Back to San Francisco’s North Beach, on that Friday of sketching at the end of last month. After a quick check-in at my hotel, I walked back up Columbus to stand outside the famous City Lights bookstore and sketch Vesuvio’s, a popular local bar on the corner of Jack Kerouac Alley. This junction is one of my favourite in the world. I have said it before, I could draw this area for years on end and never get bored. Well, not that bored anyway. The last time I tried to sketch on this spot, about five years ago, I got a little way in before rain stopped play, but on this occasion it was a warm, sunny Friday afternoon, getting into Happy Hour, as the world ended its work week and started to relax. It was a fun time of day to be out with a sketchbook. As I stood, the occasional bar patron would come out and check out what I was sketching (one bloke had his friend wave at me from the upstairs window, so I added him in). I popped my head inside afterwards, but didn’t stay for a pint, as I had more sketching to get on with while the sun was still shining. I have been in before, and one day I plan to sketch the interior.
San Francisco, continued. I strolled down Columbus unto North Beach (well, I took the 30 bus, let’s be fair). I could sketch North Beach for ever, seriously. You can never run out of sketchable things. I passed by this old Italian deli, Molinari, and just couldn’t resist. For those of you who don’t know, this neighbourhood of San Francisco is traditionally very Italian. Italian flags are painted on many of the lamp-posts, and Italian restaurants post waiters on the sidewalk to pull in the tourists. Molinari has been around since 1896, making salami and other deli goods, on the corner of Vallejo and Columbus, and despite not having a great vantage point I stood on the edge of the pavement sketching as people bustled by. I really had to squeeze in, too! I added the colour later. I went inside and showed the people who worked there, I think they liked it. It was a lovely sunny Friday afternoon, and after this I went to my nearby hotel before heading out for some more sketching.
Here’s another from San Francisco. After sketching the Balclutha, I stood on the corner of Beach and Larkin to sketch the sloping view up to Ghirardelli Square. You’ll know Ghirardelli as a famous chocolatier, and they do make really nice choccies. I even treated myself to a delicious hot fudge brownie sundae after this drawing, setting me back a cool $10 but ermagerd, it was good, so good. This place is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. I coloured this in later – I had stood there long enough, and there were plenty more things to draw. I also added a map into my sketchbook showing the locations of my sketches so far – there it is below. You will see a lot more of these maps from now on, as I have decided to paint little maps accompanying my pages. Let’s see how long that idea lasts. anyway, I do have more San Francisco sketches to come, I have just been very lazy with the scanner…
Recently I took a couple of days in San Francisco, the City by the Bay. I know lots of other cities are by bays as well (and this isn’t even the only city by this bay, nor the biggest), but when we talk about the City by the Bay we mean only one place. Anyway, to San Francisco I came, not to sit here resting my bones as such but to draw furiously, and draw furiously I did. After this one, anyhow, which was drawn calmly, peacefully and without any fury at all. It is lovely down there by the water’s edge, listening to the tide as it rolls away. I was blessed with a beautiful warm day (I always get weather-lucky in the city), the day before a huge storm washed away any doubters. I didn’t fancy sketching the mania of Fisherman’s Wharf much, and considered going out to sketch the Golden Gate Bridge (another time perhaps) but just wanted to sit and sketch the Balclutha, a magnificent old boat moored near Hyde Pier. There is Alcatraz, the former prison island, in the background (Clint Eastwood swimming just out of shot). I sat on a bench as joggers, tourists, cyclists, and those funny looking Segway riders bumbled by. At one point I took a photo of the scene using my iPad, at which point a Wandering Drunk stumbled by and said loudly, “I wish I could sink that thing!!” Now here is an example of the modern world taking over common vocabulary, because I actually thought he meant the iPad, as in ‘sync’, and I was most confused. “It’s not even American!” he continued, while swilling his can of cheap beer. Now I was confused; Apple is based not far from here, surely, what are you on about you nutter? It was not a conversation I was interested in having, but then when he started gesturing at the ship I realized, aaaah, you mean the boat, right I get it now, you make sense now, carry on. He perched himself at the top of the steps with a six-pack and carried on making idle threats at passing maritime vessels, which to be fair is probably a nice relaxing way to spend the day, for all I know. I did look up the sailing ship Balclutha when I got home, to see if it really wasn’t American, and apparently it is not, it was built in Glasgow in Scotland (‘Balclutha’ is Gaelic and refers to the city on the Clyde), was renamed Alaska Star and Pacific Queen for periods, and has been moored in San Francisco since the Maritime Museum purchased it in the 1950s. You can find out more about the Balclutha on the National Park Service website.
After the Zine Fest in San Francisco I crossed over Lincoln Way and sketched a pub opposite Golden Gate Park, The Little Shamrock. I remember seeing this pub once ages ago when we drove past here, because it is pretty old – 119 years old in fact, according to the sign, though the date of founding means it’s probably 120 years by now. A hundred and twenty years ain’t bad! Not bad at all. So it was worth popping in to do some sketching of the interior. I must say that pretty much all of the interior was sketchworthy, a comfortable pub full of character. The people were friendly too, and the beer selection good. To my left were a group of people who from what I heard of their conversation (they were discussing performance art pieces at public galleries) they were curators at SFMOMA and probably somewhere else. Art is all around. I just hacked away at the sketchbook, and enjoyed my beer. I like the Inner Sunset.
(click on the image to see a bigger version)
Yesterday, I took the train down to San Francisco to go to the Zine Fest. I last went to Zine Fest in 2010, and couldn’t wait to come to this year’s one. It’s held at the San Francisco County Fair Building. I came largely for inspiration, to see what other zinemakers are up to (mostly the ones who draw) and pick some interesting reads. Last time, I spent all my zine money pretty early on and didn’t have any left by the time I saw stuff I really wanted, so this time I looked around the whole place first, and then went around again picking stuff up at random. I love looking through zines. Microcosm were there with all the Portland zines, Mission Comics were there, and lots of individuals who were all very eager to talk about their work (and I eager to listen). One I picked up was by Jeff Walker, “Space Rangers”, I like the look of that one. I sketched the hall, tried to capture the scope of it, though it was bigger this year than three years ago. I didn’t make any of the workshops or talks this year, but it was great fun nonetheless. I have been putting together my own short zine of my Davis bar sketches (“Davis Bar By Bar”, coming soon folks, stay tuned…) so it was definitely inspirational.
To learn more about Zine Fest visit their website: http://www.sfzinefest.org/
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. ..
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!
The 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl took place in the Castro, San Francisco. This here is Castro Street (click on the image to see a larger version), and I was very eager to sketch a panorama of this scene. The magnificent Castro Theater could take up an entire day of sketching all on its own, so full of detail it is. I enjoyed speaking later to other sketchcrawlers who had attempted it, some having drawn more detail and some having drawn less, each impactful in their own way. It’s a tricky one. For me, the horizon was the thing – I had intended on sketching a lot more of the beautiful slopes of old houses on that hillside, but the smaller size of my sketch and the level of foreground detail meant leaving it out would be better. Well, that and I would have been there until about Thursday. No, with this sketch I wanted to capture the sweep of Castro Street, sinking and rising among San Francisco’s many hills. The Castro is well known as the predominantly gay neighbourhood of the city, and you’re not really left in any doubt of that! Rainbow flags adorn lamp-posts, bars, houses; this is an area which is open and proud. I was stood at Harvey Milk Plaza sketching this, and if you have seen the movie Milk, you will know a bit about the Castro and its history, and the great gay rights campaigner and city supervisor Harvey Milk. I saw a documentary about Castro Street once; this community really has a fascinating history. Anyway as I stood sketching this, first in the morning before the sketchcrawl meeting, and then going back to finish it off after lunch, the wind really started picking up, making me rue not bringing little clips for my sketchbook. Is topped without going the whole spread, and I stopped in the right place. Here’s another tip – sketch a scene with a clock in it somewhere, and you can keep good time, without checking your watch and worrying about being too slow.
Here is a car parked a bit further down Castro Street. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to sketch – there is a lot to choose from – but when I saw this it looked like the distant cousin of this other car I had drawn once, and I just HAD to sketch it. Now whenever you draw a car on the street you are always running the risk that the driver will drive away. I checked the meter, still plenty of time left, but I took a couple of reference photos first, and then started sketching, sat on the kerb. Behind me, a stall on the street was offering free HIV tests at a nearby clinic; further down, tourists were giggling at the skimpy male underwear in the shop windows. I got as far as the outline, the license plate and about half of the details before the car’s young owner came and drove it away. He didn’t see me sketching; if he did, I hope he didn’t think I was a traffic warden. I considered putting more money in the meter if he could leave it there a bit longer, but it gave me an excuse to go and sketch other things. Which I will show you in the next post…
In the meantime, check out the other great sketchers from around the world at the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum.
Last Saturday was the day of the 39th worldwide sketchcrawl, and so I took the train down to San Francisco, because after a very busy week, I needed some Bay air. I was joined on the early morning train by fellow Davis sketchers Alison Kent and Allan Hollander. We all sketched on the train (that is Alison above, though it’s not a great likeness; I have sketched Allan on a previous Amtrak journey a couple of years ago). It is nice to sketch with people you’ve sketched with many times before, because they’re used to the way you go about it, you don’t have to ‘perform’ with your sketches as it were and I still always feel I learn something. Plus I like drawing Allan’s beard. We all talked about sketching, traveling, and the recent death of Thatcher. Alison showed me her hand-made sketchbook from her recent round-America rail trip. I have always wanted to do that, but she produced an amazingly dedicated book of sketches, all in purple pen, an inspiration. Follow that link and check it out.
And so, to the city. Worldwide Sketchcrawl #39 was in the Castro district, the colourful quarter known as San Francisco’s gay capital. I sketched around here a few years ago, and really wanted to come back and draw some of the big old Victorian houses. And maybe do a panorama of Castro Street.
Above, Allan sketching outside Philz Coffee on 18th St, in the Castro, at the start of the worldwide sketchcrawl. Here is Alison’s post about the sketchcrawl on their joint blog The Magpie Nest. I will post my sketchcrawl sketches soon. Stay tuned.
“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).
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.