flying south for spring

JetBlue SMF-LGB
We went to Southern California, for a short Spring Break vacation away from the rainstorms we’ve been having. Tell you the truth, we thought it might rain in Southern California too, and were taking a bit of a chance staying right by the beach with a nice pool, but dangit it was a chance we were willing to take. Besides, our last night there would be at Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water-park forest themed resort for the kids which would keep us out of the rain and yet still, oddly, soaking wet. As it turned out, the weather was gorgeous and sunny, so there was plenty of beach time and outdoor pool time in Huntington Beach (meanwhile, Great Wolf Lodge was a bit of a let-down, so we ended up going to the cinema). But first, we had to get there. I sat in the row behind la famille, so I sketched and listened to podcasts. We flew JetBlue into Long Beach. When we landed, I saw something which was just, well, WOW:
Long Beach Airport Doggy Hydrant

A doggie-themed fire hydrant!! It was in a little fenced off grassy area designed for pets to go pee-pee. Now as someone who sits sketching hydrants and getting t know them quite well, I’m always one to roll eyes at the boring tired cliche of dogs weeing against hydrants, but this is just amazing. Except actually I really hope dogs don’t wee against this one, gross. But isn’t this the best hydrant you’ve ever seen? I never thought I’d see one so cool. Another one to add to the collection.
Long Beach Airport

Here is another JetBlue plane, which I sketched while waiting to board for the flight home. I’ll post the beach sketches later, just imagine them (yellow at the bottom, light blue at the top). This one was drawn, like the top one, in the dark blue uni-ball signo pen, it looks really nice on the paper. I have quite a few planes in this sketchbook now, and with those wings you have to draw them over a two-page spread. You can see where the page break is. I spend a lot of time in airports, on airplanes, up in the sky. I remember being a kid and being terrified of the very thought of flying (despite being obsessed with air force jet planes), I was so scared of planes that I would not let anyone else in my family fly. When I was six my older sister was going away somewhere, a school trip to Germany I think, and I wouldn’t let her leave the house, cried my eyes out, I was hysterical at the thought of her flying. She eventually went, and I’m glad she did, because from Germany she brought back this amazing stuff called ‘Nutella’ I had never seen before, and started my lifelong love of this mysterious ‘Nutella’. When I was 10, my family finally convinced me to fly, and I got in my first ever plane, flying to Ibiza off the coast of Spain. They took me to see the pilot in the cockpit (it was the 1980s, they probably would have let me fly the plane), and I’ll never forget the pilot asked if I wanted to see out of the window, and I said yeah, and so he just tilted the whole plane sideways! I thought that was cool, but everyone back int he cabin were freaking out a little bit. After that, I was fine. No idea how many planes I’ve been on since. I don’t really like flying, but it’s more that I don’t like the hassle of airports, I’m not a fan of taking off and landing, but the bit in the sky I’m totally fine with.

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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

six planes, one train, no pain

SMF-LAS 2018 sm

Sketching on a plane helps me relax. That is my excuse for sketching on a plane. I have this book, this little Miquelrius book that I use for in-flight sketches (the one with the Lapin-designed cover), and I brought it with me to record all six flights (and one train journey) on my trip to Europe. Twenty years ago I took a five-week train trip around Europe and I really wish that I had done the same back then. Sketching all the night trains. Pete of 2018 would definitely have enjoyed that, Pete of 1998 would perhaps not so much, but Pete of 1998 was so much easier with speaking to strangers and making friends with fellow travellers than Pete of 2018. Pete of 2018 is a little shyer, but makes up for it with readiness to sketch. Pete of 1998 did sketch a little but not much and very loosely, though he drew a lot of cartoons and wrote loads, writing like there was no tomorrow; I kept two diaries on that trip, one for me personally, written small and densely, and one with just briefer notes about the train journeys and cities, at the back of the special book I had prepared ahead of the trip. Wow, this was going on 20 years ago now. I will need to write my thoughts about that trip very soon, it was a pretty formative voyage for me. Anyway, back to this summer’s Euro trip – not as many countries, but still a fair bit of travel, and probably more miles covered (what with flying across the world and all). Above, the first leg of the journey, flying from Sacramento to Las Vegas on a very bumpy flight over the desert. I liked stopping in Vegas, we got to go to an amazing lounge (my wife organized that, she knows the best stuff), though my son was less impressed with Vegas, thanks to the turbulent descent on the plane. Soon we were off again, flying Virgin from Vegas to Gatwick.

LAS-LGW 2018 sm

I drew this one in pencil. I am trying to use pencil more, for the looser scenes. My son and I played a few rounds of MarioKart on the 3DS, and we couldn’t wait to land in London, where it was hot and sweaty and the trains weren’t all running, so we squeezed onto a train to Mill Hill. This time we were travelling light, no large bulky suitcases, I didn’t even bring the backpack carry-on. I could have probably travelled even lighter. I didn’t need the second pair of shoes (my main ones were so comfy), though honestly I should have brought more underwear. That whole washing in the sink thing in Portugal really didn’t fly for me, so I ended up buying some, wait for it, Cristiano Ronaldo brand underwear. Yep old CR7 has his own line of pants and socks.

STN-MAD 2018 sm

Well England was fun, it flew by, but then it was time to go to Spain for a few days in Madrid. After getting the coach from Golders Green on Friday the 13th, we flew Ryanair from Stansted (fourth airport on the trip) to Madrid (airport number five on this trip, oh I love airports, don’t you know). There’s my son playing FIFA. We were sad about England losing the semi finals a couple of days before, but excited for the World Cup final. We were still humming tunes from Hamilton, which we had watched in London the night before (amazing show). I’m always sad leaving the UK, excited about going to other countries but there’s always that sense of loss when I go, it changes a little bit more every time I return.

MAD-OPO 2018 sm

Wow Madrid flew by, eh! Eating dinner late, getting up early, going to the Bernabeau, visiting Toledo. The family flew back to America from Madrid while I went on to Porto for the Symposium, flying with Iberian. Airport number 6. Porto airport was really nice actually, though I took ages leaving it as I decided to hang about and get a shuttle that would drop me off miles from where I needed to be, and I got lost in a neighbourhood of tiled houses and steep hills, smart move. Note to self, get a larger map next time. Or a taxi. Ah, you know, I love to wander, I am an explorer. Not much of a navigator though.

PORTO-LISBON 2018 sm

Many many sketches later, many many hills later, I took the Alfa Pendular train from Porto to Lisbon. That is the fast train. It zipped along the Atlantic coast for a bit, the fog hanging out there like a large grey Nothing. I do wish I had spent some time on the Portuguese coast now. There is so much Portugal to discover. So much World in fact. I want to go Everywhere. Well maybe not everywhere, I could give probably places like Swindon a miss (sorry Swindon, I’m sure you’re lovely) (I would probably like Swindon actually, there’s a historic Ossie Ardiles/Glenn Hoddle connection). I have my tall thin Pepsi Max can there. I was so worried about being hungry or thirsty on the two-and-a-half-hour train ride that I got a load of snacks at cafe in the station. It’s funny cos when I travel I will sometimes go from breakfast until late dinner without eating a bite (I often don’t get hungry when I’m busy sketching), but put me on a train and I’m anxious I might go crazy if I don’t eat a Mars bar.

LIS-ATL 2018 sm

Lisbon was relaxing, the hills much less stressful than Porto, and my hotel was amazing. I could have spent most of the time just chilling out there. I met some sketching friends in Lisbon on the last evening for dinner, and it was a nice way to cap off a long trip. And then, back home. Lisbon (airport number 7) to Atlanta (airport number 8) on Delta, which was a really nice flight actually, I would fly them again. Once more I got as many snacks and ate a bunch of food getting on the plane, prompting my seat neighbour to cheerfully remind me that they will be feeding us. I had never flown Delta before so sisn’t know how much that would be true – airplane food can sometimes be a bit rubbish – but it certainly was true and their food was really good, and plentiful. I had a good chat with my neighbour too, interesting man who flies a lot and works in DC. On the flight I watched Rush (that movie about James Hunt and Niki Lauda, such a fun film), and Lady Bird, the one set in Sacramento, which I really enjoyed and it made me a little yearnful for my adopted home. Well, a bit. The flight was good and transferring in Atlanta was fairly painless.

ATL-SMF 2018 sm

And so from Atlanta back to Sacramento. I was sat next to a tall man who didn’t mind me jumping over him to use the bathroom the one time I needed to. I often don’t need to get up at all during a flight, which is why I like the window seat (or the very middle of the middle row) but on this occasion I did. It was a long journey back. I watched Notting Hill, which I’ve not seen in years and still makes me laugh. I landed in Sacramento exhausted, happy to see the family again, but missing Europe and vacation time. My head is still somewhere over the Atlantic I think, though my feet are finally returning to Californian soil. Travel is great; air travel is annoying and stressful, but sketching on a plane helps me relax. Or that’s my excuse anyway.

weekend in LA

Southwest to LAX sep17 sm
Early last month I flew down to Los Angeles with my friend Roshan who was visiting from London, for a boys weekend to celebrate his 40th birthday. I didn’t do much sketching; it was a short trip and we mostly did tourism and, well, the pub. One or two pubs! A good old few pubs. I do find it harder to sketch when travelling with non-sketchers, (not for any fault of their own, I just struggle to concentrate) but I did manage a few sketches, including the in-flight drawing above. We stayed downtown at an awesome hotel with a great view, I only grabbed a couple of quick sketches of it, but we were really close to the LA public library (which I have sketched before, years ago).
LA hotel view sep17 sm
LA skyline sep17 sm
And of course, one fire hydrant. It wasn’t a 2am hydrant sketch (like on previous LA trips) but the library is once more in the background!
LA hydrant sep17 sm
And I got a few quick people sketches down at Venice Beach, of dancing roller-skaters. I would like to go back there on a sketching trip someday, there is always so much to draw around there. I really like LA.
venice skaters 1 smvenice skaters 2 sm

on the tracks and in the sky

Roma to Venezia
And so we left Rome on a fast train from Termini station, speeding through the Italian countryside (and what countryside!) on one of the nicest trains we’ve been on. I once spent a summer travelling Europe on the trains and this was nicer than all of those as well (that was in 1998 mind you, and most of them were overnight trains in central Europe). It took us over 3 hours to reach Venice from Rome, stopping in Florence on the way (but not getting out and looking around, we’ll save that for next time). My son was proudly sporting his brand new AS Roma shirt that he bought with money his Nanny in England had given him (it’s by far his favourite souvenir from Italy!) (when I say Nanny I mean my Mum, not a Nanny like in someone who looks after kids for a living) (international translations here). I wore my Sampdoria shirt so we were the Serie A Boys. The Calcio Kids. On our way out of Italy, flying back to London, we were both wearing our Tottenham Hotspur shirts and the border guards immediately called out to us with big smiles, “Eh, Harry Ka-ne! Totten-ham!” We had to wait while they looked up something, it turns out they were just trying to look up the name of Tottenham’s stadium, but were confused to see that it was now Wembley. They were very excited about Spurs.

Speaking of airports, while I am showing you my in-train sketch of Trenitalia Frecciarosso 1000, here are the other transport sketches from our summer trip. First off, Oakland to Gatwick, which started with a 3.5 hour delay, which was fun. On mt left was a woman who when I first got on board hurriedly picked up a bunch of items from my seat before I sat down, I assumed they were her things. Then when she just sat there holding them I asked, are those mine? (Blankets, headphones) “Yes, I picked them up for you,” she said, “and you are lucky, I don’t usually do nice.” Which was an odd thing to say to a complete stranger. She was British. “Ok, thanks,” I said, taking back the blankets in a bit of a puzzle. I’m not really one for conversations with fellow passengers. I noticed as we sat on the runway she was reading through not only the Daily Mail but also the National Enquirer, which I’d never seen people actually read before, so you see something new every day I suppose. We were in Economy Plus – these BA flights from Oakland to the UK are so much cheaper than we usually pay that we upgraded for a bit more legroom – but still it was a long and hard-to-sleep-on flight. I did at least get my sketch in. I had time…
Oakland to Gatwick

We flew Ryanair to Italy, from Stansted to Rome. As you may remember I call Ryanair “Difficultjet”, and this time the difficult bit was that they don’t let passengers from the US (or non-EU at least; good luck Brits, in a few years) use paperless boarding passes, unlike for example Easyjet, who do. Which means if you are travelling and need to print your boarding pass a day ahead (because you have to check in online nowadays, no other choice) and don’t have access to a printer, as we didn’t, you have to pay loads of money to Ryanair for them to print it out for you, at least fifteen quid a ticket. So that’s annoying. In the end we did find someone with a printer, but most travellers wouldn’t necessarily have that option. Otherwise though I don’t mind Ryanair, they fly to a lot of places and are cheap. It was exciting flying over Belgium, Germany, Austria; my son asked if he could check these off and say he’d been there now, but no, flying over is not the same as being somewhere. If it were, then we’ve been to Greenland loads of times.
Stansted to Roma
Venice to Luton was on Easyjet, which was pretty easy. My son’s hair in this sketch looks red like mine, bu it really isn’t, it’s more light brown/blond. However my paints were very much stuck in the Easyjet colour scheme. Boy we were tired after that trip.
Venezia to Luton

And the final flight of the vacation! This was a trip in which we went through SIX different airports (Oakland, Gatwick, Stansted, Roma Ciampino, Venice Marco Polo, Luton) which of course is my favourite thing, I love airports, SOOOOO much. This was a decent flight home. I had no stranger with a Daily Mail next to me (although my son put the brown BA blanket over his head, making him look like a Jedi). This little Miquelrius sketchbook/random notebook, which I’ve had for five years now, has a lot of in-flight travel sketches in now. Lots of Bon-Voyages.
Gatwick to Oakland

war! what is it good for? (absolutely sketching)

Imperial War Museum London
Last month we went back over to London for a few days ahead of our week in Italy, spending time with family and seeing friends. The London visits are more frequent than they used to be, but always seem shorter, never enough time to see everyone we want to see, go everywhere we want to go. We always pack a lot in though, and this time wanted to see some places we’d never been to. One of those was the Imperial War Museum. It’s in Lambeth, and had never appealed that much to me for some reason (because I’m a pacifist peacenik?) which is crazy because I love history, I love seeing old planes and tanks and uniforms and armoury, and I love old London buildings such as this one, which has an interesting history as the old Bethlem psychiatric hospital – aka ‘Bedlam’ (not the original Bedlam location mind you but still, interestingly historical). The grounds are lovely, and there were a lot of people out sketching as well which is always nice to see. I drew the scene above while my family were resting in the cafe.
Imperial War Museum Sopwith Camel

I didn’t do a ton of sketching in there – there is a lot to see, and my son was getting tired (World War I was a lot to take in!) but I did draw this Sopwith 2F.1 Camel. The Sopwith Camel was one of the most iconic early fighter planes for the Allies in World War I. Just imagine Lord Flashheart whizzing around in one of these before landing sausage-side and shouting “woof” a lot. (I really miss Rik Mayall!) I didn’t get much further than World War II, so I would like to go back there some day with the sketchbook. Definitely worth a visit. After this, we walked the short distance to the South Bank and along the Thames.