how many roads must a man walk down

I ambled and jaywalked into North Beach. That view down Columbus of the TransAm Pyramid, my final destination, a big triangular monolith on the horizon, calling me like a dark lord’s tower, but i would not draw it, for i was on another quest, to be as relaxed as possible about wandering up and down hills and streets and slamming in as many sketches as possible.

 the view from lombard street 

I feel I put too much pressure on myself sometimes. After drawing ‘Bimbo’s’ below (mainly for the powerlines, and the name, not the building), and stopping by LaRocca’s across the street to add the wash, I just had to climb Russian Hill; it was just ‘there’. At the top of Lombard I stopped and drew the view out to Coit Tower (above), doing it little justice, but after the slog of the climb it didn’t really demand penance, just adoration. Oh ok, it wasn’t really a slog as such, I just felt it later on.
bimbo's north beach

The thing about Lombard Street is that they say it’s the crookedest street in the world, but surely Wall street is crookeder? The tourists didn’t care. Cable cars rattling by behind me. Weekenders standing out of their sunroofs camcording while zigzagging carefully downslopes. There’s me meanwhile, sat there using a micron 0.1 and a newly discovered micron 1, for things in the foreground. And occasionally a camera too, just to fit in with the crowd.
the dim light of day

can’t hear no buzzers or bells

on the trainI went back to San Francisco to walk up and down more hills, and sketch more random spots in the name of satiating my urge to put pen to paper, and discovered a few art shops here and there to look at or buy more pens, because you can never really have enough.

And so I got off at the touristest of traps, Pier 39, and it was cold. I listened to the sea-lions, showing off, and looked out at boat-shaped alcatraz, deciding it was too cold to draw there, and that some hot clam chowder would help (and it did, though I broke the head off of the plastic spoon). I think I waslistening to Pulp, or the Smiths, I forget now. Was going to walk up Russian Hill from Fisherman’s Wharf – one look, and sod that. So went straight into one of my favourite things in San Francisco (and totally free), the Musee Mecanique, a motley collection of ancient and newer arcade games and attractions, wooden and pixelated.

uncle sam

I went there on my first trip to SF, back in 2002, when it was stranded out by the ocean at the cliff house, and loved it; I cannot believe I’ve not been back since it moved somewher a bit more accessible. It’s (and I use this word a lot, but I mean it, though it makes me sound like Timmy Mallett) brilliant, an historical treasure trove, full of things you might recall from your youth no matter how old you are, even if you’re 100. And people were at the musee mecanique having such fun. You will too. Bring quarters. I was skinnier back when I first shook this Uncle Sam’s hand; he hasn’t changed (though my less-than-extraordinary rendition makes him look a bit like rowan atkinson). I played the old Star Wars arcade game (i used to be an absolute artist at that; used to be, this time i got shot down by a stupid tower on the death star after dispatching loads of tie fighters), and got my Magneto-shaped ass handed back to me by Chun-Li in X-Men vs Street Fighter – been a long time since i played arcade games. So I did some drawing.

I could have spent all day there. But I didn’t. I went walking, and walked up hill.

see me walking around

Tomorrow morning, I will be off to San Francisco to do some more urban sketching. A couple of years back I videoed my sketching trip from the ferry building farmer’s market up Telegraph Hill. Here, at last, it is. Below are some of the drawings I did that day. Some are from early in my first Moleskine, others are from my as-yet-unfinished WH Smith spiral bound book, and this was also the first time I’d used Copic multiliners, funny enough.

ferry building farmer's marketon the corner of columbus, washington and montgomeryfilbert street flowersthe sentinel buildingcoit tower pen
view of the bay bridge from telegraph hill

the eleventh of march


This one’s Vermeiher hall, yet another on the UC Davis campus. If you’re wondering. It’s warm and sunny now, but chilly in the morning. This particular copic pen is living out the autumn weeks of its life with thicker lines and an uncertain nib.

Oh! Saw Watchmen last night. Flipping brilliant, start to finish. Big fan of the graphic novel, and cannot wait for the dvd. Rorschach wicked, when he roars, “i’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me!”

look at the size of that thing

When does a high-rise become a skyscraper? Perhaps it’s just a matter of perception. Highrises make you think of those glum 1960s housing estates, Le Corbusier nightmares in concrete, gangs of feral kids and graffiti, whereas skyscrapers make you think of shining cityscapes, New York, the pre-Depression thirties, old money.

cobalt charleroi

This is La Vigie, Charleroi’s skyscraper/high-rise (filled with UT students, not feral but music is sometimes played loud). I lived on floor 13 years ago. Apparently there is an official definition given by the Emporis Standards Committee that a high-rise must be over twelve storeys high (La Vigie checks in at fifteen). The same Wikipedia article that gave me that useless tidbit of information tells me that skyscrapers carry a connotation of pride, of achievement. Les Vigistes would often go on about being proud (oh, anyone can be proud, it’s easy), and I daresay they sometimes acheive things (making it through nine months without a hot shower is an amazing achievement). So what if it’s not a skyscraper? It’s still the tallest building in the city, and has stunning views over the old slag-heaps and factories, when the cokey fog clears. A skyscraper is just a big substitute phallus anyway.

Drew this in cobalt blue copic, with a grey wash. The blue looks bluer than it does on the page, and it makes the grey look silver. That’s the scanner for you.

kind of a strange old hermit

kind of a strange old hermit

What is it? It’s an odd sculpture, living on the UC Davis campus. It may well be a doorway, a portal into another dimension; I’m not going to walk through it, in case I can’t get home again. It might be pi’s physical manifestation, or the place where Aslan rose again. It could be the winning goal. I drew it at lunchtime, in today’s lovely weather. It feels like Spring is in the air.

reflections of

rainy rainy dayRAIN! Much needed. And it gave me a chance to draw a big puddle.

Oh, time to comment on the weekend’s match. Football. The Carling Cup Final. I didn’t really expect Spurs to win, but we won it last year, and you never know. So to lose it on penalties was pretty hard to bear. I didn’t see it; it was all just text updates online, early in the morning. Even so, I hid in the kitchen, unable to watch, as is normal for penalty shoot-outs. This of course means no European football for Tottenham next year. I’m so glad Redknapp decided that playing in the UEFA cup wasn’t worth it. He sacrificed it this year for the slim chance of getting in next year. He has bowed out of the UEFA Cup twice this season now, with two clubs. That’s the spirit! That’s real ambition! Well, at least we have the relegation battle to look forward to.

Meanwhile, in Davis, I am drawing puddles.