big red samurai

ninjago samurai mech
I hope you all had a nice Christmas…mine was (and still is) filled with Lego, my son got rather a lot of it. Yes, I got some too, but mostly I was building my son’s Ninjago sets. Ninjago, as you can imagine, is all about Lego Ninjas and all that stuff. Lego is so complicated these days, full of tiny little pieces fitting together in intricate and specific fashions. You almost have to be a molecular physicist to build the sets these days. And it’s GREAT! This particular beauty is the Samurai Mech, a large robot type thing piloted by a little Samurai called Nya, or something. It took ages to build, hours. While building I had no idea what piece I was constructing but it all comes together nicely. My son opened this one on Christmas Eve, and I spent much time after he went to bed building it, while we watched Love Actually (a movie we last saw at the cinema in London a decade ago). I drew this in the Stillman and Birn Alpha book, and there are many more to draw.

ace of spades

shovel gateway, davis
This is a quick lunchtime sketch of a new piece of public art in Davis (and there is so much new public art in Davis), located near the entrance to the Arboretum behind Davis Commons, on the bike path (yes, there are so many bike paths in Davis). A few months ago I recall the Arboretum was asking for donations of shovels (or spades as I call them), and this ultimately was the result: the Shovel Gateway. It was commissioned by the Davis Arts Council and the UC Davis Arboretum as part of the renovation of that whole area (it’s now the ‘Arboretum and Public Garden’) and was designed and built by sculptor Chris Fennell. More than 400 shovels make up the sculpture. It almost resembles a laurel wreath, and is an interesting and welcome addition to Davis’s scenery, and an opportunity for thousands of people in the coming decades to make bad jokes when they see it like, “I really dig that”. We can handle that.

empire building

courthouse santa rosa

I hope you are all having yourselves a Merry little Christmas. Mine has been very nice, one long Lego-building bonanza. We’ve been over to Santa Rosa a couple of times to visit family, and on one afternoon before Christmas I went downtown to do a bit of afternoon sketching. It has been quite sunny here lately. This is the Empire Building in Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square, built in 1910. Christmas shoppers bustled about getting those last minute stocking stuffers.

mince pies

mince pies
Christmas is coming. Which means mince pies. These mince pies in particular were made by a fellow Brit at work, and who kindly made me a whole tin of these little bite-sized festive treats (thanks Jean!). They were delicious, and very nice with a cup or tea or three. So, I had to draw them. It was an act of unbelievable will power to sit and smell them in front of me while drawing and not eat any until I was done. Well, in fact I’d had a few first, but still, the rest of them didn’t last long afterwards. Hopefully I get some time to make some myself, though mine are always messier and uneven, not that I notice the shape as they fly into my belly.

Dear Americans who don’t know: mince pies are not made with meat. The “mincemeat” used is something else entirely. I must admit I stopped trying to encourage my American family to eat them some years back, because I realized that there would be more left for me. And Santa of course, who loves them. Home-made ones are much nicer; although in England I always used to get those yummy ones from Marks & Spencer. One thing about M&S mince pies though folks, they always seem to have a useful best-before date of December 24th. Make sure you give Santa the freshest ones.

One other thing you may be interested in, my American friends, when a Londoner says “mince pies” he might also mean his “eyes”, which is Cockney Rhyming Slang. I don’t really use that one myself, mostly because it makes me suddenly very hungry at the very thought. I really love mince pies.

christmas at the capitol

capitol building xmas 2013 sm
This weekend past I went to Sacramento to do a little last-minute Christmas stocking stuffer shopping (ended up buying myself a couple of comics at Big Brother in midtown, one of which was Inhumanity #1, it’s very good), and topped of the afternoon with a sketch outside the Capitol building. This is where California is governed from, a huge white building at the end of Capitol Mall. The late afternoon December sunlight was golden, and the large Christmas tree was set up outside. People were gathering for some sort of caroling event that would take place later on, while at least one wedding party ambled by taking photos, the bride being in one of those massive dresses like you see in the olden days, you know the ones. I sat on the grass and sketched away, the cool afternoon turning quite mild by this point. Not long until Christmas now! Our own tree is up, chopped it down myself, and the place looks all nice and warm. I wish it could be Christmas every day.


Sorry for the paucity of updates…there are sketches to scan, but mostly I’ve been otherwise occupied (plus I lost my voice for a bit; I found it again, in a jacket pocket). Anyway, thought I would let you know, what with Chrimbo coming up, that I’ve been selling some of my sketches as prints on that website Society6, and now some are available as mugs if you’re interested. For tea, or coffee if you must.

Find them at:


sketched by a sketcher

Earlier this week I was eating lunch at the Silo, and being a busy day there was only one seat available, right opposite a young lad from Hong Kong who was sketching people. Good on you mate, that’s what I like to see! His name was Ka and he was really good. He did a couple of sketches of me (with my new scraggly stubble-beard) so I sketched him. Below is his sketch of me. I’m honoured!


sweet spot, black friday

sweet spot
I hope you all had a very happy Black Friday last week. I went shopping and bought a blu-ray player and some toys, and then later that day took the blu-ray player and the toys back to the store, just so I could say I was involved in this very cultural holiday. I’m not really a fan of Black Friday. I always hope it rains on those people waiting outside Best Buy at 4am (although this year they decided that Thanksgiving was not an important enough holiday any more and all went shopping on Thursday evening, which thankfully we didn’t). This year our Black Friday was more relaxed, and we even went down to Scandia to do some go-kart racing. That was fun. Naturally I got a bit carried away, speeding around like it was the Monaco Grand Prix. Still, the one previous time I had been go-karting, as a kid twenty-five years ago in Spain, I literally had been carried away, crashing at full-speed into a pile of tyres on a tight corner, completely totaling the barely-safe go-kart. At least there was none of that this time!

In the evening I decided to head downtown (we were in Santa Rosa, not Davis) and sketch a bar. I wanted to sketch the Russian River Brewing Co, but it was a little packed to say the least. So I walked down the street to the Sweet Spot, a pub I’ve always liked. And here is why – there are football shirts (soccer jerseys to you) behind the bar. Some of you may know that my number one obsession is football kits. That is putting it mildly. So naturally I drew these fast. I could name almost all of them, however two of them eluded me. That drove me nuts! I spent the next day trying to figure them out. I determined that the blue one with the ‘Sol’ badge was actually a local team from Sonoma, so that doesn’t count. The red one, made by diadora with a blue/navy¬† trim¬† and the ‘Pilsener’ sponsor I simply can’t work out. The badge looked like it had an ‘N’ in the middle but I have no idea. A football shirt has me stumped. The beer was nice, the atmosphere friendly, and I finished the whole thing in under three pints.
sketching the sweet spot