this ole house

pacific grove house

Drawn at eight in the morning, while sitting on the porch of the cute little house in Pacific Grove; from the east, golden sunlight peeped through the fog that ghosted in from the west. This old house was right opposite and I was determined not to leave without sketching it, and I’m well pleased with it. I wish, I wish, I wish I could fill an entire sketchbook just with drawings of Pacific Grove houses. Now there’s a thought! How much fun would that be?

an afternoon around pacific grove

centrela hotel, pacific grove
While people who nap take naps, the people who sketch go out and sketch. It’s my way of napping, and for someone who likes drawing big old houses, Pacific Grove is like a dream. There were so many to choose from, and such little time, that I settled on this big green hotel, the Centrela. The ocean fog was descending a little and making the world feel damp, but that’s partly what I came there for, from the hot dry Sacramento Valley. When I was finished sketching this, I spoke to a man who was from South Harrow. Small world, huh. Not that I’m from Harrow of course, no no I’m from Burnt Oak, but you know, London/Middlesex connection.

another Pacific Grove fire hydranta Pacific Grove fire hydrant

I have a thing about fire hydrants, as you know. So I took the time to sketch some. I like the little one with the red top. I understand that the colours on top of the fire hydrants have something to do with water pressure? That’s what I heard, and I’m not going to let the ability to just look it up quickly on Google distract me from finding out if it’s true or not. I think of them as little characters, with little Smurf hats, guarding the street corners like gargoyles.

a mermaid at pacific grove

And here is a mermaid. You didn’t know mermaids existed, did you. Well, this is proof, isn’t it (not that it would stand up in court). She was lolling outside a boutique on Lighthouse Avenue, covered in seashells and beads. I wanted to ask if there existed types of mermaids with the fish bit on top and the legs on the bottom (I think I saw that in Red Dwarf once).

ease your feet off in the sea

Pacific Grove, Lover's Point Beach

Though I do love to be beside the seaside, though I do love to be beside the sea, I’m not  a typical beach-loving person. I don’t do well in the Sun. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty foggy in Monterey, so I can enjoy the sandy-toed experience without frying to a crisp. And, as I rediscovered, making sandcastles is great fun.

This is Lover’s Point, in Pacific Grove. While waves may lash elsewhere, the rocks and kelp mean that the tide here is gentle, relaxing. The sand is a little stony around the edges of the beach, but in the centre it is soft and mellow. Get it wet, perfect for sandcastles.

When I was a kid, there was always a bucket and spade (they call it ‘shovel and pail’ here, which sounds like an unfunny comedy duo) (like Hale and Pace, though nobody could be that unfunny), sticks of rock, amusement arcades, bingo, deck chairs, maybe donkeys. None of that here. Except for the bucket and spade, obviously.  

i know what you're thinking, those are rubbish sandcastles, but i don't care

toe truck lover's point

a cute little house

pacific grove little housepacific grove little house

pacific grove little house

We took a few days family time away in a cute little house in Monterey – Pacific Grove, to be precise, down on the California coast. After the non-stop sketchathon of Portland it was just what I needed – not that I stopped sketching, of course.

It really was a cute little house, but just right for us. the beach was a shortish walk away, and playing on the sand was so relaxing. Having spent so much time around architects, I took a slightly more technical apprach to building sandcastles, and constructed irrigation channels beside them so that the incoming tide would just wash around them like a moat. Yeah, that didn’t last long; King Canute I am not. I hadn’t built sandcastles in years.

This cute little house did have a strict ‘no sand’ policy, though – even though they charge quite hefty cleaning fees per stay, they still wanted to see no evidence of beach activity whatsoever. Perhaps it clogs up their vacuum cleaners. Yet I couldn’t exactly strip off outside. I was quite paranoid having to tiptoe to the bathroom with sand in the toes and sand on my clothes. I can never clean it off at the beach itself. I always make the same mistake of using the sea to wash off the sand. That never works, folks.

come up to my lighthouse

point pinos lighthouse

The Monterey Peninsula is remarkably beautiful; we were there last summer. This is Point Pinos lighthouse, overlooking the Ocean and Monterey Bay at windswept Pacific Grove. It is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the West Coast, dating back to 1855.

When I was younger, I thought it would be cool to live in a lighthouse. Not so much for the whole helping ships navigate the night thing, more because of that show ‘Round the Twist’, an Australian kids show where the family lived in a lighthouse and lots of strange things happened. At least, that’s how I remember it.

This drawing is a present for someone who really likes lighthouses.

the sweetest thing

The last one from Monterey. I sketched this fabulous building from the 1880s, the Thomas Kinkade National Archive, in the Harry A. Greene Mansion. Or Willy Wonka’s Summer House, as I prefer to call it.

thomas kinkade national archive, monterey

I sat across the road on Sunday morning sketching this venerable candy stick, wondering if there might be an old witch stuck in an oven inside. Why would someone put a giant toffee apple on their roof? Perhaps it attracts the flies and mosquitoes, they stick to it, nobody gets bitten, they’re laughing. Makes sense, really. I might try it. Better than spraying insecticide everywhere to prevent West Nile. Stick a load of half-sucked sticks of rock or candy canes out in your garden. Maybe that’s where the Christmas tradition came from, you don’t know.

Here’s the obligatory action shot.

house plus paints equals sketch

all along the rocky shore

monterey coastlineThe Monterey Peninsula is some of the most incredible coastline I’ve ever been to, and it’s teeming with wildlife. And massive expensive houses. We drove the 17-Mile Drive, getting out every so often to take pictures, paddle in the rockpools, spot whales (and we did! out in the distance), and I even managed to scribble a few quickies before hopping back into the car. There’s me sketching quickly by the rocks. The last time I’d been, the fog rolled in and out like an army of ghosts, but this time it was warm and sunny.pete sketches monterey

We visited the Point Pinos lighthouse, which was very interesting. It dates back to the 19th century, and is pretty well preserved. point pinos lighthouseYou’re not even allowed to use the toilet, it’s so well preserved. When I was a kid I used to want to live in a lighthouse (so many of them in north London). I think it was because of that show Round the Twist, where they all lived in a lighthouse, or it might have been because of Fraggle Rock. Let’s face it, it was the latter. My son enjoyed ringing the huge bell downstairs, but we weren’t allowed to go up to the lamp. During World War II, in fact only days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Japanese planes flew by Monterey Bay, and this lighthouse was used as part of the coastal defences.

After 17-Mile Drive we lunched in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. I popped into a little candy store that sold British chocolates, at a price. $2.95 for a Curly-Wurly!!! Can you believe it? They used to be 15p. There was a Lamborghini parked outside. Curly-Wurlies are surely not luxury items. I imagine this rich movie star now, supermodel girlfriend, Lamborghini zooming down the coast, chomping on a Curly-Wurly. Didn’t stop there. $3.95 for a Fruit-n-Nut! Four bucks for a Walnut Whip, sod that mate, I’ll go without. I didn’t even check how much the box of Maynards Wine Gums were. We drove on to Carmel Mission, which is an absolutely gorgeous building on the edge of Big Sur, which looks like a trip back into the Mexican West. Another quick study, this time in wine red copic, and then off again.  
carmel mission

a poem, a stink, a grating noise

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.”

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

cannery row in monterey

We were in Monterey at the weekend. Down at Cannery Row (motto: “Yes, We Can”), where they pack souvenir shops in like, um, sardines, I sat and sketched since that day was also Drawing Day 2009. This gave me a contractual obligation to draw. Cannery Row (not in fact named after the actor Sean Cannery) was made particularly famous by John Steinbeck’s book about the place, that people pretend to know well when they go there even if it’s the first time they’ve ever heard of it (and to be faiat captain bullwhackers, montereyr, since bits of it are mentioned somewhere every few yards you feel like you’ve read the book, seen the movie and bought the fridge magnet). It’s funny how if a writer is associated with somewhere then they make sure to drum on about it as much as possible, like those pubs where Dickens/Twain/Kerouac etc drank (Dickens for one drank in every single pub in London, I’m surprised he was ever sober enough to actually get any writing done). Writers hold a special appeal to tourist boards. You never get areas devoted to, say, Joe Bloggs the stockbroker or someone.
The drawing to the right is of the beer garden of the Captain Bullwhacker’s pub (I think that was the name), which was heavily pirate galleon/British pub themed, and undoubtedly where Steinbeck once popped in to use the loo, maybe.

sketching cannery row

Also blogged at Urban Sketchers.

Week Fifty: All Along the Foggy Coast

We hit the road again, this time for a trip down the romantic Californian coast; we were celebrating two years since our wedding. We left the hazy Davis sunlight behind and stepped into the whispering fog of Monterey Bay. We queued up beside excitable children with their excitable parents for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, possibly the most well-known collection of marine life in the world (other than the actual Ocean, of course). We saw a great white shark, several hammerheads, a couple of giant octopuses, and some really ugly eels. We really enjoyed the playful antics of the sea otters; before we knew it, we’d been there almost four hours.

We dined at the Jack London pub in the pretty town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the clean and chain-store-free town where Clint Eastwood was formerly mayor. We ate until we were full, and I had a local Carmel wheat beer (it’s important to go local). We fell asleep early, and woke up to bright sunshine, whihc turned into intermittent grey patches of fog as we drove along the 17-mile drive down to the golf course at Pebble Beach, passing the much-photographed ‘lone cypress’ tree that has perched at the Ocean’s edge for three-hundred years. We stopped by the Carmel Mission, on the centuries-old Camino Real (King’s Highway, along Route 101), a glowing reminder that quite a lot of California’s European settlement began way before the Gold Rush, and that more than just Spanish names remain. We came across a large group of cyclists, who had gathered en masse to take the spectacularly Californian road that we were about to embark upon: Highway 1, along Big Sur.

We were not disappointed; Big Sur rises high above the Pacific, and drops to crashing waves below. We drove through patches of fog that swept in like an army of ghosts (though I noticed that at times it looked more like a fake special effect than real fog), and through incredibly colourful sunshine, as the wild crags threatened to push us off the edge and out of America. We ate wraps and grapes on the beach at Pfeiffer, watching dogs play in tide pools and waves thunder against giant rocks, producing great cinematic displays of power. We saw Pelicans and Cormorants, large Gulls and sleeping Elephant Seals, lying among the ruins of driftwood and seaweed. We reached Cambria by late afternoon, and had a romantic meal at the Brambles, beneath a painting of Venice, the city where we got engaged.

We left the Ocean the next day, but not before visiting Hearst Castle, the unbelievably opulent former home of William Randolph Hearst. We were guided through immense, grand rooms filled with Hearst’s massive collection of European art, mostly dating from the medieval and renaissance periods, mostly from the Mediterranean. We weren’t allowed to touch the marble pillars by the Neptune pool, which features original sculptures dating back to Imperial Rome; there is even a statue from ancient Egypt, far from home, watching the Californian sunset. We drove inland to Paso Robles, stopping at a winery for a little local tasting, before making the long journey back home. We didn’t want to come back to the Valley; the lure of the Sea is too strong for us. We uploaded our photos, and reluctantly got back to our real and busy lives.