It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.
This is another view of the University of Beer in Davis, California. I was there at the end of August, as I needed to go downtown to spend some time in the Avid Reader bookshop. I haven’t been in there in a while, and was in the mood where I just wanted to look through all the literature on the shelves. I bought a copy of ‘War of the Worlds‘; I’ve never read ‘War of the Worlds’, and when I opened the book the first word I saw was ‘Edgware’ so it was a sign I needed to read it. I actually worked in the Avid Reader years ago, when I first came to Davis. I still love the smell of the books. I thought about sketching in there, I haven’t done that in a very long time, but it was getting late so I went and sketched this bar a block away. I had wanted to add more colour, but was taking so long drawing. I had a couple of very nice beers there though. This was a test of perspective, with vanishing points at 45 degrees, and some curvilinear lines. Wonky in places (nothing to do with the tasty beverage, more to do with the tedium of drawing long lines. There seemed to be a fair bit of 1990s music being played. Including that utterly tedious Two Princes song that was on the radio constantly in 1993. This bar is pretty typical of Davis – busy at some points, almost empty at others, then a bit busy again, then very few again, so I drew whoever was standing or sitting when I looked in that particular part of the space; I suppose I drew the average number of players. University of Beer; see also the ‘College of Cider’, the ‘School of Shandy’, the ‘Polytechnic of Porter’, the ‘Institute of Inebriation’, the ‘Academy of Ale’, etc and so on.
London, early July. It was so sweaty. Air-conditioning is a thing that happens to other people. This was, I was often told, a heatwave to rival the one that happened in the year I was born. That summer was legendary, a long mid-70s sun-fest. I was too young to complain about it then but I’m sure I gave it a good old go non-verbally. I’m not a hot weather animal, which makes it all the more surprising that I now live in the California Central Valley, which has Really Hot Summers. “Dry Heat”. Not so much in humid London. While the temperature is lower than back in Davis, London summers can be unbearable. Specifically, London summers when you have to use the tube, especially when it’s packed, which is often. We went down into central London to go to the British Museum. I figured, it will be nice and cool in there, among all the marble. What we got was a ridiculously sweaty British Museum with no air-conditioning, with a large greenhouse in the middle. I tried to do some sketching in the Greek rooms but was sweating too much. Eventually we left, got back on the sticky tube, and went over to Old Street to find a very special store. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Above, I managed to sketch this scene of Shoreditch High Street. It was hot and sticky but it was mostly overcast, so at least there was no baking sunlight. In the background, new buildings going up in the City. London is changing, always changing.
This is nearby, the Bricklayers Arms. I’d wanted to sketch an old pub, old pubs are becoming a little rarer each time I return (at least the ones that remain get a little older each time I come back too, if you think about it). I’d never been here before. I never really went out around Old Street and Shoreditch before, except a couple of times years ago. I wasn’t really Cool enough for this part of town. That was my excuse. I really liked sketching this – colourful flags, and lots of bricks. After I was finished with the sketch I popped in for a pint before heading home.
But before I did this…further down the street was (during July only) the pop-up store of Classic Football Shirts. This was on the back of an exhibition of old football shirts called ‘Fabric of Football’ which had taken place in London this year.Now if you know me you know that I am obsessed with two things: fire hydrants, and football shirts. Ok I’m obsessed with old languages, travel, Formula One, noodles on toast, Marvel comics, Star Wars, Tottenham, and obviously drawing, but if you’ve ever followed my Twitter feed during football tournaments or any other time you’ll know I’m in love with those colourful uniforms. I pretend I know all about things like tactics and player fitness, but I’m usually just saying words I’ve read in a Jonathan Wilson book to sound clever. With football shirts though I feel like I do at least Know My Stuff. So it was a pleasure beyond pleasure to come here and browse through the old shirts, mostly the ones from the 1990s, such as that great Nigerian shirt from the 1994 World Cup (never mind the 2018 one, the home and away from 94 were the real classics). I was also pleased to find they had the very shirt I was wearing (1993-95 Spurs home shirt) on display outside the store. I got a few compliments at various times on this trip for this shirt, by the way. The 1990s kits have made a comeback in a big way (still amazed all my 90s shirts still fit, actually…). Anyway this place was a highlight of the trip! Check out their website at: https://www.classicfootballshirts.co.uk/. I didn’t buy myself anything (all the things I wanted were a little bit expensive) but I did get my son an AS Roma shirt from 2016.
After I got back from Portugal, I had a hectic week (few weeks really) trying to settle back in. Busy work, busy life, jet lag, waking up at 3am every day, and the insatiable urge to just KEEP ON SKETCHING. It’s hard to explain the urge to draw stuff all the time. It’s probably less hard to explain coming back from a place like Porto where everything is a sketch waiting to happen, to Davis, which as we have seen over the past decade or so is worthy of a few sketches itself, but Porto it ain’t. You can only beat the team you’re playing, as they say, and since coming back I have ramped up my sketching of Davis once more after a relatively uninspired and fallow period. I’ve sketched almost everything I’ve wanted to sketch, so it comes down to sketching some of the old favourites just to keep the pen working, so one evening I popped once more to my local pub De Vere’s, always a nice place to hang out, and flexed the old ink muscles. This sort of drawing is about observing lots of detail, tackling interior perspective, and having a nice cold beer while you’re at it (the weather was so hot this summer). What’s more, I drew the pub from the outside a few days before: see below.
Now, I have a few more London sketches (and accompanying stories) to post, and then a bunch of new Davis panoramas I’ve been doing, but in the meantime I think I’m going to go out on this fine Saturday and do some more. I also need to get on setting the dates for the next few Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawls so stay tuned for those. My recent sketching travels has filled me with a new sketching-energy I want to share.
Ok so for the first post of 2018 (or the 2nd, I suppose, since the last post ended up coming shortly after midnight) I am going back in time six months to some sketches I did not post back then. Back home, back to my native city of London. It’s funny, I’ve been away from London for a quarter of my life now. It will always be my city, but as each year goes by I feel further and further away. Yet no city ever continuously gives me more to discover. Almost two decades ago I was a tour guide, on an open-top bus with a microphone and a rainjacket, and in my spare time I would read history books, or explore streets on foot, looking for the stuff that has always been there but I have overlooked, walked past, ignored. When I was a teenager I would on weekends take the tube down to a different part of town, literally just to look around, as if marking my territory. I wasn’t just looking for old historic sites, but newsagents, shortcut alleyways, I wanted to see how the city connected together. London changes daily, a story that keeps being written. So on my last trip back, I took a day sketching down a stretch of the City that I’ve overlooked for too long. At the top, Smithfield Market. I’ve wanted to sketch this building for so many years and, well it’s just a little out of the way from my usual routes. It always requires a special journey, despite its centrality. It is essential London, yet, like Farringdon, feels like ‘not my London’, I feel like a stranger. And it’s quiet around here, there’s not a lot of foot traffic on a Saturday. This part of London has always creeped me out a little; it feels haunted. I would come down this way on weekends when I was younger and end up escaping back to the inhabited world of Oxford Street or Charing Cross because it was just so dead; now, this appeals to me more. Smithfield has a history alright. Located just outside the historic wall (the name comes from Old English smēðe feld, meaning smooth or level field) and was a place of many historic public gatherings, most notably the one at the end of the Peasant’s Revolt when Wat Tyler was killed by the Mayor, and in fact Smithfield has seen many famous executions, such as William Wallace. There were also great medieval tournaments here, but it is most well known these days for its market, which also dates back to the middle ages. The large covered Smithfield Market, primarily a meat market, was built in the 1860s by Sir Horace Jones. A couple of years ago a friend of my family, whose dad worked for years at Smithfield, told me I had to sketch it, and soon, so I promised one day I would. Now, redevelopment seems to be moving forward and it’s been announced that the Museum of London will move in to part of the market building. This section, looking up West Smithfield, is currently abandoned. Still feels haunted on a Saturday afternoon.
Holborn Viaduct is about as haunted as it comes. Look at it, it says ghostly London all over it. Even those dark statues look like cowled spectres from down here in the street. That red Victorian ironwork. Those dark arches. The lamps. Newgate prison was once in this area, leaving Holborn full of ghost stories, but this part of the city doesn’t need the stories. Poking through the modern towerblocks, crossing the busy tarmac carriageway, the whole place itself feels like a ghost. We don’t make places like this any more.
Finally, the Black Friar pub. Even the name feels creepy. That robed friar above the door. Yet this was the place that surprised me the most. I remember this area near Blackfriars Bridge as being constantly under construction, an easy place to get lost. And suddenly, this area feels open and brand new. The modern Blackfriars station just blew me away, and stepping out of it and looking across to this old tavern I had always known but never steeped into, and looking across the river toward the Shard and the modern changing metropolis, this was yet another London surprise. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner. The way the Black Friar is wedged into this junction was a delight to sketch, a nice test of perspective skills. It was pretty early still (I am listing these sketches backwards) but the pub was open so I popped in for a cup of tea. The interior is remarkable. The pub itself was built in 1875 on the site of the Dominican priory of Blackfriars, and is filled with carved wooden panels cheekily showing off priory life, in a comical fashion. One day I will sketch the interior, but on this day I just sketched one of the stained glass windows, of a friar standing next to a gate.
I do miss London! I want to explore this part of town, with all its ghosts and histories, in my 2018 sketchbook. I’ll need to wait until summer…
This is Three Mile Brewing in Davis. Everywhere is a brewery these days. This place is fairly new, and brews right here, in the courtyard of Cedar Court behind 3rd and G Streets. I came here one other time and had a ‘Frankenweizen’ which I quite liked. This time I had an Irish stout which was less my thing, followed by a Kolsch, which was nicer. I enjoyed drawing here, having come here one evening after working late (March and April this year had a lot of those long work days!). They have a lot of t-shirts and merchandise which of course all the breweries do these days. The name ‘Three Mile Brewing’ actually comes from an old Davis law, though, that was established in the early 20th century after much lobbying by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that alcohol could not be sold within three miles of campus. This ban went until 1979 you know. Even since I’ve lived in Davis the number of bars has grown by a lot. I should know, I have drawn them all. I enjoyed sketching at the table here, listening to people talk the evening away, and there was a dog that was very contentedly sit next to his family a table away from me. Some of the bars in Davis are quite dog-friendly, with the University of Beer for example having “Puppy Hour” on weekends, most of the day rather than just an hour, where you can get a buck off your beer if you bring your dog. Woof! I don’t have a dog so I pay full price. What if I brought someone dressed up as a dog? What about werewolves? Where do I go from here after talking about werewolves? Let’s get back to the sketch. It took two beers (the aforementioned Stout and Kolsch) to draw including all the colour, and it was another practice test in perspective observation. Knackered, I finished up and went home to my bed, to get up early again next day.
I’ve sketched this bar before, but only from the outside. I always wanted to sketch inside, for it was an old North Beach drinker, with a distinctive v-shaped bar and authentic character. It’s called Mr. Bing’s, on Columbus in San Francisco, perched on a downward slope (or maybe it is upward, depending on where you are coming from). However, the bar has now changed; the outside has had a paint job, a large Irish tricolor flies above the window, and inside the v-shaped bar has gone and the fixtures and fittings very much along the lines of “Irish pub”. It’s different, for sure, but the bar staff were friendly and welcoming. My evening in North Beach had moved along slowly. I ate later than expected, walking all the way down to Burgermeister, where I waited a very long time for a chicken sandwich, reading Paul Madonna’s new book as I did. I wanted to sketch another old North Beach bar, preferably one I had not sketched before (I’ve drawn quite a few), and I walked up (or down, it’s hard to recall now) Grant Street. This place? Nah, too busy. That place? Nah, too dead. Those places? Nah, too modern. This one? Sketched it before, could sketch it again maybe, my style is different now…nah, they charge a cover, weird. So I stopped into a pub which seemed a mixture of everything, an apparently Irish pub called something like McMaggy McMollys or something, they tend to be called something like that, the not-very-Irish style pubs. The wooden fixtures behind the bar were very clean and new looking, the music a bit loud and irritating, the atmosphere a little “whatever”, and I just didn’t want to sketch it, so I ahd my pint and left. I prefer the pubs further down, Vesuvio’s, or Specs, and chose to go and finally sketch Mr. Bing’s. So you can imagine I was a little crestfallen at first to see that the old bar was changed, and the Irish theme had moved in here too. But it felt totally different to the previous pub; the barman said “hello” as I walked in, “why’ncha come in for a drink!”, the music was, well it was awesome actually, all the sort of stuff I like, bit of mod, bit of soul, bit of 90s indie, and while it wasn’t busy, the crowd was relaxed and friendly, I had a few cheerful conversations while I sketched. The light really was that red though – I added a ‘light’ red wash before sketching, but under the reddish light it was hard to tell. Yeah, Mr. Bing’s has changed, but it’s still a good little bar, and I tried to catch some of the character in my scribbles. I was sat on a stool holding my book, the beer was good, and it was a short walk back to the hotel.
I thought you might like to see some of the other North Beach bar sketches from over the years (not including La Rocca’s from two posts ago). If so, here they are…