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.
I went to Hamburger Patties, in midtown Sacramento, because I was hungry. I don’t eat hamburgers, so had never been in before, but thought they might have some nice chicken sandwiches, which they did. Inside I discovered this was a remarkable place for sketching. I could have sat at the bar for hours sketching the interior. I settled however for a quick sketch of a large model bi-plane that was hanging from the ceiling above me. The food came, and it was very tasty, and so I finished this and went to sketch The Beat (see a previous post). Must come back and sketch the bar some time.
This is The Beat, a beloved record store which for twenty years has lived on the corner of J and 17th Streets in midtown Sacramento. It was the existence of this record store, with its huge stock of new and used CDs (including stuff I hadn’t even seen in the UK), that first brought me to discover midtown Sac back in early 2007. I would go out there on weekend afternoons fairly regularly after that, sketching the very sketchable neighbourhood, popping into the Streets of London pub for beer and fish and chips, browsing comics at Big Brother, buying pens at the University Art Store. I don’t come out here very often these days (nor do I buy music much any more, maybe an album every six months or so from a band I already know) but when I do I always pop into The Beat and browse the racks. I spent a lot of my youth browsing the racks at London record stores – Loppylugs in Edgware, Notting Hill Record&Tape Exchange, HMV/Virgin/Our Price – most of which are either gone or dying breeds. Even Tower Records, which I always knew from its celebrated spot at the corner of Piccadilly Circus, is no more – Tower was in fact a Sacramento native, named for the Tower Theater next door to the original Land Park store, and when the chain closed the original is all that remained. The world does things differently now.
I went by again recently to sketch The Beat one last time, because at the end of June this record store is being forced to move, and I don’t yet know where it will end up. They aren’t going out of business, it’s just that the landlords gave them a 90 day notice to vacate now that their current lease is expiring. The property is owned by the same family, the Soehrens, that built the premises back in the 1920s and apparently have been pretty flexible in the past with rent reductions, but times are tough; they haven’t stated who the new tenants will be, but hopefully it will be one that gives the neighbourhood as much character as The Beat does. I hope they will be able to stay local, but I for one will miss them in this spot, since they’re usually my first destination when walking to midtown from downtown Sac.
Sketched on location on Canson Montval watercolour paper with a micron pigma pen and Cotman watercolours.
Also blogged at Urban Sketchers
More from the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento – above, a metallic blue Rolls Royce 25/30 Sport Sedanca. This Roller was enormous. It looks like something from a 1930s film noir. You had to be a pretty special type of gangster to ride in one of these, none of your “shtick em up, see, this is a frame-up, see” lingo from this motor. This is a roll up slowly, window rolls down, give you a look of disdain from beneath a silvery fedora and move on to the opera before the real thugs come and throw you in the canal. Lots of stories in a car like this, see.
Oooh, the race car section was superb. As keen readers may recall I was at Disneyland Cars Land last week so race travel’s in my blood, there is nothing I can do about it. Well my five-year-old son loves them, and I’m always tripping over them on the carpet. This zippy little creation above is a 1966 Shelby Cobra, a car built by former race-car driver Carroll Shelby. I should like to learn more about race cars like this. Of course this would mean more reading and less drawing so I took a photo of the very detailed history displayed by the exhibit, and I promise I will read the rest of it some time. I don’t know if this car won any races, but it should have done. Being number 13 reminds me of a car I built once – not a real car, like, but a cardboard model with wheels made of those yellow plastic balls you get in Kinder eggs and elastic bands to make it go. I was about thirteen or so, it was for a competition in my design technology class at school. I won, by the way, I won a fun-sized Mars bar, which wasn’t all that fun. And it was not number 13, but number -13 (my favourite number, the opposite of unlucky). I retired from my automotive design career on a high.
Of course, I really wanted to design a time machine. Who wouldn’t? Back to the Future was one of my favourite films. I count it as one of the reasons I moved to California. So you can imagine my heart-thumping glee when I saw the 1981 DeLorean, a real DeLorean, DMC-12, with car doors up prancing majestically like, you know, the karate kid. The Flux Capacitor was gone and it ran on neither plutonium nor trash, but every angle of this car brought me back to being the ten year old who went to see this at the movies and fantasized about time travel ever since. I still nod approvingly at the clock when it strikes 10:04. Time was pressing on and I really had to sketch it before it was too late, because I needed to get to the bus, and get back to 2013. This was a fun trip to the Cal Auto Museum, and I think I’ll be back there soon.
On Saturday, a sunny but breezy February afternoon, I took the bus over to Sacramento for an afternoon of sketching. I had heard about the California Automobile Museum, but had never sought it out, until now. Not far down the river from the Tower Bridge, but still a bit of a walk for my aching feet, the Museum is set into a large warehouse building and jam-packed with amazing historical cars. As someone who likes to draw classic old cars but is frustrated by the samey-samey beige vehicles and unnecessarily testosterone-powered SUVs of the 21st Century, it’s amazing I’ve never been here before, and wow what a find. I will be coming back here again. I wanted to draw everything, so started in chronological order. I didn’t draw the absolutely oldest things on show, but drew the 1904 Ford Model B touring car, above. I say ‘car’, it is a lot bigger than it looks, with a roof straight out of a Great Plains Wagon. It’s intersting to see the evolution of automtive design – many of the touring cars there are larger than a standard SUV of today, but still resemble high-end horse-drawn carriages, where the horse is a long engine in a box at the front.
Here is a slightly smaller vehicle, but still sizeable, the 1914 Hupmobile Model 32-Touring car. I kept thinking of Mr.Toad, “poop-poop”. I loved the hand-cranks on the engines, another reminder of old movies. This was accompanied by an exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, one of the great roads that was built across the United States in the early twentieth century, the age when the motor-car allowed the idea of America’s Manifest Destiny to truly become reality. There was an exhibit about Camp Curry, Yosemite, and that big tree you could drive a car through. No need to go around trees any more, we can just go through them. With our motorcars, we are now the Masters of the Universe.
Here is a later one, the 1938 Buick Special, when cars became great design masterpieces, curves and shine and power. I sketched some more, to follow in the next post. Even by this point though, my aching feet were joined by an aching arm as my sketchbook-holding left arm was starting to feel tired from my standing posture, while I rushed to draw as many as possible. But there was so much to draw! More to come…
We happened to be in Midtown Sacramento today, buying art supplies and stocking stuffers at the University Art Store on J Street. I decided to stick around and sketch a building I last sketched back in early 2007, the Parish Church of St.Francis of Assisi. It was a cool day in Midtown, and I had a long walk to the bus afterwards, but it was a good walk. I always forget how much I do enjoy Midtown Sac, how many great sketching opportunities and interesting little stores there are. I remember when I first discovered the area, my wife had dropped me off to check out that record shop The Beat one day and I was hooked, it became my favourite place to escape to from Davis (other than the Bay Area of course). I was amazed I had never been there before; I generally avoided Sacramento in those early days, having only seen its rougher edges, but Midtown was cool. On those long Sundays when my wife wanted me out of the apartment, I’d be there somewhere between J or K or L, sketching. This building was in fact the first thing I ever drew in Midtown, so when I stopped there today it felt like I was sketching an old, old friend. I don’t go to this area very often now, maybe a couple of times a year, but it’s an interesting area, and has well-stocked art stores, comic shops, record shops and a British pub – what more do you need?
Incidentally, here is the version I drew nearly six years ago… different angle, different light, different pens, very different days.
Yesterday afternoon I took the bus over to Sacramento. I’ve not been there in a good long while, and I wanted to sketch stuff we don’t have in Davis, in this case a big tall cathedral. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, just off K St, was completed in 1889 and sits about a block or so from the State Capitol. It’s a Roman Catholic church, and on this day there was a big wedding while I sketched. The horse and carriage that wait at the bottom of the steps in this drawing were soon joined by the large wedding party and what sounded like a mariachi band playing Mexican music. I think there were other weddings that day because there seemed to be a decent contingent of brides and bridesmaids dotted about Sacramento; good weekend to get married I suppose. The weather, which was hitting the century last week, was in the mid seventies, much more reasonable for October. It’s always interesting to sketch on K Street, Sacramento. Interesting if you like people shuffling up and asking for a dollar, or like people cycling up and down the sidewalk on those scruffy little bikes people seem to have (not that I judge the scruffiness of a bike, my own being pretty scrufftastic, but at least it’s the right size for an adult). Yesterday was a little less so, as there was also quite a lot of police, many on horseback, likely keeping an eye out for the demonstration that was gathered before the Capitol (no idea what it was about, but it’s all politics these days). I sketched this for about an hour and a half and then had to say enough was enough. I was using an Itoya finepoint, only its second outing, but already the nib was wasting away before me. Those Itoyas have nice enough ink but buckle at the first sight of paper, especially watercolour Moleskine paper. It was only a buck.
After strolling down K and through the rather sad downtown mall (no longer a Westfield), I passed into Old Sacramento, where many people were gathering for some music festival by the river that evening. I was peckish however and popped into the River City Saloon for some garlic fries (and one of those nice shark beers). I did a quick brown pen sketch of part of the bar area, but I really must plan to go back and do a proper drawing of the whole thing, it really does merit a 180 degree curvilinear bar sketch, more than any other.