six planes, one train, no pain

SMF-LAS 2018 sm

Sketching on a plane helps me relax. That is my excuse for sketching on a plane. I have this book, this little Miquelrius book that I use for in-flight sketches (the one with the Lapin-designed cover), and I brought it with me to record all six flights (and one train journey) on my trip to Europe. Twenty years ago I took a five-week train trip around Europe and I really wish that I had done the same back then. Sketching all the night trains. Pete of 2018 would definitely have enjoyed that, Pete of 1998 would perhaps not so much, but Pete of 1998 was so much easier with speaking to strangers and making friends with fellow travellers than Pete of 2018. Pete of 2018 is a little shyer, but makes up for it with readiness to sketch. Pete of 1998 did sketch a little but not much and very loosely, though he drew a lot of cartoons and wrote loads, writing like there was no tomorrow; I kept two diaries on that trip, one for me personally, written small and densely, and one with just briefer notes about the train journeys and cities, at the back of the special book I had prepared ahead of the trip. Wow, this was going on 20 years ago now. I will need to write my thoughts about that trip very soon, it was a pretty formative voyage for me. Anyway, back to this summer’s Euro trip – not as many countries, but still a fair bit of travel, and probably more miles covered (what with flying across the world and all). Above, the first leg of the journey, flying from Sacramento to Las Vegas on a very bumpy flight over the desert. I liked stopping in Vegas, we got to go to an amazing lounge (my wife organized that, she knows the best stuff), though my son was less impressed with Vegas, thanks to the turbulent descent on the plane. Soon we were off again, flying Virgin from Vegas to Gatwick.

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I drew this one in pencil. I am trying to use pencil more, for the looser scenes. My son and I played a few rounds of MarioKart on the 3DS, and we couldn’t wait to land in London, where it was hot and sweaty and the trains weren’t all running, so we squeezed onto a train to Mill Hill. This time we were travelling light, no large bulky suitcases, I didn’t even bring the backpack carry-on. I could have probably travelled even lighter. I didn’t need the second pair of shoes (my main ones were so comfy), though honestly I should have brought more underwear. That whole washing in the sink thing in Portugal really didn’t fly for me, so I ended up buying some, wait for it, Cristiano Ronaldo brand underwear. Yep old CR7 has his own line of pants and socks.

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Well England was fun, it flew by, but then it was time to go to Spain for a few days in Madrid. After getting the coach from Golders Green on Friday the 13th, we flew Ryanair from Stansted (fourth airport on the trip) to Madrid (airport number five on this trip, oh I love airports, don’t you know). There’s my son playing FIFA. We were sad about England losing the semi finals a couple of days before, but excited for the World Cup final. We were still humming tunes from Hamilton, which we had watched in London the night before (amazing show). I’m always sad leaving the UK, excited about going to other countries but there’s always that sense of loss when I go, it changes a little bit more every time I return.

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Wow Madrid flew by, eh! Eating dinner late, getting up early, going to the Bernabeau, visiting Toledo. The family flew back to America from Madrid while I went on to Porto for the Symposium, flying with Iberian. Airport number 6. Porto airport was really nice actually, though I took ages leaving it as I decided to hang about and get a shuttle that would drop me off miles from where I needed to be, and I got lost in a neighbourhood of tiled houses and steep hills, smart move. Note to self, get a larger map next time. Or a taxi. Ah, you know, I love to wander, I am an explorer. Not much of a navigator though.

PORTO-LISBON 2018 sm

Many many sketches later, many many hills later, I took the Alfa Pendular train from Porto to Lisbon. That is the fast train. It zipped along the Atlantic coast for a bit, the fog hanging out there like a large grey Nothing. I do wish I had spent some time on the Portuguese coast now. There is so much Portugal to discover. So much World in fact. I want to go Everywhere. Well maybe not everywhere, I could give probably places like Swindon a miss (sorry Swindon, I’m sure you’re lovely) (I would probably like Swindon actually, there’s a historic Ossie Ardiles/Glenn Hoddle connection). I have my tall thin Pepsi Max can there. I was so worried about being hungry or thirsty on the two-and-a-half-hour train ride that I got a load of snacks at cafe in the station. It’s funny cos when I travel I will sometimes go from breakfast until late dinner without eating a bite (I often don’t get hungry when I’m busy sketching), but put me on a train and I’m anxious I might go crazy if I don’t eat a Mars bar.

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Lisbon was relaxing, the hills much less stressful than Porto, and my hotel was amazing. I could have spent most of the time just chilling out there. I met some sketching friends in Lisbon on the last evening for dinner, and it was a nice way to cap off a long trip. And then, back home. Lisbon (airport number 7) to Atlanta (airport number 8) on Delta, which was a really nice flight actually, I would fly them again. Once more I got as many snacks and ate a bunch of food getting on the plane, prompting my seat neighbour to cheerfully remind me that they will be feeding us. I had never flown Delta before so sisn’t know how much that would be true – airplane food can sometimes be a bit rubbish – but it certainly was true and their food was really good, and plentiful. I had a good chat with my neighbour too, interesting man who flies a lot and works in DC. On the flight I watched Rush (that movie about James Hunt and Niki Lauda, such a fun film), and Lady Bird, the one set in Sacramento, which I really enjoyed and it made me a little yearnful for my adopted home. Well, a bit. The flight was good and transferring in Atlanta was fairly painless.

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And so from Atlanta back to Sacramento. I was sat next to a tall man who didn’t mind me jumping over him to use the bathroom the one time I needed to. I often don’t need to get up at all during a flight, which is why I like the window seat (or the very middle of the middle row) but on this occasion I did. It was a long journey back. I watched Notting Hill, which I’ve not seen in years and still makes me laugh. I landed in Sacramento exhausted, happy to see the family again, but missing Europe and vacation time. My head is still somewhere over the Atlantic I think, though my feet are finally returning to Californian soil. Travel is great; air travel is annoying and stressful, but sketching on a plane helps me relax. Or that’s my excuse anyway.

porto pumps

Porto Hydrants sm
I should start at the beginning. I should start in england, with the few sketches I did there, and with stories about watching England win and then lose in the World Cup, with the heatwave of London proving too much for my air-conditioned Californian constitution. I should maybe even add my sketches of Madrid first, since they at least are all scanned now; one of the great things about coming back from a trip where you fill an entire sketchbook in a short amount of time is that there is so much scanning to do to digitize them when I get home. I always do that as I go along, a point that came in handy for my ten-year retrospective exhibition in 2016. I could dive straight into the Porto symposium, although I am still digesting my experiences there, and figuring out what new things I have learned (something that may take me months). So I will start with the easy stuff, the fun stuff, the thing that I am known for the most (actually the second-most – I certainly got the “oh you’re the one who holds his pen in a funny way” more than “oh you’re the one who draws the fire hydrants” this time when meeting new people.). I sketched fifteen hydrants in Portugal, nine in Porto and six in Lisbon (quickly checks my maths). Actually I just realized there was one more, but it is small and part of a larger reportage sketch so doesn’t count. For a close view, here they all are – and I have tried my best to remember where they all are, but I didn’t write it down as I often wasn’t sure where exactly I was when I sketched them, Porto is a little bit like that.
Porto Hydrant
This little red one was at Rua Chã, near the Cathedral and not far from my hotel. Now I must tell you that the little scribble in front of the hydrant, that was dog poo. No, I’m not saying there was a lot of dog poo in Porto because there wasn’t, it’s not like Charleroi in the 90s. What I’m saying is that if you have dog poo in your sketch make sure you keep it in the drawing. This is a pretty standard hydrant for Porto, though the big bulky silver ones were common as well.

Porto Hydrant
This model was very exciting, not only to me but to everyone else who was excited to see unusual fire hydrants on my behalf. I opted to draw a really rusty version, which was across the street from the Sao Bento station. Rusty hydrants are beautiful, and give off that used-universe vibe. They would look great in Mos Eisley.

Porto Hydrant
Now this little oxidized beauty was on a very steep street next to the Igreja Dos Grilos (and the Museu de Arte Sacra e Arqueologia according to the sign I read), but I didn’t go further down that mazy street as I was getting a little lost, so climbed back up. It’s similar to the first one but not painted red.

Porto Hydrant
On my second evening in Porto I got a bit lost (to say the least) trying to find my hotel, which as it turns out was at the top of a very steep hill with a few different routes to get up there, none of them particularly great. I stopped for a rest at one point when I saw this little hydrant in an alley in Ribeira, looking like it had been blindfolded and abandoned. It reminded me a bit of a young Scott Summers. There was wine bar just opposite. It took me 45 minutes to walk back to the hotel in the end (well I will stop to sketch hydrants). Perhaps I should have called a cab, but I’m an explorer after all and I need to sue my own two feet (my two very tired feet, those Porto hills are a nightmare).

Porto Hydrant
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Ooh now this was an exciting find. I was over in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is on the other side of the Douro river. Technically not really Porto any more but it totally is. I crossed the enormous Ponte Luiz II bridge via the road at the top, and after sketching the view of the river I tried to find my way down. That wasn’t easy. I’m sure there is an easier way down than the long steep quiet path that I took, but I found this hydrant painted in bright pink which I just had to sketch.

Porto Hydrant
Now this model is one that usually have a big plastic lid on it. I sketched ones like this in Lisbon, years ago. They do look a bit like overturned wine bottles. This one had no lid however, and I was drawn to it because someone had stenciled a picture of a fox onto it. I had seen this fox all over Porto, on the side of buildings and fences, sprayed onto the cobblestones on the ground, and now here on a hydrant. I did not figure out the fox’s significance (because I never actually asked anyone, surprise surprise). The Portuguese word for ‘fox’ is ‘raposa’. I don’t know what the word for ‘do some deeper research’ is though. This one was found next to the Palacio da Bolsa, on Rua Ferreira Borges.

Porto Hydrant
This is another one from Vila Nova de Gaia which I sketched on the way down the mountain, same model as the pink one you may remember from a couple of paragraphs back. I never saw this model on the other side of the river, which doesn’t mean they don’t have it, just that I never saw it.

Porto Hydrant
This bright blue version of the second one is found on Rua das Flores, in Ribeira. OR it was Rua Mouzinho da Silva. I can’t remember. Maybe it was neither. It was very blue though.

Porto Hydrant
Now THIS one was on Rua Mouzinho da Silva. That is a main street that goes from Sao Bento downhill into the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique. Henry the Navigator, as he was known. I should have had a similar nickname, for the amount of times I got lost in Porto. This one I am calling ‘J’Existe’ because of the sticker on the top. This as you can see is one of those ones that is covered up with a nice Kinder-Egg style lid.

And there you have it, my Porto hydrant sketchers. I’ll post the Lisbon ones separately. But finally, I didn’t draw this one but it made me laugh anyway, because of the owl sticker, and because it looks a bit strange. IMG_8616

PS I originally titled this post ‘Porto Hydrants’ but changed it to ‘Porto Pumps’ to match my blog theme of ‘Porto + P-Word’. Editorial consistency!

porto!

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This is a view of Porto, the second city of Portugal, from where I have just returned after taking part in the 9th Urban Sketching Symposium. I was away for three weeks, visiting family in London, spending a few days in Madrid, sketching the hell out of Porto, before flying back to America from Lisbon. While not as epic or multi-countried as my 1998 trans-European train trip, which I should really do a blog post about, I slept in nicer places, there were no night trains and I filled a whole sketchbook. It will take me a while to scan them all, finish off unfinished sketches, organize my notes and thoughts, and I am still dealing with jet-lag and a truly enormous inbox, as well as the readjustment from being a sketch-constantly-everywhere person to a, well, ok I do sketch a lot anyway, but lots of other things too. Porto was amazing, a really sketchable city, with epic vistas and accompanying steep streets and pathways. My legs were hurting a lot. They are very strong now. Portugal left its mark on me but I am really bad at Portuguese. I did a lot of sketching, both in pen (architecture) and in pencil (people). You can check out the sketches of everyone else on all the various social media platforms by searching for #USkPorto2018, Urban Sketching Symposium, #USkSymposium, and if you want to see what I posted photos of you can check out my Instagram page (yeah I have one of those, though I still feel like I’m not getting it right) at https://www.instagram.com/pwscully/. I’m looking forward to sharing my sketches here, and my stories and thoughts too, and will do my best to make it concise and not nonsensical at all, but as Han Solo once said, “Hey, it’s me!” He also said “Don’t Get Cocky.” He also said “No match for a good blaster at your side kid,” which I will adapt by replacing the word ‘blaster’ with ‘sketchbook’. Oh, I also drew a LOT of fire hydrants…