with never a whisper in the sea

fisherman's wharf

I got up early on Sunday morning, to see what San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf looks like without all the slow-walking touristy people milling about. It looked better. I thought of how much more I like it, being near the sea. But it was very foggy, and then it started raining. It was ‘mizzly’. I went back to the hotel for a bit, and drew the view from the window, looking out towards Coit Tower (below). I went back out, when the sourdough-bread-and-sealion-photographing masses had emerged, and I drew a boat (above), while tucked away under some shelter. I like drawing boats these days; if it hadn’t been so rainy, and if I’d had more time, I’d have drawn boats all day long.

telegraph hill

Telegraph Hill reminds me of a Provençal hill town, such as Gordes or Lourmarin, in this drawing.

Incidentally, the Pier 39 sealions appear to have gone. I’d heard that they had moved on from their home, which they have occupied since the 1989 earthquake. A few remain, honking for the cameras, but the rest have swum away.

weekend in san francisco

Here’s the Moleskine spread, after drawing at Fisherman’s Wharf. I’m quite pleased with how these pages look.

mission accomplished

church & market, SF

Last weekend in San Francisco, continued… After another stop at a trendy cafe, we walked up the slopes of Mission Dolores park to enjoy the incredible views over the city. I stopped to sketch the tower of the Mission school yet again, while behind me pit-bulls tried to mate with chihuahuas (please, I know what the offspring would be called, don’t go there). We left that image behind and walked up Church, and towards the Castro district, where I drew the corner of Market street while my friend searched for a 3-day Muni pass (he’d been looking everywhere, with no luck). He did find one eventually, at a magazine kiosk on Castro Street (I noticed one magazine had what looked like Cristiano Ronaldo on the front, but, um, it wasn’t about football). Why you need to know all this I don’t know, but it’s a fun enough story, and means I get to call this entry ‘mission accomplished’, rather than ‘mission impossible’, which is what I thought I’d call it at the time. To be continued…

mission dolores park, SF


taco truck in the missionWe went to the Mission district of San Francisco. For those who don’t know, the Mission is historically a large Mexican and Central American area of theharrison & 25th city, full of colourful houses and even more colourful murals. It is one of the oldest parts of thSan Francisco, one with a slightly sketchy reputation, but which is becoming increasingly gentrified and artist-oriented, especially on its western fringes. It’s also where the world famous burrito was invented. I was eager to find a good taco truck, and there was one down at Garfield Square, on the corner of 25th and Harrison, and we both sat and drew it;  ‘Goza Goza Goza’ it was called; no relation to Gozer the Gozerian. That’s my friend Simon above, sketched by me on some airmail envelope paper I had in my bag. I badly wanted to show my guest from England a real Mission burrito. I think he was impressed. I think he was more impressed by the fact 24th street, outside philz coffeethe spanish-speaking taco truck guy called him ‘Ese’ (a reference that went over my head, but don’t tell him).  I think he was possibly most impressed by Philz Coffee on 24th; he was in there for a good long while, while they carefully constructed his perfect coffee, so I grabbed a sketch while waiting outside. I don’t drink coffee, as I have mentioned in these pages before, so the whole coffee seeking experience is lost on me. Give me a mission burrito and a pint of Anchor Steam any day! That day, in fact; we had much of it that evening. I love San Francisco.


pull the other one

yellow train, old sacramento
simon sketching  in old town sac

Old Town Sacramento has lots of candy stores and saloon doors, but it also has a big railway heritage – there is the railway museum and an old steam train that chugs up and down on weekends. Not so on quiet Thursdays. My friend is visiting from the UK so we swent down there to talk Back to the Future III and do some sketching. That’s him there, Simon, on the right. I didn’t draw the bus transfer ticket, though you know I would. I sat and drew a yellow Union Pacific train engine, which had a logo on the side which we found amusing: “America, We’re Pulling For You”.  A family of tourists came up while sketching and took my photo (that’s not it below, by the way). That’s the second time that has happened on this same spot, funny enough.

me, sketching in old town sacramento

white house experience

1st street house

Pancake Day was a success. In otherwords, I had pancakes, proper pancake-day pancakes with lemon and sugar (and one with nutella). My two-year-old excitedly shouted ‘pancake day! pancake day!’ and giggled as I flipped the pancakes up in the air from the pan, but he wouldn’t even eat a nibble. Ah well. I often say that Davis, my current home city, is flat as a pancake, and it is. But it has some nice old houses, like this one on 1st Stret – I have wanted to draw it for ages, and so today at lunchtime (70 degrees warm folks, not bad for winter) I got out and sketched it. I just love that big roof, it’s so ‘America’, it’s so ‘Not Burnt Oak’. I don’t know if it’s a frat house. There are so many on this row I wouldn’t be surprised. Either that or it’s from a horror movie.

does that star-spangled banner yet wave

First Valentine’s Day, then President’s Day; what next, Pancake Day? (Oh yeah, it is, tomorrow… I promise, this is not a food blog, I won’t post photos of my lovely scrummy proper pancake-day pancakes, they’ll be eaten too quickly)

newman chapel, on presidents day

So anyway, Pres’s Day, I got out  into this gorgeous Californian February weather (69 degrees and sunny; how’s that snow, everywhere else?) and cycled about a bit, slowly and aimlessly, before settling on the corner of C and 5th to sketch Newman Chapel (I have drawn it before, a few years ago). there was a flag, as there were on many of the streets, so I added it to the frame. It’s funny, I’m not into the whole flag-waving business, flag-fuelled patriotism, in whichever land, and yet I have always been obsessively interested in flags of all countries. Vexillology is one of my favourite subjects, I can’t get enough of it. That, and football shirts, so I’m already gearing up for the World Cup. Anyway, there I am below, giving the post-sketch analysis with Moley #5. David Devant was on my headphones, though I’d spent most of the sketch listening to Joni Mitchell, and I think it shows.

sketching on president's day

trifling matters

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays when you have to indulge in some chocolatey decadence. I made my first ever chocolate trifle, and oh yes it was decadent, my friend.

chocolate trifle

A layer of choc fudge brownies, decorated with maltesers (I cut most of them in half – a mistake in fact, as the honeycomb center evaporated), and a layer of creamy chocolate pudding, topped with cool-whip cream and some chocolate hearts. Below is how it looks inside. It was a winner (and I don’t mean a Michael), but so filling, so chocolatey, so over the top, I couldn’t have more than a single serving.

The same can’t be said for my real winner, my regular strawberry and banana trifle; I could eat a whole dish of it in one fell swoop – it’s that good. A British specialty (and my brother has the best recipe), I have made it several times over here, my best one being for my American in-law family, on no less an American holiday than the Fourth of July, and wow they all loved it! Which made me feel great, though it meant there were no leftovers for me to finish off…

pete's trifle

PS, despite my trifle obsession, this is still not a food blog, so you know…

window olympics

through the window

The Vancouver Winter Olympics opening ceremony is opening ceremoniously as I type. Well, actually it was three hours ago; even though we are in the same time zone here on the West Coast, we have to watch it at the TV hour that the East Coast dictates (they get to see it live, while we have to avoid twitter feeds). I’d like to go to Vancouver, I hear it is very nice there. In fact every commercial break is another advert for British Columbia to convince me. I’ve always wanted to go to Canada; I lived briefly with a couple of Canadians while in France (one of whom was very good at magic tricks). Well, the place isn’t going anywhere, so for now I’m in California.

None of this has anything to do with the sketch, which I did today at lunchtime, at the Silo. Sometimes, when it’s Friday and you haven’t sketched all week, you just look out of the window and draw.

dome alone

islamic center of davis

I’ve been meaning to draw this building for a while, the Islamic Center of Davis; an unusual structure in this town, as it is painted in a very bright sky blue, and it features a striking dome above the entrance (but not actually part of the main building). It was built in 2006. Taking advantage of a sunny Friday lunchtime I cycled up Russell and sketched it. You can see the possibly storm-driven clouds passing in the background. We’ve had some winter weather lately.

really useful engines

track truck
So I had another birthday. I don’t feel a year older though, but I do feel a day older than yesterday. Tomorrow I might feel a day even older. Anyway, I went out on my bike to enjoy the sunny super-bowl Sunday weather, and was attracted (not acttracted per se, but you know what I mean) by the clunkety-clunking noise coming from the railroads down by 2nd street. I don’t know what these things are properly called (which considering my two-year old is an expert on such matters, and an avid Thomas fan), but there were loads of these yellow maintenance railtrucks out, busy at work, rolling slowly down the track, making a good old noise. Some were huge complicated loking engines, others small crane-type machines, like this one, picking up wooden sleepers and doing whatever it was supposed to be doing. I sketched it as it clunkety-clunked by.