from the pencil of young pete

mccartney (1989)

I drew this 19 years ago, when I was just thirteen. 19 years ago!! The Berlin Wall was still up! Nelson Mandela was still in prison! George Bush was the new President of the USA!

I was digging through my old drawings from when I was a kid recently and thought I should share them with you. I remember drawing this (I still use the ‘mechanical’ eraser I used in this very drawing, there’s continuity for you!); I was a huge Beatles fan, and trawled the record stores and junk shops of London for old original LPs (plus a load of old albums my uncle gave me). Note how I’ve given Macca his real first name too.

I did another version of it at 16 (below left), in 1992, with stronger values and less chin, but I prefer the first one for its innocence. I was doing my GCSE art in ’92 and several of the other pictures below are from that time; below right is a watercolour copy of Cezanne that I did at 15 or 16, from a postcard picked up at the National Gallery – I used to go down to London most weekends to go to the galleries (and the record stores).

mccartney (1992)cezanne (1992)

Ten years later I ended up living in Cezanne’s town of Aix-en-Provence, which is where I met my wife (and therefore how I ended up living in the US). Funny old world.

Below is another from 16-year old Pete in 1992, an unfinished one of Jesus from some other painting I can’t remember. An interesting choice for such an atheistic lad as I, but even though I’m A NonBeliever I know aestheticism sometimes trumps atheisim; years later I did a one-person art performance piece at university about being drunk on the underground, which ended up with me on a crucifix (supposed to be King’s Cross).

jesus (1992)

The pencil one below left is a pastorly Peter Cushing (looking more like the Crow Man), also from 1992. I seemed to have an easier time with light and dark values back then than I do now. It’s from one of my horror-movie books; I was really into old Hammer Horror films (I have another sketch of Christopher Lee too), and in 1992 I wrote and performed an eight-song musical called “Dracula AD 1992” (an homage to the 1972 Hammer movie), which included such classic songs as “This Motel’s Giving Me The Willies” and “Freshly Impaled Village Maidens”. Below right: a later picture, 1995, 19 years old and obsessed with oil pastels. Doesn’t look massively like me, but you get the idea. I didn’t wear glasses very often back then.

cushing (1992)pete (1995)

Originally posted at

don’t mention the torch

Let’s make it clear : the Olympic Torch is not actually important. It doesn’t matter if it goes out; mankind is sufficiently advanced to find a way to light it again. You don’t need heavy-handed sky-blue thugs (Seb Coe’s own words) to protect it from people venting their anger at the one-party-dictatorship in China and their brutal crackdown on Tibetan ‘separatists’. If you have to put it out and jump on a bus, it’s okay, you can admit it. The whole torch relay was started by the Nazis anyway. You can’t pretend that it was never political.

I’ll tell you what I think of when I see the Olympic torch (apart from the Aryan-supremacist iconography and the former symbol of the Tories) (and yes, apart from a Mr.Whippy). That bloody Chariots of Fire theme by Vangelis. And I’ll tell you what I think of when I think of that. An exchange trip to France I took at college, when I shared a room with a guy who listened to it on his headphones, after dark, when he thought I was asleep (I so wish I had been), and I could hear him busy doing the 15-centimetre sprint, tossing the caber, giving the bronze medal a good polish, slapping duncan goodhew on the head. And yelping, “putain! putain!”, as if I couldn’t hear him or something. I don’t know what he was thinking of, but I bet it wasn’t Nigel Havers.

originally posted at

E – A – D – G – B – E

before he went electronic

My guitar, the hohner acoustic i’ve had for eleven years now, bought at macari’s on charing crosss road in january 1997 when i worked at a chocolate shop on oxford street, been with me to several countries, now here in california. That orange plectrum attached to the strings there is the same one they gave me when i bought it, it’s still the only one i’ll use. The wood is matt, and browner than it looks here. I do have another fancier electric, but this is the one i grab the most. I played some soothing songs to my baby son today, he seems to like the sound and the shape of the guitar; one day, in the future, I will buy him his first guitar. He may even get this one. This wasn’t my first guitar, however; my first proper one that worked (not including the bad car-boot acoustics i had) was a westone electric that my brother gace me, I loved that guitar, though it’s clapped out now. I passed it on to my nephew just before moving to america. Boys and guitars, important allies.

(purple micron .01, w&n cotman watercolour, moleskine watercolour paper)

Originally posted at:

illustration friday: ‘save’ (or ‘i’ve got a pocket full of pretty green’)

illustration friday: SAVE

I am so glad i scanned this before adding the wash. Yes, i added a bad greeny-blue wash to it, and it looks bad bad baby, bad as in not good mate. So while you might think that the theme for illustration friday ‘SAVE’ refers to the money supposedly saved here, it actually refers to the fact i saved this before going on to deface the original with sea-green. So there.

Don’t go giving me evils!

Originally posted at

sketchcrawl 18: sacramento

sketchcrawl 18: beach hut diner sc18: sacramento palm tree

The 18th Worldwide Sketchcrawl took place on Saturday, and I popped across the Causeway for the midtown Sacramento version. Three other sketchers were there, at the Sutter’s fort meeting point; none made it to the ending point, at the Streets of London pub on J street. It was the seventh time I’ve done the Sketchcrawl, and it’s nice to know I’m absolutely not the only one out on the streets somewhere on the planet with pen and sketchbook. Here are my results:

sketchcrawl 18: midtown sacramento
sc18: a crowd of people in red dresses
sc18: state indian museum, gardens

I went to the art store, and found my favourite sketching tool yet: a fold-up stool that easily fits into my small shoulder bag! Only $11. No more sitting on the dirty floor; it means I can sketch anywhere now (normally I find the comfy spot first, then choose what to draw).





union hacks

Oh i do like to be a Brit in America. Since moving out here I have discovered that the natives will deem even the most Burnt Oak of accents the mark of intellect and compliment us by imitating it. Things we take for granted, such as newsagents on every corner, unfriendly bus drivers, and cheap bread are notably absent; even electric kettles are like fresh milk in France. To make us feel at home, however, we have a newspaper, one that I only really discovered this past weekend. It’s one of those free ones you find in pubs, a bit like the ones Aussies and Kiwis get outside tube stations on west London, and it’s patriotically called “Union Jack”. Here (and not on that BBC website or anything) is where Brits get their news, and what news.

“Public Loo Closures Causing Protests Nationwide”, runs one headline. “Monk Killed in Lawnmower Accident” should be the title of a movie. “HRH Prince Andrew visits Orange County” was another; “HRH Prince Andrew”?? I’ve never heard him called that in a tabloid headline before. The paper seems to have a bit of a something for Andy, as he crops up several more times in other articles. But I can’t really poke fun at headlines, you’d get these in any British local paper (“rising bollards claim another victim” was my favourite one from the Ely Standard, or was it the Cambridge Evening News). I will poke fun at the adverts though, each and every one of them promoting some crappy little tea shoppe or something where you can spend your funny-looking dollars buying Kippers, Steak and Kidney Pies, or Mr. Kipling cakes. Except one: the word “Bollocks” leaps out in large letters, above a picture of a dog, with the caption “Real Bollocks to Hang Anywhere in your Home”. I don’t know what it’s actually selling, but who cares?! (It’s one of the things Brits really love, that even the most curse-sensitive of Americans will not understand one of our most beloved swearwords).

Other sections include some badly written columns by some old English expat wallies turning out any old shit that relates to British American relations (hold on a minute, isn’t that what I do..? ), and a load of other useless bits of month-old non-news from various bog-standard towns around the UK, dog loses pen in port vale, that sort of thing. The saving graces of this paper – let’s face it, this ridiculous rag with too many British flags on it not to be slightly suspicious – are a couple of detailed columns letting us know what i currently going on in Eastenders and Coronation Street. Now that’s the sort of thing Brits really want, updates on the soaps; expats who’ve lived abroad so long all the characters have changed and they can’t follow any of it anyway. It was however the appalled-in-woking reaction of the columnist herself that made me guffaw the most: “It was hard to describe how violent and disturbing those Vic smashing scenes were. I personally hope they don’t do anything like that again.” They have a real cutting edge TV critic there in the Union Jack. Victor Lewis-Smith, you’d better keep an eye on your job. The rest of us had better keep an eye on our bollocks.

Originally posted at

i wanna walk like you

Last week I was in the bookshop talking to the guy behind the counter, to whom I was giving some dvd footage I had shot of the Harry Potter event in July (I’m a very slow editor), when a guy in a cyclist’s helmet, who had been struggling to write a cheque (in this day and age), looked up and interrupted. “Potter?” he rasped, accentuating the double t in what appeared I believe was an attempt at a British accent. Slightly off-ended (if not exactly offended), I shot him a quick look and carried on. He said it again in case I hadn’t heard him the first time, and I nearly responded “Malfoy?” but chose to ignore. He stayed quiet and went back to writing his cheque (they spell it ‘check’ here, you know). After a few minutes he approached me and apologized, he hadn’t meant to make fun of my accent, he was trying to compliment it. Oh, ok, I replied with as little rat’s arse as I could find. But this was not the first time, and it will not be the last, that I will be complimented in such a way. You see, it is apparently socially acceptable – even compulsory – for many Americans to affect a British accent whenever they meet someone from across the pond.
And they really don’t mean to offend – I think they find it charming, or quaint, or perhaps they think we will applaud their efforts – they are after all trying to be like me, I should be honoured. The thing is, if a Brit were to do the same, they would very likely be doing it to take the piss. An American however might not understand why it’s greeted with cold British sarcasm, such as recently in Sacramento when I congratulated the woman in the saltwater taffy shop for her incredible Australian accent (“I thought Bea Smith herself had walked in” ). But it wouldn’t be ok for them to, for example, imitate a Chinese accent, or respond to their German customers with Fawtlyesque attempts at humourous Teutonic mimicry.

I wouldn’t mind, but I feel like I’ve developed a British accent since living here. I would not have pronounced any of the t’s in ‘Potter’ before, they would all be washed away in a downpour of glottal stops. I’ve spoken to other CA-based Brits, and they too have been the victims of spontaneous imitation.

Apart from the hilarious faux-brits, there are the ones who make requests for certain words. Sometimes I happily oblige, especially when some Cockney rhyming slang or other comes to mind (although I was out with Tel once, and he kept asking girls about their thre’penny bits). Sometimes I feel like a tired actor, sick of repeating a catchphrase; one time, a shop-girl at a supermarket checkout asked me to say ‘bloody’. “Why?” I asked. “Oh I just love it when you guys say ‘bloody’! It’s so cool!” My first thought was to react with a tirade of classic Watling Avenue vocabulary – everything but ‘bloody’ – but I just politely refused, sorry, I just want my green beans and my milky way, thanks. I think I know how Harry Potter feels now.

Originally posted at