where streams of whiskey are flowing

g st pub, davis

While I certainly prefer the beers over here on the American West Coast, the pubs just don’t quite match up to the ones we have back home. Sure there are some interesting bars here and there, but give me a London pub any day (but with Anchor Steam and Fat Tire on tap). This is the imaginitively named G Street pub in Davis. I can’t say I’m particularly a fan of this place (where the guy at the door comes and stamps your hand after scrutinising your ID, though you may be halfway through your first pint), I much prefer Little Prague further up the road. It does attempt to bring a little piece of north London verite to the mean streets of Davis however: the toilets are as bad if not worse than any you’d find in Camden or King’s Cross. Nonetheless, it’s a good place to come and do some drawing, bar staff are friendly and pour a good pint, and there is a lot to sketch.  Plus they have pool tables.

g st pub: drinkers

I wanted to practise drawing people, sure, but also bottles – I always have a bit of an issue with them, I rush the shape and scotch the symmetry. In fact, I have the same issue with people. Guitars too, funny enough, hence my hesitation at drawing musicians. I remember years ago studying art at school how often (especially in cubist painting) I’d come across still-lives of bottles, guitars and female figures, as though they were all aesthetically connected, which I think in a way they are. Practise is the only way. I’m pleased with how I represented the bottles in the image below though, it says exactly what I wanted it to. Not that I’d drink any of the contents; the shots here a big and potent. I’m a beer man myself. That tap on the right there is Anchor Steam, the San Francisco beer, very nice too. Mine’s a pint, if you’re asking.

g st pub :drinks

down the market

davis farmers market
musicians at the farmers marketI don’t go very often to the Davis Farmer’s Market. It’s not very big – not compared with the sort of markets I used to go to in London, Belgium, France – but it can be pretty busy, with lots of things going on. Because it takes place in Central Park, Davis, between two playground, there are always lots of kids and parents about, it’s very much a family place. There is a carousel, and people making balloon swords and dogs, and organic chocolate, and so on.  

There is usually music too, and so I sat and tried to sketch the musicians, very quickly.

Then I sketched the market itself, and look at me drawing loads of people! I am inspired by the symposium, you see. It’s hard to believe it was a month ago already! That means it’s only eleven months until the next one (in Lisbon).

I must confess, when I was a kid I hated markets. I hated being dragged around them, that slow walking, looking at stuff I was just never that interested in. Car boot sales were one thing, regular markets another, but I didn’t like any of them. The Saturday Market in my native Burnt Oak I hated, accessible via an old alley and piss-slippery steps. I remember going to Chapel Street or Church Street or one of them as a kid, pretty young I was, and stopping at a Pie and Mash shop afterwards and throwing up (I hate pie and mash too; some cockney I am). Then there was Wembley market, a gargantuan affair clustered in the shadow of the stadium, my enduring memory of it being so packed all I could see were people’s behinds, all those people at Wembley without the excitement of seeing an actual football match. I got tall, and still avoided markets (and Camden Town station on a Sunday), but I did learn to appreciate them when I lived on the continent: the one in Charleroi which covered the entire town on Sundays, the near-daily ones in Aix which were always better places to buy food than the stores, that amazing one in central Munich with beer and wurst and music everywhere. These helped me enjoy the markets back in London more: Borough, Portobello, Spitalfields. Next time I’m back, I’ll probably sketch them. I still don’t like crowds, but (since sketching the market in Portland) I’m getting more excited about sketching markets as important places of human existence. (Well, I say that now…) 


train engine in davis

I sketched at the Davis Farmer’s Market today (I’ll post that later; all my sketches are being posted in nonlinear fashion these days while I catch up with my backlog). I missed my bus home by mere seconds, so had to wait an hour for the next one. The bus stop is by the railroad, and I noticed a cool looking engine parked about a block away, near 6th Street. I sat by the lumber yard and sketched away. It’s from the California Northern Co; if I’d had more time I would have sketched the whole thing, from side view. If it’s there again I will do so. I was pretty pleased with this drawing, so I couldn’t wait to post it.

ordinary people that are like you and me

august 2010 in davisfire hydrant

Back in Davis… Actually these were drawn straight after Portland, but just before Monterey, but I’m getting round to scanning my drawings. Quite the backlog built up…

You may have noticed, I have a thing for fire hydrants. I may even put together a special compendium (now don’t be silly). Most people ignore them. But as a Brit kid who read Richard Scarry and other such American picture-books, fire hydrants have always seemed exciting and exotic. Well, ‘exciting’ makes me sound like a trainspotter (I prefer drainspotting), but I still love seeing them dotted about towns and cities. Did you know (and I’m not talking to Americans, who obviously do know) that you can’t park your car in front of one? The fire department could have it removed. I like their shape too – some appear to be wearing hard-hats, some (like the one below, at UC Davis) look like those stocks they used to put crooks in back in ‘the old days’ to have tomatoes and abuse hurled at them. Now they just get parts on celebrity reality shows.

fire hydrantpipes off 2nd street

The other sketch above is of gas pipes, sticking out the back of a building on 2nd Street. It was in Portland where we (the European sketchers) were talking about how cool they looked, and Gerard Michel drew an excellent picture of some. I was eager to sketch them in Davis (having done so before, a good while ago). I think this all falls into ‘everyday objects we take for granted’, but if you’re illustrating your city, you can’t miss them out.

tractor boys

toy tractor

I feel like I did this ages ago. There have been so many drawings this month, so much scanning still to get on with. I’m sure I’m not the only Portland-Symposium-participant that feels that. Anyway…this is my son’s toy tractor, a metal green Tonka. Living in the agricultural world of Davis, tractors are inevitable.

Tractor Boys… that’s what they call Ipswich Town supporters, isn’t it. I have family in Norwich, so I should be all anti-Ipswich Town, but I have always quite liked them. They were great back in the days of Bobby Robson, John Wark, and, er, the other guys who were in Escape to Victory. I remember I was in Watford once when they were playing Ipswich, and all these Watford fans were giving Ipswich supporters some stick around town, calling them Tractor Boys and saying oo-arrr, and I wanted to say, Watford? Seriously?

Apologies to American readers, you won’t get any of that. I suppose it’s like people from Nebraska calling people from Oklahoma ‘farm-boys’. Or maybe it’s not. I grew up in London; everyone’s a tractor boy from my point of view. Even me, now.  

This little brown sketchbook is in fact finished now. You can see the whole collection of brown sketches, minus a few I didn’t bother scanning, on my flickr site.

to the shouting sea

monterey peninsula beach

It gets pretty foggy down at the Pacific Ocean’s edge. On our last morning in Monterey we took advantage of the cry of the sea one last time before we’d head inland to the hot Valley again. I painted the above pretty quickly; I was out of clean water for my paints so I used water from the Pacific Ocean itself to paint with. Seemed appropriate. This was still Pacific Grove, but further out, on the way to 17-Mile Drive.

luke's painting, Pacific Grove

My two-year-old son decided he’d like to help me with a bit of painting, so I gave him my paints and my brush, and even my nearly-complete brown sketchbook, and he painted the above. I think it’s just brilliant! He has a much better eye for colour than me. I can see us doing joint sketchbook projects in the future!

hula's, monterey

This last one is from the day before, when we had lunch at an interesting little place called Hula’s, where there was a lot to draw. And that was our short trip to Monterey. At some point soon I might start posting all the drawings I’ve done in Davis since the Symposium…

with water praying and call of seagull and rook

boats, montereya boat at monterey
More of Monterey, California. I could spend weeks there just drawing boats, but these quick sketches were all I managed in the time I was there. We were at Fisherman’s Wharf, having seen the sea-lions lying about the rocks, and I was trying my ‘see how fast you can sketch’ style of rapid two-minute sketching while my son chased pigeons and seagulls.

monterey steam enginemonterey fisherman's wharf

If you ever go to Monterey and you have kids, I’d recommend the Dennis the Menace playground. It’s probably the best playground I ever went to. It was founded by the creator of Dennis the Menace (no, not that Dennis the Menace, but the ones we Brits simply call ‘Dennis‘, because let’s face it he’s nowhere near as menacing as our Dennis the Menace) One of the many highlights is the large old authentic steam engine they have, which kids can climb upon. Unless you’re a menace, of course.

this ole house

pacific grove house

Drawn at eight in the morning, while sitting on the porch of the cute little house in Pacific Grove; from the east, golden sunlight peeped through the fog that ghosted in from the west. This old house was right opposite and I was determined not to leave without sketching it, and I’m well pleased with it. I wish, I wish, I wish I could fill an entire sketchbook just with drawings of Pacific Grove houses. Now there’s a thought! How much fun would that be?

an afternoon around pacific grove

centrela hotel, pacific grove
While people who nap take naps, the people who sketch go out and sketch. It’s my way of napping, and for someone who likes drawing big old houses, Pacific Grove is like a dream. There were so many to choose from, and such little time, that I settled on this big green hotel, the Centrela. The ocean fog was descending a little and making the world feel damp, but that’s partly what I came there for, from the hot dry Sacramento Valley. When I was finished sketching this, I spoke to a man who was from South Harrow. Small world, huh. Not that I’m from Harrow of course, no no I’m from Burnt Oak, but you know, London/Middlesex connection.

another Pacific Grove fire hydranta Pacific Grove fire hydrant

I have a thing about fire hydrants, as you know. So I took the time to sketch some. I like the little one with the red top. I understand that the colours on top of the fire hydrants have something to do with water pressure? That’s what I heard, and I’m not going to let the ability to just look it up quickly on Google distract me from finding out if it’s true or not. I think of them as little characters, with little Smurf hats, guarding the street corners like gargoyles.

a mermaid at pacific grove

And here is a mermaid. You didn’t know mermaids existed, did you. Well, this is proof, isn’t it (not that it would stand up in court). She was lolling outside a boutique on Lighthouse Avenue, covered in seashells and beads. I wanted to ask if there existed types of mermaids with the fish bit on top and the legs on the bottom (I think I saw that in Red Dwarf once).

ease your feet off in the sea

Pacific Grove, Lover's Point Beach

Though I do love to be beside the seaside, though I do love to be beside the sea, I’m not  a typical beach-loving person. I don’t do well in the Sun. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty foggy in Monterey, so I can enjoy the sandy-toed experience without frying to a crisp. And, as I rediscovered, making sandcastles is great fun.

This is Lover’s Point, in Pacific Grove. While waves may lash elsewhere, the rocks and kelp mean that the tide here is gentle, relaxing. The sand is a little stony around the edges of the beach, but in the centre it is soft and mellow. Get it wet, perfect for sandcastles.

When I was a kid, there was always a bucket and spade (they call it ‘shovel and pail’ here, which sounds like an unfunny comedy duo) (like Hale and Pace, though nobody could be that unfunny), sticks of rock, amusement arcades, bingo, deck chairs, maybe donkeys. None of that here. Except for the bucket and spade, obviously.  

i know what you're thinking, those are rubbish sandcastles, but i don't care

toe truck lover's point