The other evening, after dinner, I cycled down to the Marketplace parking lot in north Davis (that cultural hotbed) where there was a meeting of classic automobile enthusiasts. By that I mean that the automobiles were classic, not that the enthusiasts were classic, though they probably were, I don’t know about how to judge an enthusiast’s classic status. The ones I met were very nice. Anyway the sun was already going down and so I didn’t have a great deal of time to choose a car to sketch, but this beauty stood out above all the others. Now some of the cars were spectacular beasts, and some were, to be fair, verging on the old banger. This fine automobile however was bright and shiny and oozing in fifties Americana. Its yellow trimmings reminded me of California sunshine (that, and the fact I was in California and it was sunny, for a few more minutes anyway). So I sketched it, and you can see my reflection in it, and the owner liked it; it was his first car, in his family since 1977, and it is a 1956 Mercury Montclair. Now this says ‘America’ to me, not your beige Toyotas. Three people sat in the front, like in the movies, cruisin’ low and slow, all of that. I do like to sketch a classic automobile. They’re having one more this year, next month, same place. I might get there earlier this time, and sketch some more.
Last Thursday May 16 was the tenth annual “Celebrate Davis” event, held at Community Park, the big park near my house. There were food stands, live music, bouncy castles for kids, a petting zoo, a big zipline was set up, even a dunk tank where kids can throw balls at a button to send some poor volunteer splashing into a vat of water. Mostly there were stands from various different businesses from Davis, this event being organized by the Chamber of Commerce. I did a little bit of sketching: above is Cochon Volant BBQ (“Flying Pig”), which I sketched with the smell of grilled pork wafting all around. I don’t eat pork any more but I’m sure it was lovely. I also sketched an old police car which was parked nearby, the local police were letting kids get in to take photos. This looks very 70s TV cop show to me. I wonder if it ever drove through big piles of boxes on the sidewalk, like they did in the 70s, on cop shows, on TV.
Celebrate Davis 2013 ended with its usual spectacular firework display, which thnaks to out location we can see from the comfort of our bedroom window.
The 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl took place in the Castro, San Francisco. This here is Castro Street (click on the image to see a larger version), and I was very eager to sketch a panorama of this scene. The magnificent Castro Theater could take up an entire day of sketching all on its own, so full of detail it is. I enjoyed speaking later to other sketchcrawlers who had attempted it, some having drawn more detail and some having drawn less, each impactful in their own way. It’s a tricky one. For me, the horizon was the thing – I had intended on sketching a lot more of the beautiful slopes of old houses on that hillside, but the smaller size of my sketch and the level of foreground detail meant leaving it out would be better. Well, that and I would have been there until about Thursday. No, with this sketch I wanted to capture the sweep of Castro Street, sinking and rising among San Francisco’s many hills. The Castro is well known as the predominantly gay neighbourhood of the city, and you’re not really left in any doubt of that! Rainbow flags adorn lamp-posts, bars, houses; this is an area which is open and proud. I was stood at Harvey Milk Plaza sketching this, and if you have seen the movie Milk, you will know a bit about the Castro and its history, and the great gay rights campaigner and city supervisor Harvey Milk. I saw a documentary about Castro Street once; this community really has a fascinating history. Anyway as I stood sketching this, first in the morning before the sketchcrawl meeting, and then going back to finish it off after lunch, the wind really started picking up, making me rue not bringing little clips for my sketchbook. Is topped without going the whole spread, and I stopped in the right place. Here’s another tip – sketch a scene with a clock in it somewhere, and you can keep good time, without checking your watch and worrying about being too slow.
Here is a car parked a bit further down Castro Street. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to sketch – there is a lot to choose from – but when I saw this it looked like the distant cousin of this other car I had drawn once, and I just HAD to sketch it. Now whenever you draw a car on the street you are always running the risk that the driver will drive away. I checked the meter, still plenty of time left, but I took a couple of reference photos first, and then started sketching, sat on the kerb. Behind me, a stall on the street was offering free HIV tests at a nearby clinic; further down, tourists were giggling at the skimpy male underwear in the shop windows. I got as far as the outline, the license plate and about half of the details before the car’s young owner came and drove it away. He didn’t see me sketching; if he did, I hope he didn’t think I was a traffic warden. I considered putting more money in the meter if he could leave it there a bit longer, but it gave me an excuse to go and sketch other things. Which I will show you in the next post…
In the meantime, check out the other great sketchers from around the world at the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum.
More from the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento – above, a metallic blue Rolls Royce 25/30 Sport Sedanca. This Roller was enormous. It looks like something from a 1930s film noir. You had to be a pretty special type of gangster to ride in one of these, none of your “shtick em up, see, this is a frame-up, see” lingo from this motor. This is a roll up slowly, window rolls down, give you a look of disdain from beneath a silvery fedora and move on to the opera before the real thugs come and throw you in the canal. Lots of stories in a car like this, see.
Oooh, the race car section was superb. As keen readers may recall I was at Disneyland Cars Land last week so race travel’s in my blood, there is nothing I can do about it. Well my five-year-old son loves them, and I’m always tripping over them on the carpet. This zippy little creation above is a 1966 Shelby Cobra, a car built by former race-car driver Carroll Shelby. I should like to learn more about race cars like this. Of course this would mean more reading and less drawing so I took a photo of the very detailed history displayed by the exhibit, and I promise I will read the rest of it some time. I don’t know if this car won any races, but it should have done. Being number 13 reminds me of a car I built once – not a real car, like, but a cardboard model with wheels made of those yellow plastic balls you get in Kinder eggs and elastic bands to make it go. I was about thirteen or so, it was for a competition in my design technology class at school. I won, by the way, I won a fun-sized Mars bar, which wasn’t all that fun. And it was not number 13, but number -13 (my favourite number, the opposite of unlucky). I retired from my automotive design career on a high.
Of course, I really wanted to design a time machine. Who wouldn’t? Back to the Future was one of my favourite films. I count it as one of the reasons I moved to California. So you can imagine my heart-thumping glee when I saw the 1981 DeLorean, a real DeLorean, DMC-12, with car doors up prancing majestically like, you know, the karate kid. The Flux Capacitor was gone and it ran on neither plutonium nor trash, but every angle of this car brought me back to being the ten year old who went to see this at the movies and fantasized about time travel ever since. I still nod approvingly at the clock when it strikes 10:04. Time was pressing on and I really had to sketch it before it was too late, because I needed to get to the bus, and get back to 2013. This was a fun trip to the Cal Auto Museum, and I think I’ll be back there soon.
On Saturday, a sunny but breezy February afternoon, I took the bus over to Sacramento for an afternoon of sketching. I had heard about the California Automobile Museum, but had never sought it out, until now. Not far down the river from the Tower Bridge, but still a bit of a walk for my aching feet, the Museum is set into a large warehouse building and jam-packed with amazing historical cars. As someone who likes to draw classic old cars but is frustrated by the samey-samey beige vehicles and unnecessarily testosterone-powered SUVs of the 21st Century, it’s amazing I’ve never been here before, and wow what a find. I will be coming back here again. I wanted to draw everything, so started in chronological order. I didn’t draw the absolutely oldest things on show, but drew the 1904 Ford Model B touring car, above. I say ‘car’, it is a lot bigger than it looks, with a roof straight out of a Great Plains Wagon. It’s intersting to see the evolution of automtive design – many of the touring cars there are larger than a standard SUV of today, but still resemble high-end horse-drawn carriages, where the horse is a long engine in a box at the front.
Here is a slightly smaller vehicle, but still sizeable, the 1914 Hupmobile Model 32-Touring car. I kept thinking of Mr.Toad, “poop-poop”. I loved the hand-cranks on the engines, another reminder of old movies. This was accompanied by an exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, one of the great roads that was built across the United States in the early twentieth century, the age when the motor-car allowed the idea of America’s Manifest Destiny to truly become reality. There was an exhibit about Camp Curry, Yosemite, and that big tree you could drive a car through. No need to go around trees any more, we can just go through them. With our motorcars, we are now the Masters of the Universe.
Here is a later one, the 1938 Buick Special, when cars became great design masterpieces, curves and shine and power. I sketched some more, to follow in the next post. Even by this point though, my aching feet were joined by an aching arm as my sketchbook-holding left arm was starting to feel tired from my standing posture, while I rushed to draw as many as possible. But there was so much to draw! More to come…
Back in 2010 I heard about NaNoDrawMo – it’s a bit like the annual month-long writing challenge NaNoWriMo (in which you must write a 50,000 word novel in a month), but this is for drawing, fifty drawings, a drawing being worth etc etc. In that year I drew fifty fire hydrants (and other metal pipes that come out of the ground). You may recall I like drawing them. Last year I was drawing people, but it ultimately didn’t get finished. This year however I am doing a series based on the EDM ‘Every Day Matters’ challenges, with a twist – a little piece of freestyle unedited and possibly nonsensical (or the opposite) writing to go with it. Given how much I have to do these days I might be barmy doing this project (I am), and over this next month you will get to see just how barmy (very), so for the sake of being concise I’ll present them as they are on the pages of my book, in groups of ten.
If you can’t read the writing don’t worry, just look at the pictures. In fact, just look at the pictures anyway…