a day in the city

Amtrak Dec2017 sm

Just before Christmas I went down to the city (San Francisco) for some pre-Christmas sketching, and to spend money shopping for last-minute gifts. Well, one last-minute gift. And it was from Tiffany’s so it was less ‘last-minute’ and more just ‘minute’. Well, maybe not that small. I walk in there and I say, look, I am a man and utterly clueless, I don’t even know what a Tiffany’s is, I actually thought you sold cakes, and they are like, absolutely sir, don’t worry, you are not alone, let me help. And they were very helpful. But you don’t want to hear about my complete cluelessness when it comes to shopping for things that aren’t made by Nintendo or Lego (hey, I feel sophisticated when I buy myself a new jumper, like I’m a style guru or something). You’re here for the sketching, and that’s what I do. Actually it’s not all I do, I’m also really into history and language and writing, and I totally love football (soccer) and spend ridiculous amounts of time obsessively making spreadsheets of football stats you don’t need (for example, the most worn kit make since the Premier League began is Umbro, also the most successful in terms of games won and equal on titles won with Nike, but Nike has a goal difference of +1316 compared to Umbro’s +341 (compared to Adidas whose goal difference is +480 – you really don’t need to know all of this, but this is the sort of stuff I think a lot about) (I do work for the Statistics Department, it kind of rubs off on me). Anyway, the sketching. I used a new Palomino pencil that my friend Terry in Japan sent me (I thought palominos were horses) (I should tell people, this pencil was sent by a pal o’ mine) to draw the Amtrak train scene above, because you have to draw on the train.

SFMoma Dec2017 sm

Now I haven’t sketched around SoMa in about ten years, so I went to the Museum of Modern Art for a little inspiration. I was mostly inspired by the entrance fee to maybe go and do some sketching outside instead, but not after spending a lot of time in the gift shop. They have the best stuff. I sketched outside in Yerba Buena Gardens, which is always a nice place for people watching (I love that phrase, I never watch people, they’re not very interesting). Fun fact, Yerba Buena is the original name of San Francisco, being renamed after the local mission in 1847.

SF Jewish Musuem sm

Now this unusually shaped building is part of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and I could tell before looking it up that it was designed by Daniel Libeskind, as those diagonally turned buildings are somewhat of a signature of his. It reminded me of the building he designed on Holloway Road in London, I used to go past on the bus. London Metropolitan University, that’s it. This one is much more dramatic. As I sketched, a rather shouty man, tailed by a police officer on a bike, wandered past yelling some angry gibberish at the world, with the cop shadowing him all the way. I didn’t add any paint, but moved on, as I only had an hour or two of daylight left.

SF Johns Grill Dec 2017 sm

I was near Union Square by now, and so I stood just off the Christmas shopping masses and sketched the signage of John’s Grill. I don’t know who John is or what his grill i all about but they appear to specialize in Jazz, cocktails, steaks and seafood, and have been around since 1908. Well done Pete, you have successfully read words, pat yourself on the back. I really liked that tall building in the background, on Market Street, and I used a grey pen to sketch it. San Francisco’s slightly damper air gives a muted, softer feel to its colours and lines.

SF Union Square Xmas Tree 2017 sm

Yes, I have posted it before but here it is again to round off the daytrip. It’s the big Christmas Tree in Union Square. It was busy, lost of people stopped to take pictures with the tree (a lady sitting nearby was asked many times by people to take their photos, she was very obliging; nobody asked me, I was sat above, my head buried in a sketchbook). I did draw a couple taking a selfie though because that’s the thing nowadays, actually people have always done it even with their old cameras but it didn’t seem to offend grumpy people as much. Seriously, people who get irritated by people taking selfies, get over it. I know the standard response to that is “seriously, people who get irritated by people who get irritated by people taking selfies, get over it” but if you start down that road you end up on a continuous looping paradox of nonsensical arguments (aka Twitter) (or aka everywhere these days). Anyway, after this sketch, the sunlight fading faster than fog in a funfair, I switched into hapless Christmas shopper mode and spent the rest of the day making the wallet a bit lighter. And then I caught the train back home to Davis.

west sac hydrant

West Sac Hydrant Dec2017 sm

I had an early morning appointment in West Sacramento to renew my permanent residency. I arrived very early, on the bus, and had a while to wait outside in the cold before the doors opened and my money could be spent on taking my fingerprints (which haven’t changed since the last time they took them a decade ago, I guess they don’t gain weight like the rest of me has). I took that time before my appointment to sketch one of the fire hydrants outside. It was really cold. Afterwards, I went and had breakfast at IHOP (which was delicious by the way), before catching the bus back to Davis.

show me the way to armadillo

LDD Dec17 Armadillo

One from just before Christmas, this was sketched downtown during the December ‘Le’s draw Davis’ sketchcrawl. I already posted the main sketch I did that day, of the Christmas Tree. This is Armadillo Music on F Street. It used to e further down F Street until a few years ago. The last times I sketched it was in the old location (2013 and 2011). I also had an exhibition of my artwork there in early 2011, which was actually the first exhibition I ever had here in Davis, so I’m always thankful for that. It was a fun evening, with renowned local singer Rita Hosking providing an in-store musical performance on the same evening. So finally I drew the new store location, a bigger store. I didn’t have time to add the colour because the sketchcrawl was over and I was feeling stiff from standing there in the cold. I just coloured in the Santa, which was for some reason lying on his side. Taking a rest before his trip around the world, no doubt. Ok, I am due to sketch Armadillo, which is one of those real proper Davis community shops, another time, with colour. Maybe on a warmer day!

Aulani

Aulani sm

We left the incredible views of Waikiki behind and drove to our main destination, the Disney vacation resort of Aulani. We’ve wanted to go here for a while, and it was just as fun as expected. We spent most of the time in the pools, or specifically, the lazy river. Above, the main lobby building as seen from the ponds near the pool area.

Olelo Room sm

Above, the ‘Ōlelo Room, which is an interesting bar at the resort. It is dedicated to the Hawaiian language. “‘Ōlelo” is the Hawaiian word for “word”. All of those little wooden boxes contains an object and several blocks that make up a word in Hawaiian, so you can learn your vocab. I did buy a book so I could learn a little, but I haven’t gotten very far I’m afraid. I did know already that Hawaiian has no consonants that touch each other, but I never learned how to pronounce humuhumunukunukuapua‘a. Drinks were nice there (but no lava flow!) and the music came in from the terrace outside. We also had a nice meal overlooking the ocean at a restaurant called ‘Ama-Ama’, and there had a delicious Blue Hawaiian. But the best drink I had in Hawaii (even better than the Lava Flow, which was amazing) was at a restaurant across the street from Aulani called MonkeyPod, the drink was the MonkeyPod Mai Tai, it was freshly made and just delicious, maybe the tastiest drink I’ve ever had. I didn’t sketch that, but here’s a photo:

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Just delicious. I did do some food sketching though, at a place near the North Shore called Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. I think it’s a local chain; the chicken burger was awesome. There were loads of surfers out at the North Shore that day. They even had a TV screen in the burger joint showing live footage of surfers out riding the waves.

Teddys Burgers sm

Yep, Hawaii was pretty stunning. I have a feeling we will be back.

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duke’s

Duke's Waikiki sm

Staying at the Outrigger in Waikiki, we just had to go to Duke’s. Duke’s is a restaurant on the beach, named after the fabled local hero, Duke Kahanamoku. Duke, or to give him his full name Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, was a native Hawaiian Olympic swimmer from the early 20th century, and is famous for helping popularize surfing. He grew up in Waikiki, and his presence is everywhere. There is a big statue of him right by the beach. He won several Olympic gold medals for swimming, competing in the games in Stockholm, Antwerp and Paris. He also carved out a career as an actor, and even worked as a military policeman during World War II. Duke’s is named for him, originally called “Duke’s Canoe Club & Barefoot Bar” but now one of a chain that includes other restaurants in California, Florida and Hawaii, and is itself a popular local hangout. One evening, with the music from Duke’s wafting up to my room, I decided to wander downstairs and sketch the bar while enjoying one of their famous Hula Pies and a delicious Lava Flow (my new favourite drink). Of course I had not actually seen a Hula Pie before ordering one. Those things are enormous! I could barely finish it. It was delicious, for sure, but if I had rolled down the beach afterwards I would be floating halfway to Bora Bora by now. I did sketch it, with my Lava Flow next to it. The evening atmosphere was nice, with the beachy music complementing the rolling sound of the ocean. Nicest was that when I was done, it was just a short elevator ride to my bed. Glad, because I was stuffed.

Hula Pie at Duke's sm

Aloha!

Waikiki view evening sm

Still playing catch-up with the older sketches, here are some I did while I was in Hawaii in November. What an incredible place. It was the first time I’d ever been to Hawaii, or to anywhere like that; it was, in the words of Samwise Gamgee, the furthest I’d ever been from home (home being Burnt Oak). For some reason it had never appealed, but for the life of me I cannot say what those reasons might have been because Hawaii is just so amazing.  I think living in California it’s easy to feel a bit blase about Hawaii because it’s like, just over there a bit, and I’m not one of those people who likes sitting on the beach, but no, Hawaii really does feel like somewhere very far away and different. And so beautiful. And it turns out I love the beach! Well, I always love being by the ocean. The call of the sea. I’m not going to go on about it. Hawaii is just great. So, we stayed on O’ahu, at the Outrigger resort in Waikiki. The most incredible view, ever. In fact after this, what is there, really? It’s only downhill from here. Nothing is really going to live up to that view. And earlier in 2017 we stayed in Rome and had the most incredible view over the city (see my earlier post, ‘A Rome With A View‘). I am never going to match those views in 2018, wherever we end up visiting this year.

Luke at Waikiki hotel sm

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Now it wasn’t all getting up at 7am and swimming in the ocean and then spending the day at the pool and drinking cocktails overlooking the sunset. Actually, no I’m kidding, that is what it all was, and that was the BEST. I did pop out and sketch a Waikiki fire hydrant once though.

Waikiki hydrant sm

Waikiki view morning sm

Oh I could not wait to Facetime family in England from that hotel room, with that ridiculously amazing view. The sketch above I never got around to colouring in.

Below is a sketch I did on the beach at Kailua, on the other side of the island. We had just spent much of the day at Koaloa Ranch, checking out where they filmed Lost and Jurassic World and stuff. We stopped in Kailua on the way back for some Shave Ice at Island Snow, which is where President Obama goes for Shave Ice when he is back in Hawaii. What is Shave Ice, you ask, and why is it not Shaved Ice? Aha, you will have to go to Hawaii to learn this secret!

Kailua beach sm

Ok, this (below) is Shave Ice. It was really good! Better than expected. Like a tropical slush puppy. Mahalo!

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I’ll post more sketches soon, but here is one last photo of the view from my hotel bedroom window. I must point out this was NOVEMBER. Aloha from Hawaii!

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farewell to the festive season…

Xmas Lego Dec 2017 sm

Since yesterday (January 6th) is the traditional ‘take-down-decorations’ day I wanted to make sure I posted it by then, as it is technically still in the Christmas period. Then I got flu. I evidently still have it too (I can’t taste anything!), well I suppose starving a fever is probably all for the best given how much I ate over Christmas. Not gonna lie, it was a lot of chocolate. And I haven’t even opened my Terry’s Chocolate Orange yet, I’m saving that for when I can taste things again. So this! This is a Christmassy Lego set that was a lovely addition to our festive get-up this year. I want to add a little bit of festive Lego each year. The train set and village station sets look cool. So, this was my last sketch of 2017. Don’t worry, I still have more in the backlog to post (Hawaii!). I didn’t get out to do any urban sketching on New Year’s Eve (I also had a cold, different from this current flu; come on winter, give me a break!). Speaking of colds, can we stop saying “bless you” after someone sneezes? I stopped a while ago. It feels odd, it’s a knee-jerk reaction and you feel rude for not acknowledging someone having sneezed by randomly blessing them like you are some sort of authority on the matter, but it is odd. Ok the real reason is that I have seasonal allergies, and from the period of about March to May I will sneeze a lot, uncontrollably, again and again and again. If we ever have the Spring Olympics I could represent Great Britain in the consecutive sneezing event. When someone gets to the third “bless-you” you really want them to stop, your magical blessing is clearly having no effect. Beyond that, it’s like, if you must, can you do it at the end like a package of blessings? And what exactly are you blessing me for? I remember being at a baseball game and I had a sneezing fit. People all around were blessing me, and frankly it was embarrassing. After sneeze five they were all laughing like someone sneezing in April is really hilarious (to be fair, it was probably more entertaining than the baseball). And again, and again, and again. I couldn’t get out to the garlic fries stand quickly enough. Yeah being laughed at by a crowd of strangers just for having allergies is so enjoyable. The blessings don’t work guys, just stop it okay!

This is a fun Lego set. I used it for a brief stop-motion animation which I played at our holiday party at work, I think people enjoyed it. I am still making those, I have a lot of ideas but little time to play with them. I may be overdoing the Lego in fact, but it’s so much fun. Goodbye, festive season. Until next year.

shoe business

Davis Shoe Shop
Another one from over three months ago. Time moves fast. This is a shoe repair shop on C Street called the Davis Shoe Shop. Shoe repair shops are great set-ups for jokes. Like for example, “My friend said he was a member of the shoe repair men guild, I said that was just a bunch of cobblers”. Yeah, that doesn’t work if you don’t know what I mean by cobblers. Also it just doesn’t work. So, a cobbler is someone who repairs shoes, you know that. Well in British English at least, if you say something is ‘cobblers’ or ‘a bunch of cobblers’  it means it’s bullshit or not true. Like, if I said “I had lunch with Prince William today,” you’d say “cobblers” and it means you wouldn’t believe me. So a better joke might be, “All my friends are shoe repair men,” and the appropriate response would be “Cobblers”. You could also say, “I went to get my shoe repaired the other day, and the guy said he couldn’t do it, but he did fix me a fruit basket. Turns out he was only a Peach Cobbler.” See, yeah that doesn’t really work either. This is what I do all day, I try to think of joke opportunities that can fit any potential situation, but I don’t know any situation that would allow me to use that one, and nobody would laugh at that one anyway. File it under ‘dad jokes’. Not my dad, he wouldn’t tell jokes as good as that, but my son would definitely say I would tell jokes as bad as that. Situation specific jokes are handy though. A couple of days ago my wife was telling me about a joke she read on one of her Disney blogs that she likes (Disney blogging is a really big thing) that made her crack up, but you really had to be a Disney fanatic to understand it. Needless to say I didn’t understand it. We got talking about different genres of blogs and she was telling me about Credit Card blogs, people do have forums and blogs where they talk about different credit cards, pros and cons, points and deals, that sort of thing. Apparently it’s a thing. So I started wondering what credit card humour would be like, whether I would be any good at it (I thought I’d take a swipe at it, if you will). (See that doesn’t make sense because take a swipe means have a go at it, not give it a go; oh, the English language, what are you like). Anyway I eventually came up with the following, feel free to use it in any situation you find yourself in with credit card enthusiasts. “So I was shopping for kitchen utensils and I accidentally chopped off six of my fingers! I didn’t mind though, because I only like to show my last four digits.” No, that doesn’t work. Ok how about this: “Why does a credit card blogger cut two fingers off of each of their gloves?” No you can see where that’s going, that’s rubbish too. Or how about “Did you know in America they don’t have chip-and-pin? Instead they have fries-and-pin”, yeah that one is, look credit card humour just isn’t as funny as regular humour. (Side note, I think this all counts under the heading “The author’s explanations are so boring, by the time he gets to the point you already forgot what he was talking about“.) Ok back to the Shoe Repair jokes. “What’s a shoe repair man’s favourite type of music? Sole Music.” (That’s weak, even for me) “What’s the difference between a shoe repair man and a wild animal doctor? One fixes heels, the other one heals foxes.” Ok that one is pretty good, maybe more of a joke-in-progress. “What is a shoe repair man’s favourite Star Wars movie? Brogue One.” Actually no, “The Laced Jedi”. Actually “Sole-o” (that’s the new one). The comedic possibilities are endless. Not very funny, but endless all the same. Perhaps the best sort of humour in this genre is more physical rather than descriptive, that is, “shoe don’t tell.” Ok, I’m done.

what’s the story autumn glory

Autumnal Colours Hutchison UCD sm

Tonight (January 3rd) it is raining here in Davis. It’s the first proper rain in ages, it feels like. Of course all I’m worried about is whether the city fields will get closed for our soccer practice this weekend (I hope not). It’s been a pretty dry spell. But that is now. My lack of posting sketches lately means I am still going back in time, this time back to mid-November, when the trees outside Hutchison at UC Davis were ablaze with oranges and reds. A lot has happened in the world since then. The Last Jedi came out, for example. I’ve seen it twice, and need a third time to really get my feel for it, but I will delay discussing it here until that third viewing, but not because I want to approach it like a conscientious and objective critic, but because I want to wait until I have some Last Jedi Lego sketches to go with it (and yes, I have some Last Jedi Lego, the old Luke and Rey training set (with a Porg) is sat on top of the scanner right now). So sorry, it’s going to have to wait. It doesn’t feel right to post about it under a picture of some trees from a month and a half ago. But what can I talk about instead? Foliage? I could talk technique I guess. For this sketch, I actually added the paint first, and then added pen lines over the top. Whoah there Scully, what the fuh? Since when was that a thing you do? Well you know what sometimes I like to mix it up a bit, live a little, not just do exactly the same thing over and over like a scratched record. I’ve not done it since (I’m not that adventurous you know) but I did take a couple of pics at the time wile sketching that I thought you might like to see, below. It’s not exactly a ‘step-by-step’ but it’s to the point. Maybe some day I will do more ‘step-by-step’ type posts, even a video or two, but those usually slow me down a lot, which is why I never think to do them. Now at the October ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl (have I posted about that yet? I’m so behind!) I did do a little sketching demo for the gathered group of sketchers before the ‘crawl began, demonstrating how to sketch a fire hydrant. When I say ‘demo’ I mean like an example of how I do it, not like a protest march with banners and stuff, though I would do that too.

Speaking of ‘how-to’, I was looking at the reviews of my 2nd book, “Five-Minute Sketching People” on the Amazon, most of them are very nice (thank you!) and I mentioned before that 1-star review (yeah cheers for that), well I noticed a newer 2-star review, that contained the following sentence:

The author’s explanations are so boring, by the time he gets to the point you already forgot what he was talking about“.

Wow! It’s like they know me! That is totally what I am like in real life. Not on my blog of course (sarcasm emoji). The irony is that this is a review of my writing when edited down into very short, bite-size chunks. For example, “Contour means outline, so start by simply sketching someone as a basic silhouette“, as seen on page 82 in the US printed version. Now in the full unexpurgated Pete at 2am* version you would get “Contour, your basic contour, means outline, like a line that is outside the thing, not the Thing like Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four (the super hero team not the German hip-hop group Die Fantastischen Vier) (in case you were wondering), so start simply sketching someone slowly as a subtle simplified smart silhouette structure**. When I say contour, I don’t mean like the big bird thing that lives in the Andes…” etc etc. (* I did actually write a lot of that book at 2am) (** Did you spot all the alliteration in the final sentence of the original version? That’s all that Anglo-Saxon poetry I used to read, clearly).

But that’s a brilliant line isn’t it, “The author’s explanations are so boring, by the time he gets to the point you already forgot what he was talking about“. Honestly, geezer has no idea; he should listen to me talk about Germanic Philology. Or read any of my more nonsensical going-on-about-nothing blog posts (like this one, or this one, or any post where I talk about “A Street”, or this very blog post you’ve just read) (hello if you are still here!) (hello again if you are that person!). My mate from London said yeah, he should try going out for a drink with me; mm cheers for that, cheeky beggar. Admittedly many of our conversations in Camden Town’s establishments have tended to go in all sorts of directions. The Good Mixer. The Elephant’s Head. Doing impressions of Michael Caine playing Han Solo. What was I talking about again? Damn, I’ve forgotten…

mrakorama

Mrak lawn UCD oct2017 sm

Have I posted this one? I don’t think I have. I know, all these UC Davis sketches start blending into one after a while. Trees, blue sky, bikes, building, etc etc. This was sketched over a couple of lunchtimes outside the Chemistry Building, looking towards Mrak Hall. It’s from Fall, and as you can see those leaves haven’t quite turned yellow and red yet. What happened after this is that they changed colour, and then fell off, and now they are leafless. In a couple of months leaves will come back and the whole things starts over again. Repetitive, predictable. Not many people. This seems like ages ago now, yet at the same time it could be any time. I don’t know; I’ve been in Davis for 12 years now. It’s hard to find new things I want to draw. I suppose I could look at the same world in a new way. To be honest, I just dream of travelling. I want to go everywhere. Well not everywhere, there are some places I don’t want to go. But I want to go most places, and mostly to go and sketch them. I have a wishlist going, top of which is Tokyo, I really want to sketch in Japan. Bruges, I’ve been years ago but I wasn’t sketching back then (1999?). Florence, in fact all over Tuscany. Porto (the urban sketching symposium will be there next year), that would be amazing. For countryside, New Zealand. I don’t know, I want to go everywhere. It’s January, time of wanderlust. I’ve been watching travel shows on YouTube, lots of Rick Steves talks. It’s 2018, twenty years since my five-week train-trip around central Europe. I was 22, I went from London to London. Ok, the trip started in London at Victoria Bus Station, then onto Paris, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Trier, Copenhagen, Aarhus, Hamburg, Lubeck, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Lake Balaton, Vienna, Bratislava (barely), Bodensee, Zurich, Geneva, Lyon, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Epernay and back up to Paris and then London. That was fun, but I really wasn’t drawing those places then (I’d have seen less if I were!). Well, now I’m at the other side of the world, still getting in a fair bit of travel, but there are always more places to go. In the meantime, I’ll keep drawing Davis…