nice propellers, fellas

RAF Hendon Kitty Hawk
The day after arriving in London I joined with the London Urban Sketchers for their latest sketchcrawl, which was at the RAF Museum Hendon (in Colindale), which is very close to my family’s home in Burnt Oak. Despite growing up nearby, I had never actually been inside, not once. It was a lot larger than I expected. There was a very good turnout for the sketchcrawl, and I met a few familiar faces. I actually organized USk London’s first sketchcrawl back in 2012 when that chapter was founded, calling it “Let’s Draw London” after the Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl series I had started, and they have been going ever since, still monthly, in a whole variety of very interesting and diverse locations. There are so many sketchers in London who go out rain or shine. Of course this sketchcrawl was mostly indoors, and I was joined this time by my young sketching apprentice, my 9-year-old nephew Sonny. I had expected him to get bored at some point, as it was a long day of sketching, but not a bit of it – he could have kept drawing for many hours longer than the rest of us. He loved it, and he kept himself very busy, sketching eight planes and chatting away to the other urban sketchers. And he was very proud to get his Urban Sketchers London badge!
RAF Hendon Sonny sketching

The first plane we both sketched was the Curtiss KITTY HAWK III, at the top of this post. With its painted mouth, this was an obvious favourite. We then moved on to draw a couple of others, the small red CHIPMUNK plane which is post-WWII, and had cool black and white striped propellers, which must have created a great effect while spinning. The sketchcrawl co-organizer John told me that he actually used to fly one of these, which was pretty impressive to me (I’m always impressed by pilots). Next to it was the golden yellow HARVARD, which I think was actually American but I didn’t read the label. Always read the label Pete, seriously! Someone did say to me, “well that’s the Harvard, which of course is American, because ‘Harvard’, see” and I kept thinking, well the university is American but John Harvard was from England, he went to school in Southwark, but I didn’t mention that because 17th century emigrants didn’t really have a lot to do with 20th century aviation and I’d sound like a twat. Also, I kept thinking about trying to use the word ‘mans-planing’ at some point that day, the situation where a man explains to a woman what aeroplanes do, but I didn’t have the imagination to seek that scenario out. Also, I have just realized that chipmunks have stripey backs, which totally planesplains the stripey propeller. See, who needs to read the labels?
RAF Hendon Chipmunk and Harvard
I liked working on the perspective sketching these, vehicles up close is good practice. Below is the TORNADO, which is one of my absolute favourite planes. When I was in primary school (not far from here, at Goldbeaters), pupils were divided into four houses, which were if memory serves ‘Phantoms’ (green), ‘Jaguars’ (blue), Harriers (red, I think?) and ‘Tornadoes’ (yellow). I was in the Tornadoes. We would get House Points for all sorts of things, sometimes for sporting achievements (we would be split into our houses on sports day), but also good behaviour, good academic work, and other such things. If I recall I got us a few House Points for drawing, but not as many for sporting prowess (I was good at chess though). Anyway, that’s why I like Tornadoes.
RAF Hendon Tornado
Quick five-minute sketch of the enormous Lancaster bomber, which I will definitely attempt again some time, it is an enormous flying fortress. It brought to mind the great flying battleships of Castle In The Sky, one of my favourite Miyazaki films. Also, the first part I drew was the round bit at the front, the one with the strange screaming emoji face on it.
RAF Hendon Lancaster
When I was a kid my older sister dated a guy named Neil Frogget for a while, and he worked at British Aerospace, as an engineer I think, he may have made the tea for all I know (I’m not very inquisitive, I never ask questions about what people do, I would have been a terrible journalist). When he came to visit once he brought me all these posters of modern British fighter planes, which I hung on my wall and tried to design new, faster, more weapon-filled versions. I was a little bit into jet fighter planes (yet ironically as a kid I was scared of flying, until I was 10 when I finally took a plane to Spain, and have been flying all over the world ever since). I loved those toy flying plane made out of cheap easily-breakable polystyrene with the little plastic propeller on the front, and they came in all models, the most sought after of course being the Spitfire. Yet I still didn’t visit RAF Hendon. The World War II flying machines were very much part of our local lore – RAF Hendon is at the site of the great Hendon Aerodrome, which spanned the area now covered by (the notorious) Grahame Park Estate, itself named after flying legend Claude Grahame-White. He had established a flying school here in 1911. Of course when we think of the RAF, you can’t help but think of its most famous hour, the Battle of Britain, and when you think of the Battle of Britain you of course think of the Hawker Hurricane, and the forever popular Spitfire. So my last two sketches are of those. By this point I started a new sketchbook, closing the Seawhite and starting another Stillman & Birn (“Sketchbook 32” in the new categorization).
RAF Hendon Hawker Hurricane
RAF Hendon Spitfire

And here are some of the sketches my nephew Sonny did. He was really good at reading the labels and getting all the names right. He also wrote down the names of the sketchers he met so he could remember them when talking to them at the end (smart lad). Newest urban sketcher!img_0870edited.jpg

A fun time was had by all. I can’t wait to get back there sketching the planes again. I won’t have time this summer to organize another ‘themed’ London sketchcrawl, so it was really enjoyable to take part in this one.
The next posts of my sketches will be mostly London-themed. I did manage to get quite a lot of drawing done while I was back there, some of which needs finishing off with a bit of colour, some I need to draw little maps for, but I will be posting Davis sketches in the meantime. The trip was tiring, but energizing, and I’m expecting to keep the sketch-momentum going. First though, I have to get over the jet-lag…

Also posted on Urban Sketchers London

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in between the storms

amtrak sketch feb2019

This is a bit different. I drew this from the window of the Amtrak and didn’t use pen, just paint and a bit of pencil, speeding away from Davis across the delta to Richmond. I haven’t got my scanner so I took a photo, hence the ‘no-scanner’ look to this. We had huge storms in California, really heavy downpours and strong winds, causing flooding in a lot of areas. The lands around the Delta were pretty bepuddled, and the dramatic skies in between the two rounds of the storm were something to paint. It was a stress-reliever to to this, it always is.

sketching the same scene twelve years apart

silo feb 2019
Today is my fourteenth birthday. Sorry, I mean today is the fourteenth birthday I am having since I moved to America. Fourteen birthdays in California. I counted them, and it’s fourteen of them in total. In terms of my life it’s a bit like, was there really football before the Premier League? And of course there was, but we only quote records since the Premier League started these days. It was a good reboot point, a good place for newcomers to jump on board the story without knowing years of character history, like a new issue #1 in Marvel Comics terms (they do that a lot). And I have just realized, the top flight of English football has been called the Premier League for nearly two thirds my life now. You start measuring your life in halves and thirds and quarters, and wow those quarters become thirds pretty quickly. Fourteen birthdays in America is a third of all the birthdays I’ve ever had. I don’t like doing anything for my birthday any more, it’s just one more day of aging, same as yesterday and tomorrow, but with cake. I do get anxious leading up to it though, thinking about all the years, all the different phases of existence, who I was, who I will be, all that stuff. Some people look through photo albums at their old selves, but of course I look through the old sketchbooks. I have an album on my computer (also a Flickr album) of all my Davis sketches and it takes me through a journey of staying in one place. Interesting to see how my drawing has developed, gone one way, back another, but not quick obvious changes. A sketch is a series of decisions based on decisions I’ve made before. Above, yesterday’s lunchtime sketch. It’s the view of the Silo from Rock Hall, UC Davis. Below, the same view from the same spot on the same date February 6, but twelve years earlier (and Rock Hall was the Chemistry lecture hall back then). Above, sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, below sketched in a WH Smith sketchbook. Some things have changed. That grass is gone. The general view is not all that different though, unlike some of the recent sketches I’ve posted with more dramatic changes. Will I sketch this again on February 6th 2031?
silo um mittag

california hall

california hall uc davis
The new lecture hall on California Avenue at UC Davis is now finished, except for a few bits outside. Classes are now being held there (hooray!). So, time for me to sketch it, since I have sketched this spot for the past few years.
california hall uc davis

Below, sketches from the past few years, to show the changes from a nice green spot to a brand new building…

asmundsen hall, uc davislecture hall ucd march 2016
Lecture Hall UC Davis
lecture hall UCDlecture hall construction UC Davis
california hall feb2018 sm

you say jump i say how high

Jump Bike at Playfields
These red bikes are everywhere right now. “Jump” Bikes they are called. I don’t know much about them except they are apparently rentable and work with some sort of app. Oh and you don’t have to bother parking them in proper bike racks, you can just leave them wherever you want, like on the sidewalk or by the doors of any building, like you’ve not noticed the bike racks that are like right there. Certainly seems that way. Do they go faster than a normal bike? Seems like it. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never ridden a Jump bike, for all I know they are smooth as martinis (I wouldn’t know that either, I’ve never drunk a Martini, for all I know they are smooth as Dr. Pepper) (I’ve never drunk Dr Pepper either, I could go on all day with other things I’ve never done, it’s a long list). I don’t think these Jump bikes actually jump either, I would have assumed they bounce down the street like Tigger, but they don’t. They aren’t particularly pretty, being bright red with those rigid shapes and fixed on basket (why can’t it bounce around uncontrollably like my wire frame one, coming off its hinges every time I go over a bump?). Haha, here’s me talking about these Jump bikes, I’ve never ridden them, I can’t even really draw them (seriously why do I even bother drawing wheels, I can’t draw circles while standing holding a sketchbook) and I know nothing at all about how they work. This is how people do it now though isn’t it, just say ill-informed stuff online when it would take 10 seconds to find that information out, if only we had instant access to like the entire world’s information in our pockets on little electronic devices or something, that would be a great idea. (Like British Tory MPs who tweet incorrect information about the Marshall Plan which is so easy to call out, almost like he knew that already and was trying to get attention for himself) (errrr…no, I’m not doing that. /Shudder!/) Alright fine, let’s look up these Jump bikes. /Googles Jump Bikes/ Ok, so they are, wait let me get this right, ride-shares? Owned by Uber apparently. They were introduced to Davis and UC Davis in May 2018. Here’s an article about them which explains them more.  Unlike those bikes they have in London they are dockless which means you just leave them anywhere (apparently you get fined $25 for not locking them up in a proper rack). They do have an electric assist which is probably what the ‘Jump’ means. I don’t fully understand the fee structure but $1 for the first 15 minutes then 7c a minute after that seems to be the thing. So, you leave the bike. Ok, does that mean if someone else wants it they just take it?  Do you have to look for another one? That’s great, when you wanted to ride home and oh man, they are all gone – better call an Uber…oh I understand now, they’re owned by Uber. Now you are probably reading this thinking, you dinosaur, I love these, my life is so much easier thanks to Jump bikes, get back to 1985 Marty McFly. To which I say, these don’t hover, they don’t even jump. I’m sure these work for a lot of people but I think I prefer just having my bike, I think I’d feel a bit stressed out by these modern contraptions with their fee structures. Of course when I get a flat tyre and these Jump bikes go whizzing by me, I’ll be like, noooo!!!!! Curse you Jump bikers!! Now I’ll have to walk!!

so long january

shields library uc davis
Another quick one from campus, this is the rear/side of Shields Library, a very big library full of academic books. January was very long this year wasn’t it, don’t you think? I know it has the same number of days as every other month with 31 days, and there are even a couple of holidays, but it just really dragged on. Like looking at your watch and seeing that it’s still 2:41. Nope, still 2:41. I’ll check again now, at least ten minutes have pa- still 2:41? What’s going on? January is like waiting for your food at the restaurant only to be told they lost your order. January is like those endless commercial breaks during any primetime American TV show. January is like those but actually it’s election season so the ads are all repetitive and political nonsense (actually no, January is nothing near as bad as that). January is like when you get stuck on a delayed Eurostar and they have to make announcements every ten minutes in English, French and Dutch. January is like a meeting where it feels rude to be the only one getting up to leave at the end but someone always has an extra question to bring up and they take a really long time bringing it up even though it has nothing to do with anyone else but them but you still have to sit there and pretend to listen out of politeness, and then you start piling up your notebook and pens and then they go into an all-new topic and nobody seems to want to wrap it up. January is like being stuck on the freeway in traffic for hours after time spent away from your home and all your stuff but your phone and iPod batteries are dead and the only thing on the radio is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I could go on but January would be like one of my blog posts where I just say whatever comes into my head, like this. January goes on forever. And then February is like, ok now it’s March.

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. There 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.