the old man is snoring

rain, i don't mind

When it rains it pours. No, this isn’t pouring, it’s bucketing, and do we need it. It rained overnight a few weeks ago, and that was the first rain in many many months, but this is the first proper rain for me – the first rain I actually get to see in the daytime. And I like it. And so do the weathermen (no that’s not a reference to bill ayers, I’m not a mccain robocaller). Now mark finan and dave bender can wheel out their fancy doppler and vipir radars, put on their best ties, and sink their teeth into some storms. California’s poor weathermen, there’s never really much for them to do.

Last time I drew from this window (in the silo, where sometimes i eat lunch), they were building that new bus terminal which is now open across the street. Back in those days, it was a lot hotter, and the dollar was really weak against the pound.

hitched in hitchin

congratulations james & lianne!

It’s Hallowe’en…this is supposed to be the most haunted building in Hertfordshire ( that’s England, folks, just north of the part of London I’m from). It’s the Sun Hotel in Hitchin, and today my friend James is marrying his fiancee Lianne at this very place (many congratulations dudes!); unfortunately I can’t go (what with being on the other side of the world) so I drew this for them.

Happy Hallowe’en!

sketchcrawl 20 (part 3)

sc20 chairez barbers

And so on to 24th Street, and to the more colourful latin-american part of town. I loved it down there and was itching to draw some spanish-language shopfront. I chose a barber-shop (yep, drawn barber-shops in SF before) which i could have simplified, but i did have lots of kids and adults wearing chivas etc football shirts looking over my shoulder exclaiming excitedly in spanish so I felt i should keep adding details. I enjoyed drawing this one. The one below, I finally got a powerline in there. Several other sketchcrawlers were at this intersection – one even spoke to me, and happened to be from England – and there were also two large cops on two large motorbikes hodden behind opposite corners, bursting out sirens screaming every time someone jumped a stop sign (presumably that was the reason, unless it was something more serious). Decided to colour this elsewhere, over a well-deserved fat tire in a little Irish bar called napper tandy’s, full of fairly well-watered and friendly Irish people. Decided on sepia in the end, give it a different flavour. 
sc20 sepia 24th

Sketchcrawl ended at Muddy’s, a cafe with pretty much nothing on the menu that I wanted (this is why I prefer these things to end at a pub, at least they have beer, but that’s just me being a Londoner; I don’t drink coffee, so all those different flavour beans mean nothing to me). There were a LOT of other sketchcrawlers there, sharing their sketchbooks – though I usually like this bit, I was a little intimidated. I did sit and swap books with a few people, all great work, some people just doing one or two pictures, others filling pages and pages with quality work. I was given some nice compliments. But I got too shy to go mingling, and slinked off for a very messy mission burrito, before heading off to catch the amtrak bus over the bridge, and the train back to Davis, tired and exhausted.  
going home

I really enjoyed this Sketchcrawl. They’re always different. I guess the next one is in January some time – we’ll see! Hope you enjoyed my little trip through the Mission District.

sketchcrawl 20 (part 2)

22nd St
Saturday’s sketchcrawl in SF’s Mission District continued; I drew the view down 22nd St looking towards that large insectoid alien invader tower thing. I do know what it is called, but it is funnier if I call it that. You may notice, there are no power lines in this picture, what was I thinking? Was I going to spend a day drawing in the Mission without sketching my beloved powerlines? Surely not. But I had a checklist: powerlines, victorianon the street houses, spanish-language shopfronts, and sutro tower with a hill full of buildings. Otherwise I may as well just stay in Davis and draw trees. I got the drawing of a building with a tree in the foreground done, that’s an old chestnut for me, plus the purple pen outing and the view from the train, I am becoming predictable. Can I resist drawing a framed picture with a tree or lamp-post escaping the frame? No I can’t, and there it is above. Below, a grand old Victorian on Guerrero, the sort of place you would just love to live. I enjoy drawing these. I gave this picture a very green tint to it.
victorian on guerrero

After this, I strolled down to 24th to look at murals and sketch some more. Part 3 coming tomorrow…

sketchcrawl 20 (part 1)

a look at the book Saturday October 25th was Worldwide Sketchcrawl #20; I journeyed down to San Francisco to join the group of about sixty sketchcrawlers in the Mission District (you know I love it there). This was my eighth participation in the Sketchcrawl, and my second in San Francisco (the others being Davis twice, Berkeley twice, Sacramento and London). For me, the sketchcrawl is another excuse to go out and draw, maybe try some new things, to see how much I can do in the time given, but more importantly to see how other sketchers work. The many different ways of interpreting the same scenes are inspirational. Plus I get to check out other people’s pens.

san francisco

I got the early Amtrak from Davis; it was going to be a very sunny day, even in the city. As always, I got the moleskine out to draw the view from the train through the Valley as it crossed the Delta into the Bay. I noted the times I sketched, along with a lyric from whatever happened to be on the headphones at the time. I got off the 14 bus at Mission District and within a block trod in some dogpoo – not a good start. Thankfully I was able to clean it off easily. Having lived in France and Belgium, I am normally hyper-aware of dogpoo, but living in the US has thrown me off, still this was the first time in many years and was probably an omen for a good day (the last time I trod in dogpoo was on the way to my second date with my future wife). But enough of the social history of dogpoo (that is another blog entry entirely, perhaps on another blog), and back to the 20th worldwide sketchcrawl.
guerrero & 22nd

There were a lot of people with sketchbooks at Que Tal on Guerrero, the meeting point. I was pleased to see the cafe sold Barry’s tea, my favourite, but I just had a bagel and went out into the street to start sketchersthe sketching along with everybody else. Sketchcrawl’s founder Enrico Casarosa was there, with copies of his new book the Venice Chronicles. I began with a building opposite, on the corner of Guerrero and 22nd. The sun was casting dramatic shadows. Oh look, there’s a tree in the foreground (for a change). A lot of sketchers were drawing people, while I’m usually fixated with architecture, but I did too, using the micron purple pen that crawls out of my pencil case every few months or so. I recognised some of the faces from previous crawls, but my natural shyness meant I just buried myself into my moleskine and got down to business. But the great thing about other sketchers is that they don’t mind being sketched, so you never have to pretend you’re not sketching them. It’s quite liberating.

Part 2 will come tomorrow; in the meantime check out everyone else’s SF ‘crawl posts at

a friday in october

a friday in october

I had to draw this lunchtime, though running out of things I want to draw near my office. This is the Physics Geology building. Physics. I remember my Physics teacher at school, Vilis, nice guy but a bit grumpy at times, and was forever slamming the windows closed, could not stand the windows to be open, must be a physics thing. I loved physics but was crap at it. I hated chemistry and was crap at it (the fear of bunsen burners, as you know). I was so-so about biology but got pretty good grades in it. I never wanted to be a scientist, but I always wanted (and still do) to know everything about science. It’s good to know stuff.  

This is not part of the “you see, davis” series, it just looks like it. That series ended a while ago. A new series will start some time, based on something else. I just felt like adding words about the day.

a right couple of spanners

Illustration Friday this week: “repair”. Decided in the end not to do a watercolour wash, but to use another colour micron pen, and then a warm grey faber-castell brush pen, and leave it at that. Something different for me. Yeah the lines are kinda goin’ places, but it’s an election year, so.


This economic meltdown is causing absolute chaos, and shows that just allowing the free market to do what it will is clearly not good enough. Tell you what though, a couple of months ago the pound was worth $2.05, today it was $1.57, pretty good for me, now I can actually afford to buy things in the UK and pay some of my student loans.

Tottenham Hotspur, oh bloody hell, can this be fixed? Bottom, winless, hopeless, useless; we were not broken under Jol, but we fixed it, now we’re broken, and this will take bloody Joe the Plumber or someone to fix.

Speaking of whom, how has Joe the Plumber become the main star of the election? Incredible the way rabid media air-fillers filled air with investigating this guy who just happened to ask Obama a question, and was then used shamelessly by McCain and Palin (who loves people called Joe, god knows who Joe Six-pack is supposed to be, I can’t work out if it’s someone who works out or someone who drinks too much beer). And there are the media scrutinising this guy like he’s the one running for office, camping outside his house, interviewing him (he’s better at it than Palin); and it’s so funny, he won’t tell them who he’s voting for, which is great (but it’s kinda obvious). Hey did I just use ‘kinda’ twice? Been listening to too many crappy political speeches. Joe the Plumber; if he’d been called Zainab the Plumber, would he have been used by the Republicans? (Do they realise Joe the Plumber’s middle name is ‘Saddam’?) Well, they couldn’t use Bob the Builder (his catchphrase sounds a bit too much like an Obama slogan: “can he fix it? yes he can!”), and too many in the GOP base had a problem accepting Postman Pat because he was palling around with a cat who can’t decide if he’s black or white, and as for Fireman Sam, the ‘hero next door’, well he’s not even married; he could be gay! Who can the Republican ticket use next in this election? Chorlton from Chorlton and the Wheelies? Mr Spoon from Button Moon? Bagpuss? Time’s running out guys.

urban sketchers of the world unite

I love cities, I love drawing in cities, and so this is right up my street, and yours too. A new website will be officially launching on November 1: Founded by Seattle-based illustrator Gabi Campanario, it will feature the drawings of a number of excellent sketchblogging artists from cities on four (so far) continents. I am pleased to announce that I am the correspondent for Davis, and I’m really looking forward to contributing to this exciting project. The other artists involved have some incredible work, some of which I’m familiar with, and many whose work is new to me (and it is very inspiring stuff!). I love that there are so many different ways of interpreting our cities, so I’m looking forward to learning a few new styles. Check it out, bookmark it, tell your friends, get a sketchbook, go outside, draw stuff. Now form a band.

(Now, of course, I have to try to make Davis look ‘urban’…)


Tomorrow, I’ll be off to San Francisco for some very urban sketching down in the Mission, for the 20th Worldwide Sketch Crawl. My sketching stool is being stitched together, I’m testing out a new paintbox, and leaving room inside me for burritos. The Sketchcrawl is happening all over the world, so check out the forum to see if any other sketchers are getting out and about in your city. And yes, this time there’s one happening in London too (on the South Bank from Borough, the same route Simon and I did last year for the Sketchcrawl).

let it B street

bakers square

After getting my new glasses earlier this week, I decided to spend ten minutes doing a very quick drawing. I kinda lost the ‘very-quick-drawing’ thing for a bit there, in favour of the ‘very-detailed-never-time-to-finish’ style of sketching, so it was nice to give myself ten minutes to do something quick. First thing I see. With a failing micron .03 pen too. This is the corner of B and 2nd (and no, there is no apostrophe in that bakers square sign). And it actually took eight minutes.

überlingen am bodensee

Überlingen am Bodensee
Überlingen am Bodensee. I came here in 1996 to stay for a year, but liked it so much I stayed for nearly a month. That was a funny episode in my life. Whatever possessed me to up sticks and suddenly move to Germany? Where I knew nobody, with practically no money nor idea of what I was doing, going off to save the world I think it was. I’d always wanted to live in Germany. I had gone to work with mentally disabled children at the local Heimsonderschule, several miles out of town (on my one day off a week I’d hike or hitch into town, look around the record shop and the bookstore – I love German bookstores – then trudge back again). For one reason or other I decided it was the wrong move, though, and trudged back to England.

I no longer recall that much about Überlingen; I did revisit briefly in 1998 while on my five-week tour of Europe, and took the photo from which I drew this picture, but didn’t stay long. It also made headlines after two passenger planes collided ouside the town, a few years ago. I have been to Bodensee (or Lake Constance, on the Swiss/Austrian/German border) several times, first of all when I was 15, on a school work experience trip to Vorarlberg. “Schnupperlehre”, I think the experience was called.

I do remember hitching into town, though. The walk was pleasant enough, going past pear orchards and rolling sunflower meadows, but long; a lift would be nice. I often hitchhiked while strawberry picking in Denmark – pretty much everybody I knew there did, not just into town or back to the farm, but often across Europe. I was told one trick of hitchhiking, to stand nearby to where a car has broken down. They may just be waiting for the AA to show up, but you’re more likely to get offered a lift by some kind passing audi. When it’s raining, you’re happy for such advice, even if you feel a little guilty about it. But local people would always offer to give you a ride:  the first evening I arrived in Überlingen, I was checking out the map at the station as the sky grew ever darker, when a family asked if I needed a lift to wherever I needed to go. Oh, no that’s ok, danke, ich gehe zu Fuss. “Nein, nein, es ist zu weit!” they insisted, laughing hearty German laughs (after discovering how far it was and how dark the countryside was at night, I bashfully agreed). They even invited me to dinner at their house the following week (I regret not going). It seems so long ago. The idea of hitchhiking anywhere now seems so mental to me, perhaps it’s living in America where, and I thank you media, hitchhiking equals certain death possibly involving machetes and being buried in the desert.