people fly by in the traffic’s boom

Market St Panorama sm

Market Street, San Francisco. Click on the image to embiggen it.

A couple of weekends ago it was the Worldwide Sketchcrawl Day. While many of the world’s urban sketchers were busy in Singapore at the 6th Urban Sketching Symposium, I was in San Francisco, though I didn’t manage to meet the other SF sketchers this time. I arrived in the city a little late, my train (which was packed with Barcelona and Manchester United fans, evidently they were playing a friendly that day in Santa Clara) taking longer than usual. While the sketchcrawl was starting up at Duboce Park I wanted to have a look around Market Street first. This section of it is a little sketchy, but there’s stuff to sketch. A few months ago I came here to see Noel Gallagher play at the Warfield (an epic gig, like being sat inside a massive gramophone, and Noel was excellent), and I remembered that I want to sketch the Golden Gate Theatre at some point. So I stood on the corner and sketched a panorama, fully intending to add colour at some point (until I got struck down with “can’t-be-bothered-itis”). While I sketched, some Christian group across the street started bursting into songs of praise. Not because I was sketching, of course. After a while, a homeless man with a dog decided to stand not far away from me and take that as the appropriate opportunity to perform an inspection of the content of his underpants, which I daresay needed inspection by a licensed professional, but perhaps not so openly on the corner of Market Street. Again, I don’t think it was because I was sketching. Oh, the characters around here. When I was done with this sketch I had lunch at the food court of the Westfield shopping center, and took the Muni Metro up to Duboce Square. I didn’t meet a single other sketcher, but I did do a fair bit more sketching.

Duboce Square houses SFDuboce Square Park, SF

Duboce Park is quite nice. It has a very Local Neighbourhood feel about it, though this being San Francisco I’m sure you have to be doing pretty well to join the local neighbourhood these days. I’ve never really been here before, except for when travelling through on the Muni, or that time last March when I wandered about nearby with a couple of friends from England on the way from Castro to the Haight. The park is filled with dog walkers, families, young people laying on the grass reading books.  By the way, note that I deliberately said ‘reading books’, and not ‘looking at their electronic devices’. ‘Reading books’ probably makes you think “yes, reading books, as it should be, not on their iPad looking at Facetwit or Spacechat or whatever the youths are into these days, ignoring the amazing views.” You may well be thinking this while reading this on your iPad. Well I’ve said ‘reading books’ to give you the impression that they were all probably cultured individuals, but for all I can remember they were on their iPads, and for all I know they were reading e-books. They may have been reading Kafka or Kundera for all we know, but the world sees ‘electronic device’ and thinks ‘shopping for shoes’ or ‘reading clickbait on Facebook’.  Whereas they could be reading a tattered paper book, lying on the grass with their legs lazily crossed in the air,exploring a world of wonder and imagination, and that book might be ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or a footballer’s autobiography* or anything by Dan Brown. So the moral is ‘don’t judge an electronic device by its cover’, but feel free to judge a book-reader by the trash you can see them reading. So anyway, I was sketching the park, there was a kids birthday party going on nearby (with a pinata), in the dog park part of it dogs were running around and barking and texting, or whatever it is dogs do, and construction vehicles lined the street beside the Muni lines. I sketched the second one from the steps of the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts. I enjoyed sketching here.

Lower Haight St panorama sm

My final sketch of the day (not counting the one I abandoned due to getting tired) was another big panorama, this time in nearby Lower Haight Street. This is a very colourful neighbourhood, edgier, more ‘hipster’ than ‘hippy’, and there was some sort of small daytime dance party (or maybe it was a record store with DJs and cool people) a few steps away. I overheard two guys talking, there was talk of this party and that band, all many levels of cool above my coolscale (or below it, depending on your point of view). I was aching standing here, and the wind was picking up (sky was blue for periods, but a lot of clouds and fog rolled in and it got very chilly. A welcome change from the Davis heat I was escaping, but I needed to sit down and relax for a bit, so I walked down to the Toronado pub nearby and got a beer. Sitting down proved much harder, as it was pretty crowded. I had one beer and went home, the end of another busy sketching day in the city.

eye on mrak

eye on mrak, uc davisI haven’t sketched this thing in ages, but I actually sketched it for the first time almost ten years ago. This is “Eye on Mrak”, one of Robert Arneson’s well-known Eggheads, sculptures that live on the UC Davis campus. Friday lunchtime I decided I needed to sketch it again. This made me hungry for boiled egg.

Here are my previous versions: 2009, 2007 and 2005. 2005! When I sketched the actual ‘eye’ part. That was before I even worked at UC Davis, I had no idea what Mrak Hall was.

'eye on mrak' eggheadeye on mraksketchcrawl dec05 eyemrak

new kits on the block

After a summer of boring friendlies, fun Fifa arrests and a pretty exciting Women’s World Cup, the Premier League is finally back this weekend and the football machine cranks into full gear. My team, Tottenham Hotspur, the Mighty Spurs (so called because we Might Be Good This Year, but we Might Not), play the Van Gaal led Manchester United in what is another dawn raid, as the kick-off is at 4:45am my time. That’s too early for me, but at least I can go back to bed afterwards. Anyway, you may recall from the 2014 World Cup I am a little obsessed with football kits (soccer uniforms, as some of you call them, “lol”). I made, if you remember, a definitive guide to all the kits of the World Cup with little illustrations in the old version of MS Paint. It was in three parts, which I’m calling Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I really liked doing that, and so I am revisiting the idea with a run-down of the Premier League kits for 2015-16, along with a few bonus Johnny Foreigner kits too. I really want that Sampdoria kit.

I wasn’t sure how to organize them at first. ‘Alphabetical’ seemed too boring, Chronological as to when the kits were released was pointless, and while ‘autobiographical’ seemed like the most ‘no f***ing way’ choice it was ultimately impossible, so I went for ‘placement in last year’s Premier League’. Without much further ado, we will start with the 2015 champions.

PREMIER LEAGUE KITS: PART ONE, THE ‘MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’

CHELSEA 

ChelseaJose Mourinho’s team won the league quite comfortably in the end last year. That pleased Jose. Will they win it again this year? Probably. The new kit is slightly different this year, with a button up collar, and a very thin red and white trim. I like Chelsea having the red trim. I don’t like Chelsea though. They have a new sponsor this year, Yokohama Tyres, whose spelling will confuse and hopefully alienate the American market. The away kit is nice, a pretty simple style, all white except the blue socks. I’ve always loved that Chelsea have white socks in their first kit, it’s almost obstinate, like Jose went back in time and made white socks a Chelsea tradition just to annoy Arsene Wenger and make Arsenal change their socks when they visit Stamford Bridge. More Mourinho mind games.

MANCHESTER CITY

Man CityManchester City. They should be the epitome of the whole billionaire oil barons buying football thing that I hate…but I can’t hate City. For too many years they had it so, so bad, while United gobbled up mountains of silverware. They made Spurs’s fallow years look likethe Belle Epoque. Will they win the league. Yeah maybe, I don’t care. The kit though is lovely. I’m a huge fan of those rugby collars that Nike (and previously Umbro) are so fond of now, and it works best with the white trim. No more black trim please, City. This is a smart kit. The black and aqua-blue away kit is interesting, because the arms feature lunar topography in blue and black, because of the whole ‘Blue Moon’ thing. I like the song Blue Moon too, but it always reminds me of that scene in Grease.

ARSENAL

ArsenalI’m a Spurs fan, so naturally Arsenal are the enemy, but I have to admit they are looking pretty good for a run – but they wonn’t win the league because they don’t o that any more, not since the mega-billionaires entered the Premier League. I do like Wenger (especially when he is throwing water bottles onto the ground); his time at Arsenal is equivalent to the current tenures of all the managers in England put together, I think. The kits are nice this year, another button up collar (I like those) and a stylish Puma design. The away kit is the classic yellow (gold) and navy blue with funny shiny diamonds. There’s a hint of that awful zigzag away kit from the early 90s if you ask me. Maybe they should bring that back.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Man UtdUnited are back with Adidas, who they haven’t worn since before the Premier League started, ie back when they spent years never winning the title. Rather fitting since they are starting a new and probably similar era. Hey remember the old Adidas kits, yeah they were great, Ron Atkinson, Fergie before he was good, Gordon Strachan, Peter Davenport, Paul McGrath, Robbo, yeah great but no league titles. Will Van Gaal drag them and their multi-million pound players back into Fergie-era winning ways? I can’t see it.  It’s back to the 80s alright. The kit itself is based directly on their kit from 1983 (they won the Cup that year! Beating Brighton & Hove Albion in a replay!). As of today, hours from the new season’s kick-off, they haven’t even bothered to release their away kit. Can’t imagine it will be earth-shattering.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

TottenhamI don’t have very high hopes for my beloved Spurs this year. We’ve gotten rid of some of the dead wood (Paulinho) and bought more Belgian, but if we are some sort of quiet dark horse, we must be Black Beauty wearing slippers and a gag. We’ll finish about where we have been finishing. I predict young Harry Kane will probably score a few goals. Pochettino will be hoping Daniel Levy has switched off the ‘Sack Manager’ reminder that will come up this November, as it does. I love the kits though. Under Armour are doing a good job of making us look different to all the other template teams. The sash is interesting on the home kit. I will get that one. I like the blue away kit, but my wife doesn’t so I probably won’t get that one, unless I get it in secret and only wear it when she’s out. The purple one is lovely too, but I can’t spend all my money on football shirts now can I. Can I?

LIVERPOOL

LiverpoolLiverpool struggled post-Suarez and did well to come sixth but could (and probably should) have placed lower. Thankfully, Warrior Sports have given up making football kits (last season’s were probably the worst kits I’ve ever seen). So this year Liverpool’s kits are being made by…New Balance. Ok. On the face of it the designs are simple. Not super interesting. White away, black third, bespoke designs but, nothing to write home about. Move along.

SOUTHAMPTON

SouthamptonSouthampton did well to come seventh but could (and probably should) have placed higher. The last time they were adidas, they inexplicably got rid of the stripes (Umbro technically did that, though they had white pinstripes if you want to quibble), but worse (in my opinion) was making the shorts red. Red shorts? Southampton? Are you insane? (ok, Umbro were guilty of introducing that too). It looked so many types of wrong, and to top it off they had a gold trim. However for all the outrage, kits only ever last a year and so the next season, adidas were out and Southampton produced their own kits, with stripes, with black shorts, all was right in the world. The kits themselves were rumoured not to be great quality but who cares, the players were great on the pitch (despite Spurs et al raiding their manager and best players before the season). This year they have Jordie Clasie, so I think they will do well again, but adidas are back on board and have given them a bog standard template for their home kit (“you want stripes? Fine here’s some other team’s old kit, we don’t care”). The away kit though is in a highly radioactive shade of green and navy blue.

And there are last year’s top seven*. Next year’s too probably.  One thing I’m not doing this year is giving a list of predictions. I did that for years, under the direction of a cosmic entity called Mystic Pete (I was Mystic Pete’s representative on this planet, don’t ask, it was a long story). Mystic Pete was often hilariously wrong (Mystic Pete predicted Newcastle would win the league once, the actual league title), so I stopped asking. But if pushed, I’ll say one of the teams in this list will win the league.

Enjoy day one, footy fans, and I’ll be back with more kits soon. Lots more Urban Sketches first, but then some more footy kits.

*Originally this was the top six. But I forgot about Liverpool originally so this is the top seven. Next post there will be the middle seven, then the last six plus maybe one from the lower leagues. Then it’s Johnny Foreigner.

constructing the shrem, part three

shrem museum of art under construction

The Shrem Museum of Art (under construction) now has some walls, covering the skeletal framework that has been going up these past few months. This building is bigger than the Pitzer Center (the new Music Recital Hall whose construction I am also sketching, see previous posts) but it also had a head start – but the race is on! Which will be finished first? It’s exciting. It’s exciting because it means more ART and MUSIC. More Sciences are great, UC Davis is cutting edge in so many fields but we are also great at art. I’m not talking about me and my little drawings of things, but the bigger art world of Davis and UC Davis, which is substantial and world-renowned, encompassing not only fine art and music but also the dramatic arts. I sketched the scene above on an overcast day earlier this week, meaning I didn’t have to find some shade and could sketch the front without getting too hot in the sun. The lamp-post in the foreground carries the image of Maria Manetti Shrem and Jan Shrem, the donors for whom this museum is named. Wait hang on, an OVERCAST DAY IN DAVIS IN AUGUST? I never thought it would happen again (and unlike last week, it was overcast with clouds and not smoke from all the wildfires, though that was probably mixed in). Yes, actual clouds. For those of you who live in Davis and aren’t sure what clouds are, them being so rare here, they are made up of moisture and float in the sky. Moisture, for those of us in Davis who aren’t sure what that is, it’s made of water. Again, for those not sure what water is, it’s what happens when – look I can’t keep this up. It’s a long-winded way of saying this unending drought we are having in California seems to have no end in sight, so to see actual clouds is encouraging. Last night it even rained a few heavy glops, though it all seemed to evaporate upon impact. We’ll take what we can get in this state. shrem museum of art (under construction)

I did sketch the side of the Shrem museum last week on a far hotter and sunnier day. I found the shade of a tree and listened to the X-Men podcast “Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men”. I have mentioned it before. It’s a really great podcast going through the history of the X-line of Marvel Comics, the “ins, outs and retcons of your favourite superhero soap opera.” Since I started listening to the show certain phrases they like to use have become stuck in my head, such as “Angry Claremontian Narrator” (the voice used by Chris Claremont when narrating comic panels, often berating the characters), “Ah’m Nigh Invulnerable When Blastin'”, a phrase uttered by Cannonball (Sam Guthrie), “The Eternal Moppets of the Marvel Universe”, a reference to two mutants who never seem to age beyond childhood, and “Charles Xavier is a Dick”. If you’re not listening to it, even if you are not an X-Men fan, even if you don’t listen to podcasts or human voices or read anything, I still highly recommend it. Here’s their website. Anyway back to the sketch: so yeah, the Shrem Museum of Art, under construction still.

Previously on ‘Constructing the Shrem’:

Part Twohttps://petescully.com/2015/07/01/constructing-the-shrem-part-two/

Part Onehttps://petescully.com/2015/02/26/shrem-museum-under-construction/

To be continued!

selfies in san francisco

SF Boat and Selfie Stick
A couple of weeks ago or so we took advantage of a special offer on the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains where if you buy a ticket, your family or friends can come too for only $5 each way. Since it costs $60 to get to San Francisco these days, which is a lot of money actually, a day out in the city would usually cost me $180 in train tickets alone, but as it was it cost only $80. “Only” $80; I could buy a lot of Lego with that. Well, maybe not a lot, but some. One or two decent sets anyway. The Avengers Tower plus the Ant Man set perhaps. I don’t know, let me think about this actually, I am making my list. Anyway, my wife, my son and I all jumped on the train at 8:25 in the morning and travelled down to San Francisco for a day of just wandering in the city, seeing stuff. It’s such a nice train journey across the Delta and along the Bay, and my son had never been on that journey before. He liked it I think, but he did his best to put on his I’m Bored face everywhere we went in San Francisco. I thought the change of scenery (and cooler weather) would us all some good, but he really wanted to get back to his Lego (tsk, we’re so different). I took him to the Musee Mecanique however, and that was a hit, It’s on Fisherman’s Wharf and is full of old arcade games from the past century, and we had a great time; he particularly liked the skee ball game, while I battled it out as Magneto and Cyclops on “X-Men vs Street Fighter”. Stupid Dhalsim and his long arms, no match for the might of the Master of Magnetism! (Actually I lost). Anyway afterwards we walked down to the water’s edge, to the little sandy beach area at Aquatic Park. While my son paddled his feet in the water with my wife, I sketched the scene, with the boat SS Balclutha moored on the jetty. I have sketched that ship before. As I sketched, a young woman on the beach was taking selfies, and lots of them. hundreds perhaps. Selfies from above, below, standing, crouched, lying down, facing the boat, facing the bridge, facing the sand, facing the sky, facing the city, every possible iteration of selfie there is (ok not every possible iteration). With the dreaded “Selfie-Stick” of course, bane of everyone’s lives, and if you believe the press, on the verge of being universally banned from existing anywhere ever. She was very happy, and why not, in the sunshine, next to an amazing city backdrop, Golden Gate Bridge free of fog, why not. Passers-by called her the “Selfie Queen”, probably fair, but it made me think of the actual Queen, whose face as we know is on all the money in England, I had visions of Elizabeth II holding up a twenty pound note and looking at it pulling a duck face (can I just point out I don’t know what that is but I hear the term a lot, I don’t care what it is either), and saying “One is taking a Selfie of One’s self,” while Prince Philip is looking at a Selfie-Stick and saying “What the bloody ‘ell is this?” while making some racist comment about tourists. Oh, the Royals. So, I added Selfie Queen (not my term) to the sketch. My wife joked that I should have drawn a selfie of myself with everything in the background, but it would have been hard holding the pen with the book stretched out in front of me, and then the painting, I couldn’t do it.

I only did one sketch that day, but I did come back down by myself a week later for the worldwide sketchcrawl (more train money spent). We got ice cream (not Ghirardelli, the lines were too long), and decided against queuing up for more than an hour for the cable car (Saturday afternoon isn’t the best time for that), so headed home.

wunders never cease

G St Wunderbar, DavisLast month I decided to get out one evening to downtown Davis and sketch. I haven’t sketched in the G St Wunderbar for a few years so I wanted to give it another go. It wasn’t very busy (because it was early), and I sipped a beer at the back of the bar and ran down the black Pitt pen I’d bought in Aix (I don’t use them very often, the nibs wear down too much after like one or two drawings), but I wanted to do some crosshatching, and play with sketchg street pubing light in dark interiors. I’d thought about sketching the room at the other side of the bar, full of pool tables, but there’s never a good vantage point for an urban bar sketcher, so I stuck to the main bar which had plenty of table space. “G St Wunderbar”… I first sketched this view when it was the plain old G St Pub. There it is on the right, a sketch from six years ago; I even sat in the same seat.

As I drew, it got later (funny how that happens) and more people started coming in. The music started getting louder and more dancier, and the people younger (funny how that happens), and so rather than stretch this to a panorama, I called it an evening and went home for a cup of tea. Another one for the ‘then-and-now’ section of the bar sketch series.

fast food lunch

UC Davis Silo / Carl's Jr
France was fun, but you have to come home. I do actually have a few more sketches from London but they were kind of shoehorned in to the end of the trip, I’ll post those soon. So aftre all those lovely picturesque canals and timber-framed buildings, you get the interior of the UC Davis Silo, where I often eat lunch. this was sketched while waiting for (and subsequently eating) my Carl’s Jr. It was typically tasty, but incredibly greasy. Outside the mercury was rising fast to those unbearable Davis Summer levels. Welcome back to America! When’s my next trip to France?