This is Fast Mart, on the corner of B and 2nd in Davis. I think it’s called that because you go there when you don’t want to be tempted to eat anything. Or maybe this is where Quicksilver shops. I’m not sure, all of these stores have similar names after all (like Kwik-e-Mart). In actual fact, if you look closely, the store is called “Fast and Easy Mart”. This is what happens when you get mergers, Easy Mart was probably bought out by Fast Mart like when Sky bought BSB (that’s pretty obscure reference for you, people not living in Britain twenty years ago), resulting in “BSkyB”, or as it’s more commonly known, “Sky”. I’ve never liked ‘mart’ as a shortening of ‘market’ either, as another word for ‘shop’ or ‘store’, though we don’t really use it in everyday conversation, “I’m just going down the mart, want a tin of pop?” Still, it’s a place to get a massive fountain soda on a hot day. I like what is above the store though, the sculptures of the musicians. “The Lamplighter Players”, they are called, sculpted by local artist Tony Natsoulas. This little shopping strip is sometimes called Lamplighter Square. The clock behind them must be wrong, because I sketched this during my lunchtime. Perhaps they are located three hours into the future? Either that or my eyesight is going (which it is, but thankfully my optometrist is just across the street). No map this time folks, just have to imagine it, or go there yourself.
I am catching up, slowly. This is another one from UC Davis, Valley Oak Cottage, over at the Arboretum’s Headquarters. It’s a stones-throw from where I work (admittedly quite a big stones-throw, and no, campus health-and-safety officials, I don’t throw stones around to determine distance). Another one where I stood and drew all the ink on site but added the colour in later. I’ve had to do this a lot lately, rather than paint on site, because of three very important reasons. First, lunchtimes are limited and my level of detail is increasing. I do love drawing so much that the colouring in is just an afterthought. An important one but not as important to me as drawing on site, getting all the perspective in there, etc. I do prefer to add the colour from real life but I’m not all that with paint anyway. So basically, if I have a short amount of time I have to prioritize, then my priority is inkwork first. Also my sketchbook, the Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape, is bigger than I used to use and bigger sketches take longer. Second, lately I have actually been enjoying doing big complicated sketches in the daytime, and then having something to colour in at night while watching television. It’s like I’m drawing myself a colouring-in book. You have no idea how satisfying it feels. Actually its better when I draw superheroes rather than trees and buildings, but it’s still fun. Third, I actually lost my favourite little waterjar, then one I used for years, and then a couple of weeks ago I broke my only other favourite small waterjar, the back-up one, sketching at Picnic Day. It smashed all over the kerb, just before the marching band arrived, scattering broken glass all over where we were sitting, good job there Pete. So I need to get a new little jar, and then I can paint on site again. My previous experiments with waterbrushes didn’t really pay off for me. So there you have it. I must say though, it’s Spring and all the leaves are back, and, meh, I don’t like drawing foliage.
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.
I cycle up F Street a lot, on the way home from downtown, and have passed this historic Old North Davis building for years. “Must sketch that someday,” I always said to myself. I believe it’s a dentist’s office, but it’s a lovely period house in a neighbourhood of nice old wooden houses from a century ago, two blocks from the Co-Op. If I could draw the entire area all in one book, I would (hint hint, there’s a commission idea, City of Davis). Actually there is already an impressive book about the area, written in 1999 by John Lofland (the pdf of which is online at oldnorthdavishistory.org). This building is the Anderson-Hamel home, built in 1903 by the man who would become the first mayor of the newly incorporated City of Davis, John B. Anderson…but it was not built here. It used to be downtown, but in the 1940s the house was moved five blocks north to make way for a new drugstore. Old houses move around in Davis, it’s not particularly uncommon. Some have even moved since I have been here. It can be disconcerting but I dare say the houses themselves don’t mind all that much.
Here is the map. As I sketched this building, I listened to a history of Captain America. Kind of appropriate, in a way.
This footbridge crosses the bike path which runs between Shields Library and Olson Hall at UC Davis. I have never sketched it before so it was well overdue. If you have spent any time at UC Davis this is a very familiar sight. How many of us have cycled down this curve, avoiding other bikes as they dash in unlikely directions? All of us. Well, Davis is the #1 Cycling Town in the U.S. Yes, it’s official, as was announced by USA Today just last week. Well done Davis! Is it the #1 sketching town? I dunno about that, but I have given it a good go myself these past few years. I wonder what town would win #1 sketching town in the U.S.? San Francisco or Portland, of the places I have been, but then again I’ve not been to that many places. It’d be fun to find out!
Oh by the way, Happy Easter!
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.
Continuing the theme of these similar looking buildings on the UC Davis campus, this is the Gunrock Pub, part of the Silo complex where I have had lunch so many times. It used to be called the Silo Cafe, or the Silo Pub, but now it takes its name from Gunrock, the equine UC Davis mascot. This, like the others, was furiously sketched over a lunchtime with the colour added in afterwards. I’m filling this S&B Alpha landscape sketchbook fast.
“The Barn”. There are a lot of buildings that look like this on the UC Davis campus, but this is the only one actually called “The Barn”. It was a rainy day (not been too many of those), but there was a brief spot of calm so I was able to sketch this at lunchtime. I added the colour when I got home. It was one of those days where I really needed to get away and sketch something (ah now there have been many of those lately); I’ve felt a bit stressed lately, feel like there’s a lot on my plate, many “to-dos” to check off my list. When I am out sketching, I’m in control of something, and everything else washes away, for a short time. I like being busy though. I have sketched this Barn once before (from the rear, almost exactly two years ago), but it looks like so many others. These old wooden campus buildings that I have drawn over and over so many times, they start to feel like my Mont St Victoire if you know what I mean, Cezanne’s main subject, covered and covered and covered again over the years. This one is actually shaped a bit like Mont St Victoire, in fact. I should know, I have climbed up the thing twice (the Mont, not the Barn).