amazing! spectacular!

spiderman shoe
Latest of my son’s shoes. I have some more to scan from the black and white pen-drawing book which details them all in chronological order (and I will scan and post those soon), but I enjoy drawing them in colour in the “book of his things”. This is his Spider-man shoe. Well, Ultimate Spider-man – have you seen that cartoon? I just watched it the other day for the first time, it’s pretty good. As with many of his other themed shoes, this is made by Stride-Rite. Those feet they are growing…

waiting for the moment to find me

antiques plus

Last Monday was Presidents Day. For those who don’t know, Presidents Day is, well, just a day off. Unlike British summer bank holidays, my experience of Presidents Day is usually nice sunshine, perfect for some urban sketching. I had it in mind to sketch bigger and slowly, take my time on the details, and after an hour and a half or so (without colouring) a big drawing of Dairy Queen, I moved on. I’ll post the DQ pic when it’s finished. What else to draw? I wasn’t sure. so much of Davis to sketch, but so much already sketched. Sometimes it is about catching a building at the right time of day. Well, I’ve drawn this a few times but never quite how I wanted to, but in this late winter afternoon sunshine the setting was just perfect. This is Antiques Plus, on D Street. I love this building, in fact most of these buildings in this little quarter of Davis are sketchworthy. I used Micron pen size 02, and the picture is larger than my usual sketchbook size, at around 8″x6″ or so, on Canson watercolour paper. Because the sun was going down, I had to do most of the colouring-in at home, with my trusty W&N Cotman set (and for me, it is ‘colouring-in’, really: I don’t consider myself a painter, I’m much more about the drawing, the linework, though I do vastly prefer the drawings to have colour as it brings them to life). On the right is the Pence Gallery, and on the left is the Mustard Seed. I’ve now drawn most of the buildings in this block too, just a few more to go…

Speaking of the Pence Gallery… exciting news, I will have a mini-show there on the wall of the stairwell this coming April. This may well be one of the pieces displayed!

where we’re going we don’t need roads

1938 rolls royce25-30 sport sedanca
More from the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento – above, a metallic blue Rolls Royce 25/30 Sport Sedanca. This Roller was enormous. It looks like something from a 1930s film noir. You had to be a pretty special type of gangster to ride in one of these, none of your “shtick em up, see, this is a frame-up, see” lingo from this motor. This is a roll up slowly, window rolls down, give you a look of disdain from beneath a silvery fedora and move on to the opera before the real thugs come and throw you in the canal. Lots of stories in a car like this, see.
1966 shelby cobra
Oooh, the race car section was superb. As keen readers may recall I was at Disneyland Cars Land last week so race travel’s in my blood, there is nothing I can do about it. Well my five-year-old son loves them, and I’m always tripping over them on the carpet. This zippy little creation above is a 1966 Shelby Cobra, a car built by former race-car driver Carroll Shelby. I should like to learn more about race cars like this. Of course this would mean more reading and less drawing so I took a photo of the very detailed history displayed by the exhibit, and I promise I will read the rest of it some time. I don’t know if this car won any races, but it should have done. Being number 13 reminds me of a car I built once – not a real car, like, but a cardboard model with wheels made of those yellow plastic balls you get in Kinder eggs and elastic bands to make it go. I was about thirteen or so, it was for a competition in my design technology class at school. I won, by the way, I won a fun-sized Mars bar, which wasn’t all that fun. And it was not number 13, but number -13 (my favourite number, the opposite of unlucky). I retired from my automotive design career on a high.
1981 delorean dmc12

Of course, I really wanted to design a time machine. Who wouldn’t? Back to the Future was one of my favourite films. I count it as one of the reasons I moved to California. So you can imagine my heart-thumping glee when I saw the 1981 DeLorean, a real DeLorean, DMC-12, with car doors up prancing majestically like, you know, the karate kid. The Flux Capacitor was gone and it ran on neither plutonium nor trash, but every angle of this car brought me back to being the ten year old who went to see this at the movies and fantasized about time travel ever since. I still nod approvingly at the clock when it strikes 10:04. Time was pressing on and I really had to sketch it before it was too late, because I needed to get to the bus, and get back to 2013. This was a fun trip to the Cal Auto Museum, and I think I’ll be back there soon.

reinvent the wheel

1904 ford model B
On Saturday, a sunny but breezy February afternoon, I took the bus over to Sacramento for an afternoon of sketching. I had heard about the California Automobile Museum, but had never sought it out, until now. Not far down the river from the Tower Bridge, but still a bit of a walk for my aching feet, the Museum is set into a large warehouse building and jam-packed with amazing historical cars. As someone who likes to draw classic old cars but is frustrated by the samey-samey beige vehicles and unnecessarily testosterone-powered SUVs of the 21st Century, it’s amazing I’ve never been here before, and wow what a find. I will be coming back here again. I wanted to draw everything, so started in chronological order. I didn’t draw the absolutely oldest things on show, but drew the 1904 Ford Model B touring car, above. I say ‘car’, it is a lot bigger than it looks, with a roof straight out of a Great Plains Wagon. It’s intersting to see the evolution of automtive design – many of the touring cars there are larger than a standard SUV of today, but still resemble high-end horse-drawn carriages, where the horse is a long engine in a box at the front.
1914 hupmobile model 32 touring
Here is a slightly smaller vehicle, but still sizeable, the 1914 Hupmobile Model 32-Touring car. I kept thinking of Mr.Toad, “poop-poop”. I loved the hand-cranks on the engines, another reminder of old movies. This was accompanied by an exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, one of the great roads that was built across the United States in the early twentieth century, the age when the motor-car allowed the idea of America’s Manifest Destiny to truly become reality. There was an exhibit about Camp Curry, Yosemite, and that big tree you could drive a car through. No need to go around trees any more, we can just go through them. With our motorcars, we are now the Masters of the Universe.
1938 buick special

Here is a later one, the 1938 Buick Special, when cars became great design masterpieces, curves and shine and power. I sketched some more, to follow in the next post. Even by this point though, my aching feet were joined by an aching arm as my sketchbook-holding left arm was starting to feel tired from my standing posture, while I rushed to draw as many as possible. But there was so much to draw! More to come…

that was some rescue

toy speedboat - sorry, 'rescue boat'

My son’s beloved toy ‘rescue boat’. I knew this was a winner when I got it at Toys R Us, only ten bucks. But it’s a rescue boat, definitely not a speedboat. Hey, three-year-olds know best. He always corrects me when I play with his fire trucks – “no daddy, not ‘woo-woo-woo’, it’s ‘nee-naw-nee-naw’!” Different fire engines make different siren noises in his world, but hey, he’s the expert, he should know. Jeez, before long it’ll be, “Daddy, Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language, don’t you know anything?”

do something pretty while you can

cross cultural center

Wow, it’s warm! For what had been a very wet month, March is ending up with weather in the 80s. This is the Cross Cultural Center at UC Davis; I don’t know why it’s cross though. It is one of many buildings on campus that look a bit like this. I cycled past it the other day and thought, better sketch that some day, so at lunchtime today I did. I drew most of it there, sat beneath the shade of a tree, but the lunch bell rang and so I finished off the rest of the detailing, and the colour, later at home.

So Spring is here, and that means Picnic Day is upon us. Being on a worldwide sketchcrawl day, April 16, I might not bother with Picnic Day this year. It’s always too crowded, and rowdy, and I always struggle to draw there. I don’t like crowds all that much. So I’ll probably go to sketchcrawl in San Francisco. They will be sketchcrawling in the Mission, I love it down there. For more details, go to the 31st Sketchcrawl Forum.

Don’t forget though, this Saturday April 2nd, sketchcrawl in the Arboretum! For more details, go to the Flickr group. See you Saturday!

hovering silence from you is a giveaway

uc davis bike barn

After last week’s sunshine, we have had thick, soupy fog in Davis this week, hovering quietly about and bringing an ethereal gloom to our usually sunny town. It’s also brought the cold back – I sat outside at lunchtime yesterday and sketched the Bike Barn, and my fingers were almost falling off. Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but it was a lot colder than on last week’s sketchcrawl.

I’ve sketched this building before several times – it just begs to be sketched – but in the fog I took notice of it’s slightly dilapidated and weather-worn feel, and realised that I should sketch it before they go and do something about that. It’s the peeling paint around the window-frames that does it for me.

I’m considering campus for the next sketchcrawl, and this would be an interesting place to finish the crawl, mostly because I’d love to see other people’s interpretations of this very sketchable building.

imperial garbage truck

"garbage truck"

This is my son’s new AT-AT. When he first saw one (its brief appearance in Return of the Jedi) he called it a ‘garbage truck’. It makes perfect sense – it sounds and moves just like one, and to a toddler the connection is obvious. The name has stuck and I’m glad, I always disliked the name AT-AT when I was a kid (but we still said that rather than ‘Imperial Walker’, which is what they’re called in the film, because ‘AT-AT’ is what it said on the box, and Hasbro boxes tell no lies). I remember getting mine for Christmas when I was a kid, it was like the best thing ever, but the little plastic guns kept snapping off. This is the ‘Galactic Heroes’ version, which I must say is really cool (and a lot sturdier). Sketched in blue Micron pen in my WH Smith sketchbook (first sketch in that book in a year and a half).

let them eat soup

south hall uc davis

A lunchtime sketch, after a bowl of soup. It’s that lovely Thai soup I used to eat all the time for a few years, that disappeared from campus for over a year but came back late 2010. It’s really good soup. I used to have to choose – eat soup, or sketch, because I never had time to do both. On this day, though, I made time. Anyway…this is South Hall, one of two such Halls (the other is North Hall, just to the north). It’s an old building, having been on UC Davis for a long time. (Hey, that’s so informative Pete! Well what do you expect, I spent my lunchtime eating soup, not reading local history). I didn’t have time to draw the other half of it though. Maybe some other time. (And I meant to leave the trees blank. In fact the soup told me to…)

for there is in london all that life can afford

dr johnson's house, gough square

While back in London I was fortunate enough to sketch at the house of Dr. Samuel Johnson, in Gough Square (off Fleet Street). The doctor himself wasn’t home, having died a couple of centuries ago or so, but the very nice curator Stephanie gave me a cup of tea and a tour of the house. I love this area and all its history and Johnson’s House is a jewel. He was the archetypal Londoner (well, he was from Staffordshire) from whom we get many famous quiz-night quotations, his most well-known being that one about being tired of London (let’s not forget he said it before the invention of the Northern Line). Beyond his famous dictionary and his appearance in Blackadder as Robbie Coltrane, many people don’t actually know much about him. I certainly learned a lot more about Johnson, and he was a very interesting man, and quite ahead of his time. I enjoyed being brought back into the eighteenth century learning the stories behind regular household objects. For example, his very thin chair (sketched above) – Dr Johnson was a pretty portly man, but apparently he would sit on it backwards and lean his arms on the back while watching cock fights down at his local pub (as you did).

gough square

i sketched this - johnson's cat hodges with the house in the background - a couple of years ago

That’s the dictionary up there on the left, first edition print. Not the original manuscript, but still pretty cool to be in the vicinity of this famous (if Scot-mocking) book, so I had to sketch that too.

If you happen to be in London, head down to the Fleet Street area, and visit Dr Johnson’s House in Gough Square. You’ll really like it. and then, go and explore the narrow lanes and old pubs of the area. As Johnson himself said,  “Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts.” And he was right an’ all.

Website of Dr. Johnson’s House