Hampstead on a Sunday Morning

Hampstead High St

It was Sunday morning, and my restless nature meant I had to get out of the house and onto the tube. I decided to get off at Hampstead, one of my favourite hill-based places for a little bit of sketching and shop-going. I love Hampstead in the morning. People going out for breakfast, a tour guide bellowing history to a group of Americans outside the tube station, the little lanes off the High Street filled with cute houses. One of my life’s ambitions was that if I ever got rich I’d live in Hampstead, but you have to be really quite rich to do that nowadays I think. The other ambitions are still a place in Highgate and a place in the South of France, along with California of course, and I have at least lived in those places at some point along the way. I stood across the street from the station, putting my uphill perspective games to good use, not quite believing my good weather luck. Another of my ambitions, which I think would make a good book, is to location-draw every single station on the Northern Line, from Edgware to Morden and back up to High Barnet. Hampstead tube station, the deep red glossy ox-blood tiled building on the corner above, is London’s deepest station, regularly publishing philosophy, attending jazz poetry nights, and having meaningfully long walks along the beach. There are no long escalators here, no, you must use the elevators, or ‘lifts’ as we prefer to call them. After all this time away from England my mind’s vocabulary is slowly starting to flip Stateside – only now do I see the ‘Way Out’ signs on the Underground and think, Hahaha, it’s ‘Exit’, you Hippies. After sketching I went to the EE phone store to try and figure out why my unlimited texts plan was given me so far zero texts, only to find that the EE Store was closed on Sundays, because the Dark Ages. (I ended up finding an open EE store in Edgware, but they couldn’t figure out my texting issue, which is another story I won’t go into here, because it’s not interesting). I did get to go to Waterstones and spend money on books, because I can’t help it, and also go the Cass Arts and spend money on Seawhite of Brighton sketchbooks, because I can’t help myself.

The Flask, Hampstead

I did have to get back home though (via an unproductive pitstop at the EE store in Edgware – so I have an unlocked iPhone 8, and I could call and use data, and text other iPhones through iMessage, but for some reason could not send any texts to other non-iPhone phones, even with EE’s unlimited texts plan. I was unable to solve this the entire time I was back. I tried all sorts of settings on the phone, and the EE man in the store also could not figure it out. I didn’t have this problem with my older Nokia last time I was back.) I had to get back to meet my newest family member, my baby great-niece Frances, for the first time. However I did have some time to do a very quick sketch of the Flask pub in Flask Walk. Last time I came here I was ghost-hunting with my son a few years ago. Didn’t find any ghosts (what with the laws of thermodynamics pretty much disproving their existence – thanks a lot, thermodynamic party-poopers). I didn’t sketch much as you can see, and decided to leave it in the completely unfinished state rather than go back and do more, or finish off from a photo – this was too unfinished to do that. Besides, you get just enough with a sketch like this. That easel at the end of the lane, that was an oil-painting artist who I presume didn’t have to go and sort out his EE unlimited texting plan nor meet a new baby. He is unseen though, like a ghost. Also unseen, the ghosts of late morning brunchers, brunching away, many of them lined up outside the cafe to my right, a popular choice for the Hampstead brunching set, which if my ambitions are ever realized I will be one of them, brunching with a little dog at my heels, still sweaty from my jog across the Heath. Can you still afford brunch if you live in Hampstead? Is the existence of brunchers disproved by the laws of thermodynamics? Well they don’t appear in the sketch so you’ll have to make your own mind up. Brunching makes you feel good.

Hampstead Map

I drew a little map in my sketchbook. The colour scheme implies this is all fields, but of course it isn’t. To the north-west is Holly Hill. Up there somewhere among the ghosts and brunchers is the Holly Bush pub, which I have never been to, though I’ve always wanted to, both to have a drink and also to sketch. I’ll save that ambition for some future trip.

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cinq minutes pour dessiner les gens

5 min sketching people FRENCH

Just wanted to announce actually for my friends in France and le monde francophone, today my book “5 Minutes Pour Dessiner …les Gens” was published in French by Editions Eyrolles! This is of course the translation of “5 Minute Sketching People”, and is my second book translated into French. You can find information about it on the Eyrolles website: https://www.editions-eyrolles.com/Livre/9782212677317/5-minutes-pour-dessiner-les-gens

And it’s on amazon.fr too.

nice propellers, fellas

RAF Hendon Kitty Hawk
The day after arriving in London I joined with the London Urban Sketchers for their latest sketchcrawl, which was at the RAF Museum Hendon (in Colindale), which is very close to my family’s home in Burnt Oak. Despite growing up nearby, I had never actually been inside, not once. It was a lot larger than I expected. There was a very good turnout for the sketchcrawl, and I met a few familiar faces. I actually organized USk London’s first sketchcrawl back in 2012 when that chapter was founded, calling it “Let’s Draw London” after the Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl series I had started, and they have been going ever since, still monthly, in a whole variety of very interesting and diverse locations. There are so many sketchers in London who go out rain or shine. Of course this sketchcrawl was mostly indoors, and I was joined this time by my young sketching apprentice, my 9-year-old nephew Sonny. I had expected him to get bored at some point, as it was a long day of sketching, but not a bit of it – he could have kept drawing for many hours longer than the rest of us. He loved it, and he kept himself very busy, sketching eight planes and chatting away to the other urban sketchers. And he was very proud to get his Urban Sketchers London badge!
RAF Hendon Sonny sketching

The first plane we both sketched was the Curtiss KITTY HAWK III, at the top of this post. With its painted mouth, this was an obvious favourite. We then moved on to draw a couple of others, the small red CHIPMUNK plane which is post-WWII, and had cool black and white striped propellers, which must have created a great effect while spinning. The sketchcrawl co-organizer John told me that he actually used to fly one of these, which was pretty impressive to me (I’m always impressed by pilots). Next to it was the golden yellow HARVARD, which I think was actually American but I didn’t read the label. Always read the label Pete, seriously! Someone did say to me, “well that’s the Harvard, which of course is American, because ‘Harvard’, see” and I kept thinking, well the university is American but John Harvard was from England, he went to school in Southwark, but I didn’t mention that because 17th century emigrants didn’t really have a lot to do with 20th century aviation and I’d sound like a twat. Also, I kept thinking about trying to use the word ‘mans-planing’ at some point that day, the situation where a man explains to a woman what aeroplanes do, but I didn’t have the imagination to seek that scenario out. Also, I have just realized that chipmunks have stripey backs, which totally planesplains the stripey propeller. See, who needs to read the labels?
RAF Hendon Chipmunk and Harvard
I liked working on the perspective sketching these, vehicles up close is good practice. Below is the TORNADO, which is one of my absolute favourite planes. When I was in primary school (not far from here, at Goldbeaters), pupils were divided into four houses, which were if memory serves ‘Phantoms’ (green), ‘Jaguars’ (blue), Harriers (red, I think?) and ‘Tornadoes’ (yellow). I was in the Tornadoes. We would get House Points for all sorts of things, sometimes for sporting achievements (we would be split into our houses on sports day), but also good behaviour, good academic work, and other such things. If I recall I got us a few House Points for drawing, but not as many for sporting prowess (I was good at chess though). Anyway, that’s why I like Tornadoes.
RAF Hendon Tornado
Quick five-minute sketch of the enormous Lancaster bomber, which I will definitely attempt again some time, it is an enormous flying fortress. It brought to mind the great flying battleships of Castle In The Sky, one of my favourite Miyazaki films. Also, the first part I drew was the round bit at the front, the one with the strange screaming emoji face on it.
RAF Hendon Lancaster
When I was a kid my older sister dated a guy named Neil Frogget for a while, and he worked at British Aerospace, as an engineer I think, he may have made the tea for all I know (I’m not very inquisitive, I never ask questions about what people do, I would have been a terrible journalist). When he came to visit once he brought me all these posters of modern British fighter planes, which I hung on my wall and tried to design new, faster, more weapon-filled versions. I was a little bit into jet fighter planes (yet ironically as a kid I was scared of flying, until I was 10 when I finally took a plane to Spain, and have been flying all over the world ever since). I loved those toy flying plane made out of cheap easily-breakable polystyrene with the little plastic propeller on the front, and they came in all models, the most sought after of course being the Spitfire. Yet I still didn’t visit RAF Hendon. The World War II flying machines were very much part of our local lore – RAF Hendon is at the site of the great Hendon Aerodrome, which spanned the area now covered by (the notorious) Grahame Park Estate, itself named after flying legend Claude Grahame-White. He had established a flying school here in 1911. Of course when we think of the RAF, you can’t help but think of its most famous hour, the Battle of Britain, and when you think of the Battle of Britain you of course think of the Hawker Hurricane, and the forever popular Spitfire. So my last two sketches are of those. By this point I started a new sketchbook, closing the Seawhite and starting another Stillman & Birn (“Sketchbook 32” in the new categorization).
RAF Hendon Hawker Hurricane
RAF Hendon Spitfire

And here are some of the sketches my nephew Sonny did. He was really good at reading the labels and getting all the names right. He also wrote down the names of the sketchers he met so he could remember them when talking to them at the end (smart lad). Newest urban sketcher!img_0870edited.jpg

A fun time was had by all. I can’t wait to get back there sketching the planes again. I won’t have time this summer to organize another ‘themed’ London sketchcrawl, so it was really enjoyable to take part in this one.
The next posts of my sketches will be mostly London-themed. I did manage to get quite a lot of drawing done while I was back there, some of which needs finishing off with a bit of colour, some I need to draw little maps for, but I will be posting Davis sketches in the meantime. The trip was tiring, but energizing, and I’m expecting to keep the sketch-momentum going. First though, I have to get over the jet-lag…

Also posted on Urban Sketchers London

Up in the sky again

Flight Sketch 021419
I took a quick trip to England for family stuff, and any trip of course means getting out the little ‘Lapin’ Miquelrius notebook which has for many years now been dedicated to the in-flight sketch. The paper is fun to draw on, less good to add paint on (and I’m getting less good at painting on it). Both flights were Virigin Atlantic, the outbound one was one of the newer flights again, I sat by the window, I didn’t get up, my legs hurt. I find it so uncomfortable to sit on those seats now for long periods, or rather I find it uncomfy when I try to sleep. I watched ‘Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom’ on the way over, which I suppose was like being asleep. When I landed at Heathrow my body ached, and then I sat in slow stop-start traffic for a couple of hours across London which was worse. I need to get one of those lie-flat seats in upper class. The flight back was in one of the older planes, and those seats are actually more comfortable, though the legroom is still minimal. And I love how people have massive hand luggage that can barely fit in the overhead lockers, and also bring another bag that definitely can’t go under the seats. My immediate neighbours were not those type, thankfully, and it’s always a sigh of relief to have good flight neighbours. The flight itself was smooth on the way back, the food was good (which I’m glad about, as I rushed to the flight, only just making it, and didn’t pick up a sandwich from Boots on the way). I used the opportunity to add some paint to my London sketch from the night before, a pub sketch from Soho, and I discovered that my airline seat was exactly the same width as my Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape skecthbook. It was great to be back home in London, my favourite city, and also to spend time with family in Devon, and it was also great to be back home in California.
Flight Sketch 022419

in between the storms

amtrak sketch feb2019

This is a bit different. I drew this from the window of the Amtrak and didn’t use pen, just paint and a bit of pencil, speeding away from Davis across the delta to Richmond. I haven’t got my scanner so I took a photo, hence the ‘no-scanner’ look to this. We had huge storms in California, really heavy downpours and strong winds, causing flooding in a lot of areas. The lands around the Delta were pretty bepuddled, and the dramatic skies in between the two rounds of the storm were something to paint. It was a stress-reliever to to this, it always is.

sketching the same scene twelve years apart

silo feb 2019
Today is my fourteenth birthday. Sorry, I mean today is the fourteenth birthday I am having since I moved to America. Fourteen birthdays in California. I counted them, and it’s fourteen of them in total. In terms of my life it’s a bit like, was there really football before the Premier League? And of course there was, but we only quote records since the Premier League started these days. It was a good reboot point, a good place for newcomers to jump on board the story without knowing years of character history, like a new issue #1 in Marvel Comics terms (they do that a lot). And I have just realized, the top flight of English football has been called the Premier League for nearly two thirds my life now. You start measuring your life in halves and thirds and quarters, and wow those quarters become thirds pretty quickly. Fourteen birthdays in America is a third of all the birthdays I’ve ever had. I don’t like doing anything for my birthday any more, it’s just one more day of aging, same as yesterday and tomorrow, but with cake. I do get anxious leading up to it though, thinking about all the years, all the different phases of existence, who I was, who I will be, all that stuff. Some people look through photo albums at their old selves, but of course I look through the old sketchbooks. I have an album on my computer (also a Flickr album) of all my Davis sketches and it takes me through a journey of staying in one place. Interesting to see how my drawing has developed, gone one way, back another, but not quick obvious changes. A sketch is a series of decisions based on decisions I’ve made before. Above, yesterday’s lunchtime sketch. It’s the view of the Silo from Rock Hall, UC Davis. Below, the same view from the same spot on the same date February 6, but twelve years earlier (and Rock Hall was the Chemistry lecture hall back then). Above, sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, below sketched in a WH Smith sketchbook. Some things have changed. That grass is gone. The general view is not all that different though, unlike some of the recent sketches I’ve posted with more dramatic changes. Will I sketch this again on February 6th 2031?
silo um mittag

the delta of venus on B street

delta of venus
This is the Delta of Venus on B Street, Davis. I sketched it over lunchtime while the weather was taking a quick break from the winter storms. It’s been rainy, it’s been windy. In fact I had to stop this sketch before I could colour it because the rain started up again, along with very small hailstones. I added the paint later on while my son practiced soccer. Delta of Venus is not a place I go very often – actually I don’t go anywhere very often, but it’s been a few years since I last popped in for a sandwich – but I have sketched it once before. Not much has changed. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking over my massive file of Davis sketches. I have done a lot of drawing since I moved here at the end of 2005. It’s almost annoying looking over it. Here is another like so many others, a building, across the street, something in the foreground. There will be more just like it. However this summer I will be going somewhere very different – Amsterdam! I was able to secure registration for the 10th annual International Urban Sketching Symposium. I’m pretty excited – I’ve not been to Amsterdam in twenty years, and never ever sketched the place. For sure, there will be some time in Belgium as well (I’ve not been there in a decade). It’ll be great sketching Amsterdam, it’s so different from Davis. Amsterdam is flat and full of bikes whereas Davis is… more drink! That’s a Father Ted reference for those who need footnotes. There will be more just like it.