just to make this dock my home

AT&T Park, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA: the idea was to walk down to AT&T Park, sketch the ballpark from the other side of McCovey Cove, then go somewhere else. I wasn’t sure where yet, this having been rather an unplanned visit to the city. I didn’t even have any cash on me to catch a bus, so I’d have to walk about the city on foot. Not really a problem, I like to walk, San Francisco is small; though I prefer to spend my limited time sketching. Anyway, I got over to the Willie McCovey statue, and the view, while nice, didn’t look like it was worth the sketching time, just too long. Then I heard some sort of growling voice behind me, there was a homeless guy perched on the base of the statue with his big bag of things, “yeah get out of here, there ain’t nothing you wanna see here, you wanna get out of here, mumble mumble, etc”. Guy was wearing a massive set of headphones and sunglasses, but I couldn’t see him at first. Despite being a pretty popular photo spot this was obviously his patch. I ignored him, and moved away to find a better and preferably safer viewpoint, but I could see him standing looking at me and making some sort of birdlike chirping sound, still remonstrating. It reminded me of the time a squirrel kept getting in my face and throwing nuts at me from a tree I was sketching next to once. Dude, I’m not trying to claim your turf. Still, I didn’t fancy ending up at the bottom of the Cove with all of Buster Posey’s baseballs (actually I think they float, but you get the picture), so moved elsewhere. There was a decent view over by the Embarcadero which had the stadium sign in it as well, so I drew that instead. I had promised my wife, a big Giants fan, that I’d sketch this ballpark and dammit I was going to sketch it. I also sat by the ballpark and drew the drawbridge that crosses the Cove into China Basin. It’s called the Lefty O’Doul Bridge, or the Third Street Bridge. I have wanted to tackle this structure for a while. It looks like the frame of an enormous Trojan horse. As I sketched, a cyclist pulled up to tell me that this bridge was built by in 1933 by one Joseph Strauss, who also built the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh wow, thanks man, I’ll remember that. He also designed the Burnside Bridge in Portland; well you’re nobody if you haven’t designed a bridge in Portland.
drawbridge 3rd st SF

sitting here resting my bones

Reds Java House
San Francisco, CA: I walked along the Embarcadero, beneath the Bay Bridge, through South Beach, on my way to AT&T Park. I wanted to draw the ballpark because my wife is a big Giants fan. On the way, I passed Red’s Java house, which I have wanted to sketch for some time. I’ve never been in here (and my lack of cash meant I didn’t go in this time either, plus I’d already eaten at Gott’s), but I know it’s historic and I always like a well-worn building in my sketchbook. I seem to recall Anthony Bourdain popped in for breakfast in one of his shows. This place has been here for the best part of a century, serving the dockers, later the dotcommers and then the Giants fans. Beyond, in the turquoise bay waters, huge container vessels from Korea, China, the Rest of the World came in to dock on the far side in Oakland, Alameda, or wherever, unloading their cargo to be hauled across the United States and its big economy. Behind me, lycra- and iPod-clad joggers jogged on. The Java drinkers at Red’s presumably watched, and I sketched none of it. For me, the building is story enough.

a stitch in time

on the amtrak full of knitters
I took the train down to San Francisco this weekend past. It’s a lot more expensive than it used to be. However, it’s nice to get out of Davis after a busy, busy week. I had no plan, and only decided to get that early 7:55 train shortly after waking up. I rushed to get to the train, my hair a mess, not even taking the time to stop at the bank for some cash. The train itself was packed with knitters, chattering and knitting, on their way to some big knitting thing in Santa Clara, Stitches West. I was sketching, and not chattering.
Gotts Roadside SF

When I got to the city I stopped at Gott’s Roadside at the Ferry Building for breakfast, before setting off aimlessly for some sketching and walking.

space oddity

odd fellows hall
During the busy days it is even more important not to stop sketching regularly. It helps to focus and normalize your thoughts, if only for a short while. I must admit, despite being ridiculously busy in 2013 I am feeling quite sketchbook prolific, fitting them in when I can. The nice weather and wintery trees have helped enormously. I took two thirds of a lunchtime to sketch one more slice of 2nd St (continuing the block I have been sketching this month), with this picture of Odd Fellows Hall. This is a, well, um, they hold gigs here occasionally, I know that. I’ve never been in here, perhaps I’m not an odd enough fellow, though that is up for debate. I stood and sketched quickly, and added the colour later on at home. Anyway, like a Monopoly player I am busily ‘collecting’ my Davis street blocks, and this side is pretty much done, yeah just the end of this building but you get the idea. Here then is the (near) complete block:

2nd st row feb2013 sm
I should draw the other side some time…

wie vater, so sohn

my son sketching at the park

We were eating lunch, and watching old Batman episodes on YouTube. My son turns to me and says, “can we go and ride our bikes somewhere and do some sketching?” Er, yeah of course! Don’t need to ask me twice. We didn’t ride far, and he drew batmobiles, and there was a chilly breeze so our hoods stayed on. I think this is what he thinks I do when I go out sketching, and he’s not wrong!

the head that wears the crown

st james church, davis

I just realized that when I posted the drawing of the Antiques Plus building on D St the other day I went on about it being Presidents Day, when in fact it was just Sunday. Presidents Day was on the 18th, and on that day I cycled over to the other side of the park near where I live and drew St.James’s Parish Church. This modern building has been on my “oh yeah I forgot about that place, I should draw it some time” list for quite a while. Well, not without good reason, it’s interesting enough but a lot wider than I expected.  I sat in the sun and scowled at the wind but now I have marked it off. There are a few more churches and religious buildings to draw in Davis, though not of particular architectural significance. This one, while not exactly the Sagrada Familia, at least has an unusual spire, almost like a modernized chess piece. It almost looks like Burnt Oak Library has been given a new crown (admittedly that will only really make sense if you are from Burnt Oak, which while some of you are, most of you are not, but as Alan Partridge might say, you get the general idea). This was sketched in brown uni-ball signo um-151 pen with Cotman watercolours in a watercolour Moleskine, one which is very nearly finished.

an illustrated journey

CapturecoverEXCITING NEWS! And believe me, this is pretty exciting. Many of you will have heard of Danny Gregory, renowned sketcher and author of books such as A Creative License, Every Day Matters and An Illustrated Life. Well his newest book “An Illustrated Journey”, a sequel of sorts to An Illustrated Life, was just published, featuring the travel sketchbooks of about forty artists of, well, like to travel. And I’m one of them! I haven’t received the book yet but I’ve had a peek online, and it looks like an incredible read. I loved ‘An Illustrated Life’ when I got that a few years ago, so I was hoping for a sequel. Many of the featured artists I am familiar with (such as through Urban Sketchers or Flickr) and friends with / big fans of, others I’d heard of and am eager to learn more about, and many more I didn’t know so I’m looking forward to finding out about.


I am very honoured to be included among such illustrious company. One of my sketches – of Vipin’s in Burnt Oak, of all places, the shop where I used to buy my pens and pencils when I was a little kid, a shop completely unchanged in three decades – is on the front cover. (I can’t wait to go and show Mr and Mrs Vipin!) I’ll probably write a bit more about it once I get my copy, but why not order yours now at your local bookstore, or online at places like, you know, amazon. Also, head over to Danny Gregory’s blog, were he talks a bit more about the book and has been posting video interviews with some of the artists already (very enlightening!): http://dannygregory.wordpress.com/

Thanks Danny for putting me in your book!!

waiting for the moment to find me

antiques plus

Last Monday was Presidents Day. For those who don’t know, Presidents Day is, well, just a day off. Unlike British summer bank holidays, my experience of Presidents Day is usually nice sunshine, perfect for some urban sketching. I had it in mind to sketch bigger and slowly, take my time on the details, and after an hour and a half or so (without colouring) a big drawing of Dairy Queen, I moved on. I’ll post the DQ pic when it’s finished. What else to draw? I wasn’t sure. so much of Davis to sketch, but so much already sketched. Sometimes it is about catching a building at the right time of day. Well, I’ve drawn this a few times but never quite how I wanted to, but in this late winter afternoon sunshine the setting was just perfect. This is Antiques Plus, on D Street. I love this building, in fact most of these buildings in this little quarter of Davis are sketchworthy. I used Micron pen size 02, and the picture is larger than my usual sketchbook size, at around 8″x6″ or so, on Canson watercolour paper. Because the sun was going down, I had to do most of the colouring-in at home, with my trusty W&N Cotman set (and for me, it is ‘colouring-in’, really: I don’t consider myself a painter, I’m much more about the drawing, the linework, though I do vastly prefer the drawings to have colour as it brings them to life). On the right is the Pence Gallery, and on the left is the Mustard Seed. I’ve now drawn most of the buildings in this block too, just a few more to go…

Speaking of the Pence Gallery… exciting news, I will have a mini-show there on the wall of the stairwell this coming April. This may well be one of the pieces displayed!

the boy bale

gareth bale

He’s been brilliant lately, hasn’t he? This is Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur’s great young Welsh star, drawn on another Chinese envelope. I have him up between the drawings of Messi and Ronaldo next to my desk, and he is probably in that company. His free kicks lately have been spectacular, Spurs have barely needed a striker with Bale moving about up front. He needs to do something about his barnet though. Young people, eh.

and mark it with a pin

lyon real estate 2nd st

The weather is so nice these days that it’s hard not going out and sketching the whole time. I did manage some yesterday lunchtime though. I have wanted to sketch this downtown building for a while, and sketched the one next to it recently. These are the offices of Lyon Real Estates, and usually hidden behind trees, except on these nice Winter days when trees are bare. It still wasn’t easy though, with cars in the way, and I stood holding my sketchbook awkwardly trying to get it all in before the end of my all-too-brief lunch. Eventually I will have sketched all of 2nd St.