Here is a beer for the hot weather (and, while today has finally cooled off a little, we here in Davis have had a very long hot summer). Great White is brewed by Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka (I always read that as ‘Lost Coats’, with images of standing around by those coat places in nightclubs), and is very refreshing and tasty on a hot evening. In the pub, the beer pump is shaped like a shark. This is sketched in my ‘beer’ book, a brown paper sketchbook I’ve had for a while.
Last Saturday was national beer day, apparently, so I partook by having (and drawing) a couple from the Blue Moon Brewing Co. They make a nice wheat beer, but also make nice seasonal beers, my favourite of which is the Winter Abbey Ale, below, which is now off the shelves. Above is their Belgian style pale ale, Pale Moon, which was also very nice. I drank them and drew them (except for the bottle below which I drew later) while watching a movie on cable, “I Am Number Four”, which I think may have required more than two beers to fully appreciate the subtleties of.
Occasionally, I really miss London. Sure, there is a lot to be improved (for example, when I drank this bottle of London Pride I actually put it in the fridge first – tastes much better cold). When a man is tired of London, he’s usually tired of the Underground, or the council tax. And it’s just so crowded, and so many good stores have closed, and the weather is frankly shite when you most need it not to be. But I miss it, it’s home, it’s me, and of course it’s where the Olympics will be held this year, and it keeps cropping up in the media. With all this talk of London I am getting very homesick for my native city. Sure, there were horrendous scenes last summer during the riots; yeah, every headline is ‘stabbing this’ or ‘shooting that’, fine, the economy is so far down the plughole it may actually make it to the north sea, evaporate and come back as even more rain. I know, it rained every day on my last visit, and the one before that saw a blizzard of Narnian proportions. But what a place! The history is just everywhere; Burnt Oak, my home area, has a name that dates back to the Romans, sort of. It’s on the Edgware Road, the old Watling Street, built by the Romans. Of course nothing else was built there for another millennium plus a few more centuries, and then a couple more, but you know, it’s history, man. When I take a walk around the 1930s housing estates, to the 1960s era flats, and the kids playgrounds erected in the 1990s (and vandalized ten minutes later), all I can think of is, history man, we don’t get this sort of ancient history all around us in California, where everything was built like, five minutes ago, and there are no centuries-old epic highways built by road-building Latins before English speaking people arrived. (Well, there’s the Camino Real, but y’know)
Of course, I’m having a laugh, int ya. I always think it’s funny though when people in America (and the UK too) speak of London like a walk through the pages of history, when the great majority of things you will see are no older than the things you’ll likely see in the States (except for a few obvious exceptions; all the Norman churches and castles, for example, but even then they may have been heavily modified in later years). What’s older, the White House or Buckingham Palace? Tower Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge? Independence Hall or Big Ben? Oh this is an easy game to play to your advantage (“What’s older, Windsor Castle or the Mall of America?”) but the point is that while we do have a long long history Londoners are not generally immersed in it on a daily basis, any more than big city Americans. The streets and their names go back many more centuries than the architecture that occupies them, and provide great stories if you should know them, but sometimes the truly historical takes some digging. And that’s where we have the edge, in the history that goes back beyond what we can see. Many of our winding streets follow their medieval courses. Names like ‘Threadneedle Street’ and ‘Lombard Street’ tell us something about the trades or even the nationalities that lived there. London Bridge dates from the 1970s, but there has been a bridge over the Thames at that spot since Roman times (apparently prone to falling down), which being the only one was London’s Bridge. The stories of history too pervade the modern settings – it’s always great to stand in the middle of a crowded street and say, for example, here, Oliver Cromwell was hanged two years after his death in front of huge crowds, or right around here, Dick Whittington heard the Bow Bells and turned back, putting his cat in a cage to mark the spot. But even the history we know isn’t as established as people think. Londoners had not the smoggiest idea who Samuel Pepys was for two centuries, but now he’s considered one of the most well-known of historical Londoners. For many centuries, Londoners believed that their city was founded not by Romans, but by a Trojan named Brutus. Historical names remain, but their meanings slip away from us; I grew up near St.Alphage’s church, but had little idea that Alphage (or Ælfheah) was a hugely important part of Anglo-Saxon London’s self-consciousness as a city: he was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred (read brutally tortured and murdered by drunken bloodthirsty Vikings) in 1012, becoming London’s first martyr-saint (very important for an aspiring medieval city) – that was exactly a thousand years ago!
I’ll be watching the Olympics in California of course, with the usual time delay, feeling sad every time they show an establishing shot of the Millennium Dome or the BT Tower and other such historical buildings. I’m sure a tear will be brought to my eye when they show the curve of the Thames or the layer of grey ozone above the Docklands, or when the US networks interview locals about what sports they’ll be watching, and then shrug in confusion when they say ‘Affle’ics’ or ‘Fuh’baw’. I miss London, I’m proud to be from the city, with all of its history. So here is London Pride, a beer I enjoyed and sketched in the brown-paper-beer-book last week.
This was a nice beer, Pliny the Elder, from the Russian River Brewing Co in Santa Rosa CA. A gift from my mother-in-law (cheers Lois!), it’s quite strong at 8%, and something of a cult favourite among beer afficionados (try saying or typing that after a few). Written all around the label are recommendations that you actually drink the beer, not save it. It’s a living thing, beer, you have to treat it right or the taste will go funny. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that (and I had a beer at Jupiter in Berkeley last month that really was very much so off). This label makes sure to remind you. “Pliny the Elder is a Historical figure, don’t make the beer inside this bottle one!” “Age your cheese, not your Pliny!” “Respect your Elder: keep cold, drink fresh, do not age!” “Do not save for a rainy day!” Good advice. Well it hasn’t been rainy here in quite a while, nor will it according to KCRA3 Chief Meterologist Mark Finan, so chin chin, bottoms up!
Drawn in the ‘beer bottle and glass’ brown sketchbook. “In Vino Veritas”; that was from Pliny the Elder, did you know.
My wonderful wife picked up a nice beer for me to try (I like to try seasonal ales from around the west coast), “Ebenezer Ale” from Bridgeport in Portland. I have been to Bridgeport, with some of the Portland Urban sketchers, during last year’s Symposium (one of the nicest evenings I spent up there), so I knew thye have good beer (and good moules frites too). For once I didn’t draw this in the brown ‘beer bottle sketchbook’, but in my Moleskine instead. Now I can report that I’ve tried a few different ones lately, and this is one of the best. this and a couple of mince pies will make for a nice Chrimbo, methinks. No humbugs though.
I haven’t been drawing much this week, but this is one from a couple of weeks back that I forgot to scan. My wife got me some Weihenstephaner beer, ‘Festbier’ (it is October after all), and to go with it she also got me one of the really big litre-sized beer glasses. I had to draw it! (My brown sketchbook as you may know is for beer and beer glasses now). Weihenstephaner is the oldest brewery in the world, and we visited it just outside Munich when we were in Bavaria in 2005. I really like their beer a lot. One of the reasons I went there is because at the time I was studying Germanic Philology, and had just written a paper about the competing influences of Old English and Old Gothic on the vocabulary of Old High German, specifically in the field of religion (they being the chief importers of Christianity in Germania), and one of the focuses was on the two words for ‘holy’, ‘heilig’ being the Anglo-Saxon inspired word (from ‘hálig‘), and ‘weihe’ being the Gothic preference (cf ‘weihs’). Ultimately the preferred English form gained most use, though some of the old Gothic-inspired words can still be seen in place names, such as ‘Pfaff’ and ‘Weihe’, as in ‘Weihenstephaner’. Interesting, I thought, so I went there and got a beer.
Beer. A great thing to drink on yet another very very hot day, when work has kept you busy (also a very good thing to drink while the season opener of Gray’s Anatomy is on in the same room). I used to like drinking Hoegaarden when I was in Belgium, and in fact was given a set of Hoegaarden glasses and beers, from the various types they make, as a parting gift by some Belgian friends. Wow, that was more than eleven years ago. This is one of those very glasses (though the beer is newer). Drinking it does remind me of Belgium, of Blokker and Inno and Champion (they’re shops, not greyhounds), of squared paper notebooks and crazy drivers, of warm cosy pubs and freezing cold rainy walks home, of phonecards and mitraillettes de dinde, of sitting on trains and trams just for the pleasure of reading a book. You can imagine me at a beer tasting festival. “Ah yes, this one has a fruity aroma, with a hint of waiting half an hour to use a cashpoint and then stepping in dogpoo.” Funny thing is, I didn’t drink Hoegaarden that often, I usually drank Fruit Defendu (made by them, though) or Leffe, perhaps a nice cold a Maes or occasionally my favourite, Charles Quint. I love a Kwak too. Mmm, that one has a nutty palatte, an aroma of that time when my mate Tel came over and downed one too quickly, and the room started to spin and he spent the next hour and a half in the toilet before wandering home in the snow. Happy times!
Sketched in my ‘bottle and glass brown paper sketchbook’. That name has nothing to do with cockney rhyming slang, by the way.
The third and final day of the Urban Sketching Symposium was a gloriously sunny morning (weren’t they all?), and after meeting at FBAUL to talk about our experiences so far, we set out on our final workshops. I was with Asnee Tasna’s group, going over to the long sloping Rua da Bica for the workshop on Contrast (“Contrastes”). Asnee Tasna is the USk correspondent from Bangkok, and I really enjoy his colourful and expressive style. His co-instructor was Joao Catarino, USk correspondent from Lisbon. Rua da Bica is an interesting location because of the famous yellow cable-car (‘elevador’) that pulls up and down the gritty narrow street. People squeezed by us on their day to day routines, laundry hung from balconies, ‘super bock’ and ‘sagres’ bottles and empty cracked glasses littered the path telling tales of the night before, with the accompanying smells, the stinking streets of summer. I’m sure it was quite the party. This was another good group of sketchers – Liz, Luis, Inma, Swasky to name but a few – and another enjoyable morning, learning from one another. I used a few different pens – a Pitt brush pen above, a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (oh yeah) below left (I enjoyed that sketch, influenced by the quick sketches done in the Lght of Lisboa workshop), and my regular micron 01.
Above right, well the workshop is about contrasts, right? Here are the beer bottles. I think I like this sketch most of all, it tells an interesting story about urban life. It’s good to focus on the small ephemeral details alongside the sweeping vistas. But I love a sweeping vista too, so it was highly enjoyable to sketch the scene below, looking down the rua and towards the turquoise blue Tagus.
And here is the Moleskine! Just so you can see how it all looks on the page. The beer bottles are on the other side. After this we all went for lunch at a tiny Portuguese place at the top of the street. I ate sardines, and drank a super bock.
Illustration Friday this week is ‘bicycle’. Living in Davis, this one’s obvious. We’re the bicycling capital of the US. We have the bicycling Hall of Fame. I just bought a new bike seat. So I decided instead to draw a beer instead – Fat Tire, from the New Belgium Brewing Company, whose symbol is a bike. Sketched in the brown sketchbook, which has a few different bottles and glasses in them now.
Hope you had a good Easter! We did, it was nice. I ate rather a lot.
I left the Mission district with ages to spare (BART being a lot quicker than I thought, for some reason) and hung out by the Embarcadero for a while, watching the sunlight fade, and sipping an Anchor Steam beer on the outside terrace of the Americana hotel. Proper San Francisco beer for the end of the day. I sketched the Fery Building, glowing in the evening sun, and as the lights went on on the Bay Bridge I sat by the water’s edge and used the white gel pen to capture it.
On the Amtrak train coming home, I read the comics I’d bought and flicked through the day’s sketches. there was time for one more; so I looked at my reflection in the window and sketched that.