The dishes keep piling up don’t they, during this Shelter-In-Place. No sooner have you turned on the dishwasher, the kitchen fills up again. Even when I wash a cup for my next cup of tea, I find that I have somehow used several others, and it’s just me that drinks loads of cups of tea. Don’t get me started on forks. The trick is to make sure that you have some cutlery left out of the dishwasher so the couple of hours that it’s running you aren’t desperately seeking teaspoons. Ever tried making a cup of tea without a spoon? Pouring the sugar in from the sugar bowl like some heathen, stirring it with whatever cheese knife you can dig out of that draw where you put all the odd kitchen stuff you never use, the apple core devices and the blunt pizza cutters and the wooden skewers, you know the one, you all have one of those. Thing is about the kitchen, it’s where all the snacks are. I’ve started wearing my face-mask in the house now, to stop me from snacking so much. So, this is the kitchen. I’m sketching all the rooms at some point. I might not sketch the toilet though. However all of this home sketching has been ultimately useful – in the past week or so most of our downstairs (living room, desk area, dining room) has all been taken apart so work can be done on the floor, so now everything looks completely different, and of course we’ll probably arrange it all differently when we put it back in place. Except the kitchen, which is pretty much just the same. The coronavirus age continues…
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.
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.
I really hate 2020, a lot. Like, it can honestly just bugger off. Well, this week Davis announced it will Shelter In Place, then this was followed a day later by an Order to Shelter In Place by Yolo County (yes our county is called Yolo), and this was then followed by the whole of California. So I started this week in the office, ready to pack up any moment, and was working from home by the middle of the week. Lots of meetings by Zoom. Because my wife is also working from home, it’s different from other times when I have worked from home like when I’ve been sick or looking after my son when he’s sick, because I can’t just have Revenge of the Sith on in the background or play David Bowie. It’s all an adjustment. I’ve not quite decided to turn on the camera in the Zoom meetings yet, until I can decide what my suitable background will be. I need to get a selection of clever sounding books and put them on a shelf behind me, either side of my head, so people will be like, wow, maybe he is clever. I have a lot of language books, and the Riverside Chaucer, or maybe I should put my own books – speaking of which, my most recent book was published in CHINESE this week! They sent me a copy. Or perhaps I’ll just put up one of my vintage World Cup posters, that would look more like me. Anyway, now that the whole world of urban sketchers it seems are sketching their houses, I thought it about time I did the same, and drew the living room last weekend. This week I drew a few more. Above, the stairs, drawn late at night while watching videos on YouTube about Star Wars (wow, there’s a lot of utter crap out there). The hanging birds and letters on the wall are from a Happy Birthday message I made for my wife, in Hawaiian. She really likes Hawaii. We would not mind being stuck there right now. There’s my son’s bike, he’s new to riding it, but he loves it, it’s just now with social distancing it’s harder to meet up with friends. And of course, despite living in Davis, the bike capital of America, I still can’t really draw a bike. I don’t care; there’s a pandemic on.
Working from home means I can go to different rooms in the house and work. While I do have a nice computer at a desk downstairs, I can also take the laptop upstairs and do exactly the same thing. As it slowed down one afternoon I sat in the bedroom, answering emails and approving this and that, listened to podcasts, and then decided I needed to draw the bedroom. I don;t think I ever have before, the lair of Lego and piles of things, framed pictures and clothes, musical instruments and boxes of records, and all the shoulder bags I no longer use but don’t need to get rid of yet (I just brought one out of retirement that I got in 2007, it fits my new iPad into it so it’s back on the team). That large framed drawing in the middle, that is actually a print of an extreme panoramic drawing from Liège that Gérard Michel gave me way back in 2011. I keep meaning to bring that one into work, it’s too big for that piece of wall so it rests on top of other frames for now. I also have one of a 360 degree drawing from the Montagne de Bueren staircase that he gave me, now I have visited that very place maybe that one should go up here too, I just need to frame it.
This is the kitchen, drawn from the dinner table, late at night while (again) listening to podcasts. One thing about working from home more now is that I snack more, which I had in the past year cut out completely (I lost 30 pounds in the last year, though I’ve put a couple back on now). I miss my walking to work, going to the gym after work, and I need to be a bit more dedicated to not snacking at home, but there’s a pandemic on, and the stress of that makes me feel more hungry I think. In this Shelter in Place order though, we are allowed to go out running, as I did this morning, I went on a 2 mile run (I actually was supposed to do a 5k this morning, but the event was cancelled). Most of north Davis seemed to be out too, walking dogs, walking themselves, running, biking, throwing balls to each other, social-distancing I suppose, not really sheltering in place. In Spain they have been using drones to tell people to go home from the park! So, I will run while I can, and I never liked going near people anyway, but I’m not gonna lie, I’d really like to go and sketch at the pub. I’m going to miss that for a while.
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.