an early start

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Back again. The view from my old bedroom in Norwich Walk, in our little Burnt Oak corner of London, drawn after waking up very early on a hot July day. On these days when I’m jetlagged and the middle-of-summer sun comes up way way earlier in London than in California (where the sun has a nice lie-in but definitely works a lot harder during the day), I like to try and start the day with a sketch, especially if I’m probably not going to be sketching as much due to doing family things. I miss seeing my London family, it’s always nice to be back, even at times when things are a bit stressful, it makes me feel nice to be Home, you know. I was lucky as a kid that we never moved house during my childhood, because it means I have definite sense of where ‘Home’ is in my mind. There are times even here in Davis in my forties that I wake up and I’m not immediately sure if I’m in my old bedroom or in California, with the window behind me, the shelf to my left, cars starting outside, a cat pawing at the door. Burnt Oak is quite different to Davis though. This is looking westwards, towards Orange Hill Road. Lot of stories up this street. I remember that house on the corner which has the little green food truck parked on the drive now, that was Mrs. Philpin’s house for a very long time (she passed away many years back), my mum was friends with her daughter since they were little girls, I went to school with her grandkids. I don’t know many other people in the street now, so many have moved on, passed away, although my old neighbour Matthew still lives across the road and I always stop and have a chat in the street when I’m back, usually about Spurs. This was an awkward looking sketch; the way the bed and side table gets in the way makes it harder to lean out the window than it used to be, although my mum now has much nicer windows installed. The morning sunlight kept changing the colours of everything subtly, but it’s pretty much how it felt; this was soon going to be the hottest summer of all time in London, and this day was going in that direction. My son had been up since about 3 or 4 as well, so we got a very early start and after breakfast with my mum we headed into central London for some sightseeing, taking our jetlagged selves onto a two-hour boat trip down the Thames, before getting the tube back up to Burnt Oak. We were still shattered from the two-day journey from California, but happy to be in London again. 

We each managed one sketch while down in central London, a quick drawing of Horseguards (below). 

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early morning, norwich walk

Norwich Walk

Here is the last drawing done during my London trip this past summer; click on the image to see it in larger format. Well the last one I’m posting; chronologically this was the first one I did, but I only just recently remembered to go back and finish it (add colour, finish all the bricks). This is Norwich Walk, the street where I grew up and where my mum still lives, as drawn from my old bedroom window on my first early morning back in the UK. I was jetlagged of course so awake at ridiculous o’clock, with the window open wide and the bright dewy air softening the world. Of course our house isn’t one of the ones in this row because I was inside it when I was drawing, perhaps on the next trip I’ll draw the panorama from the other side of the road (but maybe not at 5:00am in the morning). This was my view every day for a few decades. I’ve drawn it before, in fact I recall drawing several felt-tip pen versions for my art homework back at high school. It hasn’t changed that much, but I remember when those driveways were all gardens; I think it was the Daniels family’s house to the right who made the first one, followed by ours, then everyone else followed suit. There are still a couple of front gardens left but not many, however there are no cars parked on the street any more. In my youth they were all parked on the other side of the already very narrow road. I spent a lot of time in that house in the middle as a kid, first when the Glennon family lived there, then when the Edwards family lived there. I remember when it got pebble-dashed, that was popular in the 1980s wasn’t it. One of my memories was just outside there when I got run over by a white van one Saturday afternoon. I was seven years old, playing with my friends Natasha and Simon, my Star Wars figures all over the front doorstep. This street was our playground, as were all narrow Watling Estate streets to the kids who lived in them. We ran over the road to knock for our friends Robert and Victoria. He couldn’t come out though so we went back across the street. I was going first, didn’t look where I was going, and then BAM, all I saw was white. Then I woke up on a couch with everyone screaming and crying around me, so I passed out again and woke up in hospital. They kept me in overnight; I was alright, had a big scar on my head for a while but I got some new Star Wars toys when I got back home which was wicked. I remember getting the AT-ST ‘scout walker’ and my big sister helping me create a landscape on the carpet with a blanket for all the Star Wars toys. I also got a card form everyone in my class, everyone except my friend Wayne who I sat next to, because as weird coincidence would have it, on that very same day he also got run over, but he injured his legs and was out of school for a lot longer. I was a lot more careful crossing the street after that, but these days it is much easier for kids to see oncoming traffic now that everyone parks on their driveways!

I sketched this in the panoramic ‘Alpha’ Stillman and Birn sketchbook (a great sketchbook that), before having a proper English breakfast with my Mum, and getting on the early tube to go and sketch Piccadilly Circus. I love that ‘first morning back home in Burnt Oak’ feeling. I wish I could get back there more often!