Last Saturday evening, the weather was nice, and the daylight a little later than I was used to (it’s always a surprise, every year), so I took a walk downtown to do a little bit of sketching, a little bit of reading, have a few beers. I walked over to E St Plaza, where I noticed that local band Wealth of Nations were playing again; I’ve sketched them several times. I did this quick sketch below. After that, I went to the University of Beer, and sat at the corner of the bar. I have been planning my summer travels, going to the Urban Sketching Symposium, adding in a bit of Belgium as well, and a day in Paris. For some inspiration I re-read Lapin’s book of Parisian sketches, “Paris je t’aime”. The fellow sat next to me saw the book and was looking at it with me, I was telling him about Lapin and all the other Urban Sketchers, I didn’t mention about my own sketching but when it came time to get my sketchbook out he left me to it, I did manage to include his right hand and phone into the sketch though. Another bloke was sat to his right, reading a book. After a while they both left, and another pair of men were there, one of whom was one of those guys who was loud and a bit overbearing, I think he was quite a bit into religion and never paused for breath about how he “only respects people who know their purpose in life!” and “I don’t mind atheists but they have to know what they believe in or I can’t respect them!” He never seemed to take even a sip of his beer, all I could think was, mate are you drinking that or what? Some writers and sketchers take inspiration from overheard conversation, I on the other hand actively try not to listen to anything anyone is saying. I looked at my sketch, remembering the quiet reading man and the friendly man who liked looking at Lapin’s drawings. Eventually loud man and quiet friend also departed. I saw a couple of other faces at the bar I knew through soccer, said hello. Various sports played on the tv screens. The beers I had were the Russian River STS Pils, and the much more familiar Firestone Walker 805. I sketched the bar in dark blue pen. The walk home was nice; I’m trying to get my 10,000 steps in every day.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the downtown Davis “2nd Friday Art About”, as I had a couple of pieces on display at the Pence Gallery following the Garden Tour (both sold, by the way – hooray!) and so while there was sunlight I stuck around downtown to do a bit of sketching. Inspired by the watercolour sketches of dancers by Kumi Matsukawa from Japan (who wrote chapters in my book Creative Sketching Workshop) I sketched a couple of women dressed in bright Spanish style dresses who were moving from spot to spot, performing a dance to some flamenco style music, and moving on. I also caught them in quick pencil gestures, below. This sort of loose style sketching is useful for people moving quickly, focusing on the gesture and movement rather than going for accurate details. That’s usually how your eye registers things, and your hand works slower than your eye so let it dance with the dancers.
I also sketched a band that was playing in the courtyard of the Pence. They moved around a lot less, but my eyesight sketching from a distance made it hard to pick out too many details, but the red of the middle guitarist’s dress really stood out.
Since returning from London – and I have plenty more sketches yet to post – my sketching regularity has fallen off somewhat. This often happens after a big trip, but I’ve also been filling my lunchtimes reading Marvel comics (Marvel Unlimited, dudes), and the rest of my time coaching my son’s soccer team, which also includes planning training, designing the team badge, making stickers, creating a record of the kits worn by all the other teams, and all of that fun stuff. After London, sketching more panoramas of 2nd Street just doesn’t hold the same appeal right now. However, I did get out of the house one evening to go down to Art-Is-Davis on D Street for a special party hosted by the resident artists there, to mark the end of their time at the artist’s co-operative. I was invited by one of them, my friend and fellow artist Dori Marshall, and I got to speak to many Davis artists I hadn’t met in a while, and some I was meeting for the first time. It was a nice evening, and there was a band outside in the little courtyard behind the building. the band were called the Lightning Boltz, and they were really good. I’ve said it before I do love to have live music when I’m sketching, it adds to the whole rhythm. It was also extremely dark – I sketched this in almost total darkness, in a shadow next to the building. I couldn’t really tell one colour from the next so it was guesswork, but pretty informed guesswork (I know which paint is where in my paintbox after all). This didn’t take me long, a couple of songs at most. The band liked it when I showed it to them afterwards, but I realised the guy in the middle has a quite different beard than I drew! Well, that’s my eyesight in the dark.
A few weeks ago I was invited by Yolo Arts to sketch in Woodland on a Friday evening, as the event sketcher for ‘Music On Main’, part of the 1st Friday Art Walk’s evening entertainments. My first stop was at Steve’s Pizzas on Main Street, where, in the courtyard at the back, a band called Os Lorenzos were playing jazzy tunes. I sketched for nearly an hour, got the musicians to sign the sketch, and moved on.
In the square outside Woodland Opera House was this odd looking little truck. “Acoustic Sanctuary” is the colourful vehicle of the one-man-band Winko Ljizz, usually resident in midtown Sacramento, whose purple truck is filled with musical instruments and enough stools for a small audience. I didn’t have time to sketch inside – I was scheduled to sketch skateboarders next and the evening was running away fast – but I’d like to sketch Winko performing his many instruments sometime.
Part of Main Street was cordoned off for a special skateboarding demonstartion / competition, organized by the SorD Boardshop (“SorD” stands, ominously, for “Skate Or Die”, though I’d rather simply “Skate or Maybe Walk Or Ride a Bike, Thanks”). The young skateboarders zoomed all about making jumps and other sorts of jumps (I don’t know any skateboarding lingo) while onlookers looked on. I’ve never sketched skateboarders before – well they move so fast – so it was a fun challenge.
And finally the sun set, but I had one more sketch to make. A three-man mariachi band called Trio Los Lafiras was moving about from place to place performing traditional Mexican songs. I started following them as I saw them walking down the street, and eventually they went into a brewpub and asked to perform a few songs. I tagged in behind them, big sketchbook in hand (I had bought a large format spiral bound Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ sketchbook for bigger sketches that I could take out if I needed, I really like that paper) nd told them I would sketch them as quickly as I could. They played three songs, giving me just enough time to sketch them all, paint in their yellow shirts and draw the brickwork too (I added the ‘spotlight’ detail after they’d finished), which was pretty bloody fast if I say so myself. Well, their music was excellent, truly brilliant. I can’t stress how much more fun it is sketching to music, but believe me sketching to a Mariachi band is so much more of a delight. I even knew the tunes they played (though mostly from their 1980s football terrace versions, admittedly). So a fun end to a very busy sketchy evening.
Many thanks to Kristina Fong at Yolo Arts for giving me this great opportunity to sketch!
A 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.
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.
(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.
Last weekend I put on a big hat and dressed up as a pirate, as you do. It was in Portland and I was going to the annual Swashbuckler’s Ball, a big party for pirates at the Melody Ballroom. And boy, were there some pirates! I was amazed at the incredible costumes, the level of dedication all the pirates went to was most impressive. My own costume (despite my amazing hat) was of the more subtle variety – but being a pirate is fun!
Of course, I sketched. I first sketched the Portland pirates last year at Dr. Sketchy’s. Also sketching was fellow pirate sketcher Kalina Wilson; her work is incredibly good. I personally was struggling a bit – drawing pirates who keep moving about is pretty tricky. I felt oddly self-conscious of sketching people armed to the teeth with swords and cutlasses (only joking), so I kept it quick, and here are my results. I did enjoy sketching the view from the back of the ballroom (see below), though I did the lettering and shading afterwards. In fact apart from the painted backgrounds, I didn’t get my paints out at all, just stuck to the penwork. The music was great, (Chervona, Abney Park, and another band whose name I have forgotten but who appear in the sketch above) and got a lot of pirates dancing. Even I danced, which may surprise you. Whenever I was struggling to sketch, I would wander off and dance. Below is an attempt at sketching dancing pirates. I did manage a couple of quick individual pirate sketches, to which I added my own observations on the type of pirates I thought they might be. Lots of pirates reminded me of other people – there was one guy who was the spit of Richard Attenborough, a very jolly face, while another reminded me a bit of Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 (I think Mickey Rourke would make a really good dastardly pirate). There were pirates of all ages and styles, and one or two Jack Sparrows. The pirate I drew in the green sketch below (who is probably a lovely gentle pirate) actually reminded me of the sort of villainous pirate you’d get in old BBC kids shows from the 80s. I really wish I had had the courage to ask a pirate to pose for a sketch, just for a couple of minutes, but I am a lily-livered land-lubber, so that didn’t happen. I stayed until all the music was done, and then walked home, dressed as a pirate, back to my hotel. I certainly enjoyed being a pirate for an evening, and will surely do this again (but next time I’ll sketch on an old yellowing rolled-up maritime map, yarrr). I’ll build up my swashbuckling look. And my pirate lingo too, say “be” instead of “am”, learn all the insults, get a parrot etc.
Incidentally…you can order a print (or even a mug) of my Swashbuckler’s Ball sketch from the Society6 website at http://society6.com/PeteScully/Swashbucklers-Ball-Portland-2013_Print.
To find out more about the Swashbuckler’s Ball (and hey, see you there next time!), visit their website at: http://www.swashbucklersball.com/ YARRRR!!!!