The sky was bad in this one. We’ve had smoke events again this year, not anything quite like last year thankfully, but enough to cancel one of our soccer games and also a tournament up in the Tahoe area. They have had terrible fires up there. Thankfully the air here in Davis right now is pretty good, let’s hope it stays that way. This is on D Street, I think this place is called Pomegranate. By the look of it they look like stylists, or something, I don’t know. Have I drawn this building before in a previous iteration? Probably. I’m starting to forget what I’ve drawn, hard to believe though that is. I go to my Flickr album “Davis CA” and see there are 1,281 items there, and it seems like, wow that’s a lot but I thought there’d be more. That includes UC Davis; in that separate folder there are 599 items. Again, thought there’d be more, given how much time I’ve spent drawing there over the past decade and a half. What am I saying, I’m not drawing enough? I probably am not. But I am busy, and I don’t always have time to get a drawing that I want. Davis isn’t actually that big. I say to myself, if I lived in a bigger city, in London or San Francisco or New York, I’d draw even more. Truth is, I probably wouldn’t. I’d spend so much time on the bus, or the subway or tube, and I’d get bored drawing all the taller buildings. Then again, when I want to go to a different area with a completely different look or feel, it is easier in a big city. But you make the big small, don’t you; in London I loved how massive it was but it also felt like I could fit it in the palm of my hand. Mentally you fit it all into a small box, and you sometimes don’t go too far outside of the village if you know what I mean. There are parts of London I have never been to. I’ve never been to Richmond; watching Ted Lasso reminded me of that. (Kind of bit bored with that show to be honest. We don’t swear like that in London! We swear a lot, but in a different way than that, more in a ‘filler’ kind of way; you have to hear it to know. Not just blaring it out at anyone. Also we say “wanker” but it sounds more like “wangkah”) (That reminds me, when I was pretty new to Davis a woman at the checkout in the grocery store asked if I was from England, I said yes London, and then she asked me to say “bloody”. “You what?” I replied. “Ohmygod I love it when British people say “bloody” can you say “bloody”?” I was like , eh? “Nah bollocks, buggeroff I ain’t f*ckin’ sayin’ bloody, flippin’ avin’ a larf? Bleedin’ cheek, f*ckin’.” I think that made her day.) (I do say “bloody” a lot though.) Anyway enough of the swearing. So yes, just like you make the big small, at the same time you make the small bit. You look more closely at the small place at all the details, tracking all the changes over the years, and that’s why the sketchbook (and the sketchblog, come to that) is a great tool for recording that. But did I draw this before? I had a look, it looks like I drew it in the background of the building next door (see here) but that’s not really the same thing. No, I haven’t drawn it before, I’d remember. I always remember, I think.
And so, September started and wow, it’s already dragged us into the middle of the month like an angry bouncer, knocking over all the drinks and startling the cats in the alley. The times move quickly. Right now at the UC Davis campus we are preparing for the Big Return of All The Students. We are going back in In-Person Teaching next week – next week! – after being totally remote since March 2020. The staff are returning – partially working from home for the most part – as are the faculty, although there have been people working on campus the whole time (including myself, going in a couple of days a week or so) but now the campus is about to start Getting Busy again. The bikes will be back everywhere, and yeah, it’ll be different. Not sure what to expect. Not sure how everyone will feel being around lots of people again. For many, it will be fine, for many it will be uncomfortable. We’ll see what happens. This is the building where I work, the Mathematical Sciences Building, I have drawn it a few times before. One Saturday morning I had left my iPod in my office the day before, so I cycled down to get it and decided to take advantage of the direction of the light and start drawing the building again. And then it got a bit hot and I thought, actually let’s do the rest later. So I drew as much of the middle bit, and outlined the rest, and added colour to the sign, and went home, where I added in all the foliage and the colours. There’s not a lot of shade on the other side of the street so when that hot sun comes out it gets pretty uncomfy. I like it inside though, nice and cool in my office. I have been spending a lot of time this summer trying to rearrange office spaces getting them ready for new people, an ongoing task this week even. I’ve been trying to personalize my office a bit more, added in a couple of colourful classic World Cup posters, nice for a bit of Zoom background (we will still have many remote meetings), getting rid of some bulky storage, and shredding a whole bunch of old papers. I could probably use a new chair, I’ve had my current one for over 15 years now, but not a priority until the wheels fall off of it. This week is the last one to get all those things done I wanted out of the way before Summer ended, but Fall is already crashing into us and it will be Christmas before we know it. Lots to do! I’ve been putting up all the signage reminding people to wear the masks inside, getting the hand sanitizer and wipes in the offices. But here is the building, before all the people come back, nice and peaceful. The big Turkeys are still coming by in the mornings, pooing all over the benches, digging up the plants and menacing those who dare pass by. They’ve ruled this part of campus for a while, but the Humans and their Bikes are coming back.
A couple more from our trip to Oahu. On this one morning we drove across the island to the Byodo-In Temple, in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It is a buddhist temple that is a replica of the centuries-old one in Kyoto, Japan. It was a peaceful place, despite the tourists, with the only sound being the heavy ‘bonnnggg’ of the big Peace Bell that people can ring. We walked about a little, and then I got to do a sketch of the building and all its details. I coloured it in later. We had to go to the beach again. This was another of the locations we recognized from the show Lost, when it stood in for a place in South Korea where Sun and Jin were married. It’s very pretty there.
The next day we drove up the Windward side of the island again, stopping at the botanical gardens first (didn’t sketch there, just walked about a bit) before more beach time (didn’t sketch there, just splashed about a bit) before driving up to the Polynesian Cultural Center, to eat some lunch at the Hokilau Market Place. There were some great food and drinks there. I fancied some garlic shrimp, so I got some of that from the food truck on the left, and opted for the spicy version, which was very very spicy. Like, I was in a bit of pain for a couple of days, maybe it was too spicy. I washed it down with some interesting and refreshing soda from ‘Soda Bomb’, on the right of the panorama above. One of the girls who served me noticed my UC Davis facemask, and told me her grandpa lived in Davis. We sat there for a while and I drew what I could, outlines and some details, but we wanted to get some more important beach time in so I did the rest later. I love that big mural on the side, “Hawaii is my Happy Place”. Totally is. Anyway we decided that rather than spend some time on the beach we would sit in the car in miles of traffic instead, that was fun. We had wanted to get off at Waimea and hang out at the beach there, but so did a lot of other people, and they just wanted it more, I guess. We had been to the Waimea Valley last time we were here, swam beneath the waterfall, but this time we just looked at the ocean from the car. Eventually though we did stop at one beach that we heard was popular with sea turtles, and parked along the busy road to go and see for ourselves. Wow, there were so many, and not just lying about, they were swimming over the waves, every big wave that crashed in you could see their huge silhouettes, and the giants would come into shore and lay on the flat wet rocks. Sea turtles here are called ‘honu’, and we have seen them before, but not quite like this, it was some amazing honu action. There were people at the beach helping protect them by giving out information about them, and stopping curious travellers from getting too close to them or bothering them, which I was glad to see. When we waved ‘aloha’ to the honu, we got back in the car and drove back to Waikiki. We only spent a short while in Oahu and loved it, and can’t wait to go back some day.
You come to Hawaii to spend time on the beach and in the ocean, and we did a lot of that. The sea is warm here and we swam only there, not in the pool which had too many people. I did a little beach sketching, but mostly played in the ocean or strummed on my ukulele. Above, that’s the view from the beach at Waikiki looking out towards Diamond Head, that big mountain in the distance. We hiked to the top of that, a fun morning, along with thousands of other people. The views were amazing from up there, when people moved their heads. I didn’t sketch on that hike, there wasn’t the room. There was room at the beach; I drew this one on the final morning there, stood in the shade of a palm tree. I did more of those clouds with the white gouache paint.
There were lots of those clouds in the distance at Waimanalo Beach, on the Windward side of the island. We loved that beach, it wasn’t too busy and the views across Waimanalo bay were, well, the reason we came to Hawaii. The colours of the ocean were so bright, a brilliant turquoise, probably caused by the sand being kicked up so much by the ocean current. I splashed about in the waves, which were a bit stronger than in Waikiki, and when I went underwater to look around in my goggles you couldn’t see much ahead of you. I sat in the shade to paint the scene when I got out, really just trying to record the colours on paper. Those clouds in the distance, they rolled in and burned off before arriving at the shore. Somewhere out there beyond view is Molokai. I’ve not been there though my urban sketcher friend Rita Sabler was invited there to do reportage sketching at Kalaupapa couple of years ago. The clouds were pretty dark back over there, but not the sort to threaten a lovely day.
After this we went to Kailua, to get some of our favourite shave ice at the Island Snow store. We were looking forward to that for months, and it didn’t disappoint.
In Hawaii we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. It’s a historic older resort, Elvis used to go there, so did Michael Jackson, and so did about 15% of the population of the United States at the same time as we were there, I think. Since Hawaii reopened up, everyone wants to go, and they all told us it’s packed. Impossible to hire a car, reservations needed at all restaurants, and a surge waiting to happen. For the most part we did pretty well avoiding particularly crowded areas, although being on the 24th floor, the elevators were a bit of a stress. The ‘four person max’ rule was never enforced (at one point I saw fifteen people get out) and despite the signs that masks had to worn under state law, many people assumed that meant “everyone but me, brah”. On the whole though it was ok, and we loved spending time in our room with the views of the ocean, and the skyline of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Above, I drew the view inland, from where many moist clouds would roll out, evaporating before reaching the ocean. I like drawing from high up, but these clouds were the main focus, and I used the white gouache paint on top of the regular watercolour. That’s not something I have done much before, but I saw someone doing it online in a painting video and thought, that looks good. Just poking the brush into the tube itself rather than squeezing the paint onto my already dirty watercolour-box-lid palette. You have to let it dry a bit, but it didn’t take too long. Drawing the windows was a bit tedious so I left that until a couple of days later, you get the general idea. The wind off these hills on this balcony was pretty strong (we had two balconies, as it was a corner room) so I didn’t sit on the balcony to draw, just looked through the big windows, while sat on a comfy chair inside. With a big cocktail, probably. I do like a Blue Hawaiian.
We tended to sit out on the other balcony )called a ‘lanai’ here) which face the view of Honolulu, and the ocean. I would sometimes sit out on the lanai and play my ukulele gently, above the sounds of the city below, or listen to the luau that would take place on the big green next to the lagoon. On the second morning, I woke up and sat out there looking at the view, while what appeared to be a big fire in Honolulu harbor brought a dramatic pillar of black smoke into the sky. Before coming out to Hawaii we had rewatched the series ‘Lost’, which was filmed here, so of course we said it must be the smoke monster. I painted the scene , and eventually the smoke dissipated. I never found out what it was; I suppose I prefer the mystery. Speaking of Lost, wherever you go on Oahu there are places where the show filmed scenes, and the marina in the foreground, very close to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, is one that was used several times. It’s called the Ala Wai Harbor. It’s the backdrop of Desmond and Penny’s photo, and where Desmond got shot by Ben before then punching Ben’s lights out and throwing him into the water, also where the some of the Oceanic Six meet up at night to say “we have to go back tot he island” “no we don’t” “yes we do” etc, and also where Charlie and Desmond (him again) drive a car into the water in the flash-sideways. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it, none of that makes any sense, even if you have. Immediately below, not appearing in this sketch, is the lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I totally went paddle boarding there, twice. It was the first time I had tried stand-up paddle-boarding, and loved it. I haven’t done it in the ocean yet, next time maybe. I was pretty good at it, I didn’t be falling in or nothing. I should try surfing. When I was a kid I thought I might do lots of surfing when I got older at some point, go to Australia or somewhere far away (not exactly a lot of surfing culture in Burnt Oak), but when I get there the ocean always looks so big and scary, with those waves grabbing you like gigantic wet hands. Still, the paddle-boarding on a shallow lagoon with no current was thrilling enough for me dudes.
Back down on the ground, this was in the ‘village’ of shops and restaurants at the resort. There was a very Japanese feel to the architecture, but that was far from unusual in Honolulu. I stood in the nice shade and drew while people wandered into expensive watch shops or places selling Hawaiian tea towels or something. I really liked the Asian style architecture. It seemed like there was a lot of Japanese and Korean shops and restaurants in Honolulu. We went to one supermarket called Don Quijote which really felt like being in a Japanese store, with lots of colourful Japanese signage and products everywhere. I had to text my friend Tel who lives in Japan to ask what some things were. I had seen a lot of signs for ‘Mochi’ and it looked like it was popular, my friend Tel said it was very very very gooey. So I decided to get some, and I think he undersold how gooey it was. It wasn’t for me. I ended up getting some delicious poke instead, I do like that, it’s more Hawaiian and is made of uncooked sliced tuna, I got a couple of different kinds. One other day, we went to a nearby donut shop called ‘K-Pop Donuts’, which as the name suggests is Korean. That was a really interesting place, covered in sharpie graffiti from people who’d been there, and it sold a few varieties of these small round balls of pastry, which I believe were Korean donuts. I texted my friend Tel in Japan about them (he spent several years living in Korea before Japan) but he didn’t seem very familiar with them, and just commented on the K-Pop bit, which is some sort of Korean pop music. My son knows what that is. Anyway they were ok, pretty expensive for what they were, but not really somewhere I wanted to go to again. The donut things I did like in Waikiki were of course the ‘malasadas’ you get at Leonard’s, a famous place we went to on our first trip there. This time we picked some up hot and fresh from the Leonard’s truck in Hawaii Kai, south of Honolulu, those were delicious. One other famed local food place we went to for dinner was the Rainbow Drive-In. My wife was very excited to come here, and we grabbed some food and sat outside, although I wasn’t really impressed with my chicken sandwich, the gravy that came with the fries was pretty good. I did see a bloke wearing the new Nigeria football kit though so that was cool. I did however really enjoy both lunchtime visits to the lovely Hula Grill, above Duke’s restaurant at the Outrigger hotel. That’s where we stayed the first time we came to Hawaii and that’s where I discovered the magic of Hula Pie, the best dessert item in the world. It’s like a massive wave made out of ice cream with thick chocolate covering and cookie base and nuts and hot chocolate sauce, and takes about three people to eat it. Here’s a sketch I did of one back in 2017 (with a huge Lava Flow drink to go with it):
Pretty tasty. I bought one of those Hula Pie plates as a souvenir, as well as a t-shirt which only fits when I don’t eat hula pie. We did have lots of other food in Hawaii this time as well, and I’ll mention the extremely spicy shrimp on a future post, as well as some delicious cocktails, but I’m getting hungry for dinner now so I’ll leave the rest of the Hawaii sketches until next time.
Earlier this month we took a short vacation to Hawaii, to the island of O’ahu, where we first stayed in 2017. It was great to get away, but also my first flights since the start of the pandemic, so a little nervous. It’s a fairly long flight to Honolulu (over five hours) but you know, nearer than London. Of course, I have to draw on the plane, it helps me relax. Everyone was masked up, thankfully. I filled the page with some colours – these were actually the colours of the lighting on the plane, as it changed about, it was a bit freaky. It was a newer airplane. I did watch an interesting documentary about Ossie Ardiles, my childhood hero. We spent five nights in Waikiki, and just as all the reports had said, Hawaii was packed with tourists, especially our hotel, especially the elevators. Nonetheless it was great to have a break, great to be in the ocean, and be around all the colourful scenery. And cool down – it was very warm, but cooler weather than Davis which was in the 100-110 degree range around when we left. I drew a map of the island when we left, showing the spots we visited on this trip. I did a fair bit of sketching too, I’ll post those separately.
And on the way back, I drew the plane again, this time with even brighter colours, like a huge shave ice. Always good to get away. The way things are going again, might be the last time in a while…
In June I spent an overnighter in the city, San Francisco, staying at the Hilton on a really high up floor, as you’ll recall, I drew from the window next to the elevator while news about Christian Eriksen was still fresh, and I drew the Nob Hill view in great detail. I have always wanted to do a longer panoramic of this view, but rather than go back down there I decided to get a big piece of paper and draw that view once again but this time with the area to the right included, from various pictures I took that morning. So one Sunday evening and late Monday afternoon I drew this, and this will be my piece for the Pence Gallery’s 2021 Art Auction. I decided to leave it uncoloured, unlike the original, and I think that would look good on any wall. Well maybe not any wall, it might look out of place on the Great Wall of China, for example, or on Bob Wall from Enter the Dragon, or on Wall’s Ice Cream, or maybe I’m wrong and it would look great on all those things. Part of this view shows San Francisco’s famous Chinatown, as it leads up towards Nob Hill, and looking out to the left at Sutro Tower, and to the right beyond the wide road of Broadway is Russian Hill. Every block in San Francisco is worth exploring. Every window, a story. Ok, “every window tells a story”, that is a great thing to say when looking out over a cityscape, you should say it to someone next time you are looking over a city, particularly at night, I dunno, it sounds like it’s quite a deep thoughtful thing to say. “Every window tells a story, every story, a universe,” etc. But then you say, “not a very good story,” so you don’t sound like you’re being a nob. “I mean, most stories aren’t very interesting,” you say next. “Most stories are actually not worth telling. We should mind our own business about most stories. Actually stop looking through all those windows, nosy bugger.” That’s what you should say next. It’s true though, about stories. Some are brilliant, most are kind of “ok, skip to the end”. I recently got a subscription to a well-known audiobook provider, and frankly, the past couple of books I’m struggling to finish. I love a good story. The one I’m listening to right now would probably be better if I had just looked at the book, although the storytelling is a bit blah. The narrator however is terrible. When reading the story itself he is ok, reading in a precise actorly tone, but when he does the voices of the characters it’s like he thinks he’s in a 1970s production of “Oliver!”, being completely unable to read any female voice without going into a strange high-pitched fake cockney flower girl voice, “eeeer woss yorr gime?” type thing. I’m deliberately not telling you the name of the book or the narrator. So maybe I will skip audiobooks for a bit and go back to reading paper. My eyes are going a bit though, those mid-forties have caught up with me. As my glasses get stronger for seeing far away, I find I can’t read or see up close as well, so I need to take my specs off and bring the book nearer to me. Same with the sketchbook, or in this case, the big piece of paper. When drawing from life I relied on what I could see with my eyes, and it was a bit easier; drawing from a photo on my ipad screen and then leaning into the paper with my glasses off to see the detail, bit trickier. Yet I completed this all in one evening and an afternoon. The scale is actually the same as in my sketchbook, it just looks a lot bigger because it’s twice as long, and inside a 10×20 inch frame. I really like it, it would look good on any wall. Well, most walls.
Last Sunday morning, on the first day of August, we held our first Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl of the year. It has been a while; I paused organizing them due to the pandemic and I’ve been busy on weekends this year, but one of my fellow Davis sketchers Marlene Lee suggested holding one at Central Park that day during the craft Fair that was going on. It was a good idea. There were lots of vendors selling interesting art items, and there was a band called ‘New Harmony Jazz Band’ playing old numbers. It was nice to see other sketchers again, I’ve been hiding away for a long time and seeing others out and about doing their stuff is always good to see. Plus one guy (Alex) was wearing a Wolverhampton Wanderers shirt! I was delighted, I love football shirts but I’d never seen someone in Davis wear a Wolves shirt before. I’m showing you the sketches I did in reverse, so I can put my final drawing – this big panorama of the Craft Fair in the Farmer’s Market area – first. There were quite a few people around but it wasn’t crowded. Many people were masked up but most weren’t. Many of the sketchers were (including me for about half the time, usually when I might be interacting with people). It makes me feel more like a ninja, plus the mask I was wearing has my drawings on it (you can get masks with my drawings on here! https://society6.com/petescully/masks). I drew the scene above in about 1.5 hours, including about two thirds of the colour, but I coloured in the background when I got home. It was already getting hot, and I stopped for a shaved ice (which needed a few more flavours). Below is the band, they played nice music to sketch to. I drew that, and my other people sketches, with the Zebra brush pen that I was using a couple of years ago. It’s nice to use something like that again, it makes for rapid sketching.
And below are most of the sketchers, as you see I drew Alex in his Wolves shirt twice. If I had drawn more detailed sketches I would have done all of the shirt detailing on the front of that particular shirt. I myself was wearing my France football shirt that day, a favourite of mine, but mostly in honor of Esteban Ocon, who had won his first Grand Prix that morning at the Hungaroring in Budapest, a crazy race that saw a lot of carnage at the first corner. Ocon was also the first French driver to win a Grand Prix in a French car (Alpine, formerly Renault) since Alain Prost in the Renault in 1983. To see the podium with just one anthem played and for it to be the Marseillaise, well I’d never seen that before so I wore my French shirt in Ocon’s honor. I am about as obsessed with Formula 1 as I am with football shirts, as you can tell! I get up very early to watch it.
Below are Ann Privateer and William Lum, also drawn in the Zebra pen…
…and here are Ann Filmer and Marlene Lee, sketching in the shade. We’re hoping to have the Davis sketchcrawls go monthly again; I just got my soccer coaching schedule (so many Saturdays to the end of the year, and beyond) so others will organize but since campus is all coming back in-person this Fall it will be good for people to get outside and draw with each other again.
The Let’s Draw Davis FB Page (where events will be posted) is here: https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis
There’s also a Let’s Draw Davis FB group, where people who attended can post their sketches and photos afterwards: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LetsDrawDavis/
After waiting on Market Street for a long time for a bus that was never going to come – it seems some services were reduced or cut during the pandemic, but the bus stop obviously didn’t like to say – I jumped on an N-Judah Muni metro up to Duboce, on the way to my next destination that day, Alamo Square. I realized that I had not been to Alamo Square in about a decade, when my mum had visited from England and we went to see the ‘Painted Ladies’, that row of Victorian houses sloping down the eastern side of the park, with the backdrop of San Francisco behind them. I had not actually been there to draw in even longer – July 2008, if you can believe it. The drawing I did that day is below. I remember that I came down for an overnight sketching trip while my wife had gone up to Oregon, and covered a lot of ground, wandering and taking the bus and really connecting the city together in ways I’d not done before.
The big Victorian houses around here are impressive, many that pre-date the 1906 earthquake and firestorm, as they were saved from the flames. Alamo Square park sits on high ground overlooking the city from a distance, and that backdrop has changed a lot since 2008. The massive Salesforce tower for one, that wasn’t even a twinkle in the architect’s eye. The Painted Ladies – unpainted in this case, and you can click on the above image for a more close-up view – might be the most photographed, painted, drawn view in the city, maybe even more than the Golden Gate Bridge itself. It’s a romantic view alright; while I was sketching a wedding took place nearby, and there were lots of couples out enjoying the view. It was a sunny day, but breezy, easy to sunburn, lovely to look at. Most of the groups of people in the park were young, enjoying the day, making memories I guess. I drew and drew and drew, two hours I sat there on the grass, really working those eye muscles to try and see all the details in the distance. By the time I was done my body said “no painting, leave it, time to move along”. If I had been staying overnight, I might have sat there longer and added in the colours, but I think this way you can imagine them yourself. The Painted Ladies aren’t painted very brightly – they are different colours, but are quite muted. I should have drawn them arranged like a Zoom screen, very 2020-2021. Alamo Square park was busy, but not as crowded as Dolores Park was when I sketched a panorama there in June. There was a lot of space around me still. It’s quite an uphill walk to reach here though, I walked from Duboce Park, where I last sketched a few years ago, up Pierce and past the corner with Haight that I also sketched a few years ago, stopping off for a cold soda and of all things an Aero bar (this one corner shop had a lot of British chocolate for some reason), before climbing the steep hill to get here.
On the other side of the square, over the hill where they let the dogs run free, I stopped to draw this big imposing mansion on the corner of Fulton and Scott. It had a very ghost story, whodunnit, creepy mystery hotel look about it, and if I’d had the time I would love to have drawn the whole things in more details. The day was moving along though, so I kept it quick. I had more wandering to do before zipping back across town to get the Amtrak bus. Besides as I drew, I noticed that, hey man, I’m kinda stinky. I didn’t think I’d been particularly sweaty, after all I hadn’t walked as much as usual by this point, and surely I would have noticed when I was sat drawing in the park. It could only be me though, there were no other people around. It was a strong stench too, to the point where I moved right away when people passed me in the street, it was embarrassing. I imagined the train home, people getting on and sitting down nearby then moving further away. I would really need a long shower when I got in. I stood next to some purple flowers to draw this thinking maybe they will mask the B.O. smell. When I was done with the sketch I walked back through the park, and noticed that the smell was gone, and I wasn’t stinky any more. That was weird, it definitely smelled like sweaty sketcher smell. Oh well, maybe it’s not as bad as all that. Then I passed by a flowerbed containing more of those purple flowers and whoosh, that smell was back. It wasn’t me, it was the flowers! Flowers genetically evolved to smell like sweaty human. They were pretty gross. I walked away and yep, smell was gone. Relieved that I wasn’t a stinky sod, I walked about the Fillmore neighbourhood, where I hadn’t walked since my 2008 walkabout. You can see where the zone of big Victorian houses abruptly ends in the Western Addition. I passed through the Fillmore (a street worth another sketching day to itself, with its history of Jazz music and of the African-American community) on my way to Japantown. I didn’t get a lot of time to spend here but I went into one second-hand bookshop, and nosed around the little plaza of Japanese stores and restaurants before sketching the big Peace Pagoda building at the Japantown Peace Plaza. The San Francisco Japanese community was torn apart during World War II with the awful legacy of internment camps, a part of US history not talked about often enough. There’s a graphic novel by George Takei “They Called Us Enemy” that I am going to read, about his experiences during that time. It wasn’t busy around here that late afternoon, but still there was a good atmosphere, summer in the city. I walked off to catch a bus after sketching this, and head back home.
To catch a bus – yeah, I’d not really been on a bus in a city since the pandemic began, not even in Davis. Let alone San Francisco, where the buses are typically full of people quite close together. Sure, we’re all masked up but I was a bit anxious still about being in close proximity to people, and it was a long ride. I had decided not to walk down to the N-Judah metro, the bus was closer and would take me all the way to the Amtrak bus. Well as people got on and off and shuffled past I decided to bail out at the Tenderloin, getting a bit more space on the streets. I headed off to the big mall on Market to grab some food, getting slightly sidetracked by the discovery of the Lego store (I can’t help myself), before finally heading home. It was a long day in the city, tiring, productive and I’d done a bit of exploring, a it of learning, and now I have a bit of reading to do too. All worth the $62 round trip fare I guess. It was still about forty degrees cooler than it was in Davis, and that’s always worth it.
It was too hot in Davis (stop the press!) so I took a 7am train down to somewhere much cooler, San Francisco, where I got sunburnt. It always happens. I put on lots of sunscreen, but those rays still get through that fog. It was breezy too, and it’s easy to forget. In Davis that never happens because it’s so hot I am never out of the shade. still, it was a nice day to be out and about. I arrived early, so I could spend a bit of time around the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building. I’d not been there since before the pandemic; there were a lot of people around, but it wasn’t too crowded. I even got my favourite food in this city, these little ‘bombolini’, small doughnut things filled with lemon or custard or nutella. Absolutely delicious, and worth the $62 round trip Amtrak ticket to get down here. Yeah, it’s not cheap getting down to the city these days. But a break from the oppressive heat Davis, it’s always a good idea. I stood on a long wooden log and drew the Ferry Building, as that morning fog drifted in and burned out. A bit like myself; I drifted into the city in the morning, and then by the end of the day I burned out. I got a lot of sketching and wandering done in the meantime though.
I drew some of the people who were in the market that morning. That guy in red was wearing a 2006 Spain shirt. I always think of Robin Williams when I come here. I remember spending a weekend here with my wife in the late 2000s and we came down to the Ferry Building Farmers Market and there he was, Robin Williams, buying some food. Always makes me feel a bit sad. He lived locally, until his passing in 2014; they eventually named the tunnel you pass through after the Golden Gate Bridge after him.
I turned around after drawing the Ferry Building and the people and drew the view looking the other way. The sun was out a bit more now, but I needed to draw this SoMa skyline as it has changed so much in the decade and a half since I moved out here. Even this scene here, that building behind Gate B is where I used to pick up the Amtrak bus after a day in San Francisco, but that’s all been redeveloped into a nice plaza now. Many of those tall buildings weren’t here a few years ago; it’s like London and San Francisco are competing for new skylines every time I’m away. Still I enjoy drawing all these details. I had to wait until later to add the colour though, because the day was moving along and so was I. Lunch was a couple of tasty Argentinian empanadas from inside the Ferry Building, and then I wandered over to Market to decide where I would wander next. As before I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to sketch somewhere I didn’t sketch in June, but somewhere with a good view and somewhere I could just sit for ages looking at it. Find out next time where I ended up…