Big rain storms rolled into California today. Late November can be a very colourful time of year, when the trees are bright yellow, fiery orange, deep reds, and leaves flutter down on every breeze. When the storms come it blows everything around, meaning what would otherwise be a grey and dismal day was in fact a beautiful, I mean really beautiful stormy morning. I walked to a meeting mid-morning, and could have walked on all day in the rain. The ground was covered in bright leaves, like a dusting of golden snow. I don’t have a window in my office so I can’t gaze dreamily out at the rain (I have to draw a picture of it on my whiteboard), but I can hear it on the skylight, tap-tap-tap, and by lunchtime it was pounding. I couldn’t wait to get back out, find a sheltered spot, and draw the colourful storm while it lasted. I listened to a history podcast about England’s medieval conquest of Wales and drew in the Moleskine. It’s funny, whenever it rains here people are often, oh no, rain, I don’t want to get my raincoat slightly wet in the brief dash from my car to Target, whereas I’m like, oh it’s just a bit of rain, grrr. So I scribbled down this cartoon in my notepad this afternoon. Thought you might like it.
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.
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…”
I must admit I am really happy it is raining in Davis. We need it, for sure, but i just like the feel of the rain. It feels comforting, feels like home. Oh, it can bugger off again soon enough for sure (I didn’t move to California to get rained on, I can do that in north London) but it’s nice while it’s here. I did a qucik rainy sketch from the window of the Silo at lunchtime yesterday.
The smart thing to do would be to check the weather forecast and then decide what to do, but of course as anyone who is familiar with London summers (or winters, autumns and springs) knows, the weather forecast cannot be relied upon anyway. We’d planned to do a walking tour around Westminster (one of the London Walks; I illustrated their book a couple of years ago, including the chapter on Secret Westminster) and wasn’t going to be put off by a few drops of rain. Indeed it looked like it would be just another breezy, grey Saturday, maybe the odd drop here and there but nothing to worry us. We met the group outside a tourist-packed Westminster station, giving me enough time to grab a ten minute sketch of Big Ben (above) before learning about Westminster’s secrets. As we stood behind Westminster Abbey looking at Oliver Cromwell across the road, the rain suddenly turned into a torrent, and pretty much stayed that way for the next few hours.
It was an interesting tour, to be sure, despite the massive downpour. We went down backstreets of Westminster I never even knew about, and took a stroll through the old Westminster school. Of course I attempted to sketch as we went along, which was a challenge I’ll admit. Once it was all over (a little earlier than planned, I suspect), we went to a pub in Whitehall, the Old Shades, to dry off and have something to eat.
Not that the rain deterred us too much. We still spent a day around central London, popping into the National Gallery, squeezing through the crowds at Hamley’s, looking through the football shirt shops (hey, it’s me).
And then in the evening, a night out in Camden Town with friends (one of whom, Ralph, I hadn’t seen in over twenty years). Before meeting up, I grabbed another very quick sketch standing on Camden High street. So despite all the rain, that was a fun day, and it was a fun night as well.
The massive rainstorms this week have confined me to the inside world. I feel like a hermit. But you’re from London, they protest, you must be used to the rain. Yeah, it got me just as wet there too. So anyway, I’m still using bits of cut up enelopes to make my drawing look a little different. I had a few minutes over lunch to draw out of rain-soaked window, in poor visibility, in brown micron on an envelope that came from London, funny enough.
Oh, time to comment on the weekend’s match. Football. The Carling Cup Final. I didn’t really expect Spurs to win, but we won it last year, and you never know. So to lose it on penalties was pretty hard to bear. I didn’t see it; it was all just text updates online, early in the morning. Even so, I hid in the kitchen, unable to watch, as is normal for penalty shoot-outs. This of course means no European football for Tottenham next year. I’m so glad Redknapp decided that playing in the UEFA cup wasn’t worth it. He sacrificed it this year for the slim chance of getting in next year. He has bowed out of the UEFA Cup twice this season now, with two clubs. That’s the spirit! That’s real ambition! Well, at least we have the relegation battle to look forward to.
Meanwhile, in Davis, I am drawing puddles.
Part three of a series. Presumably this means I will have to make more. This is the outside of a very famous station. Well it’s not that famous but many thousands of people have heard of it, maybe millions. More people over the course of seventy years have heard of it than, say, Jordan and Peter Andre. And they’re pretty famous for not doing anything particularly noteworthy. I suppose you could say this station has spent it’s entire life on the line. The Northern Line. Anyway here it is in line and wash.
I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving! Except if you’re in the UK, in which case ‘Happy Last Thursday’. Or Canada, in which case ‘Belated Happy Thanksgiving’. Or everywhere else. Anyway, it’s the most turkey-ful time of the year, and why not. I love thanksgiving, for the food. The autumnal colours are always nice as well.
But the next day is Black Friday. Black, because of the mood after spending hours locked into the consumerist nightmare that is big box america, home of the all-you-can-spend strip-mall. Black Friday sounds rather like a good pirate’s name, “yarrr, Captain Black Friday, shiver me timbers.” In a way though, Black Friday is the captain, that is supposed to steer the ship of the economy back on course (but you wouldn’t trust ‘im, an’ he’s only got one leg, etc etc). Not for me the 4:30 lining up in the freezing darkness outside Best Buy – I did that two years ago as an experiment, and have no need to do so again. I popped down to the action zone later on in the day though, to see for myself the economy rumbling back into gear, and spent hours stuck there in the maelstrom (or the toy department of Target at least), coming away with not a clue and no bargains at all. I did stop to draw Best Buy though. Looks very peaceful, doesn’t it.
Speaking of autumnal colours, the day before Thanksgiving we actually had some rain in Davis. Weather.com said there was a Severe Weather Warning for the Sacramento Valley. Severe weather. Shit. I looked, and they said there would be Some Rain, 30-40% chance. Some rain. Well, I braved the severe weather and got a tiny bit damp, 30 or 40% damp on my jacket at least, dodging brown leaves as they fluttered gently to the puddle-spotted pavement, and drew the picture below. Severe weather, seriously.
By the way, I posted both of these drawings on Urban Sketchers this week. Good reminder for you to go and check that site out; it’s nearly a month old, with hundreds of urban drawings already.
And so, New York City. Walked outside a packed Penn Station into billions of people and torrrential rain, rain so hard those tall buildings had no top or even middle. Hilarious, I didn’t care, I was in New York and New York is cool. It felt like London, only taller.
Walked down fifth a little bit, taking dark grey photos, running in and out of postcard shops, counting yellow taxis (not really counting, but you know, there were a lot). I just had to draw, it’s why I was there. So out came the little blue chair, underneath a narrow shelter by a coffee shop, right next to a hot dog stand (as New York as it comes). Below, a sketch made outside Long Beach station, before taking Long Island Railroad in to this rainy rainy metropolis.
When it rains it pours. No, this isn’t pouring, it’s bucketing, and do we need it. It rained overnight a few weeks ago, and that was the first rain in many many months, but this is the first proper rain for me – the first rain I actually get to see in the daytime. And I like it. And so do the weathermen (no that’s not a reference to bill ayers, I’m not a mccain robocaller). Now mark finan and dave bender can wheel out their fancy doppler and vipir radars, put on their best ties, and sink their teeth into some storms. California’s poor weathermen, there’s never really much for them to do.
Last time I drew from this window (in the silo, where sometimes i eat lunch), they were building that new bus terminal which is now open across the street. Back in those days, it was a lot hotter, and the dollar was really weak against the pound.