to warwick and stratford

Warwick Castle
And now for the final part of our recent trip to Europe. I was determined that we’d visit a historic castle, something we don’t have many of here in California (sorry Mr Hearst, Mr Disney, but those ain’t castles). So we hit the motorway (thanks to my mum for driving us) up to Warwick, in central England. I had been there a few years ago, and knew it was a pretty great sight. Warwick Castle is a little theme-y (being owned by Merlin Entertainment now) but as it has a Horrible Histories maze and some fun jousting entertainment that doesn’t matter. Actually, we missed the jousting as it’s not every day (though I did see some four years ago, and it was fun). Warwick Castle is in a beautiful location on the banks of the Avon river, and a historically significant geopolitical spot, being in the middle of the country and therefore an important stronghold for the balance of power. The Earl of Warwick in the late middle ages was known as the ‘Kingmaker’, not without exaggeration. The site of Warwick Castle was founded as a ‘burh’ by the formidable Anglo-Saxon lady Æthelflæd, ruler of Mercia (also ‘Ethelfelda’). She fought against the invading Danes and the Welsh, she was also a daughter of Alfred the Great, and in fact there was a re-enactment of her funeral in June 2018 in nearby Gloucester. When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, the Normans built a motte-and-bailey castle here on ‘Ethelfleda’s Mound’, and Warwick Castle was subsequently built up over the next few centuries by later lords and earls. The first Earl of Warwick was Henry de Beaumont, from 1088, and the 16th Earl, Richard Neville (who gained the title through marriage to Anne de Beauchamp) was the famed Warwick the Kingmaker, who rose to prominence during the Wars of the Roses before dying at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. There’s a lot more history too, but I was interested in the old armoury. The suit of armour below is actually a child’s armour, likely for ornamental purposes. I sketched the castle above while taking a break with my son, who didn’t want to walk around the dungeons.
Warwick Castle Armoury
We didn’t stay in Warwick, though I’d love to sketch that old city some day. Instead, we stayed the night in Stratford upon Avon at a place called Alveston Manor, a large country house converted into a hotel just a short walk from central Stratford. It was lovely, and I love drawing buildings like that. Stratford is Shakespeare’s town, and they do not ever let you forget it here. We did walk up to see Shakespeare’s birthplace, and walk along the Avon, and I had a huge knickerbocker glory (with extra chocolate) at a local pub. So good.
Stratford Upon Avon Alveston Manor
In the evening after watching France knock Belgium out of the World Cup, I walked down to the riverside as the last mid-summer light faded away, and sketched the bridge below. This was around 9:30pm at night. I decided to walk across the other bridge to get back to the hotel, whcih was a mistake. It was a logn bridge along a road with a fairly narrow path for pedestrians, and lots of cobwebs. During the day the cobwebs were quaint. In the evening they were covered with thousands of busy, chubby spiders, loving their little legs and spinning and completely freaking me out. They weren’t dangerous, unlike the ones in my Davis back yard right now, but so many of them moving all around me was pretty much the creepiest thing ever. I ran as quickly as I could, but it was a long bridge. Yeah, I’m not into spiders.
Stratford Upon Avon

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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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encore legoland

Legoland Ninjago Land

Here are the last few sketches from the vacation in San Diego. The last couple of days were spent at Legoland, with two nights at the Legoland Hotel. It was a lot fun. It was our third time there, but this time they had recently built Ninjago Land, which, if you’ve followed any of my Lego sketches, was always going to be a big hit with us. The Ninjago ride itself was fun, a bit like one of those ones where you have to blast targets, except with this you use your hands rather than blasters. I sketched this on the second day when the tiredness was sinking in, the rest of the family went to the hotel for a rest and I sketched in the park. I added colour later on when I was exhausted, as you can totally tell.

Legoland Robosaur

Above, a big robotic dinosaur, about fifteen or twenty feet high, I don’t know, I’m bad at judging height. Hundred feet maybe. We spent a lot of time in the pool areas, the water park, and no matter the sunscreen my head still got red. I think it left me a bit frazzled. So on the last day there, we spent time at the hotel pool and I for once did not get in, rather I sketched from the sidelines. And then, we flew back home to Davis. I like vacations.

Legoland Hotel

the red victorian

SF Red Victorian sm
The rain came down in San Francisco, but I took a bus up to the Haight. It has been years since I was in this part of San Francisco, and I had forgotten how many amazing old colourful buildings there are to sketch around here. And hippies too, can’t forget the hippies, there are still lots of hippies. I walked about looking for a good dry spot to sketch from, and settled on a spot across the street from the historic Red Victorian, an old hotel and arts cafe, and a mainstay of “Peace, Man” San Francisco. I’ve always liked this building. There is the Peaceful World Cafe, they hold Peaceful World Conversations, and there’s also a Living Peace Museum. I must say, stood sheltered form the rain as I was, I felt pretty peaceful sketching it too (apart from one odd ‘crunchy’ guy making incomprehensible comments every time he shuffled past, but you get that when you’re out and about). You can find out more about the Red Vic and its owner, founder and artist in residence Sami Sunchild here: http://www.redvic.com/. Oh and here’s the map from my sketchbook.
SF Haight map sm

i’ll be sitting when the evening comes

sf ferry building

Last weekend, my wife and I stayed in San Francisco, at the Hyatt Regency by the Embarcadero. Can’t get enough San Francisco! The views from the Hyatt are exceptional. After a day walking around the Mission, we took a break at the hotel before dinner and I drew the view from the hallway window: the Ferry Building, with the Bay Bridge spanning eastwards. The Sun was going down, so the light was constantly changing. Below, a quick sketch of the room. Both drawn in the Stillman and Birn sketchbook.

san francisco hyatt regency

a visit to vegas

room at the mirage

We went to Las Vegas for the weekend, to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We’ve been several times before (we got married there), and this time we stayed at the Mirage, as we were going to see the Beatles ‘Love’ show by Cirque du Soleil (which was incredible). The rooms at the Mirage are very nice. I had to sketch ours.

Below, another airplane sketch. Our flight was full, on a pretty small and veyr cramped US Airways flight. The flight was so full that after everyone was on the plane, the attendants asked that two people volunteer to get off because the plane was too heavy. That didn’t make me nervous at all. 

flight to vegas

I managed to get in quite a bit of sketching, which I’ll post shortly…

urban sketchers of the world

gabi sketches me

The Urban Sketchers Correspondents met up at Henry’s Tavern on the night before the Symposium kicked off, and it was an instant whirlwind of sketching minds. Everyone knew everyone, though for many it was the first time we’d met. Five continents were represented right there: Liz (and Borromini Bear) from Australia, Isabel from Mauritania (though she’s Portuguese), Lapin from Barcelona (though he’s French), Gerard from Belgium, Simonetta from Italy, Kumi from Tokyo, Tia from Singapore, and the US contingent of Jason (Brooklyn), Veronica (NYC), Shiho (LA), Matthew (Idaho), Laura (North Carolina), Frank (Seattle), Gabi (Seattle, though he’s Spanish) and me (Davis, though I’m from London).

And I sketched people! Well, I had promised myself that I would try more, and here I didn’t have to worry about it being ok. I wasn’t the only one who doesn’t normally sketch folk on the spot. I certainly need practice and to find a technique I’m comfortable with, so i gave it a try, mostly in my little brown paper book, and picked up a few pointers. Above are Gabi Campanario, the tireless Urban Sketchers founder, Gerard Michel, of whose Liege drawings I am a huge fan (they remind me of my year in Charleroi), and a group of urban sketchers (the one in the hat is Prof. Frank Ching, who told me I’d drawn him looking like a Columbian gangster). I was sketched a few times too; there is Lapin above, sketching me holding my pen in a funny way, “l’incroyable tenu de crayon de pete”, he called it. There’s a name for a new book!

The highlight was probably looking through Gerard Michel‘s jaw-dropping sketchbook. Seeing it online, it is unbelievable just how good it is, but in person right in front of you it is just incredible, and also surreal, work you know so well is right there, right in front of you. I can say that about pretty much all of the sketchbooks I saw that night, certainly. Sufficiently humbled and inspired in equal measure, I went back to the hotel, and spent midnight drawing from my bedroom window.

night view from mark spencer hotel