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.
And so here are some sketches from the final evening of the Porto Symposium. On these final get-togethers we usually spend a lot of time chatting and sketching, often speaking to people we may have not had a chance to see yet (easily done in this 800-large event), before going to dinner very late and generally feeling exhausted. Some wine was also drunk. Above, I sketched Marina Grechanik, from Israel, who this year was one of the symposium correspondents and another old urban sketchers friend whose work I’ve admired for years. She has a very creative and playful style (she appeared in my last book, on people sketching) so we drew each other in a portrait duel. I do love portrait duels and wish I could do more of them, I didn’t do enough of them in Porto. Also on this page are Paul Heaston (who of course I know and have followed for years, but didn’t meet until 2016) and Hugo Costa, from Porto, who I’d not met before but whose work is awesome.
Below are Arnaud De Meyer, from Luxembourg, who I met in Manchester 2016. I really like his sketching work (especially his two page spreads), and really hope to sketch with the Luxembourg group some day; two sketchers I do not know but were from Germany, Jonatan and Alexandra; and Joe Bean, who I had the pleasure of meeting at a London sketchcrawl in 2016 and whose work I also really admire (in particular his in-construction sketches of Headingley Stadium in Leeds).
Below are a couple of sketchers I also met in Manchester 2016, Peter Dutka (UK) and Tine Klein (Switzerland), and though they both had colourful outfits I had didn’t have time to add paint while I stood with them. They both had amazing sketchbooks though, I spent some time looking through them, very productive and creative.
And below, the only other sketch I did, of a very tried and hungry group of urban sketchers – Liz Steel (Australia), Elizabeth Alley (USA), Fernanda Vaz de Campo (Brazil), and once more Paul Heaston (USA). Behind us were several more who I did not sketch. We had tried in vain to get dinner but it was late – late night dinner is less of a thing in Porto, this isn’t Madrid – but we found one place willing to serve us cheese pizza. The waitresses were for some reason very interested in my sketchbook. It was a fun evening, and I can’t wait to see evertyone again in Amsterdam! (Though I did see both Liz and Genine (unseen, at the table behind) in Lisbon a couple of days later).
Oh yes, Amsterdam – I didn’t mention, but that is the location of the next Urban Sketching Symposium. Far fewer hilly streets there than Porto! I really hope to go to that one. Next time, I will actually tell people I am going, make connections ahead of time, and I’d also like to spend a bit of time in Belgium first, catching up with old places, meeting sketching friends, before the craziness of the Symposium.
Oh, and one last thing – this is Super Bock. It’s one of two beers you see everywhere in Portugal (the other being Sagres). This is one of the most Portuguese things to sketch. I hope you have enjoyed this trip through Porto with me, I hope I have managed to show some of my enjoyment of this city, but I didn’t see it all and would love to come back some day. I know some friends in England who would love it there. Adeus, Porto!
Kwak! A beer I very much enjoyed when I lived in Belgium all those years ago (can I go back there again please, just for a few days, please? I miss Belgium, and have several good sketching friends there). It’s the beer in the funny glass. I still have all the Belgian beer glasses I was given by my amis Belges back in the year 2000, though I actually got this one in England a couple of years later. The big bottle of Kwak was given to me at Christmas, but took me a while to open – that’s a lot of Kwak for one sitting. Kwak will always be associated with a funny story about my friend Tel who visited me in Charleroi one weekend, which I recounted in this blog post from 2008, “The night Tel drank the Kwak“. That was funny. We were at my local, La Cuve a Biere, where we ordered a couple of Kwaks, but he drank his too quickly, and then the room started spinning, and everything went foggy (for him, not me, I was alright) and then he spent the best part of an hour in the small toilet of the pub, and it was not pretty. The “Kwak Incident” we called it. I miss Tel, he lives in Japan now. I miss a lot of things, places, people. Memories. That’s life I suppose. I miss recent things such as watching the Thor Ragnarok trailer a few minutes ago, that was so much fun, I miss it already. Difference is I can watch it again in a minute. And lets face it, I’m gonna. That’s gonna be a film I will need to watch with a much bigger glass of beer, Thor style. “Ragnakwak!” One glass I was given in Belgium was one such massive glass, with the words “Tres Grand Soif” on it, and a bell on it for when you need a refill. Santé!
More from San Diego. So one of the nicest places there is Coronado, an island city with an absolutely stunning beach. It might be the best beach in the United States. We had a lovely time playing on the beach in the sunshine, and I did a sketch of the historic Hotel del Coronado, “the Del” as my wife kept calling it (nothing to do with Southampton’s old ground, the Dell). It was built in 1888! Back then Jack the Ripper was doing his ripping, the Football League just started leaguing football, the lawn tennis association was founded on a lawn, and Katz’s deli opened in New York, not serving cats. Yes, it’s been around a long time. I sketched it with my feet in the actual Pacific Ocean. I would love to some day sketch the bar area, spend a bit of time doing that, but we had places to go. I did however see a bird flying around inside which flew directly into a window with a thud, cartoon like. I didn’t see it recovering, but I imagined it was on the floor all dazed with little tiny people running around its head. Poor little bird.
We visited the Coronado Brewing Company, who had lovely beer and food. I drank a Belgian Impaler (while Belgium lost to Italy on the TV nearby) and sketched my wife (above). I ate a lovely mac and cheese dish.
A few days later we visited Old Town San Diego. I didn’t do much sketching, other than at lunch. We went to a very colourful cantina restaurant and were serenaded by a couple of Mexican guitarists while we ate. I drew the scene opposite. Mexico is really close by to San Diego, in fact it backs right up to it, conurbating into Tijuana across the border.
Here are some other sketches I did. We of course went to the Zoo, and it really is a lovely zoo. My favourite animals were the pandas, and the elephants. My son loved the Komodo Dragon. I did a few quick sketches in pencil with a little bit of colour.
I have a few more sketches from our trip, from Legoland, but on the whole I mostly relaxed, swam in the pool, had the odd cocktail and didn’t check my email all week. Wicked.
“Sudwerk Choco-Taco” is an actual beer that I actually had. It’s quite dark, darker than I usually like, but it was really nice, I would have it again. I like trying the different craft beers that we have out here, and in fact I’ve started recording the ones I have tried by using that ‘Untappd’ app on my iPod. Admittedly there are times when it can be hard to remember, so I make a point of writing them down, or in this case, drawing a picture of it. And of course, why draw the glass when you can draw the rest of the bar as well? This is another bar sketch of De Vere’s (I do one from time to time, last time was January 2015). I’ve been very busy lately, and so one Saturday night I went and watched Deadpool. By the way, Deadpool is awesome. Don’t take your kids!!!! It will make you laugh. After watching Deadpool, I popped by the Avid Reader to buy Star Wars Top Trumps cards, and then into De Vere’s to read Deadpool comics and do some bar-sketching. The bar-sketching thing sometimes comes down to me needing to sit somewhere and draw a complicated but structured scene. I used a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (“say my name!” I hear this pen yelling to me, “say my whole name!”) and also a light grey Tombow marker to mix it up a bit. There’s also some Pigma Graphic pen in there for the thick lines. I had a couple of other beers, a Smithwicks red, which was very nice, and the Aggie Dry Hop lager by Sudwerk, which is alright.
I was also celebrating, from 5000 miles away, my older brother’s birthday; he turned 50 on that day. This is a year for milestone birthdays. Wish I could have been there celebrating with him – happy birthday Perks!
I have some more bar sketches yet to post, ones from New York City. In the meantime if you’d like to see some more, this Flickr set “Pubs, Cafes etc” has loads of mine, from pubs around the world.
It was time for another bar sketch. After a Saturday of AYSO soccer, pirates versus knights battles, Disney Infinity super-hero smash-downs and the occasional lightsabre duel, I headed out in the evening to do some drawing, read some comics and have a few beers. I love being a grown-up. Since I have a new book out (available right now!) in which I talk extensively about drawing bars in low light, I felt I should add to the sketchbook a little more, so I popped into the City Hall Tavern, which I last sketched two years ago, to again attempt their bar area with the bicycle wheels on the ceiling. Ice Hockey was on the TV (they just call it ‘Hockey’ here; similarly they say ‘cubes’ instead of ‘ice cubes’, ‘cream’ instead of ‘ice cream’, and ‘stares’ instead of ‘icy stares’ whenever I make this joke). They get so aggressive and fighty in Ice Hockey. For a game in which you are essentially just skating around trying to hit a small disc that won’t stop moving, players seem to get unusually angry, angrier than in most sports. Perhaps it’s because they dress head to toe in armour and carry huge sticks, it brings out the medieval warrior in people. Maybe the sport needs to change its image a little, and rename itself ‘Nice Hockey’. Ok, from now on I am calling it ‘Nice Hockey’ in the hope that it catches on. And those stares I get when I do will be called ‘Nice Stares’. So, back to the sketch. I sat on the opposite side of the bar to when I last sketched this bar, for a slightly different angle. I follow City Hall Tavern on Twitter, and I notice that they are using one of my sketches of their bar as their header image (I think I said ok to that), but they have removed whatever was on the screen and replaced it with an actual shot from a real basketball game. Hmm, no, not really a fan of that. Replace it with a shot of Harry Kane scoring for Tottenham, maybe, or of Jose Mourinho huffing as Chelsea lose again, perhaps. Anyway, I tried a couple of different beers, one was a Gose Wheat beer (tasted like Strongbow), the other was a Sudwerk Aggie Cruiser, which was nice too. Lots of people were coming in drinking cocktails as part of some local bar crawl event that was happening. By the time I was done with my sketch, all the City Hall bar patrons were standing and chatting and dancing, and so I popped down to De Vere’s for a comfy seat and one more wheat beer to read a couple of comics (“the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” if you’re interested, and it’s great) before walking home.
Here are my previous City Hall Tavern sketches (inside only; I’ve sketched the outside building since way before it was a bar):
More from San Francisco, last March. Yes amazingly I still have not shown all. This was my dinner, eaten at a small Belgian restaurant in North Beach, La Trappe. I have been there with my wife once before, and enjoyed the size of the massive beer book (which, large though it is, doesn’t have my two favourite bieres belges but has a lot of bloody nice ones). They aint cheap either. The food though is lovely. I am a fan of moules frites (a pot of mussels with Belgian fries, which ironically I didn’t actually eat when I lived in Belgium). On this evening, I chose the Moules Normandes, a tasty dish of mussels heavy with apples. I had the frites of course, which were nice (but not as nice as the ones I used to eat in Charleroi at 3am, drowned in mayonnaise), with two dipping sauces, mayo andalouse and roasted garlic mayo. For drink, I had a Maredsous 8, the brown one. Nice, but not my favourite Maredsous, and I didn’t finish it. Mostly I drank water. Anyway if you are in San Francisco, I can recommend it, and you’ll find it on the corner of Greenwich and Mason, right on Columbus. Oh yes, here is the map…