Workshop, June 3: “Perspectives of San Francisco”

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Exciting Announcement! I’m going to be teaching a workshop in San Francisco on Saturday June 3rd called “Perspectives of San Francisco“. It is part of the Urban Sketchers “10×10” series of workshops, being held to commemorate ten years of Urban Sketchers. Yes, Urban Sketchers has been around for ten years. Well, the Flickr group, started in 2007 (I remember well, it was called “Urban Sketches” (no ‘r’), and I joined another group at the same time called “Rural Sketches” wonder what happened to them) (hey for all I know they are still around, I’m just in my Urban bubble obviously). So, let’s explain what this is all about. Cities around the world, from Seattle to Sydney, from Johannesburg to Jakarta, from Ramallah to Rome, will be holding ten workshops each over the course of the year. Workshops are limited and you have to pay for them, but will be taught by Urban Sketchers members on a variety of different subjects. Here you can find the in-progress list: http://www.urbansketchers.org/p/10-years-x-10-classes.html.

In San Francisco, the workshops kick off on March 11 (with a launch party at Arch Art & Drafting Supply on February 11)  and continue through June 10. The instructors teaching workshops are Srivani Narra Ward, Laurie Wigham, Nina Khashchina, Richard Sheppard, Uma Kelkar, Rhoda Draws, Oliver Hoeller, Suma CM, Susan Cornelis and myself. The full list of workshops can be found at: http://www.urbansketchers.org/2017/01/10-years-x-10-classes-in-san-francisco.html. In fact there is a pdf with more details including cost ($45 per workshop) to be found here.

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So, my own workshop will be called “Perspectives of San Francisco”, starting at 1:00pm in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. As you can probably tell, the focus of this workshop is ‘perspective’, but specifically perspective in a busy city built on hills with steep streets and steep history.  The level will be intermediate, but I will make the approach to perspective as digestible as possible. Spaces are limited to fifteen participants, and you’ll need to bring drawing materials and sketchbooks (preferably panoramic – big enough to fit long perspective sketches on!). North Beach is my favourite part of the city and a great place to practice urban perspective sketching so I do hope you can sign up!

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You can register by contacting Suhita Shirodkar, the lead instructor of the San Francisco Bay Area 10×10 program by emailing suhita@gmail.com. Or why not check the Urban Sketchers website for a workshop taking place in a city near you!

 

 

upstreet downstreet like paper caught in wind

Amtrak from Davis to Richmond

I haven’t posted much lately, though I have a lot of sketches to post. It’s not because I’ve been travelling (and I have), it’s not because I’ve been busy (though I have), it’s not because I’m rather lazy (yes I am), it’s not even because I’m so mentally exhausted from all the news in the world right now (yes we are). No the real reason is that I have a pile of stuff on top of my scanner that I couldn’t be bothered to move to scan anything. You know how it is, I’ll just put this magazine here, oh and these books, this jumper, oh and all my mail, and this Lego, a pencil case or two, the car, a turkey and all of my family, all piled up on top of the scanner, so moving it off of there and finding a space for it takes too long, so I’m behind on my scanning. This week I finally sat down and moved the actually-admittedly-quite-small pile off (not reorganized, just moved) and scanned the remaining sketches from the last sketchbook, Seawhite #5. First up, sketches from my Memorial Day trip to San Francisco. I didn’t go there with any real purpose other than a need to get out of Davis for the day. The family were out of town visiting other family, so I hopped onto a train down to the Bay, sketching in the Amtrak as I went (above). I probably don’t need to do any more of those train sketches but I still do it, and it looks nice.

SF Ferry Building

I stopped into the Ferry Building and sketched the view from a little winery/cafe place. I really like it inside the Ferry Building, plus it’s like a middle class theme park. Cheese-tasting, Sur-La-Table, Oysters, Soap, Wine, it has it all. I had no plan of action for sketching the City that day, I just needed to be somewhere with different streets, yet familiar streets, and see where they took me, but as it turns out I unexpectedly ended up following a similar path to the sketchcrawl I did back in November 2007, nine years previously, starting at the Ferry Building and ending up at Rogue in Washington Square. Spoiler alert for the end of this post.

SF Hydrant, Embarcadero

I drew a fire hydrant along the Embarcadero. These ones are interesting, they have this weird handle on the front, they look funny. This model has been on my sketch-wish-list for a long time. Hey I like fire hydrants, ok. A lot of joggers jogged by, as they do.

SF Broadway

I got a bite to eat at a food truck and sat on the side of the road eating it, like you do. It was curry, it wasn’t cheap. It is designed less as real authentic street food and more as a way for local techsters and moneyboffs to grab some real authentic street food and pay more than in a sit-down restaurant. The city ain’t cheap. I walked up Broadway, a steep bustling thoroughfare leading to Columbus, where the old raunchy nightspots and strip-clubs are found. I was more intrigued by the angle of the sloping streets (“I only read Playboy for the Articles”…”I only go to the Red Light District for the Angles of the Sloping Streets”) (side note, I’m reminded of when someone told me they “only read the Daily Mail for the TV Listings”, so I said “I only read Breitbart for the Cereal Ads,” but enough current affairs). North Beach has some epic hills. If you want to practice the way perspective interacts with steep hills this is a great place. Lisbon too. And anywhere with hills. When I was done with this, I walked around to Columbus and certainly not up those steps.

SF Records Shop North Beach

I did pop up Green Street, and saw to my pleasure that music store I sketched back in 2007, if you remember that far. Here it is on Flickr; I like my comment that I would draw it “Some other time, definitely”. Well I kept my promise to my 31-year-old self! It’s pretty much the only promise I kept to my 31-year-old self but there you are. I did go inside this time – it really is crammed with stuff! Loads of old tape-decks and video players, as well as a guitar shaped exactly like an axe. I didn’t colour the outside in this time; maybe some other time. Definitely.

SF Rogue

So just like in 2007, when I met up with sketchers at the end of the ‘crawl for a beer at Rogue Brewing, I did the same this time, except without the other sketchers, just by myself. I sketched the bar in purple, using a bit of blue and pink, and white gel pen. And then it was back to the BART, back on the Amtrak, and straight to the couch to watch TV. It’s always nice having a day in the city.

the scenery of san francisco

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Recently, for our anniversary, my wife and I took a couple of days down in the City. That is San Francisco to you. We stayed at the Fairmont Hotel, which is an old San Francisco spot of legend up on Nob Hill – it was here that Tony Bennett first complained to lost and found about losing a vital organ, through the medium of Croon. I’ve always wondered, is that song supposed to be a metaphor, or did he actually leave his actual heart lying around? And his other city based songs, is Chicago really just a tantrum-throwing two-year-old? I don’t know, Tony. I love San Francisco though, it’s honestly one of my favourite places in the world to be. I did leave a shirt there once, hanging in the closet in the Hyatt. Above, Crissy Field, out near the Presidio. We went to the Walt Disney Family Museum, very interesting.
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Our room had absolutely stunning views over the City. As the sun went down, before getting ready for dinner, I sketched a couple of the views – the peak of the TransAm Pyramid, golden in the sunset light, and Coit Tower, up on top of Telegraph Hill. I wish I were rich, I would just live in San Francisco for ever and ever and ever. It’s a city that is pricing people out though, so I don’t think drawing a few pictures and writing a few books is going to get me to San Francisco. When Tony Bennett sang that song, he was actually talking about having to farm out his own organs just to cover the rent. Ah, perhaps it’s for the best. One of the things I love about San Francisco is getting to visit it – it is so utterly different from Davis in every way, it’s always a nice change of scenery.
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I have sketched this big old church before, Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill. I did their Christmas Concert program a few years ago. Since we were staying so close I wanted to get a Sunday morning sketch of it in. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I drew in my new purple Leuchtturm sketchbook that I got in Manchester.
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After that, we went to ZineFest, and that was kinda fun. Actually probably enjoyed it more in previous years, I found fewer gems this time around, though I still spent on a few zines. I tended to buy some of the really random ones. We got the Muni back down to Union Square for a little bit of shopping; I bought some underpants at Uni-Qlo, I really like their underpants. I realize you don’t need to know that, but I’m just saying for those of you who also wear underpants (a good deal of you, I suspect), that Uni-Qlo do make really comfy ones. While my wife continued shopping, I sketched Tad’s Broiled Steaks outside, an old eatery on Powell Street. Always wanted to sketch this place, though I don’t of course eat steak. And there you are, San Francisco again. I want to go back!

the view from telegraph hill

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Here are the last couple from my day in San Francisco, and these are the bridges. Above, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge as sketched from Telegraph Hill. There are always a lot of tourists around the base of Coit Tower, and on this day the clear views of the Bay were incredible. Isn’t San Francisco beautiful? It’s amazing. I love drawing cities, and as cityscapes go this is iconic.
SF Bay from Telegraph Hill

I went around to the other side of Telegraph Hill to a quiet spot on Vallejo that I have also sketched before, about eight and a half years ago. The view has not hanged much (though if you could see beyond Treasure Island to the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge, it is now completely different – the old bridge has been almost entirely removed, with the new spacious modern bridge taking its place. This view however shows the classic San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge. This hill is so steep that it’s quite a climb to get up here. I couldn’t imagine living up here (what a view if you did!). Below, the first time I sketched this. I stood a few steps down, closer to the tree. I’m told there are green parrots in Telegraph Hill, flying free and wild. Telegraph Hill was known by the Spanish as Loma Alta, and later called Goat Hill by residents. It became known as Telegraph Hill due to the large semaphore tower erected in 1849 that would act as a signal to the city about which types of ships were entering the Golden Gate.
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the drinking spots of north beach

Mr Bings SF
Last year at around this time I Amtrakked it down to San Francisco to sketch North Beach, and as I mentioned in my last post that’s what I did again a couple of weeks ago. Now last year I spent some time sketching the bars and cafes of the area, so that’s exactly what I did again this time. Above is Mr. Bing’s, a little cocktail dive that I’ve always wanted to go and have a drink in but have never plucked up the courage. Well, I’m not here very often. I have always wanted to sketch it though, so it was the first thing I sketched that day, while eating an early-lunch panini at the cafe across the street. North Beach has those little green white and red bands on the lamp-posts to signify that this is the Italian neighbourhood, but just on that corner there you can catch a glimpse of a Chinese-themed lamp-post, as that is the border with Chinatown.
Caffe Trieste SF
This is Caffe Trieste, a little further uphill and around the corner from here. Caffe Trieste is an old San Francisco favourite, in business since the 1950s and popular with the artists, musicians SF tourguideand poets of the area. As a passing Big-Bus tour-guide (not on the bus with walking with a group) mentioned, this was a regular haunt for the famous Beat poets, such as Kerouac, Ginsberg, all the Beat poets. The tour guide (who I sketchd quickly, right) felt obliged to read some Beat poetry outside, I couldn’t understand what it was about though. It’s not just the Beat poets who sipped espresso here, apparently Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the screenplay of The Godfather here. I never went into the Caffe (I don’t drink coffee, nor write poetry) but I would love to sketch the interior some day, soak in the beat-lit atmos. Did you know, Caffe Trieste was probably the first Espresso house on the West Coast? Its founder, Giovanni Giotta (Papa Gianni) came from Istria (near the city of Trieste; I’ve been there, nice place) in the 50s bringing a little piece of home with him.

Specs, San Francisco

I was feeling pretty Beat myself after all this sketching (do you see what I did there? Did you see that? Read it again) so as the Sun was quickly dashing westwards I chose to do my next sketch from the comfort of a pub table. One of my favourite haunts in the City is just around the corner from here, Specs, an interesting North Beach bar with walls and ceilings full of memorabilia and stuff to look at. I do love this place. Last time I was here I sketched a panorama of the busy bar area and was one of several artists dotted around the pub, unconnected but just doing what we do. I sketched over a couple of pints, listening to conversation, people watching, dreaming of anything. That might have been a Beat poet in front of me, perhaps a young Beat poet, I wasn’t sure. A young lady shared a laugh with a silver-haired man at the bar (I sketched them too, below), while a group of British fellows unseen to the left enjoyed a weekend pint while reminiscing about San Francisco in decades gone by. Or they might have been talking about something else, rugby or something, but I hear what my ears choose to hear. I like Specs. Years ago I came here with my friend from England and played chess and got drunk and laughed and did impressions of Brick Top. I like Specs.

Specs drinkers

I have another post of sketches from that day – stay tuned. So, do you remember when I posted my North Beach sketches last year, over two posts? One of the posts (“Leave the Pen, Take the Cannoli“) got a ridiculous number of comments, 223, possibly my record. The second post (“A Bright Centre to the Universe“) got a very respectable 11 comments, which is pretty good, but clearly not quite as good as the first. I actually prefer the drawings in the second, but according to everyone else the first post is more than 20 times better, but that’s fine. Anyway on that note I will leave you with the chronologically-out-of-place first sketch of the day, which I did on the Amtrak at around 9 in the morning. The train from Davis was crossing the Delta, with the golden brown landscape dashing by in the chilly morning sunlight. It was even colder when I got back to Davis, cycling my bike home in the near-freezing dark. It’s a long day out, sketching in the City.

Amtrak from Davis to SF

the sentinel building

SF sentinel building
At the end of November, I went to San Francisco for the day, just to sketch. It had gotten really cold in Davis, whereas San Francisco was about the same temperature, and therefore really warm. I understand that logic. I wanted to get back to North Beach, one of my favourite sketching destinations in the world (Strasbourg I think is top). I came down here at the end of last year and sketched until my fingers were too cold, and although it isn’t cheap getting down here on the Amtrak, it’s worth it just to be somewhere so different from Davis. Now I will post the building above is called the Sentinel Building, and has a special place in my personal sketching history. I remember coming here in late 2006 and sketching this on a postcard sized piece of watercolour paper, using just light pencil and watercolour paint. I remember a man asking if he could watch, and in those days I was so shy about my sketching I said no, and turned instantly invisible. I was however really pleased with the outcome, and figured that all of my sketches would be like that (when I discovered micron pens I went in a completely different direction). Here is that sketch, from nine years earlier:
on the corner of kearny and columbusIt’s still one of my favourites, and brings back warm memories for me. California was still so new, so much to discover. For example, I later discovered I got the name of the street wrong. I do wonder sometimes why I am drawn back to the same old spots, but urban sketching is about having a conversation with your surroundings (even if too shy to have a conversation with the people). Anyway, after less than a year of going out and about with new pens and new sketchbooks, I took my first of many Watercolour Moleskines back down to North Beach, and sketched the Sentinel Building once more. I remember that I used a Copic 0.1 multiliner, and a grey version of the same pen for the buildings in the background.
the sentinel building
Back then I was really into scribbly frames as well. This was another sketch I really loved, and still do. For a long time this was actually my favourite of my sketches. It was like, I was trying to get my sketches to be a certain way, and this was it, but it was just the sort of atmosphere I couldn’t achieve in bright, hot, low-level Davis – it was city-specific.

Back to the present…so the sketch at the top was done while standing up the quite steep slope of Kearny Street. I noticed that there is a lot of graffiti on the dome now. Here are my in-progress shots. Well, the above are technically “in-progress” as well! I’ll show you the other sketches from that day in a different post, but for now, here’s the Sentinel Building.

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people fly by in the traffic’s boom

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Market Street, San Francisco. Click on the image to embiggen it.

A couple of weekends ago it was the Worldwide Sketchcrawl Day. While many of the world’s urban sketchers were busy in Singapore at the 6th Urban Sketching Symposium, I was in San Francisco, though I didn’t manage to meet the other SF sketchers this time. I arrived in the city a little late, my train (which was packed with Barcelona and Manchester United fans, evidently they were playing a friendly that day in Santa Clara) taking longer than usual. While the sketchcrawl was starting up at Duboce Park I wanted to have a look around Market Street first. This section of it is a little sketchy, but there’s stuff to sketch. A few months ago I came here to see Noel Gallagher play at the Warfield (an epic gig, like being sat inside a massive gramophone, and Noel was excellent), and I remembered that I want to sketch the Golden Gate Theatre at some point. So I stood on the corner and sketched a panorama, fully intending to add colour at some point (until I got struck down with “can’t-be-bothered-itis”). While I sketched, some Christian group across the street started bursting into songs of praise. Not because I was sketching, of course. After a while, a homeless man with a dog decided to stand not far away from me and take that as the appropriate opportunity to perform an inspection of the content of his underpants, which I daresay needed inspection by a licensed professional, but perhaps not so openly on the corner of Market Street. Again, I don’t think it was because I was sketching. Oh, the characters around here. When I was done with this sketch I had lunch at the food court of the Westfield shopping center, and took the Muni Metro up to Duboce Square. I didn’t meet a single other sketcher, but I did do a fair bit more sketching.

Duboce Square houses SFDuboce Square Park, SF

Duboce Park is quite nice. It has a very Local Neighbourhood feel about it, though this being San Francisco I’m sure you have to be doing pretty well to join the local neighbourhood these days. I’ve never really been here before, except for when travelling through on the Muni, or that time last March when I wandered about nearby with a couple of friends from England on the way from Castro to the Haight. The park is filled with dog walkers, families, young people laying on the grass reading books.  By the way, note that I deliberately said ‘reading books’, and not ‘looking at their electronic devices’. ‘Reading books’ probably makes you think “yes, reading books, as it should be, not on their iPad looking at Facetwit or Spacechat or whatever the youths are into these days, ignoring the amazing views.” You may well be thinking this while reading this on your iPad. Well I’ve said ‘reading books’ to give you the impression that they were all probably cultured individuals, but for all I can remember they were on their iPads, and for all I know they were reading e-books. They may have been reading Kafka or Kundera for all we know, but the world sees ‘electronic device’ and thinks ‘shopping for shoes’ or ‘reading clickbait on Facebook’.  Whereas they could be reading a tattered paper book, lying on the grass with their legs lazily crossed in the air,exploring a world of wonder and imagination, and that book might be ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or a footballer’s autobiography* or anything by Dan Brown. So the moral is ‘don’t judge an electronic device by its cover’, but feel free to judge a book-reader by the trash you can see them reading. So anyway, I was sketching the park, there was a kids birthday party going on nearby (with a pinata), in the dog park part of it dogs were running around and barking and texting, or whatever it is dogs do, and construction vehicles lined the street beside the Muni lines. I sketched the second one from the steps of the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts. I enjoyed sketching here.

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My final sketch of the day (not counting the one I abandoned due to getting tired) was another big panorama, this time in nearby Lower Haight Street. This is a very colourful neighbourhood, edgier, more ‘hipster’ than ‘hippy’, and there was some sort of small daytime dance party (or maybe it was a record store with DJs and cool people) a few steps away. I overheard two guys talking, there was talk of this party and that band, all many levels of cool above my coolscale (or below it, depending on your point of view). I was aching standing here, and the wind was picking up (sky was blue for periods, but a lot of clouds and fog rolled in and it got very chilly. A welcome change from the Davis heat I was escaping, but I needed to sit down and relax for a bit, so I walked down to the Toronado pub nearby and got a beer. Sitting down proved much harder, as it was pretty crowded. I had one beer and went home, the end of another busy sketching day in the city.