Last Friday, I really needed to go out and sketch away my frustrations with the day’s news by doing a complicated drawing of a bar, and having a few beers while I was at it. I’ve sketched all of Davis’s bars now I think (except ‘Our House’, I’ve never sketched there) and wasn’t sure which one I wanted to draw. I nearly went back to City Hall Tavern again, (they had kindly posted something about my sketches on their Instagram account the day before), but I hadn’t been to Sophia’s bar in quite a while (a year and a half at least) and I always like it in there, the people are nice, so that’s where I went. I go to the attached restaurant pretty regularly, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen. It’s my favourite food in Davis. I have sketched this bar a couple of times before, both while sat further back from the bar and focusing more on the colours and contrasts, but this time I wanted to tackle sketching those bottles. Sophia’s has Brother Thelonious on tap, which is probably my favourite beer in the US, though you can’t drink too much of it. The Giants were on the TV; the Giants are always on the TV when I bar-sketch. You can click on the image for a closer view. I drew this in the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook (the one I started in Santa Barbara) with the brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 pen, and it took me, I don’t know how long. Three beers I think. I had a couple more for luck. I kept the colour to a minimum but did add a block of blue highlighter for that fish-tank thing. Also blue for the bartender’s hair, you know I can’t resist sketching blue hair. And so, another bar sketch. See my others…
On the last night in Santa Barbara I went to look for a bar that I had heard about called Elsie’s. It looked like the sort of place I could sketch, and I wasn’t wrong – license plates all over the walls, a bike covered in lights above a pool table (alright I couldn’t sketch that, too difficult), good music, chilled out atmosphere, my sort of place. They even serve breakfast cereal, and Pop Tarts. Pop Tarts! And beer! It’s like I made this place up. All they need now is Ramen Noodles. I’m classy I know. Hey, earlier in the evening I ate pan-seared duck breast over a hibiscus flower reduction so don’t tell me I’m no foodie. I tried some interesting beer here too, something by Rincon Brewery, and “Beerito” by Oskar Blues (yes “Beerito”, as I say, I’m totally classy). This place was so much fun to sketch.
This is the James Joyce pub in Santa Barbara. After my 11 hour train journey, I had dinner at an Indian restaurant (unfortunately it was a little bit bland) and went to a pub on State Street called the James Joyce. As you may or may not know, I like pub sketching – you can practice both perspective and low-light sketching, while having a beer and chatting with locals. This seemed to be a popular pub, and on this night it was karaoke night. There were several regulars belting out their usual numbers, some with more agreeable voices than others, and so I added my own not-exactly-agreeable voice to the mix and sang a few songs. I won’t tell you which songs, but I assure you I did not replace the lyrics of any with Yellow Submarine. Well maybe one. I did convince one older fellow to sing the actual Yellow Submarine though. Nobody left the room while I was singing which was a bonus (that has happened before) (in Antwerp) (those Antwerpers didn’t feel bad about telling me they didn’t like my singing either) (but they did give me sandwiches afterwards) (this is a long tangent so perhaps I had better get back to the Santa Barbara story). I did sketch some of the singers, of course, and here they are. I have no idea what the song about the rooster was (something about a rooster who isn’t going to die, obviously an immortal rooster), it was very serious.
Once this fun evening was over I walked back to the hotel. It was a long walk, and on the way back I couldn’t help but sketch a fire hydrant. This one, for some reason, had a small shoe rested on top of it. I had noticed this earlier in the day and thought it odd. I was surprised to find it still there. A couple of days later the shoe was sitting a few feet away from the hydrant. I assume it was waiting for its twin to come back, waiting for years like Rey on Jakku.
Well, here is my latest hydrant sketch. More Santa Barbara sketches to follow. There are some pretty places there.
New York was cold. Very, very cold. Like “are you kidding me” cold. It was so cold that doing anything other than go inside somewhere warm was a ridiculous prospect. Not to say that I didn’t, and you will see an actual sketch I did outside in the next post. We also walked through Central Park which was beautiful, if somewhat frosty agony afterwards. The sort of cold where you go home and open the fridge to warm up. Fortunately New York has a proliferation of bars, and here are a couple more sketches of some. the one above was McSorley’s Old Ale house, another ‘oldest’ New York drinking establishment, established in 1854. Ah, ’54, what a year. That was the year old Fernando Wood became the mayor, a big player in the Tammany Hall political organization. New York had seen a big influx of Irish immigrants in the decade prior, escaping the Potato Famine. McSorley’s is old and feels it, but bustling and full of life for an old geezer. Sawdust is all over the floor, and the beer comes in pairs and is good – you can get two kinds, light or dark. Don’t fanny around. Despite being as cold as one of the moons of Jupiter outside, it was packed with people, a busy Valentine’s Day crowd. We stood at the bar until a table opened up, then warmed up with soup and a bit of sketching. Oh and lots of silly voices. Have you seen ‘The Trip’ with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon? Very much like that, doing the Michael Caine / James Bond voices, but greatly expanded in repertoire. Imagine Caine as Han Solo saying “Don’t Get Cocky!” and you get the idea. It was most enjoyable fun, though maybe less so if you were sat next to us. I sketched this far, and then we moved on.
This next bar, visited the evening before after a lovely Italian meal in Greenwich Village, was on Bleecker Street and was called “1849”. Ah, ’49, what a year. Back in California, the Gold Rush had exploded, and people packed up and dashed across the country to make a few quick bucks in the sunshine. Back in New York there was a cholera epidemic, and a huge riot in Astor Place between people who thought one famous actor was better than another famous actor. they hadn’t even heard of Michael Caine at that point, if they had history may have looked very different. This bar wasn’t around in 1849 of course, in fact it is just a themed bar-restaurant that takes its inspiration from the Old West. I don’t know if they had potatoes with sunglasses on in the Old West but I’m pretty sure that was what was sitting behind the bottles behind the bar (people probably said the same about me to be fair). Lots of red light. Not a hugely warm place if I’m honest, nowhere near the character McSorley’s has, but the beer was nice.
Thank you New York City, thank you. They named a bar after me! Pete’s Tavern, on East 18th Street. Ok fine, it’s not named after ‘me’, but without a doubt, you know this was the first bar I was going to hit in New York. Pete’s was established in 1984, sorry I mean 1864 (it is hard to read the writing backwards on the window) and is the oldest continually operating bar in New York City. I visited another oldest bar in New York City a couple of days later and I daresay there are more, but I loved it here. I actually came once before, in 2008, but I didn’t have time to sketch it then. This was my 40th birthday trip though and dammit I was sketching Pete’s. Now before i go on I must point out my favourite bar sketcher / pub artist in the world is Stephen Gardner, who has inspired me to sit in pubs with a sketchbook for several years now. He lives in New York and has done some amazing paintings and sketches of Pete’s Tavern over the years – check them out in this Facebook album. The. Master. Sadly he was out of town that weekend (as were a lot of people, long weekend and all) but I still sketched Pete’s while enjoying a few celebratory beers with my chums from London. Quite a few in fact, a fair few. A good old few. Fun times.
And we chatted with locals and other bar patrons. The bartender was celebrating his birthday too, though he is considerably younger than me (29 I think he said) and was a lovely bloke from Ireland. I sketched him quickly in pencil. I also sketched another nice fellow I was chatting with, a trumpeter in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra called Philip, he was in town from Oakland (he was telling me his grandparents lived in Woodland, nearby Davis!), and his other job is actually an inventor of toys and games, especially mazes and labyrinths! Which was pretty much my dream job as a kid. And as an adult.
Yeah, Pete’s was fun. We came back on the last day before I flew back for a farewell pint, and on that day the snow piled down outside the windows. I may need to come back and sketch here again.
“Sudwerk Choco-Taco” is an actual beer that I actually had. It’s quite dark, darker than I usually like, but it was really nice, I would have it again. I like trying the different craft beers that we have out here, and in fact I’ve started recording the ones I have tried by using that ‘Untappd’ app on my iPod. Admittedly there are times when it can be hard to remember, so I make a point of writing them down, or in this case, drawing a picture of it. And of course, why draw the glass when you can draw the rest of the bar as well? This is another bar sketch of De Vere’s (I do one from time to time, last time was January 2015). I’ve been very busy lately, and so one Saturday night I went and watched Deadpool. By the way, Deadpool is awesome. Don’t take your kids!!!! It will make you laugh. After watching Deadpool, I popped by the Avid Reader to buy Star Wars Top Trumps cards, and then into De Vere’s to read Deadpool comics and do some bar-sketching. The bar-sketching thing sometimes comes down to me needing to sit somewhere and draw a complicated but structured scene. I used a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (“say my name!” I hear this pen yelling to me, “say my whole name!”) and also a light grey Tombow marker to mix it up a bit. There’s also some Pigma Graphic pen in there for the thick lines. I had a couple of other beers, a Smithwicks red, which was very nice, and the Aggie Dry Hop lager by Sudwerk, which is alright.
I was also celebrating, from 5000 miles away, my older brother’s birthday; he turned 50 on that day. This is a year for milestone birthdays. Wish I could have been there celebrating with him – happy birthday Perks!
I have some more bar sketches yet to post, ones from New York City. In the meantime if you’d like to see some more, this Flickr set “Pubs, Cafes etc” has loads of mine, from pubs around the world.
Here is Stanford’s, a fantastic shop on Long Acre, Covent Garden (London) that ha slong been one of my favourite shops in, frankly, the entire world. It is primarily a map and travel book shop, founded by Edward Stanford in 1853, moving to its present spot in 1901. I used to come here when I was in my teens and just look at maps, maps of anywhere and everywhere. I wanted to travel the world, and literally everywhere was exotic. I would look at street maps of nondescript German towns, maps of the Colombian highlands, plan routes across Siberia, imagine barren rocky island hopping in the north Atlantic. Once I bought a map of Sydney, Australia, to put on my bedroom door at home and I would just learn the names of all the suburbs. I’ve still never been. Well, I ended up living across the world, and my love of maps has not really dimmed, I still get a kick out of flicking through a road atlas. Yeah, Stanford’s was one of my favourite shops, and it’s still great now, so I had to sketch it. It was a nice bright London morning after Christmas, and once I was done I met up with my friend Simon and we popped to a little old pub around the corner, the Lamb and Flag. I didn’t do a particularly detailed sketch, just capturing an interesting doorway, but its a small place and there were lots of people in and out. And I sketched Simon too! It’s fun being back in London from time to time.