you’ll always find us out to lunch

bistro 33, davis

One from last Saturday. I’m still catching up. This is the other side of the building which used to be old city hall (and a police station, and a fire station, hence the big arches), one I’ve drawn several times. This is now Bistro 33, a fancy (but not too overpriced) restaurant on 3rd Street, Davis. For years I thought it was just called Bistro (are those things supposed to be numbers? Apparently so. I thought they were snakes).

captain sensible

little prague, davis

I went to see Captain America last week. It’s funny how the movie companies are now making prequels before they make the main films now (the main film being The Avengers). Before the movie, I sat outside and sketched local Czech pub Little Prague. I’ve drawn the interior several times now but never really the exterior.

The movie was good fun, a little silly in places, but likeable, not ridiculous, not a made-for-3D ‘thrill ride’. some of the trailers before the movie were clearly such – the new Spiderman for example, coming out next year, looked too slick, too obviously 3D orientated, and lacking the personality of the Tobey Maguire Spidey (whose first two movies were great; the third one was dreadful, largely because it was overblown and too interested on spinning your head around a screen while nothing particularly interesting happened, oh a mid-air fight, oh he’s brushing off concrete blocks like they’re made of polystyrene, oh wow a man made of sand, and as for that stupid dance routine…) (that’s why they rebooted). Other trailers I saw, the new Three Musketeers, apparently back in the 18th century there were flying airship galleons that could do battle mid-air (it always has to be mid-air, doesn’t it? Do they think moviegoers can’t stay awake during ground-level scenes any more?); I’m pretty sure they didn’t have those in the original book, but I haven’t read it. My only reference (and come on, probably yours too) is Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds. Don’t ever try to reboot that, that series was a classic. Another trailer was for some doomsday plague virus movie with an all-star cast (they love those genres, don’t they) Then there was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, looks pretty good, Draco Malfoy is in it, so is the Green Goblin’s son, and William Stryker, and the Trinity Killer, oh and Gollum plays the chimp, Caesar the Geezer. Actually at first I thought it was a reboot of Bigfoot and the Hendersons now that they can reboot). I want to see it, mostly because of that shot of the gorilla jumping into a helicopter from the Golden Gate Bridge. Nice try, bananas, but how are you going to fly that thing?

After all of that, Captain America was quite wholesome and satisfying, with proper leather-jacketed and jack-booted nazi/megalomaniacal villainy, and a quite international team alongside the Cap, a ‘coalition of the willing’ if you like. The feel was not hugely ‘American’ in fact, not so much Captain America, but Team Member America. There are other overly patriotic macho nonsense films, so this didn’t need to be – to its credit, I think, but still surprising given that he is, you know, Captain America.

After the movie, I popped into Little Prague to finish off the last bit of colour in the first drawing, and to draw the sketch below. Didn’t spend too long there doing all the details (I have done that before), but captured the atmosphere.
friday night at little prague

a little more lisboa

skyline of lisbon

Views like this just exist to make people feel jealous, I think.  Certainly more scenic than Davis! This was sketched on the second evening of the Symposium, from the square outside FBAUL, Lisbon, as the Sun started to set, pouring golden syrup over everything. There’s the 12th Century Sé Cathedral, and the red rooftops of contrasting the turquoise blue of the Tagus River. Below left, the road winds uphill, while the castle of Lisbon lords it over the city below.

lisbon view, early eveninglargo do carmo

Finally, a sketch made during lunch on the first day of the Symposium, an interesting monument in the middle of Largo do Carmo, Chiado.

And this, I think, may be it for Lisbon… I will post a more reflective entry about the symposium, a month on, but that has been a lot of scanning, cropping, posting… I forgot to submit my drawings for the Symposium book (oops!), and in the meantime I have actually been doing a lot of drawing, including some on a trip to Monterey. Keep on sketching…

here am i sitting in a tin can


I think I still have some Lisbon sketches (and a few London ones) yet to show you but in the meantime I’ll fast-forward to the air-travel. I sometimes wish that airports would only happen to other people, or that heathrow airportteleportation devices could be invented a bit more quickly. Until that happens, air travel is the only way I’m getting around the planet. So be it.

I must say that I actually enjoyed flying with US Airways. The planes were comfy with lots of leg-room (better than Virgin, BA and United), even on the domestic flight. I had to change planes, sure, but there are worse places to change than Philadelphia airport, and I was able to fly back into near-to-home Sacramento rather than the miles-away San Francisco.

A word of warning to any flying urban sketchers though – occasionally, just occasionally, your micron pen will burst in mid-air leaving a splat of pure black mess all over your page (and all over you if you’re not careful). I left the mess on there, and in fact blew it about a bit to make an interesting shape, and just drew around it (see top drawing). It just adds to the atmosphere after all, though it looks a bit like a Dementor is serving the coffee.

Prior to getting on that flight, I sketched the last page of my London/Lisbon moleskine, a drawing of the plane itself. and what should be in front of it? A day-glo fire hydrant! since they’re unusual to see in England I was happy to have spotted it. I feel a bit like Bill Oddie sometimes, if Bill Oddie liked fire hydrants and had red hair.

I tell you one thing about Heathrow, for some reason Terminal 1 no longer has a football shirt shop. I was looking for ages for that, and had to make do with looking at William & Kate mugs at the Harrods shop, toy underground trains at the Hamley’s shop and what seemed like one of the last chain record stores in Britain, Heathrow’s branch of HMV, where I picked up (appropriately) the Rocky box-set on dvd for like eight quid. Philadelphia airport has Rocky t-shirts and Clubber Lang shot-glasses and stuff, but didn’t have that, so round one to LHR. 


I was pretty exhausted by the time of my final flight (the sixth of the trip), listening to a young guy in the aisle opposite talking to an older lady about all the places he’d visited in Europe, before putting my headphones on, turning up the music and trying to chip my way through A Dance with Dragons (spoiler alert, GRR Martin fans, I’m still none the wiser on this series; I think the butler did it, but GRR Martin is yet to introduce the all-important butler character who will be more important than all the characters you’ve followed for five books, and then kill him off just as you start to wonder if reading his chapters was worth it…). Anyway, after all this travelling, all this sketching, it was nice to get off the plane and be back with my family again.

a very fine cat indeed

johnson house and hodge the cat

Look what I got in the mail last week! A couple of years ago, on a cold gloomy December afternoon, I did a drawing in London’s Gough Square off Fleet Street, one of my favourite spots in the city, of the statue of Hodge, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s beloved cat. Johnson’s house, now a musuem, is in the background. For those of you who don’t know, Samuel Johnson wrote the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, he made lots of quotes that he knew would make popular pub quiz questions two hundred years later, and his life was chronicled by his friend James Boswell. The kind folk at Johnson’s House (who also let me do some sketching there last winter) have turned my drawing into a card which you can buy at the Johnson’s House Musuem in London (all proceeds benefit the musuem). This is a great place and offers an interesting and relaxing look at Johnson’s life in mid-eighteenth century London.

So if you are in London and would like to buy one of these cards, please visit Dr. Johnson’s House at 17 Gough Square, and why not have a look around?

Dr. Johnson’s House official site

Previous sketches at Johnson’s House (“For there is in London all that life can afford”)

let’s draw old north davis!

let's draw old north davis!

It’s time for another Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl! This time, we will be sketching in old North Davis, starting at the Davis Co-Op on G Street, sketching the neighborhood, and then meeting up again outside the Dairy Queen, by the railroads at 5th Street.

Join us for another sketchcrawl in the city of Davis, California, on Saturday August 27. This sketchcrawl is free and open to all who have an interest in drawing, from beginners to old hands. This is a great way to connect with other local artists and people who like to draw, to learn from each other and to look at our city in a new refreshing way.

All you need is something to draw on and something to draw with!

DATE: Saturday August 27
START TIME: 10:30am
START LOCATION: Outside the Co-Op (6th / G Street)
END TIME: 3:00
END LOCATION: Outside the Dairy Queen (5th / I Street)

Everybody is welcome so feel free to forward this onto anybody who may be interested. See you there!!

Let’s Draw Davis Flickr group 

Let’s Draw Davis Facebook event

lisbon symposium, day 3: worldwide sketchcrawl #32

rua augusta, lisbon

The final afternoon of the Lisbon Urban Sketching Symposium was the 32nd Worldwide Sketchcrawl. For those of you who know, the worldwide sketchcrawl (see was started about seven years ago in San Francisco by Enrico Casarosa and quickly established itself across the world, encouraging sketchers to just meet up with other sketchers, pick a spot, spend all day drawing, then share the results online for the world to see. As you can see, I’m sharing rather later than I usually would (had a bit of a backlog!). Most sketchcrawls I’ve been on in the past have usually been finished by 4:30, but we had barely begun!

urban sketchers as far as the eye can see

We met at FBAUL and moved en masse, snaking down the hill (see above) to Praco Comercio, where we would be meeting with many non-symposium sketchers. I got distracted and sketched a fire hydrant, but made it down to the group eventually. I decided to sketch off on my own a little though, and drew the big arch from Rua Augusta (see top). As I sketched, people gathered around (one smart young lad pointing out how long it had taken me to draw the picture, by looking at the clock in the drawing!). At one point, a group of people were all around me taking photos. I wandered up Rua Augusta, I wanted to have a look around Baixa district not having explored this part of town much. It was full of shoppers and tourists (and pickpockets, quite likely), as well as street musicians like the one I sketched below, looking like a snake charmer. It was very ‘world music’ and not very good to be honest, quite repetitive, but people still stopped to watch (or sketch). I also sketched a dress in a shop window (oh no!), to illustrate that this is a shopping district.  

baixa dressbaixa street musician

What I REALLY wanted to draw though was the building below. Inever got a chance to go up the Elevador Santa Justa, but I was not going to leave Lisbon without attempting to draw it. I found a nice little spot, looked up and sketched away. It’s an interesting neo-Gothic building, essentially just a nicely decorated lift, with an impressive view from the top (one of the workshops I never attended, ‘Panoramania’ with Simo Capecchi, was held there – that would have been so cool! But I hear it was windy). It was built at the end of the 19th Century to get people up from Baixa to Largo do Carmo.  

elevador santa justa, lisbon

I sketched another hydrant (see previous post on fire hydrants), and went back up to FBAUL to meet with the returning sketchers for the final get-together, and to look at eveyone’s sketchbooks…

sketching the urban sketchers (part 3)

isabel fiadeiroagnes bolley

Final batch of Urban Sketcher portraits…I wish I’d sketched more! Quite a lot of people who afterwards I was thinking, oh wish I’d sketched him, wish I drawn her; maybe next time! The two above though were done in the very early hours of sunday morning (see the time-stamp!) at Cafe A Brasileira, after the Symposium had ended. I was out late there sketching with Liz Steel, Paul Wang and Lee Peng Hui, when Isabel Fiadeiro and some others came in, sat down and straight away it was a sketch-off! A bit like gunslingers in the Old West in an old saloon, Urban Sketchers are quick on the draw. (How cheesy, I can’t believe I just said that…)

(Above Left): Isabel Fiadeiro, USk correspondent in Nouakchott, Mauritania (but originally from Portugal), one of the organisers of this year’s event, I met her last year in Portland. (Above Right): Agnes Bolley, an artist from France.

luis ruiznina johansson

(Above Left): Luis Ruiz, USk correspondent from Malaga, Spain. It was a highlight of the symposium for me to meet and sketch with Luis, his subtle but powerful work is among my favourites. (Above Right): Nina Johansson, USk correspondent from Stockholm, Sweden. I’ve followed Nina’s work for years, very influential. I took her workshop ‘Unfinished Business’, though I never got a chance to actually sketch with her.

inma serranoisaac

(Above Left): Inma Serrano, USk Spain correspondent from Sevilla. She had this tiny sketchbook made into an earring that sketchers contributed to (I drew a tiny fire hydrant, what else!). Sketched at lunchtime near Rua da Bica, she was sketching me at the time. (Above Right): Isaac, from Spain; I didn’t get to speak to him other than to ask his name but he had a great profile to sketch! 

ea ejersboliz steel

(Above Left): Ea Ejersbo, USk correspondent from Aarhus in Denmark, sketched while out at dinner with other urban sketchers and her husband Reza (a great guy!). I’ve followed Ea for years, I really enjoy her drawings and the fact she’s from Aarhus, as I visited that city a couple of times many years ago and loved it.  (Above Right): Liz Steel, USk correspondent from Sydney (alongside Borromini Bear, not seen in this picture). Liz is one of the most well-known Urban Sketchers and it was great to sketch and hang out with her in Lisbon, having first met her in Portland last year.

daniella rodriguesmarina grechanik

(Above Left): Daniela Rodrigues, USk Portugal sketcher from Lisbon who I spoke to during the Light of Lisboa workshop. Finally, (Above Right): Marina Grechanik, USk correspondent from Tel Aviv, Israel, sketched at the same dinner as the pistures of Ea and Liz. Marina even tried to draw holding the pen the way I do!

And that’s it! Well, I have more sketches from Lisbon to be posted, but these are all the people I drew. Some I drew in my watercolour Moleskine, but most were drawn in the London/Lisbon ‘Volant’ Moleskine, the small red one that looks like a passport.

lisbon symposium, day 3: contrastes

contrastes rua bica

The third and final day of the Urban Sketching Symposium was a gloriously sunny morning (weren’t they all?), and after meeting at FBAUL to talk about our experiences so far, we set out on our final workshops. I was with Asnee Tasna’s group, going over to the long sloping Rua da Bica for the workshop on Contrast (“Contrastes”). Asnee Tasna is the USk correspondent from Bangkok, and I really enjoy his colourful and expressive style. His co-instructor was Joao Catarino, USk correspondent from Lisbon. Rua da Bica is an interesting location because of the famous yellow cable-car (‘elevador’) that pulls up and down the gritty narrow street. People squeezed by us on their day to day routines, laundry hung from balconies, ‘super bock’ and ‘sagres’ bottles and empty cracked glasses littered the path telling tales of the night before, with the accompanying smells, the stinking streets of summer. I’m sure it was quite the party. This was another good group of sketchers – Liz, Luis, Inma, Swasky to name but a few – and another enjoyable morning, learning from one another. I used a few different pens – a Pitt brush pen above, a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (oh yeah) below left (I enjoyed that sketch, influenced by the quick sketches done in the Lght of Lisboa workshop), and my regular micron 01.

contrastes rua bica contrastes rua da bica

Above right, well the workshop is about contrasts, right? Here are the beer bottles. I think I like this sketch most of all, it tells an interesting story about urban life. It’s good to focus on the small ephemeral details alongside the sweeping vistas. But I love a sweeping vista too, so it was highly enjoyable to sketch the scene below, looking down the rua and towards the turquoise blue Tagus.

contrastes rua bica

And here is the Moleskine! Just so you can see how it all looks on the page. The beer bottles are on the other side. After this we all went for lunch at a tiny Portuguese place at the top of the street. I ate sardines, and drank a super bock.

contrastes, rua da bica

keeping an eye on the world outside my window

shiado hostel window view

In Lisbon I stayed at the Shiado Hostel on Rua Anchietta, a stone’s throw away from the symposium location at FBAUL. It was a nice hostel, modern and inexpensive with free wireless internet access and breakfast included. It had been years since I stayed at hostel; I stayed at mnay both good and bad all over Europe in the 90s, and this was definitely up there in the good. The staff were very friendly too. I did get woken up a few times by people coming into the room in the wee hours; on my second night it seemed I had the room all to myself, but then at 2:00 am three people checked in, moving all their rucksacks and stuff in with them. They tried to be quiet, of course, but coming in and out for the next hour wasn’t easy to sleep through. Still it makes little difference to me – I couldn’t sleep well in a room by myself last year, so it wasn’t a huge issue. One of the best things were the views from the windows. the view at the top was from the lounge area, sketched one afternoon when I just needed to go back for some quiet time. Below, views from the hostel dorm room window. The location was pretty unbeatable, and quite a few other symposium participants (such as Jason, Paul, Rolf, Oona) were staying there.

hostel window viewhostel window view