summertime in the low countries

Sketchbook first page
Well it’s time to tell you about my summer. Now that it’s cold and probably wet, and we’ve all aged a bit more than six months in the past six months, let’s take a look back at my summer holiday in the Low Countries. They are called that after one of David Bowie’s albums (though I took so many trains that it should be called Station to Station). Following the tradition of the last three summers, I took a Stillman and Birn Alpha with me and filled in the front page with a hand-drawn map and drawings of various things I ate and drank along the way. This was a longer trip – three weeks, two on the continent and another staying with the family in London, taken in the midst of a whopping heatwave. It’s not the longest or anywhere close to the most journeyed trip around Europe I have ever taken – look back to 1998 for that, the pre-sketching days – but now I’m older it takes longer to recover; I’m not sure I have, even looking at the map makes me tired. It was a fun trip though, full of memories, meeting up with good friends, seeing old places from the past, and finally showing my son that mad country of Belgium I keep talking about. He was just as impressed, it was his favourite place. In the image above you can see some of the food and drink I liked – poffertjes (little Dutch pancakes) in Amsterdam, from a jolly guy called Tony; classic simple waffle from a waffle truck in Brussels, the most delicious waffle I’ve ever eaten; Charles Quint, perhaps my favourite beer, from my favourite bar in Charleroi, still open despite much faded glory; proper Waterzooi from Gent, which I had never tasted before; a bright pink juice called ‘Stress Down’ from Joe the Juice in Amsterdam, which honestly revived my brain after it melted in the heatwave, and got my sketching working again; Belgian frites covered in Sauce Andalouse from Robert La Frite in Charleroi, naturally eaten after midnight, the very best frites in the world; and of course, a 99 from an ice-cream van in England, that’s a soft-serve in a cornet with a chocolate flake, everything seems like it will be ok when you have a 99. Lovely foodly memories. Not to mention the delicious Belgian chocolate.

Suitcase

I got a new small suitcase for the trip, smaller even than my other small case, and I had to pack light. I knew I’d be wheeling it around cities, cramming it into luggage lockers, not unpacking much on my one night here, two nights there hotel stays. Fortunately football shirts don’t take up much room and I wear a lot of those. So, this trip took me to France – Paris and Disneyland; to Belgium – Brussels, Ghent, Liege, Charleroi and Bruges; to the Netherlands – Amsterdam, for the Urban Sketching Symposium; and to England – London, plus a day in Watford and St.Albans. Oh, but I did get to start in an exciting way – I flew first class from LA to Paris. I had never flown first class before, and wow this was an experience. Completely lie-flat seats, amazing food with real metal cutlery, a huge TV screen (I watched Bumblebee, of all movies), and flight attendants calling me by my name ‘Mr Scully’. Oh and a door, and actual door, so I could be in my own little cubicle, instead of my usual squashed-against-elbows flights over the Atlantic. And it didn’t cost us anything, as we got it on points. Very much a one-off experience for me! I was unashamedly excited about the whole thing. People from Burnt Oak don’t often get to do this sort of thing. The only thing I was disappointed in was that the toilet was just like any other airplane loo, I was expecting some huge fancy bathroom or something, golden seat maybe. Also, the old man who went in there before me kind of left it a bit messy. I was a bit worried they might think it was me so I actually tidied it up. Still the champagne was nice, and by the time I landed in Paris I had that unusual sensation of having actually slept well on a plane, so I had plenty of energy to get sketching around Montmartre before speeding off to Brussels – more on that later. But you’ll notice IO flew from LA – I first had to fly from Sacramento down to LAX, which if you’ve ever been there is quite a headache of an airport. Looking forward to the first-class flight made up for that. So, here is what I sketched on the flights, drawn in the small in-transit-sketches Miquelrius ‘Lapin’ book, on the very last pages in fact, a book I had started on a trip to Paris back in 2012.
SMF-LAX
LAX-CDG

I really love travelling, and I really love sketching. I’m not a super fan of hot weather, and there was a fair bit of that, and it made the travelling and sketching much harder at points, but I am always so excited about being on the move in a new place that really, I didn’t care. It wasn’t yet so hot when I landed in Paris though. Join me next time for a description of my day in Montmartre, where I had not been in about twenty years.

 

midsummer indigo girls

Mondavi 2019 A1 sm
This will be another long post. I really did do a lot of sketching in 2019 and this is all from the same day. Apart from the sketch below, which was done at lunchtime (and coloured in afterwards) it’s all the same evening, midsummer night, June 21. I definitely haven’t already posted these, have I? I had been asked by the Mondavi Center at UC Davis to produce some sketches for their annual magazine, which is called “Gateway“. To do so, they invited me to come to the Indigo Girls show in an official sketcher capacity, to draw some of the outside, the lobby, and of the show itself (the last part being done in near total darkness). It was a fun night. The above was sketched outside the main entrance as people started to arrive.
Mondavi 2019 A2 sm
I drew some people outside the Mondavi Center arriving for the show. I got there early, picking people who stopped in one place, but I did some quick sketches of people walking past. I don’t think these people were together, and they didn’t all have flowery clothing, I added that in for fun. I sketched the ticket warden (or whatever they call them) because I loved how they stood out in their smart black and white, and they were all friendly, they usually are at the Mondavi.
Mondavi 2019 B3 sm
Mondavi 2019 B2 sm
Mondavi 2019 B1 sm
I was asked to sketch people in the lobby area, so I grabbed a wine and a place to stand. As it turned out I knew quite a few people who were attending the show, it was a popular one.
Mondavi 2019 B6 sm
Mondavi 2019 B4 sm
Mondavi 2019 B5 sm
Mondavi 2019 C1 Chastity Brown sm
And then it was time for the show. I was actually given a special seat, though it was in near-complete darkness. The opening act, Chastity Brown, was really good, I loved her voice, and she talked to the audience, as you can see above. Then below, the main event started. I was able to sketch some of the audience in between the shows, and also when lights were down. There was a lot of purple and blue light, and I struggled to see my pasge, but the music was great, and sketching to music makes the pen move so easily.
Mondavi 2019 C3 Indigo Girls sm
Mondavi 2019 C2 sm
I used the zoom function in my eyes* in to get a better look at the performers (*I squinted real hard), the two main guitar-playing singers (Amy Ray and Emily Saliers) and the very performative violin player in between them (I don’t recall their name). For some reason I needed to write down the chords.
Mondavi 2019 C6 Indigo Girls sm
Mondavi 2019 C8 sm
Mondavi 2019 C4 sm
Mondavi 2019 C5 Indigo Girls sm

Anyway, a fun evening was had, it was a good show. So eventually the magazine came out in the Fall, using the outside sketch on the cover. Here it is!

IMG_5989

 

 

midtown, downtown, train back to my town

Ok…this one goes back a while. Back to March, in fact. In my defense, I only got the sketchbook back recently, so I could not write a post about it at the time. Well I could have, but stories without pictures? I was invited by Prof David Del La Peña of UC Davis to take part in a special sketchcrawl, which was to be part of the annual conference of CELA (the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture) in Sacramento. The sketchcrawl would move from midtown Sac and end up in Davis, linking up by train between the two. I joined them after lunch in Sacramento, and we were given accordion Moleskines to draw a series of fast sketches in, on location, at various spots about downtown. Also in attendance was Chip Sullivan, who I was not familiar with but he is very well known as a sketcher and educator and knows James Richards well. So I started off by drawing him and David near the conference center in midtown.

Sac sketchbook p1
Sac sketchbook p2

“Where Are We Going” it said on the sculpture near K Street. Well it turns out we were going down to the Cathedral, and I sat behind the large open angel wings of a statue. I remember drawing this Cathedral (Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament) years ago, 2006 or 2007, back when Pyramid Brewing was right behind, and California was so new to me. I remember trying to draw the Crest back then as well, the classic movie theatre a little way down the street. As we stopped for a moment to mention something about sketching I drew the sign, taking just a few minutes, before we moved on.

Sac sketchbook p3Sac sketchbook p4

And then we moved to the newest part of downtown, the area around the Golden One Center, the massive basketball arena. We saw Paul McCartney there a couple of years ago, an amazing show, one of the first performances held at the stadium. Macca sang for three hours and was incredible. I remember when this was part of the downtown mall, I would come here occasionally, but it is long gone now. You’ll notice I decided to deraw in pencil that day. I find that in those accordion moleskines I find drawing in my usual pen to be frustratingly difficult. The paper, the size of the page, the fact that it’s flopping all over the place, plus the extremely limited time in each spot – so I just went with pencil, which moves so fast across the page, and splashed on watercolour when I could. It was a sunny day with great clouds.interesting shadows, but cool enough for scarves. My favourite weather. We walked from there over to the Crocker Art Museum, not with much time to do a larger sketch (such a tight schedule, and distances to cover!) but enough time to pop into the gift shop. Oh but I did get a sketch, of another sketcher in a red coat. And then we went to old downtown…

Sac sketchbook p5
Sac sketchbook p6

Old Downtown has lots to sketch, I really should go sketchign there more often. This time I decided to draw some of the fire hydrants, one with a yellow cap, one with a green cap. This was followed by fast sketch of the Pony Express statue, before we walked to the Amtrak station.

Sac sketchbook p8Sac sketchbook p7

Sac sketchbook p9

I sat with a couple of the people attending the conference, Penelope and Tatyana (I think one came from Texas, another from California, but this was in March and my memory has faded). It doesn’t take long to get from Sac to Davis, but there was a table and a defined amount of time to sketch. You can see from the window that the Causeway was still full of water, after all the rain we got last spring. I have sketched the inside of Amtrak trains a few times before.
Sac sketchbook p10

And then we got to Davis, with just enough time to draw that iconic and sketchable Davis building, the Varsity Theatre on 2nd Street. And then we relinquished our sketchbooks, and walked back to the UCD campus.

Sac sketchbook p11 (davis)

The books were shown at an evening event during the conference, I was unable to go to it, but it would have been fun to see how everyone else interpreted the afternoon. Everyone sketches at different speeds and with different amounts of detail; I consider myself a fairly quick sketcher but it was hard to keep up! My feet were pretty tired afterwards, and I needed a good rest that weekend.

the answer’s in the looking glass

De Veres Davis

Continuing in nonlinear fashion (until I pluck up the courage to write properly about my summer trip to the Low Countries), let’s stop in at De Vere’s for a pint or two. De Vere’s is my go-to pub for sketching – lots of places to sit, lots of perspective, nice atmosphere, friendly staff. I also really like Sophia’s but it’s smaller, and a bit less light to draw by (but it’s my favourite place for food in Davis). Little Prague used to be my sketchpub years ago when it was there (it closed six years ago), it had a long bar perfect for panoramas, lots of stuff all over the walls, and awesome tall Czech beers. De Vere’s however has Pub Chips, and that is a big win for me.  Their Pub Chips have some thick gravy on them, and some melted cheese. Not quite as nice as proper northern Chips in Gravy, and possibly more similar to Canadian Poutine, either way they taste pretty nice. On this one Saturday night in September I found my favourite spot in the corner at the end of the bar and sketched away. I got into a nice conversation with a bloke from Ireland and his American partner. I lay the paint on very thick, and scribbled away with the pen very hard; I had fun with this sketch. This was one to attack the paper. I’ve drawn this place before, and I’ll draw it again, no need to be precious. I was celebrating; that evening I had sold another drawing at the Pence Gallery in the annual Art Auction, which is always a nice feeling. I really like drawing. Sometimes I get down on myself, start questioning if I’m good at anything, and then I remember I can draw fire hydrants pretty well, and while it’s not a useful skill, it’s a starting place. I can draw a bar too, in my own way, and it’s often fun as well.

De Vere's Davis on iPad

Anyway, I drew De Vere’s again a couple of months later, when I wanted to try out sketching with the iPad. It was a quicker sketch (one beer, late afternoon, on the Nov 11 Veterans Day holiday), while I played with the new Apple Pencil. A good learning experience, also enjoyed alongside those lovely Pub Chips. Now one of the nice things about Procreate is that you can create nice videos showing every stroke you made, very helpful in showing how you put the sketch together. Here it is…

Sketching De Veres

Previously, I had to show this by just taking photos of my sketchbook when I remember to. For that first sketch, I actually did, and even tweeted out the progress. Here are the photos, which helpfully show the beers too, which I’m sure you will agree is helpful to know. No sign of the Pub Chips though. Everything stops for those. Prost!

de veres sept 2019 in progress

procreating

UCD Bike Barn
Ok, let’s start this thing again. It’s been a long time since I posted my sketches properly, and it’s about time I caught up. I historically post sketches chronologically, never alphabetically, often autobiographically. However since my last posted sketches were from our trip to Disneyland in JUNE – over six months ago! – we’ve actually been to another Disneyland since then! – in fact my wife has been to Disneyland itself at least once since then – then perhaps I should just post the second half of my 2019 sketches in a nonlinear fashion. Like Pulp Fiction, or the middle episodes of every Netflix series. So let’s start off with something familiar. This is the Bike Barn at UC Davis, I have drawn it a million times, and this time it has those standing stones in the foreground. I drew it on a bright November lunchtime, with the sun in my eyes, glaring off of the screen. The screen? Yes, this was not drawn in the Seawhite of Brighton, or the Stillman and Birn, but on my new iPad, using Procreate. I have joined the Procreate drawing club, and I love it. I finally got a new iPad Air after years of using a 2014 iPad Mini. I was going to get the Pro, but the new Air is just as good and was half the weight. I made up for that by getting an expensive Moleskine cover for the iPad, so it looks like a sketchbook at least. Anyway I got the Apple Pencil and I love it, wow, it’s totally fun. I really like the other sketchers who use Procreate and digital devices (such as Rob Sketcherman, Paul Heaston and the brilliant Uma Kelkar who actually has a book about sketching with a tablet coming out next month, part of the Urban Sketchers Handbook, I’m looking forward to reading that). I especially like that you can watch back a video of how the sketch came together. Very useful for demonstrations. Still, I’m trying to get the hang of it, see what I like. I like using layers, that is very handy. The colouring part of it is very different to what I’m used to with real paint, so that’s something I am experimenting with. This sketch and the one below, the Crocker Nuclear Lab drawn quickly from my office window, were two of my first attempts at Procreate. I’ve got a lot I am figuring out and I am already getting used to some of the different brushes, but I can already see I am going to use it a lot more. In fact I drew this year’s advent calendar with it, mostly while sat on a plane back from England (I went to England in November).

UCD Crocker Lab

It’s been a while since I posted, so you’re probably wondering how UC Davis is doing. UC Davis is doing fine, it’s been getting some new buildings, and renovations, and I’ve been drawing those. Walker Hall is still being refurbished, it’s nearly done. I’ve been drawing that too. I even sketched it on the iPad last week. One of the best things about the iPad, one of the absolute greatest things, I don;t have to scan the drawing afterwards. It’s right there digitized already. I do have a new scanner, faster and quieter, but I’m still getting the hang of the lighting settings on it, there are always shadows near the crease of the book that I have to edit out afterwards, as best as I can. None of that with iPad sketching. Having just scanned half a year’s worth of sketches this past week, that is a big bonus.

And that was 2019.

It’s been a long time! Happy New Year 2020. Nearly three weeks into 2020 it’s still a new year. A new decade (all those people who smugly say, the new decade doesn’t start until the “1”, I say to you, you are soooo clever, you’re well clever you are, cor, I wish I was clever like you, meanwhile I am going to enjoy the 20s while you are still in the whatever-the-last-decade-was-called). It has been ages since I posted a sketch, wrote a ‘well-clever-you-are’ story about that sketch, but in my defense I have been avoiding scanning the sketchbooks. 2019 as it turned out was my most productive year for sketching, and I will start the posting soon. This weekend in fact. I have to remember what I did last summer. There’s been a lot going on. Without any further ado, here is the annual ‘list of all the sketches’ for 2019. You can zoom in or click on the image to see them bigger, or move your face closer to the screen, or simply ask an ant to describe them to you.

2019 sketches sm

I hope I haven’t missed anything out. As I wrote that sentence, Ir ealized that in fact I missed out scanning an entire sketchbook of quick drawings from a special sketchcrawl in Sacramento back in March I think it was, with the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. That added one extra line to this. But FINALLY I am caught up.

2019 really was the sketchingest year in ever. As a comparison to recent years, it beat them all, even 2017. 2108 saw a drop (very busy coaching soccer that year) but 2019 came right back at ya. Here is the chart from 2013-2019…

2013-2019 sketches

I’ll also be announcing the next Let’s Draw Davis dates soon. Now I have my soccer schedule kinda-sorta settled (I am coaching AYSO Select again this year…our first game ended 7-6 so it’s going to be Keeganesque!) I can start planning. 2019 was very busy, I think 2020 will be too. I went to England three times in 2019 though. We also went to Hawaii over Christmas / New Year, and the summer was a trip through Belgium/Holland/France. I had better start writing about it all, before I forget.

And we need to talk about Star Wars…

 

Let’s Draw Davis: December 2019

Let's Draw Davis Dec 2019

Seasons greetings! Join us for the last Let’s Draw Davis of 2019, an afternoon sketching around downtown Davis, looking at all the nice festive windows, maybe stopping in places for a nice hot chocolate.

DATE: SATURDAY DECEMBER 14

START: 1:00pm, E St Plaza

FINISH: 3:30pm, E St Plaza

We will meet at the E Street Plaza at 1pm, by the clock near Baskin Robbins, then sketch about the downtown shopping area we all know so well, before meeting up again at 3:30pm at E Street Plaza to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this event is free and open to all who like urban sketching. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on! And maybe a scarf if it is chilly. Or a hot chocolate.

Hope to see you there! Pete

PS If it rains we will start or finish in Mishka’s or Peet’s, I’ll keep an eye on the weather and update the Facebook event page accordingly!

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2552373148131298/