back on the sofa

Living Room watching Spurs lose to Antwerp Another view of my TV screen from my sofa, drawn on the iPad, because it’s 2020 and there’s a lot of this. Before the election of course. I use Procreate to draw on my iPad, it’s great, although I feel like I have a lot I could learn. I should take an online course or watch videos or something I don’t have a lot of time for. This is a different brush than I usually use though, the Dry Ink brush. I was watching Tottenham play Antwerp, a team that had somehow overtaken my Belgian team Charleroi at the top of the Belgian Pro-League. And we lost, we bloody lost 1-bleedin’0. I wasn’t super happy about that. I’m still not, but ah well, that’s football, we’ve won a few games since. The cat sleeps on the chair, not giving a tommy tit about the football, or the election, or anything until dinner time, or play time.

talk to the hand

watching england argentina 86

Here’s an iPad sketch from a few days ago. Sorry, a couple of weeks ago. Where the hell did April go? March was about eight years long, April was about eight minutes long. I have been watching a lot of old sports. Well mostly football and formula one. Ok, only those sports. Here is the classic 1986 World Cup quarter final game, you might have heard of this, Argentina v England. I was ten when I last watched this game. We’ve all seen two clips of this game a million times, the Hand of God, Maradona’s famous handballed goal, and his subsequent brilliant mazy dribble. I was ten when I saw this game. Maradona was the best player in the world. While family members and friends all swore loudly and often, I knew this was a special player. We all did. Mexico 86 holds a lot of great memories, the first World Cup I really followed. I still have my Panini sticker album, defaced with felt tip pen by me and my neighbour, unfinished but still enough memorable characters such as Antal Roth, Randy Ragan, Cha Bum Kun, Yannick StopyRAAAAAA. Giuseppe Bergomi’s massive monobrow. But back to this game, we were at a friend of the family’s house, I was playing with the other kids, coming in and out to watch the screen with the sweary drinky people. International games in those days were so glamourous, far away, bright un-English sunshine, ridiculous big stadia nothing like the crammed in barns we saw on The Big Match, the commentary echoing of far away phonelines. This was the greatest game of all time wasn’t it, England were robbed weren’t they, if they had managed to not get cheated out of this game they would surely have just won the World Cup easily right, their first in twenty long years of hurt, right? Watching it again, I am reminded of how boring some of these games can be, especially back in the old days of the 80s. It was nice seeing Peter Reid again, always liked him, maybe a bit less seeing Steve Hodge, never a big fan. And England really weren’t all that, Argentina were always winning this game, all the momentum was with them. Who know, perhaps if the game had not swung their way, England may have nicked it, but the Hand of God shook the cradle, Shilton failed to outjump the famously not tall Maradona, Diego punches it into the net and I remember vividly that sweary drinky room of family and friends all jumping up as one shouting “HANDBALL!” and other jingoistic phrases, and I remember thinking at the time, ten years old in 1986, “you know if only we had VAR, we would have nothing to talk about over and over again for the next thirty-something years”. My favourite bit about rewatching it was that FIFA added different commentary than the one I remember, and the commentator is clearly speaking years later but pretending like he doesn’t know what happens, as if adding some doubt about the handball. He actually says, while pretending to be actually at the Azteca in 1986, “well here we are in the hot and sweaty Azteca stadium in Mexico City and Diego Maradona has just scored a goal with what might be his hand! Or his head. It might have been either. He is celebrating so it must be his head. If it was his hand England will be aggrieved about that for years until they win the World Cup which might not happen ever now. I’m sure he’ll make up for it later in this game with a much better goal to prove that he really is the best player in the world, in case we think it’s Platini who might make a good UEFA president someday with his honesty. Well it looks like the famous Hand of God goal will stand, so that’s another goal for Maradona and wait til you see him in the semi final against Belgium.” Other than that it was faultless commentary. Even describing the second goal as the Best Goal of The Previous Century didn’t give it away. I have a pair of socks with little images of that Hand of God goal all over it, if we had VAR I might not have those socks. the best bit about that game though was not the Hand of God, nor the Amazing Best Goal Ever, nor even Gary Lineker Pulling One Back, but the shadow of that big windmill spider thing that was cast across the pitch. It was such a memorable feature of that World Cup that it was almost like another character in the film. 1986. You’re only ten once, you can never be ten again. When I was ten I watched football all the time, drew constantly, had Lego all over the place and regularly freaked out about the daily world news. You can never be ten again.

playing with colours, missing the games

Living Room
Decided to play with this big set of Prismacolour coloured pencils I’ve had sitting my cupboard, while watching old sports events, in this case the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix. That was fun. I really miss my sports. I especially miss the Formula 1, which nearly started they all went down to Australia, they were having practice and qualifying, and then decided maybe you know having a big event like this at the start of a major pandemic probably isn’t a good idea, so the season did not start. I love the F1 so the lack of it has been worse than not having the football. No honestly the way Jose’s Spurs have been playing, it’s not been missable. Watching this old and ridiculous race brought back some memories, and I had forgotten some of the drivers were that long ago, it doesn’t feel like it. Jos Verstappen was there, Max’s dad, for almost a lap at least, and Schumacher wet out early. Damon Hill was there of course but did not win. And of course Murray Walker, the great voice of Formula 1, commentating in his memorable diesel tones, and I had forgotten who he pronounces the word fastest like they are two separate words, “Fast-Est”. So, sat on the couch. The exercise I’ve gotten used to this past year has fallen away, I’ve been getting up too late in the mornings for my morning runs, just not been feeling it.
Dinner Table and Kitchen

And here, using the pencils again, but this time sat at the dinner table (though admittedly we eat our dinner in the living room). These are drawn in a Stillman and Birn ‘Nova Trio’ book I got in Amsterdam last summer, it has grey, black and beige paper, so perfect for these sort of fun drawings. I watched the classic 1982 World Cup game Italy v Brazil, that was very enjoyable. I was only 6 during that World Cup so my memories of it are extremely foggy, just remember seeing them talk about it on telly, my brother watching it a lot, I remember Kevin Keegan being absolutely massive around then and that brilliant England shirt. I met Kevin Keegan 18 years later in Charleroi, in Belgium. This game though had the legendary Socrates (no, not that legendary one) for Brazil, and Italy’s Paulo Rossi nabbing a hat-trick. I’m gutted right now because all our youth soccer is being cancelled for the season, much to my son’s great disappointment. In particular, the Davis World Cup, our annual soccer tournament. I had designed the badge again, going for a very retro logo this year, but I’ll have to save it for next year. And change the year to 2021 obviously. Here they are, the three versions (for the t-shirts, medals, and other materials). After all this, the things we love will be back! In the meantime I’ll be watching old games, like listening to old records.

 

Above and Around Amsterdam

Amsterdam Waag
First workshop day of the Urban Sketching Symposium! We got a big bag of goodies this year, loads of paints and pens and sketchbooks. I still have goodies from the first symposium in my art cupboard. This year symposium attendees all got bright red bags to carry our gear, which also made it easy to spot the other symposium people. The first thing I drew in the morning was the castle-like building called ‘Waag’, in the Niewmaarkt. I think everyone sketched this. It sits there nice and sketchable. I drew it from the most obvious angle. Perhaps I should have sat closer and made more of an effort, but I was in a hurry, I needed to get to my first workshop: “Amsterdam Rooftops” with the very nice Hugo Costa. I met Hugo in Porto, so was eager to take one of his workshops, and he really had an advantage over the other workshops, in that we were going to be looking out over the top of the city, but also sketching in a cool air-conditioned rooftop restaurant, “Blue”. I drew him introducing the workshop below.
Amsterdam Hugo Costa Workshop Demo
For the class we had to bring large sketchpads, like A3 size, which of course is not my usual thing but I wanted to give it a go. Definitely enjoy attacking something so big and detailed on a large piece of paper. I decided against adding colour, but just added a bit of shade. I took this photo of it. I submitted this into the end-of-symposium auction, and it sold! Most of all, I enjoyed observing Amsterdam from above. There is something so peaceful about sitting above a city, counting the spires, watching it stretch to the horizon. The Netherlands is a very flat country. When I was a kid I had a map of Amsterdam on my wall, and I loved how the canal rings curved around the city centre. It’s amazing I have not spent that much time in Amsterdam in my life, but I have never really spent much time in many of the places I used to read all about when I was a kid (I had a map of Sydney too, never been to Australia, as well as those little Berlitz books about Hong Kong, New Zealand, Norway and the Rhine Valley, none of which I’ve been to. YET.).
Amsterdam Rooftops
This is one of my favourite photos from the symposium, the various workshop attendees from all over the world all huddled together in an elevator going up to Blue, all ready to sketch. I made some silly joke about “watch out for pickpockets!”. This was a really nice workshop experience, we had some nice conversations.
In elevator at Hugo Costa's workshop at USk Amsterdam 2019
Here is Hugo taking a look at some of the sketches.
Hugo Costa's workshop at USk Amsterdam 2019
Amsterdam from Blue
After the workshop many of us stayed for lunch. I caught up with Daniel Green, always nice to chat with him, and sketched the view looking down what I think is Regulierbreestraat. This is a city I would love to explore so much of, maybe in a slightly less busy time of year (whenever that is!).

After lunch I headed back to the hotel and then went out to see something I just had to see – the Ajax Arena. Well it’s called the Johan Cruijff arena now after the most famous footballing son of Holland. I wanted to go there because I love Dutch football (well, I like it) and have always admired Ajax, but maybe the real reason is that my team Tottenham knocked Ajax out of the Champions League semi-final in a most dramatic last-minute way in 2019, and I wanted to wear my emerald-green Spurs top there, just for a laugh. I got a few comments in the club shop, “oh you can’t wear that here.”

Amsterdam Ajax Stadium sm
I didn’t get to go inside the stadium but that is ok, I just sketched outside. I did meet one Ajax fan though who was not a fan of Tottenham, let’s say. I was standing outside a restaurant next to the stadium which was called “Burger Bitch” (one of the burgers was called “That’s a huge bitch”) and he came dashing out to tell me, no you cannot wear that Tottenham shirt here. Not so much for us beating them, which he blamed completely on Ajax, more for how he and other Ajax fans were treated by the police when they visited our new stadium in the first leg (he never got to see the game because some English hooligans attacked them, and so the police just took them away and sent them to Leicester Square, no game for them). I felt bad for the guy, we had a good chat about footy, but yeah at first I thought he might chase me away. He told me of his other stories about traveling with the Ajax, such as when they were in Turin and the Italian ultras of Juventus would attack them with knives, and a guy he knows got one of those infamous knives in the buttock that are popular with Italian calcio hooligans. I had heard of this being a thing. He told me that was the worst thing because they cannot sit. Actually he might have said “cannot shit”, it was hard to tell the way the Dutch sometimes say their “s”, but either way not a nice injury to have. I didn’t tell him about when my brother in law fought against Ajax fans in the early 80s on a canal boat in Amsterdam and he was attacked by a guy with a samurai sword and had to jump ship. I’ve always wondered about that story. Anyway after all this fun chat I went back into central Amsterdam, and decided I might not wear my Tottenham shirt out to the pub that evening.

A couple of photos. I was particularly proud of my quip when I saw the picture of Danny Blind holding hands with a young Daley Blind, two generations of Ajax player, when I said “D. Blind leading D. Blind”. But nobody was there to hear or care. And there it is, Burger Bitch, to prove it’s a real actual place.
Amsterdam Hertha Berlin Fan smAmsterdam passenger on Metro sm

I had to wait ages for the metro. The station at the Arena was absolutely packed, largely with people traveling home from work, but the heatwave was causing more delays I think. I sketched a little. When I got back, I rested for a while at the hotel before getting back to the sketching job. I drew the Zuiderkirk from the banks of the Zuiderkerk from Kloveniersburgwal canal…
Zuiderkerk from Kloveniersburgwal sm
…before drawing the sunset at the Amstelhoeck. I then spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and hanging out with sketching buddies, another very fun evening. A very hot but very productive day. The next day was even hotter…

Amstelhoek sunset sm

nike mercurial cleats

my son's soccer shoe
Continuing with the soccer theme, and the long-running story of drawing every single one of my son’s shoes since birth (it’s an interesting tale), this is my son’s current football boot (aka soccer cleat in the US), the Nike Mercurial. He likes his Nike shoes. I wear a lot of Adidas shoes personally, I like their fit, he really likes the feel of the Nikes. He plays a lot of soccer, his AYSO Select season just finished recently with the Davis World Cup and he is now doing various soccer camps this summer. I’ll be back coaching in the Fall season, I’m looking forward to all the practices and planning. Anyway, sketching your footwear is a good way to record your life. I recommend it, for those of you who are in the ‘I’m not sure what to draw’ mood (I get in that mood a lot these days). You spend a lot of your life in shoes, they literally carry your weight and all your experiences. Your soul in your soles. As my mum always said, make sure you buy a good bed and good shoes, ‘cos if you’re not in one you’re in the other.

it wasn’t to be, this time

spurs champions league final living room
It felt like a World Cup game. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m just glad we got there, we really shouldn’t have even made it out of the groups. That quarter final against City with the late VAR screen ‘no goal’, that dramatic late goal at Ajax after being three down on aggregate, the fact we didn’t have a home stadium until late in the season, the fact we never bought a single player in a year and a half, it’s a whopping great achievement getting to the Champions League final, our first ever one, my beloved Tottenham Hotspur. It was a wild ride. The final itself was killed off by a dubious penalty decision in the first 30 seconds. Liverpool sat back and soaked us up easily, but both teams looked like they hadn’t played for three weeks. I had all of my Tottenham shirts, which number a good many, hung up around the house like a museum of football kits. I made a couple of banners of all the old home kits, we played the old Spurs music and watched old Spurs videos all morning. I never thought we’d actually win it, years of watching real World Cup games has taught me enough of that, but Liverpool have won it enough times. It would have felt better to lose to a non-English team really. Oh well. We can say that Poch should have done this or Harry should have done that, but at the end of the day it’s a football game and one wins, one loses, and there you go. That’s life. I had always said that if Spurs win the Champions League I would put on all of my Tottenham shirts at once and run around Davis singing Chas and Dave. Well the weather was in the high 90s so at least I didn’t have to do that.
uncle vitos

I had a walk downtown that evening though, minus all the shirts, minus the Chas or the Dave. I just needed to sketch and have a pint, and hopefully it would be somewhere that wasn’t showing a replay of the final. I stopped into Uncle Vito’s, who were showing golf, and sketched the above before walking home. Oh well. At least Arsenal lost their final too (unfortunately it was to Chelsea), but that means no North London Supercup. Some other time maybe.

When the Spurs go Marching Home

Tottenham Stadium
And here it is, the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium! The new home of my beloved team. I have wanted to come and sketch the construction for ages, but never made it here until a couple of weeks ago – fortunately, construction has taken many months longer than the original optimistic plan, so I was able to get one sort-of in-progress sketch. The stadium is huge. It’s so different walking out onto Tottenham High Road and seeing it loom out, much larger than the old White Hart Lane ground. I wandered about taking photos, before settling on a spot to sketch on Park Lane by Northumberland Avenue. Lots of workmen in their hi-viz jackets, cranes still putting the panels onto the side. And then it was time to go into the new Spurs Shop, much vaster than the old one, and they’re even better at getting me to spend my money. One of the many things I did buy was the new book, The Spurs Shirt, an amazing (and very heavy) book covering the history of the Tottenham shirt. Very much up my Lane. When I was finally done, my backpack much heavier than before, I went off to my friend’s place in south Tottenham, for a fun night out in Stoke Newington.

After Tottenham’s historic home White Hart Lane was knocked down, the massive new modern stadium (with a retractable pitch, so that some NFL games can be held there) was built with an expected opening date of the start of the 2018-19 season. Maybe a few games in. Alright it’ll be September. Ok maybe not September, maybe a bit later. January? Hmm not January, let’s just say “coming soon”. In the meantime we have been playing at Wembley, waiting to move into the new home, couch-surfing in north-west London. Today, Spurs finally announced two test events, ahead of expected Premier League games at the new ground, with the expectation that our Champions League quarter-final will be, finally back home in Tottenham. Come on you Spurs!

current reading list

reading list june2018 sm

It may not surprise you given my recent output that this is my current reading list. Lots of football books. Number 1 is John Devlin’s newest book, International Football Kits – the Illustrated Guide. Yes, very much my sort of thing! He details the history of many of the world’s football shirts from about the 1960s. It’s extremely comprehensive. Number 2 is The Football Shirts Book by Neil Heard. Billed as ‘the connoisseur’s guide’ it shows photos and stories of football kits from down the ages from the perspective of a total football kit geek and fashionista. St. Etienne 1981, Denmark 1986, Fluminense 1991, Ajax 1973, England 1990 (3rd kit), all the hipster classics. It’s a great read for someone like me. Number 3 is the biggest and heaviest but is totally brilliant, the World Cup Panini Football Collections 1970-2014 , which is exactly that – a reprint of every Panini sticker album from every World Cup since 1970. All complete. So many memories! So many dodgy beards. The Hungarian keeper from 1986. I still have my albums going back to Mexico 86, none of which were completed. Number 4 is The Mixer by Michael Cox and details the history of tactics in the Premier League since its founding in 1992. One thing I had not thought of was that it coincided with the back-pass rule being abolished, a rule-change which I remember clearly (and was very happy about) but caused lots of defensive headaches originally, but led to a development of the game toward one where defenders and goalkeepers had to be better ball-players. This is a good book, it does go a bit deep when we hit the late 2000s and early 2010s, when things were to me not as interesting, but the story of those early days of the Premier League (aka the Premiership) bring back some colourful memories: Cantona, Blackburn, Newcastle, Giggsy, long shorts and baggy shirts. Number 5 is Futebol: the Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos, given to me by our Brazilian friends, and is a series of essays about different aspects of Brazilian soccer and life. I’ve only read one chapter so far but it’s an interesting insight into that country’s culture. I’m looking forward to reading it. Number 6 is one that I have been reading a lot during the World Cup, Do You Speak Football? by Tom Williams. He goes around the world and lists local phrases and terms related to football. For example, in Saudi Arabia the term “yaseed hamaam” – ‘to hunt pigeons’ – is used for when players hit high balls over the bar (therefore posing a danger to wildlife), while in Brazil the top corner of the goal is called “onde dorme a coruja”, that is, ‘where the owl sleeps’. It’s a really fun read. And fnally, the 2018 World Cup Sticker Album by Panini. Of course! We are nowhere near completion yet, about a hundred out. On with the World Cup…

croatia vs denmark

watching croatia v denmark WC2018

The knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup started yesterday. The first game was ridiculous, with France winning 4-3 against Argentina, Messi dropping his head while 19 year-old Mbappé turning up the speed. Kylian Mbappé, by the way, was born AFTER France won the World Cup in 1998. Incredible. Messi on the other hand just stood there after the final whistle, while various people came and tried to hug him. Portugal v Uruguay was a tighter affair with some good football – that cross-field pass from Cavani to Suarez, so that Suarez could cross it back for him to head home, was a thing of utter beauty, bettered only by Cavani’s superb second goal. I felt bad for Portugal, and of course out went Cristiano Ronaldo. I like Ronaldo, and particularly love the way he pulls his shorts right up when taking a free kick. This morning, we got up early again to watch Spain vs Russia. These early morning get-ups are getting old fast. I interspersed iot with watching the Formula 1, the Austrian Gran Prix, and somehow contrived to miss the best bits of both events. We did watch extra time, and of course the penalty shoot-out, and to our surprise Spain lost. Now I had originally predicted Argentina to win the World Cup, if you saw my long posts with all the kits, and that obviously didn’t work out, so I switched my prediction to Spain. Mystic Pete strikes again eh. So just to be safe and guarantee an England victory on Tuesday, I am predicting Colombia will win the World Cup, definitely for sure, they are gonna do it. Ok, so for today’s second game I parked myself on the couch and watched as Croatia and Denmark battled it out for a 1-1 draw. I sketched from the couch – see the picture above. In the distance you can see our paper mosaic flags. When a team is eliminated the flag is taken down. Above the TV, the official World Cup poster. And on the couch next to me, the Berlitz Engelsk-Dansk dictionary which I bought in 1995 ahead of my summer picking strawberries in Denmark. Yes I would wake up at 4am and pick strawberries on a farm in southern Funen, so you might say this isn’t the first time I’ve been up early rooting for Denmark. In the end it came down to a battle of the keepers, and though the Danes had the heroic Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Great Dane Peter himself (in case you missed it when the commentators mentioned it like a thousand times), the Croatian goalie saved one penalty more, and Modric and friends go through to meet Russia in the quarter finals. And I got another living room sketch out of it. It’s so hot these days I’m not sketching outside much.

World Cup 2018: the group stage

Group stage kits WC2018

So, the Group Stage of the World Cup is over. This chart shows each of the kits worn in those first 48 games. As you can see, red v white is popular. Almost every team wore both of their kits at least once. Some wore different combinations than expected; Colombia wore white shorts twice for some reason, rather than blue, and then blue shorts with the blue away rather than orange. France wore three combinations, none of which were blue-white-red (they will wear that in the next round against Argentina though). England looked good with the old navy shorts back. THAT Nigeria kit got a single outing before they went back home. As predicted, Croatia wore their away kit more than the home kit. That Mexico away kit looked bloody good in real life. The kit combinations were a bit bizarre – I had thought that colour-blindness was being taken into consideration, I know that UEFA have directives, but the fact that the first game was red (Russia) vs green (Saudi Arabia) means that they weren’t taking this into account at all (not sure why the Saudis couldn’t wear white). The games have been great – every team has scored and there have been some super exciting games, especially the finale of Sweden v Germany. Some hilarious moments, such as Michy Batshuayi kicking a ball into his own face in celebration, and that Iranian player whose name escapes me who tried to do a flip-throw but ended up with a sad roly-poly. Argentina were bad, Messi looks so downhearted, while Cristiano Ronaldo is well up for it, and a hat-trick against Spain is pretty impressive. Kane is top scorer so far, his last goal being being scored while he was at a cafe reading a newspaper and eating a croissant, when a ball bounced off the foot of his table and over the line; he will take it. VAR has been fun, controversial but on the whole pretty correct. My favourite thing now though is when players go down, they don’t wave imaginary cards now, they make the imaginary tv screen sign. As for my predictions, well I don’t think Argentina will win now, but they made it through. Germany didn’t top their group, unless you put their group upside down (I still can’t believe they are out), while Sweden were definitely no bottom-of-the-groupers, and nor were Japan. Croatia have been a big surprise. Ok, so the next round is up. I predict that Argentina will beat France and Portugal will beat Uruguay, to set up the Messi v Ronaldo quarter-final. However Ronaldo in the Uruguay game will get booked and will miss it. England will struggle against Colombia but will make it. England will of course just win the World Cup, that is obvious, now that Germany is gone nobody can stand in the way, right? No, Spain will win it, proving that to succeed, you just need to sack your coach one day before the biggest tournament in the world. Brazil look alright. I have no idea who will win it, but maybe this year it will be someone new. Regardless folks, after this very very exciting World Cup so far, get ready for the 0-0s and penalty shootouts because they are coming.