oh you pretty things

18th st, san francisco

I could draw every single house in this neigbourhood, and never get bored. More work from my sketchcrawl day at the Castro, San Francisco. This sloping row of Victorians, had it not been taking quite so long (best part of a couple of hours, and I had to finish the colouring in at home) could have ended up as a very long panorama, all the way down the street, had I not wanted to, you know, sketch some other things and eat something (Thai red curry if you’re interested). But how enjoyable was this to sit and sketch? Immensely! This is right opposite Philz Coffee on 18th St, where the sketchcrawl officially began.  A couple of sketchers were sat on the steps behind me, still sketching when I finally got up and stretched my legs. ..

moby dicks, SF

After some sketching away from 18th St (these sketches are not completely posted in chronological order, rather they are in geographical order), I returned, clock ticking, needing a few more sketches before the meet-up at 4pm. It was getting windy. I sat on the corner of 18th and Hartford, leaning against a fire hydrant. I’m not sure if you can lean against a fire hydrant while sketching (and I don’t really need to know) but surely if anyone should, hello like. This is Moby Dick’s, a popular local bar (I assume; it’s in the locale, and there were people there, so presumably, hello like), and there down 18th you can see the iconic belltower of the Mission School. The rusty hydrant below (which was not the one I leaned against, but looked very similar) (I’m sure you are riveted by this) was a bit closer to the Mission High school tower, on the corner of the very crowded and very windy. The final meetup was nice,  I met quite a few new sketchers and as always was hugely inspired by what I saw; this is my favourite part of these sketchcrawls, seeing other people’s sketchbooks, real and in the flesh, not just online. Very cool.  You can see some other sketchers’ results on the SF sketchcrawl forum, and not just from San Francisco, but also from the rest of the world. Great stuff, world!

hydrant on 18th & church, SF

and the clock waits so patiently on your song

castro street SF

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.

sketching castro street

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…

car on castro

In the meantime, check out the other great sketchers from around the world at the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum.

on the morning train

amtrak sketch
Last Saturday was the day of the 39th worldwide sketchcrawl, and so I took the train down to San Francisco, because after a very busy week, I needed some Bay air. I was joined on the early morning train by fellow Davis sketchers Alison Kent and Allan Hollander. We all sketched on the train (that is Alison above, though it’s not a great likeness; I have sketched Allan on a previous Amtrak journey a couple of years ago). It is nice to sketch with people you’ve sketched with many times before, because they’re used to the way you go about it, you don’t have to ‘perform’ with your sketches as it were and I still always feel I learn something. Plus I like drawing Allan’s beard. We all talked about sketching, traveling, and the recent death of Thatcher. Alison showed me her hand-made sketchbook from her recent round-America rail trip. I have always wanted to do that, but she produced an amazingly dedicated book of sketches, all in purple pen, an inspiration. Follow that link and check it out.

And so, to the city.  Worldwide Sketchcrawl #39 was in the Castro district, the colourful quarter known as San Francisco’s gay capital. I sketched around here a few years ago, and really wanted to come back and draw some of the big old Victorian houses. And maybe do a panorama of Castro Street.

allan sketching philz coffee

Above, Allan sketching outside Philz Coffee on 18th St, in the Castro, at the start of the worldwide sketchcrawl. Here is Alison’s post about the sketchcrawl on their joint blog The Magpie Nest. I will post my sketchcrawl sketches soon. Stay tuned.

mission accomplished

church & market, SF

Last weekend in San Francisco, continued… After another stop at a trendy cafe, we walked up the slopes of Mission Dolores park to enjoy the incredible views over the city. I stopped to sketch the tower of the Mission school yet again, while behind me pit-bulls tried to mate with chihuahuas (please, I know what the offspring would be called, don’t go there). We left that image behind and walked up Church, and towards the Castro district, where I drew the corner of Market street while my friend searched for a 3-day Muni pass (he’d been looking everywhere, with no luck). He did find one eventually, at a magazine kiosk on Castro Street (I noticed one magazine had what looked like Cristiano Ronaldo on the front, but, um, it wasn’t about football). Why you need to know all this I don’t know, but it’s a fun enough story, and means I get to call this entry ‘mission accomplished’, rather than ‘mission impossible’, which is what I thought I’d call it at the time. To be continued…

mission dolores park, SF

sketchcrawl 23, SF: part 3, the castro

And so onwards and upwards with the 23rd Sketchcrawl; the Mission gradually became the Castro, and I chose to sit right in the middle of the sidewalk and draw some very colourful buildings on Sanchez.
sc23, sanchez houses with colour
I used a Pigma Micron 05 for this. I have been using them more and more, rather than the 01s I normally go with. sketching on sanchez and fordI sat patiently and drew this, and passers-by were pleasant and didn’t disturb, although one young couple did drop some litter, right next to me, a plastic fruit carton. I don’t like people who drop litter (and no jokes about dirty sanchez, please). I was going to add the colour to this drawing there and then, but sitting on the floor was starting to get uncomfortable (I was rather hoping someone might offer me a chair), so I added the colour when I got home.   

Below is the Castro theatre itself; I sketched (in copic 01) this while leaning on a newspaper stand at Harvey Milk Plaza. There was a Silent Film Festival going on at the time (shhh!). The Castro is the main gay area of the city; if you saw the recent biopic Milk, about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the US, you would recognize the sights, including his old shop on Castro Street, while walking round. Up above the streets and houses, rainbows were flying high.   

sc23, the castro

This was almost the last drawing of the day…but there is still one more to come…

extraneous details you can’t live without

rusty old truck in the castro

SF trip, part 5: I got off the bus at the Castro, the city’s gay quarter, and pottered around bookstores and past sidewalk cafes, before placing stool on kerb and drawing, of all things, this rusty truck above. “You drew a car?” my wife exclaimed later when she saw it. It’s true, I do avoid drawing vehicles, but this one was so interesting, and I was inspired by other vehicular drawings I’d seen online. Time was pressing, so I had a (fairly unsatisfying) late lunch at the Bagdad Cafe before walking down 16th and finally back to the Mission. Last (and only) time I’d been was November, and I wanted to go back, if anything for a burrito, but mostly to sketch.

footy in mission dolores park

I sat myself on the slopes of Mission Dolores Park, listening to loud latino radio blasted across the fields where local lads played football (not a jumper for a goalpost in site, though), and art students nursed hangovers with beer, being all social and shit. The fog hung low over the city behind, obscuring many of the tall buildings downtown. A guy sat to my left tapped away furiously on his mac book while his dog asked passing strangers to play with him; further back, another group of people looked equally dangerous and uninterested; not far off, a bearded hippy wrote something negative about yoga. And I got my paint set out and sketched on the slope.

I wandered about on Valencia, looking in more bookstores and record boutiques, as well as the odd gallery, before a trip down Mission and into Central America, ending up at last at Needles and Pens to look through their vast array of indie zines (and purchase one or two). By this point I was ridiculously tired, and I had neglected to write down the train time back to Davis, so I forewent the burrito and hopped on the 14 bus.

I did draw the picture below, on a postcard, which I have subsequently mailed to a friend in the UK, who I think would have enjoyed going out sketching in San Francisco. I always do.

a postcard