humbug

Lego Christmas Carol

This here is my Lego “A Christmas Carol”, which I got as a Christmas present to my delight. In the run-up to Christmas this year we sat down each evening in the living room and read A Christmas Carol, which we’d never actually done before, aloud with hot chocolate and cookies and mince pies. I found it hard to read aloud with my mouth full of mince pie but I gave it a go, it’s what Dickens would have wanted. Dickens really stuck faithfully to the original Muppets version which was nice to see. While reading Scrooge’s voice I managed somehow to avoid doing a Michael Caine voice, and instead did something more along the lines of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s Old Gits. We always watch the Muppets version on Christmas Eve, for us it’s the best one, and of course the Blackadder Christmas Carol. I like the Albert Finney one too. This Lego set then was a really nice surprise and I made it straight away to put on the shelf. I drew this (deciding not to add the colour) on January 6th, traditional last day of Christmas, after finally turning off the endless news of the bloody awful events at the Capitol. I still can’t really gather my thoughts on that as it feels like we don’t really know where this is going, but it’s so depressing. At times like this, getting the sketchbook out and furiously scribbling away feels like the best way to get through it. I have Lego to build though. I did start making a Christmas themed Lego animation but I was struggling to find the time to work on it (despite hardly ever leaving the house, it’s finding the ‘mental’ time) and now I’m putting the Christmas Lego sets away. But here is one final festive image for you, Han Solo on a tauntaun.

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gingerbread time

gingerbread big ben 2020

It’s Boxing Day today, and we’ve had a nice Christmas at home this year, seeing family only via Zoom or Facetime, like so many others. I’ve had rather a lot of snacks and spent a fair bit of time on the couch. I’ve not been drawing much lately, although looking at my blog posts I realize I’ve still got tons of unposted sketches to post yet (I had a bit of a flurry in November when the leaves were all crazy colours), but I’ve not been writing, I suppose maybe not had the mental energy for writing. What a year. However I did make a gingerbread house! I made it two weeks ago, and it still smells amazing, and is still holding up very strong. It’s the first time I ever made a gingerbread house from scratch as opposed to from a set, and yeah it took a while with a good bit of measuring and planning and cutting out bits of card to measure out the gingerbread dough pieces (which of course expanded in the oven), but it all stood up well, incredibly, and yes as you can see it’s a gingerbread Big Ben. I am pretty proud of it. We had a virtual holiday party over the Zoom for work, and one of the games was a gingerbread house contest, which I had great fun with. I used gold-foil chocolate coins for the clock faces and they look nice reflecting the christmas tree lights. Take my word for it. So tonight, I drew it. First sketch in a while. I should definitely keep it for New Year’s Eve, since we Londoners go down to hear Big Ben’s bongs to ring in the New Year. Actually I only ever did that once, and that was when 1999 turned into 2000, and this was way before social distancing. Two million people on the streets, and I was right below Big Ben with my nephew on my shoulders, and the fireworks were loud, and then we had to find the rest of the family, and walked with throngs of people for miles up to Euston, and that’s the only time I’ve done that. 21 years ago! 21 years is a mighty long time, as the Dartmoor prisoner once sang. Anyway, I made a Big Ben because I was missing London a bit, and yeah I know it’s the bell not the tower (I did decorate a bell-shaped cookie but I ate that). Fun fact, until the tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower (after the Queen, for one of her many many jubilees), I used to ask tourists on my open-top bus tours if they could “tell me the name this clock tower?” when our bus would turn into Parliament Square. “Big Ben!” They would all call out, but it was of course a trick question because it was just the Clock Tower. But I said they could call it Big Ben anyway, nobody cares at all. Like Frankenstein’s monster not caring if people called him Frankenstein, it’s fine. Like Grogu not caring that people who now know his name keep calling him Baby Yoda, although to be fair nobody does that to his face in the actual show. Like Alan Dale always being called Jim Out Of Neighbours, despite having a long international acting career after (see also Mike Out Of Neighbours). So yes, it’s fine to call it Big Ben, because I said so. Just don’t call Tower Bridge “London Bridge” because haha you tourists.

my gingerbread house big ben

Here it is in the flesh, with the wall of advent calendars behind it (ten years of advent calendars now! This year’s one is a model of our house, appropriate since we spent so much time here this year). Plus some of my Christmas Lego. So Merry Christmas, folks, as happy as it can be. This year’s nearly over but well, these times aren’t over yet.  

Mele Kalikimaka!

Hawaii Petroglyphs, big island
Mele Kalikimaka! It’s Christmas Day in Hawaii. We got up and did all the Christmas stuff, and then went to meet up with some others for a bit of lunch and some Christmas day drinks, followed by an afternoon in the ocean. It was cloudier, even a bit rainy, but in a Hawaii way, not a British way. Swimming in a warm ocean is definitely not something you do in England on Christmas day, nor even in California. Hawaii’s pretty nice. I didn’t bring my sketchbook into the ocean. I did do a little bit of sketching at the ancient Hawaiian petroglyph preserve at Waikoloa, a sacred rocky ground filled with carved patterns on the stone.
Hawaii hydrant
I also drew this green fire hydrant nearby to our rented house, it’s lovely isn’t it.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Hawaii
On Boxing Day (which is not what Americans call it but I’m British) we took a drive down the side of the Big Island, going to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau national historical park (https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm), which was fairly spectacular. It is an ancient Hawaiian place of refuge, where those broke a law (or ‘kapu’) could flee to evade punishment. Some beautiful old Hawaiian kii protector statues and tikis, as well as demonstrations of traditional Hawaiian building and craftwork.
Hawaii tiki at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

Here are a few photos from the preserve. The rocky black lava fields that meet the sea were home to so much wildlife, especially the big honu, the beautiful sea turtles that are so symbolic of Hawaii.

Afterwards we spent a rainy day along the Kona coast, visiting a coffee plantation, stopping off in a little town called Kealakekua, having lunch at Annie’s Burgers & Beer (the beer was delicious, the vegan ‘taro burger’ I had was much less my cup of tea), looking at ukuleles in a little music shop, and trying chocolate covered ‘donkey balls’. Not real donkey balls of course, they’re actually nuts. Not those sort of nuts. Check them out here: https://donkeyballstore.com/

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We finished off the day with a beer at Kona Brewing in Kailua-Kona. It was pretty crowded there, and looking back in this time of social distancing, it seems like a long time until we are in such close quarters and having pints and pizzas again. I like the Big Island. The last thing I drew there on our trip was this hibiscus flower, one of many blooming around our house. Mele Blooming Kalikimaka!
Hawaii hibiscus

Hawai’i Holiday

SMF-OGG flight to Kahului sm

2020 has been a big pile of farts wrapped inside a cake of poo mixed into a giant bowl of wee. And just when you think it can’t hold any more beer, every day just keeps asking it to hold its beer. Why will no day this year hold its own beer? Is it too much to ask to maybe just put your beer on a table or maybe don’t do the thing you were going to do that requires you to not hold a beer? Go home 2020, you are drunk. But you’ll have to walk because there are no cabs, and you better be in before the curfew starts.

2019 ended so well, at least for me. We spent the final days of the year in Hawai’i, in a tropical paradise sipping cocktails in the pool and playing the ukulele in the ocean. It seems like an extravagant piece of fantasy fiction now; if you try to visit Hawai’i these days you have to quarantine for two weeks, and your hotel gives you a one-time-only key that lets you into your room but not back again if you deign to leave it. Cheers 2020 you utter *!#*%!. Happily I did start the year with my feet in the ocean. It was only ever going downhill from there.

So, finally I’ll post some of the sketches I did while there. I didn’t do too many, as I was pretty busy sipping cocktails and playing the ukulele in the ocean, but of course I draw whenever I can so here are a few. Above, sketched on the flight to Kahului in Maui, where we would change before flying to Kona on the west side of Hawai’i, the Big Island. We were spending Christmas there – you can see I have spelled “Mele Kalikimaka” wrong – that’s Hawaiian for Merry Christmas – with my wife’s family also flying in from California, and from there we were going to spend New Year’s back in Maui, just the three of us. Hawai’i is pretty great, but I might occasionally leave the apostrophe behind and just say Hawaii if that’s ok.

Waiting at Maui airport

An attempt at drawing digitally, which I was still getting the hang of, waiting to change planes at Maui airport. We took so many flights last year, going all over the place, that it’s probably for the best that in 2020 we’ll be taking so few. I’m not a fan of airports, at least they are small in Hawaii and have lots of those lovely chocolate covered macadamia nuts to eat, expensive though they are.

Spam tin

I’ll tell you what else they have a lot of in Hawaii – Spam. They love it there! Loads of different varieties in the stores. Also, custard pies, proper big custard pies, like the ones clowns or the phantom from Tiswas would throw. (Actually I’m not sure the phantom had actual custard in his pies, come to think of it he threw flans of foam, which I always remembered as custard pies) (Why is this a thing? Well in the supermarket I was texting back and forth with my big sister about having found actual custard pies and we were talking about that). Anyway Spam. I don’t actually eat most of it (not being a pork/beef/that sort of meat eater) but they did have some delicious turkey spam so I cooked that up for breakfast.

Xmas Eve on Beach in Hawaii
Christmas Eve sat on a tropical beach is pretty alright though, huh. I’ll say that is quite a nice way to do it. With delicious shave ice and cocktails at the little beach club at Mauna Lani, this was perfect. The ocean was warm, the waves not very strong, and my brother-in-law went snorkeling further out (I didn’t, but maybe next time I’ll give the snorkeling a go). I loved just spending time in the water. My sketch does no justice at all to the scene, but it’s fun to unwind on the sand as well.

Christmas Eve in Hawaii

But the Christmas traditions are important in our family, and one of the most important is sitting watching Muppet’s Christmas Carol on DVD on Christmas Eve. The best Christmas film. Michael Caine’s best film. The best version of this story (and I love the Albert Finney version). I drew it on the iPad with a nice cold beer. We also watch Blackadder’s Christmas Carol every year as well, another tradition, and The Snowman, but admittedly we’re not paying as much attention to The Snowman by that point. I also like watching It’s A Wonderful Life, but since 2020 feels like the Pottersville timeline it’s a bit on the nose. We were staying in a house near Waikoloa, with great views of lava tubes, about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. Not a bad place! The Big Island is very different from the previous island we had visited, Oahu. At least, our side of it was. It’s much bigger, and much rockier, being part of an active volcano. The lava field landscapes were incredible, immense plains of sharp lava rock stretching down to the ocean from the enormous peaks. And you drive what feels like a short way and suddenly it feels like the jungle, everything is green and wet. We went on a kayak trip down the old flumes of the sugar plantation in Kohala, that was very interesting, something I will remember for years. We didn’t explore the Hilo side of the island this time, nor did we have time to go up to the volcano (plus it rained), but I want to go back on a future trip.

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But maybe not in 2020. I’ll post some more of my Hawai’i sketches in the next posts.

 

fake plastic tree

Xmas Living Room 2019
Different times, before the Shelter-in-Place, before the downstairs flood, before a lot of things, last Christmas in the living room. Our little fake plastic Christmas tree. Drawn on the iPad which is the first time I can draw the tree and not have to leave little spaces for the lights and ornaments, I just draw them on top digitally. One of my cats looks on. The cats aren’t talking at the moment; one of them got sick last week (he actually had to go to hospital overnight, poor thing), and now the other one won’t go near him without hissing. Hopefully once the house is back in shape they can all get along nicely again. Cats eh, it’s almost like they’re a whole different species. On the wall in the background you can make out the various advent calendars I have made over the years for my son. I made another one last Christmas, this year it was Hawaii themed, because we were going to spend Christmas in Hawaii. Those sketches will be posted soon. Seems like a million years ago. Anyway, the Hawaii advent calendar is below. I drew it on the iPad while flying back from England at the start of December (so it was a couple of days late), trying to grapple with Procreate while squeezed into a narrow seat in the dark with a large man with big elbows sat to my right, while also suffering with a stinging nose. I was looking forward to Hawaii! Be nice to be there now, with a Mai Tai and my ukulele. IMG_6385

I wish I had an advent calendar counting down the days until the Shelter-In-Place is over. Actually I now call it the “Global Coronavirus Shared Experience”, or “GCSE”.

 

Let’s Draw Davis: December 2019

Let's Draw Davis Dec 2019

Seasons greetings! Join us for the last Let’s Draw Davis of 2019, an afternoon sketching around downtown Davis, looking at all the nice festive windows, maybe stopping in places for a nice hot chocolate.

DATE: SATURDAY DECEMBER 14

START: 1:00pm, E St Plaza

FINISH: 3:30pm, E St Plaza

We will meet at the E Street Plaza at 1pm, by the clock near Baskin Robbins, then sketch about the downtown shopping area we all know so well, before meeting up again at 3:30pm at E Street Plaza to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this event is free and open to all who like urban sketching. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on! And maybe a scarf if it is chilly. Or a hot chocolate.

Hope to see you there! Pete

PS If it rains we will start or finish in Mishka’s or Peet’s, I’ll keep an eye on the weather and update the Facebook event page accordingly!

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2552373148131298/

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.”

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!