porto panoramic

Porto view from Vila Nova de Gaia

Picture postcard Porto. Pretty, panoramic, picturesque. I could go on. I think I’m most happy with the sketch above, of all the stuff I drew in Porto, this is the postcard scene. It was my free, non-workshop day, no obligations to be anywhere. I slept in a bit longer than I had intended (until almost 9), but my feet were happy for the extra rest. On this day I was heading over the river for the first time to Vila Nova de Gaia. I was interested to explore Gaia, and looking back I wish I had explored more but you sacrifice some wandering time for sketching time, and I really like sketching. The scene above took two full hours, as I added the paint on site (instead of the old colour-in-later thing), and it was beautiful there. I was under the shade of a tree, on a solo bench, and the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm but breezy. Views like this are there to be enjoyed.

So Vila Nova de Gaia. First of all, the boat – there are lots of these old boats along the banks of the Douro, loaded with barrels, each belonging to one of the many Porto wineries that dot the shores of Gaia. Most have English names and origins, as mentioned in my last post, and in fact these boats have a race up the river each year. It’s called the ‘Douro Rabelo Port Wine Boat Regatta’, which may not be easy to say after a few glasses of Sandeman Tawny. the ‘Rabelo’ is what these little boats are called. They are used to transport wine to Porto from the Douro valley. They’re flat bottomed, and that long piece of wood at the back (the ‘little tail’; that’s what ‘rabela’ means in Portuguese) is used to steer it.

Porto view from Vila Nova de Gaia

I drew the one above first, and intended to colour this one in but the wind on top of the hillside got the better of me. It’s a long way up. I had crossed the Ponte Luiz I bridge via the top, sensibly. My plan was originally to cross over here, go down to the riverside, sketch there, look at wineries, come back up and get the metro to the Dragao Stadium, home of FC Porto. I never did that last bit, because I was moving a lot more slowly, what with sketching these complicated detailed scenes. But what fun!! I never get to draw scenes like this back in Davis. Those bridges in the Arboretum just aren’t the same. I must say though, if there is a quick way down to the riverbank I didn’t find it, I took a long way, walking down a steep winding path. That’s why I never went back that way, but crossed the river at the base of the bridge instead (and then took an even steeper trek up the hill in Ribeira).

Now Vila Nova de Gaia has an interesting history, aside from being where the wineries sell their Port. First of all, it is actually a separate city from Porto itself. The hydrants look a bit different for one thing. Now this settlement existed in Roman times where it was known as Cale, or Portus Cale. Yes, it’s from this that we get the name ‘Portugal’, which was originally the large county around this area which expanded during the Reconquest of the middle ages to what we now know as Portugal. The port area was on the other side of the river, now called Porto (or ‘O Porto’, the port).

Cais do Ribeiro, Porto

Here is another rabela, this one moored on the Ribeira side of the Douro. I love drawing that bridge. This was done a couple of days before, during the Sketchwalk (in which I didn’t really take part as a group activity – there were a lot of people – and missed the final group photo, comme d’habitude eh). I did have to rush back to the Alfandega though for the opening reception of the Symposium.

Porto panorama sm

Now this final drawing I am showing also took a couple of hours, and is themed like the others in the it shows the river Douro and the Ponte Luiz I bridge, but this one is even more panoramic, being one of those double-page spreads I like. Click on the image to get a closer view. I really enjoyed sketching this, though I was standing when I did. Before I began I actually did try to sit at a cafe to rest and have a beer while I got started, but the waiter actually refused to serve me when he saw I had a sketchbook. “Are you going to paint here all afternoon?” he said gruffly. “Well I’m going to draw for about half an hour while I have that beer, yes.” “It is not allowed!” he responded with a mean look. “Fair enough,” I said, I mean there were only a few tables on a very narrow strip and I chose the one with the best view, but this Portuguese Basil Fawlty did irk me a little, I was a paying customer, and didn’t intend on being there for long; I had somewhere to be, and I wanted to sit down and have a cold Super Bock. I’m sure he had had many, many, many others doing the same and it irritated him. So I stood around the corner, where there were other sketchers, and I drew for about half an hour, and then went off to see Gabi’s demo, and then came back to draw the rest for about an hour and a half. I never got to finish the colour, and I do intend on adding it, at some point, but for now I’m leaving it as it is. Just imagine the colourful scene. The sound of seagulls, the chatter of tourists, the silent concentration of sketchers, and of course, the completely irritating sound of street musicians, playing ‘Besame Mucho’ over and over and over again. There are a lot of street musicians – you know how much I love those – and they all seem to play Besame Mucho way too much. There was one though that turned up while I was sketching this who wasn’t actually that bad – he didn’t play Besame bloody Mucho anyway – but then he started playing Oasis songs, but really, really slowly for some reason. “stop Crying Your Heart Out” took about eight minutes, as he warbled on “Hooooowwwwllld Oooowwwwooonnnn,” like a tortured coyote. I don’t think this was exactly Fado, but I can understand Saudade a bit more now, the feeling of sadness after listening to these terrible musicians all day long. Maybe that’s why the wait said it wasn’t allowed, maybe he was warning me of the bad music, like it was for my own good. Ok, I’m exaggerating my own grumpiness for amusing effect (that’s my story). Standing and sketching big detailed scenes is one of the things that makes me most happy, and puts me in a ridiculously good mood despite bad street musicians and grouchy moustachioed waiters. I chatted to some other sketchers I had never met when I was done, and then went off to Ribeira square to meet all the other sketchers for Drink’n’Draw.

One more post of Porto sketches to go! So this is the Penultimate Porto Pictures Post.

Advertisements

vacation time in san diego

SD quivira basin view

We needed a vacation, away from it all, so we went to San Diego for a week of pool, beach, Legoland, zoo, and cooler weather than we’ve been getting in bloody sweltering Davis. We’ve been to San Diego one time before, seven years ago, when I went for a conference in La Jolla and we stayed to visit my wife’s uncle. This time we saw different areas, and it was lovely. I’m not done scanning the sketches, but here are a couple of ones I did at our hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt Mission Bay resort which overlooked a lovely harbour from our balcony. I sketched from the balcony one early evening, the sound of a sea-lion perched on a buoy honking away in the distance.

SD Mission Bay Hyatt

Waking up early was the usual thing to do in the mornings, because the football was on the TV, but it was also nice to go for a stroll around the marina, and I sketched the view of the Hyatt complex, joined by my urban sketching son. A pretty nice place.

just to make this dock my home

SF Balclutha
Recently I took a couple of days in San Francisco, the City by the Bay. I know lots of other cities are by bays as well (and this isn’t even the only city by this bay, nor the biggest), but when we talk about the City by the Bay we mean only one place. Anyway, to San Francisco I came, not to sit here resting my bones as such but to draw furiously, and draw furiously I did. After this one, anyhow, which was drawn calmly, peacefully and without any fury at all. It is lovely down there by the water’s edge, listening to the tide as it rolls away. I was blessed with a beautiful warm day (I always get weather-lucky in the city), the day before a huge storm washed away any doubters. I didn’t fancy sketching the mania of Fisherman’s Wharf much, and considered going out to sketch the Golden Gate Bridge (another time perhaps) but just wanted to sit and sketch the Balclutha, a magnificent old boat moored near Hyde Pier. There is Alcatraz, the former prison island, in the background (Clint Eastwood swimming just out of shot). I sat on a bench as joggers, tourists, cyclists, and those funny looking Segway riders bumbled by. At one point I took a photo of the scene using my iPad, at which point a Wandering Drunk stumbled by and said loudly, “I wish I could sink that thing!!” Now here is an example of the modern world taking over common vocabulary, because I actually thought he meant the iPad, as in ‘sync’, and I was most confused. “It’s not even American!” he continued, while swilling his can of cheap beer. Now I was confused; Apple is based not far from here, surely, what are you on about you nutter? It was not a conversation I was interested in having, but then when he started gesturing at the ship I realized, aaaah, you mean the boat, right I get it now, you make sense now, carry on. He perched himself at the top of the steps with a six-pack and carried on making idle threats at passing maritime vessels, which to be fair is probably a nice relaxing way to spend the day, for all I know. I did look up the sailing ship Balclutha when I got home, to see if it really wasn’t American, and apparently it is not, it was built in Glasgow in Scotland (‘Balclutha’ is Gaelic and refers to the city on the Clyde), was renamed Alaska Star and Pacific Queen for periods, and has been moored in San Francisco since the Maritime Museum purchased it in the 1950s. You can find out more about the Balclutha on the National Park Service website.

you gotta go away, so you can come back

portland ship
Everybody needs a weekend away every now and then. This past weekend, I flew up to Portland, Oregon, a city I had first visited two years ago for the first Urban Sketching Symposium. I wanted to come back and see some places I had previously missed, catch up with some local urban sketchers I know, eat from food carts, sample local beer, and spend time by the river. I like it down by the river. This was the first sketch I did after arriving at the hotel and light-railing it downtown, a big boat on the Willamette. The bridge in the background is the Burnside Bridge; those spiky towers belong to the Convention Center. As I sketched, cyclists cycled by, joggers jogged on, and gaggles of geese giggled at my goggles.

You can expect the next week or so of posts to be about my trip to Portland, either in a linear or nonlinear or scrawled comic or urban dance form. I got rained on rather a lot, but that was ok, it’s Portland rain which is sweeter than other rain, and contains beer and voodoo donuts.

sketching by the willamette, portland

that was some rescue

toy speedboat - sorry, 'rescue boat'

My son’s beloved toy ‘rescue boat’. I knew this was a winner when I got it at Toys R Us, only ten bucks. But it’s a rescue boat, definitely not a speedboat. Hey, three-year-olds know best. He always corrects me when I play with his fire trucks – “no daddy, not ‘woo-woo-woo’, it’s ‘nee-naw-nee-naw’!” Different fire engines make different siren noises in his world, but hey, he’s the expert, he should know. Jeez, before long it’ll be, “Daddy, Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language, don’t you know anything?”

sitting here resting my bones

Pier 39

Sunday morning in San Francisco, and the weather was amazing. Twain said that the coldest winter he ever had was summer in San Francisco. That of course has absolutely nothing to do with this post but I thought I’d throw that in there anyhow. Well, winter you see is not hugely different from summer in the bay area, in many ways, except there is a bit less fog in the winter. It was t-shirt weather last Sunday (and I’m talking to you, man I saw with no shirt, only shorts). I wore a t-shirt (under my jumper of course). Anyway it was bright and sunny, and thnakfully not too busy at Pier 39, where I got off the Amtrak bus. I don’t like Pier 39 too much, and the rest of Fisherman’s Wharf even less, but mostly because of the masses of people. It’s so much better when it’s less crowded. I can look at Alcatraz mugs and cable-car magnets to my heart’s content.

SS Pampanito

What I had come to draw were boats, and not any old boats, but two in particular I had wanted to sketch on a previous trip but didn’t (because of the wintery rain and fog). The USS Pampanito is a big submarine moored at Pier 45, outside the Musee Mecanique, at San Francisco Maritime National Park. It was too long for me to (be bothered to) sketch so I focused on the turret thing. There’s a broom on top which apparently indicates a ‘clean sweep’ of an area. Useful thing to know, when looking at a submarine. Not to be confused with the sign that means they’ve had a ‘brush with the enemy’.

a submarine cannon

Here is the big cannon that sits on top of the Pampanito. At least I presume it’s a cannon. For all I know it’s a periscope. Still, the big long shaft kind of gives it away. Best be safe I think and stay out of the way.

ss jeremiah o'brien

And this is the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a big huge battleship moored behind (sorry, astern of) the Pampanito, and like the submarine it fought in World War II. in fact, this ship was used in the Normandy Landings on D-Day. Now that is a big ship. By the way, there is Alcatraz in the distance behind the ship.

sketching at fisherman's wharf

with water praying and call of seagull and rook

boats, montereya boat at monterey
More of Monterey, California. I could spend weeks there just drawing boats, but these quick sketches were all I managed in the time I was there. We were at Fisherman’s Wharf, having seen the sea-lions lying about the rocks, and I was trying my ‘see how fast you can sketch’ style of rapid two-minute sketching while my son chased pigeons and seagulls.

monterey steam enginemonterey fisherman's wharf

If you ever go to Monterey and you have kids, I’d recommend the Dennis the Menace playground. It’s probably the best playground I ever went to. It was founded by the creator of Dennis the Menace (no, not that Dennis the Menace, but the ones we Brits simply call ‘Dennis‘, because let’s face it he’s nowhere near as menacing as our Dennis the Menace) One of the many highlights is the large old authentic steam engine they have, which kids can climb upon. Unless you’re a menace, of course.