This is Third Street. Of course, I know that you know that, because I’ve drawn this before, and you definitely remember, of course. Continuing my theme of drawing the streets of Davis as panoramas but in numerical order, having just done 1st and 2nd, now here is 3rd. I saw “X-Men Apocalypse” lately and Jean Grey said something about “Return of the Jedi” being bad because everyone knows the third movie is always the worst (referring to X-Men: The Last Stand) yet following it up by actually being in a movie (namely “X-Men Apocalypse”) that is not fit to wipe the Ewok’s Feet of “Jedi”. But I’m not going to go into my feelings about comic-book movies (go and see “Civil War” it is amazing! Black Panther is the best!) rather I will talk about my process when drawing a panorama.
It was the day after the hottest day of the year, and this time it was overcast, but still very hot, and very, very muggy. Sweat dripped from my brow, but I toiled on, I just had to draw 3rd Street, it is the next chapter, ok it may not be as good as 1st Street or 2nd Street but it has its own qualities, it’s doing its own thing. So, when I do a panorama, I first use a pencil to block out where the road will be, and then main lines of perspective, as they curve left and right. When standing with sweat dripping onto the page you do the best you can. Actually the first thing I do is wander about until I hit just the right spot, usually the spot in the shade, one with the least foliage in the way of what I’m drawing. Then when I’ve blocked in a few lines in pencil (not too many, mind, no point drawing the whole thing twice), I do the actual drawing with the pen, usually ignoring some or sometimes all of my guidelines, holding my sketchbook in that awkward looking way that I do. I was sent a tweet recently on the Twitter, which said “are you the urban sketcher who holds his pen in a strange way?” Is this a thing now, is that my thing? Is this how I am known now? I’m kidding – that’s always how I’ve been known, ever since I was in primary school, it’s nothing new. People would ask me, “you hold your pen in a funny way, are you left handed? “Only if you can’t tell left and right I am,” I would reply, before running away very fast. At school they tried to change me, telling me as my hands got bigger I would never write or draw as fast as my classmates, and I would suffer academically. I wish I could go back in time and thank the teacher who effectively set me that challenge, but I wouldn’t thank them, I’d say hey, I’m Pete, remember me, my funny hands are bigger now, let’s have a writing and drawing race, see who is fastest! No, no I wouldn’t say that. I’d be all respectful and reserved and shy. I do wish they had told me back then that I also hold my book funny s well, I only discovered that a few years ago, when I first saw photos of me out and about urban sketching. I sometimes draw upside down as well when I get to the far right of the page, easiest to hold, plus I like subverting the far right, bloody fascists.
Anyway, the next step is to draw the whole thing. I don’t really do the thing where I draw outlines of everything and fill in the gaps, rather I draw small details from point one. If there is signage I draw that first, because I enjoy it the most. Cars…occupational hazard. If there are cars parked I will avoid drawing them until I absolutely have to. For example one was parked in front of the middle house for ages, but it left so I quickly drew in the bits previously obscured. No other car ended up parking there (oh there’s nowhere to park downtown on a Saturday, boo, um actually yes there bloody is) meaning I could draw to my leisure. The building to the left had lots of “No on A!” election signs. I don’t see why they don’t like A, it is the first letter of the alphabet, without it there would carnage, etc etc and so on. So then comes the paint. If I have time I will do it all on site, and with a panorama it takes that bit longer. Often though I will use the extra time getting the drawing right, doing some of the colour on site, and finishing off the rest at home (or a nearby pub which has tables and beer). For this I coloured in a few main details and then did the obvious stuff (trees, road, rooftops) later on. Then I scanned it, scanning both sides and using Photoshop to stitch them together. Then I save it in both 300dpi (for printing) and 72dpi (for posting online – smaller file size, easier to appear on the website, gets all pixelated when people try to print it out themselves – ha ha). Then, I post the sketch to Flickr, which is a good place to host your drawings, as you can organize them into handy folders – a nice online portfolio. I’ve used it for nearly ten years now. Then I post it on my blog, and – this is important – I like to keep the writing to a normal, readable size which makes total sense and doesn’t ramble off in all sorts of nonsensical directions. And then I spend about three hours thinking up a title which might come from a song lyric or a famous poetic quote, I add the tags, I press publish, and I go to bed listening to the Football Weekly podcast and playing Scrabble on my iPod. This, my dear sketching friends, is the whole process. And if you have read this far, I thank you for your staying power, and urge you to pick up a pen and go out and draw your city streets too. It’s fun!
(Coming next – 4th street, aka “The 4th Awakens”)