bus stop inspiration

3rd st bus stop, Davis CA
I stood at the bus stop on Third Street in downtown Davis. I hit the point recently where I have drawn all of Davis, literally the entire town. No that isn’t true, really, it can never be true, but sometimes it feels like it. I have drawn the building to the right before (actually that was a commission for the lovely couple who own it). I do wander about trying to get inspiration for a new sketch though and a lot of the time, nothing comes. That happens. You get uninspired. Everything looks so “common” and “everyday” and unworthy of recording again. I’m sure Paul Cezanne used to have days like that, “Oh not Mont St Victoire again, mon dieu” but he lived in Aix-en-Provence and unless there are Moleskine sketchbooks filled with his sketches of the Cours Mirabeau and the Dog People then I’m afraid he wasn’t really trying. Pull your finger out Cezanne! Mont St Victoire was like a comfort blanket for him, he’d get down, have a poulet-frites and paint the mountain again. It’s ok, I lived in Aix once, it’s a funny sort of town. More to sketch there than in Davis though. I have actually climbed Mont St Victoire you know, twice. I tell people this all the time like I discovered it or something, like I’m some big rugged mountaineer, Sherpa Tensing or someone. I walked up it, on the easy side, I didn’t freescale the steep side. Well, there are no mountains in Davis, but we do have this bus stop on Third Street. I wasn’t even waiting for a bus. I could tell you a great story about how I had twenty minutes to wait for the bus and I just whipped out the sketchbook and freescaled the Cezanne out of that blank page. The truth is I cycled there, and this wasn’t even my destination. I had no destination. It was lunchtime, I really needed to sketch, the final few pages of Watercolour Moleskine #14 had been blank for long enough and I had been putting off filling them until I had something amazing to fill them with. All I could find however was this bus-stop. It is a nice bus-stop, you have to admit.The incline on at least one of those metal poles is reminiscent of the incline on Mont St Victoire, if looking at it backwards. The moral of the story is if you have nothing left to draw, draw a bus-stop. YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE IT MIGHT TAKE YOU…

(Oh groan groan, and anyway yes you do, just look at the bus map. This line is on a loop anyway so if you want a rubbish bus metaphor it should be “drawing Davis is like the E line, you just always end up going back to all the places you’ve just been” or something)

i am a passenger, and i ride and i ride

the N5
Been a busy, busy week, with barely a moment to think. Januarys are hectic, and I’ve not had time to do any urban sketching this week. Here though is part of something I have been doing, a panel of a comic. This – not drawn from life – is a scene familiar to so many, waiting for the night bus. To those who don’t know, the night buses in London generally start at Trafalgar Square and then go all across the city, to the ends of the earth, ferrying late-night Londoners in varying states of tiredness or drunkenness or both back home when the tube has stopped running. The N5 was my bus. Back in the olden days, before the north side of Trafalgar Square was pedestrianized, I waited there for the N5, waited and waited until sometimes it was light, in the rain or the cold, with crowds of people or just a few stragglers (but usually with crowds, London at 4am on a Sunday morning is a busy bloody place). More often that waiting would be around the corner, one stop from the beginning, where the fried chicken shop was on Charing Cross Road. Some nights, the N5 just would not come. This was the old days, before Mayor Ken put lots more buses on the street, when you could wait two or three hours for a night bus that should have come hourly. Sometimes there would be one or two other buses, different routes, at your stop when your N5 finally came, only for the N5 to not bother stopping because nobody hailed it down (due to not actually being able to see it coming) – oh those were frustrating days. When I used to go to the Hellfire Club in Oxford Street, it was taking a chance getting on the N5 at Tottenham Court Road because it was usually full up by that point. Going out in Camden was worse, because that bloody N5 would always be absolutely jam packed by the time it reached Camden Town, and you just had to wait for the next one, that was all there was to it. The bus stop was outside the Black Cap, and opposite a 24 hour store where they sold cans of Pepsi Max and really bad sandwiches. Sometimes the N5 would decide inexplicably to stop in Golders Green, about halfway home, meaning another hour long wait and more time spent browsing bags of crisps in a 24-hour store, if it was even open. The most common habit though, and I know that all of you late-night Londoners out there have done this at some point, is the classic fall-asleep-and-wake-up-at-the-end-of-the-line move. Hey, it’s a long journey, and I can fall asleep on a five minute bus trip. My end of the line thankfully was only a mile or so from where I needed to get off, admittedly involving a walk through deserted car-park and dark alley and a walk up the Deansbrook in the cold. That was the N5 – when I was studying in east London and would get the N25 from Mile End to Trafalgar Square, well let’s say when I fell asleep the bus would just turn around and go the other way – one time I ended up in Essex (that’s nothing, once I fell asleep on the wrong train out of Brussels and ended up going into Holland). Those days are long gone – though that night a couple of months ago when I got stuck waiting for the Yolobus in Woodland after the Art Farm event certainly brought all of these adventures back to me (except in London, we do have streetlights).

The night bus, aah, we’ve all been there. Except if you aren’t from London or a big city which has them, in which case you probably haven’t.

is that concrete all around or is it in my head?

About two and a half years ago I came back to the UK for the first time since moving to California. I walked up to Edgware, just up from Burnt Oak, where I used to go to school, and where I used to shop for records, books, guitar strings, and more books. I was stunned to find that none of the places where I used to get these things existed any more, and I lamented the downturn of this edge-of-town suburb. I wrote a blog entry about it, which even now people are leaving comments on, telling their own tales of Edgware past. Each time I’ve returned since it seems to have gotten worse, crowded with people who have little to do, with all the half-interesting shops disappearing before our very wallets, even the chains. HMV is now a pound shop, McDonald’s is now a cheap clothes store, and we all know about Woolworths.

st margarets church, edgware

While back this time, I went up on Christmas Eve to do some drawing, and squeeze through the purgatorio of The Mall (formerly the Broadwalk). I sat in the cold outside the boarded up Railway pub, a wonderful old hotel which has sat empty for a few years now, and drew the church opposite. I used to pass this way on the way home from school every day, years ago; even my old school has been knocked down and replaced with a brutal looking Academy. There’s an alley to my right that cuts through to the streets leading up to Deansbrook Road, and Burnt Oak, me and Tel walking down there telling stupid jokes every afternoon of our teenage years.

I finished this sketch and walked across the road, past the still-empty Music Stop – and was shocked to find, a few doors down, a brand new guitar shop! I went inside; the young guy who worked there told me they’d only been open four days, and that the bloke who worked in the old Music Stop now worked there, having been working down at another fave old guitar shop of mine in Crouch End (in fact, this new shop is a branch of that one, Rock Around the Clock). After a chat about Ibanez guitars in America I walked off pretty happy: did this mean Edgware was on the mend? Who knows, and maybe it’s just the view from a distance, but either way, it’s a new shop that sells neither cheap luggage or cheap cardigans, nor is yet another pound shop, and that’s a start. If I still lived there, I might even shop there.

because you’re mine, i walk the line

just unnoticed

Part three of a series. Presumably this means I will have to make more. This is the outside of a very famous station. Well it’s not that famous but many thousands of people have heard of it, maybe millions. More people over the course of seventy years have heard of it than, say, Jordan and Peter Andre. And they’re pretty famous for not doing anything particularly noteworthy. I suppose you could say this station has spent it’s entire life on the line. The Northern Line. Anyway here it is in line and wash.

hanging on the telephone


No, this isn’t the magical forest where things from London just pop up between the trees, it’s the MU bus terminal at UC Davis, which has magpied a few British things to make them feel more like Londoners. Also at this terminal – it’s the only place in California where it rains, there are gangs of tabloid hoodies waiting to scowl at you from a distance, and there’s bloody Boris Johnson with his pointless competition for pointless new routemasters. Authentic. Actually no, you can keep those things, we’ll just take the phonebox, the lamp-post and the bus. Cheers.

Hanging on the Telephone… do you remember when Saddam was executed, and there were those guys filming it on their mobiles? I wonder if that song was running through their minds for a soundtrack?

On that note… Happy Thanksgiving!

the day after the revolution

all change

My new post on urban sketchers – that is turning into a great and very productive website.

Today is Guy Fawkes Night in Britain, but not here (and who would want to be seen to be associating with – palling around? – terrorists who target their own country, like Guy Fawkes, anyway..?). No, today is the day after the most important US election in recent memory. Oh yes, we happy, we happy! Can’t quite describe it. Best decision not only for America, but for the world.

But I’m very unhappy about California voting Yes on Prop 8 – the proposition that bans gay marriages in the state constitution by ensuring that it can only be between a man and a woman. The way that campaign was run, as if by having gay marriage your kids were somehow in danger, was offensive beyond belief, and was heavily supported and funded by the Mormon church in Utah, out of the state (dudes, come on, not the ones to lecture californians about marriage).  I fail to see how two gay people being married hurts anybody else, or damages the sanctity of marriage, nor how it threatens the building blocks of society (it only really threatens the blockheads of society) – do they wish then to ban divorce? ‘Protect marriage’ they say – hey guess what folks, men can still marry women if gay marriage exists! Are they hoping then that children will not know about gay people at all now that they officially can’t get married? Are they hoping that by keeping homosexuals as second class citizens that children who may have grown up gay might now be saved? Are they hoping that gay people will now simply go away? Bigotry and discrimination. Why not go further and ban gay people from voting, in case their pro-gay votes damage the electoral system (please, no swing-state jokes)? Perhaps they are worried that if two men can marry each other, the system of marriage and its inherent tax and legal status benefits will be exploited to the point where it becomes a mockery. So, then, such scam or sham marriages never happen between a man and a woman? Complete lunacy.

And while out of state religious groups funded the Yes vote, it was not really about religion, or schools. A great many religious organizations opposed Prop 8, as did the California Teacher’s Association. Oh well, vote lost, now for the legal battles and appeals.

Maybe one day we’ll have a gay president. Hah, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if we already have had one, at some point in history. Personally, I’d like to see an atheist president one day too. It’s funny, but in the system which cherishes separation of church and state, that option seems the most unlikely.

Anyway…the drawing, today, at the new shiny Silo bus terminal. That Sepia micron 05 again. I quite like it. Wonder how long it will last.

pissing down with rain on a boring wednesday

This week’s Illustration Friday theme is ‘detach‘. Here then is my entry: a picture of Burnt Oak tube station.

burnt oak station

I think the reason is that, each time I go back home, I feel more and more detached from the place I grew up. How much further detached from it will I become; am I even really detached, or is it all just imaginary? This is Burnt Oak station. Second from last stop on the Northern Line. Not a particularly nice place to hang about of an evening, you might say (or daytime either). It’s on Watling Avenue (previously seen here). I’d come out of the station, look up the hill to see if my bus was coming, and if not, I’d walk home (only one bus stop away up Orange Hill). A favourite hang-out for dodgy kids with nothing to do.  

And it rains there. It doesn’t rain here.