back from outer space

De Veres July 2018
After I got back from Portugal, I had a hectic week (few weeks really) trying to settle back in. Busy work, busy life, jet lag, waking up at 3am every day, and the insatiable urge to just KEEP ON SKETCHING. It’s hard to explain the urge to draw stuff all the time. It’s probably less hard to explain coming back from a place like Porto where everything is a sketch waiting to happen, to Davis, which as we have seen over the past decade or so is worthy of a few sketches itself, but Porto it ain’t. You can only beat the team you’re playing, as they say, and since coming back I have ramped up my sketching of Davis once more after a relatively uninspired and fallow period. I’ve sketched almost everything I’ve wanted to sketch, so it comes down to sketching some of the old favourites just to keep the pen working, so one evening I popped once more to my local pub De Vere’s, always a nice place to hang out, and flexed the old ink muscles. This sort of drawing is about observing lots of detail, tackling interior perspective, and having a nice cold beer while you’re at it (the weather was so hot this summer). What’s more, I drew the pub from the outside a few days before: see below.
De Veres July 2018

And as you can see, I also drew a Davis fire hydrant. These finished off my Seawhite sketchbook so that it was completed in July.
hydrant E & 3rd

Now, I have a few more London sketches (and accompanying stories) to post, and then a bunch of new Davis panoramas I’ve been doing, but in the meantime I think I’m going to go out on this fine Saturday and do some more. I also need to get on setting the dates for the next few Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawls so stay tuned for those. My recent sketching travels has filled me with a new sketching-energy I want to share.

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hydrants and saudade

Lisbon hydrant 6 sm

As promised, the fire hydrants of Lisbon. Some of them anyway. I came across quite a few different ones. The one I enjoyed sketching the most was the one above. This is found in the very colourful Escadinhas de Sao Cristovao, linking Alfama to Baixa, a colourful staired alley filled with exciting graffiti and murals about Fado. Someone wrote “saudade!” just above it. I thought it said “sausage!” at first. Honestly I really did, I’m not making that up. I need my eyes checked again. Sometimes I misread words in a way that I think my brain is just trying to make jokes without telling me first. Like on Expedia, I was looking up a hotel and I thought it said “read all 52 terrified reviews”, but what it actually said was “read all 52 verified reviews”. Still, I was too scared to stay there and booked somewhere else. “Saudade” is not Portuguese for sausage, it means “sadness”, or rather, it means something more than sadness. Someone like me cannot explain it. I draw fire hydrants and think words say “sausage” when they don’t, so there’s no way I can really understand the concept of “saudade”. It was a phrase I had heard is associated with the kind of theme you hear in Fado music (which as we established in a previous post, I did not take the time to go and listen to while I was in Portugal, contenting myself with street tromboners playing “besame mucho” over and over again). So I looked it up. It means (according to ‘Google’) “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.” Well ok I can relate to that, for sure. Longing, melancholy and nostalgia are three of middle names (along with ‘William’). Longing is like when you make something longer (like a blog post, for example); I used to think that melancholy was a dish made with melon and cauliflower (no honestly, I did), and nostalgia is a type of aftershave from the 80s.

Alright I’m not taking the mick out of saudade. You might say that this sort of silliness is how I deal with my own saudade. But if you want to see evidence of true saudade, look no further than this set of fire hydrants, drawn on the Ruas and Praças of the Portuguese capital.

Lisbon hydrant 1 sm

Lisbon hydrant 2 sm

Lisbon hydrant 3 smLisbon Hydrant 5 sm

Lisbon hydrant 4 sm

I hope you liked them! Ok well I hope you looked at them and went, “oh yeah, fire hydrants”. I hope they didn’t make you too ‘saudade’ (or ‘sausage’).
Anyway if you too long for a bit of melancholic nostalgia, take a butch at my last batch of Lisbon hydrants, of which there were seven, all sketched in the summer of 2011, I also posted them in one handy post: https://petescully.com/2011/08/10/lisbon-hydrants/

porto pumps

Porto Hydrants sm
I should start at the beginning. I should start in england, with the few sketches I did there, and with stories about watching England win and then lose in the World Cup, with the heatwave of London proving too much for my air-conditioned Californian constitution. I should maybe even add my sketches of Madrid first, since they at least are all scanned now; one of the great things about coming back from a trip where you fill an entire sketchbook in a short amount of time is that there is so much scanning to do to digitize them when I get home. I always do that as I go along, a point that came in handy for my ten-year retrospective exhibition in 2016. I could dive straight into the Porto symposium, although I am still digesting my experiences there, and figuring out what new things I have learned (something that may take me months). So I will start with the easy stuff, the fun stuff, the thing that I am known for the most (actually the second-most – I certainly got the “oh you’re the one who holds his pen in a funny way” more than “oh you’re the one who draws the fire hydrants” this time when meeting new people.). I sketched fifteen hydrants in Portugal, nine in Porto and six in Lisbon (quickly checks my maths). Actually I just realized there was one more, but it is small and part of a larger reportage sketch so doesn’t count. For a close view, here they all are – and I have tried my best to remember where they all are, but I didn’t write it down as I often wasn’t sure where exactly I was when I sketched them, Porto is a little bit like that.
Porto Hydrant
This little red one was at Rua Chã, near the Cathedral and not far from my hotel. Now I must tell you that the little scribble in front of the hydrant, that was dog poo. No, I’m not saying there was a lot of dog poo in Porto because there wasn’t, it’s not like Charleroi in the 90s. What I’m saying is that if you have dog poo in your sketch make sure you keep it in the drawing. This is a pretty standard hydrant for Porto, though the big bulky silver ones were common as well.

Porto Hydrant
This model was very exciting, not only to me but to everyone else who was excited to see unusual fire hydrants on my behalf. I opted to draw a really rusty version, which was across the street from the Sao Bento station. Rusty hydrants are beautiful, and give off that used-universe vibe. They would look great in Mos Eisley.

Porto Hydrant
Now this little oxidized beauty was on a very steep street next to the Igreja Dos Grilos (and the Museu de Arte Sacra e Arqueologia according to the sign I read), but I didn’t go further down that mazy street as I was getting a little lost, so climbed back up. It’s similar to the first one but not painted red.

Porto Hydrant
On my second evening in Porto I got a bit lost (to say the least) trying to find my hotel, which as it turns out was at the top of a very steep hill with a few different routes to get up there, none of them particularly great. I stopped for a rest at one point when I saw this little hydrant in an alley in Ribeira, looking like it had been blindfolded and abandoned. It reminded me a bit of a young Scott Summers. There was wine bar just opposite. It took me 45 minutes to walk back to the hotel in the end (well I will stop to sketch hydrants). Perhaps I should have called a cab, but I’m an explorer after all and I need to sue my own two feet (my two very tired feet, those Porto hills are a nightmare).

Porto Hydrant
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Ooh now this was an exciting find. I was over in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is on the other side of the Douro river. Technically not really Porto any more but it totally is. I crossed the enormous Ponte Luiz II bridge via the road at the top, and after sketching the view of the river I tried to find my way down. That wasn’t easy. I’m sure there is an easier way down than the long steep quiet path that I took, but I found this hydrant painted in bright pink which I just had to sketch.

Porto Hydrant
Now this model is one that usually have a big plastic lid on it. I sketched ones like this in Lisbon, years ago. They do look a bit like overturned wine bottles. This one had no lid however, and I was drawn to it because someone had stenciled a picture of a fox onto it. I had seen this fox all over Porto, on the side of buildings and fences, sprayed onto the cobblestones on the ground, and now here on a hydrant. I did not figure out the fox’s significance (because I never actually asked anyone, surprise surprise). The Portuguese word for ‘fox’ is ‘raposa’. I don’t know what the word for ‘do some deeper research’ is though. This one was found next to the Palacio da Bolsa, on Rua Ferreira Borges.

Porto Hydrant
This is another one from Vila Nova de Gaia which I sketched on the way down the mountain, same model as the pink one you may remember from a couple of paragraphs back. I never saw this model on the other side of the river, which doesn’t mean they don’t have it, just that I never saw it.

Porto Hydrant
This bright blue version of the second one is found on Rua das Flores, in Ribeira. OR it was Rua Mouzinho da Silva. I can’t remember. Maybe it was neither. It was very blue though.

Porto Hydrant
Now THIS one was on Rua Mouzinho da Silva. That is a main street that goes from Sao Bento downhill into the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique. Henry the Navigator, as he was known. I should have had a similar nickname, for the amount of times I got lost in Porto. This one I am calling ‘J’Existe’ because of the sticker on the top. This as you can see is one of those ones that is covered up with a nice Kinder-Egg style lid.

And there you have it, my Porto hydrant sketchers. I’ll post the Lisbon ones separately. But finally, I didn’t draw this one but it made me laugh anyway, because of the owl sticker, and because it looks a bit strange. IMG_8616

PS I originally titled this post ‘Porto Hydrants’ but changed it to ‘Porto Pumps’ to match my blog theme of ‘Porto + P-Word’. Editorial consistency!

west sac hydrant

West Sac Hydrant Dec2017 sm

I had an early morning appointment in West Sacramento to renew my permanent residency. I arrived very early, on the bus, and had a while to wait outside in the cold before the doors opened and my money could be spent on taking my fingerprints (which haven’t changed since the last time they took them a decade ago, I guess they don’t gain weight like the rest of me has). I took that time before my appointment to sketch one of the fire hydrants outside. It was really cold. Afterwards, I went and had breakfast at IHOP (which was delicious by the way), before catching the bus back to Davis.

Aloha!

Waikiki view evening sm

Still playing catch-up with the older sketches, here are some I did while I was in Hawaii in November. What an incredible place. It was the first time I’d ever been to Hawaii, or to anywhere like that; it was, in the words of Samwise Gamgee, the furthest I’d ever been from home (home being Burnt Oak). For some reason it had never appealed, but for the life of me I cannot say what those reasons might have been because Hawaii is just so amazing.  I think living in California it’s easy to feel a bit blase about Hawaii because it’s like, just over there a bit, and I’m not one of those people who likes sitting on the beach, but no, Hawaii really does feel like somewhere very far away and different. And so beautiful. And it turns out I love the beach! Well, I always love being by the ocean. The call of the sea. I’m not going to go on about it. Hawaii is just great. So, we stayed on O’ahu, at the Outrigger resort in Waikiki. The most incredible view, ever. In fact after this, what is there, really? It’s only downhill from here. Nothing is really going to live up to that view. And earlier in 2017 we stayed in Rome and had the most incredible view over the city (see my earlier post, ‘A Rome With A View‘). I am never going to match those views in 2018, wherever we end up visiting this year.

Luke at Waikiki hotel sm

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Now it wasn’t all getting up at 7am and swimming in the ocean and then spending the day at the pool and drinking cocktails overlooking the sunset. Actually, no I’m kidding, that is what it all was, and that was the BEST. I did pop out and sketch a Waikiki fire hydrant once though.

Waikiki hydrant sm

Waikiki view morning sm

Oh I could not wait to Facetime family in England from that hotel room, with that ridiculously amazing view. The sketch above I never got around to colouring in.

Below is a sketch I did on the beach at Kailua, on the other side of the island. We had just spent much of the day at Koaloa Ranch, checking out where they filmed Lost and Jurassic World and stuff. We stopped in Kailua on the way back for some Shave Ice at Island Snow, which is where President Obama goes for Shave Ice when he is back in Hawaii. What is Shave Ice, you ask, and why is it not Shaved Ice? Aha, you will have to go to Hawaii to learn this secret!

Kailua beach sm

Ok, this (below) is Shave Ice. It was really good! Better than expected. Like a tropical slush puppy. Mahalo!

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I’ll post more sketches soon, but here is one last photo of the view from my hotel bedroom window. I must point out this was NOVEMBER. Aloha from Hawaii!

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weekend in LA

Southwest to LAX sep17 sm
Early last month I flew down to Los Angeles with my friend Roshan who was visiting from London, for a boys weekend to celebrate his 40th birthday. I didn’t do much sketching; it was a short trip and we mostly did tourism and, well, the pub. One or two pubs! A good old few pubs. I do find it harder to sketch when travelling with non-sketchers, (not for any fault of their own, I just struggle to concentrate) but I did manage a few sketches, including the in-flight drawing above. We stayed downtown at an awesome hotel with a great view, I only grabbed a couple of quick sketches of it, but we were really close to the LA public library (which I have sketched before, years ago).
LA hotel view sep17 sm
LA skyline sep17 sm
And of course, one fire hydrant. It wasn’t a 2am hydrant sketch (like on previous LA trips) but the library is once more in the background!
LA hydrant sep17 sm
And I got a few quick people sketches down at Venice Beach, of dancing roller-skaters. I would like to go back there on a sketching trip someday, there is always so much to draw around there. I really like LA.
venice skaters 1 smvenice skaters 2 sm

canalside in cannaregio

Fondamenta Moro Venice sm
We stayed in Cannaregio, the northern quarter of Venice, a neighbourhood of canals north of the Grand Canal and east of the train station. I kept spelling it Canareggio, which is wrong. I also spelled it Cannareggio, which is also wrong. I never spelled it Canaregio because that just seemed obviously wrong. We arrived on our train from Rome in good time, that trip across the lagoon making the old heart thump around with excitement. We were staying in an apartment we had booked online, and we had the address, and we had even looked for it on maps online, and here is the thing – Venice makes no sense to anyone except Venetians. They don’t have streets, you see. That might seem obviosu, because they have canals, but they literally don’t have streets – what they have are Calles and Fondamenti and Campi, but if you have an address it’s not like, 52 Gondola Road, Venice. Instead each address is a number, followed by the name of the area. For example, the address of the church Madonna dell’Orto is Cannaregio 3512. It’s a bit like saying you live in “Willesden 4586” without giving any street name or other distinguishing feature – people just know where it is, and to locals it makes a lot of sense. To the outsider however, it can be very confusing, and Venice is like a labyrinth anyway. In fact, while all those Calles and Fondamenti have big signs letting you know at least vaguely where you are, it turns out those were added by the Austrians years ago to stop themselves getting lost, Venetians had never needed them.

Fondamenta Misericordia Venice sm

What I am saying is, yes we totally got lost trying to find the place. ‘Fondamenta Moro’ is also very similar sounding to ‘Fondamenta dei Mori’, two canals over. We hadn’t been to Venice in 14 years and I think had forgotten how much it can turn you around. We got there in the end, and it was a nice neighbourhood not too far from Strada Nuova, which actually is more of a street and has a good supermarket for stocking up on supplies (dio mio, I love Italian food!). It was an apartment we reached through a dark and slightly slanted covered alleyway, and the narrow canals were right outside our windows, boats and gondolas drifting by quietly. It was a world away from the Rome apartment with its spectacular view and exhausting staircase, but peaceful and homely, with a row of canalside restaurants and gelaterias nearby. The top sketch was done out the front of the building, stood by the bridge in the early evening, Venice at its most serene. The sketch in color above was done at dinner, and you can see the back of our apartment on the corner of the building’s ground floor. That’s my son, sketching a boat. We ate at the Trattoria Misericordia, and the food was decent (not as good as Rome but pretty good), but the waiter fancied himself as some sort of comedian, but came across as, well, not a comedian anyway. We ate while the sun cast long yellow streaks in the sky and then walked home across the bridge.

Hydrant in Venice

Cannaregio means ‘Royal Canal’, as it was the main route into the city before the railways were built across the lagoon. These days it is the northernmost of the ‘Sestieri’, the six areas of Venice. Above, a Venetian fire hydrant, covered up like those ones I drew in Lisbon years ago, remember? Now it isn’t the exact same one as below, which was nearby on the Campiello Diedo, but I thought you might like to see it because it is quite similar in many respects.

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