everyone seems to know the score

england mosaic flag

Ok, fine. It’s not coming home, this time. England didn’t win the final; they drew the game 1-1 with Italy, but lost the penalty shootout after missing three times. England beat England on penalties. One day in about twenty-five years, Bukayo Saka will coach England to another shootout, while Raheem Sterling is in the studio as a pundit, and the cycle of life goes on. I mean, at the end of the day, these are all important life lessons aren’t they, watching your country’s team lose penalty shootouts in quarter-finals, semi-finals and now at last a final, it’s what brings us together, disagreeing on how it should have been done. Oh well, I’m done thinking or talking about football for a long time now, a long time (until at least tomorrow, since I am actually coaching a youth team right now). Well done Mancini, happy for you. But damn…we were close. Oh well. The Heat is still very much On, here in California. When we were kids we were told that the Heat would be On the Streets, and I suppose it is. Inside the house, the Air-Conditioning is On. Apart from briefly popping out to go to Target, we stayed home today and watched the match, played some PS4, watched old episodes of Lost. Didn’t do any sketching, though I would really like to just pour myself into a big complicated drawing right now, I’ve not got the energy. So I just drew the little mosaic England flag. Years ago we made a whole bunch of paper mosaic flags for the World Cup, and we put them up for the Euros too, for each country that takes part. Then when they get eliminated, the flag comes down. Never thought England would be in the last two. They did end up the tournament only letting in two goals total, even fewer than Italy. And they didn’t lose the match, they drew the game, just lost the shootout. And didn’t win the trophy, and that’s what matters. Ah well. I do want to do a big complicated sketch though. I need to rejoin my Virtual Tour de France – in fact I need to start posting what I’ve done of that already here on my sketchblog. So far I have gone from Calais to Brittany, and was about to draw Le Mans when I put the project on hiatus. Now the real Tour de France is going on, maybe I should keep going with mine. 

homage to catalonia

BCN 1st morningMore Barcelona. My hotel was on the Ronda Sant Antoni, an excellent location, and on the first morning I got up early and had an incredible pastry. The morning food in Barcelona, the pastries I like to start my day with, are unbelievable. I got a delicious looking pastry which looked like it may have some sort of nutella filling. It did; it had about four jars of nutella stuffed inside. It was incredibly chocolatey. I was bouncing around all morning. Chocolate in fact began its European adventure here in Barcelona, and we’ve been bouncing around ever since. Good thing too!

I sat down in the street to start my sketching adventure, and sketched this official looking building. You could tell it was official, because it had the Spanish flag outside. That isn’t a flag you see much of in Barcelona, capital of Catalonia. I wasn’t massively surprised, given the very independent nature and the long and proud history of the Catalan people, but it many ways it hardly felt as though I were in ‘Spain’ at all. I have read about the long, proud and often troubled history, and local calls for secession have been growing in recent times. The Catalan flag (or ‘Senyera‘), from the classic straight yellow and red bars to the variants used by the nationalists (with the blue triangle and white star added; see the sketch below, from up in the Lesseps area) or the socialists (with the red star), flew from windows and balconies all over the city. Even the doughnuts were decorated with yellow and red stripes (though some were decorated as Cookie Monster too, so I wouldn’t read too much into it). The Barcelona FC blaugrana shirt was everywhere, all over the shops, market stalls, bars, cafes, but NEVER the Spanish national shirt. Now that did surprise me; Spain are the World and double-European football champions but the only time I saw a Spain shirt was on some Chinese tourists. Very interesting. The Catalan language was highly prominent everywhere (as it should be, since it is the region’s first and main language), with Spanish often down below alongside English. I speak neither Spanish nor Catalan, something I really need to remedy.

Further up the street was an amazing toy store which sold mainly two things – racecars and Playmobil. My son would have loved it. Around the entire shop was constructed a huge Scalextric racetrack of several lanes and many chicanes, with cars and Scalextric of all sorts of varieties everywhere. the other wall was devoted to Playmobil, which as you may recall I love. It’s much cheaper here too; if I could have, I’d have gone mad. In the end I just bought a few figures, two of them being little football players. One of them being a Spain footballer. I felt oddly guilty. Perhaps I should paint the Barcelona stripes onto it.

Lesseps, Barcelona

uncage the colours, unfurl the flag

garden with red bridge

Here is another of the drawings I did for the Garden Tour last week. There were already two other artists in the garden painting this part of it, so I joined them after a while to draw this colourful section. The garden I was in at the home of a well travelled lady – Ms. Gilardi – originally from Middlesex, which was nice, as so am I. The little red bridge had been freshly painted, and the pond had a fake bird next to it, presumably to ward off real birds who may try to swipe the fish. I don’t really know my plants – I can tell a daffodil from a cactus but that’s about it – but there were lots of many different plants. Ms. Gilardi has only lived there for five years, but in that time has produced an incredible garden. Along the outside fence is a row of gaily painted bicycles, one of which I had drawn before (this one, back in January). Most visible, and popular among local Davisites, is her tall flagpole, which sports a different flag each day. She keeps all of her flags hanging on hooks beside her house, diligently labelled. On this day the flag was of particualr meaning to her, being of the place where her family originally came. Can you guess the flag? (I’ve always wanted to go there!)

I drew this on the Strathmore hor press watercolour paper, with a pigma micron and watercolours.

does that star-spangled banner yet wave

First Valentine’s Day, then President’s Day; what next, Pancake Day? (Oh yeah, it is, tomorrow… I promise, this is not a food blog, I won’t post photos of my lovely scrummy proper pancake-day pancakes, they’ll be eaten too quickly)

newman chapel, on presidents day

So anyway, Pres’s Day, I got out  into this gorgeous Californian February weather (69 degrees and sunny; how’s that snow, everywhere else?) and cycled about a bit, slowly and aimlessly, before settling on the corner of C and 5th to sketch Newman Chapel (I have drawn it before, a few years ago). there was a flag, as there were on many of the streets, so I added it to the frame. It’s funny, I’m not into the whole flag-waving business, flag-fuelled patriotism, in whichever land, and yet I have always been obsessively interested in flags of all countries. Vexillology is one of my favourite subjects, I can’t get enough of it. That, and football shirts, so I’m already gearing up for the World Cup. Anyway, there I am below, giving the post-sketch analysis with Moley #5. David Devant was on my headphones, though I’d spent most of the sketch listening to Joni Mitchell, and I think it shows.

sketching on president's day

Week Thirty-Nine: How to Burn a Flag

It’s Independence Day next week; expect flags and fireworks aplenty. Given the proximity of so much freely flowing flammable fabric to freely flying firecrackers (not to mention over-zealous barbecue builders), I would imagine that there would be more than a few accidental flag-burnings. On such a highly charged day of patriotism, the sight of Old Glory going up in smoke would probably be enough to start a riot, or worse, a war. But you need not worry about what the Government or the FBI (Flag-Burning Inspectors) might do to you, because this week the Senate narrowly voted not to accept new measures, passed by the House of Representatives, that would make the desecration of the US flag a crime punishable by court of law. Phew, thank heavens for that! And I must say, as an ineligible-to-vote tax-payer, that I’m so happy the American tax dollars are being spent debating such a critical issue, when they could be spent on, say, a proper debate on Iraq, or a national health service. Or impeachment of the President.

What happens when you burn a flag? Those who have advocated the ban (such as the Citizen’s Flag Alliance) tell us that thousands of people have died defending that flag, and that to desecrate it would be akin to desecrating their graves. In reality they did not die defending a flag, but a country, and a set of values which, let’s be fair, the country’s Government did not always uphold. If you burn the flag, the country does not also burn; in fact, a country does not really need a flag to survive, but a durable and representative political and economic system. A flag is but a symbol; though I do not doubt the psychological power of symbols (cf, the swastika). In fact the act of burning the flag is upheld in American law, after a 1989 ruling, as an expression of every American’s First Amendment rights. So flag-burning is actually considered free speech. So what else can be interpreted as free speech? If you rob someone in the street, could your argument be, well it was free speech, officer, I was simply making a point about the high crime rate in this area, officer.

Of course not. But if the law had been passed, can you imagine the legal wrangling? For example, the exact proportions of the US flag are enshrined in law. It has to be just so. If the flag you are burning has a defect, for example if it were longer than it should be, or if the red stripes were a little thicker than the white, or if the shade of blue was just a little too dark, would it legally count as an American flag? It’s a foolproof legal defense; the evidence has by then already been destroyed. Yet until the 1989 ruling, many states actually did have laws regulating proper use of the flag – exactly when and how it should be flown (only from sunrise to sunset), exactly how it should be folded, that it should not be turned into a tablecloth or a cuddly toy, all of those things that millions of flag-loving Americans openly flouted after 9/11.

This doesn’t mean that come July 4th, Americans everywhere will be building huge bonfires and throwing their star-spangled banners onto funeral pyres, a Guy Fawkes in Uncle Sam’s jacket. But it means they get to. So I think that people should be aware of exactly how to burn a flag. First of all, don’t just get out a lighter and set it on the ground. You have to have some TV cameras there, and a crowd of people who just want to be on the telly. You let the flames get bigger, then wave it around at the camera, dancing like a drunk who has just found a six-pack hidden under a bench, and then you invite your friends to jump up and down on it until the flames go out (be careful not to burn your feet; wear old shoes). Then you sing some random nonsense about Satan or Santa, climb onto a car, then all go indoors for nachos, beer and the big game. I know this sort of behaviour will undoubtedly upset the neighbours, but hey folks, it’s your First Amendment right, sob sob, God bless the Constitution and all that. In fact, why not combine Amendments One and Two, and shoot the flag as well?

I’ve got the perfect way for the flag-protectors to get their way. Why don’t they just try to pass a law that states that all American flags should be made from flame-proof material? Everyone’s a winner!