wrapped up in books

dog eared books SF

“I was a man on a mission.” No, no I wasn’t, I really had no plan to my day, just aimlessly following my nose. I always end up on Valencia Street though, wherever I happen to be. Despite running parallel just a block or so over, it’s quite enormously different from Mission Street. I’m not sure of the history, but I believe that when the hipsters first arrived in America as refugees from the terrible Third Fashion War they set up a safe enclave here, where they could wear ironic hats and ‘shave’ and live free to worship organic coffee without fear of percolation. I do love Valencia though, it is full of little stores packed with kitsch nonsense nobody in their right mind would ever need to buy (but then I feel that way about Target). It certainly has cool bookstores, and as a devout bookstore lover I feel right at home there. This is one place I always stop at, Dog-Eared Books, on the corner of Valencia and 20th. There is so much to find in here, and they are well aware of the importance of a bookstore – scrolling through lists of ebook suggestions on your Kindle or iPad is nowhere near as good for your soul as being physically surrounded in real, tangible books, books to surprise you, to pique your interest, to capture you forever. I completely lost myself in libraries and bookshops for years of my life. Dog-Eared is decorated on the outside with painitings of books, and in the window they have an eye-catching display of hand-drawn obituaries of well-known people who have died recently. I’ve meant to draw this bookstore for a while. I stood outside for an amazingly brief 35 minutes, doing all the linework in explosive speed while stood by a parking meter, and added the colour later on (it was starting to get cold).

the obituaries window at dog-eared books

the obituaries window at dog-eared books

Dog-Eared Books was the last sketch I did on my sketching day in the City. I hadn’t intended it to be, I had wanted to close out the last pages of Moleskine 11, but when you’re done you’re done, and I left it on a high. I popped by the excellent Mission Comics for a while for a mooch, picking up a Thanos comic to read on the train home. They had in their rear gallery an exhibit of art called “Batman on Robin”, and yes it was exactly what you are imagining, and a lot more than that too. ‘Graphic’ is putting it mildy. I finished up in the Mission with, of course, a burrito – but this one was different. It was a chicken tikka masala burrito. I will say that again in case you didn’t quite catch the importance of that statement. It was a Chicken Tikka Masala Burrito. Je ne vous merde pas, as they say. What a combination; for me, that’s like going to the San Francisco Giants stadium and watching Tottenham beat Arsenal. It was at a place on Valencia (where else) called “Curry Up Now”, and oh yeah, baby.  And so that was it. I considered going to North Beach for a beer and a sketch at Vesuvio’s or Spec’s, but forgot that this was the day of the big Chinese New Year parade; we had gotten caught trying to get up that stretch of Columbus on the same day last year and it was rather difficult to say the least. So I just went home. My feet were weary enough.

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left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping

Mission Street, SF
San Francisco: I walked around South Beach looking for a Chase cashpoint (their tagline should be ‘Chase – because you have to run around looking for them’) until I finally found one after walking about fifteen thousand miles. The thing about getting money out from cashpoints over here is that it’s so darned expensive if it’s not from your bank. You get charged about two or three bucks by the cashpoint, plus another three bucks by your own bank for daring to get money from someone else. Six bucks just to get out a twenty, just to get change for the bus? You’re having a laugh, ‘int ya? Cash is so old-fashioned anyway. Anyway I finally got some dollar bills, and then because I was already at Market St I decided to hop onto the BART, wich is the Bay Area’s subway system, for which you don’t actually need to use cash (doh!). The BART ticket machines are so bizarre when using cash it is hilarious watching newbies try to figure them out (and I used to be one of them), the whole adding your money, subtracting 5c here and there to reach the right amount, well I’m not making it sound complicated but it really is. I ended up at the Mission District, which is my go-to area when I’m not sure what to do in San Francisco. There’s so much to draw, so many interesting shops, lots of colour and character, great food, great art, and a lurking mix of unbearable hipsterness and extreme danger. I was happy though, because I found a football shirt shop with the Barcelona game on, and chatted to the women working there about football (soccer) shirt designs. This being a big Spanish speaking area you see a lot more people in football shirts, which is a good thing.

I sat on the sidewalk and drew this old closed-down movie theatre, the Tower. I’m drawn to old run-down buildings, with history and personality. I overheard someone ask as they passed me, “why is he drawing that building? Maybe it means something to him.” It doesn’t, but I’ll bet it means something to a lot of other people. One comment when I posted this drawing on my Facebook page told of going to see double-bills for four bucks as a kid. there are lots of old movie theatre buildings about, some repurposed into other things such as stores or religious venues or night clubs, some refashioned into art-house cinemas, and some just left to the termites.

all the people, so many people

sc31 end meetup

The meet-up at the end of the sketchcrawl is always a lot of fun, a great chance to see and ‘wow’ at new work, and the San Francisco group being so big and varied it’s always a pleasure. We met at 4:30 back at the very crowded slopes of Dolores Park, as the Mission sun shone, and fog drifted around Sutro Tower above us. After seeing a few incredible sketchbooks, I decided to catch up on my people sketching. There were some familiar faces (see Jason above with the beard, I have sketched him a couple of times before) and lots of new faces. You can catch up with everybody’s great work on the Sketchcrawl website.

I realised that apart from a little orange and a brownie, I hadn’t actually eaten. So I ran off to a taqueria, El Toro on Valencia, and got myself a grilled salmon burrito (which was great, though next time I’ll not get so much refried beans). Gotta have a burrito in the Mission, eh. I do like a burrito. 

sc31 grilled salmon burrito

I left the Mission by BART, passing down the piss-stenched escalators at 16th & Mission,  and heading back to the Embarcadero. I kept sketching on the way home…more to come…

a thousand things i wanna say to you

sc31 valencia postsc31 valencia musicians

Valencia Street is full of art and artists, drink and drinkers, food and eaters, and interesting folk. Strolling down on the way to Mission Comics and Art I was striuck by these great message posts up and down the street, places where people can post their flyers without getting all over the telegraph poles. Each was decorated with a different colourful headpiece. A little further down, some Mexican musicians were taking a break to tune up their instruments, so they got sketched as well.

Mission Comics and Art on 20th is a great store, one I had not been to before but whom I follow on Facebook. I had a good nose around there, and loved the gallery of Mission comic images at the back. I wanted to get one of Joey Alison Sayers’s zines; I love her stuff, it is hilarious (see her site here) but have had bad luck finding her zines (and I gave the first one I bought years ago to my nephew). When I met her at her stall at SF ZineFest last September, I had already spent most of my money on other (less interesting) zines so only bought one then. I was pleased then to find another one at Mission Comics, “Just So You Know”, which was a lot of fun to read on the train home.

sc31 mission theatresc31 mission corner shop

And then into Mission Street itself. It’s a little bit rougher here, but it’s funny, because it reminds me of London a bit, Kilburn High Road or somewhere. Not the Latin-American feel – you can’t get good proper Mission burritos in London, for sure – more the rough edges. Definitely not the palm trees. I sketched the old Mission theatre, and then a corner shop. I wasn’t finished sketching for the day, but it was time to go and meet up with the other sketchcrawlers at Dolores Park… (to be continued)

gets me to the church on time

sketchcrawl 31 mission dolores

Mission Dolores. It’s the oldest building in San Francisco, and gets picked first in all the football teams. It was very windy by this point in the SF sketchcrawl, and so I hid beside a postbox to sketch it, nestling it on the page between two drawings of local fire hydrants (I’m back! first hydrants I’ve drawn in months). Using the magic of photoshop I have surgically removed them from the drawing so you can read them on their own merit, but if you are interested in seeing the page as it is in my sketchbook, the unaltered piece is at the bottom of the post.

sc31 hydrant 1sc31 hydrant 2

I like the fire hydrants with the little bobbles on top, you see those in the city. It reminded me of an albino smurf, so I had to add this to the collection. I also like those big fat hydrants SF has, like the one on the right. You’d want one of those on your side in a fight, I’m sure, stocky little things. 

After this I walked over to Needles and Pens, just down the street, an excellent zine store. I bought there a copy of the Comic Book Guide to the Mission, which I’ve been looking forward to. I love the cover by Chuck Whelon! I was going to wait until I got to Mission Comics and Art (which was my plan for later that day) before picking it up, as they have the original cover drawing on their gallery wall, but I just could not resist. Anyway, the drawings continued, many more to come…

sketchcrawl 31 page 3

hanging small in a pale blue sky

sketchcrawl 31 blue house

Moving on with the SF Sketchcrawl, I walked up past Dolores Park towards the Castro neighbourhood. I happened upon a particularly interesting and colourful old Victorian, and so I climbed some steps on the building opposite (whose windows were boarded up; I doubted anybody minded) and sketched from a higher elevation. This old house is very cool.

As I sketched, I was myself sketched by fellow sketcher Jana Bouc:

pete sketching in the mission, by jana bouc

More sketching to come… plus added fire hydrants!

man on a mission

sketchcrawl 31 dolores park cafesketchcrawl 31: mission high school

Sketchcrawl 31, continued. Well, this is where the actual sketchcrawl began: Dolores Park Cafe, on 18th St. I went there last year with my friend from London, Simon, but this year I didn’t try any mango smoothies, I just went straight into sketching gear. I stayed in sketching gear all day long, barely stopping to breathe; quite literally on a Mission. One of my missions however was to visit a couple of great zine/comic stores, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were quite a few sketchers there already, many of whom I’d met on previous sketchcrawls – it was nice to see familiar faces. Above left is the cafe itself, and on the right, the ornate domed tower of the Mission High School, directly opposite. I think everybody drew that one.

sketchcrawl 31 enrico casarosasketchcrawl 31 jana bouc

Here are some sketchers, drawn in my small ‘quick people sketches’ moleskine: Enrico Casarosa in the green, with the hat on, he is the founder of Sketchcrawl and the leader of the San Francisco group. On the right, long-time sketching inspiration  Jana Bouc of the Bay Area Urban Sketchers, who accompanied me sketching my long-winded route around the Mission district (always a pleasure to sketch with her). I also met (but didn’t sketch) fellow Urban Sketcher correspondent Gary Amaro, and met up again with fellow Davisite Allan Hollander, who I’d sketched on the way down from Davis. More sketches to come; we’re only on page 2 of 7…