a bright centre to the universe

Columbus Avenue (not "St"), San Francisco. Click image to see bigger.

Columbus Avenue (not “St”), San Francisco. Click image to see bigger.

It was getting a bit nippy by the mid afternoon in San Francisco, but I had a lot of drawing left to do. I wanted one more panorama, and I wanted it in one of my favourite spots in the city, that bit of Columbus Avenue (not ‘Street’ as I always write it) by Jack Kerouac Alley, with City Lights Books and Vesuvio. I like how this street slants down and I have drawn it before looking downhill to the financial district, but never from here. I stood for an hour and a bit sketching before it started to rain a little, and had to finish off the window shading later on. God I love San Francisco sometimes. Anyway I have always wanted to sketch inside Vesuvio, so I popped in for a couple of pints of Anchor Steam and sketched the scene below. This place merits a whole lot of sketching, it’s so full of detail and character. I love bars like this at Christmas time.

Vesuvio, San Francisco

After this, I made the odd decision to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, five days before Christmas, which was a bit manic but hey, I once worked on Oxford Street at Christmas time. I got my bus to the train at Emeryville, and went back to Davis, tired and full of sketches.

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what kind of a to z would get you here

SF: Vesuvio
Back to San Francisco’s North Beach, on that Friday of sketching at the end of last month. After a quick check-in at my hotel, I walked back up Columbus to stand outside the famous City Lights bookstore and sketch Vesuvio’s, a popular local bar on the corner of Jack Kerouac Alley. This junction is one of my favourite in the world. I have said it before, I could draw this area for years on end and never get bored. Well, not that bored anyway. The last time I tried to sketch on this spot, about five years ago, I got a little way in before rain stopped play, but on this occasion it was a warm, sunny Friday afternoon, getting into Happy Hour, as the world ended its work week and started to relax. It was a fun time of day to be out with a sketchbook. As I stood, the occasional bar patron would come out and check out what I was sketching (one bloke had his friend wave at me from the upstairs window, so I added him in). I popped my head inside afterwards, but didn’t stay for a pint, as I had more sketching to get on with while the sun was still shining. I have been in before, and one day I plan to sketch the interior.
SF northbeach map 2

in the city of blinding lights

vesuvio & city lights

This is the one I began sat in North Beach outside City Lights, but abandoned after drawing the outline when it started to rain. I did most of it at home with a photo and plenty of time (and a roof over my head). It is one of the best spots in the city; indeed, one of those really cool spots in the whole world. City Lights is an important San Francisco bookshop, most commonly associated with the Beat poets (presumably they were called that because they were tired the whole time?), and a bastion of progressive politics.  Right next door, just across Jack Kerouac alley, is Vesuvio: a colourful brewpub that also trades on its historical Beat clientele.

I went there after visiting Specs, an old old place packed with junk and people just across Columbus from here. Very nice atmosphere, and they do a lovely Anchor Steam.

Drew this in copic multilner 0.3 and 0.1, cobalt blue. And I nearly did the whole thing. But I decided not to complete it. I heard somewhere that leaving something at 75% is often better than going for 100%. With this drawing, I felt that to continue would make it look overdone, and I think I’ve made the right choice. This is also my illustration friday submission for this week (been a while), theme of ‘subtract’, because this is columbus avenue with part of it taken away.