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…

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to heaven in a food cart

PDX foodcarts
Food glorious food. Ok, this is the last of the Portland sketches that you are getting. That was one productive little trip. One thing I must point out is that I hardly ever ate indoors. Despite the rain, I only wanted to eat from the many delicious food carts that dot the city so liberally. Now along with the rule about going to Portland and sketching bridges, it’s also true that no visit to PDX is complete without sketching food carts. The first evening i was there I headed to the large collectio of carts downtown over at SW Alder. Most were closed, it being dark and damp, but I got an absolutely amazing red curry dish from a popular looking place called “I Like Thai Food” (and I do like Thai food, for sure). It was a pretty massive box of yummy food, and only cost $5. I sat on a bench near Powell’s to eat it, savouring every massive spicy bite. I cam back a few days later, on a sunny autumnal Monday, and sketched it alongside a few other carts, before getting another $5 red curry from a different cart around the corner (called Grandma’s Thai or something), just to compare. That too was delicious, but I think ‘I Like Thai food’ was a fair bit better. There were so many carts to choose from, though, such as the Flying Scotsman (fish and chips, yes, but also deep-fried Mars bars – I was too full to indulge, but next time, next time…).

PDX Potato Champion
On the Sunday I was exploring Hawthorne in the rain, food carts were a constant topographical feature. There is a small gaggle of them located around 12th and Hawthorne, including Potato Champion, who specialize in sauce-drowned Belgian frites (always a winner with the Scully tastebuds), and I got a decent poutine, and sketched as best as I could (there was shelter from the rain, but that morning’s mild hangover was still being nursed). I do think that if we lived in Portland, we would very likely eat from food carts about 75% of the time we ate anything, so abundant and varied are they. I am sure many of them are not very good, too, in fact I had one wrap type thing at a cart in the Saturday Market that was very unimpressive, to the point I cannot remember anything about it or even what style of food it was (it must have had some memory-wiping drug in it or something), but on the whole the Portland food cart experience was extremely promising. I know many urban sketchers like to go inside and warm up to eat and linger around a table, but for me food carts are the ultimate urban sketcher’s friend, because you get to stay outside, eat and just carry on drawing.
Food Cart sketching in Portland

If you want to know more about the food carts in Portland, this is a good website: http://www.foodcartsportland.com/.

yo-ho-ho!

PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
Yarrr! Or is it Arrr? I never did learn to speak Pirate. I did get a big dose of Pirate while in Portland though, and what fun it was. On the Sunday evening I attended ‘Dr.Sketchy’s Anti-Art School‘, the Portland branch of the national Dr.Sketchy’s thing that is popping up all over the country. I had never been to a figure drawing meet before, and this one was a lot of fun, featuring Portland’s ‘premier pirate group’, PDXYAR. It was so much fun! The pirates really were very elaborately dressed (and just as elaborately undressed) and stood in a variety of poses lasting between two and twenty minutes each – not an easy task, but one they performed incredibly well.
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
As I say, I had a blast. It was so liberating to mess around with quick figure drawing, just focusing on the gestures as much as possible. The pirates had so much personality, and a decent array of weaponry.
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
I tried a few sketches on the pad of grey paper I had picked up at Muse art shop on Hawthorne. It was different; I think it might be more effective for pastel work, but I’m having fun with it.
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
PDXYAR Dr Sketchy's
And I even won a prize! A PDXYAR beerglass (with a beer in it) and rum shot glass. I shall treasure them. I guess I’ll have to get me some rum. I chatted to some of the pirates afterwards, a great bunch of lads and lasses (one was even from north Davis!), and I became convinced I wanted to be a pirate too. I went home to the hotel with my head lost in thoughts of sailing the seven seas, parrots on my shoulder, avasting ye landlubbers, cutlasses swashing buckles and so on. I do have a pirate-like name, Captain Scully, yar. Well ok, maybe I won’t make it as a pirate, but next time I’m in Portland I’ll certainly try to sketch them again, I dare say with a bottle of rum. Yar!!!
PDXYAR beer glass

You can check out PDXYAR at http://pdxyar.org. Yar! If you’re in Portland, try to catch them at the Swashbuckler’s Ball on November 17. Yar! You can see other drawings done by my fellow sketchers that night at the Dr.Sketchy’s/PDXYAR Facebook event page.

a little bit belge

Bazi Bierbrasserie, Portland
On the rainy Sunday in SE Portland, it was necessary to occasionally go inside. One very cool place I visited was Bazi Bierbrasserie, a Belgian beer cafe near Hawthorne. I didn’t realize at the time I was sketching in Belgian colours, but it makes sense. I came with fellow urban sketcher Kalina Wilson, who was showing me around the neighbourhood before that evening’s Dr. Sketchy’s pirate-sketching event, which you’ll hear more about in my next post. Naturally, I had the Kwak, I love the Kwak and its funny glass, it’s one of my top three favourite Belgian beers (the others being Charles Quint and Fruit Defendu, if you’re wondering). I don’t recall the name of the beer Kalina had, Draak I think it was, but thankfully she sketched it wonderfully here. (I’m a fan of her work, and her creativity has certainly influenced my own stuff over the past couple of years in various ways, though our styles are very different – you should check out her website Geminica). The proprietor of the bar complemented us on our sketches and told me about the different beers they occasionally get in there from around Belgium, I mentioned I’d lived in Charleroi for a year. That’s where I got a real beer-ducation, talking to locals at La Cuve a Biere, where I would go most nights and fill books with writing, before I was so into urban sketching. I’ve often thought it might be fun to turn some of the writing from my Belgian diaries into a kind of comic, that rainy, clumsy year.

a portland beer-ducation

Cascade, Portland
Cascade Brewing Barrel House in SE Portland. On the Saturday evening in Portland I was cream-crackered after a day of sketching, and stayed in my hotel watching the San Francisco Giants storing their way through Game Three of the World Series. It was relaxing, I wrote a couple of postcards and finished off some sketches. I popped down to the hotel lobby to access something called the internet, and watched an inning or so at the hotel bar over a beer, listening to large-haired ladies talking in sour tones about their colleagues, while a baseball-capped business-man offered idle chat about the political attack ads being the same here as they are ‘back home’, and all of them being lies, lies and more lies. Occasionally, groups of costumed people wafted by and disappeared into the halloween partying night. Well, fun though that was, lying in bed watching the baseball was significantly better.

When the baseball was over, however, I was feeling nice and relaxed, and considered staying in and watching a Thor cartoon on my iPod. However apparently Portland is a really fun and interesting place with exceptionally good beers, and so I popped out to the streetcar stop and headed south. I had a Map full of Things to Do, courtesy of my Portland sketching friend Kalina who had prior to my trip put together an extensive list of things I might like to do on a Google Map, for which I am eternally grateful. One place I thought I’d head to was Cascade, a small independent brewery which has an excellent reputation for craft beer, particularly its sours. I wasn’t sure I fancied a sour, having not really liked the one I’d had from Russian River that time all that much, and opted for a Dunkel Weizen, followed by a Belgian Amber. It wasn’t super busy, but those present were of course all extremely beer-knowledgable and more than happy to impart their wisdom (as was everyone in Portland). When I was done, they recommended another nearby place, the Green Dragon (which was also on my To Go To list) and so I headed on over, and was massively impressed by the selection, though also intimidated, and clearly needed help. Fortunately the excellent staff there showed me the way, and gave me (to use their word) a good “beer-ducation” (cheers Nick et al!). Portland is like the University of Craft Beer, a great place for beer-ducation.

“waterway to have a good time”

pdx broadway bridge
You may have noticed before that I like to sketch by the river. Apologies for the shameless Alan Partridge reference in the title there; nobody throw a dead cow at me. This was on my last day in Portland (though there are several more PDX posts to come, I still haven’t finished scanning, there’s a couple of bars, some food carts and a whole bunch of pirates yet…). The rain had stopped and the sunshine opened up my paintbox up. I was planning to wander the Pearl District, where the USk Symposium had been in 2010, but, oooh, that river. I found a quiet spot on the banks, amid the rocks, between Steel Bridge and Broadway Bridge, and drew the latter. Though it is very industrial down this stretch of river, there is an inherent beauty in such architecture – not for me the grand sweeps of baroque opulence, give me a factory and a couple of big metal bridges and I’m happy as a, er, um, insert ‘happy’ simile here.
pdx factory by river
Hey guess what, I have put together a Flickr set with all of my sketches of bridges and riverbanks in it, it is called “Bridges, Riverbanks…”

long and winding rogue

Rogue Ales, Portland
Rogue Ales, in Portland’s Pearl District.

The last time I was in Portland, I made a very short trip to Rogue for a very little amount of sketching, but this time I wanted to come and really take it in a bit more. After spending most of the evening sketching, eating lovely food cart food, mooching around Powell’s and calling home, I plodded along to Rogue, found a spot at the bar, ordered a ‘Good Chit’ blonde ale, and started sketching. I spoke to several friendly people while I was there, all artists, all beer experts. This was a theme I would find pretty common in Portlanders. I like the Rogue beers, I have sketched at the Rogue in San Francisco before. I counted the beertaps individually before sketching them, and measured in my head how it would all squeeze on. Sure it’s a little wonky but I enjoyed drawing this. One guy said to me, on observing me get off my chair and rearrange my jacket and bags all orderly and neatly, “you do everything the same way you draw!” I mention this because people have said this sort of thing before, I must be very neat, very organized. Well, I can’t say I’m completely disorganized, but neat… well, you should see my desk. My mind is usually less a drawer full of folded socks and more a tumble-dryer full of ping-pong balls, ideas and thoughts zipping all over the place. In Portland however I was there to relax, and relax I did. When the sketch was done, I walked down to the MAX light rail and went back to the hotel. Nice and neat.