A few fall days in Portland

Portland Arlene Schnitzer theatre
Last November after the Fall soccer season had ended I decided to take a weekend away in Portland, Oregon. It’s going to be a while before we can just take weekends away again huh. I’ve come up to Portland a few times in the past, usually November time, for a short break away from Davis, and I have good sketching friends up there going back to the first Urban Sketching Symposium in 2010. There is good food, drinks, bookshops, old buildings, falling leaves, comics, and generally lots to do. I stayed right downtown this time around, a good choice although I discovered that the food carts around 10th and Alder that I like to go to have been moved on due to construction of a huge building on that site. Boo! The nice folks at Finnegans Toys told me where to find some good food carts nearby though. I always like to get a nice hot Thai meal. Anyway, this is the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which is a good thing to draw in Portland because it says “Portland” on it, and you can put it on the top of your blog post when writing about it six months later. My sketchblog is becoming like Marvel Unlimited, everything is added half a year after it first came out.
Portland public library 111719
I like the autumnal colours. Or the Fall colors if you will. I was maybe a week or two late for the brightest blooms, and many of the trees were leafless already, but a few patches of autumn brilliance were still there. Grey skies, short afternoons, and brilliantly coloured leaves give me a cozy feeling inside, like 4:45pm on a late October Saturday afternoon in England as the football results come in (that is by the way the best time of day ever). Above is the Portland Public Library. I came in for a while, I like libraries (again, going back to those grey Saturday afternoons when I was a teenager and would go to libraries across north west London looking for books about languages and places far away). Around the corner, behind the Arlene Schnitzer, there are several blocks of park leading down to Portland State University, lots of colourful foliage still blazing. I drew the Shemanski fountain (below).
Shemanski Fountain Portland
On the Saturday morning, I joined the Portland Urban Sketchers for a sketchcrawl at the Hawthorne Asylum Food Carts. We met at a cafe, there was a pretty good sized group, and before sketching everyone went round in a circle and introduced themselves, saying who their favourite artist was. There were lots of artists I had not heard of. When it was my turn, I said my favourite artist was Gerard Michel (he is too). We walked over to the Hawthorne Asylum; most of the carts were closed as it was early, but by lunchtime when we were getting done they opened up, and I had a pretty amazing egg/mushroom/cheese thing in a waffle, even thinking about it makes me hungry.
Hawthorne Asylum Food Carts PDX
Here’s what I drew. I also sketched sketchers (below!) and had some very nice conversations. We passed around our sketchbooks and wow, there were some incredible sketches, very inspiring. That’s why we do these sketchcrawls, we come away with ideas after seeing how other people produce such great pieces of artwork.
PDX sketchers 111619 sm

I was a bit ‘meh’ about my own work that day, I felt a bit mechanical and rusty, but I did also draw something mechanical and rusty (below) which I did like. I didn’t colour it in though. I’m not sure what it was but I suppose it must be a robot from the future.
Hawthorne Asylum Mechanical Thing PDX
After lunch, I walked up Hawthorne (a long old road) and reached my final destination, the Bagdad Theater. This is a McMenamin’s-run place, a restaurant and cinema, and I was coming to watch Jojo Rabbit (what a great film, one of my favourites and I’m so glad I saw it somewhere so incredibly cool). Anyway, my iPad was still very new, and I had not used it much to draw with in ProCreate, not outside anyway. So I had an hour and a half before the film started, time enough to finally draw this building I have wanted to sketch for almost a decade. The iPad was a fun way to sketch, and I learned a thing or two that day. Firstly, layers are really helpful! Secondly, white lettering on dark backgrounds is so much easier this way. Third, I can do the sky separately and using very different brushes to make it look more like actual cloud. I also learned that a bit more experimentation in how to colour will be very helpful. I very much enjoyed this sketch.
Bagdad Theatre Portland iPad sketch

I didn’t enjoy the street musician much though. Some young lad with an electric guitar and a microphone and an amplifier was stood right outside the Bagdad’s doors playing and singing. It was very loud. It wasn’t very good. I’m not being judgy of his musical talents, it may be better than my drawing with an iPad, but only one of those is being blared out around the street. A staff member from the Bagdad came out and asked him not to play there, as he was disturbing people inside. Naturally he got very lary and gave it all that, getting in the staff member’s face in that way that indignant young males of the species do when a female politely asks them to maybe not be so loud outside their business which is not only a restaurant but also a cinema. She went back inside and he continued for a bit longer. He was very loud, and used the microphone to tell the rest of Oregon that her request was illegal and that he had a right to play his music loud right there. Right or wrong, he must have realized he was perhaps being a bit of a dick because after ten minutes or so of occasionally singing – mostly vocalized ranting about the injustice, and reminding everyone that this is America – he decided to move along the street, to a spot about six feet away from me, and then proceeded to yell over the microphone about people who only live in Portland because they saw Portlandia, and the woman who told him not to play outside the Bagdad was breaking the law, and then a few conspiracy theories Thrown in there, and then onto how we’re all sinners and Christ was coming to reckon us or something, and guys this felt like a long bloody drawing. How I didn’t just turn around and pull the plug on the amp I don’t know. But eventually he packed up and sodded off, and I finished my sketch and went to see Jojo Rabbit. The movie was great, was the theatre was amazing, historic and grand, and you can grab a beer and order food and actually have it delivered to your seat while you watch the film! I had pizza.

I also drew several bar sketches in Portland but maybe I will compile those together in a different post.

Portland’s Autumn

pdx saturday market

In November I went up to Portland, Oregon, to teach one of the 10×10 Urban Sketchers workshops, on Interior Perspective. I was invited by my friend Rita Sabler (the excellent Portland reportage sketcher), and it was as always an enjoyable visit to one of my favourite cities. I only ever seem to go these days in dark November, but this time it was not rainy at all. It was very colourful in fact, with the autumn leaves out in full force. I tried to capture as much of that as possible in my out-and-about sketches. Above, Portland’s Saturday market, with the Skidmore Fountain in the foreground. I sketched this fountain in 2010 at the first USk Symposium, on a Saturday morning perspective sketching class with Frank Ching. That was the moment I always look back to when I really gave up my inhibitions about drawing in public; rather than find a place to hide and be invisible, better to sketch openly and not worry about being ‘in the way’, become part of the place. On this day, I was able to observe the market as some stalls were still setting up, and as people passed by I got a real feel for the character of this quarter of Portland.

steel bridge portland

I like the Steel Bridge, another one I drew on that first Portland symposium, that time at a workshop with Lapin, I sat between him and Gerard Michel discussing different approaches. I’ve always wanted to return to this riverbank in the Spring when the blossoms are all pink, but coming back in Fall with golden leaves floating down is almost as nice. I did get a bit cold though, and so streetcarred it back to the hotel for a rest before my workshop.

pdx food trucks alder square

This one was sketched at the food carts area at Alder Street, after I had spent a good long afternoon wandering about Powell’s. Powell’s is such a great big bookstore, I could spend forever in there. They had my books, too, which is always exciting to see. I have a tradition now of going to Powell’s and then wandering up here for a big hot dish of Thai food, and I was not disappointed. I sketched across the street, the sunlight starting to fade, the urban greys brightened up by the reddish orange of the trees.

star theater portland

Not too far away, a bit earlier in the day, the Star Theater, with yellowy leaves scattered about. A group of homeless people sat nearby talking and laughing, streetcars rattled past, a slight breeze blew leaves and thoughts past as I sketched. My legs were hurting; I had had a night out before, and a good lie-in, but as each year passes I always forget I need a bit more rest. I spent the rest of the afternoon in Powell’s. And below, of course, an orange Portland fire hydrant, weather-worn and pock-marked.

pdx hydrant

swashbuckling with a sketchbook

Swashbucklers 2015Shiver me timbers! That is a very Portland phrase for two reasons, first of all it’s a bit colder there than here, second of all you have the Portland Timbers soccer team (who just won the MLS Cup, well done!), and third of all, PIRATES (I know I said two reasons, but I lied like a lying lily-livered landlubber). Pirates. You will remember perhaps two years ago when I went to Portland for the Swashbucklers Ball, the big event where people dress up as pirates (and we’re talking seriously good pirate costumes too) and mingle with other pirates, dance to music, drink, and say “Yarr”. Oh, and in the case of at least two pirates, “draw other pirates” too. This year I went again to the Ball, this time with my wife (who doesn’t sketch pirates), and fellow sketcher and pirate Kalina, who lives in Portland. It was through sketching pirates at a Dr.Sketchy’s in 2012 with Kalina that we discovered this piratical culture of PDX, and it’s great fun. Above I sketched the Melody Ballroom while the band Chervona knocked out some tunes. The French flag flew above the stage in honour of the victims of the awful Paris attacks the day before.

Swashbucklers 2015 Angela and Kalina
Here are Kalina and Angela in pirate costume. My costume is not seen, but I had a black pirate shirt, a red sash, blue pirate pants, a big dark pirate hat, and a parrot. Oh and a lightsabre. At one point I congratulated one pirate on his weaponry and he got his big flintlock pistol out. I grinned and just went, bzhhooooommm. It’s a LOT of silly fun! (Unfortunately my ‘sabre doesn’t light up, but still.) I sketched, and danced, and chatted to pirates, and we decided that next time we would get the VIP tickets and get a table so we weren’t standing so much. Here are some other pirates I sketched:
Swashbucklers 2015
This fellow had a classic high-seas look and a feather too
Swashbucklers 2015
This bearded pirate (whose name was Justin) wrote “Yarrrr” on the sketch, and one of his companions had a parrot similar to mine, though with different plumage. They weren’t real parrots you understand.
Swashbucklers 2015
I loved this guy’s look, I remember him from the previous year. His hair reminded me of Balthus Dire (of Fighting Fantasy ‘Citadel of Chaos’ fame) which of course is immensely cool.
Swashbucklers 2015
I sketched this more mediterranean pirate a bit too quickly to make out the most interesting feature of his costume, the sabre with the large cobra’s head on the end.

Yarr!! And that’s all I did. Gotta love the pirates.

roll out the barrels

Deschutes PDX
In our first evening in Portland, we went to a couple of different brew-pubs, the first being Burnside Brewing, where we met with a couple of old friends we haven’t seen in years, Robin and Chris. I didn’t sketch there, but I did have a nice red ale called “Too Sticky To Roll”. After leaving them, we across the river to the Deschutes Brewery, as I really like their beers. I had been there once for a pint in 2010, and while it can be busy it’s a nice place. I got an Octoberfest beer (I can’t remember the actual name), and sketched the above scene with the barrels and the giant bottle opener. I added the wash later. At Deschutes we met with Rita Sabler, fellow urban sketcher and one of the most prominent contributors to the Creative Sketching Workshop book (her drawing and storytelling style is awesome), who I first met at the Portland Symposium in 2010, and again in Barcelona in 2013. We were joined by her partner Jim, and we had a nice dinner, sketching and talking. I had the Black Butte Porter Mac and Cheese with Chicken, it was delicious. Afterwards, my wife and I spent a bit of time mooching around Powells before heading back to the hotel (waiting a long old time for the MAX as well).
Rita and Jim

jacksonville on the fourth of july

Jacksonville Oregon

Jacksonville, Oregon. Click on the picture to embiggen it. Over the Seventh of April weekend (sorry, Fourth of July, I always get date-confused) we went up to southern Oregon to visit family, and on the 7th itself (sorry, the 4th) I was able to take a couple of hours in the baking hot afternoon to visit the historic town of Jacksonville, about five minutes away from Medford. I really love Jacksonville, and have sketched it before on several occasions (usually around Independence Day, which is particularly nice because all the flags are up). On this occasion I was desperate to draw a panorama, and so I did. I would love to draw this entire street, building by building by building. On the right there you can see a sketch I did exactly five years before (on 7/4/10), which was in black ink so noticeably darker values. In the panorama above I used dark brown ink. I did the penwork on site (except for some of the jacksonville, oregonmore repetitive brickwork), and did some of the colour too, to get the right shade for the hills and trees, but coloured the rest in a couple of days later.

Jacksonville was founded after the discovery of gold nearby, and retains many of its old 19th century buildings. One of the main pioneers was a man called Peter Britt. I am also Pete, a Brit. That’s a really good joke, huh, I do a lot of really good jokes like that. Anyway, Jacksonville was the cultural and commercial hub of southern Oregon¬† for a long time, according to their website, until the railroad was built in 1884 in neighbouring Medford, “when Jacksonville’s prestige began to wane” (anyone who visits Medford will see that Medford is clearly the more prestigious). Jacksonville still had cultural relevance though. Did you know for example that Goofy comes from here? Well not Goofy himself, but the guy who did his voice, Pinto Colvig, he was from Jacksonville. Gawsh! I met the real Goofy once at Disneyland, he signed my sketchbook. Evil Dead actor Bruce Campbell also comes from Jacksonville. Anyway, these days Jacksonville has somewhere under 3,000 residents, and the surrounding countryside with its vineyards and rolling hills is most pleasant.

After sketching, I popped into the Jville Tavern to cool off before heading back to the family get-together. The temperature was about 104 degrees (Fahrenheit, not Celsius).

 

sunday in portland

food carts in portland
After an evening in the company of pirates, a lazy Sunday in downtown Portland. I didn’t go anywhere new or explore too much, just did what I enjoy – eating en plein air, going to Powell’s books, lining up for doughnuts and sketching a bridge. Many of the food carts weren’t open, including the delicious Thai one I ate from last year (“I Like Thai Food”, and I really do), but I grabbed a curry lunch from one (it was so-so, but really filling) before pottering off to Powell’s. I love Powell’s Books, you could get lost in there forever, and in fact you should. The bookstore covers an entire block. I love the smell of bookstores. After getting a t-shirt and a pint glass (I am such a tourist) I did another touristy thing and went to line up at Voodoo Doughnuts.
voodoo doughnuts, portland
Well, naturally I sketched it first – the linework anyhow, I added the colour later. I stood across the street and tried to guess how long it would take me to queue up for doughnuts by figuring out each person’s position, but after fifteen minutes I realised that line was actually two lines, doubling up on each other. Ah, so longer than I though. I lined up anyway (it too about twenty minutes or so; I had to endure the touristy family in front of me being all touristy, unlike me huh) and eventually got to choose my doughnuts. Despite all that time in line I still couldn’t quite make my mind up so just spent down what little cash I had left and carried away a big pink box to take back to Davis. As I got myself together outside a man passing beamed, “ooh did you get a dozen?” I was confused (stranger in street starting conversation, does not compute) and replied, “er, dunno, I just said words and they gave me a box of things,” which made a lot of sense I’m sure. I was tired. So I headed to the river, always a good place to start or finish a trip, and sketched a bridge.

P1130952I have been using a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook I bought in London, it was cheap and the paper is smoother. But there has been something about it which is just not quite right, sure the watercolours don’t take the same way as with my watercolour Moleskines, but I don’t know, something’s been feeling a bit off. Anyway I brought with me a new sketchbook, a brand new landscape-size Alpha book from Stillman and Birn. I love the Alpha paper, but have been waiting for the right moment to start this one, so I used it to draw the Burnside Bridge (see below). It was a joy t use! Even though I didn’t add any paint to this one, it’s lovely paper to sketch on, though not smooth like the other book I was using it’s more to what I am used to.
burnside bridge, portland

And that’s it! Until the next time, Portland, until the next time.

shiver me timbers! the swashbuckler’s ball

2013 swashbucklers ball, portland 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. 2013 swashbucklers ball, portland 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. 2013 swashbucklers ball, portland 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. 2013 swashbucklers ball, portland 2013 swashbucklers ball, portland 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!!!!

lunch with the portlands

PDX urban sketchers
Last Saturday in Portland the PDX Urban Sketchers met for their regular sketchcrawl, this time down in Goose Hollow. I was having a nice lie-in, so I joined them for lunch at the Goose Hollow Inn where they shared their beautiful sketchbooks. They are an inspirational bunch, the Portland sketchers, many of whom I have met before on numerous occasions. I sketched (see above: Vicky, Kalina and Andrea) and had some nice warm soup, and I got my new pirate hat. Yes, you heard that right, a new pirate hat – I was in Portland to be a pirate and go to the Swashbuckler’s Ball you see, and say “be” instead of “am” occasionally. Kalina was kind enough to order it from DressLikeAPirate.com (yarrr!), and it’s a most excellent hat – there’s even a picture of me wearing it on the USk Portland website! Yarr indeed me old landlubbers.
A Roadside Attraction

That evening, I dressed like a pirate (yarr) and walked through Portland before finding the eclectic sketcher’s dream of a place called A Roadside Attraction, where I met up with fellow pirate sketcher Kalina for some pre-Swashbuckler’s Ball sketching. To be honest though, there was almost too much to sketch! I did what I could, but this was a place that needs several days to sketch in any justice. And so, on to meet the pirates! To be continued…

ghosts and bars of portland

old town pizza
Regular listeners may be aware that occasionally I like to sketch bars, preferably ones with character, warmth, interesting people and of course nice beer. You’re always going to get that in Portland, so I was keen to check a few more names off of my list. Last year I visited Old Town Pizza with the PDX urban sketchers and noticed the lovely old bar area, but didn’t sketch it that time. While the rain tumbled down, I wandered the streets of the old town, stopping by Floating World Comics, before resting my tired legs with a pint of Old Town’s “Freshtoberbrau”. Old Town Pizza/Brewing is in an old hotel building which is apparently haunted, though you would never know because it’s not like all the publicity for this place goes on and on about it. The ghost is called Nina (pronounced like Nine-ah) and wears perfume and rides a bike and reads vegan zines, well maybe not the last two. I do like this place though, despite the Rentaghost theme tune playing in my head, and the beer was very pleasant. I especially enjoyed the Volkswheat, which I pronounced “Folksveet”. A guy at the bar kept coming in and out, and while you can’t tell here, he really looked like Tyres out of Spaced. Warmed up and rested, I went back to the hotel.
Bailey's Tap Room

In the evening I went out for a nice meal with some of the local artists I know (Hi Linda, Ron, Deb and Angelika!) at Bridgeport, where I had eaten back in 2010, a really nice brewpub. Unfortunately I arrived half an hour late, due to an immense amount of traffic on the way. I could have walked, or taken the MAX and walked, but I opted for the streetcar as I thought it would be quicker. Big mistake! I had given myself plenty of time, but it took forever to arrive, then crawled sloooowly up Broadway and finally across the river. It took me over an hour to get to the Pearl District from the Lloyd Center; hopping backwards with my eyes closed the whole way would have been quicker. I’m not used to these ‘city’ aspects of getting around any more! But in the end it was a lovely evening with lovely people, though I didn’t sketch there this time.

Afterwards, I went off to sketch another bar that was on my list. Bailey’s Tap Room is downtown, and lots of people recommended it last year. While it’s not an obvious sketch subject, no old dark wood and warm fireplaces, it was a nice place to sketch for a few late-night hours, sampling amazing beers from Montana, Utah, and elsewhere, talking to locals and visitors, reciting the text of Jabberwocky, and shunning frumious bandersnatches (except for that last part). It reminded me a little of the University of Beer in Davis, and the barstaff were friendly and really knew their stuff. A fun Portland night! This time, I did walk back to the hotel, crossing the Steel Bridge at night, it wasn’t very far. And I had a nice, well-earned lie-in the next day. Lubbly-jubbly!

portland rain again

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
This past weekend I went on a brief jaunt to Portland, Oregon, on a mission for food, beer, comics, bookshops (well, one big bookshop), rain, great people, sketching and pirates (mostly for the pirates). I like Portland. I wanted to go somewhere to just take it easy, and Portland is that place. I didn’t even mind not doing too much sketching – if I did it, good, but if not, well that’s ok too, I just enjoy being somewhere like Portland. Of course I always do more sketching than I realise, but I’m glad I finally got to sketch the building above, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, that is, the big theatre downtown with that classic Portland sign. Built in 1928 It was raining, and so I stood across the street under some convenient cover and sketched away. Rain is nice. We have some here in Davis now but we’re just trying it out for a while; in Portland the rain is a character in its own right. I loved the Portland rain last time and walked about in it whenever I could. This time the rain was light and sprinkly, so I didn’t really get wet at all. Shortly before then, I was passing through Pioneer Square when who should be there but Santa Claus! He was there to welcome the brand new Christmas Tree, which arrived at the square on a big truck right after I got there; I had to do a very quick sketch, of course. You’ll notice there are two trucks – one carried the tree, and the other carried the additional branches. I watched them lift the tree, and then they spent a good deal of time attaching the other branches, I guess they drill holes into the main trunk and insert the branches to make it bushier. Well whaddayaknow!
Pioneer Sq, Portland

I have plenty more PDX sketches, including ones of the pirates from the Swashbuckler’s Ball, so stayed tuned Portland fans. The finishing off and scanning is still happening…