Last week I was invited to lead a sketching event at the Sudwerk Taproom in Davis. Now I used to go to Sudwerk in its previous incarnation, as a restaurant and beer garden, and I sketched it a few times. The restaurant is closed now, and the current owners operate a popular tap room with am interesting rotation of beers, but still keeping the old Sudwerk classics like the Marzen, which I always liked. No longer sold in big litre glasses though, but my diet (see previous sketch) probably means I should lay off those anyway. We had a number of other sketchers there with us, it was a nice relaxing evening, I gave some tips on sketching places like this, and I drew a few of the things that I saw about there. It was a nice evening!
I usually head towards Columbus. It’s my favourite street in San Francisco, cutting a diagonal slice across the grid, leading from the Financial District to the Italian flavoured North Beach. I haven’t sketched a lot of Chinatown recently, but my tired feet didn’t feel like climbing up to Grant or Stockton, so I strolled along the flatter Kearny, and stopped a couple of times to draw the scenes above and below. I was on the corner of Kearny and Sacramento, the long slope of the latter blowing dust downhill and into my eyes. Standing a few feet back shielded me from the wind, and gave me a cheeky view of Coit Tower, waving at me like a prize. I had no intention of going that far this time.
I could not resist sketching the store above. Something about this view just said it all to me. These are the types of scenes I like to sketch the most. I didn’t go into David’s Food store, perhaps David is Beckham, or who knows even Bowie, reborn. Or maybe Cameron, perhaps they have a lot of pork products. But maybe it’s more David as in Goliath, with Goliath being modern expensive San Francisco, and this little food store is holding out against them as the David figure, with long hair that gives him strength, until Goliath finds his weakness in his tendon, I might be mixing up my old stories here. I also didn’t go to Rainbow Cleaners, but I assume that is where Geoffrey would get Zippy, George and Bungle dry-cleaned. This is the silly thing I think about when I sketch. I should be thinking about meaningful pearls, writing travel articles in my head, stories of the smells and sounds of the city, but in reality I’m just daydreaming about Rod Jane and Freddy. At least I wasn’t humming any of their songs! Oh no maybe I was.
I got myself back on track.This is not the end of Kearny, but it is where it meets Columbus and where it starts getting significantly more mountainous. I have drawn this view before, many times, in fact one of the earliest San Francisco sketches I did was of this building. It’s the Sentinel Building, which has Francis Ford Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope at the bottom. I’ve not been in there but next time I will. I like Coppola’s films. The Godfather, the Godfather II, all his films.
And finally, time to rest. I left the bright late afternoon and walked into Specs, one of my favourite spots in the city. At first I though it was closed, all the lights were off, but it was just much darker than outside and it took a while for my eyes to acclimatize to the dim lights in there. It’s full of stuff, and a few characters. I ordered a pint of Anchor Steam, took a seat with a view and started scribbling in my book. I read for a little (amazingly I could see really well after my eyes got used to it), reading some of those travel stories, and then drew these two fellows at the bar in pork pie hats. Or bowler hats, I don’t know, I’m not a hatologist. I enjoyed drawing this. It’s very different, much more of a reaction to the low light than a line-for-line interpretation; I’ve done that already. I’ve sat on this seat before, years ago at the end of a night out with my friend Simon, we played chess (drunkenly, he drank whiskey and I drank beer). Seven o’clock approached, the long journey back to Davis beckoned. I really love coming to the city, especially this area. I have plans to do a historical sketchcrawl down here sometime in the next couple of months, I have thought about it for a couple of years now. There is a lot to discover. Just around the corner, for example, on the very next day, March 24, City Lights Books was celebrating the 100th birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, famous local Beat poet and co-founder of City Lights. A hundred years old, can you Beat that!
I’ve sketched this place before, it’s Three Mile Brewing in downtown Davis, a small brewery that does some very nice beers. Such as ‘Burnt Reynolds’. There always seems to be dogs in here. There was another one unseen in this sketch, as well as the one that is there. Last time I sketched in here there was a dog in the sketch. Am I now a dog sketcher? I have drawn a few dogs over the years, but I don’t really go for drawing animals much. So, Three Mile Brewing in Davis is named for the old three mile no-alcohol exclusion zone from campus that existed years ago (until 1979!). I like the colour scheme in this room, and it was handy that man wore that jacket providing a balance between the Burnt Reynolds beer and that wall on the left.
And so to the last night in England. It was an emotional trip, quick and busy, spent time with family, and friends, and places that I love. The last night there was just mine, all mine. I got back to Burnt Oak and watched old Alan Partridge shows on Netflix while packing my bag, never an easy task after even a short trip, what with all the various books (so many books) and new football shirts (more than one) and Cadbury’s cake bars and packs of Bisto gravy and Topic bars and whatever else I had to get. there was a lot I didn’t pick up. I didn’t get any Daddy’s Sauce, which I adore and am currently out of. For those who don’t know, Daddy’s is a brown sauce very similar to HP but less spicy and just tastes like home. I ate a Pot Noodle for dinner. I have not had a Pot Noodle for quite a long time. They seem a little less satisfying than I remember. I loved them when I was 14. I didn’t intend on ti being for dinner this time, but I left it a bit late to get much else when I finally finished packing my bag and venture back out into London one last time. I had a very early start the next morning and didn’t want to do any last-minute packing. So, I was along in London. I thought I might get some food and sketch an old pub. I wasn’t sure where I would go. London is vast and full of possibilities. I got off the train at Camden Town thinking, I could grab a curry at Masala Zone and then go up to sketch the Steele’s at Chalk Farm. But then at the last second I decided to jump back on the same tube because my head said, “you always go to Camden! Do that another time. London is yours!” So in the spirit of revisiting my youth, I got out at Tottenham Court Road instead. That was always my destination station whenever I would go into London as a teenager. It was right next to the Virgin Megastore – now long gone. It was also right next to the Hellfire Club, where as a 19-20 year old I would jump up and down to loud music with a group of international friends – also now long gone. In fact the station is completely different to the one from the 90s, having undergone a total transformation and rebuild in the past few years. All the old shortcuts are gone, and it’s a large, modern and open station now, not the cramped yellowing ticket hall of the past. I ended up not eating dinner, because I could not find somewhere that I fancied, and I wandered about Soho remembering all the old shortcuts that are thankfully still there. I passed by the Old Coffee House, a pub I have enjoyed a few fun evenings in with friends, one that I have tried to sketch before but at a time without pub-sketching confidence, and I saw through the window that there was a nice seat at the corner of the bar with a perfect panorama sketching view. That seat was mine. I would eat Dry Roasted Peanuts for dinner, hunger be damned.
You’ll need to click on the sketch at the top of this post to see it in closer detail (it’ll take you to the Flickr site). As I sketched, I tried a couple of different beers, supplied by a local brewer, Brodies. The first was the Piccadilly Pale Ale, the second and third were the Old Street Pale Ale. I did all the ink at the bar, but added the watercolour paint on the plane next morning (my Stillman & Birn ‘Alpha’ sketchbook being exactly the same width as my Virgin Atlantic economy seat). The bar staff were friendly, and the pub was chilled out. Oh except for the bar fight which broke out behind me. I have discovered that I can apparently sketch undisturbed while a bar fight happens around me, looking up occasionally before getting back to work. Now don’t imagine a long Wild-West style mass brawl, it was more of a few seconds of pushing before a quick “break it up, boys”. There was a group of lads out on a jolly, very drunk and celebrating some birthday or other. I say ‘very drunk’ but it was varying degrees of drunkenness, ranging from ‘friendly and convivial’ to ‘barely able to speak or stand’, with a range of performative drunkenness in between. Two of them for example were enacting a bullfight in the bar, another was sat down loudly singing to a couple of ladies (he was one of the louder ones, but actually he had a very good singing voice), and then one lad who would drunkenly go and sit with random people who would grin and nod a lot back before he sat down with the wrong group of people, one of whom got angry at something or other and they started scuffling, a glass broke, the drunken guy was whisked away and I turned to see one offended young man displaying the classic pose of “hold me back, hold me back”. I didn’t see much more because I was zen-posed with my sketchbook, working to a tight schedule, I had a plane to catch in the morning. The kerfuffles were quickly dealt with by the, I must say, very capable and calming pub staff, who’ve seen it all before I am sure. There was none of that macho make-it-all-worse strutting. The large partying group departed, the broken glass cleaned up, the “hold me back” guy went calmly back to his fresh pint, and the evening went on. I’ve always quite enjoyed this pub, in a little corner of Soho near Carnaby Street, and have been here many times with friends, going back to the 1990s, so I was glad to finally get a sketch of the place. Drawing a pub with lots of details inevitably means you get some wrong, and in this case I drew one too many frames on the wall above the main bar area. You won’t notice, of course. I also drew one person twice. He was standing at the bar waiting for a drink, and then afterwards he had his jacket off and was sat with a woman enjoying conversation. His hair somehow went from black to brown as well but I blame the lighting, not my urban sketching skills. The world is as you see it at that moment (and that of course can change by the third pint).
As it turns out it, I witnessed two bar fights that night. Typical London, you don’t see one for years and years and then two show up at once. On my way back to the station I popped into another old favourite, The Ship, for a quick pint of London Pride. As I was leaving, it seemed a ruck had broken out just outside between two people who had been in the pub, which was being broken apart by excited pub staff, and people were being directed away from it (so that they could stop and watch, as of course you would do). One rutting stag showed us the true meaning of “hold me back, hold me back”, and did some of the best “hold me back” moves I have ever seen, getting absolutely no fighting done whatsoever, while the main belligerent was drunkenly trying to pick up those metal poles that hold up barriers and swing it around like a broadsword. Maybe someone had asked if he wanted to go clubbing and his Google Translate had mis-google-translated. Security staff did that thing where they multiply, and both men were held back, and the audience started ambling off, as did I, because I had a plane to catch. An entertaining last night in London.
A few more from my recentish trip to Portland (early November, recent in geological terms). Above, I joined my friend Rita Sabler for her husband Jim’s birthday celebration at a cool little place in on Beach Street Portland I had never been to before, which involved some sketching and a lot of interesting conversation. Rita had invited me up to teach a workshop in Portland which was really fun, but it was really nice and relaxing to meet up with some of her friends. I last saw Rita in Porto in the summer at the symposium, she is actually a former UC Davis student (from before even I came to Davis). Check out Rita’s sketching work at www.portlandsketcher.com, she has done some great things lately (including a residency at the leper colony on Molokai!).
On my second night there I met up another old sketching buddy and fellow pirate-sketcher, Kalina Wilson. I really wanted to go back to this Belgian place that we had sketched one rainy Sunday afternoon back in 2012, Bazi Bierbrasserie, so we arranged to meet there. Except it’s not called that any more, it’s now to my surprise The Thirsty Monk. Beer was still nice though, and the conversation fun, always good to catch up after quite a while, I think I last saw her either at Manchester symposium or when my wife and I visited Portland one November (I forget the year). Check out Kalina’s sketching.
And above, a sketch I did at the hotel bar of the Doubletree in Portland. You have to go down to the bar to use their Wifi because it’s not included in the rooms (booo, join the 21st century Doubletree). I usually stay at this hotel because it is easy enough for the places I usually want to go, it’s right by the MAX line to the airport, but I don’t know, time to find somewhere else maybe. There was a heavy metal weekend going on at the hotel while I was staying there, so there were lots of long-haired metally people, dressed pretty much the same way (“metal”), which didn’t really fit in with the bland corporateness of the Doubletree. I always kinda laugh at the sameyness of metal outfits and rock dress, but of course when I was younger this was very much the scene in London that I enjoyed being around the most, the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street, the Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street, the Marquee on a Thursday night, I loved those places. And I would dress, well actually I would wear a bright green football shirt and have short hair because I liked to be different to everyone else, but I could mosh with the best of them. Those were the days. I felt quite at home around all the rockers, even in the sanitized corporate setting (and Doubletree, don’t put the toilets so far from the bar, yeah?). Anyway I sketched the bar, in its bland corporate light wood and screen showing basketball. Not exactly Old Town Pizza (now that is an interesting bar to sketch!) but a good way to get sleepy before bed.
It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.
This is another view of the University of Beer in Davis, California. I was there at the end of August, as I needed to go downtown to spend some time in the Avid Reader bookshop. I haven’t been in there in a while, and was in the mood where I just wanted to look through all the literature on the shelves. I bought a copy of ‘War of the Worlds‘; I’ve never read ‘War of the Worlds’, and when I opened the book the first word I saw was ‘Edgware’ so it was a sign I needed to read it. I actually worked in the Avid Reader years ago, when I first came to Davis. I still love the smell of the books. I thought about sketching in there, I haven’t done that in a very long time, but it was getting late so I went and sketched this bar a block away. I had wanted to add more colour, but was taking so long drawing. I had a couple of very nice beers there though. This was a test of perspective, with vanishing points at 45 degrees, and some curvilinear lines. Wonky in places (nothing to do with the tasty beverage, more to do with the tedium of drawing long lines. There seemed to be a fair bit of 1990s music being played. Including that utterly tedious Two Princes song that was on the radio constantly in 1993. This bar is pretty typical of Davis – busy at some points, almost empty at others, then a bit busy again, then very few again, so I drew whoever was standing or sitting when I looked in that particular part of the space; I suppose I drew the average number of players. University of Beer; see also the ‘College of Cider’, the ‘School of Shandy’, the ‘Polytechnic of Porter’, the ‘Institute of Inebriation’, the ‘Academy of Ale’, etc and so on.