Leave the pen. Take the cannoli.

amtrak in the morning
Late last month, on the weekend before Christmas, I took a day in San Francisco, just to get out of Davis for a little while and sketch things on ground that slopes a bit. I didn’t have much of a plan beyond “go to the Ferry Building, have a cannoli, draw loads”. So I did. Here’s my sketch from the early morning Amtrak train, above. It’s not cheap, traveling the Amtrak, but it’s a lovely journey and you get free wifi.

So I got to the San Francisco Ferry Building, where they have the Saturday Farmer’s Market. I like getting here on a Saturday, and finding the little stall inside that sells Italian cannoli filled with chocolate, and sugary messy lemon-filled ‘bombolini’, little doughnuts. After cleaning my face I went outside to draw a panorama, which took about an hour and a quarter. Those sugary treats made me work very energetically.

SF Ferry Building

SF Ferry Building. Click on image to see larger version.

From there I walked aimlessly before taking a bus up to North Beach, where I also walked aimlessly, but its a great place to be a bit aimless. I ended up at Grant Avenue near Green Street, where I looked through some nice little shops and sketched the Savoy Tivoli, a colourful establishment I had a pint in several years ago while listening to some live jazz musicians I bravely attempted to sketch. This place dates back over a century, opening in the year after the 1906 earthquake.

savoy tivoli, san francisco

I’ve never had a pint in this place, The Saloon, which is at the bottom of Grant near Columbus, but it has a sign outside which says its the oldest saloon in the city. It was once Wagner’s Beer Hall, named for its owner Ferdinand Wagner, an immigrant from Alsace, back in 1860. It survived the 1906 earthquake, the prohibition era (when it was the “Poodle Dog Cafe”), and went through a few names before settling on “The Saloon” in 1984. It’s historically a rough-and-ready part of the city this, and some day I may pop in for a beer and some history, but on this day I sketched outside. I had some more drawings to go, and I didn’t want to stand around for too long so I kept it quick.

the saloon, san francisco

To be continued…

223 thoughts on “Leave the pen. Take the cannoli.

  1. La Vida Sunshine says:

    Thank you! My husband and I, recently moved from SF for work. We lived in North Beach, and frequented many of these establishments. You did a great job capturing everything. We’ve truly left our hearts in SF.

  2. IAmWoman says:

    Wow. I can’t even draw. But your sketches are just…wow. I say, leave the camera, take the pen because you definitely don’t need one :D

  3. KaSonndra Leigh says:

    I wish I had more time to tap into my artistic muse. Your sketches are inspiring. I’ve always been able to appreciate the ability of someone who can make magic out of pencil and paper. Thx for sharing.

  4. Rina Macasaet says:

    Love San Francisco! Was my home for many years!! Love your illustrations and love your story. Brings back memories…. nostalgia….

  5. Heyjude says:

    Checked out Freshly Pressed and there you were, the colourful drawing drew me in to have a better look – you are a very talented artist! Wow! I cannot imagine even sketching one of those never mind all of them in one day (I can’t draw at all, but you know what I mean). I have been to SF several times and recognised the Ferry Building easily – so much detail. I’d love to see a sketch of one of those Painted Ladies if you have one.
    Thanks so much for brightening my day with this.
    Jude xx

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  7. calensariel says:

    What beautiful sketches. And I found your narrative every bit as captivating. We’ve wanted to come to San Francisco forever. I went through a period in my life where I couldn’t get enough information about the earthquake of 1906. My favorite book was “The Earth Shook, The Sky Burned” by William Bronson. Stumbling across your blog today was a real treat!

    • pete scully says:

      It is an interesting city, and I like finding buildings that predate the quake, it’s amazing how definitive that event was in the city’s character. It’s so easy to think of post 1906 SF, but the 19th century city in the gold rush era must have been an incredible sight!

  8. merissawrites says:

    I really like the first one. But they are all great! Those would have taken me at least two hours, depending on the size of my paper. Do you prefer to draw on large paper or smaller?

  9. crumpledpapercranes says:

    I love the honesty of your sketches, and how you’ve integrated them into the blog entry. Amtrak brings back fond memories, though at the time I relied on it, they didn’t offer Wi-Fi. Great use of color in that last sketch of “The Saloon.”

    I look forward to reading so much more. Thanks!

  10. tiffperson says:

    Lovely, cheered me up. I appreciate that. What do you do? (I study people’s lives that seem enjoyable. Admiring everyone from the getgo for something impressive like this post is something I do far too often without personally satisfying my curiosity)

  11. weareonourway2015 says:

    Thanks for sharing knowledge and wonderful sketches. San Fran is on my list! Problem is our australian dollar keeps dropping! Keep drawing and posting. Cheers kristy

  12. beccalynnweeks says:

    Canolli-lover here too, with wanderlust. Thanks for the illustrative reminder to draw when and were you can along the journey!

  13. Andy says:

    These sketches are images which connect me to very similar places. They bring back sounds and smells that are kindly memorable. Keep up the good work.

  14. maggiepea says:

    What an interesting way to combine your sketches with a little history behind them as well as instant thoughts on why you are there, what you’re intent and thoughts are, right there, in the moment.

  15. Gustavo Zenizo González says:

    Wonderful sketches! I’d like to paint like you. You would hve a lot of sites around the world to make sketches. Mexico would be one of them. Once you decide to come to Mexico City it would be a previlege to attend you here! Congratulations for your blog.

  16. timidandvivid says:

    You illustrated your little trip so well. So easy to tune everything out,leave your home behind for some hours and sketch your heart out. Keep sketching! If you give my blog a read and follow,I’ll really appreciate it.

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