every. thing. awesome.

Legoland entrance, California

If you’ve been following any of my posts lately you may have seen that we like a bit of Lego, chez Scully. Last weekend we wet to Legoland, where everything actually is awesome. It was our second trip to Legoland California (and we went to Legoland Windsor last year too), and you might think that, well Pete loves sketching, he loves Lego, he loves sketching Lego, perfect yes? Well this was the only sketch I did, I was having too much Lego fun! It’s a great place for a seven year old (I’m not seven by the way, I’m pushing forty). We stayed a night at the Legoland Hotel, in a knight-themed room, and spent a lot of money in the Big Shop. What was nice about this trip was we spent the afternoons either at the hotel pool or at the really fun Chima water-park. Legoland is small enough that you can fit a lot in all in the morning, and it wasn’t particularly crowded, which was a surprise for the summertime. Last year at Windsor we waited almost an hour and a half just to get in! Here in Carlsbad there were very few long lines for rides (unlike at Disneyland), and we could just go back to the hotel for a rest if we wanted. The Star Wars section is better this year, with a huge Death Star and a bit where my son and I built little spaceships. Yes, everything was awesome. We will be back.

those magnificent lego men and their flying machines

ninjago ronin rex

I hope you like Lego, because you’re just going to keep seeing more of it on this sketchblog. Denmark’s Greatest Invention. Occasional bane of my bare feet on the carpet. I’ve been busy Lego-sketching, especially mini-figures, so many mini-figures. You’ll get to see those once I’ve coloured them in. That won’t take too long. In the past week I have also been to Legoland, where you might imagine I did a lot of sketching. You might imagine it would be the perfect sketch-paradise for someone like me. Well in fact I only managed one sketch because Legoland is so much fun! More on that another time. This was done before the trip, and is one of my son’s newer Lego sets, the Ninjago Season 5 ‘Ronin REX’. You have no idea the anxious wait for the season 5 Ninjago stuff to come out (my son’s anxious wait, not mine, but yes mine too). It was agonizing, and all the more so because when I had been in England in June I had seen all of these and didn’t buy any to bring home, figuring they would probably be out in the US already (same reason I am still new-Tottenham-shirt-less). Two months he waited, saving his money (I say his money, I gave it to him). In the meantime the show came out, and then finally the toys were in the shops. He really wanted this particular set, which has one of those Airjitzu things actually built into it, and he even entered a competition to win it, just in case (I told him that if he does win, we’ll keep the second one in its box and sell it in a few years time for three times the original price). This is the flying vehicle of the Han-Solo-esque scoundrel character Ronin, introduced in season 5, and I must say that the shape of the ship (and the colour scheme of Ronin) really reminds me of Slave 1, Boba Fett’s ship. I drew this in the book of my son’s things, which is becoming ever more Lego-heavy. As it should!

you terrestrial gastropod molluscs and your guns

slugterra blaster

This is another of my son’s toys. It is called a Slug-Terra Blaster, or something like that. It is what they use in the TV show “Slug-Terra”, which he really likes. It’s actually not a bad cartoon, but the premise of it is that they are in some sort of underground world where slugs are not only intrinsic to the society somehow but are used as weapons. Well, they fight on behalf of their owners, a bit like Pokemon I suppose, I don’t know. All the slugs have different abilities, some get really close to their owners, and then they get blasted out of these things, and then it’s all zap, pow and ka-blam. Oh there are evil slugs too. Now these slugs are all different colours and have names, but this isn’t a society of slugs, the people are all either humans (I think), trolls (maybe), or weird mole-folk (I really have no idea). One of those has a comedy Mediterranean accent. Or are the evil slugs zombies? Or wraiths? I don’t actually pay much attention. So you can imagine my son’s excitement when we spotted these at Toys R Us (I always wonder how that store got its name, did they got through a lot of other stupid combinations before settling on that one, “Toys Am We” “Us Is Toys”, “Toys Er America”, “Help”) (I used to call it “Toys Ya Us” because that backwards R looks like a Russian “Ya” (я). This was during the Cold War as well so I’m surprised people didn’t think it was some sort of Russian spy agency, I mean it all fits in the name…Cold War conspiracy theory at slightly higher prices than other stores, I like it!). So, this doesn’t works like a toy gun with a trigger (we’re not really into the toy gun thing, all the Nerf rubbish. Fingers and saying “pew! pew! pew! is fine though). Instead, it has a spring mechanism inside, you pull back the handle, let go and the little slug comes out. He has another blue one which looks cooler than this but I didn’t draw it, so you’ll have to imagine how cool it is (or watch the show! If you watch the show maybe you can help explain it to me).

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!

enter the bladecopter

ninjago bladecopter
More Lego, drawn in the book of my son’s stuff. This is the Ninjago Blade-Copter (the what, i hear you ask?), a recent addition from the season before the most recent season of Ninjago. You have to live in this world. So, in season 4 of Ninjago, the ninjas travel to an island to take part in a martial arts tournament organized by the mysterious Chen (who normally runs a noodle shop), where the other participants are all masters of their own various elements (such as the element of ‘sound’). The tournament however turns out to be a cover for a more nefarious scheme (stealing the elemental powers of each ninja). It’s a solid season with lots of characters and makes a lot of fun references. As I drew this last night, ironically, probably the biggest influence of all came on the TV: Bruce Lee’s classic Enter the Dragon. I am a big fan of this movie, and can probably quote all the words if I have to. And do the facial expressions of the hapless guards. If you ever see, I will prove it. Just don’t ask me to do any of the kung fu moves, I’m a tad  out of shape. In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee fights in a tournament on an island organized by the mysterious ‘Han’, but the tournament turns out to be a cover for a more nefarious scheme (recruiting fighters to his drug and crime empire). There are a few more parallels (one of the Lego sets is called ‘Enter the Serpent’; the scene where Chen punishes everyone because certain people have been sneaking around the palace at night; the scene where Chen tries recruiting Jay while showing him his collection of weaponry from the past, just like when Han tries recruiting Mr Roper), and in a previous season the ninjas learn the style of ‘fighting without fighting’, a direct reference to Bruce Lee’s chat with the bully Parsons on the boat. Look, you have to live in this world, ok. Master Chen is a pretty silly and whimsical villain though, but Mr Han is a classic supervillain of the highest order. He has a classic supervillain face; he lives in a palace surrounded by utterly useless guards; he is missing a hand (he keeps the skeletal remains in a glass case) but has a series of dangerous attachments such as the one with four-knives (for added “snikt”). Truly, as Mr Williams says, he comes right out of a comic book.

I drew this using a black Pentel pen, which I swear didn’t used to run much with a wash, but actually runs all over the place. Back to Microns for black lines I think. I use the non-running brown uni-ball signo um-151 pen mostly these days (the black variety runs bad). It’s on the Stillman and Birn Alpha paper.

going back to cally

The Cally, London

This is Caledonian Road in north London, more commonly known as The Cally. It’s been called the Cally for ever, but they felt it necessary to write it in big bold letters on the railway bridge in case people forgot. The Cally is not the area of London where I am from (I grew up in Burnt Oak), but is very much my Dad’s manor. He grew up around here, living up the near the Nag’s Head in Holloway. When I was a kid my dad would occasionally drive me over here when he had to visit his mates or my uncles, who still live locally. I remember him driving his Citroen full speed around narrow streets, shouting the ‘occasional’ swear word, his tools rattling around the back of the car. I was always scared of this area to be honest, it seemed a lot more dangerous than my neighbourhood (and I’m from Burnt Oak!), so even as an adult I never came down the Cally, except passing through on the bus from Crouch End, where I lived before moving to California. My dad moved from here in the 70s, and I knew several other friends in Burnt Oak whose mums or dads had ’emigrated’ from Holloway. This is still a pretty rough area, despite the trend of Islington gentrification. A couple of months ago though I had to come here for a meeting with a publisher (news very soon!), and so I just had to sketch the place. Actually, I think this would be a very interesting place for a sketchcrawl.

HM Pentonville prison
This is HM Prison Pentonville, the ‘big house’ which casts an imposing presence over Caledonian Road. Pentonville was opened in 1842 and has had many famous residents, such as Éamon de Valera, Dr. Crippen, John Christie (and Timothy Evans who was wrongly hanged for Christie’s crimes), Oscar Wilde, and George Michael. I sketched it from a cafe across the road called, appropriately, the Breakout. Condemned inmates were executed here at Pentonville until 1961. Prisons are horrible places.
Blundell St, London

From the Jail house to the Free House…this is actually at the back of the Breakout Cafe, which looks like it was built in the space of a closed-down pub. This is part of the old pub signage around the corner from the Cally on Blundell Street. My dad actually went to school on this street, though the school is long gone. I wanted to colour this in, but left it as it is.

Queens Head pub, Kings Cross

Now this last one, my pedigree chum, is not on Caledonian Road or even anywhere near it but I’m including it anyway, because it was my last sketch of the day (and of my trip to London, unexpectedly). I got a bus  that went all the way down the Cally to King’s Cross, because I still had some of the afternoon left to kill (actually to sketch, just sketching, no killing goin’ ‘ere guv). I was going to meet my mate down in Farringdon for a beer before we were meeting another mate later for another beer. It was an ‘ot summer’s day in London. Rather than get the bus the whole way I stopped in King’s Cross, thinking, oh I’ll just draw St. Pancras, no biggie. Piece of piss. There was definitely a lot of that about. After ignoring a very drunk woman shouting “Oi! Chris Evans!” at me I picked a spot opposite the magnificent St. Pancras International Station and decided actually, no, this is too big and too complicated, and life is too short to stand around King’s Cross drawing the same window over and over again until your hand hurts. Sorry St. Pancras, some other time perhaps. I wandered in a vague southwards direction (the back streets of this part of town are a little uncharted to me), and sketched this pub, the Queen’s Head, on the way. As you can see, I miscalculated the length of the sign when writing the pub’s name in there and so the word ‘Head’ is squashed up, and this is something I pretty much never do. At the end of a trip full of complicated and pretty well-thought-out sketches, I took this as a sign to say, yeah let’s call it a day, and go and have a beer. Until next time, London, until next time!

people fly by in the traffic’s boom

Market St Panorama sm

Market Street, San Francisco. Click on the image to embiggen it.

A couple of weekends ago it was the Worldwide Sketchcrawl Day. While many of the world’s urban sketchers were busy in Singapore at the 6th Urban Sketching Symposium, I was in San Francisco, though I didn’t manage to meet the other SF sketchers this time. I arrived in the city a little late, my train (which was packed with Barcelona and Manchester United fans, evidently they were playing a friendly that day in Santa Clara) taking longer than usual. While the sketchcrawl was starting up at Duboce Park I wanted to have a look around Market Street first. This section of it is a little sketchy, but there’s stuff to sketch. A few months ago I came here to see Noel Gallagher play at the Warfield (an epic gig, like being sat inside a massive gramophone, and Noel was excellent), and I remembered that I want to sketch the Golden Gate Theatre at some point. So I stood on the corner and sketched a panorama, fully intending to add colour at some point (until I got struck down with “can’t-be-bothered-itis”). While I sketched, some Christian group across the street started bursting into songs of praise. Not because I was sketching, of course. After a while, a homeless man with a dog decided to stand not far away from me and take that as the appropriate opportunity to perform an inspection of the content of his underpants, which I daresay needed inspection by a licensed professional, but perhaps not so openly on the corner of Market Street. Again, I don’t think it was because I was sketching. Oh, the characters around here. When I was done with this sketch I had lunch at the food court of the Westfield shopping center, and took the Muni Metro up to Duboce Square. I didn’t meet a single other sketcher, but I did do a fair bit more sketching.

Duboce Square houses SFDuboce Square Park, SF

Duboce Park is quite nice. It has a very Local Neighbourhood feel about it, though this being San Francisco I’m sure you have to be doing pretty well to join the local neighbourhood these days. I’ve never really been here before, except for when travelling through on the Muni, or that time last March when I wandered about nearby with a couple of friends from England on the way from Castro to the Haight. The park is filled with dog walkers, families, young people laying on the grass reading books.  By the way, note that I deliberately said ‘reading books’, and not ‘looking at their electronic devices’. ‘Reading books’ probably makes you think “yes, reading books, as it should be, not on their iPad looking at Facetwit or Spacechat or whatever the youths are into these days, ignoring the amazing views.” You may well be thinking this while reading this on your iPad. Well I’ve said ‘reading books’ to give you the impression that they were all probably cultured individuals, but for all I can remember they were on their iPads, and for all I know they were reading e-books. They may have been reading Kafka or Kundera for all we know, but the world sees ‘electronic device’ and thinks ‘shopping for shoes’ or ‘reading clickbait on Facebook’.  Whereas they could be reading a tattered paper book, lying on the grass with their legs lazily crossed in the air,exploring a world of wonder and imagination, and that book might be ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or a footballer’s autobiography* or anything by Dan Brown. So the moral is ‘don’t judge an electronic device by its cover’, but feel free to judge a book-reader by the trash you can see them reading. So anyway, I was sketching the park, there was a kids birthday party going on nearby (with a pinata), in the dog park part of it dogs were running around and barking and texting, or whatever it is dogs do, and construction vehicles lined the street beside the Muni lines. I sketched the second one from the steps of the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts. I enjoyed sketching here.

Lower Haight St panorama sm

My final sketch of the day (not counting the one I abandoned due to getting tired) was another big panorama, this time in nearby Lower Haight Street. This is a very colourful neighbourhood, edgier, more ‘hipster’ than ‘hippy’, and there was some sort of small daytime dance party (or maybe it was a record store with DJs and cool people) a few steps away. I overheard two guys talking, there was talk of this party and that band, all many levels of cool above my coolscale (or below it, depending on your point of view). I was aching standing here, and the wind was picking up (sky was blue for periods, but a lot of clouds and fog rolled in and it got very chilly. A welcome change from the Davis heat I was escaping, but I needed to sit down and relax for a bit, so I walked down to the Toronado pub nearby and got a beer. Sitting down proved much harder, as it was pretty crowded. I had one beer and went home, the end of another busy sketching day in the city.