phrasebook diplomacy

4th st, santa rosa

While sketching this building, across from the Cancer Survivor Plaza in Santa Rosa, I listened to a Portuguese audio phrase book on my mp3 player, to learn some of the language. I think I learnt some, but kept thinking “Rui Costa”. I’ll get there, maybe. I grew up reading Berlitz phrase books, and it’s interesting to see how they have evolved, or not. The audio versions are especially fun, as they often switch between a British and an American accent with comic ease. The British accent is always very RP, as you’d expect, and you can almost see them quietly queuing and smiling politely while bristling on the inside. The one with the American accent, however, always seems to get the ‘complaining about the service’ phrases, the tone being that he really would like to enjoy this exotic foreign food but the waiters keep ignoring him, and there’s nowhere on this damn train to put my heavy luggage. I keep imagining the couple from that episode of Fawlty Towers.

It’s funny; in a way, after years of California I have become that guy from Fawlty Towers. My last visit to London, we had lunch at a pub by the Thames, near Tate Modern. It was ten past twelve, and my young niece wanted pancakes; the ones on the menu sounded scrumptious. Not possible, the young woman taking the order told me, as pancakes are a breakfast item and that ‘stops’ at twelve. There was nothing else that she wanted, and all the lunch items were very expensive. It was not busy there at all. Can we not have the pancakes anyway? “No.” No? Can you ask the chef? “Well, ok I’ll ask,” was the aggrieved response; obviously asking the chef anything was like trying to get audience with the Great Oz. She went and asked the chef. The chef said he could do it, but only for one person. One person! Well that’s a relief, good job it was only ten minutes after breakfast time, or that pancake mix and that pan would have magically vanished into thin air.

I must point out actually, credit goes to my Californian wife for helping resolve that one. My British customer attitude was actually prepared to back down at one point (what we British do best is go back to our table to moan, but do nothing about it). In the end, California prevailed and my niece got her pancakes, and they were very nice too. Next time though, I’ll ask for a Waldorf Salad and a Screwdriver.

this is gonna be messi

champions league final 2011

That was a very good final. No honestly, it was – sure, the second half saw the far and away best team in the world close their grip on – oh my – the very mighty Manchester United like a crocodile and a kitten. But these were two great teams capable of greatness, but with one being really really good at keeping the ball. Almost like a chess player who doesn’t allow the opponent to start any sort of move by closing off every alleyway and keeping all knights on the rim (or at least those knights not all over the tabloid papers). When Rooney hit that magnificent equalizer, I thought it was game on, and the second half would be a titanic battle. The moral of the Titanic however is that the iceberg always wins, no matter how great the ship. Barcelona are the best team in the world and one of the best in history, and deservedly so – they haven’t been cobbled together last minute with a massive chequebook like a Man City or Chelsea, and you really get a sense that any of the players can do something unbelievable. That midfield team of Xavi and Iniesta will go down in the history books, we will tell our children about them, and then to top them off with the ever-brilliant Messi? In a season when Cristiano Ronaldo scored over fifty goals in a season, something not ever done before in Spain, Messi then did the same. Manchester United are the deserving champions of England and Ferguson rightly in place as perhaps the greatest British manager of all time, and it was nice to see him give a smile and congratulations to what is obviously a legendary team in Barcelona. I’ve never ever seen Manchester United have only 30% possession in any game.  I remember the great final of 92 (I loved Barcelona back then but Sampdoria were my favourite Italian team too) when Koeman scored at the old Wembley, for their first ever European Cup (and a year after Man United beat them in the Cup Winners Cup final), the ‘Dream Team’, in that great orange away kit. In that team was Pep Guardiola, manager of the current Dream Team. With this final being at the new Wembley stadium, with fate involved there was only going to be one winner. I’m glad I watched it.

Now I’m in footy withdrawal – what will I do all summer? Watch the MLS??

it always leads me here, leads me to your door

Spread 12, E St sm

Finally, after an almost seven month wait, spread 12 of the Davis Moleskine is complete! 12 of 12 – this is the last page. Why I waited so long I’m not exactly sure, but here it is. This is Bizarro Comics, next to Chipotle on E Street. It is where Bogey’s Books used to be (so named, probably, because of the excessive abundance Davis has in allergy season). This is a three-page-spread, and I decided to just tail it off at the end because it gives the promise of more to come, but I assure you this is the last page. I’ll do another thing now, with colour. Soon maybe.

I’ll post the whole spread all in one continuous shot at some point, when I can figure out how to have it on screen within my blog, but scrollable side to side.

In the meantime, you can see all the other Davis Moleskine spreads here

rain drops keep falling on my head

quick shop market, 8th st

I’ve cycled past this place on many occasions and finally stopped to skech. It’s unusual for such a shop to spell ‘quick’ correctly (as opposed to ‘kwik’ or similar), and say ‘market’ rather than ‘mart’, in fact to use ‘shop’ and ‘market’ together, but let’s not dwell on semantics. I sketched this while on my way to the library on a nice dry day when I didn’t get completely soaked.

Tuesday last week however, I did get completely soaked. I needed to go to the library to drop off some books which were overdue – I just had to go that evening, get out on the bike, maybe get another Portugal book, get home. It was a nice evening, cloudy, with golden rays of setting sun poking through the gaps (I’m not making this up, I even took a photo). For some insane reason, I forgot my ‘just-in-case, you-never-know’ rain jacket, AND my bike light. I obviously wasn’t thinking. While in the library, and having a conversation about art projects and displaying my work there in November, I could hear that rain had started to beat against the roof. Not beat, but slam down in torrents. The deluge had come. I hung out there, did a drawing on a postcard (they have some postcard exchange with a library in LA) while I waited, waited for the rain to disspiate (and presumably for the sun to come back out). I live a long way from the library.

It didn’t stop, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t go out in it. It’s only water, falling from the sky. We get loads of it in England. Cycling in it down bike lanes with little or no light was a challenge though. I had my flashing red back-light which is on my helmet, so that at least traffic behind could see me, but for the most part I walked – whenever I cycled I would invariably run into a large pile of wet leaves which people leave on the bike lane in the darkest possible spots (this is one reason a bike light is essential), and I know what sort of eight-legged baddies live in those piles. I passed by this place, not really having much need to buy six-packs of bud-light or large bags of doritos.

Eventually I reached Rite Aid (a store I can’t actually stand; it has such a wierd layout and they have never really codified their queuing system), where I was able to dry off a little and find an expensively-priced and cheaply-made bike light. At first it didn’t work, and it smelled of awful rubber. In the end though it came through, and helped me see my way home, and there are some really dark roads on the way to my house where cars tend to think nobody can see them speeding. I got in and had a cup of tea, and a hazelnut kit-kat. That was nice.

I was going to do some sort of drawing about that rainy journey home as part of this week’s Illustration Friday, whose them is ‘soaked’, but I’ve not had the time. I’ll wait until it rains again.

before the rose parade

waiting for rose parade

Sketching a parade is not easy. They always tend to move. So I’m not showing you the scribbles I made as the 117th Rose Parade, an annual event in Santa Rosa, California, marched by. We got downtown early, and found a good spot across from the library. My son loves marching bands, I mean really loves them, so this was a bonanza (quite literally; the theme was the Old West, and every band played the Bonanza theme tune at some point). The marching bands are all from local schools, mostly high schools but some young ones as well. My wife’s old schools were represented, though, she lamented, the marching bands just aint what they used to be. We spotted her young cousins marching with their school; we never had anything like this in England! All those uniforms and hats and trumpets and drums; ‘Band’ is a very American thing. I didn’t see many majorettes though, twirling batons. I did see dancing horses though. It was a Mexican troupe, I think, but the horses really did dance, it was amazing. Anyway, here is a sketch I did while we were waiting for the parade to begin. One thing about this parade, local businesses tend to throw candies and lollipops and other such goodies at the spectators. One even threw out packs of corn tortilla, which was nice – I grabbed some of that. Note to self – remember that you don’t actually like corn tortilla all that much, and remember next time that the smell of corn tortilla will stay in your bag for days, including all over your sketchbook. You live and you learn. Anyway it was a fun morning, and after sitting out in the sun, it was time for a nap.

at the delta of venus

delta of venus

I drew the outside of this cafe, the Delta of Venus, about a month ago or so. Last week I actually ate there, and of course sketched there, while having a very interesting lunchtime meeting about possible art projects with Shelly from the Davis Art Center. While sketching I noticed some of local artist Laura Kelly’s amazing artwork on the wall, she has been on a couple of the sketchcrawls. Davis is a town full of artists.

shah thing

halal truck at uc davis silo

There is a truck outside the Silo at UC Davis these days that produces the most incredible lunchtime aroma of middle-eastern food, Shah’s Halal Food. I don’t eat there very much, because the line is always really, really long. One time I ate there too, there was a bone in my chicken. But let me tell you – it’s the tastiest and I mean tastiest food on campus. Yes, it beats the Thai soup, just about. Anyway, though I didn’t have the patience to wait in line to eat there last Friday, I did sit outside and sketch the truck as hungry patrons waited patiently.

they might be giants

watching sf giants vs oakland a's

It was a publicity-hungry preacher in Oakland who started all that ‘end-of-the-world’ May 21 stuff. The world didn’t end (as far as I can tell), but the Oakland Athletics baseball team (aka the A’s) have probably been wishing it had after three defeats in a row this weekend by local rivals, the San Francisco Giants. I watched the first on Friday evening at my wife’s mom’s house (big Giants fans in this family), and it went to a tenth inning, which is a bit like extra time but it was more like ‘next goal wins, ‘cos I gotta be home by 11 or I’m grounded’. I’ve never been to a Giants game (the one and only baseball game I’ve ever seen was the Oakland A’s back in 2002, on rootbeer float day – I mostly remember the garlic fries and the sunburn, and Miggy Tejada. Miggy has now left the A’s and joined the Giants. The Giants won again on Saturday, and, since the Rapture got cancelled due to a no-show, the world was still around on Sunday for Oakland to lose late yet again. Since that happened on the same day as the Premier League season ended with a dramatic relegation battle, I was all sported out, so never watched it. I went out and sketched instead.

it’s enough to make your hart go…

hart hall, ucd

Sketched last week, on Friday the 13th. I’ve drawn this building before, a couple of times I think, but ages ago and not as completely. Took all lunchtime, but it’s a rewarding building on campus, that reminds me of a Roman villa or something. Friday the 13th. Apparently the day is bad luck because it reminds them of bad horror movies with endless awful sequels, and that can give anyone the shivers. This is not a sequel of my previous sketches of Hart Hall, rather it is a remake, no, a reboot. That’s the thing these days isn’t it, reboots. It’s an excuse film-makers use to start again and confuse the audience (wait, wait, this reboot, is it supposed to be better?). It’s all because of Batman Begins. Now they’re rebooting Superman, because the last one was a little long and some people went ‘meh’, and because market research showed people want dark super heroes now because the Dark Knight sold well. Oh, and Spiderman is rebooting (with yet another English actor playing the super-lead) because those last ones from just a couple of years ago, well yes they started well, but that third one ruined it all with his stupid saturday night fever dancing, so let’s start again, only a decade after the new Spiderman started. We’re still not over the prequel fad yet. Remakes, reboots, ‘re-imaginings’… all different things, apparently. Studios love reboots (why not just make good films to begin with?), fans on super hero movie forums love reboots (more things to be dissatisfied with, making life complete), but why stop at comic flicks? Why not reboot TV shows like Eastenders? It’s getting a bit unrealistic, a bit Phil-and-Ian, just reboot it, have Ian and Phil be secret lovers torn apart in an epic struggle to own the caff, set it not on Albert Square but Albert Plaza, a block of luxury condos in the Docklands, where everyone gathers on the Queen Vic facebook group (don’t annoy administrator Peggy or she’ll block you and unfriend you), and for an ironic twist, people die every day on the show except on Christmas. No, this is utterly ridiculous. Perfect for Hollywood though; we’ll leave it for Eastenders: the Movie (which will no doubt have a nice long ridiculous title like Eastenders: the Mystery of the Missing Christmas Club Money, or Eastenders: the Revenge of the Curse of Nick Cotton, starring Vin Diesel as Phil, Betty White as Dot and I dunno, George Clooney as Nick, for a laugh, I can just see the epic looking “allo, ma” posters now.

Where was I? Oh yes, Hart Hall, UC Davis. It’s nice. Please do not reboot.