I have tailed off from sketching the past couple of weeks. Been busy, not been spending enough time sketching at lunch, but also I have a sketchbook with only a couple of pages left to finish off and I like to fill those with big bold sketches, you know. I was hoping to close it out in April, but never made it. Suddenly it’s nearly mid-May! I’ve not had the time for a two-page panorama, and not been anywhere particularly big and bold lately. I am eager to start the next sketchbook, but I want that one finished before I leave on my summer trip, when I will start a new one. It’s all about timing. So, I should sketch at home more. But I always find, I don’t really want to. Then I stood in the kitchen and thought, I’ll sketch this corner. It’s quite colourful. I accidentally drew the top of the blender a little too high so now it sticks above the line of the cupboard which is actually in front of it, but I’ll just pretend you didn’t notice. By the way I don’t use that blender much. I got it to make nice cocktails and smoothies last year but only made a few. We don’t really make much of that stuff. The toaster gets used the most. I’m of the British variety where everything goes on toast. Beans, noodles, cheese, sardines, even toast on toast. I don’t have a toastie though, back in my teens I loved having a toastie. I’d make toasted sandwiches full of hot melty cheese, it was always the best when the cheese would melt through the sides and get all crispy. Great with a spicy sauce too, and maybe some tuna. I’m thinking about all these foods, but the diet is going pretty well so far.
Here are a couple of sketches (two months apart) from our dinner table, one looking out to the yard, the other to the kitchen. Fun penwork. The one above was done in the afternoon with a Pepsi Max (or rather, ‘Pepsi Zero Sugar’ as it’s called now over here), while the one below was done in the evening and a glass of Portuguese wine. I am going to Portugal this summer for the Urban Sketching Symposium so wanted to get an early taste. It’s Vinho Verde; I’ve never actually had Port wine, not sure what I would make of it. They tell me it’s a dessert wine, good with cake. When I was last in Lisbon the only thing I saw locals drink was Super Bock and Sagres beer. I’m also reading ‘Futebol: the Brazilian Way of Life’, a gift from the Brazilian family whose son was on our U10 soccer team this year. We were the Davis Spurs (naturally). I’m enjoying the World Cup, by the way. I ended up getting the Argentina away shirt, but I was given a Brazil away shirt along with this book so I’m wearing both of those this year (as well as wearing my 2010 England away, my 2014 France shirt and my 2016 Belgium top; I just like good football shirts).
I might get a new dinner table. The chairs are getting a bit wobbly, despite frequent retuning with the allen key. That vinho verde was very nice. I’m enjoying the book.
I thought I’d try something different. I was watching TV and getting utterly sick of every single advert being a doom-and-darkness political attack ad (please, please can these elections be over? I can’t take it any more! This isn’t politics it is mass brain destruction, spending as much money as possible to make sure the voting public is completely diverted from any real issue). I took my mind off it with art. I regretted that I never went on a sketching outing with the magnificent artist Tia Boon Sim from Singapore up at the Portland Symposium, but everyone that did spoke afterwards about her paint-splashing techniques. Like I say, I didn’t get to learn it, but nonetheless I was inspired to splash paint onto my big watercolour pad, not thinking about what I’d do with it, but very therapeutic after all the nonsense on telly. When it dried, I sat on the couch and sketched the view of the kitchen, adding some more wash when done. This was a fun exercise.
Leaving the apartment today consisted of taking out the trash.
It was very warm, and very sunny, but wind was blowing pollen all over the place, and the high pollen count is not my friend. April is the cruellest month. So I stayed in and made pancakes and washed up and watched Tractor Tom (“what would we do without you?“), then cooked a roast dinner. While chicken and potatoes were roasting I drew the view from the dining room table.
‘Taking out the trash’. I sound so American now. Or like a TV cop.
#21 of 30. No peas for me. Don’t even try to convince me because I will not eat them. End of. Frozen, they are good for nursing scrapes and bruises. Give me baked beans any day. Beans on Toast, the staple of growing up. Gotta be on toast. Noodles too, as you know, my favourite food. A funny thing, this week my wife was looking in a recipe book for toddlers and it suggested sardines, on toast. “Who’d eat that?” she asked. “Me!!!” I said in excitement. The book was obviously British. I loved Sardines on Toast, especially sardines in those little tins of tomato sauce. They don’t really do the “___-on-toast” dinner choice here in America like we do back home. I grew up on it of course. But I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t put peas on toast, and that may be why I don’t like them. No, the reasons are listed above. It was those school mushy peas, alongside the domes of pure white ‘potato’, tasteless and dehydrating, that swung it for me. And I’ve not looked back. I will not give peas a chance.
#12 of 30. Denmark, the summer of ’95, strawberries, adidas shorts, and those coins with the holes in them. I was only nineteen, but I felt like an old man of nineteen. I learnt a lot of things. I learnt that when traversing Copenhagen station (or any train station), have a bag that has wheels, or at least some sort of discernible shape, one that doesn’t look like you’re hauling a body bag with a live body in it on your shoulders. It took me approximately a day and a half to reach the strawberry farm in the south of the island of Funen from Victoria station in London, which seems an extraordinary amount of time now that we live in the age of budget airlines and long bridges. In 1995, the dreaded Eurolines buses were the way to go, and Denmark was a nation of many ferry rides. It took almost 24 hours to reach Copenhagen, and from there I went via a mixture of trains, ferries, locals buses and a lift from a chip-shop owner, until I pitched my tent in the dark, and proceeded to spend the rest of the summer picking strawberries, busking in the street with my fellow jordbærplukkers and writing postcards.
Sometimes the picking was not good. The farmer, Bjarne (who I was told was nicknamed the Terminator because of his voice), would inspect each punnet, and if he didn’t like what he saw he would admonish you with the slow mechanical line, “many ugly strawberries”. Usually, ugly ones would be eaten mid-pick, since they were juicier, or even used for jam, but you were paid by the kilo, so more often the jordbærplukkers would hide big fat ugly ones under nice tender pretty ones. On the other hand, a nice punnet of shiny, shapely strawbs would be rewarded with a cool “many beautiful strawberries”. Sometimes the work would be frustrating, cold, back-breaking, sometimes it would be hot, back-breaking and frustrating. Often it would be fun though; the other jordbærplukkers, plucked from around the UK and Europe, were a great laugh. Sometimes we would meet the raspberry pickers from a nearby farm, sometimes hang out with locals, such as ‘Scouse’ Claus, who spoke in a broad Liverpool accent but had never been anywhere near the Mersey (he did work on a ferry though). People are very friendly in Denmark, the friendliest country I’ve ever been to.
It really did put me off strawberries though. I had nightmares about them, giant strawbs chasing me down the street, big piles of them every time I closed my eyes. That horrible red juice would just not wash from my hands, leaving me scrubbing like Macbeth for days after the last berry was picked. What little money I had left as the strawb season closed i used to jaunt around the country for a few days, first to Århus in the north, finally to Copenhagen, where I forewent a night in a packed and sweaty hostel, preferring to spend my last few kroner locking up my unwieldy luggage at the station and crooning in a karaoke bar, where locals bought me drinks and told me stories. When the sun came up, I got on a bus to England, with only a single krone left. I put that coin on a piece of string I found, and wore it all the way home, and for some time afterwards. I wonder where it is now.
Ok. Thing is, I wanted to draw the new apartment in a kind of tryptich (or is it triptych?), and so I did, in three sepia blocks, each of which I’m showing separately here, along with the whole thing, and for bad measure, a photo of me holding the book (while watching ‘spaced’).
And this is also my entry for Illustration Friday this week (theme: ‘similar’). Our new apartment is very similar to our last one – it’s on the same complex, has all the same fixtures and fitting, but for one big thing – everything is reversed. It’s like walking into a mirror, but I like it inside this mirror, I much prefer it. even if there are more bugs (such as a centipede crawling up through the plughole – do I not like that!)
I was inspired because this week I got back my sketchbook from August’s Art House Co-Op Sketchbook Project, the theme of which was “How to Save The World”. My little book, which you can browse here, was filled with drawings of our own little world, the apartment where we spent all our time. I was saving the place I lived in, in the sense of recording it, so that in years to come I might look at it and say, yes I lived there, I remember that. Now we’ve moved I can do that already. And I can compare drawings of the new apartment to the old. The kitchen (above) is the other way round from how it is in this picture, for example. Even the hot and cold taps are reversed, not that you can tell, but I still get it wrong.
The first frame shows the baby monitor. Baby was sleeping soundly. That is, not making much of a sound. The second frame shows Mr Salt, the saltpot, and his lover Mrs Pepperpot. Mr Salt has very big trousers. He is either grossly deformed or carries a lot in is pockets (perhaps he too is an urban sketcher?). I think Mr. Salt is Dutch, but he comes from England. He is also into the lost practise of trepanning. You can also see the Christmas Tree, put up last weekend, hopefully out of the reach of little mischievous hands (I don’t mean those of Mr Salt, whose hands are stuck to his trousers). The final frame, looking over at the CD tower and the music players and the calendar of new york city, has a bottle of the local Sudwerk beer in it. This is purely decorative. I was actually drinking a cup of tea, but thought a beer bottle would look better. I pulled it from the recycling. I like Sudwerk, the Märzen variety, it’s a nice German style amber beer brewed just down the road from bei uns. One of the things I really like about living out here in the American West are the micro-brews – not as big a thing on the East coast. Back in London, we have the pubs alright, but I way prefer the beers out here. You can see also a Micron Pigma pen on the table; you can’t get those in England either (or at least, I couldn’t). Incidentally, I drew this in a copic multiliner 0.1.
So this is home. Not quite the same as the old apartment, but very similar.