there’s a door that never closes

the original pantry, downtown LA

So…more travelling, this time down to Los Angeles, an overnighter for our anniversary. Wow, it’s been over three years since I was there. I like LA. In fact I hadn’t been to downtown LA before, and had a few hours to go sketching. I liked the look of the place above – the ‘Original Pantry’ – as we drove past in the cab: it was colourful, and there were lots of people queuing around the corner, mostly Trojans fans (the USC team, not the, you know). Most had gone when I went back to sketch. A sign on the door claims that The Original Pantry has been open for a very long time: “through a door which has no key you will enter a cafe that has NEVER BEEN CLOSED SINCE 1924“.  Which is pretty amazing, if it’s true. And by not closed, I mean actually not closed, like always open. That’s what I choose to believe from their claim. This is LA! Anything’s possible!

LA downtown US bank tower

Just a couple of hours before, I had flown over these very buildings on our way to LAX. Skyscrapers seen from an airplane above are quite magnificent; of course, I was mindful of the date as well. Flying above LA is pretty cool experience though – you really see the urban sprawl, seemingly endless, broken only by big dusty mansion-filled mountains poking through. You can see the Hollywood sign clearly from the air, and the foggy belt that hangs above the Ocean communities. The only thing – the only thing – I like about flying is the view from the window, if it’s something worth seeing, of course. 

I drew both of these while leaning on those flat-topped newspaper boxes you see everywhere in American cities. As I’ve mentioned before, they are perfect for urban sketchers to lean against.

roll out the map, and mark it with a pin

the silo

This drawing of the Silo at UC Davis, done yesterday lunchtime. I’m trying something out. This is drawn in dark brown Pitt pen, in a regular moleskine sketchbook – the same one I started exactly four years ago and abandoned due to my dislike of the paper (my micron pens couldn’t get the hang of it, and it absolutely hates watercolour). But I have a new project, a Davis drawing project, that I want to put into my Urban Sketchers moleskine, the one I got at the Symposium in Portland. It will be a series in the same format as the above, more or less. Should be fun!

on october 16, let’s all draw davis!

Here’s an announcement: next month, on October 16th, I am planning a Sketchcrawl in Davis as part of the 29th Worldwide sketchcrawl. We will begin at 10:30am at Central Park (by the Carousel, near the Farmer’s Market), go around Davis sketching things all day, and then reconvene at 4:30pm at the starting point in Central Park to share each other’s sketches. For those who have never sketchcrawled, it’s a fun event which is open to all regardless of age or ability, where you can explore and draw our town in your own personal way, and meet others who also love to draw. All this in the knowledge that hundreds perhaps thousands of people all over the world are doing exactly the same.

Even if you don’t draw, but fancy giving it a go, please come along! Everybody is welcome. 

If you are in or near Davis and would like to come sketching with me and others, please join us on October 16. You can contact me for more information, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. I’d really like to encourage location sketching around Davis, not just because it’s great fun, but also because a city or town or village is richer for having more artists. So let’s all draw Davis!

opposite ends of the day

telegraph hill

Now this is an actual sunset. I love watching the Sun go down behind Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, as i often do when waiting for the Amtrak bus to take me back to Emeryville, and from there back to Davis. I say often, I really only go to SF three or four times a year, but I feel like I know it pretty well now. I like catching the early train to the Bay Area, when the Sun casts long shadows across the Delta and the grass is golden and the hills are brown. Actually I really like it when the Delta is covered in thick early morning fog, but it’s harder to draw things when it’s like that. Anyway, the sketch below (the now common sketch of the Pepsi Max can and train window) was done on the way there, the sketch above was done on the way back.

california train sketch

sunset doesn’t last all evening

SF inner sunset tryptich

More from the Inner Sunset, San Francisco. Following the ZineFest I did some sketching first in Golden Gate Park and then around 9th and Irvine Streets. I’m really grateful for those newspaper boxes you get in big cities in America, because it’s something to stand against and lean upon, as I did when sketching the middle image of this tryptich. tutti frutti on irvine street, SFThat store, Tutti Frutti, was too colourful not to sketch. They sell lots of interesting little bits and bobs, cards, t-shirts, miscellany. I like drawing in these little segments, running them together, but it’s fun to see how they look on their own as well, so I’ve cropped the middle piece.

Apparently (I’m told by my wife) I have been around here before, when we stopped by for a doughnnut almost five years ago, days after moving to America. That five-years-since-emigration date is approaching fast; I should celebrate. Half a decade in the US… wow. Anyway, if I recall it was a nice doughnut.

I sketched Sutro Tower from the Park in glorious sunshine. It’s such an odd structure, like an invading insectoid alien stuck on a hill. I can imagine lazers popping from his eyes and zapping everyone in the Mission or the Sunset, before being laughed at. This might be a good zine, if anyone wants to write it (I don’t).

The last image was from The Mucky Duck pub on 9th. I liked it in there, it was a good pub to sit and draw things, especially the way the light came in through that slanted window. The only problem wa there were some people playing that annoying dice game people sometimes play in pubs here, do you know the one, where they slam the dice (or whatever) down onto the bar or table making a loud slamming noise every thirty seconds or so, so loud that you can’t concentrate on your drawing, your conversation, your beer, anything. They should really tell them, oi, no! Go and play ‘penny-up’ in the street or something.

So I only stayed for one, before grabbing some food, sprinting down the street to catch the N-Judah, and trekking back to Davis. I have some more sketches from that day to show though, so stay tuned… (hint: it includes fire hydrants)

inner sunset

inner sunset 9th street
“Inner Sunset”… i like that phrase, like a good way to describe slowly turning to the dark side, or perhaps a piece of you inside of you that is always calm and golden and peaceful. Actually, it’s just a neighbourhood of San Francisco, but an interesting one that I’d never really been to before (and one which has a park side). I was there for the Zine Fest so I took the time to draw some of the area. The above was drawn in the morning, while the Farmer’s Market went on nearby, and a woman played three different tunes on a violin, over and over and over again. When I was done, I went and bought a load of zines.

a change of zinery

sf zinefest 2010

After missing it for the past couple of years, I went on Sunday to the San Francisco Zine Fest. I like zines – I came across some a few years ago in a comic shop in Berkeley and was hooked, but I don’t find them very often. It was at the SF County Hall building, by Golden Gate Park. I arrived early (taking the longtrain journey down from Davis) and did some sketching around the Inner Sunset area, which I’d never explored before. I’ll post those sketches later. In the ZineFest, I took to some people sketching.

sf zinefest mohican sf zinefest woman sketching

This mohican/mohawked zinester just needed sketching. I don’t see mnay of those haircuts these days. There used to be loads in London years ago, now they are just restricted to postcards of Piccadilly Circus. It must take ages to do each morning. What if part of it flops down to one side at some point during the day, do you need to keep checking it in the mirror? These things would be on my mind, that’s why I could never have one (that and the curly hair). I didn’t ask, but thought it would make a great zine. Well, maybe not that great.

As I sketched, another woman starting sketching (she wasn’t sketching the mohican though), so I sketched her. Sketching is contagious.

sf zinefest folksI spent a lot of time flicking through zines, talking to the zinesters who created them, and eventually avoiding this after I realised I just kept buying zines and my bag was getting heavy. I liked a lot of the stuff which was personal and drawing-based, and funny. Not all of the zine world my cup of tea, of course. Overly wordy zines put me off a little, and some of the anarchist stuff wasn’t really my thing. Some which I thought might be good turned out to be not quite so good, while many others were real gems and revealed some everyday creativity, which inspires me so much. 

I have a phrase which I wrote out on a post-it note once and kept on my desk, “Every story is worth telling. But not every story is worth listening to.” and I thought of this often while flicking through the racks of zines. Actually, I prefer to transpose that sentence by saying, “Not every story is worth listening to, but every story is worth telling.” To me that makes more sense, and I like the attitude that even if there are those who aren’t all that interested in your story or picture or what you do, it is your story and if it matters to you then it’s worth it. Make what you like. Maybe someone else will relate to it. That’s why I appreciate zines, as little tangible hold-in-your-hand (and importantly, independent) pieces of someone’s personal story, mode of expression. (Yes, even the anarchist ones where they are describing kicking some BNP guy in the head at the train station.) One of the zines I bought that day was called ’31’ and described 31 things the author (Marissa Falco) liked (in drawing and photocollage), to celebrate her 31st birthday. I think I bought it simply because I related to the idea (and also because one of the ‘likes’ was a uniball vision pen). 

sf zinefest zines on toastsf zinefest continuedsf zinefest tom parker

I went to a couple of the workshops, one very interesting one on zine-style bookbinding (I am getting more interested in the idea of binding zines, and sketchbooks, as many of my fellow sketchers already do so nicely). Another of the workshops was a presentation by some fellow Brits, a group of zinesters who are touring the US zine events with their work under the title ‘Zines on Toast’. They are involved in the organizing of the London Zine Symposium, which looks great, and were recently in Portland (snap!) which as I discovered is like a mecca of zinery (Reading Frenzy being a highlight).

One zinester I was particularly hoping to come across was Joey Sayers, whose zine/comic “I’m Gonna Rip Yer Face Off” is what got me interested in zines in the first place, picked up at Comic Relief in Berkeley several years ago. Unfortunately I gave it away to my nephew and then forgot who wrote it. I was pleased to come across Joey selling her latest work, and I could only buy one (her latest collection of ‘Thingpart’ called “I wish you were dead”) as I’d spent most of my money on other zines. Her comics are ridiculously funny, after skimming one page I was cracking up where I stood. Without a doubt the best thing I got that day and I’ll be getting more; you should check out her site.

Will I finally come out with zines of my own? Yes it’s in the pipeline, I’ve long been thinking about converting my already-made little drawn serials into zines, and also writing others, zine-format specific. I’ve had a few ideas. Post-Portland I’m more serious about getting this done and out there. If I do, next year I might bring them with me.

dig it


Construction Machines are an eye-turner for me these days. That’s because I tend to like drawing things I know my son will like. I was speaking to other parent-artists at the Sketching Symposium and they said even though their kids are grown up they still do the same. These machines have been outside my work doing some sort of building work for some time now, so I perched beneath the shade one lunchtime last week and sketched them, from the best angle I could find.

primary colors

outside the UCD bookstore

Did this almost a month ago (#catchingupwithallmyscanningtakesforever). I sat in the warmth (and it was warmth not heat, there is a big difference, and I hate that living in Davis means you think 90 degrees isn’t that hot) outside the UCD bookstore, which is where I buy most of my art materials, interestingly enough. Seemed a good place to sit and paint in primary colours. As I did, a summer student came and asked me lots of questions about wine for some survey he was doing. He was from Japan. I told him I was British, and he said, ah yes, Britain is a famous wine producer! No, not really, I said (I doubted he was very far into his enology course to think so). We make good trifle though. Completely unrelated but thought I should point it out. He even wrote it down.

and the mechanical wonder

3rd st gas/water pipes

I’m a little obsessed with these pipes I see outside buildings. I think they’re for water, or perhaps gas, or perhaps both. I’m not a plumber, nor a gas-man. They could be filled with Dr.Pepper for all I know. I like how they look, so I sat in the shade outside Ace Houseware and drew them.

It reminds me a little bit of the game ‘Mouse-Trap’. There’s probably a little cage and a tiny man diving into a bathtub right above this. I wonder if the people that put these together chuckled to themselves with the same thought.