In mid-April, I went to a conference in Berkeley, the UC-AMP conference (standing for University of California Administrative Managerial Professionals, me being a manager type these days). It was actually one of the better conferences I’d ever been to and I sketched a lot; I’ll stick the conference sketches in the next post. I did take the chance to sketch a bit more of Berkeley though, a palce I’ve drawn a lot over the years, but don’t go to as often these days. I was also starting a new sketchbook, one I’d never actually used before, a Fabriano watercolour book. Same general size and format as my other sketchbooks (that roughly 5.5×8″ size in landscape, slightly bigger than my watercolor Moleskines, smaller than the Stillman & Birn Alpha, but about the size of the Seawhite of Brighton books I used to use). The paper was a bit coarser, a bit thicker, and this would be an experiment. Basically, I was having a bit of trouble getting hold of the usual watercolour Moley, noweher seemed to have it in stock, and so on a whim I tried this. It was ok, I didn’t really love it, the pen had to work a little harder, but the paints too did not always act in the same way as in the Moley, in a way I can’t really describe but never mattered when using similar Fabriano watercolour paper at home, but out on the streets seemed to be a bit different. Paper matters, and I’m fussy. (I’ve actually finished the sketchbook now; while still not my favourite, I got used to it and got around it by washing the pages with a light sheen of watercolour paint ahead of time, making it much easier to work on, a preparation I never had to do on the nice Moleskine pages). So, I stood outside the Berkeley Games shop on Durant, just off Telegraph, and drew the colourful scene ahead of me. That games shop is massive. I have a friend in London who has in recent years become a massive serious board games fan, and would love this place. The weather was warm, cooler than Davis of course, with a lot of characters about the streets. I’m less into Berkeley than I used to be, as a place, largely because of some of the people that roam about making you feel uncomfortable. Shortly after leaving the BART station I was yelled at by a random wild-eyed guy who started following me, asking if I work for the university, and telling me in a shower of expletives that they have been following him and monitoring him and what he would do to those people and their families and their children, which wasn’t very nice in the middle of the day. Another guy sat on Shattuck started yelling at me recently when I was with my family because I was wearing an Adidas hat and he didn’t like Adidas, and that because I wore Adidas I was a Nazi, and then kept yelling “That guy’s a Nazi!” at me as I tried to cross the road, doing my best to ignore the weirdo. Try that in Burnt Oak, mate. People out there getting aggressive and bizarre, you have to ignore, but it doesn’t make it feel like a nice place to go. Still, Berkeley is Berkeley. I finished up and went back to the hotel where the conference was taking place, to attend the reception.
After reception food and chat, and a little wine, I was a bit full to eat dinner but still decided to head out to find a historic bar called Tupper and Reed. The evening activities for the conference the next day would be either (a) attend a baseball game, which I did, or (b) go on a bar crawl of Berkeley, that classic Monday evening activity. One of the places they would go though was Tupper and Reed, an old wooden bar on Shattuck that’s about a century old. Described in the conference materials as being like something out of Harry Potter, all brick and wood and presumably wizards and dark magic, “and they even have a beautiful retro record player sitting at the far end of the bar!” (just like Harry Potter, eh). It was built in 1925 and is quite nice, has a lovely old fireplace, though I have to be honest, it felt a little clean. Nice enough. People seemed cool, it wasn’t too crowded and the staff and patrons were friendly. There were some people playing pool, and the music was right up my cup of tea, 90s and 80s stuff that would probably have been on my Walkman back then. This is though primarily a cocktail bar, and so they had some very fancy cocktails. I decided to try one called a ‘Flying V’, because of the guitar themed name, and I think it was nice, but I could not drink very much of it. I mostly drank the bottle of tap water I got to go with it, bit too strong for my liking. Still I got a decent sketch out of the evening, and went off to bed. My hotel was very close by, and I was up on the 16th floor.
And what a view that was! You could see the Golden Gate Bridge from my bed. I woke up early before the conference, and did a drawing of the view. I went back to add a bit more at various points but I had to get this view down. I love a high-up view. Remember that one I did in San Francisco a couple of years ago, from the Hilton Financial District? In enjoyed that. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, putting these scenes together. I decided against putting all the windows in that building opposite, just a suggestion, you can imagine the rest. I did have a conference to get to though, which thankfully was only thirteen floors below in a fast elevator. It was so nice having everything take place in the same hotel. The previous UC Berkeley hosted conference I went to, in 2017, was a bit more spread out about the campus, which was a bit more tiring. I also did not stay overnight, but took the early train down and back again in the evenings, so it was pretty tiring. This was better.
That said, after the workshops and talks were all done, I did go out and explore campus a bit more, because there is always something to sketch. There was a walking tour of campus for many of the participants, but I decided not to do that, and stood outside the magnificent Wellman Hall with my awkward sketchbook. At one point the tour group passed me by. It was a little breezy, and the pages kept flipping up because I only had one elastic band with me to hold them down. The shade of the tree I was under also kept moving, deliberately I assume, in an effort to annoy me. Plus this paper just wasn’t quite right, was it. I hope nobody on the tour heard me swearing at the universe. In the end i took a photo of my sketch and posted it on my Instagram, and remembered to include the conference hashtag because they’d said to do so. Well I’m glad I did; this unexpectedly won the conference’s picture competition!! They announced that on the last day, to my surprise. Apparently I win free registration to next year’s conference, in Riverside, and I was already looking forward to going to that so that was a nice prize. But yes, I did kind of fight with myself to draw this one, and I was pleased to go and sit down for a bit in the shade afterwards.
On the last day, after the last speeches and talks, I took a last stroll up Telegraph, firstly to find that place that does the Belgian waffles my son really likes (I had to send him a picture of one and of course eat one myself), and do another sketch, this time of Amoeba Music on Telegraph. I remember the first time I went to Amoeba, it was the one on Haight, back in 2002. I first came to this one in 2005, right after we moved to the US, when we were checking out Berkeley as a potential place to live. My wife was interviewing at UC Berkeley (if memory serves she got the job, but had in the meantime accepted a position in Davis, and so that’s where our lives ended up, the rest is sketchbook history). I loved a record store, and if I recall correctly I bought a Paul Weller CD here. I chatted with a nice guy for a bit while I sketched who works for the Telegraph business association (we talked a lot about Lego), and it reminded me that this is a thriving little community here, that people are rightly proud of. I’m glad to see Amoeba still doing well too, though I didn’t have time to go in and look around this time.
I did pop into a little art shop that I had been into before though. And what did I get in there? A new watercolour Moleskine sketchbook. Having been a bit back ordered online, and not in any of my local shops, they had one here, and for a good price too (ten bucks cheaper than listed on the Moleskine site). But of course because I have a policy of not starting a new ‘primary’ sketchbook until I have finished the current one, I did not abandon the Fabriano one, and used it all the way through my recent London trip (the sketches of which I’ll probably post in about 2028, I did so many), and just started the new book last week, at the Victoria and Albert Museum of all places. So it all worked out.