washed by a dirty orange sky

home We’ve been having a heatwave in northern California over the past week or so, with temperatures hitting up to 108 degrees at the weekend. And then came some storms, at first bringing some drops summer rain, but mostly they brought hot winds and dry lightning strikes. Lots of them – one night was constant rumbling, low rumbling mostly, with flashes echoing in the sky. It kept me awake, fascinated by the electrical storm but nervous about what it might bring to this big dry state. Fires did break out as we could see from the thin layer of smoke in the sky next day, giving everything a dirty orange hue, so I drew from the dining room table before dinner (above). This is where my desk is now, I’ve moved back down from upstairs, much to the annoyance of my cat who has gotten used to sleeping the afternoons in my desk chair. I am not sure I like being closer to the kitchen again, closer to the snacks, but I was crammed into a small space in the bedroom for quite a while and needed a change. I’ll go back up again at some point, if I get bored. I coloured this in using some new fancy Daniel Smith paints, which I’m not really used to yet. smoky air outside, cat sleeps inside Wednesday morning I went outside to cycle to the office, and while there were blue skies, the air smelled dense with smoke. Ash was falling everywhere like snowflakes, and the sky away to the west was filled with billows of dull grey. This was the LNU Lightning Complex fore, which is around Napa/Vacaville and now beyond, a terrible and huge fire that even jumped across Interstate 80 cutting off the freeway. Evacuation zone has gone up as far as Winters, next town over, which is a lot closer than any other fire yet. I didn’t cycle any further than the next block, I went straight back home, and stayed inside. Ash has been falling ever since, and the house is generally filled with that orange/ochre light, turning red as the sun sets. Above is a sketch I did of one of the cats, Whiskers I think, on his high perch by the back door, while the dirty air outside casts an alien glow. This was done on the iPad. Cat don’t care, he sleep. Below, this was a quick sketch of the sun in the sky outside our window, looking like a sore red boil. We’ve had lots of wildfires in California the past few years, and fire season is long and scary, and our skies have been blanketed in unhealthy and hazardous smoke, especially a couple of years ago. But this is the closest we’ve had a big fire that I can remember since I’ve lived in Davis. We packed some bags in case the evacuation zone increased, not a bad idea, though given our location it’s pretty unlikely. Lots of people have lost their homes, and some historic state parks have been seriously damaged by the fires. And more dry lightning is expected over the weekend. The firefighters do an amazing job, they are real heroes, I just hope it doesn’t get even worse. 

smoky sky outside house aug2020

Air is smoky outside, best to stay in Yesterday afternoon, clocking off a little early after the smoky air gave me a headache, I sat on the couch watching Agents of SHIELD until dinnertime, my son played on his device, so I sketched him, that awful sky washing in. Step outside and it’s choking, like being in a north London pub in the 90s, I feel like putting the Charlatans on the jukebox and buying a pint for under two quid, then getting some cheap fried chicken and falling asleep on the night bus. My throat is dry, and the ash keeps floating around outside. So when my Apple Watch scolds me for not having my exercise ring further along than usual, I’m like, not now, Apple Watch, not now. There’s a global pandemic on, and it’s election season, and now the world’s literally on fire.

the stay-at-home cats

Whiskers June 2020 sm
These are our stay-at-home cats. Stay-at-home orders are nothing new to these two. They probably like having us around more, or they don’t, it’s hard to say. Whiskers and Sawyer. two brothers. However with all of the disruption that happened in our downstairs when we had that flood, what with moving out the furniture and everyone staying upstairs, the noise from all the air dryers and the work, it took a toll on the kitties, and one of them, Sawyer, got very ill with the stress and ended up twice having overnight stays in the animal hospital, poor thing. Not the TV show, but the place. He had to be nursed back to strength, amid all the confusion with the living room, and on top of that his brother started acting as if he didn’t know him. As soon as he came back from the vets Whiskers was hissing and growling at him, Sawyer didn’t know what it was all about, but Whiskers couldn’t get over all the new smells on him, to the point where we had to keep them separated while we worked from home, and it took weeks for them to be ok around each other again. We learned a lot about cat behaviour during this time! Thankfully they are friends again now, but it really took a while.
Sawyer June 2020 sm
Animal Hospital, remember that show? I remember the sweet music and the little puppies being nursed to health, I remember also that it was presented by a kindly sweet old man in glasses, my memory isn’t great so I need to google that one, can you guess who it is yet, oh it was – never mind, never mind! I forgot he presented it. Wow, even Animal Hospital memories tarnished. Those guys were creeps, the Rolfs and the Jim’lls and the weather man bloke on the floating map in Liverpool, and all the rest of them. There was another show I remember though, Pet Rescue, I think it was presented by the former Chelsea and Romania player Dan Petrescu, but I may be confusing that one. Before this turns into another “remember this old TV show” post (and I do want to do another one of those), let’s get back to the drawings. I don’t draw animals often, but I really wanted to draw the cats again, after all they’ve been through. They are finally friends again now, maybe not as close as before, but not hissing and fighting as much, they are even back to cleaning each other, and occasionally alternating each other’s napping spaces. Now that the living room is normal they seem a lot more content. Cats are funny.
quick cats watercolour june 2020

While I was messing around testing some new paints recently I did try a couple of quick gesture sketches of them looking out of the window. Always fun. They like to look out of that window at the other cats outside, the outdoor cats from down the block, and the birds in the trees. We get a lot of hummingbirds here, they like to come and hover about looking right into our window.

a song with no words and no tune

cats on sunday
After a very busy/tiring few days, which included my son having friends over for a sleepover last night, Sunday is quiet and peaceful and the family are all taking naps. I took the peaceful time not to go out and draw in the sunshine, but to sit in sweat pants and listen to podcasts and draw the sleeping cats. Pay no attention to the boxes piled up outside, that’s a job for later this afternoon. I’ve been listening to Adam Buxton’s podcasts lately which have been entertaining in their niceness. I had to paint fast as the colours outside kept changing as the noontime January sun kept shifting position. I’ve had a good idea for a book which I am thinking of spending the rest of the day working on. After I’ve done some tidying up.

cool for cats

gough square

While in rainless London I found myself in Gough Square (named after a former Spurs player), a tiny back-place off Fleet Street, former home to Doctor Johnson, the man who wrote the first Dictionary of the English Language, an excellent and hilarious book, if slightly disparaging with regards the eating habits of Scots.  That statue, that was his cat, Hodge (named after another former Spurs player). I don’t know why he didn’t just get a real cat. Cheaper to feed I suppose, and it never crosses your path or pees behind the telly. LBC used to be based here. I used to listen to LBC, back when I used to stay up really late (he says, writing at 1am).

over there between the land and the sky

We went to the opposite end of the country this past weekend, to New York. I love New York. I want one for Christmas. I did a lot of sketching in the city, in rain and shine and falling leaves; those will come later. We stayed out in Long Beach, on Long Island.

windows vista

Above, the view from my sister-in-law’s apartment window, as viewed by max the cat.

Long Beach is really that – a very long beach. I was last here six years ago, at Christmas, when thick snowed piled in on Christmas day, and we were throwing snowballs on the beach on the 26th. looking out at the atlanticYou can hear that Long Island accent everywhere, dawgs and pawks and cawffee, it’s so cool (while in New York City, most accents I heard were actually British). It was cold, but not that cold, not yet – the fall leaves were deep red and bright yellow. But you know you’re not in California any more, when you see people wearing coats that look like sleeping bags with sleeves, and the heating in donut shops is slightly higher than the surface of venus. You need the cold sea air to cool you down.

I was watching the Godfather last night; I didn’t realise before, the Corleone’s lived in Long Beach, in the movie.

I do love to be beside the seaside. For us, it was always the North Sea, or the Channel, but here it’s the Ocean, be it the Pacific or the Atlantic – even their seas are bigger in America. It’s funny, but looking out at the Atlantic I felt more of a connection, that home was just over there across this watery desert, rather than on the other side of the world. Then I thought, you do a lot of thinking when looking at the sea. And then I thought about Seinfeld, how whenever he had to do some deep thinking (such as that one where he has to decide whether or not to give up making silly “hello” voices about his girlfriend’s belly-button), he’d come and look at the ocean. All this thinking was making my brain cells nervous, so I met the others, and went and had a burrito.