christmas crackers

xmas fireplace 2018
Christmas morning, we were up early, opening presents, calling England. Our morning pressie-time is about the time of my London family’s Christmas dinner-time. Then, time to go over to my wife’s family in Santa Rosa for Christmas Day. We have crab for dinner on Christmas Day in Santa Rosa, and I’m always the world’s worst eater of crab, it tastes great but I am such an amateur with the crackers. I did pretty well this year but I live for the broth, I love dipping the bread into that. We have brought the tradition of Christmas Crackers with us from England, along with the hilarious Christmas Cracker jokes. I say hilarious, I mean terrible, but British humour is different from American humour anyway. That said, my five-year-old nephew likes knock-knock jokes, and we always do the ‘interrupting cow’ version (“knock-knock / Who’s there? / The Interrupting Cow / the interruptin/MOOOOO!”) (I got that one from the Vicar of Dibley back in the 90s), and then many other variants (the one I like the most is the ‘interrupting rabbit’, because of course the rabbit doesn’t ‘moooo’ or anything but just makes a noise tapping its foot). Actually my favourite joke EVER sounds like it comes from a Christmas Cracker, but in fact it comes from ‘3001 Jokes For Kids’. It’s the only joke I remember from that book, which I got for Christmas when I was about nine or ten, and to this day is my favourite joke. When I first read it, by myself in my room, I laughed harder than I had ever laughed, and then laughed more. I still find it hilarious. What is the joke? Well if I tell you, promise not to laugh. Well I mean you can laugh at the joke obviously because it’s brilliant and funny, but just not at me for liking the joke so much. Ok, here goes, the best joke of all time, here it is, here goes.

“What is a polygon? A dead parrot.” 

Isn’t that the best?! Many years later in America someone made some reference to the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch being their favourite bit of British humour, and yes it is very funny, the Pythons are my favourites, but it’s not even the funniest dead parrot joke. Polygon is the funniest dead parrot joke. I remember doing maths at school and we had to do shapes and someone used the word polygon, and I laughed so much I had to go to the toilet. When I was in my late teens I visited Strasbourg and the lycee was close to a street called the ‘Route du Polygone’ and every day I would see that sign and laugh so hard, and I tried the French version of the joke, “Que-ce que c’est un polygone? C’est un perroquet mort!” The joke didn’t necessarily translate directly but they laughed at me anyway, and pointed a lot, which I think means it was extra funny. Strasbourg being historically part German I would sometimes impress people with the German version, “Was ist ein Polygon? Ein toter Papagei.” Again the humour isn’t necessarily transferable but I like to think that what I mistook for confused silent stares were in fact their way of saying, wow what a joke, das ist really cool, Pete ist sehr lustig.

snowman xmas tree 2018
Let’s move on from the world’s funniest ever joke (if you are finished laughing about Polly being ‘gone’, if not, take your time). Above, I sketched my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree, which this year was dressed up as a snowman. The hat actually has a history, it was brought over from London by my mum over ten years ago and left at my mother-in-law’s in Santa Rosa, and before that my mum actually got it from my uncle in Belfast, so the hat has a long well-travelled history. I like this snowman tree, and I sketched it while we watched the Water Horse, that movie set in Scotland with the Loch Ness Monster. It reminded me of the Family Ness, that was a cartoon I liked as a kid. Not as funny as the polygon joke but amusing nonetheless. I nearly drew a cartoon many years ago about fish living in a Scottish loch called “Under Loch And Quai”, with a kind of Porridge-like cell-mate dynamic to it, but while the little fishies were fun to draw, I had no actual material other than trying to work in the polygon joke, which doesn’t really work when it’s a cartoon about two fish, because (a) they wouldn’t understand what a parrot is, what with fish being entirely water-bound, and (b) parrots not exactly being aquatic nor common in Scotland. To the underwater community, “Polly” might well be a common name for a frog, for all we know, what with a ‘pollywog’ being another name for a tadpole, albeit more common in America than rural Scotland. So a better version of the joke for two fish to say would be “What is a Polygon? A dead frog.” And you can imagine, this might make two fish roll about in hysterics, but would have us humans just shrugging our shoulders. Maybe humour isn’t as translatable as we think. The only joke I could think of for this cartoon was another one which I may have read in 3001 Jokes For Kids, I don’t remember, but it goes as follows:

FISH 1: “Why are you swimming under the pier?

FISH 2: “Because it is raining.”

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christmas is all around

e street plaza davis
Happy Christmas to you all. This is the E Street Plaza in Davis California, decked out with the big tree. This came after a long period of not-sketching. I did this after work, after our office closed for the holidays; I just really wanted to capture a bit of Christmas, and followed this up by the evening sketch at De Vere’s. And now it’s Christmas Eve. Well, it just turned Christmas Day (better get to bed, the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t going to haunt itself). I’ve spent today scoffing cheese, mince pies, turkey, hot chocolate, a couple of beers, pumpkin pie, and the second-worst level of Quality Streets (the strawberry / orange cremes, not the rock-hard toffee ones; it wasn’t a big box, in fact it only had two purple ones and one green triangle, but four toffee pennies? Inequality Street more like.) And of course, watching Christmas movies. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourites, though actually most of it doesn’t take place at Christmas, and in the end they sing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve, bizarrely. Abother one I always watch is Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is probably the best version of that story that exists (the other one I love is the 1970 Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which I feel the Muppets drew from quite heavily. That Ghost of Christmas Future gave me nightmares for years!). One of the reasons I love the Muppet’s version is that Michael Caine plays it so straight, so believably, among all the Muppets, he doesn’t just pretend it’s all a larf. Home Alone is another classic Christmas film we love, my son adores it, so I like it a lot now as well. I have a soft spot for Love Actually as well, silly though it is. It reminds me of London in 2003, and seeing the occasional shots of the skyline, when not even the Gherkin was finished, it makes me very nostalgic for that period right before we moved to America; that was the London I left, the London of Hugh Grant being a bachelor Prime Minister telling American President Billy Bob Thornton to go and do one. We always watch some classic Christmas telly as well: The Snowman, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and the Christmas edition of Father Ted (“and now we move on to liars…”). Of course in proper British Christmas TV someone always dies, at least in Eastenders and Downton Abbey anyway. Now it’s also the time of year when people include Die Hard as one of their favourite Christmas movies, because those people are really clever and perceptive and are the first people to figure out Die Hard was set during Christmas; well done you, here is a prize. One thing that is different over here in California is that we don’t get the special Christmas edition of Radio Times (and/or TV Times), when all the TV listings would be set out like great, epic events. Die Hard With A Vengeance is on at 11pm on ITV two days before Christmas? Set the video timer! Get home early from the pub! And the Queen’s Speech, oh I always loved the Queen’s Speech, though I don’t remember ever actually watching it, as we usually had Christmas dinner at that time and it was the one time of the day when the TV was off (the one time of the year in fact, our TV was always on). I like the idea of the Queen’s Speech but the only thing I remember was the Annus Horribilis bit. And that was because I thought it meant Horrible Bum. And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Bum!

a festive friday

de vere's davis

It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.

show me the way to armadillo

LDD Dec17 Armadillo

One from just before Christmas, this was sketched downtown during the December ‘Le’s draw Davis’ sketchcrawl. I already posted the main sketch I did that day, of the Christmas Tree. This is Armadillo Music on F Street. It used to e further down F Street until a few years ago. The last times I sketched it was in the old location (2013 and 2011). I also had an exhibition of my artwork there in early 2011, which was actually the first exhibition I ever had here in Davis, so I’m always thankful for that. It was a fun evening, with renowned local singer Rita Hosking providing an in-store musical performance on the same evening. So finally I drew the new store location, a bigger store. I didn’t have time to add the colour because the sketchcrawl was over and I was feeling stiff from standing there in the cold. I just coloured in the Santa, which was for some reason lying on his side. Taking a rest before his trip around the world, no doubt. Ok, I am due to sketch Armadillo, which is one of those real proper Davis community shops, another time, with colour. Maybe on a warmer day!

farewell to the festive season…

Xmas Lego Dec 2017 sm

Since yesterday (January 6th) is the traditional ‘take-down-decorations’ day I wanted to make sure I posted it by then, as it is technically still in the Christmas period. Then I got flu. I evidently still have it too (I can’t taste anything!), well I suppose starving a fever is probably all for the best given how much I ate over Christmas. Not gonna lie, it was a lot of chocolate. And I haven’t even opened my Terry’s Chocolate Orange yet, I’m saving that for when I can taste things again. So this! This is a Christmassy Lego set that was a lovely addition to our festive get-up this year. I want to add a little bit of festive Lego each year. The train set and village station sets look cool. So, this was my last sketch of 2017. Don’t worry, I still have more in the backlog to post (Hawaii!). I didn’t get out to do any urban sketching on New Year’s Eve (I also had a cold, different from this current flu; come on winter, give me a break!). Speaking of colds, can we stop saying “bless you” after someone sneezes? I stopped a while ago. It feels odd, it’s a knee-jerk reaction and you feel rude for not acknowledging someone having sneezed by randomly blessing them like you are some sort of authority on the matter, but it is odd. Ok the real reason is that I have seasonal allergies, and from the period of about March to May I will sneeze a lot, uncontrollably, again and again and again. If we ever have the Spring Olympics I could represent Great Britain in the consecutive sneezing event. When someone gets to the third “bless-you” you really want them to stop, your magical blessing is clearly having no effect. Beyond that, it’s like, if you must, can you do it at the end like a package of blessings? And what exactly are you blessing me for? I remember being at a baseball game and I had a sneezing fit. People all around were blessing me, and frankly it was embarrassing. After sneeze five they were all laughing like someone sneezing in April is really hilarious (to be fair, it was probably more entertaining than the baseball). And again, and again, and again. I couldn’t get out to the garlic fries stand quickly enough. Yeah being laughed at by a crowd of strangers just for having allergies is so enjoyable. The blessings don’t work guys, just stop it okay!

This is a fun Lego set. I used it for a brief stop-motion animation which I played at our holiday party at work, I think people enjoyed it. I am still making those, I have a lot of ideas but little time to play with them. I may be overdoing the Lego in fact, but it’s so much fun. Goodbye, festive season. Until next year.

Voices Singing, Let’s Be Jolly

Davis Xmas Tree 2017 sm

I’m hoping 2018 will get me back into the groove of sketching-scanning-writingnonsense-posting, but we shall see. I haven’t even scanned my November sketches yet! And some of those were from lovely Hawaii. Also, a couple of sketchcrawls not reported on, but actually a lot less sketching than usual. The large massive glut of sketches at the start of 2017 has, well not dried up exactly, just been a bit disrupted by my working-through-lunch habits, and also running out of things to draw in Davis. So anyway rather than play catch up, here are three recent and timely sketches of Christmas Trees. The one above, that’s the one down in E Street Plaza in Davis, sketched on the December “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl. I really enjoyed sketching that, after quite a busy and stressful week, I needed to be out sketching with sketchers and it was nice.

SF Union Square Xmas Tree 2017 sm

Now this one was done only a couple of days ago, down in San Francisco. Needed de-stressing, so getting out of Davis for the day down in the City was the ideal tonic. I just went around SoMa and Union Square, and ended up sketching the big tree with the extremely festive Macy’s in the background. It was very bright.

Home Xmas Tree 2017 sm

And finally, our own little Christmas tree at home. It’s a fake tree, which we bought if I remember rightly back in December 2005, our first one in Davis. It’s heavily protected from kittens who like getting in and lying on the branches. I always like to draw it before Christmas Day itself, so it still has pressies around it. It’s Christmas Eve right now – well, just turned Christmas Day, and I just finished off a bottle of Italian red wine, which feels not only supremely festive but highly decadent, I have not finished a bottle of red wine pretty much since I was at college, I think. I’m not a huge wine drinker; this one was quite nice. Also ate a lot of turkey, parsnips, cheese, chocolate, and even a mug of hot chocolate – I accidentally bought a tin of hot chocolate at the store today for $12.99 which is completely mental, I don’t even drink hot chocolate (once every few years) but I saw it and thought yeah, that looks nice, and only $2.99! Checked my receipt later and was like, what the? But the store was so busy I didn’t want to go back. So I got my $12.99 hot chocolate and yeah it was nice I guess, it bloody well better be, $12.99, that is, wow. I bought a lot of unnecessarily expensive cheese too. The selection wasn’t very good either. Well, Christmas is all about the dearth of cheeses.

Sorry, cheesy Xmas joke ahoy. Actually the selection of cheeses was very good. Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings and And a Happy New Year. May you have all the joys of the holiday season, full of friends, fun, festivities and lots of things that begin with f. Buon Natale! Joyeux Noel! Meli Kalikimaka! Frohe Weihnachten! God Jol! Prettige Kerstdagen! Nollaig Shona! Feliz Navidad!

Alright here’s a few more Christmas trees I’ve sketches from down the years. Not all of them, just a few.

merry christmas everybody!
xmas tree 2011
christmas back home
Merry Christmas!
sapin de xmas
at about 5am on boxing day

Harry Christmas!

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Each year, I make my son an advent calendar. They have been getting more elaborate each year, and always themed differently. Behind each window I put a selection of images of things that he has been interested in during that year – the one when he was three for example had Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, Poppy Cat etc, while now it’s more Minecraft, Pokemon, Harry Potter etc. We read the Harry Potter books together this year, one after the other, followed by the movies, and he is a huge Potter fan now; we even visited the Warner Bros Studios “Harry Potter Tour” outside London last month, touring the sets where they filmed the movies, which was amazing. So it made sense then that this year I should make a Harry Potter themed advent calendar. And here it is!
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This one was bigger and more complicated than I have made before, drawn in pen and coloured with a mixture of watercolour. As you can see, it opens out into a larger scene with Hogwarts in the background. The first panel, when it’s all closed up, is the Hogwarts Express, opening up to then reveal Hogsmeade, opening up to reveal the Forbidden Forest, the Black Lake, and a magical view of the Great Hall. I started drawing this at the beginning of November, and had about four fifths of it drawn before taking a break for our Thanksgiving trip to London. I finished it when I got back, painting it physically, scanning it, colouring part of it digitally and stitching it together, before printing it, cutting the windows with a perforator, adding the images behind each window (oh, and it does have a window nine-and-three-quarters between windows 9 and 10), gluing it onto some left over mat board from another project, and managing somehow to get it all done for December 1st. Well, about 2am on December 2nd. Yeah, it took a while and was ultimately a day late but it was well worth it. My son loved it, and was totally surprised, having not seen it at all in progress. This is the sixth advent calendar I have made for him, and already I’m thinking about next year…

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