the last few sketches of the year

C St Frat House
It’s New Year’s Eve! Look to the future now, it’s only just begun. I wish it could be New Year’s Eve every day. I don’t really do much for New Year’s Eve, but I do make a point to get out and sketch somewhere, no matter how cold it is. Here are today’s ones. Most sketching I’ve done in a month! My thumb was hurting, so I had to go light on the sketching. Still hurts but wanted to feel productive. I have been trying to teach myself to do digital illustration, the very basics, which has meant a fair bit of tracing as well. Feels very ground-level though so it was nice to get back to sketching, something I feel a bit better at. Bloody windy out today though. It’s 2018 being blown away. I’m not looking forward to 2019 (specifically March, when Britain leaves the EU with no apparent deal in sight), but it’s just numbers on a calendar. I think that it’s just the last year of an unknowable decade. We don’t really have an agreed name for this decade. The last one is sometimes called the ‘noughties’ which is a bit of a rubbish name, and I’ve heard this one called the ‘twenty-tens’ but that just isn’t anything. When we finally hit 2020, and the Twenties, we can get back on track. I’m still not used to being in the ‘twenty-first century’. It’s all just numbers on a calendar. The sketch above, drawn in the wind, C Street Davis. I drew this same building on New Year’s Eve four or five years ago, from a different angle.
back yard
This is my back yard. Apart from the above, I’ve not left the house much this week. I did this before going out to sketch, as if to warm up, and listened to a podcast of Edgar Wright speaking to Adam Buxton, which was really interesting. I really liked that long triangular shadow sneaking across the back fence. New Year’s Eve, I don’t party on New Year’s Eve any more. When I was a kid my family always had a party, or if not us then someone else in our street. When I was in my 20s, I’d sometimes go out on New Year’s Eve, but I also remember the ones in my late teens when I’d just stay in watching Jools Holland and Rab C Nesbitt on my little TV in my bedroom, while drawing football kits. I ain’t changed much!
Playfields park

I did one last sketch, a quick one paint-first while the daylight drew to a close, and my son took part in a smaller soccer practice session at Playfields in Davis. It was cold, windy, brisk, but the boys were just happy to get kicking balls about. As I’m not coaching now, I was happy to just watch and sketch, though I did get cold.

I do have some more 2018 sketches to scan, maybe I’ll do those later tonight (party on!!), but I need to finish assembling the 2018 sketches grid. I do it every year. You may remember from last year (you probably won’t, that’s fine) that I have been doing more and more sketches each year. Here’s the post. Well, I can confirm that this year the sketch-rate went down again, and I could not catch up with 2017, not by a long way. Ah well. Happy New Year 2019!

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christmas crackers

xmas fireplace 2018
Christmas morning, we were up early, opening presents, calling England. Our morning pressie-time is about the time of my London family’s Christmas dinner-time. Then, time to go over to my wife’s family in Santa Rosa for Christmas Day. We have crab for dinner on Christmas Day in Santa Rosa, and I’m always the world’s worst eater of crab, it tastes great but I am such an amateur with the crackers. I did pretty well this year but I live for the broth, I love dipping the bread into that. We have brought the tradition of Christmas Crackers with us from England, along with the hilarious Christmas Cracker jokes. I say hilarious, I mean terrible, but British humour is different from American humour anyway. That said, my five-year-old nephew likes knock-knock jokes, and we always do the ‘interrupting cow’ version (“knock-knock / Who’s there? / The Interrupting Cow / the interruptin/MOOOOO!”) (I got that one from the Vicar of Dibley back in the 90s), and then many other variants (the one I like the most is the ‘interrupting rabbit’, because of course the rabbit doesn’t ‘moooo’ or anything but just makes a noise tapping its foot). Actually my favourite joke EVER sounds like it comes from a Christmas Cracker, but in fact it comes from ‘3001 Jokes For Kids’. It’s the only joke I remember from that book, which I got for Christmas when I was about nine or ten, and to this day is my favourite joke. When I first read it, by myself in my room, I laughed harder than I had ever laughed, and then laughed more. I still find it hilarious. What is the joke? Well if I tell you, promise not to laugh. Well I mean you can laugh at the joke obviously because it’s brilliant and funny, but just not at me for liking the joke so much. Ok, here goes, the best joke of all time, here it is, here goes.

“What is a polygon? A dead parrot.” 

Isn’t that the best?! Many years later in America someone made some reference to the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch being their favourite bit of British humour, and yes it is very funny, the Pythons are my favourites, but it’s not even the funniest dead parrot joke. Polygon is the funniest dead parrot joke. I remember doing maths at school and we had to do shapes and someone used the word polygon, and I laughed so much I had to go to the toilet. When I was in my late teens I visited Strasbourg and the lycee was close to a street called the ‘Route du Polygone’ and every day I would see that sign and laugh so hard, and I tried the French version of the joke, “Que-ce que c’est un polygone? C’est un perroquet mort!” The joke didn’t necessarily translate directly but they laughed at me anyway, and pointed a lot, which I think means it was extra funny. Strasbourg being historically part German I would sometimes impress people with the German version, “Was ist ein Polygon? Ein toter Papagei.” Again the humour isn’t necessarily transferable but I like to think that what I mistook for confused silent stares were in fact their way of saying, wow what a joke, das ist really cool, Pete ist sehr lustig.

snowman xmas tree 2018
Let’s move on from the world’s funniest ever joke (if you are finished laughing about Polly being ‘gone’, if not, take your time). Above, I sketched my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree, which this year was dressed up as a snowman. The hat actually has a history, it was brought over from London by my mum over ten years ago and left at my mother-in-law’s in Santa Rosa, and before that my mum actually got it from my uncle in Belfast, so the hat has a long well-travelled history. I like this snowman tree, and I sketched it while we watched the Water Horse, that movie set in Scotland with the Loch Ness Monster. It reminded me of the Family Ness, that was a cartoon I liked as a kid. Not as funny as the polygon joke but amusing nonetheless. I nearly drew a cartoon many years ago about fish living in a Scottish loch called “Under Loch And Quai”, with a kind of Porridge-like cell-mate dynamic to it, but while the little fishies were fun to draw, I had no actual material other than trying to work in the polygon joke, which doesn’t really work when it’s a cartoon about two fish, because (a) they wouldn’t understand what a parrot is, what with fish being entirely water-bound, and (b) parrots not exactly being aquatic nor common in Scotland. To the underwater community, “Polly” might well be a common name for a frog, for all we know, what with a ‘pollywog’ being another name for a tadpole, albeit more common in America than rural Scotland. So a better version of the joke for two fish to say would be “What is a Polygon? A dead frog.” And you can imagine, this might make two fish roll about in hysterics, but would have us humans just shrugging our shoulders. Maybe humour isn’t as translatable as we think. The only joke I could think of for this cartoon was another one which I may have read in 3001 Jokes For Kids, I don’t remember, but it goes as follows:

FISH 1: “Why are you swimming under the pier?

FISH 2: “Because it is raining.”

christmas is all around

e street plaza davis
Happy Christmas to you all. This is the E Street Plaza in Davis California, decked out with the big tree. This came after a long period of not-sketching. I did this after work, after our office closed for the holidays; I just really wanted to capture a bit of Christmas, and followed this up by the evening sketch at De Vere’s. And now it’s Christmas Eve. Well, it just turned Christmas Day (better get to bed, the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t going to haunt itself). I’ve spent today scoffing cheese, mince pies, turkey, hot chocolate, a couple of beers, pumpkin pie, and the second-worst level of Quality Streets (the strawberry / orange cremes, not the rock-hard toffee ones; it wasn’t a big box, in fact it only had two purple ones and one green triangle, but four toffee pennies? Inequality Street more like.) And of course, watching Christmas movies. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourites, though actually most of it doesn’t take place at Christmas, and in the end they sing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve, bizarrely. Abother one I always watch is Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is probably the best version of that story that exists (the other one I love is the 1970 Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which I feel the Muppets drew from quite heavily. That Ghost of Christmas Future gave me nightmares for years!). One of the reasons I love the Muppet’s version is that Michael Caine plays it so straight, so believably, among all the Muppets, he doesn’t just pretend it’s all a larf. Home Alone is another classic Christmas film we love, my son adores it, so I like it a lot now as well. I have a soft spot for Love Actually as well, silly though it is. It reminds me of London in 2003, and seeing the occasional shots of the skyline, when not even the Gherkin was finished, it makes me very nostalgic for that period right before we moved to America; that was the London I left, the London of Hugh Grant being a bachelor Prime Minister telling American President Billy Bob Thornton to go and do one. We always watch some classic Christmas telly as well: The Snowman, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and the Christmas edition of Father Ted (“and now we move on to liars…”). Of course in proper British Christmas TV someone always dies, at least in Eastenders and Downton Abbey anyway. Now it’s also the time of year when people include Die Hard as one of their favourite Christmas movies, because those people are really clever and perceptive and are the first people to figure out Die Hard was set during Christmas; well done you, here is a prize. One thing that is different over here in California is that we don’t get the special Christmas edition of Radio Times (and/or TV Times), when all the TV listings would be set out like great, epic events. Die Hard With A Vengeance is on at 11pm on ITV two days before Christmas? Set the video timer! Get home early from the pub! And the Queen’s Speech, oh I always loved the Queen’s Speech, though I don’t remember ever actually watching it, as we usually had Christmas dinner at that time and it was the one time of the day when the TV was off (the one time of the year in fact, our TV was always on). I like the idea of the Queen’s Speech but the only thing I remember was the Annus Horribilis bit. And that was because I thought it meant Horrible Bum. And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Bum!

a festive friday

de vere's davis

It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.

on a colourful day

Davis Farmers Market
I’ve been a bit slow with posting this year. My sketching numbers are down too; but then again, 2016 and 2017 were a little hard to beat for sketch volume! I have a fair number of recent sketches still to scan though, but before we get on with those, here are the two I did on the last Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, which was on a lovely sunny-after-the-rain morning at the Farmers Market. The trees were painted in exciting colours. We had a good turn-out, I talked a bit about drawing crowds and perspective (remembering all the things James Richards once taught me). These trees are almost all leafless now, as we hit mid-December. There were a lot of locals out this day, gearing up for the festive season. Below, sketched from almost the same spot but looking in a different direction, across C Street to the rear section of Davis Community Church.
C St Davis