tale of two towers

Big Scully's Tower Bridge

More form the first Saturday back in London… We all took the tube down from Burnt Oak (or rather, the Northern Line rail replacement bus, which for some unspecified reason took us to Finchley Road on the Jubilee Line – it appeared that the driver got rather lost) and went down to London Bridge, to visit the great Borough Market. My main reason was to get one of those really yummy grilled-chicken sandwiches that I had last year. I had been drooling over those for the past twelve months. After we sat and ate them in the gardens of Southwark Cathedral and listened to a little choir singing about how the tory government are destroying the NHS (I joined in the song, of course), we walked down towards Tower Bridge. There was a little event going on in the gardens beside City Hall, so I got a beer and we all sat down in the shade, where I quickly sketched Tower Bridge. My five-year-old son joined me for some father-son urban sketching, and he did his own version! He hasn’t done such observational sketching before so I was well impressed. He was very specific about getting the City of London flag right, that’s my boy.

Little Scully's Tower Bridge

I love being by the Thames. I have said it many times before, but I’m happiest by the river.

go back to chancery lane

Newsagent Chancery Lane
And so back to the London sketches. This was from the first proper day back, and I had just met a few London urban sketchers at the end of their meet-up in Leather Lane. On the walk back to the tube station I remembered this little newsagents on Chancery Lane. For some reason, I want to draw very British things like newsagents. It might sound funny, but we just don’t get many over here, unlike in London where they are everywhere. This one I used to go to a lot for snacks when I used to study every day at the Maughan Library, just down the street. Chancery Lane is pretty quiet on a Saturday, so I sketched peacefully before journeying back on the tube. Here’s one for you: spot the fire hydrant!

up above the streets and houses

SFO-LHR
Whenever an urban sketcher flies he or she is compelled to sketch the plane. You’re sat there for hours inside this huge metal perspective trick, usually with little else to occupy your mind than movies you don’t really want to see. Our flight to London was mostly ‘night-time’ (lights out for sleeping, though daytime outside), but I did get the sketch in, while my son coloured in a superhero colouring book that I drew for him. This year, trans-Atlantic flights are a LOT more expensive than they’ve been since I moved out here, so we flew Virgin Atlantic, who are slightly more expensive than United, but are about a million miles more worth it. The flight itself was smooth and pleasant, the cabin crew helpful and amiable, and the entertainment system, as always with Virgin, was top quality, though I didn’t watch anything myself other than an Alan Partridge special. The food was very tasty, and plentiful. It was cramped of course, as all these flights are (I love how at the end they make you walk through first class, to show you what you could have enjoyed if you had just been a little richer). As you land, the Virgin crew come around and give you sweets, and not just any sweets, but Love Hearts. Virgin is the best.

Compare that to our United experience in 2012. Ouch. I vowed never to fly United again – rude, uncomfortable, poor entertainment (tiny screens, terrible movies), lack of food (by which I mean they ran out of everything except beef, which I cannot eat), rude (by which I mean the cabin staff slammed the beef dish onto my tray and told me I had to have it, and had no right to complain – all I had said was “no chicken or vegetarian?”), the plane felt like it was falling apart, rude, the obnoxious smell of the toilets wafting through the cabin and – most of all – rude. I don’t like flying at the best of times, but Grrr, United. I don’t want no beef. I put their rudeness down to the fact that City had just pipped them to the League. At least it got my drawing energy fired up, as you can see from last year’s sketches.

United SFO-LHR
United LHR-SFO

In a review of transatlantic airlines, here is all you need to know: United give you beef, Virgin give you Love Hearts.

all-stars on the fourth of july

2013 little league t-ball all-star game

I just got back from my son’s little league t-ball All-Star Game. It’s the second time he has taken part, and it was a very hot July 4th Independence Day morning. Very humid too, unusual for Davis. We are in the middle of a really strong heatwave out here in the Western US, and we’ve had temperatures of between 100-111 (or more, some reported) for the past week. That scuppered some of the afternoon practice sessions, but the all-star game itself, made up of kids from various different teams, was early enough not to be in the scorching heat. I felt sorry for some of the older kids. Afterwards we went over for the pancake breakfast.

Happy 4th of July!

sketching at the little league

good food comes in trucks

fusion fresh cafe truck
This is a food truck on the UC Davis campus, ‘Fusion Fresh Cafe’, located by the Mondavi Center. Though it’s not far away I always forget about this place, and have only eaten here twice, but the food is very good. I like their chicken cheese-steak sandwich. There are some nice tables with shade beside it so I took the opportunity to sketch it. I love a food truck, or a food cart. Portland comes to mind. Here are some that I sketched up there: https://petescully.com/2012/11/19/pdx-foodcarts/

frankie and the fabletones

frankie & the fabletones 100th gig
On Wednesday after work, which was nice and mild and not at all hot (I wish it would stay like this!), I went to Central Park in Davis for the Wednesday Farmer’s Market / Picnic in the Park. I was off to see Man of Steel that evening (very good movie; should perhaps have been called ‘Man of Who’s-Going-To-Clear-Up-All-This-Mess’). Before then however I wanted to see the local band Frankie & the Fabletones, who were performing their 100th gig. They played a selection of popular oldies (I really liked their version of “Leader of the Pack”) and even had a guest spot from the Mayor of Davis Joe Krovoza, who sang an Al Green song, “Take Me to the River”. One of the group’s lead singers is well-known and much-loved local artist Heidi Bekebrede (if you’ve spent any time in Davis you will have seen her ceramic work), who was also celebrating her birthday the next day. I sketched near the front, where little kids were dancing (not in the picture), along with the lady I sketched with the castanets. I didn’t have space to sketch the whole band, but there were at least a couple more members (some other time!). My wife and son came along for a while; he liked the music, drew a couple of race tracks in his sketchbook and then went off to the bouncy houses. This whole sketch took under an hour start to finish. I forgot my little water jar (again) but thankfully my wife had a little purse-mirror thing & some water, I didn’t want to use the waterbrush again. I always feel I have to sketch quickly when watching bands, as you never know how long they will actually be on (or in a certain position) but thankfully they did let us know. And I LOVE sketching to live music, it really helps the rhythm.

how i sketched this bridge

I got a new camcorder, so I thought it would be fun to try it out by videoing a quick sketch in progress. Easier said than done of course! Here though is a quick demonstration on how I approach a sketch. I had to use the waterbrush (I prefer a regular brush and a little jar of water, but had forgotten it), and this being quite impromptu was rushed a little but, as Alan Partridge might say, you get the general idea. This is a bridge in the Arboretum. Once I’ve got the hang of this I’ll do a nicer video of me sketching a building or something. I can’t stand drawing foliage…

arboretum bridge

scanning life through the picture window

silo sketch
A quick ten-minute sketch from lunchtime at the Silo, UC Davis. Sometimes when you have little time its best to capture a scene as quickly as you can. Since its remodeling last year, the Silo has these nice comfy armchairs. I never use them myself as I like to eat at a table (I’m very messy otherwise), and prefer drawing from a table too if one exists, but for laptop users and book readers they are perfect and comfy. Sketched in red and black uniball signo um-151 pens.

flying over hamburgers

plane at hamburger patties
I went to Hamburger Patties, in midtown Sacramento, because I was hungry. I don’t eat hamburgers, so had never been in before, but thought they might have some nice chicken sandwiches, which they did. Inside I discovered this was a remarkable place for sketching. I could have sat at the bar for hours sketching the interior. I settled however for a quick sketch of a large model bi-plane that was hanging from the ceiling above me. The food came, and it was very tasty, and so I finished this and went to sketch The Beat (see a previous post). Must come back and sketch the bar some time.

end of the season

my son's last t-ball game of the season
Last week my son had his final t-ball game of the season. T-ball for those who don’t know (and I didn’t, until I was in this world) is baseball for four-five year olds, the lowest level of the Davis Little League system. Little League is played by just about all of the six hundred million kids in Davis, and the games of t-ball  (so called because for the first few weeks they use a tee to hit the ball from, until they are used to live pitching) are played on the fields at Community Park. The bigger kids play at the Little League field across the street. Parents have to volunteer for a bunch of stuff, and I did a morning shift recently working at the Snack Shack, which was fun. Anyway, my son’s last game for the Diamondbacks was against the Reds, which means you might not be able to tell the teams apart in the sketch above (in the watercolour Moleskine), which doesn’t matter much since I sketched pretty randomly. Also, there is no scoring in t-ball – all the kids get to hit, and run, and field. Playing first base is the best thing because the kids always have something to do. See when a kid hits, it just gets thrown to first base, and then back to the pitcher. After the game, we had a pizza party for the kids, and they all got little trophies (there it si below sketched in the Stillman & Birn Alpha book). Next year he’ll move up to the next level (‘farm’) where they use a pitching machine. But first, the All-Star Game…
t-ball trophy