Let’s go back in time again to January. January was when we were nearly at war with Iran, and Australia was burning, and Trump was in the middle of his impeachment, and we thought wow, the 2020 season is starting strong, lots of big news, maybe the rest of the year will be quiet. Well here we are. When I thought ‘quiet’ I didn’t mean ‘stuck at home for months, no travel, no sports, school from home, working from the bedroom, uncertainty and unhappiness, paranoia and panic, anxiety and antagonism’ but here we are. Oh well. Above is a sketch I did of the Silo at UC Davis, scene of a million sketches of mine, place of having lunch. They were redoing the roof, it’s all done now I think. It was freezing cold that day; a few days before I had been swimming in the middle of the Pacific on Maui, so chilly Davis was a comedown. Fast forward to June, Davis is 100 degrees Fahrenheit now and I’m stuck in my bedroom.
Here are some people, sketching around the Silo in January, along with the following obligatory comment about “ooh they aren’t social distancing, we didn’t even know what that was back then, oh how the world has changed” etc: Ooh, they aren’t social distancing. We didn’t even know what that was back then! Oh how the world has changed. But this is not a drawing of a crowd, each of these people was drawn individually at different moments. I could have drawn them standing on each others’ heads but they weren’t. So don’t worry about it, it’s not a photo of Bournemouth beach or anything. That said, yes it was back in January, and while none of these people have them on, a lot of our students and faculty from China were already wearing masks, having experienced outbreaks of contagious disease before. Fast-forward to now, I like wearing my mask, personally. I can’t use it while exercising, which for me is running, but I wear it when I’m outside even walking the neighbourhood. I rarely go into shops but I wear it there. I did have to run some soccer tryout events this past week, following strict protocols on social distancing, and I had to wear it at almost all times in my capacity as a coach (I took it off to run during the warm-up – it was 100 degrees out! – and to drink my water, but kept it on while attempting to give loud but muffled instructions). The mask means I can do funny voices more, like Bane or Doctor Doom or Brian Clough. (Can you imagine Brian Clough as Doctor Doom? “Oh that FOOL Revie, oh he may have beaten Galactus but it doesn’t count because he did it by CHEATING. If superhero battles were meant to be fought in space God would have put New York city streets in the sky. Now I wouldn’t say I was the best scientific mind/super-villain/supreme god-emperor in the Marvel Universe, but I’d say I was in the Top 1.” Brian Von Doom. They both liked wearing green. I can’t imagine Cloughie wearing a mask though, but I bet Don Revie wished he did.
I drew this, the Academic Surge building next to the one where I work, during a lunchtime in later January. They really like large rectangular arches. There was a sale on at the large rectangular arch shop, and it was buy one get one free at the dark window store, so with the money they saved there they got the biggest massive cylinder they could find at Massive Cylinders R Us.
The day before I went to the gym (remember the gym?) which at UC Davis is the ARC, where I would go regularly while exercising and losing weight. Now the only only exercise I am doing is running – I set myself goals in terms of miles per month that I have been hitting, although now I have to run early in the morning or not at all, to beat this damn heat – and eating doughnuts. Technically that last thing isn’t exercising but there’s a global pandemic on, what you gonna do. But I would love to get back to the routine of going to the gym, going on that elliptical thing (where I watch Netflix Formula One shows or that amazing Dark Crystal series), doing the rowing machine, squashing all my stuff into a small locker. This is the blue Aggie fire truck. It’s not an in-use fire truck any more, but belongs to the UCD Athletics dept. I have drawn it before. They sue it in the big parades and to promote sports at UC Davis. Kids love fire trucks. My son went through the whole fire truck phase, it’s when I started drawing them loads. He loved visiting the fire station, meeting the firefighters who were always happy to meet the local kids, they even had special ‘baseball cards’ with each of the firefighters on which kids could collect. They were fun days, when you could make their day by just walking past the fire station and seeing the doors open so you could see the ladder truck and all the others. Those really were the days. I’ve a lot of respect for firefighters, especially in the past few years where fires have been such a terrible thing in California (and elsewhere), but I do really like to draw a firetruck.
Moving around campus, it was a very rainy day when I stood under a tree and tried to draw this end of Freeborn Hall, home of the legendary local radio station KDVS. I have known several people involved with KDVS over the years, it is a proper institution, and I’ve always wanted to go and sketch their record room, where they keep all their huge supplies of music, it looks amazing. However I must confess, I don’t listen to the radio. I haven’t listened to the radio in years. When I was a kid I would listen to the radio a lot, in fact when I was 10 I wanted to be a radio DJ. In 1986, a radio DJ was approximately the number 1 job in the country, right up there with The Queen or Gary Lineker. I liked Capitol Radio, and used to listen to Steve Wright, and I would record songs from the radio and then with my twin cassette player. You remember those! One of the tape decks would be just play only, the other one had play and record (hold them down together), and don’t forget to put the little tab out of the cassette so you can’t tape over it later. Come to think of it, I only had a single tape player, my mum had the double player, I used to borrow it all the time to copy-record tapes. Remember having to do that, to record a tape or make a playlist you’d be playing the whole thing, listening as you go along, a much more organic way than nowadays with your digital playlists. Look how much we have gained, but what have we lost?! Anyway I would record myself talking like I was on the radio, no idea what I would have said back then. I probably put on that radio voice too, the one where all “t” sounds become “d” sounds, my mum would listen to Capital Gold. Remember Capital Gold? This is one for Londoners. It played all the old songs from the 60s, which to me then as a kid in the 80s seemed like a million years ago. Tony Blackburn was on it, and David Hamilton. One of my favourite radio-themed things though was a board game I had, Mike Read’s Pop Quiz. It may be one of the most 1980s things you ever see. I also wanted to be a football commentator. It’s funny because I really don’t like listening to recordings of myself speak. Fast forward to 2020 (and we all remember how slow fast forward was on those old cassette players) and we have Zoom and so on, and I had to record a presentation where I gave a virtual sketch tour of Davis for new students, and I really say “um” and “er” a lot, even when I’m scripted. I have considered making YouTube videos about my Davis sketches, a tour of the town and a little sketch demo, but I can’t listen to myself talk right now. Maybe I need to do more funny voices. So, no radio DJ career for me, but that’s ok, I haven’t turned on a radio in years. I do listen to a lot of podcasts though.
Ok nearly done with January campus sketches now, this is Roessler Hall, as drawn from next to the Physics building. Always reminds me of the brilliant East German striker Uwe Roessler, who used to play for Man City back when they were heroic and rubbish, but had amazing Umbro and Kappa kits. I think that 97-99 Man City kit is one of the greatest kits of all time. They also had this player from Georgia back when foreign players were still a bit new, and Georgia was a new exotic independent country: Georgi Kinkladze. He was on the City team at the same time as Roessler, and they were exciting to watch, but ultimately terrible, getting relegated in 1996. Roessler and Kinkladze stuck around as they failed to get promoted, but eventually City came back up to the Premier League a few years after they both left, in the year 2000 (this is like talking about the 60s to a kid in the 80s, I feel like Tony Blackburn) (Wait till you hear about Blackburn Rovers!), but then went straight back down again, because City were really bad, like way worse even than Spurs were at the time. Now they have tons of oil cash and Pep Guardiola and Noel Gallagher has a secret portal to their dressing room, but I quite liked them when they were heroically shite.
And finally, a quick sketch of the Student Housing building. I drew a lot in January. Right I’m off to play Mike Read’s Pop Quiz, with my mask on.
Social distancing. Masks. Second wave. Spike. Testing. Contact tracing. We’re entering that odd phase where things are reopening, kind of, but we aren’t all in the same sort of ready yet. I know I’m not particularly ready for the world yet, but I don’t know if I ever was. This next few months will be hard. Still staying in, working full-time from my bedroom, yet occasionally having to be around groups of people for various things (such as youth soccer tryouts), everyone having different levels of social comfort, and different expectations, it’s a bit uncomfortable. But I will get back out with a sketchbook. I’ve already started, but working from home I’m less inclined than when I work at the office, because I can spend lunchtime on the couch watching the restarted fake-crowd-noise Premier League. I’m teaching my son French too, which is fun, as my French is very rusty. I suppose absolute beginners French I can still just about handle, although I told him to learn the French numbers rather than the Belgian ones, even though the Belgian numbering system makes more sense and is easier to remember. Come on, ‘nonante-neuf’ is easier to explain than ‘quatre-vingt-dix-neuf’. This will be a summer without travel to places where we can practice it though, so no real-life ordering pains-au-chocolat for breakfast at the boulangerie. I thought about using Tricolore to teach him, you remember Tricolore, the textbook we all used at school, where we learned our way around La Rochelle. In the end I went with another simple book, and I’m also creating a bunch of handwritten exercises on my iPad using cartoons of cats that I am drawing. A cat called “Ronron”. I think I’m enjoying it the most, but then I loved learning new languages as a kid, this whole idea that other words and ways of thinking existed beyond just the ones I experienced. German is still my favourite foreign language that I learned, and I’m getting back into learning Italian, which I did a GCSE evening course in while we still lived in London. Enough about language. I’m still watching Shakespeare at the Globe on YouTube, the Midsummer Night’s Dream production was funny, as was the Merry Wives of Windsor, one bloke in both was Pearce Quigley, he was very funny and his comedic northerner style of performance worked great in that intimate Globe setting.
But back to Davis. I suppose I should post here my pre-Covid sketches, of which there are plenty. I may be totally slowed down on the sketching front now, and officially months behind the same point last year, but I started fairly furiously. However I will just post one here now – the Old City Hall, Davis, also known currently as the City Hall Tavern. Well I say currently – it was announced recently that this bar, along with the longer standing restaurant Bistro 33 on the other side of the building, will not be reopening. I’m sure the coronavirus is partly to blame, but the building did get new owners recently and the lease for the restaurant and bar was expiring anyway. Still it is always a shame to see local businesses close. I have drawn the building many times, and I’ve drawn inside the bar a few times too, although it’s been years since I ate at the restaurant (I liked their creme brulee). I wonder what it will be next. Knowing Davis, a frozen yogurt shop. Or another bar and restaurant. I do know that it used to be a police station, and a fire station, and this part was used as a gallery space when I first came here. Oh and of course it was the old city hall.
They are nearly done with Walker Hall, the new Graduate Center at UC Davis being built inside the completely renovated and changed older building in the middle of the UC Davis campus. I’ve been drawing it for a few years, though obviously not much in the past few months. I will get down there again soon. In 2020 I only managed these two sketches, one on the iPad and one in the sketchbook. There are only so many angles I can draw and draw again, looking in from the outside, but you can really see the changes now. The glass is being added to the windows, signs being put up around it to let everyone know what this will be, it will really make a difference to this part of campus, just as the impressive Student Community Center next door has done.
I get really obsessed with construction projects sometimes, especially if they are just a couple of minutes from my work (and easy to draw at lunchtime). It’s also that thing where you’ve drawn so much of campus and city that anything new, any changes happening, are worth tracking in a sketchbook. Before and after are fine, but during a construction you get to see things in a very temporary state. When I draw the Manetti Shrem being built, I captured views that I would never have another chance to sketch even later the same day. When using a sketchbook to record them, you are seeing them how your mind sees them, focusing on what you can. This is then also a record of how you saw the construction, what you thought was important enough to put on paper; same with every sketch.
You can see all the other Walker Hall sketches in this tag: https://petescully.com/tag/walker-hall/
And so, it’s time to start catching up with 2020’s sketching posts. This one was done in late February, back in the golden age of being able to crowd together in close proximity to other humans, not knowing any better. This was drawn at the Avid Reader bookstore on a momentous occasion, the moment ownership of this long-time Davis staple passed from Alzada Knickerbocker to the Arnold family, a local family here in Davis. I of course had to go along. This was the first place I worked in America, Alzada was my first boss. I had two jobs here at first, partly working the store, and partly being the shop’s bookkeeper (which was the same job I did for a small independent bookshop in England before I moved out here). It was only part-time but it got me started, and shortly afterwards I started working full-time for the university (in the same department I am still working in), but I remained here on Saturdays and a couple of evenings per week, working at the little desk under the stairs behind a pile of Ingrams invoices. I hadn’t worked there since just before my son was born, so it’s been a long time, but I always popped in to say hello. I have been back in my official capacity as artist a few times to give talks or exhibit sketches. It was nice to go in and see Alzada off after all these years, and welcome in the new owners. I was surprised to see one of my old drawings of the shop in a frame on display at the counter, a piece of the history there. Unfortunately in less than a month the world was hit by the coronavirus and everything closed up, but they have been doing business and recently opened up again to the public, albeit with all the social distancing rules. But look at this, a crowded shop, with wine and sandwiches and people looking over my shoulder; we didn’t know, though we were being warned, but it wasn’t yet real to us. I had already been to hospital that month though – a couple of weeks earlier (on my birthday in fact) I was in the emergency room with a nasal infection that grew rapidly, and thankfully got under control within about a fortnight, but was pretty painful (as well as unsightly). In the hospital, which was pretty busy even pre-Covid 19, everyone was asked to disclose where they had travelled in the past few weeks, and hand sanitizer was doubled up, but this was still the pre-mask time, and since I was not contagious I was free to go to the soccer tournament the next day, full of people in close contact, seems hard to imagine now. I was heavily tanked up on medicine though, and exhausted much of the time, but our under-12 team did well and came third overall (though I think we had a good shot at winning it, we just missed out in the semi-finals in high winds to the team who eventually won it; still, a third place medal was a good finish). Our season was put on hold in mid-March, and eventually cancelled, including the Davis World Cup tournament which I was on the organizing committee for (I had spent a long time designing the logo! I’ll have to reuse it next year). This year has been a shame. But I am glad to see the Avid Reader is still going through all this, and wish the new owners the Arnolds all the very best in keeping this shop at the heart of the community, as well as wishing Alzada the best in a well-deserved retirement.
Well the living room is all back to normal now I suppose and people are starting to go outside again, places are starting to slowly open up once more, and 2020 is starting to settle down into – no, no, this just in, 2020 is still a diabolical disco of dumpster fires mixed up with a party of poopy diapers dancing around a carnival of crap. 24 hour mental anguish, thy name is 2020. I’ve been feeling the weight of the world lately, the missing life in this bleak year. I can’t take any more news, or opinions, or anger, or politics, or lack-of-context-and-nuance-this-person-has-said-this-one-thing-so-scorch-them-from-the-earth, or this disease, this bloody disease, still racking up the numbers and not caring one jot about the angers and opinions of us puny humans. And the second half of the year will bring an election upon us, so no more watching TV shows with advert breaks in our house. But, small but important comforts – we have our living room back, and we can lie on the couch avoiding the news and turning off social media (ha! as if) and watching Shakespeare and HGTV and the Bundesliga. Football, football, football. The Premier League is finally back next week too, to give my mind a rest from all the real chaos and anger in the world, though speaking of which when is Tottenham’s Amazon show coming out? That will be a feast, though probably painful for such an avid Spurs fan as myself, given the season we’ve had. Formula 1 is coming back too, and not soon enough. I have watched so many old races. I rewatched the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix last week, oooh I had forgotten how crashorrific that race was, but also that they could just jump in the spare car and carry on! I miss watching F1 in the 90s though, I was well into it then. I’ve enjoyed the Shakespeare too, I’ve decided I want to build a Lego version of the Globe and put on little animated versions of the plays. I really liked the Globe’s production of the Merry Wives of Windsor, the silly performances really working with the crowd, and I watched the Donmar’s Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston, that was good, though I admit I never finished it because it was long and I wasn’t really into it, I just really enjoyed the staging and the occasional Hiddleston histrionics. I cant wait for all the plays and movies and everything about this lockdown period, the COVID age, the Coronavirus times. I’m kidding, I definitely am not looking forward to those things. I’m also not looking really forward to the many ways they will restage Shakespeare as set during the time of lockdown, though you could have some fun with it. Shelter-In-Place-Shakespeare, the Social Distancing versions. The Merry Wife of Windsor, The One Gentleman of Verona, Romeo, and Juliet (staged as two separate plays – actually that might work really well) etc etc and so on. It’s not limited to Shakespeare. There’s Six Characters In Search of a Zoom Host (Pirandelli), Abigail’s Google Hangout (Leigh), the Caucasian Social Distancing Chalk Circle (Brecht, I’m stretching that one a bit, but he was into his Verfremdungstechnik so he’s fine with a bit of distancing) and of course Six Degrees of Separation (Guare, which speaks for itself). It’s not just with Shakespeare that I’ve been getting through this time, I’ve also been running a lot more than usual. It helps when I’ve got a head full of news, when the world seems too much, running and running and running is a good way to shake it off. And if you think “hey that’s very healthy of you,” I’m here to tell you that donuts are a good way as well.
And here’s my son’s room, it’s very much a not-quite-teenage boy’s room, it’s also where he’s been doing all of his distance-learning schooling (until this week – he just left elementary school and will start middle school at the end of summer, in person we hope) Sure his room is not exactly tidy, but it’s considerably less messy than my room at the same age. I think at that age I may have still been sharing with my brother, who had on and off times of living at home (he’s ten years older than me). I remember we had bunkbeds and he would come home at all hours and he’d be sat on my bed playing Donkey Kong. He and my uncle would play tricks on me, such as holding my arm down the side of the bed and writing rude words all over it and sending me downstairs, haha. I remember he used to kick the bottom of my bed from below for a laugh, until one time it actually collapsed in on top of him, and that was a laugh, I still bring that one up. Fun times! One time I thought I’d play a trick on him and set up a trap above the bedroom door, I placed some empty bottles (plastic, not glass) above the door so that when he opened it they would all fall on his head. The problem is, he didn’t come home that night, I think he crashed at a mate’s gaff, and so my mum came in in the morning to wake me up, the bottles fell on her and broke her glasses. Whoops! As you can imagine I was in big, big trouble. I think the neighbours were woken up by the shouting, I mean the neighbours in the neighbouring counties. My brother laughed so much when he found out, he still brings that one up. Fun times! I used to draw that bedroom too, years ago. I wonder if I can find any old drawings from back then, probably. Well, these are the last ones of the house I’ll be doing for a while, now I can sketch outside when I need to. Thing is, I don’t know that I have missed sketching Davis much. I’ve drawn it so much already. Who am I kidding, I say that all the time and yet I always find things to draw! So in the next few posts, I’ll show some of the Davis sketches I did in the earlier part of 2020 before we were all ordered home. I miss the old outside world, as it was. But at least we have the living room back.
And juts to bring us up to speed, here are the rest of my Maui sketches. This one above was done in the historic town of Lahaina, on the northwest edge of Maui. Maui seems like two different islands joined at the hip. There were some interesting old buildings here, and we stopped into Duke’s for a Lava Pie because Lava Pie is most delicious. In the Lahaina Banyan Court square there was this enormous old tree, I couldn’t not at least try to draw it. It is the oldest living tree in Maui, and the largest Banyan tree in Hawaii (and in my opinion, the world). It was there sprawling all over the place like a big sprawly thing, providing loads of lovely shade for all the little chickens running around it.
So New Year’s Eve was pretty great, we were on the beach watching a massive fireworks display shot from a flotilla ships just off the coast. It was as if the sky was celebrating a fantastic new year that was going to be brilliant from start to finish, the best ever year ever, or something. Twenty Twenty! Two thousand and actual twenty!
Well it started well, on Maui. So, our hotel – the Grand Wailea – was amazing. The statue below was in it. The beach was amazing, especially the sunsets.
On New Year’s Day 2020 we got up, went into the ocean and looked forward to an unforgettable year. This was the first sketch I did in the year, of the gardens in the resort. It was very peaceful. That evening we went to a luau, a traditional music and food celebration. I enjoyed drinking the Blue Hawaii and Mai Tais.
Next day we drove down to another beach a little further south, Makena Beach. Another stunning place looking out to the small volcanic crater island of Molokini and the sparsely populated and hard to pronounce Kaho’olawe, which is the smallest of the eight main islands of Hawaii.
So, this was all I sketched. Apart from a couple I drew on my iPad when we landed on Maui. We spent about an hour and a half sitting in the car hire place where the line went extremely slowly. Really ridiculously slowly. Like, don’t bother renting from them again slowly. Still, I had time to draw this guy wearing a shirt covered in pictures of what I think were fried eggs and bits of spinach.
I know this isn’t much of a travelogue i should probably have had lots of interesting anecdotes and maybe even reviewed the Ululani shave ice (it was ok, I preferred Tobi’s), but we were on vacation, dudes, so all you get are these sketches and this one last photo. It was at the luau, where they were cooking a pig in a traditional way, and then taking the cooked pig out and showing it to everyone before carving it up and eating it (I don’t eat pork but I enjoyed the ceremonious occasion; poor piggy though). One of the best things I ate in Maui though was actually a vegan Beyond Burger from the Bistro Molokini restaurant.
Yep, Hawaii was pretty special.
After Christmas on Hawaii, we flew one island to the west to spend New Years on Maui. What a beautiful place! It’s pretty spectacular. I still can’t believe that 2020, the most rubbish of years, started for us on this tropical paradise. It’s like we used up all our good year points in one go just by being here a few days. Well it was worth it. We stayed at a beautiful resort – the Grand Wailea – enjoying the pool and the beach and the amazing scenery. On the second-to-last day of 2019 we drove over to the east side of Maui, along the Road To Hana. The Road To Hana is a famous winding road alongside spectacular coastline and tropical jungle. Near the start of The Road we stopped at the beautiful Ho’okipa Beach to watch enormous waves. I mean, look at that view. It’s one of the most jaw-dropping places I’ve ever been. I love watching all the surfers, though even these waves were pretty wild and not for the faint hearted. There were a few sea turtles lounging on the beach, this is a well-known spot where the honu hang out.
So the Road to Hana was full of twists and turns, like a twisty turny thing, and we actually only made it about halfway before it was time to turn back. This being December it would get dark before we could return if we went all the way to Hana itself, so we’ll save that for a future visit. However we made a couple of other really fun stops along the way. Firstly we stopped at Twin Falls, hiking a little way to see some interesting looking waterfalls along a river. I loved the sound of the bamboo trees knocking together in the breeze. We had fruit smoothies and coconut at the farm shack afterwards.
But I think our favourite stop of all was at a lush tropical arboretum called the Garden of Eden. We spent a good while walking about its paths, enjoying all the colourful flowers and tall bamboos, its sudden vistas of waterfalls or drops into the ocean, its huge banyan trees with knotted roots. The park was designed in 1991 by arborist Alan Bradbury and really feels like a beloved family-run place. Well worth the visit, every second of it. https://mauigardenofeden.com/
And this view right here was seen in Jurassic Park (the first one, still one of my favourite films), when they first arrive by helicopter.
We did have some food before leaving though. Right next door was the smell of some tasty barbecue, so we stopped and had what I can only describe as proper Hawaiian comfort food. Dudes, this was a platter of meats (chicken for me, my wife had the pork) and veg served on leaves on a massive chunk of bamboo, with barbecued banana topped with whipped cream to finish. That banana was heaven, it really was.
And finally, on the way back we stopped in the small beach town of Paia, for some delicious shave ice at Tobi’s Shave Ice. I tell you, this was the best shave ice I had in Maui. Everyone talks about Ululani’s, but I much prefer Tobi’s.
I’ll put the rest of my Maui sketches and pictures of food in a different post I think, because this one particular day was Maui enough. Needless to say, we went to a luau, we saw a lot of golden sunsets, played in a lot of waves, had a lot more shave ice, and more than enough cocktails to make up for the fun that would be 2020. Yep, Maui’s very nice.
Yesterday I went downtown for the first time in three months, joining the Black Lives Matter march from Community Park. There was a sizable crowd that seemed to increase by every block, all wearing face masks (I social-distanced as much as possible – this was the most people I have been around since the shelter-in-place began), with many hand-drawn signs in support of justice for black people recently killed by police officers, particularly George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Cars and buses honked in support as they went past. We marched down F Street, and I tried to sketch as I went, but that was actually very difficult, all I managed were some scribbled figures, so I added in a lot more details and signs later on from the pictures I took. We circled round to Central Park, before circling about the downtown streets. The crowd then went on to march outside the Davis police station, though I ended up staying downtown (I stopped into the Soccer and Lifestyle shop, now open to the public again, to see how they are doing – the shelter-in-place has been very hard on small businesses). I’m so glad I went along on the march, it was very heartening to see so many – young, old and those of us in the middle – out expressing their voices in support of our black friends and neighbours. Yesterday afternoon, the Davis police chief announced a change in their use of force policy, a very positive step. This past couple of weeks have been a big moment in this country and the constant shock news has been often very difficult to process. It’s been emotional for everyone, feelings of anger and sorrow, on top of everything else this year is throwing at us. Marching even for that short while, just being around people again, and hearing so many voices speak out in solidarity with the black community, was the right thing to do.
Mele Kalikimaka! It’s Christmas Day in Hawaii. We got up and did all the Christmas stuff, and then went to meet up with some others for a bit of lunch and some Christmas day drinks, followed by an afternoon in the ocean. It was cloudier, even a bit rainy, but in a Hawaii way, not a British way. Swimming in a warm ocean is definitely not something you do in England on Christmas day, nor even in California. Hawaii’s pretty nice. I didn’t bring my sketchbook into the ocean. I did do a little bit of sketching at the ancient Hawaiian petroglyph preserve at Waikoloa, a sacred rocky ground filled with carved patterns on the stone.
I also drew this green fire hydrant nearby to our rented house, it’s lovely isn’t it.
On Boxing Day (which is not what Americans call it but I’m British) we took a drive down the side of the Big Island, going to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau national historical park (https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm), which was fairly spectacular. It is an ancient Hawaiian place of refuge, where those broke a law (or ‘kapu’) could flee to evade punishment. Some beautiful old Hawaiian kii protector statues and tikis, as well as demonstrations of traditional Hawaiian building and craftwork.
Here are a few photos from the preserve. The rocky black lava fields that meet the sea were home to so much wildlife, especially the big honu, the beautiful sea turtles that are so symbolic of Hawaii.
Afterwards we spent a rainy day along the Kona coast, visiting a coffee plantation, stopping off in a little town called Kealakekua, having lunch at Annie’s Burgers & Beer (the beer was delicious, the vegan ‘taro burger’ I had was much less my cup of tea), looking at ukuleles in a little music shop, and trying chocolate covered ‘donkey balls’. Not real donkey balls of course, they’re actually nuts. Not those sort of nuts. Check them out here: https://donkeyballstore.com/
We finished off the day with a beer at Kona Brewing in Kailua-Kona. It was pretty crowded there, and looking back in this time of social distancing, it seems like a long time until we are in such close quarters and having pints and pizzas again. I like the Big Island. The last thing I drew there on our trip was this hibiscus flower, one of many blooming around our house. Mele Blooming Kalikimaka!
2020 has been a big pile of farts wrapped inside a cake of poo mixed into a giant bowl of wee. And just when you think it can’t hold any more beer, every day just keeps asking it to hold its beer. Why will no day this year hold its own beer? Is it too much to ask to maybe just put your beer on a table or maybe don’t do the thing you were going to do that requires you to not hold a beer? Go home 2020, you are drunk. But you’ll have to walk because there are no cabs, and you better be in before the curfew starts.
2019 ended so well, at least for me. We spent the final days of the year in Hawai’i, in a tropical paradise sipping cocktails in the pool and playing the ukulele in the ocean. It seems like an extravagant piece of fantasy fiction now; if you try to visit Hawai’i these days you have to quarantine for two weeks, and your hotel gives you a one-time-only key that lets you into your room but not back again if you deign to leave it. Cheers 2020 you utter *!#*%!. Happily I did start the year with my feet in the ocean. It was only ever going downhill from there.
So, finally I’ll post some of the sketches I did while there. I didn’t do too many, as I was pretty busy sipping cocktails and playing the ukulele in the ocean, but of course I draw whenever I can so here are a few. Above, sketched on the flight to Kahului in Maui, where we would change before flying to Kona on the west side of Hawai’i, the Big Island. We were spending Christmas there – you can see I have spelled “Mele Kalikimaka” wrong – that’s Hawaiian for Merry Christmas – with my wife’s family also flying in from California, and from there we were going to spend New Year’s back in Maui, just the three of us. Hawai’i is pretty great, but I might occasionally leave the apostrophe behind and just say Hawaii if that’s ok.
An attempt at drawing digitally, which I was still getting the hang of, waiting to change planes at Maui airport. We took so many flights last year, going all over the place, that it’s probably for the best that in 2020 we’ll be taking so few. I’m not a fan of airports, at least they are small in Hawaii and have lots of those lovely chocolate covered macadamia nuts to eat, expensive though they are.
I’ll tell you what else they have a lot of in Hawaii – Spam. They love it there! Loads of different varieties in the stores. Also, custard pies, proper big custard pies, like the ones clowns or the phantom from Tiswas would throw. (Actually I’m not sure the phantom had actual custard in his pies, come to think of it he threw flans of foam, which I always remembered as custard pies) (Why is this a thing? Well in the supermarket I was texting back and forth with my big sister about having found actual custard pies and we were talking about that). Anyway Spam. I don’t actually eat most of it (not being a pork/beef/that sort of meat eater) but they did have some delicious turkey spam so I cooked that up for breakfast.
Christmas Eve sat on a tropical beach is pretty alright though, huh. I’ll say that is quite a nice way to do it. With delicious shave ice and cocktails at the little beach club at Mauna Lani, this was perfect. The ocean was warm, the waves not very strong, and my brother-in-law went snorkeling further out (I didn’t, but maybe next time I’ll give the snorkeling a go). I loved just spending time in the water. My sketch does no justice at all to the scene, but it’s fun to unwind on the sand as well.
But the Christmas traditions are important in our family, and one of the most important is sitting watching Muppet’s Christmas Carol on DVD on Christmas Eve. The best Christmas film. Michael Caine’s best film. The best version of this story (and I love the Albert Finney version). I drew it on the iPad with a nice cold beer. We also watch Blackadder’s Christmas Carol every year as well, another tradition, and The Snowman, but admittedly we’re not paying as much attention to The Snowman by that point. I also like watching It’s A Wonderful Life, but since 2020 feels like the Pottersville timeline it’s a bit on the nose. We were staying in a house near Waikoloa, with great views of lava tubes, about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. Not a bad place! The Big Island is very different from the previous island we had visited, Oahu. At least, our side of it was. It’s much bigger, and much rockier, being part of an active volcano. The lava field landscapes were incredible, immense plains of sharp lava rock stretching down to the ocean from the enormous peaks. And you drive what feels like a short way and suddenly it feels like the jungle, everything is green and wet. We went on a kayak trip down the old flumes of the sugar plantation in Kohala, that was very interesting, something I will remember for years. We didn’t explore the Hilo side of the island this time, nor did we have time to go up to the volcano (plus it rained), but I want to go back on a future trip.
But maybe not in 2020. I’ll post some more of my Hawai’i sketches in the next posts.