finish my current sketchbook before starting it. Well, I couldn’t wait, so after this sketch I reverted back to the Seawhite’s remaining pages for the other sketches. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this, you probably don’t care. Unless you’re some sort of Hollywood exec who sees a market in blockbuster movies about drawing in sketchbooks. I can see the trailer now. “He was a Sketcher, on the Edge…” etc.

Hollywood map

“Draw the El Capitan Theatre!” they all said. “You gotta draw the El Capitan!” Yes, yes I should, especially as they are playing Avengers there (the opening night was that same night). It’s really hard, the way I draw, to sketch that big neon sign, so I jsut went for the bare minimum before abandoning it. Perhaps I’ll give it a better go someday. Perhaps. But this is all you get.
el capitan hollywood
Fire hydrants! So, when you travel, well when I travel, it’s always good to sketch some of the local hydrants. This particular one was painted red, white and blue (and yellow), as were many on Hollywood Boulevard. This one was located however right next to Walt Disney’s star on the Walk of Fame. Around me, star-spotting tour buses loaded and unloaded en route to peek at the gates of famous people’s second homes, while homeless people shuffled up to see why on earth I was sketching a fire hydrant. But this one’s a beauty, so I couldn’t resist adding it to my collection.
hydrant hollywood blvd

IMG_3773

I caught a couple of glimpses of the Hollywood sign up in the hills, but as the early evening pressed on I wanted to stop and rest my feet, so I popped into the interesting looking Pig’n’Whistle pub. I was going to have dinner (it’s a restaurant too) but opted for a pint and a sketch. The light from the street was pouring through the stained glass windows, but the itnerior was spectauclar – the ceiling was old and of ornately carved wood, it was like being in an old mead-hall, but with very Spanish-feeling decoration. Yes, I’d recommend stopping in here. After doing this sketch, I popped back onto a bus to Westwood, and had a late dinner before watching the UK general election leaders spouting nonsense on the TV in my hotel room. Happy travels!
pig n whistle hollywood

hail hydrant!

fire hydrant on lighthouse, pacific grove
It’s been a couple of years since I last drew a fire hydrant, no kidding. That is, a sketch of a hydrant that is not a smaller detail of a bigger picture. Oh and not counting the underground one I drew in London last summer. So on our recent weekend away to Pacific Grove, on the Monterey Peninsula, I took the opportunity to sketch at least one that I’ve not captured before. Felt great to sketch a new one after all this time. I’ve not sketched any because I haven’t seen any I haven’t already sketched. Yeah, I’ve sketched ‘Jones’ ones this shape before I’m sure, but not this colour, this weird weather-worn slightly oxidized metal. It looks like an ancient junked-up Dalek. This one is up at Lighthouse Avenue, in Pacific Grove, and I giggled away listening to the Football Weekly podcast while sketching it. Oh fire hydrants, it is good to be back.

Hey, if you want to see the rest of them, why not go and my ‘hydrants and pipes‘ set on Flickr?

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