droit au but

target, davis
Target, in Davis. A controversial place in this town. It has only been open for about six months, but a few years ago it required a very narrow win in a city-wide vote for building to be approved. Target played hard-sell, appealing to the underwear buying public, college students and suburban moms alike, as well as sugaring the pill for Davis’s famed environmentalists by building the greenest Target building ever built (or something), but they faced some fierce opposition – Davis, with it’s anti-big-box tendencies, is not a town to mess about with. Downtown independent businesses banded together and fought the proposal, fearing (justifiably, given the story in so many other American towns) that the arrival of large big-box stores on the edge of town would destroy this small city’s downtown, and with it, its character. There were arguments, oh boy there were arguments, bitter bloody spit-in-the-street-and-call-you-elitists arguments. The underwear argument for one. The fact that there was already a new Target opening up the road in Woodland so another one was unnecessary. The whole creating new jobs thing (with the counter-argument that if it forced other stores out of business it would take away jobs too, and then the town is dependent on its big box store for employment, and if said store goes the way of Woolworths…) And then it was back to the underwear argument again (just where can you buy socks in Davis?). 

But in the end, Target prevailed; with their national wealth behind them they had been able to spend sixteen times what the downtown stores had been able to muster up. And so here in 2010, here it is, green Target. And despite my love of and support for independent stores, I do go there when I have to, because it’s there. But personally, I don’t buy socks. I wait for Christmas.

sand between the toes

goat rock beach

The Sonoma coastline of California is utterly spectactular. Today was a lovely warm sunny March day. This naturally equals going to the beach for a fun family day out, and it was fun. We went to Goat Rock Beach, at the mouth of the Russian River, where harbor seal pups were enjoying the balmy weather. We had sand in the hair and sand between the toes; soft, warm sand, a gentle breeze, perfect sun. The waves were loud and dangerous. We skimmed flat stones on the river. I sat on a log and drew some of the rocky coastline, before turning about on the same log to draw the Russian River snaking towards the Pacific Ocean. I thought how so very different this is to the seasides I grew up with, the windy English seasides with pebbles and candy floss and buckets-and-spades, and those amusement arcades with the bingo machines (“maggie’s den, number ten”). Not that there’s anything wrong with that (far from it, I love those places!), it’s just that this spot is so spectacular, so incredibly breathtaking that I can’t believe it’s real.  

the mouth of the russian river

the sky’s the limit

This is Maurice J. Gallagher Hall, one of the newest shiniest new shiny buildings at UC Davis. It’s home to the Graduate School of Management.

graduate school of management

I don’t often draw such modernity. I was interested in giving it a go, a study in perspective, and decided that I’d leave the big blue sky blank. The sky is literally the limit. I’m not into management speak. I never give people a heads up, aka an FYI,  vis a vis the big picture all on the same page. Sometimes I sketch small pictures on the same page though.

going for gold

goldbeaters school

This is Goldbeaters School in Burnt Oak, where I went to school from the nursery until the age of 11. When I left the Berlin Wall was still up, Thatcher still had some years to go as PM, and Glenn Hoddle had just left Spurs for Monaco. This was drawn from a photo I took on a previous trip back home; I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. I was up early yesterday morning and needed to do a drawing. I decided to make it sepia; in a way this is how I remember it. Apart from the grass and a bit of graffiti I left out, everything else is actually the right colour, pretty much.

I was inspired to finally draw my old junior school when an old, good friend from Goldbeaters got in touch with me via Facebook, Lee Glenn. I’ve not seen him since back then, so it was a real pleasure to hear from him. Reminded me of all the fun old times we had when we were kids, playing A-Team and, er, Hammer House of Horror in the playground. I will need to dig out my old school photos on my next trip back home. He blogs too – at leeglenn.net, and he made a very nice mention of me over there – and also runs a forum about film, music, books etc called ‘the popcorn patch’. Check it out!

I have good memories of Goldbeaters. I always remember most fondly my friends from the juniors, in the days when swapping Panini football stickers was pretty much the most important thing in the world. That was like a little microcosm economy of its own, the football sticker swapping market. Couldn’t have too many Spurs badges or Maradona stickers on the market otherwise the whole thing would collapse, and every so often there’d be a bust when some silly sod would knock someone’s wad of Football 86 into the air and shout “SCRAMBLE!”, showering the playground with doubles and triples of Ian Rush and rare Hamilton Academical team stickers alike. I have always imagined that that, essentially, was what the real Stock Market is really like.

lá fhéile pádraig sona daoibh

blarney castle

Well, it is Saint Patrick’s Day, so a drawing of an Irish landmark in green pen on green card seems appropriate. Of course St. Patrick’s colour was in fact blue (which might be easier on the eye than this particularly lime-verdant shade) but who are we to quibble. But speaking of quibbling, I wish people would stop using the four-leafed clover on St. Patrick’s Day, the symbol of Ireland is the Shamrock, which typically only has three leaves. But then again Celtic football club, whose shirt I’m wearing today, uses four leaves in its badge and you can’t argue with them. Ah, we’re Irish, we can argue with whoever.  

So this is Blarney Castle, in Co. Cork. I was there when I was twelve, when I kissed the Blarney Stone (at first I kissed the wrong one), and got a little certificate that said I was henceforth given the gift of the Blarney, that is to talk a lot of nonsense from time to time – they got that right. I kept that certificate for years. I love when you kiss the Blarney Stone, they hang you upside down by your ankles at the very top of the castle, so you can see the long drop below (where kids are gathered to collect the coins that inevitably fall from your pockets).  All of my family originates from Ireland, all over the place. I grew up with the Irish heritage, all the music, the Irish festivals in Southport and Willesden, the red hair and sun-shy freckly skin, and lots of cups of tea, but I don’t like Guinness. I’ve not been back over there in about thirteen years; different place now, so I hear. Ah well, it’s not going anywhere. I’ll be back one day.

My favourite chocolate bar by the way is Cadbury’s Tiffin, you can’t get it in England, but it’s common in Ireland. Tiffin and a cup of tea, my idea of heaven so it is. Just sayin’.

don’t let the sun blast your shadow

small house on 3rd st

I was outside Newsbeat, on Third Street, Davis. I don’t normally sketch standing up but the noisy trucks parked in front of me meant I couldn’t avoid it. I tried to lean against the wall, but I think someone had if not peed against it, then certainly left their scent there. There are smelly people in the world, I accept that. The fact I could smell it meant at least I was getting over my cold (although allergy season is apon me to re-block those nostrils). My pen didn’t like drawing at the funny angle of standing up, and protested. At least I had shade; it was sunny. But sunny is good, as it means I get to draw shadows of bare trees against cool little wooden buildings.

brick top

turner wright hall

Do you remember Bill the Brickie? UK people of a certain age might. No, he’s not like Joe the Plumber (whose name wasn’t even Joe), or Mott the Hoople (who wasn’t even a real Hoople). He was a cartoon segment on a TV show we had to watch at school that would teach us about building ‘-ing’ words (which conveniently enough were bricks). It was however the song that would accompany the cartoon that got stuck in my head, and the heads of countless other British kids, an annoyingly catchy ditty that won’t ever go away, ever. It was brilliant, we loved it. And it worked too; I totally know how to build ‘-ing’ words. Cheers Bill. I was thinking about that today. It has nothing to do with this drawing of course. Any attempt to link the two is futile; not even Bill the Brickie, with his little trowel, could do the job. This is Turner Wright Hall, one of the more colourful of the UC Davis buildings. Not a single brick on view. I could have waited until I drew a nice big brick building, but I couldn’t wait to remind the world of the morpheme-friendly bricklayer.

but i don’t like to talk about it, smashie

bikebarn and silo from bainer, uc davis

There was a charity auction recently at UC Davis, raising money for the local Special Olympics and Boys & Girls Club of Sacramento, which was organized by the student-run group Challenge for Charity. I donated a small drawing of campus (above), which I copied from another recent sketch of the Bikebarn and Silo from Bainer Hall, and then framed. I gather it even managed to sell (but I don’t know for how much). All for charidee!

the stars of track and field

amtrak sketching

The Capitol Corridor Amtrak train ride between the Bay Area and Davis is one of my favourite train journeys, not least because the big Amtrak trains are remarkable to travel in. I used to like the Eurostar, years ago, when I used to zip between Waterloo sketching on the amtrak capitol corridorand Bruxelles Midi, but the last time I did it I was amazed at how uncomfortable and cramped I felt, compared to these big American Amtraks. It’s always nicer when you have a table though, so you can spread out your drawing materials. In these cases, it’s obligatory to draw. I usually draw some of the quick moving bird-filled Delta landscape, capture some of the shimmering reflection of the sky in the San Pablo Bay with its lonely shacks and forgotten piers, and the colourful factories and refineries that dot the shoreline around Martinez, Benicia, Richmond. Or I just draw the empty seats in fron of me, which is nice too. I had grabbed a bunch of Amtrak timetables at Emeryville station, ones for the long cross-country routes such as the Zephyr, which goes across the Rockies and over the Plains from here to Chicago, the Coast Starlight, climbing up the Pacific states from LA to Seattle, and the Sunset Limited, running along the hot southern US from California to New Orleans. I look at them romantically, longingly, having once before travelled around Europe on the railway tracks, with the Thomas Cook European Timetable as my Bible; it’s always been a dream to see America from the sides rather than from above.

That was how I ended that brief jaunt to San Francisco, with my visiting friend from England. One last sketch to share, from that morning at Fisherman’s Wharf, while the skies were falling in big wet buckets outside, I was indoors at the Musee Mecanique, one of my favourite places in the city. I’ve sketchblogged about this place before, a year ago in fact (note the Amtrak train drawing also at the top of that eerily mirrored post), but it’s always worth showing again. Remember these arm-wrestling things you used to get at fairgrounds? I always hated them personally, but couldn’t resist drawing this one.

wrestling machine, musee mecanique