portland pals

portland with rita sabler
A few more from my recentish trip to Portland (early November, recent in geological terms). Above, I joined my friend Rita Sabler for her husband Jim’s birthday celebration at a cool little place in on Beach Street Portland I had never been to before, which involved some sketching and a lot of interesting conversation. Rita had invited me up to teach a workshop in Portland which was really fun, but it was really nice and relaxing to meet up with some of her friends. I last saw Rita in Porto in the summer at the symposium, she is actually a former UC Davis student (from before even I came to Davis). Check out Rita’s sketching work at www.portlandsketcher.com, she has done some great things lately (including a residency at the leper colony on Molokai!).
kalina at thirsty monk
On my second night there I met up another old sketching buddy and fellow pirate-sketcher, Kalina Wilson. I really wanted to go back to this Belgian place that we had sketched one rainy Sunday afternoon back in 2012, Bazi Bierbrasserie, so we arranged to meet there. Except it’s not called that any more, it’s now to my surprise The Thirsty Monk. Beer was still nice though, and the conversation fun, always good to catch up after quite a while, I think I last saw her either at Manchester symposium or when my wife and I visited Portland one November (I forget the year). Check out Kalina’s sketching.
pdx doubletree hotel bar

And above, a sketch I did at the hotel bar of the Doubletree in Portland. You have to go down to the bar to use their Wifi because it’s not included in the rooms (booo, join the 21st century Doubletree). I usually stay at this hotel because it is easy enough for the places I usually want to go, it’s right by the MAX line to the airport, but I don’t know, time to find somewhere else maybe.┬áThere was a heavy metal weekend going on at the hotel while I was staying there, so there were lots of long-haired metally people, dressed pretty much the same way (“metal”), which didn’t really fit in with the bland corporateness of the Doubletree. I always kinda laugh at the sameyness of metal outfits and rock dress, but of course when I was younger this was very much the scene in London that I enjoyed being around the most, the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street, the Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street, the Marquee on a Thursday night, I loved those places. And I would dress, well actually I would wear a bright green football shirt and have short hair because I liked to be different to everyone else, but I could mosh with the best of them. Those were the days. I felt quite at home around all the rockers, even in the sanitized corporate setting (and Doubletree, don’t put the toilets so far from the bar, yeah?). Anyway I sketched the bar, in its bland corporate light wood and screen showing basketball. Not exactly Old Town Pizza (now that is an interesting bar to sketch!) but a good way to get sleepy before bed.

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

portland again!

powells books
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took a couple of days in Portland, to do all the Portlandy things like eat and drink and look at books, see some old friends, oh and dress up as pirates. I’ll post my Swashbucklers Ball sketches soon. On the Saturday we wandered about downtown, checking off the list (food, check, beer, check, shops, check, voodoo doughnuts, check), and I got a little bit of sketching in before heading back to rest at the hotel (before putting the pirate costume on). I really like Powell’s Books, the block-sized independent bookstore between the Pearl District and Downtown. (I couldn’t find my new book there though…) We had spent an hour or so of the evening before mooching around in there, so this time I wanted to sketch it. I’ve sketched it before, but that sign is so iconic.
hydrant outside powells, portland
I also sketched a rusty fire hydrant outside, you know, because fire hydrants.
sketching outside voodoo doughnuts

And this one was sketched fairly quickly while standing in line at Voodoo Doughnuts. We were in line for about twenty minutes, and there was a group of college basketball players behind us in the queue, who were fascinated by the drawing. A nice group of lads, all out in their tracksuits (and watched over by Coach), my wife took a picture of them all when they finally got their doughnuts. Voodoo is a great place. I love Portland, and every trip is too short! I want to go back again…

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!!!!