bravely ran away, away

22, athletics

When I was in my teens, I learned to run. My mate Terry was really into running at the time and so he always wanted to run around the park after school. My dad, and I don’t quite know why, got a running machine at home, put it in the living room, and I used it to practice. And I got quite quick. Not as quick as Terry, but pretty quick. At sports day I would usually do pretty well, in the 100 metres anyway – I didn’t have the stamina for much else, except 200m. Oh, and the javelin. I tended to get lucky in that I’d race against really slow people too. I obviously won enough races that the sports teacher picked me for the athletics team one time, to race at Copthall in the 100 metres sprint. I think Terry may have had something to do with it. I was about 14. Everyone I was racing against was at least 16. Even though I was just as tall as most of them, I felt tiny. You never know, I told myself. Maybe the Force will be with me. And then they bolted. Sure, I gave it my best shot, but contrary to lying cartoons the tortoise does not beat the hare, came a woeful last. Oh well. I went back to the art class, and never raced again.

I don’t run any more, don’t exercise much at all.

#22 of 30. Incidentally, I have decided to name this series “I hold my pen in an unusual way”, after the first (and most appropriate) entry.

give trees a chance

So rested he by the tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

the arboretum

I’ve been a little uninspired by drawing in Davis lately. Oh the Davisites will not like me for saying so, but I’ve just not wanted to draw the place much, prefering little shoes. Hey, I have drawn a lot of Davis. I have just been craving a little more urban; I like trees and bikes and all but some barbed wire and brickwork could be fun too. A couple of summers ago, I would draw here in the UC Davis Arboretum on most lunchtimes, but it all got very samey. Plus (and more importantly) I would go through my green paints like there was no tomorrow. After some days of near-agoraphobia, I felt the need to go outside today – I actually wanted to draw some of the construction vehicles opposite work, but they seemed to be all off on their own lunchbreak – so ended up back down here in the tree world by the creek. It’s nice here, you can hear the insects and the birds and the ducks, and the traffic and the joggers and the lunchtime gossipers; bring your mp3 player to blot out this din. Still, it was pleasant to draw there. Maybe I’ll do it again tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll draw another shoe.

all we are saying is give peas a chance

21, I do not eat peas

#21 of 30. No peas for me. Don’t even try to convince me because I will not eat them. End of. Frozen, they are good for nursing scrapes and bruises. Give me baked beans any day. Beans on Toast, the staple of growing up. Gotta be on toast. Noodles too, as you know, my favourite food. A funny thing, this week my wife was looking in a recipe book for toddlers and it suggested sardines, on toast. “Who’d eat that?” she asked. “Me!!!” I said in excitement. The book was obviously British. I loved Sardines on Toast, especially sardines in those little tins of tomato sauce. They don’t really do the “___-on-toast” dinner choice here in America like we do back home. I grew up on it of course. But I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t put peas on toast, and that may be why I don’t like them. No, the reasons are listed above. It was those school mushy peas, alongside the domes of pure white ‘potato’, tasteless and dehydrating, that swung it for me. And I’ve not looked back. I will not give peas a chance.

careful now

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The Jaws that bite, the claws that catch.
Beware the jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious bandersnatch.

IF: caution

Been a while since I drew an Illustration Friday, so here is one, on the theme of ‘Caution‘. I was in the office during lunchtime, because I didn’t want to go outside (it wasn’t too hot, in fact it was very nice, I was just feeling agoraphobic, which isn’t good for an urban sketcher), I was listening to the BBC world service, and decided to draw the little contraption I use to remove staples, the destapler (I don’t care if that’s not what it’s really called). To me, it is the single-most scary item in the office. Yes, the automatic shredder may do more devestating damage, and I never touch the insidious ink toner if I can avoid it. But this little thing bares its big sharp teeth, like a little metal piranha, or a futuristic nano-crocodile. It could just be posturing, trying to mark its territory. Either way, you should treat such frumious bandersnatches with caution. And that’s my illustration.

circo sandals

#8: circo sandal

Next of my son’s shoes, the ones currently most worn, the blue and turquoise Circo sandals. Though I got a bit over-zealous with the penwork, and so you’d never guess the blue or turquoise. And so in this series I have finally caught up with the currently-worn, rather than the no-longer-fits. There is another shoe to draw (though I may yet draw this again from a different angle and in better light), but after that the series will slow down a bit, while feet grow and shoes are bought. I did say this would take a very long time!

van’s shoe

#6: vans shoe

My son’s “Van’s” shoes, blue, white toe, and very cool. Too small for him now though; I would love a pair myself. I actually drew this shoe once before as part of the Miscellaneous Details drawing I did a couple of months ago, and enjoyed drawing it so much I turned it into a series. Above is the left shoe, below is the right.#7: vans shoe side

Black copic 01 in moleskine cahier.

he’s had a dream for a year or two

20, ossie

#20 in a series of 30. The cobalt copic fineliner pens are still holding out!

So this one is very appropriate, because right now Spurs are sitting at the top of the English Premier League, albeit after only two games. This new season has been very unusual – so far we have had no draws at all, and all of the London teams have been winning. But Spurs are top, and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts (that’ll be Saturday, then). It’s a nice change after last year, when we had to wait nine matches for our first win – and had to sack the manager to get it. Interestingly enough, the last time we won our first two matches was in 1994, when of all people Ossie Ardiles was manager! And he was sacked by November. Well, that’s Tottenham Hotspur for you.

Or “Tottingham” as Ossie used to call it. I was dumbstruck when I met him, outside the old Spurs training ground in Mill Hill, shortly before those two victories in ’94. I had met Klinsmann too of course, who had just arrived at the club, plus Sheringham, Anderton, Barmby, Mabbutt, all of those guys. After getting their autographs on a Spurs shirt (which I still have) and a few polaroids, I sat on the hood of a car to pack up my bag. And then Osvaldo CésarArdiles comes up and opens the car door! He was really nice, posed for a photo, said hello to my little sister, shook my shaking hand, and we left. He drove past as we walked down Bunn’s Lane, and actually waved. I know, it is incredible that a World-Cup winning footballer can actually say a few civil words and wave from a moving vehicle, but when you were the kid who wanted to actually be Ossie Ardiles, that is in fact a big deal. My knees were even trembly.

restlessness has siezed me now it’s true

villefranche sur mer

I finished the Villefranche-sur-Mer picture by adding a minimal amount of colour. I think I like it minimal, any more may have taken away from it. If you’re wondering where the Mer is in Villefranche, well it is behind me in this shot. I may draw the other side as well, because that was a lovely view downhill to the harbour.

when the half light makes for a clearer view

villefranche sur mer, pen version

villefranche (unfinished)
parts of the process

When I was last in Villefranche-sur-Mer, the beautiful old Mediterranean port nestled between Nice and Monaco, I took this photo of Rue Eglise (having just eaten at that cafe and sketched the sea) and told myself I’d draw a picture of it when I got home. That was over six years ago. Yesterday I finally got the photo out and started drawing, because I was playing with perspective in my messy sketchbook (see the quick watercolour sketch below) and wanted something nice to draw.

One thing I recall is that Villefranche was where they set that film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. That’s a good movie. I especially like that Emperor Palpatine plays Michael Caine’s butler. I stopped off here on my way back to London from Aix-en-Provence, having been out here to visit some old friends and watch their play. I was flying from

villefranche, quick sketch

a quick watercolour sketch

Nice that evening, and so I whiled away a few hours by the sea at Villefranche. The old town is especially nice. I’d love to go back there to draw.

Well, I will have to make do with my old photos for now, I’m too far away. I did a watercolour study, primarily to work out how the perspective lines worked. It’s messy and quick but I quite like it, and sometimes wish I did more of my sketch work like that, if only so I could get better at the technique.  But I love drawing in pen too much! The version at the top is not the ultimately finished version – I will add some watercolour, if only just to tint it. But I like how it looks anyhow. I think it’s quite nice.


never stopped me dreaming

And so the football season begins, at last! I hate odd years, those long footy-less summers. But then, as a Spurs fan, the new season always brings a mixture of ridiculous over-expectation and glum resignation to what will likely be yet another transition season (surely a successful season for us would be a transitional season). But I don’t care, because football is finally here. Still the summer brings its own excitements, namely the wild transfer market, and (for me at least) the constant flow of new kit releases; I’ll talk about those in another post. This summer has seen world record transfer deals, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka going to spend more time with Real Madrid’s endless chequebook, and Manchester City’s Mark Hughes spending his Arab bosses’ huge stockpiles of cash safe in the knowledge that he’ll probably be sacked by Christmas so he may as well enjoy it before he moves on to a poor (and more realistic) club. Most of it has been spent at Arsenal’s Big Summer Sale. And then possibly the biggest transfer surprise was Michael Owen going to Manchester United, on a free. That will either be the best move of his life or the worst. No, no way could it be worse than his move to Newcastle. I think it was pretty shrewd of Sir Alex to pick him up; he may just coax those goals out if him. After all, they have a shared interest in racehorses.

Spurs meanwhile have picked up Peter Crouch, who, at thirteen foot six, is the tallest humanoid in the galaxy. I remember when he was a trainee at Spurs, back when he was a little lad of six foot ten. That meant Darren Bent was shown the door (though he actually missed three times before he managed to walk through it). I felt a bit sorry for Bent. He was actually our top scorer last year. He never shook off the big price tag, and going to a club like Spurs which collects strikers like Michael Owen collects betting slips, and has a ‘Have I Got News For You’ guest-presenter policy on managers (perfected by Newcastle, who can barely get through a match without changing coach), the odds were against him. Well, he’ll be at Sunderland now, where he may not find that managerial stability, but at least he’ll get a game of a Saturday.

Possibly the most bizarre move of the summer was managerial – oops, I mean director of football, or whatever the term is these days. Sven, back from his unsuccessful jaunt as Mexico boss, has made the inexplicable move to Notts County, in the English League Two. That’s the old Fourth Division; that’s three divisions below the Premier League. That is one giant downward leap for Svenkind. Well, it’s easier explained by the presence of new Arab cash (in English football, Arab cash, like Russian cash, is far more valuable and easy to spend than regular cash. But when people know you have it in your wallet, they jack up the prices). Greavsie was right. Football really is a funny old game.