This is the last drawing inside the sketchbook I call “Moleskine #11“. It is in the back inside cover, and shows some of the physical souvenirs from this particular grapho-temporal voyage. I took to numbering my Moleskines early on, though to be fair this isn’t really #11, if you include all the other types of Moleskine sketchbook, diary, notebook etc I have. This is my eleventh Watercolour Moleskine. Well, of this 8×5 size. What I’m saying is, this is the eleventh in a series of same-size sketchbooks. These sketchbooks tend to be my ‘alpha’ books – all of the others are for certain things, side projects, or when I want to try something else for a while. For a good chronology though (and I want my biographical record to be chronologically correct), the trip from Moley #1 is one worth exploring. I’ve definitely improved a lot, and developed my way of drawing, my type of urban sketching. Choices are different, preferences evolved, but still it’s all a learning process. What I like most is that I don’t really know what it will look like by Moleskine 15. What will I be into then? Along the same lines of course, but it will be different, sometimes subtly, sometimes massively. Or will there even be one? I considered stopping at nine, a nice round Nazgul-like number. Therefore stopping at 11 is not a good idea, no no no that would never do. So I am on #12. Twelve is perfect. Twelve is the best number we have. In English it’s the last number before we start saying ‘teen’. Sesame Street’s best numerical songs were about the number twelve (come on, you know they were). The European Union loved being at twelve so much that it kept twelve stars on the flag, even though the number of members increased. Eleven is pretty cool too though. I grew up in a number 11 house. Alors, Moleskine #12 has already begun, but you won’t get to see that just yet.
Here are the first eleven though, from 2007-2013. An illustrated journey indeed…
And in this Flickr set, you can see the whole of Watercolour Moleskine #11.
Some pretty flowers, which were for my wife’s birthday last weekend. It’s fun drawing flowers because they are so completely different to the sort of thing I normally draw. I sat down and watched Lost In Translation while drawing these. I haven’t seen that film in years; it reminded me of watching it with my wife at the Phoenix independent cinema in North Finchley back in 2003, I think it was. Kind of made me want to go to Tokyo, actually (and North Finchley, funnily enough). Drawn in dark green uni-ball signo um-151 pen (nice effect, huh) and coloured with watercolour. Almost to the end of this watercolour Moleskine now, you can see the rest of the skecthbook on my Flickr site…
Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal today, 2-1. To those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry, this isn’t a post about the footy/soccer, but I just wanted to say that. AVB very much In. Anyway… this is a desert agave, sketched at the UC Davis Arboretum last week when, in my busy days of program reviews and mountainous inboxes, I really needed to go and draw something organic at lunchtime. The Arboretum has such an abundance of interesting foliage that I really am blessed it is mere steps from my office. In fact, the next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl (I wasn’t able to organize one in February) will be at the Arboretum, I think. Saturday March 16th, from 11-3, starting at the Arboretum Terrace and ending at the Wyatt Deck. Details to be posted soon. In the meantime, I’m off to celebrate our victory in the North London Derby.
“I was a man on a mission.” No, no I wasn’t, I really had no plan to my day, just aimlessly following my nose. I always end up on Valencia Street though, wherever I happen to be. Despite running parallel just a block or so over, it’s quite enormously different from Mission Street. I’m not sure of the history, but I believe that when the hipsters first arrived in America as refugees from the terrible Third Fashion War they set up a safe enclave here, where they could wear ironic hats and ‘shave’ and live free to worship organic coffee without fear of percolation. I do love Valencia though, it is full of little stores packed with kitsch nonsense nobody in their right mind would ever need to buy (but then I feel that way about Target). It certainly has cool bookstores, and as a devout bookstore lover I feel right at home there. This is one place I always stop at, Dog-Eared Books, on the corner of Valencia and 20th. There is so much to find in here, and they are well aware of the importance of a bookstore – scrolling through lists of ebook suggestions on your Kindle or iPad is nowhere near as good for your soul as being physically surrounded in real, tangible books, books to surprise you, to pique your interest, to capture you forever. I completely lost myself in libraries and bookshops for years of my life. Dog-Eared is decorated on the outside with painitings of books, and in the window they have an eye-catching display of hand-drawn obituaries of well-known people who have died recently. I’ve meant to draw this bookstore for a while. I stood outside for an amazingly brief 35 minutes, doing all the linework in explosive speed while stood by a parking meter, and added the colour later on (it was starting to get cold).
the obituaries window at dog-eared books
Dog-Eared Books was the last sketch I did on my sketching day in the City. I hadn’t intended it to be, I had wanted to close out the last pages of Moleskine 11, but when you’re done you’re done, and I left it on a high. I popped by the excellent Mission Comics for a while for a mooch, picking up a Thanos comic to read on the train home. They had in their rear gallery an exhibit of art called “Batman on Robin”, and yes it was exactly what you are imagining, and a lot more than that too. ‘Graphic’ is putting it mildy. I finished up in the Mission with, of course, a burrito – but this one was different. It was a chicken tikka masala burrito. I will say that again in case you didn’t quite catch the importance of that statement. It was a Chicken Tikka Masala Burrito. Je ne vous merde pas, as they say. What a combination; for me, that’s like going to the San Francisco Giants stadium and watching Tottenham beat Arsenal. It was at a place on Valencia (where else) called “Curry Up Now”, and oh yeah, baby. And so that was it. I considered going to North Beach for a beer and a sketch at Vesuvio’s or Spec’s, but forgot that this was the day of the big Chinese New Year parade; we had gotten caught trying to get up that stretch of Columbus on the same day last year and it was rather difficult to say the least. So I just went home. My feet were weary enough.
San Francisco: I walked around South Beach looking for a Chase cashpoint (their tagline should be ‘Chase – because you have to run around looking for them’) until I finally found one after walking about fifteen thousand miles. The thing about getting money out from cashpoints over here is that it’s so darned expensive if it’s not from your bank. You get charged about two or three bucks by the cashpoint, plus another three bucks by your own bank for daring to get money from someone else. Six bucks just to get out a twenty, just to get change for the bus? You’re having a laugh, ‘int ya? Cash is so old-fashioned anyway. Anyway I finally got some dollar bills, and then because I was already at Market St I decided to hop onto the BART, wich is the Bay Area’s subway system, for which you don’t actually need to use cash (doh!). The BART ticket machines are so bizarre when using cash it is hilarious watching newbies try to figure them out (and I used to be one of them), the whole adding your money, subtracting 5c here and there to reach the right amount, well I’m not making it sound complicated but it really is. I ended up at the Mission District, which is my go-to area when I’m not sure what to do in San Francisco. There’s so much to draw, so many interesting shops, lots of colour and character, great food, great art, and a lurking mix of unbearable hipsterness and extreme danger. I was happy though, because I found a football shirt shop with the Barcelona game on, and chatted to the women working there about football (soccer) shirt designs. This being a big Spanish speaking area you see a lot more people in football shirts, which is a good thing.
I sat on the sidewalk and drew this old closed-down movie theatre, the Tower. I’m drawn to old run-down buildings, with history and personality. I overheard someone ask as they passed me, “why is he drawing that building? Maybe it means something to him.” It doesn’t, but I’ll bet it means something to a lot of other people. One comment when I posted this drawing on my Facebook page told of going to see double-bills for four bucks as a kid. there are lots of old movie theatre buildings about, some repurposed into other things such as stores or religious venues or night clubs, some refashioned into art-house cinemas, and some just left to the termites.
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.
San Francisco, CA: I walked along the Embarcadero, beneath the Bay Bridge, through South Beach, on my way to AT&T Park. I wanted to draw the ballpark because my wife is a big Giants fan. On the way, I passed Red’s Java house, which I have wanted to sketch for some time. I’ve never been in here (and my lack of cash meant I didn’t go in this time either, plus I’d already eaten at Gott’s), but I know it’s historic and I always like a well-worn building in my sketchbook. I seem to recall Anthony Bourdain popped in for breakfast in one of his shows. This place has been here for the best part of a century, serving the dockers, later the dotcommers and then the Giants fans. Beyond, in the turquoise bay waters, huge container vessels from Korea, China, the Rest of the World came in to dock on the far side in Oakland, Alameda, or wherever, unloading their cargo to be hauled across the United States and its big economy. Behind me, lycra- and iPod-clad joggers jogged on. The Java drinkers at Red’s presumably watched, and I sketched none of it. For me, the building is story enough.
I took the train down to San Francisco this weekend past. It’s a lot more expensive than it used to be. However, it’s nice to get out of Davis after a busy, busy week. I had no plan, and only decided to get that early 7:55 train shortly after waking up. I rushed to get to the train, my hair a mess, not even taking the time to stop at the bank for some cash. The train itself was packed with knitters, chattering and knitting, on their way to some big knitting thing in Santa Clara, Stitches West. I was sketching, and not chattering.
When I got to the city I stopped at Gott’s Roadside at the Ferry Building for breakfast, before setting off aimlessly for some sketching and walking.
During the busy days it is even more important not to stop sketching regularly. It helps to focus and normalize your thoughts, if only for a short while. I must admit, despite being ridiculously busy in 2013 I am feeling quite sketchbook prolific, fitting them in when I can. The nice weather and wintery trees have helped enormously. I took two thirds of a lunchtime to sketch one more slice of 2nd St (continuing the block I have been sketching this month), with this picture of Odd Fellows Hall. This is a, well, um, they hold gigs here occasionally, I know that. I’ve never been in here, perhaps I’m not an odd enough fellow, though that is up for debate. I stood and sketched quickly, and added the colour later on at home. Anyway, like a Monopoly player I am busily ‘collecting’ my Davis street blocks, and this side is pretty much done, yeah just the end of this building but you get the idea. Here then is the (near) complete block:
I should draw the other side some time…