In early March we went to LA, and saw the Space Shuttle Endeavour. It was quite an experience. I loved the Space Shuttle as a kid. It was so exciting. That massive fuel tank that falls away, the spacewalks, the landing back on Earth, as far as I was concerned, it was something we would all be riding on in The Future. I loved reading about the space program. I remember clearly the Challenger disaster, when I was 10, that shocking image, that double headed explosion. I read every article about that I could find. I put the newspaper on my bedroom wall, along with the photos of all the astronauts. It was a scary moment for me, when the realities of space travel broke my fantasy of becoming an astronaut; except I never really wanted to become an astronaut, I just wanted to go to space, float around a bit, maybe meet some aliens. Now the Space Shuttles are all retired. I did see this one before, from a good distance. When Endeavour was retired, it was flown to LA on the back of a large airplane, and passed over Sacramento – and Davis – on the way to a Bay Area flyover, before heading down to its resting place in Los Angeles. Now it is at the California Science Center in LA’s Exposition Park. Up close, it looks different than I expected. It is not some shiny sci-fi spaceship, it is very functional feeling, made up of a series of tough looking squares, each one numbered, looking almost like it was cobbled together on the job. Endeavour was in fact built as a replacement to Challenger, and between 1992 and 2011 she flew 25 missions into the earth’s orbit. I enjoyed sketching Endeavour, rekindling all my boyhood space travel dreams.
Early last month I flew down to Los Angeles with my friend Roshan who was visiting from London, for a boys weekend to celebrate his 40th birthday. I didn’t do much sketching; it was a short trip and we mostly did tourism and, well, the pub. One or two pubs! A good old few pubs. I do find it harder to sketch when travelling with non-sketchers, (not for any fault of their own, I just struggle to concentrate) but I did manage a few sketches, including the in-flight drawing above. We stayed downtown at an awesome hotel with a great view, I only grabbed a couple of quick sketches of it, but we were really close to the LA public library (which I have sketched before, years ago).
And of course, one fire hydrant. It wasn’t a 2am hydrant sketch (like on previous LA trips) but the library is once more in the background!
And I got a few quick people sketches down at Venice Beach, of dancing roller-skaters. I would like to go back there on a sketching trip someday, there is always so much to draw around there. I really like LA.
Recently we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is part of the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood (well, Universal City). It was a surprise trip for our son who loves Harry Potter (so do we!). It was pretty great, and the butterbeer was lovely. Wands at Ollivander’s were expensive, but really cool – you can cast spells around all the windows and make things move about. This is the second Wizarding World built after the first one at Universal Florida, and has a cool Hogsmeade area. The castle itself is pretty cool, and I sketched it while sipping butterbeer as a chorus of toads sang to my right. Overall though, I think the Harry Potter tour of the original sets at Warner Bros outside London was better, but this was still fun. The ride inside the castle though was utterly mental, a total thrill ride. By the way, I got ‘sorted’ on Pottermore into Gryffindor, which makes sense. My son got Gryffindor as well. My wife however got sorted into Slytherin! So I got her a Slytherin scarf. We had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and later I had a pint at the Hog’s Head. Oh, I didn’t sketch with a Quill, but I totally would have done.
Oh, this was page 1 of my second Stillman and Birn “Beta” landscape sketchbook (blue softcover). Those are nice. I also enjoyed the whole Simpsons-themed area as well, having a pint of Duff in Moe’s Tavern, getting a massive pink Lard Lad donut, eating chikcen and waffles from Cleetus’s Chicken Shack, popping into the Kwik-E-Mart, great fun. Oh, and here is a sketch I did on the plane down to Burbank in my Miquelrius “Lapin” covered sketch/notebook. .
And here are the last sketches from my trip to LA last month. These were done on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a very interesting stretch of street in Venice away from the main madness of the beach. This street was named after Abbot Kinney, the man who developed Venice, California, a neigbourhood of canals and amusements. There are still several lovely canals lined with expensive houses, and in fact many of the big streets in this neighbourhood were once canals themselves. Anyway, Abbot Kinney Boulevard has lots of eclectic stores and cafes, and I stopped outside ‘Tumbleweed and Dandelion’, who I believe sell beach-themed furnishings and stuff. I liked the picket fence and the yellow flowers. I was wearing my France football shirt, and while sketching a man from Senegal stopped and chatted with me for a while, even about the Senegal team of 2002 beating France in the World Cup, I was living in France at the time and knew several Senegalese so that brought back a fun memory. When I was done, I had enough time for one more sketch, so I drew the scene below. This is a pretty typical view on Abbot Kinney, and hip trendsters sidled by being all hip and trendy. Unfortunately I didn’t give myself a lot of time to look through many shops (such is the life decision of the urban sketcher! Sketch, or actually do stuff!), and soon I caught a bus back to Santa Monica for more sketching by the ocean, where I met fellow urban sketcher Shiho (see my previous post), before dashing to the bus for the airport. And I only just made my plane…
Here is the map included in my sketchbook. Yes, there is an Electric Avenue.
More sketches from Santa Monica. Above is a sketch of the bar area at The Galley, a nautical themed restaurant on historic Main Street which dates from the 1930s. Back in 2007, I went to Santa Monica after going to the UCAAC and stayed down here in the Ocean Park area. I really liked the area, so on my trip last month I came back. I had sketched The Galley that first time, but only from the street – the interior is another matter entirely. It is themed like a boat, of course, but also lit up by hundreds of Christmas lights of all colours, a sight which I cannot recreate in pen and ink. But I gave it a good go! I kept thinking of the lyrics to Yellow Submarine, and as I sketched I played a game in my head, whereby for every song that came on I would replace its lyrics with those of Yellow Submarine. After a while it was becoming uncanny – try it, is really works! No, it does. If it doesn’t, you’re not doing it properly. Anyway I sat at the corner of the bar, it was pretty busy, and sketched as best I could on the last page of my Seawhite book. The atmosphere was friendly; one fellow told me that on this night there was a party going on for a staff member to celebrate her last night of work there, and so I did my best to include as many faces as I could in my sketch. This is definitely a place for locals, and I chatted to some very cool people over the course of the evening. This really is a city I love visiting.
The next day I made sure to come back down Main Street in the sunshine, and so I couldn’t resist sketching The Galley again from the outside, just as I’d done those years ago. This time I climbed the stairs of the Edgemar center across the street for an elevated view. I also bought a t-shirt at the tourist center downstairs.
After eating an amazing chicken pie with mash and gravy at a place called Aussie Pie Kitchen, I remembered that there is a great Farmer’s Market on Main Street, and I caught the tail end of it. I sketched a band with the California Heritage Museum in the background. Here is a handy map from my sketchbook to show you where everything is.
Hey, remember that I sketched a fire hydrant in the wee hours of the morning in Westwood? Not to be outdone, I did the same thing while walking back through the quiet streets of Ocean Park. There was this really interesting hydrant which had been sprayed lime green. I couldn’t let this one go!
Oh, and here is the sketch of The Galley from May 2007, sketched in a WH Smith sketchbook.
I do like to be beside the seaside. One of my favourite places to be beside the sea is Santa Monica. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and checked into my motel before walking down to the ocean front. I didn’t actually go onto the beach this time, but I stood up on the bluffs and sketched a panorama of the view looking toward the famous Santa Monica pier. It sure was windy. The sun was shining bright, so I stood beneath a palm tree and did my best. People walked by snapping pictures of them self (if only there was a word for that sort of thing), speaking in all sorts of languages. Behind me, the city of Santa Monica bustled. It was a busy Saturday.
I drew a cannon, as you can see. This big cannon sits up on the cliffs, it actually reminded me of Mr. Nosey, of Mr. Men fame. He was green of course but had the same general shape (in the old version, not in the newer upturned nose version, I really hate that version, it’s my Jar-Jar). As I sketched, people climbed on to have photos taken of themselves with a big cannon between their legs, if only there was a word for that sort of thing. After this, I had to go and watch Avengers Age of Ultron at probably the most comfortable movie theatre I’ve ever been to, the AMC in downtown Santa Monica. Massive reclining seats!!! I want to see every movie there.
I did come back down to the Santa Monica pier again the next day for some last minute sketching, and I met up with my fellow Urban Sketcher and Santa Monica local Shiho Nakaza. I first met Shiho at the 1st Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland back in 2010, and she introduced me to that amazing brown-black uni-ball signo UM-151 pen that I now use all the time. You can follow her sketches at shihonakaza.blogspot.com. We didn’t have long to sketch, so we went out onto the pier and sketched the view. The waves were wild in the Pacific, and the sun was bright and strong. I had to finish up quickly though because I had to catch a bus back to the motel, and then to the airport (I only just made my plane!). I still have more sketches to post though, from (spoiler alert) Santa Monica’s historic Main Street, and from Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Short break in posting…but here are some more sketches from my recent trip to southern California. I was staying in Westwood Village, Los Angeles, which is a pretty nice neighbourhood around the slopes of UCLA. Apart from the rumour of a Sasquatch wandering about the place. A Sasquatch? In LA? I don’t know about that. I had gotten off the bus from Hollywood, and a middle-aged woman at the bus stop said to me, all concerned, “I’ve just seen something really weird, something I can’t explain.” Ok, that’s nice, bye. “No honestly, it was a large creature walking about, tall, really hairy, I think it was a Sasquatch.” I mean, this was LA, so I’m not saying it was impossible, but Sasquatches, well you think more of like the Rocky Mountains or Canada. Perhaps it was a Wookiee, I thought, but I didn’t say that, because I have a feeling she may have really thought that. I had just come from Hollywood Boulevard after all, where I’d seen Darth Vader, Spider-man, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and even bloody Deadpool, so Chewbacca isn’t out of the question. “Thanks, I’ll keep my eyes open,” I said and walked off really fast. The next day however I did actually see a tall hairy man, but he wasn’t a Sasquatch, as far as I can tell.
Hairy abominable myths aside, Westwood Village is a lovely place. The scene I sketched above was not far from the Fox Village Theater, a gorgeous old cinema built in 1931. Loads of people had lined up the night I first got there to see Age of Ultron, many in costume. On this morning though, I stood on the street corner sketching while hairy Sasquatch man passed by me yet again. I did start to wonder whether I was really seeing him or if he was imaginary, but I don’t like to think too existentially while I am drawing. I liked wandering about Westwood Village. There was a really interesting candy store, with sweets from all over the world. On my second evening there, I went for a drink after dinner at Barney’s Beanery, which I chose because it was an enormously sketchable bar. Click on the image below to see what I was able to do while I was there. People were friendly, and I chatted to some folks at the bar once my sketch was done. There were some Indian dentists out having a drink, talking to me about the upcoming boxing match between Pacquiao and Mayweather, you know the one which was about a million pounds to watch but was ultimately – gasp gasp – not all that. I said I’d not seen boxing in years so didn’t really care about it. They asked what the last boxing fight I had seen was. “Rocky III” I said, which is true.
And of course, a fire hydrant. This one however was sketched at 2 in the morning. After getting back to the hotel from the pub, I was feeling peckish, so popped down to the Denny’s on the corner of the street for a nice milkshake. I noticed this hydrant, with a very slightly different design to any I had sketched before (it has a slightly different top) so I just had to draw it. I’m officially a 24-hour-hydrant-sketcher. I sketched another one in the wee hours the next night too, but you’ll see that in another post…