midsummer indigo girls

Mondavi 2019 A1 sm
This will be another long post. I really did do a lot of sketching in 2019 and this is all from the same day. Apart from the sketch below, which was done at lunchtime (and coloured in afterwards) it’s all the same evening, midsummer night, June 21. I definitely haven’t already posted these, have I? I had been asked by the Mondavi Center at UC Davis to produce some sketches for their annual magazine, which is called “Gateway“. To do so, they invited me to come to the Indigo Girls show in an official sketcher capacity, to draw some of the outside, the lobby, and of the show itself (the last part being done in near total darkness). It was a fun night. The above was sketched outside the main entrance as people started to arrive.
Mondavi 2019 A2 sm
I drew some people outside the Mondavi Center arriving for the show. I got there early, picking people who stopped in one place, but I did some quick sketches of people walking past. I don’t think these people were together, and they didn’t all have flowery clothing, I added that in for fun. I sketched the ticket warden (or whatever they call them) because I loved how they stood out in their smart black and white, and they were all friendly, they usually are at the Mondavi.
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Mondavi 2019 B2 sm
Mondavi 2019 B1 sm
I was asked to sketch people in the lobby area, so I grabbed a wine and a place to stand. As it turned out I knew quite a few people who were attending the show, it was a popular one.
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Mondavi 2019 C1 Chastity Brown sm
And then it was time for the show. I was actually given a special seat, though it was in near-complete darkness. The opening act, Chastity Brown, was really good, I loved her voice, and she talked to the audience, as you can see above. Then below, the main event started. I was able to sketch some of the audience in between the shows, and also when lights were down. There was a lot of purple and blue light, and I struggled to see my pasge, but the music was great, and sketching to music makes the pen move so easily.
Mondavi 2019 C3 Indigo Girls sm
Mondavi 2019 C2 sm
I used the zoom function in my eyes* in to get a better look at the performers (*I squinted real hard), the two main guitar-playing singers (Amy Ray and Emily Saliers) and the very performative violin player in between them (I don’t recall their name). For some reason I needed to write down the chords.
Mondavi 2019 C6 Indigo Girls sm
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Mondavi 2019 C5 Indigo Girls sm

Anyway, a fun evening was had, it was a good show. So eventually the magazine came out in the Fall, using the outside sketch on the cover. Here it is!

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i wanna see some history

sex pistols 1996 ticket
Here’s a little bit of my past, a drawing of an old concert ticket I still have, the Sex Pistols comeback show at Finsbury Park in June 1996. It’s pretty worn out – most of that wear and tear was from being in my pocket while pogoing around with 30,000 other sweaty punk rockers on a very hot Sunday evening. I went with my uncle Billy, and my Hungarian friend Andrea (we lost her during Skunk Anansie, one of the many supporting acts). I had been a Sex Pistols fan since I was about 13, when Billy first played me some Pistols records at his flat, but never thought I’d ever get to see them – I was not even two in 1978 when they split up. When the ‘Filthy Lucre’ comeback reunion tour in ’96 (with Glen Matlock back on bass) was announced, we had to go, and the Finsbury Park gig, being in Johnny Rotten’s home area (he used to go to the same school as my dad actually, but much later), was going to be great: support from loads of old (and new) punk and similar acts, most exciting of all for me being Buzzcocks, another group I’d always wanted to see (and never saw again; RIP Pete Shelley, by the way!) I had been at the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street the night before, practicing my pogo, Iggy Pop was on stage right before the Pistols, shirt ripped off, all abs and muscles and dancing (I couldn’t relate) and then it was time for the Sex Pistols and it was loud and crazy and too much fun, going right into the night. We were at the front, crushed against the barrier, barely able to move. I remember there was a woman next to me cheering and dancing, and behind her this lecherous bloke made many gross moves on her, and didn’t stop even when people called him out; I’m happy to say I elbowed him in the face as I was pogoing to ‘Seventeen’ and he sodded off. It was a crazy night. I went over the top of the crowd eventually, the crush at the front being a bit much, and then jumped up and down for the rest of the night in the middle of the Finsbury Park crowd. Rotten gave a massive fun performance, I remember him announcing “Fat, Forty and Back!” (I was Skinny and Twenty). They rattled off all the classics (they don’t actually have that many songs so it was basically their whole catalogue), in front of an audience that was probably larger than the total number of people they had ever played in front of, combined. Well, their largest gig ever. Not exactly how I grew up imagining Pistols gigs – in some sticky-floored ballroom jumping up and down on broken glass, or down at the 100 Club with cracked ribs and sweat and smoke (though there were those things), and not exactly Manchester Free Trade Hall, but I daresay a few bands were formed that night too. Andrea must have gotten home on her own, and Billy and I found his car on the other side of Finsbury Park and sped back to Burnt Oak. Wicked, we just saw the Pistols, no big deal. Not going to be going on about this for the next twenty years or so. It’s especially more fun telling people about that day now that I live in America, where people are more impressed, “oh yeah I saw Buzzcocks supporting the Pistols,” like it was in 1976 or something. It does go down as one of those things I’m glad I went to, and glad I went with Billy, and I’ll remember it all my life.

in the state of denmark street

Denmark St panorama sm

This is Denmark Street, just off of Charing Cross Road in Central London. I sketched it over a period of two and a half hours one Wednesday afternoon, having taken the morning off from sketching (I was up in the loft searching for my old collection of Fighting Fantasy books), and added the rest of the colour later on. Denmark Street is famous within British musical history as our very own ‘Tin Pan Alley’, home of music publishers and recording studios, and later of music stores. There are lots of guitar shops, as well as other instruments of course, and is also home to the famous 12 Bar Club. The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, all are associated with this street in some way (the Pistols actually lived here for a bit). Not only music – the comic shop Forbidden Planet was founded at number 23, where that red awning is in the picture now. It’s around the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue now. This place is steeped with history and it’s a street I have always had a lot of love for, being a bit guitar-obsessed when I was younger (it took me years to actually pluck up the courage to enter one of those stores though, very intimidating to a shy teenager!). I actually bought my current acoustic guitar from Macari’s, though it was from their other branch, on Charing Cross Road, back in 1996.

Denmark St panorama sm L Denmark St panorama sm R

So when I heard that Denmark Street was under threat of demolition, all part of the Crossrail redevelopment that has completely destroyed the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, I knew I had to sketch it while it still looked like this. Many of these buildings are ‘listed’, historic buildings of importance. Whether they will be knocked down or just somehow modernised is not clear, what it will mean for the historic character of Tin Pan Alley is also unclear, will the music stores be forced out in favour of latte shops and corporate office space is also not clear, but let’s face it. If Denmark Street loses its character it will be yet another blow to London.
Sketching Denmark St, London

Here’s my sketchbook. I used the watercolour (“art-plus”) Moleskine, with a uni-ball signo um-151 brown-black pen. Oh, and here is a map showing where Denmark Street is.

Denmark St map sm

And finally, I thought you might like this. As you may know, I like drawing fire hydrants, mainly because I find them exotic and foreign, for we don’t have them in the UK. Well, actually we do, but they are underground, with metal coverings on the pavement. Here is one I sketched on Denmark Street. So there you have it!

Fire Hydrant in London

the 100th picnic day

picnic day 2014 smA couple of weeks ago, UC Davis celebrated its 100th annual Picnic Day. One hundred! Click on the images to see larger versions (or you could hold your face close to the screen, though I wouldn’t advise it). Picnic Day is a UC Davis institution, the largest university open house in the country, attracting thousands of visitors to such attractions as the Doxie Derby, Battle fo the Bands, the Chemistry Magic Show, and, er kittens. Yes, we waited for half an hour in line to see kittens, only to find out they were now cats (they were probably kittens when we started queuing). Four cats, just sitting there doing nothing, two of which were asleep. Yet massively popular. My six year old wanted to see nothing else. The first thing we watched however was the Parade, the annual march of bands, bikes, floats, the occasional political candidate, which was as fun as ever. We sat down outside Shields Library to watch it, when I started painting, but broke my water jar (as described in a previous episode). I added the rest of the colours at home.

picnic day 2014 battleofthebands sm

This second spread was sketched at the Battle of the Bands. I went home with my family, already tired after the excitement of the cats, and had a rest before heading back in to see the famous band battle. I’ve only seen it once, briefly, but I don’t really like crowds. I am getting better at sketching in large numbers now though, but nonetheless it was tricky. I stood at the top of the slope leading down to Lake Spafford, on the banks of which were gathered the bands themselves. Now these aren’t your guitar-hero indie-beard bands, oh no these are the colourful marching bands, and boy is this an event. The bands come from universities around California. The idea is that each band takes turns playing a song, and then by the end of the day (or night), the last band standing, the last one that has not exhausted all its known songs, is the winner (and I’m told it’s always the UC Davis Aggies). It is crazy, and chaotic, but it all works, and those musicians really keep it up for hours and hours. On the left there is a dancing tree from Stanford. I finally left during a long bit in the middle where all the bands came together in groups of the same instrument, and placed themselves around the crowd in a kind of promenade-theatre fashion, playing a continuous jam (I left after 45 minutes and it was still going on) in a variety of poses. Definitely a Davis event to be experienced at some point in your life.

And this was all. In nine years this is the most Picnic Day sketching I have ever done.

sketching to music

hafter birthday party sm(Click on the image for a bigger view) Saturday evening last week I was invited to a double-birthday party for a local musician, David Hafter, and his son Noah, also a musician. It was at a place called Third Space, on Olive Drive in Davis, and I sketched the above panorama because panoramas are what I’m sketching! But I also did a couple more; below left, a sketch of Noah  playing his set (I gave the sketch to him), and one of Neon Lights (bottom right), many of the members of whom also play in David Hafter’s band Wealth of Nations (above). Regular visitors may remember that I sketched this band before on a couple of occasions in the Fall. The music was very nice, and I always sketch more quickly when listening to music – it’s the rhythm I think! Anyway, it was a nice evening, and many thanks to David for the invite.

hafter party noahneon lights

wealth of nations

wealth of nations at E St plaza
A couple of weeks ago, I went downtown on a Saturday evening (nursing an injured leg, having pulled my groin playing football) and saw a local band called Wealth of Nations playing in the E Street Plaza. An excuse for some night-time sketching, and to listen to some good music. I had sketched the singer David Hafter before at the Farmer’s Market a couple of years ago, he has a great voice. I had happened across the band earlier in October while passing Armadillo Music and recognised his voice as I was passing by, so popped in to listen and to sketch (see below; the whole band were playing but the drummer was hidden).
wealth of nations at armadillo, davis
wealth of nations at E St plaza (with sticker)

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.