where the streets have a slightly different name

Streets pub Sacramento
This is the midtown Sacramento pub called ‘Streets’. Click on the image to see it in closer detail. This pub was formerly known as the ‘Streets of London’, but they decided to drop the ‘of London’ part presumably in an effort to appear more inclusive to the other metropolitan centers of the UK and indeed the more rural counties. They could have gone further and called it ‘Lanes’ or ‘Highways and Byways’. They have an actual National Express Coach-stop sign outside the pub, and still have a number of British-themed (specifically London-themed) objects in the pub, but not as much as they used to. When I first came here back in 2006 or whenever it was, they had football shirts and scarves hanging from the ceiling. Those are sadly long gone (and you know how much I love football shirts). Otherwise though the pub really hasn’t changed a lot. One TV ahead of me was showing the Giants baseball, another was showing French football (which these days just means ‘PSG and someone else’, you know how much I don’t like seeing PSG). It’s been a long time since I was in here last, but I have wanted to do a panorama sketch of its brick walls and cozy layout for ages. I hadn’t planned on it; we spent the morning in Arden Fair mall, mostly at the Lego store (and you know how much we love Lego). I then took the opportunity to go to midtown Sacramento, to look at all the goodies in the University Art store on J Street. I picked up a ‘Cathedrals of the World’ colouring-in book (and you know how much I love drawings of the Cathedrals of the World). I then wandered about looking for something new to sketch, but by now it was hot, very hot. Very very hot. I considered sketching the historic Governor’s Mansion (which I last drew in, um, 2007) but could not find the right angle, what with all the big trees in the way (stupid trees, providing shade from the oppressively hot sun and the air we breathe). Maybe I will come back in winter.

By this point, the searing heat was giving me a headache, and I had to cool off urgently. So I went back over to Big Brother Comics on J Street, bought the latest issue of ‘Thors’ (one of the very fun and inventive books from Marvel’s ongoing ‘Secret Wars’ event; the ‘Thors’ are like the cops of Battleworld, and this plays like a classic cop drama, but, you know, with more hammers and lightning), and popped into the Streets of London pub to cool off and read. Sorry, ‘Streets’. No more humming Ralph McTell. After finishing ‘Thors’, I thought, ah what the hell (sorry, what the ‘hel’, Thor joke) and started to sketch a panorama. I sketched quickly and drank my two beers slowly (one after the other, not slowly at the same time). It wasn’t particularly busy, but the staff were friendly and the atmosphere nice. At one point a large party of Sunday pubcrawlers came in, had a pint, and left. I remember this being a thing the last few times I have been at this pub. There are a bevvy of boozers in midtown now, and I imagine an afternoon pub-crawl with all your friends on a hot Sunday in mid-August would be quite a lot of fun, but you don’t get to spend long enough in any place to enjoy it before the fastest drinker in your crowd claps his hand loudly and orders you to move on (that’s what happened here). They do have these pedal-powered contraptions now that groups of people ride on, all pedaling, drinking water, being directed from pub to pub, while yelling ‘wooh’ and ‘yeah’. The pub returned to quiet Sunday afternoon peace very quickly, but I had to get the bus home to Davis. I finished off adding all the paint the next day. Another pub sketch checked off the list!

the fanny ann’s monologues

Old Town Sacramento on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Click to see bigger (move further away to see smaller)

Old Town Sacramento on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Click to see bigger (or move further away to see smaller)

Having sketched one panorama in Sacramento already that day I decided to sketch another in nearby Old Sacramento. This is the Gold Rush era town, established in 1849 according to their handy brochure. Now see the building with the red and wfanny ann's saloon, old town sachite striped awnings, that is Fanny Ann’s Saloon, I have sketched it before back on a rainy day in 2009 (click on the little square to the right to see it, and then come right back here to finish reading). It’s a really interesting place with lots of old stuff all over the walls (including for some reason old British railway station signs, among all the Old West stylings). I’ve only ever been in there in the afternoons for a quick pint post-sketching or post-shopping, I imagine it is a fun place to hang out in the evenings, I don’t know but it’s always very friendly. They have a website, http://www.fannyannsaloon.com/, but if you click on there you have to promise you’ll come right back because I’m not done). They also have arcade games upstairs. IP1040434 remember about five years ago my friend Simon came over from England and played some of the classic shoot-em-up games, which seemed appropriate given the location we were in, I don’t mean in an old town from the Cowboy era, but just America in general. There he is on the left there, you can click on that image to get an idea of the decor (and you’ll have to come back to this page after that because there’s nowhere else to go). So that is Fanny Ann’s, which reminds me of the expression “Sweet F.A.”, which my Mum used to say meant “Sweet Fanny Ann’s”, which of course means “nothing”. Or was it “Sweet Fanny Adams”? Actually it was “Sweet Fanny Adams”. Yes, I’m pretty sure it was. Ah, so I’ve been telling people for years it was, well never mind. Words change as they get across the Atlantic.

fannyfannyfanny

Me in France, 2002, giggling at a shop called “Fanny Fanny Fanny”

Take “Fanny”. I had no idea. Now for those of you who don’t know, well, go and look it up on Google (open a new tab so you can come back here though, be really careful how you phrase the search). Yeah, see? I had no idea. The expression is probably ruder in England than in America. We don’t go around saying “Fanny this” or “Fanny that” (unless it’s a name in a costume drama, it’s always a name in a costume drama) and we all giggle at the mention of the word. In America it means ‘backside’, as you all know. People wear “fanny-packs”, that which we in England call “bum-bags”, of course in America “bum” means something else, often a homeless person, or in the often used expression “to be bummed”, again an alarming and graphic choice of words to a British ear but I actually heard a newsreader here in California say it three times in as many minutes when describing some local news item, basketball or something. “Bummer” is common on both sides of the pond of course, but here I’ve even heard the President himself referred to as “A Bummer” (thanks folks, I’m here all week). But “Fanny”, I had no idea. Years ago in France, when I first met my wife (who is American) I remember gasping in shock as she told me about when she had fallen over on rollerblades once and gotten a “bruised fanny”. I wasn’t even sure how it was physically possible, and I asked if she’d landed on a bollard or something, and after some confusion she laughed and explained that she was referring to the posterior. It was my first step into a larger world, a world of transatlantic vocabulary differences and easily avoided faux-pas. I still won’t say “fanny”. That old fashioned embarrassed Britishness is just too deeply ingrained in me, stiff upper lip old chap, put that light out, there’s a war on.

So anyway next time I’m in old Sacramento, I’ll pop back into Fanny Ann’s for a pint and a bit more sketching. If you see me, do say “Cheers”, or perhaps the rather more British expression “Bottoms Up”, which of course translates over here as, well…

crocker round the clock

The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. Click to see it all big and stuff.

The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. Click to see it all big and stuff.

I like to think of myself as an art lover, an appreciator of fine paintings, a sage head-nodder in the gallery. I sometimes stand for ages looking at small details on masterpieces with a well-practiced face that says “knower of his shit”. In truth I’m always a bit overwhelmed by great epic works of art, in awe of them though I am, and they don’t always inspire me as much as turn me into a scratcher of head. Actually I must confess I do love modern art, and visit the Tate Modern almost every time I go back to London. I did do art for my GCSE back in school and got an A, but when I did it at A-Level I got a D, largely because (I felt afterwards) I spent a lot of time in galleries and not enough time drawing. And in those galleries, my favourite parts were always the gift shop, where you could see all the famous paintings in small postcard size. It’s probably why I draw so small. When it comes to art history, once I get past Picasso, Van Gogh and Mondrian, I always feel like a bit of a beginner. Though I did enjoy learning about the Futurists and their Manifesto when I was at university. So despite doing art every day of my life, I don’t often make enough time to go to galleries.

IMG_2999

Anyway, after living here for almost a decade I finally went to Sacramento’s amazing Crocker Art Museum a couple of weeks ago. It was actually on the recommendation of my seven-year old son (who was still six at the time), who had been there before and wanted to show me the statue of the man with the really small head. The Crocker is great! The older part, housed inside the large mansion you see in my panorama on the left, has amazing interiors, as well as a thoroughly impressive collection of art. The Crocker Art Museum was actually the first of its kind in the Western United States, being established in 1885 by Judge E.B. Crocker and his wife Margaret. The Crockers were one of those  wealthy families that helped shape California in the post-Gold-Rush era; Judge Crocker’s brother Charles was one of the big railroad barons in the late nineteenth century, and going by their portraits these people like to shave their cheeks, but had enormous beards on their chins, predating the 1990s turning-thirty-goatee look by well over a century. The European collection is astonishing, with some oil paintings by Dutch masters such as, um, er (you see? Beginner) depicting canals and light, and one depicting a bishop standing being all holy while a woman calmly squirts milk from her breast directly into his face. Yes, this centuries old painting had me giggling like my fifteen year old GCSE art self would have done. There was some amazing work by Californian artists, as well as ceramics by UC Davis’s own art legend Robert Arneson, plus historical artifacts from across the globe, some of which were thousands of years old. There was some breathtaking modern art, and an exhibition of Mexican art, and indeed we did find the hilarious statue of the man with the tiny head that had delighted my son. It was very funny, but not as funny as the bishop with the milky face.

The large white modern wing, in the right of my panorama sketch, was opened in 2010 and is called the Teel Family Pavilion. My son was excited to tell me that they have tables where you can eat your snacks. His previous visit you see had been as a group with his daycare, and I’m so glad his first visit was, well, with his mates rather than with his parents, because you get a better appreciation for such places with your friends and peers, who can laugh at small heads, than with your boring folks who seem to find amusement in bishops and breasts. We did find the other area downstairs which is dedicated to kids, a whole room full of interactive art activities like a touchscreen to create digital abstract art, tables full of coloured paper and shiny tape where we made some fancy paper airplanes, oh and a large board with shaped colourful magnets where I had the most fun ever, as you can see.

"Do not dare defy me you insolent whelps, for I am Magneto, Master of Magnetism!"

“Do not dare defy me you insolent whelps, for I am none other than Magneto, Master of Magnetism!”

So impressed was I with our afternoon at the Crocker that I came back the next day to sketch the outside. I was inspired, not by the Flemish landscapes, nor by lactose-tolerant priests, nor even by unusually miniscule faces, but by a pencil drawing, an urban sketch of that very mansion. It was dated from the 1880s, I think, and apart from the 21st century appendage it looked pretty much as it does today. After seeing that sketch, I just HAD to draw it myself. It was on a Monday, which was a holiday, the museum was closed so there weren’t a lot of cars parked blocking my view across the street, so I stood listening to the Football Weekly podcast and added to my own burgeoning collection of panoramas.

Visit the Crocker’s website at: http://crockerartmuseum.org/

new year, old town

Old Town Sacramento. Click on image for larger view. Or move closer to screen.

Old Town Sacramento. Click on image for larger view. Or move closer to screen.

2015, the future. On New Year’s Day I had a day off. New Year’s Eve is always a bit unnecessary in my opinion these days, old fogey that I am becoming, just watching TV waiting for that awful pointless ball drop in New York City that actually happened three hours ago. God that is awful, isn’t it? Times Square on New Year’s Eve, in a massive crowd of people doing basically nothing, being forced to listen to the most awful bland TV music in the history of popular entertainment, if you happen to be watching on TV you also get treated to hours of the most awful TV presenter banter intermingled with nonsense about how Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve is somehow magical and amazing, well it is for you random celebrity pop singer, you have all the trappings of being a random celebrity pop singer, you don’t have to wait in a big crowd listening to you bawl on before some stupid ball comes down a stupid pole. And you know what? They didn’t even show the actual ball on the TV channel I was watching, like it must have been sponsored by the other side, was it? I bet it was. The fireworks if there were any must have been too because they were also lacking. Oh I watched the fireworks from London on YouTube, and London won New Year’s Eve this year. Anyway, if you’ve managed to read this far into my anti-NYC-NYE rant (Happy New Year, by the way), here is what I managed to sketch on the first day of 2015. I was in old town Sacramento, while my wife went to Arden to return some stuff, and I had about an hour and a half. I did most of the drawing on site, but finished the detailing and added the colour later at home. It was a lovely sunny day. I do remember the very first New Years that I was here in California, I remember having the exact same rant about the three-hours-ago nonsense on TV back in 2005-06, that was NINE YEARS AGO. I remember the news stations were asking people in Sacramento not to be shooting their guns up in the air on New Year’s Eve (a popular pastime apparently) because bullets, you know, come down again and could hurt people. I remember how stormy it was that year, how we had a lot of flooding in the area. I was new to America, still not working at that point, with Davis being all new and fresh and undiscovered. Anyway…this was done in the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, and yes, same as last year, I’m spending January doing panoramas. More to come…

christmas at the capitol

capitol building xmas 2013 sm
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.

flying over hamburgers

plane at hamburger patties
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.

the beat goes on

the beat, sacramento

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