Above Waikiki

View 1 from Hilton 080721 sm In Hawaii we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. It’s a historic older resort, Elvis used to go there, so did Michael Jackson, and so did about 15% of the population of the United States at the same time as we were there, I think. Since Hawaii reopened up, everyone wants to go, and they all told us it’s packed. Impossible to hire a car, reservations needed at all restaurants, and a surge waiting to happen. For the most part we did pretty well avoiding particularly crowded areas, although being on the 24th floor, the elevators were a bit of a stress. The ‘four person max’ rule was never enforced (at one point I saw fifteen people get out) and despite the signs that masks had to worn under state law, many people assumed that meant “everyone but me, brah”. On the whole though it was ok, and we loved spending time in our room with the views of the ocean, and the skyline of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Above, I drew the view inland, from where many moist clouds would roll out, evaporating before reaching the ocean. I like drawing from high up, but these clouds were the main focus, and I used the white gouache paint on top of the regular watercolour. That’s not something I have done much before, but I saw someone doing it online in a painting video and thought, that looks good. Just poking the brush into the tube itself rather than squeezing the paint onto my already dirty watercolour-box-lid palette. You have to let it dry a bit, but it didn’t take too long. Drawing the windows was a bit tedious so I left that until a couple of days later, you get the general idea. The wind off these hills on this balcony was pretty strong (we had two balconies, as it was a corner room) so I didn’t sit on the balcony to draw, just looked through the big windows, while sat on a comfy chair inside. With a big cocktail, probably. I do like a Blue Hawaiian.  View from Hilton Hawaiian Village, Waikiki

We tended to sit out on the other balcony )called a ‘lanai’ here) which face the view of Honolulu, and the ocean. I would sometimes sit out on the lanai and play my ukulele gently, above the sounds of the city below, or listen to the luau that would take place on the big green next to the lagoon. On the second morning, I woke up and sat out there looking at the view, while what appeared to be a big fire in Honolulu harbor brought a dramatic pillar of black smoke into the sky. Before coming out to Hawaii we had rewatched the series ‘Lost’, which was filmed here, so of course we said it must be the smoke monster. I painted the scene , and eventually the smoke dissipated. I never found out what it was; I suppose I prefer the mystery. Speaking of Lost, wherever you go on Oahu there are places where the show filmed scenes, and the marina in the foreground, very close to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, is one that was used several times. It’s called the Ala Wai Harbor. It’s the backdrop of Desmond and Penny’s photo, and where Desmond got shot by Ben before then punching Ben’s lights out and throwing him into the water, also where the some of the Oceanic Six meet up at night to say “we have to go back tot he island” “no we don’t” “yes we do” etc, and also where Charlie and Desmond (him again) drive a car into the water in the flash-sideways. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it, none of that makes any sense, even if you have. Immediately below, not appearing in this sketch, is the lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I totally went paddle boarding there, twice. It was the first time I had tried stand-up paddle-boarding, and loved it. I haven’t done it in the ocean yet, next time maybe. I was pretty good at it, I didn’t be falling in or nothing. I should try surfing. When I was a kid I thought I might do lots of surfing when I got older at some point, go to Australia or somewhere far away (not exactly a lot of surfing culture in Burnt Oak), but when I get there the ocean always looks so big and scary, with those waves grabbing you like gigantic wet hands. Still, the paddle-boarding on a shallow lagoon with no current was thrilling enough for me dudes.

Hilton Hawaiian Village shops 081021 sm

Back down on the ground, this was in the ‘village’ of shops and restaurants at the resort. There was a very Japanese feel to the architecture, but that was far from unusual in Honolulu. I stood in the nice shade and drew while people wandered into expensive watch shops or places selling Hawaiian tea towels or something. I really liked the Asian style architecture. It seemed like there was a lot of Japanese and Korean shops and restaurants in Honolulu. We went to one supermarket called Don Quijote which really felt like being in a Japanese store, with lots of colourful Japanese signage and products everywhere. I had to text my friend Tel who lives in Japan to ask what some things were. I had seen a lot of signs for ‘Mochi’ and it looked like it was popular, my friend Tel said it was very very very gooey. So I decided to get some, and I think he undersold how gooey it was. It wasn’t for me. I ended up getting some delicious poke instead, I do like that, it’s more Hawaiian and is made of uncooked sliced tuna, I got a couple of different kinds. One other day, we went to a nearby donut shop called ‘K-Pop Donuts’, which as the name suggests is Korean. That was a really interesting place, covered in sharpie graffiti from people who’d been there, and it sold a few varieties of these small round balls of pastry, which I believe were Korean donuts. I texted my friend Tel in Japan about them (he spent several years living in Korea before Japan) but he didn’t seem very familiar with them, and just commented on the K-Pop bit, which is some sort of Korean pop music. My son knows what that is. Anyway they were ok, pretty expensive for what they were, but not really somewhere I wanted to go to again. The donut things I did like in Waikiki were of course the ‘malasadas’ you get at Leonard’s, a famous place we went to on our first trip there. This time we picked some up hot and fresh from the Leonard’s truck in Hawaii Kai, south of Honolulu, those were delicious. One other famed local food place we went to for dinner was the Rainbow Drive-In. My wife was very excited to come here, and we grabbed some food and sat outside, although I wasn’t really impressed with my chicken sandwich, the gravy that came with the fries was pretty good. I did see a bloke wearing the new Nigeria football kit though so that was cool. I did however really enjoy both lunchtime visits to the lovely Hula Grill, above Duke’s restaurant at the Outrigger hotel. That’s where we stayed the first time we came to Hawaii and that’s where I discovered the magic of Hula Pie, the best dessert item in the world. It’s like a massive wave made out of ice cream with thick chocolate covering and cookie base and nuts and hot chocolate sauce, and takes about three people to eat it. Here’s a sketch I did of one back in 2017 (with a huge Lava Flow drink to go with it): 

Hula Pie at Duke's sm Pretty tasty. I bought one of those Hula Pie plates as a souvenir, as well as a t-shirt which only fits when I don’t eat hula pie. We did have lots of other food in Hawaii this time as well, and I’ll mention the extremely spicy shrimp on a future post, as well as some delicious cocktails, but I’m getting hungry for dinner now so I’ll leave the rest of the Hawaii sketches until next time.

to honolulu and back

SMF-HNL 080621 sm

Earlier this month we took a short vacation to Hawaii, to the island of O’ahu, where we first stayed in 2017. It was great to get away, but also my first flights since the start of the pandemic, so a little nervous. It’s a fairly long flight to Honolulu (over five hours) but you know, nearer than London. Of course, I have to draw on the plane, it helps me relax. Everyone was masked up, thankfully. I filled the page with some colours – these were actually the colours of the lighting on the plane, as it changed about, it was a bit freaky. It was a newer airplane. I did watch an interesting documentary about Ossie Ardiles, my childhood hero. We spent five nights in Waikiki, and just as all the reports had said, Hawaii was packed with tourists, especially our hotel, especially the elevators. Nonetheless it was great to have a break, great to be in the ocean, and be around all the colourful scenery. And cool down – it was very warm, but cooler weather than Davis which was in the 100-110 degree range around when we left. I drew a map of the island when we left, showing the spots we visited on this trip. I did a fair bit of sketching too, I’ll post those separately. 

Oahu map sm

And on the way back, I drew the plane again, this time with even brighter colours, like a huge shave ice. Always good to get away. The way things are going again, might be the last time in a while…

HNL-SMF 081121 sm

a thousand stories in san francisco

SF Skyline Panorama

In June I spent an overnighter in the city, San Francisco, staying at the Hilton on a really high up floor, as you’ll recall, I drew from the window next to the elevator while news about Christian Eriksen was still fresh, and I drew the Nob Hill view in great detail. I have always wanted to do a longer panoramic of this view, but rather than go back down there I decided to get a big piece of paper and draw that view once again but this time with the area to the right included, from various pictures I took that morning. So one Sunday evening and late Monday afternoon I drew this, and this will be my piece for the Pence Gallery’s 2021 Art Auction. I decided to leave it uncoloured, unlike the original, and I think that would look good on any wall. Well maybe not any wall, it might look out of place on the Great Wall of China, for example, or on Bob Wall from Enter the Dragon, or on Wall’s Ice Cream, or maybe I’m wrong and it would look great on all those things. Part of this view shows San Francisco’s famous Chinatown, as it leads up towards Nob Hill, and looking out to the left at Sutro Tower, and to the right beyond the wide road of Broadway is Russian Hill. Every block in San Francisco is worth exploring. Every window, a story. Ok, “every window tells a story”, that is a great thing to say when looking out over a cityscape, you should say it to someone next time you are looking over a city, particularly at night, I dunno, it sounds like it’s quite a deep thoughtful thing to say. “Every window tells a story, every story, a universe,” etc. But then you say, “not a very good story,” so you don’t sound like you’re being a nob. “I mean, most stories aren’t very interesting,” you say next. “Most stories are actually not worth telling. We should mind our own business about most stories. Actually stop looking through all those windows, nosy bugger.” That’s what you should say next. It’s true though, about stories. Some are brilliant, most are kind of “ok, skip to the end”. I recently got a subscription to a well-known audiobook provider, and frankly, the past couple of books I’m struggling to finish. I love a good story. The one I’m listening to right now would probably be better if I had just looked at the book, although the storytelling is a bit blah. The narrator however is terrible. When reading the story itself he is ok, reading in a precise actorly tone, but when he does the voices of the characters it’s like he thinks he’s in a 1970s production of “Oliver!”, being completely unable to read any female voice without going into a strange high-pitched fake cockney flower girl voice, “eeeer woss yorr gime?” type thing. I’m deliberately not telling you the name of the book or the narrator. So maybe I will skip audiobooks for a bit and go back to reading paper. My eyes are going a bit though, those mid-forties have caught up with me. As my glasses get stronger for seeing far away, I find I can’t read or see up close as well, so I need to take my specs off and bring the book nearer to me. Same with the sketchbook, or in this case, the big piece of paper. When drawing from life I relied on what I could see with my eyes, and it was a bit easier; drawing from a photo on my ipad screen and then leaning into the paper with my glasses off to see the detail, bit trickier. Yet I completed this all in one evening and an afternoon. The scale is actually the same as in my sketchbook, it just looks a lot bigger because it’s twice as long, and inside a 10×20 inch frame. I really like it, it would look good on any wall. Well, most walls. 

sunday morning drawing davis

Craft Fair at Central Park, Davis

Last Sunday morning, on the first day of August, we held our first Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl of the year. It has been a while; I paused organizing them due to the pandemic and I’ve been busy on weekends this year, but one of my fellow Davis sketchers Marlene Lee suggested holding one at Central Park that day during the craft Fair that was going on. It was a good idea. There were lots of vendors selling interesting art items, and there was a band called ‘New Harmony Jazz Band’ playing old numbers. It was nice to see other sketchers again, I’ve been hiding away for a long time and seeing others out and about doing their stuff is always good to see. Plus one guy (Alex) was wearing a Wolverhampton Wanderers shirt! I was delighted, I love football shirts but I’d never seen someone in Davis wear a Wolves shirt before. I’m showing you the sketches I did in reverse, so I can put my final drawing – this big panorama of the Craft Fair in the Farmer’s Market area – first. There were quite a few people around but it wasn’t crowded. Many people were masked up but most weren’t. Many of the sketchers were (including me for about half the time, usually when I might be interacting with people). It makes me feel more like a ninja, plus the mask I was wearing has my drawings on it (you can get masks with my drawings on here! https://society6.com/petescully/masks). I drew the scene above in about 1.5 hours, including about two thirds of the colour, but I coloured in the background when I got home. It was already getting hot, and I stopped for a shaved ice (which needed a few more flavours). Below is the band, they played nice music to sketch to. I drew that, and my other people sketches, with the Zebra brush pen that I was using a couple of years ago. It’s nice to use something like that again, it makes for rapid sketching. 

NewHarmonyJazzBand

And below are most of the sketchers, as you see I drew Alex in his Wolves shirt twice. If I had drawn more detailed sketches I would have done all of the shirt detailing on the front of that particular shirt. I myself was wearing my France football shirt that day, a favourite of mine, but mostly in honor of Esteban Ocon, who had won his first Grand Prix that morning at the Hungaroring in Budapest, a crazy race that saw a lot of carnage at the first corner. Ocon was also the first French driver to win a Grand Prix in a French car (Alpine, formerly Renault) since Alain Prost in the Renault in 1983. To see the podium with just one anthem played and for it to be the Marseillaise, well I’d never seen that before so I wore my French shirt in Ocon’s honor. I am about as obsessed with Formula 1 as I am with football shirts, as you can tell! I get up very early to watch it.  080221 LDD C IG

Below are Ann Privateer and William Lum, also drawn in the Zebra pen…

080221 LDD A IG

…and here are Ann Filmer and Marlene Lee, sketching in the shade. We’re hoping to have the Davis sketchcrawls go monthly again; I just got my soccer coaching schedule (so many Saturdays to the end of the year, and beyond) so others will organize but since campus is all coming back in-person this Fall it will be good for people to get outside and draw with each other again.   

080221 LDD B IG

The Let’s Draw Davis FB Page (where events will be posted) is here: https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis

There’s also a Let’s Draw Davis FB group, where people who attended can post their sketches and photos afterwards: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LetsDrawDavis/

good afternoon ladies

Alamo Square park San Francisco 

After waiting on Market Street for a long time for a bus that was never going to come – it seems some services were reduced or cut during the pandemic, but the bus stop obviously didn’t like to say – I jumped on an N-Judah Muni metro up to Duboce, on the way to my next destination that day, Alamo Square. I realized that I had not been to Alamo Square in about a decade, when my mum had visited from England and we went to see the ‘Painted Ladies’, that row of Victorian houses sloping down the eastern side of the park, with the backdrop of San Francisco behind them. I had not actually been there to draw in even longer – July 2008, if you can believe it. The drawing I did that day is below. I remember that I came down for an overnight sketching trip while my wife had gone up to Oregon, and covered a lot of ground, wandering and taking the bus and really connecting the city together in ways I’d not done before.

painted ladies

The big Victorian houses around here are impressive, many that pre-date the 1906 earthquake and firestorm, as they were saved from the flames. Alamo Square park sits on high ground overlooking the city from a distance, and that backdrop has changed a lot since 2008. The massive Salesforce tower for one, that wasn’t even a twinkle in the architect’s eye. The Painted Ladies – unpainted in this case, and you can click on the above image for a more close-up view – might be the most photographed, painted, drawn view in the city, maybe even more than the Golden Gate Bridge itself. It’s a romantic view alright; while I was sketching a wedding took place nearby, and there were lots of couples out enjoying the view. It was a sunny day, but breezy, easy to sunburn, lovely to look at. Most of the groups of people in the park were young, enjoying the day, making memories I guess. I drew and drew and drew, two hours I sat there on the grass, really working those eye muscles to try and see all the details in the distance. By the time I was done my body said “no painting, leave it, time to move along”. If I had been staying overnight, I might have sat there longer and added in the colours, but I think this way you can imagine them yourself. The Painted Ladies aren’t painted very brightly – they are different colours, but are quite muted. I should have drawn them arranged like a Zoom screen, very 2020-2021. Alamo Square park was busy, but not as crowded as Dolores Park was when I sketched a panorama there in June. There was a lot of space around me still. It’s quite an uphill walk to reach here though, I walked from Duboce Park, where I last sketched a few years ago, up Pierce and past the corner with Haight that I also sketched a few years ago, stopping off for a cold soda and of all things an Aero bar (this one corner shop had a lot of British chocolate for some reason), before climbing the steep hill to get here. 

SF Fulton & Scott (Alamo Square)

On the other side of the square, over the hill where they let the dogs run free, I stopped to draw this big imposing mansion on the corner of Fulton and Scott. It had a very ghost story, whodunnit, creepy mystery hotel look about it, and if I’d had the time I would love to have drawn the whole things in more details. The day was moving along though, so I kept it quick. I had more wandering to do before zipping back across town to get the Amtrak bus. Besides as I drew, I noticed that, hey man, I’m kinda stinky. I didn’t think I’d been particularly sweaty, after all I hadn’t walked as much as usual by this point, and surely I would have noticed when I was sat drawing in the park. It could only be me though, there were no other people around. It was a strong stench too, to the point where I moved right away when people passed me in the street, it was embarrassing. I imagined the train home, people getting on and sitting down nearby then moving further away. I would really need a long shower when I got in. I stood next to some purple flowers to draw this thinking maybe they will mask the B.O. smell. When I was done with the sketch I walked back through the park, and noticed that the smell was gone, and I wasn’t stinky any more. That was weird, it definitely smelled like sweaty sketcher smell. Oh well, maybe it’s not as bad as all that. Then I passed by a flowerbed containing more of those purple flowers and whoosh, that smell was back. It wasn’t me, it was the flowers! Flowers genetically evolved to smell like sweaty human. They were pretty gross. I walked away and yep, smell was gone. Relieved that I wasn’t a stinky sod, I walked about the Fillmore neighbourhood, where I hadn’t walked since my 2008 walkabout. You can see where the zone of big Victorian houses abruptly ends in the Western Addition. I passed through the Fillmore (a street worth another sketching day to itself, with its history of Jazz music and of the African-American community) on my way to Japantown. I didn’t get a lot of time to spend here but I went into one second-hand bookshop, and nosed around the little plaza of Japanese stores and restaurants before sketching the big Peace Pagoda building at the Japantown Peace Plaza. The San Francisco Japanese community was torn apart during World War II with the awful legacy of internment camps, a part of US history not talked about often enough. There’s a graphic novel by George Takei “They Called Us Enemy” that I am going to read, about his experiences during that time. It wasn’t busy around here that late afternoon, but still there was a good atmosphere, summer in the city.  I walked off to catch a bus after sketching this, and head back home.

SF Japantown

To catch a bus – yeah, I’d not really been on a bus in a city since the pandemic began, not even in Davis. Let alone San Francisco, where the buses are typically full of people quite close together. Sure, we’re all masked up but I was a bit anxious still about being in close proximity to people, and it was a long ride. I had decided not to walk down to the N-Judah metro, the bus was closer and would take me all the way to the Amtrak bus. Well as people got on and off and shuffled past I decided to bail out at the Tenderloin, getting a bit more space on the streets. I headed off to the big mall on Market to grab some food, getting slightly sidetracked by the discovery of the Lego store (I can’t help myself), before finally heading home. It was a long day in the city, tiring, productive and I’d done a bit of exploring, a it of learning, and now I have a bit of reading to do too. All worth the $62 round trip fare I guess. It was still about forty degrees cooler than it was in Davis, and that’s always worth it.  

good morning san francisco

san francisco ferry building

It was too hot in Davis (stop the press!) so I took a 7am train down to somewhere much cooler, San Francisco, where I got sunburnt. It always happens. I put on lots of sunscreen, but those rays still get through that fog. It was breezy too, and it’s easy to forget. In Davis that never happens because it’s so hot I am never out of the shade. still, it was a nice day to be out and about. I arrived early, so I could spend a bit of time around the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building. I’d not been there since before the pandemic; there were a lot of people around, but it wasn’t too crowded. I even got my favourite food in this city, these little ‘bombolini’, small doughnut things filled with lemon or custard or nutella. Absolutely delicious, and worth the $62 round trip Amtrak ticket to get down here. Yeah, it’s not cheap getting down to the city these days. But a break from the oppressive heat Davis, it’s always a good idea. I stood on a long wooden log and drew the Ferry Building, as that morning fog drifted in and burned out. A bit like myself; I drifted into the city in the morning, and then by the end of the day I burned out. I got a lot of sketching and wandering done in the meantime though.

People at SF Ferry Building

I drew some of the people who were in the market that morning. That guy in red was wearing a 2006 Spain shirt. I always think of Robin Williams when I come here. I remember spending a weekend here with my wife in the late 2000s and we came down to the Ferry Building Farmers Market and there he was, Robin Williams, buying some food. Always makes me feel a bit sad. He lived locally, until his passing in 2014; they eventually named the tunnel you pass through after the Golden Gate Bridge after him.

San Francisco skyline from Embarcadero

I turned around after drawing the Ferry Building and the people and drew the view looking the other way. The sun was out a bit more now, but I needed to draw this SoMa skyline as it has changed so much in the decade and a half since I moved out here. Even this scene here, that building behind Gate B is where I used to pick up the Amtrak bus after a day in San Francisco, but that’s all been redeveloped into a nice plaza now. Many of those tall buildings weren’t here a few years ago; it’s like London and San Francisco are competing for new skylines every time I’m away. Still I enjoy drawing all these details. I had to wait until later to add the colour though, because the day was moving along and so was I. Lunch was a couple of tasty Argentinian empanadas from inside the Ferry Building, and then I wandered over to Market to decide where I would wander next. As before I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to sketch somewhere I didn’t sketch in June, but somewhere with a good view and somewhere I could just sit for ages looking at it. Find out next time where I ended up…

you’ll never change what’s been and gone

072221 3rd St Davis

I’ve drawn Third Street a lot of times over the years. Some of it has changed, like the stretch between campus and B, some of it hasn’t, like those houses across from the shops between D and E. It was a hot day, I was downtown after leaving work a bit early to get something cold to drink (not easy on campus in the afternoons these days, those vending machines ain’t being stocked). I got a cold drink from Newsbeat and stood outside to drink it. I needed that cold drink, the hot weather has been too much to bear. I wonder sometimes why I moved to such a hot place, but that hot place is just Planet Earth in general these days. That ship has sailed, it has no choice there’s not going to be any land left if the sea levels keep rising. These long hot summers are depressing though, I don’t do well in heat. I mean, sunshine is nice but a day with some clouds feels like it’s taking a quick breather before the next wave. Today for example it was in the high 90s, but with a breeze and a sky of clouds, aaand tomorrow it’ll be 102, then 106 on Thursday, then 104… dudes, seriously, slow down. Chill out. I did chill out a bit the other day, I went to San Francisco, which was about forty degrees cooler, no exaggeration. Naturally that meant I came back with sunburn, despite layers of sunscreen it always gets through that fog. I’ll post my San Francisco sketches separately of course. I stood in the shade beneath a tree on that very hot day to draw this, because I just needed to draw. I can’t really explain the need to constantly draw stuff. I need the creative outlet, otherwise I get very grumpy. There was a period when I was younger when I kinda gave up on drawing. It was what I loved doing most but wasn’t really going anywhere, and I had so many interests pulling me here and there, music, drama, writing; I still drew, but not as much. When I decided, nah I’m not going to try art school, it was because I wasn’t actually that interested in Art. Or I was, but not as much as other things, like languages, history, travelling, reading, football, football shirts, playing the guitar, writing music, writing stories, girls. It took me a while to realize that even though I was so-so about art in general, I did still love drawing. At some point in my 20s I started drawing again and just kept going, like falling uphill, grabbing onto ideas as I did, and it felt like I was going back to the first thing I ever loved, just picking up a pen in that funny way and just drawing stuff. Yet, I’m never satisfied, there’s always more that needs to be drawn, more to see and put down on paper. So I yearn for big complicated drawings that make my fingers hurt, but sometimes I’m ok just drawing very familiar typical bits of Davis. Like this. A house, straight on, with a tree in front, other side of the street. My mind’s too overheated for anything inventive or envelope-pushing. This is my three-chord, no-nonsense fallback song, with the same old lyrics about the weather. But this is what Davis looks like, through my glasses.

among jets and giants

Cal Aerospace Museum F86F Sabre

Last week we went to the Aerospace Museum of California in Sacramento, which I’d wanted to visit for ages but as always, never get around to it. I grew up near the RAF Museum in Hendon, living about a mile or so away, yet it wasn’t until 2019 on a brief visit back to London (there was an Urban Sketchers London sketchcrawl there) that I finally visited. The California Aerospace Museum has a pretty amazing collection of planes and helicopters, and to quote the Bard, I love all that shit. When I was a kid I was obsessed with war planes, fighter jets, army helicopters. I loved the Spitfire of course, who didn’t, but was a big fan of the Tornado, and of the classic F16. In my primary school, probably because of our proximity to the historic RAF Hendon Aerodrome (now the site of the RAF Museum, and Grahame Park Estate) divided the kids into four houses, common in British schools (magical or otherwise; round our way your wand would be broken and your broomstick half-inched), and those four houses were named after great fighter planes: Phantoms (blue), Harriers (red), Jaguars (green) and Tornadoes (yellow). I think they were the colours anyway. Come to think of it maybe Jaguars were blue. Were Phantoms black? They might have been green. I don’t care. I was in Tornadoes, we were yellow. We got house points for good deeds, doing well at stuff (most of my house points were for drawing) (I might have lost some for drawing on the table though), and sports day. I did have pictures of planes on my bedroom wall; my big sister went out with a guy called Neil for a while and he worked at British Aerospace, so he brought me some brilliant prints of fighter jets. I used to draw my own ones, overloaded with all kinds of missile and machine gun, helicopters too. One of my favourite shows was Airwolf. Anyway the nine-year-old me was in heaven seeing all these old American fighter planes. It’s mostly open air, all the planes and choppers are displayed around the outside of the main hangar building, which mostly holds exhibits and engines and things about space, as well as an enormous aircraft called ‘Makani’, a many-propellored ‘energy kite’. Even thought it was morning it was very hot and hard to spend too much time outside. I particularly liked seeing the banana shaped helicopter and the Sikorsky ‘Jolly Green Giant’, and was enthralled with the fighter jets (no F16s, sadly). I got to draw a couple of them – the F86 Sabre (above), which had the logo ‘CALIF-ANG’ on the side (I made my wife take a photo with it, since she goes by Ang (short for Angela) and is from Calif (short for California). I love the US Air Force logo, that big star, it’s so classic. I also drew the McDonnell-Douglas F-4C “Phantom II”. I had to draw a Phantom, in honour of that old school house (my friend Wayne was in Phantoms). I always thought they were a British plane but of course that fighter originated in the US, and was exported to the RAF. This one flew extensively in Vietnam and is supersonic. We were able to go inside some of the larger planes, and in one huge Korea and Vietnam era plane there was a man who had participated in combat missions in Vietnam in that very plane, not as the pilot but as one of the crew on the plan, and who had parachuted from it many times. His stories were fascinating, and when asked if he enjoyed his time serving in the Air Force he said yeah, because he was up in the sky – it was much less fun for those on the ground. I’d like to go back and draw more some time, spend a few more hours there, but maybe at a cooler, less oppressively sunny time of year. 

Cal Aerospace Museum F9C Phantom II

VTDF #5: Rouen

05 - Rouen

The real Tour De France finished a couple of days ago in Paris – Tadej Pogačar from Slovenia won his second Tour De France title, on penalties after extra time, I don’t understand the rules. Well done though, that’s great; he won it last time around too in 2020. Looking at the list of recent winners I recognize a lot of the names, several Brits, and of course Wiggo in 2012. There was someone called ‘No Winner’ who won a lot of them between 1999 and 2005, wonder what happened there, someone with strong arms and stronger legs. But I digress, as you cannot do on a Tour De France. We rejoin the Virtual Tour on stage five, in the region of Normandy and its historic capital of ROUEN

I loved drawing this, as you can tell. Give me a street of half-timbered buildings and I am happy as an appropriate metaphor. Rouen has no shortage of such streets to draw. There are a lot of people too; people add some life to a scene, and create a tangible perspective for us to understand the geometry of the space. Also, a clown with green hair, because every drawing needs a clown with green hair. I have never been to Rouen; I did study the medieval Normans when I was doing my MA in medieval English, my final dissertation focused on the relationship between English and French, in particular Anglo-Norman, the variety of French used in medieval England for a few centuries following the conquest. Specifically I explored the apparent antagonism between the two languages as England moved from French-speaking governance to English-speaking governance, while the English language evolved as it blended with the Anglo-Norman style of French, which itself was becoming seen as a bit of a less-prestigious version compared to that of Paris, even mocked by Chaucer. Rouen, on the river Seine, was the Norman capital – it still is – but was founded by the Gauls, and called ‘Rotomagus’ in Roman times. Famed Rose-Wars-King Edward IV of England was born here. So was famed toilet-sideways-turner Marcel Duchamp, and famed Euro-2000-final-golden-goal-scorer David Trezeguet. And Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly, which is appropriate because the very first competitive motor-race in the world went from Paris to Rouen in 1894, the “Concours du ‘Petit Journal’ Les Voitures sans Chevaux”. That first race was won by Albert Lemaitre in a Peugeot, although he actually crossed the line second, because the driver who originally came first, Jules-Albert, Comte de Dion, was disqualified due to his engine being ineligible, not the last time someone would win a race in France but later have it stripped for breaking the rules. The Road to Rouen, also a Supergrass album.

You’ll notice Monoprix on the left. Monoprix is a chain of department stores in France that we used to go to all the time in Aix. They had food on the basement floor, clothes on the first floor, upstairs they had TVs and fridges and kids toys, and I would go there for notebooks and pens and stuff. The food was a little more expensive than at Super U but not much, but not as cheap as the cheapy store “Ed”. I remember it would take a long time to find the fresh milk. It felt like doing a fantasy role play quest, trying to find the fresh milk in Monoprix, or any other French supermarket. They like the old UHT over there, but to me that tastes like shite. They make up for it though with their other dairy products, and I really love the French cheese. I remember back in first year French class when Mr Smith brought in a variety of disgusting smelling French cheeses for us to try, and despite being floored by the smell I did like the taste. I remember trying Pont L’Eveque, a cheese from Normandy, and it not being like anything else I’d had before. I do love to go into a cheese shop in France and get the whiff of Camembert whack me in the nose as I walk through the door. Someone asked me once what my favourite French cheese was, I told them I don’t have a favourite French cheese, but if I had to choose I’d probably say my favourite French cheese was ‘Fromage’. Actually in all seriousness I really like Laughing Cow, “the thinking man’s Dairylee triangle”. In French they call it ‘Le Vache Qui Rit’, ‘The Cow Who Laughs’. It sounds like a piece of nouvelle vague cinema. “Le triangle de dairylee de l’homme qui pense.”

And on that note, we sail down the river Seine away from Rouen to the coastal town of Honfleur. Toute à l’heure! 

“how are things in your little world”

D St Davis

And it’s back to Davis. We’ll continue the Virtual Tour De France soon. The weather turned slightly cooler this week – high 80s and low 90s, feels like Spring, but the hot weather’s coming back. I was downtown a couple of times this week, and on both occasions I stopped on D Street and drew this view. I finished it on the second outing. I was downtown to get my eyes tested. They still work fine. The glasses I got last year mean that my close-up vision is not as good, like for reading and so on, they said it was “fortyitis”, which I thought was a real name for a disease, but turns out it’s just what happens in your forties. Bloody forties. How did that happen, getting to the forties? I mean I know how, but like, how? I was 29 when I moved to Davis. I remember celebrating my 30th birthday like I was some ancient celestial being. Actually we went to Chevy’s in Dixon on my 30th, where they made me wear a sombrero while the staff sang Happy Birthday to me (though not the Happy Birthday song, which Chevy’s probably didn’t have the rights to). We also went to San Francisco and ate at a fancy fish restaurant a few days before my 30th, when my wife surprised me by bringing my best mate Roshan over from England without telling me. That was a big surprise! I didn’t even notice him at the table at first (early fortyitis fifteen years early, unable to see things right in front of you). I was saying hello to the other people who were there at my surprise 30th, basically friends of my mother-in-law, and then saw him and was pretty gobsmacked, like stunned to silence. He brought me over a big bottle of Pepsi Max too, because at the time you couldn’t get that here, and I really missed my Pepsi Max. I’m a simple man really. Anyway I was downtown getting my eyes tested, what they do now is take a big 3D image of your eye, and you have to sign something saying they are allowed to do that. I’m like, hell yeah I wanna see a big 3D image of my eyes, that’s cool! It was too. It was a bit like looking at a nebula, a little world, and they showed me all the bits in the right places, and noting unusual. People say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but dudes, come on. They can’t take a 3D image of my soul, can they. Can they? Um, I hope not. What did I sign, did I sign that they could take an image of my soul? Dammit, if my eyesight wasn’t so bad, I’d have been able to read the fine print. Anyway, I’m getting new sunglasses, so that’s nice. So, this eyesight thing, it generally means when I am drawing I have to hold the sketchbook a little further away than I used to. Usually I hold it right up to my face like I’m holding a violin (I had no idea I did this until people starting drawing me sketching), now I have to hold it a bit further away. It’s not that big a deal but when I’m looking far away then close up a lot, it takes a bit longer for my eyes to adjust. I decided against varifocals just yet, but anyway, fortyitis. This is D Street near Fifth Street. The building in the middle has an interesting metal gate, made in the pattern of penny farthing bikes, which of course is the symbol of the City of Davis. This is a very Davis gate. This is a very Davis scene. When I first started drawing these very Davis scenes it was to show people back home in north London what the place I live in now looks like. Well, it looks like this. Another panorama for the book of Davis panoramas that’s never coming.