like a setting sun

SF outer sunset
The Sunset. It’s a long way from downtown. The glare of the sun sinking toward the sea basks everything in a yellowy pastel-themed wash, the salty air gnawing away at the corners, the pale shadows drooping lazily across wooden boards. They call this area the Sunset not because the Sun sets here, but because, well, no actually that is the only reason. The Sun goes up on one side, yeah, and then goes down over this side of town. I mean it makes total sense, if you think about it, this is the west side of San Francisco, the sun generally sets in the west, the ocean is there so it can only set near here, so this place is called the Sunset. Oh sure other places have a sun and that also sets but not like here, here it really means it, with its pastel salty gnawed shadows and its glare and stuff. It is miles away.

I took the N-Judah from the part of the city where the sun neither sets no rises but arrives exactly when it means to, counting the stops and watching my Lego watch for the time; I was coming here for an Event. This was no random trip out to the Sunset, which by the way, isn’t a huge destination. My wife lived out here years ago and hated it – she is a Californian used to the Sun, and while they call it the Sunset they should really call it the BloodyFogHidesTheSun, because it is generally agreed to be the foggiest part of an already foggy city. It’s quieter, more residential, and interesting in its out-of-the-way way. I came here, on the N-Judah as I said, which for the uninitiated is a streetcar line of the Muni Metro, to go to a small gallery for a Book Signing Event.

The Book was “On to the Next Dream”, the Signing author was Paul Madonna, the artist and writer famous for his All Over Coffee strip. A decade ago I first discovered his work in a bookshop in Berkeley while I was out on a sketchcrawl and loved his sepia-washed linework scenes from around San Francisco, sketching people free and largely vehicle free scenes of streets and buildings just as I was trying to do; for a little while I sketched monochromatically myself (before I realized how much I like colour). Nevertheless he was a big influence back then as I aspired to improve my own drawn lines. I actually met him a few months ago, with his wife, at the Manetti Shrem opening event (you remember that, surely), which was a surprise. This latest book of his is a smaller book than his previous ones and features a lot more of his writing, detailing in often absurd situations the reaction to his being evicted in an increasingly unaffordable and alienating version of San Francisco that is exactly the real one. It’s a touching book, with his ever-evocative illustration intertwining his equally illustrative text. I definitely recommend. Oh, and Paul signed it too. I mentioned we had met a few months before and he said, “oh yes, you’re the sketching guy,” which is a pretty accurate description. I got my book which I couldn’t wait to read, and looked at the art on display, ate some of those rolled up sandwiches and other fancy food. There were a lot of people there all lining up to get a signed copy, also looking at pictures and eating rolled up sandwiches, talking about San Francisco, some dressed pretty fancily, arriving in Ubers and Lyfts and other chauffeured vehicles, and if I were the sort of person to mingle and talk to people I would probably have met lots of very interesting people, but my sketching fingers were itchy and I decided to go across the street and draw The Last Straw, which was some sort of shop (my inquisitive mind wasn’t inquisitive enough to inquire what they sold). I saw it from the window, and looking at drawings of buildings makes me want to go and draw buildings. Like Father Dougal, who cannot resist pressing a big red button on a plane if people are talking about big red buttons on planes. So I drew The Last Straw, as more Ubers and Lyfts pulled up behind me and more well dressed city folk went to the gallery. It was nice, but I am shy so I sought out the N-Judah, said goodbye to the ocean, and headed away from the Sunset and into the Moonrise, I guess.

abbot kinney boulevard

abbot kinney tumbleweed and dandelion

And here are the last sketches from my trip to LA last month. These were done on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a very interesting stretch of street in Venice away from the main madness of the beach. This street was named after Abbot Kinney, the man who developed Venice, California, a neigbourhood of canals and amusements. There are still several lovely canals lined with expensive houses, and in fact many of the big streets in this neighbourhood were once canals themselves. Anyway, Abbot Kinney Boulevard has lots of eclectic stores and cafes, and I stopped outside ‘Tumbleweed and Dandelion’, who I believe sell beach-themed furnishings and stuff. I liked the picket fence and the yellow flowers. I was wearing my France football shirt, and while sketching a man from Senegal stopped and chatted with me for a while, even about the Senegal team of 2002 beating France in the World Cup, I was living in France at the time and knew several Senegalese so that brought back a fun memory. When I was done, I had enough time for one more sketch, so I drew the scene below. This is a pretty typical view on Abbot Kinney, and hip trendsters sidled by being all hip and trendy. Unfortunately I didn’t give myself a lot of time to look through many shops (such is the life decision of the urban sketcher! Sketch, or actually do stuff!), and soon I caught a bus back to Santa Monica for more sketching by the ocean, where I met fellow urban sketcher Shiho (see my previous post), before dashing to the bus for the airport. And I only just made my plane…

abbot kinney

Here is the map included in my sketchbook. Yes, there is an Electric Avenue.

abbot kinney map

there are many things that i would like to say to you but i don’t know how

G Street Davis. Click on image to see it all big and stuff.

G Street Davis. Click on image to see it all big and stuff.

Another panorama. I like drawing panoramas as you can guess. This is probably coincidental but I also like a pan of Ramen noodles. This is down on G Street, Davis, down between 1st and 2nd Streets. G Street as you can tell was named after the letter “G”, probably short for “G. Whizz” who was of course a real person. Gordon Bennett was a real person too, no he actually was, no look it up. Where am I going with this? I’m not sure, but this was done on a cool Sunday afternoon early in the New Year, back in the heady days when you could still make resolutions and pretend you would stick to them. On the right there is my barbers, Razor’s Edge, formerly located on 3rd Street but now found down here after the building on 3rd and G was demolished (as you of course will remember from previous chapters. It’s ok, there won’t be a test). There is also a shaved ice shop called Vampire Penguin. I’m glad they shave the ice before they serve it, one thing I cannot stand is hairy ice. Except on an Ice Wizard? It’s ironic that you get shaved ice right next door to Razor’s Edge. Vampire Penguin though, now that’s an interesting name. Reminds me of that cartoon, Count Duckula. He of course was a duck which despite being of the bird family and rather fond of water is actually quite different from a penguin, so it’s not really the same at all. On the left, some kind of beauty place called Y2K, which of course is a reference to the year Y2K (don’t laugh, it’s an important year in the robot calendar, almost as important as the year 5J2X, which of course is like the robots equivalent of 1066). Thanks for stopping by, by the way. If you have read this far through the nonsense I just want to say thank you for coming by, for visiting my blog and looking at my drawings and reading (skim-reading) my writing. If you like panoramic sketches followed by nonsense I can assure you that there is more of this to come. I have at least two more panoramas already done, waiting in the wings. It’s actually all the rambling verbiage that follows it that takes me the longest time to come up with. On my old blog, from a million years ago on “20six”, whenever I would post a picture I would do the same but make the writing really small, in a tiny font, sometimes even in a kind of middle grey. Thanks again by the way if you have gotten this far. And this far too, and this far. If you read the first line and thought, “blah blah skip a few” and are just rejoining the text now, you’ve not missed much, I can tell you that I stood for about an hour and a half drawing this (aka “until my fingers got cold”), and then coloured it in at home. Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, uni-ball signo and watercolour paints.

chip shop

the paint chip, davis
The Fall colours are here in Davis in their brief glory, brief because they take so long to arrive (stupid too-long summers) and then a little bit of Central Valley wind comes along and blows them all over the place…I really need to get out and paint some of these leaves while they are still up above me. Hey speaking of paints, this is the Paint Chip, a friendly art and framing store in downtown Davis, on the corner of the 3rd street block of F St (opposite the old City Hall). I had to sketch one lunchtime and I’ve never drawn this spot before. The sketchmapping of Davis continues. I’ve nearly sketched everywhere, nearly. I considered extending this panorama across F street to include the City Hall Tavern, because then I could have used the extremely hilarious pun-tastic title “Chip and Ale”. Unusually for me however, I decided not to keep on drawing a complicated panorama just so I could use a cheap joke. I have a history of going out of my way just so I can somehow have a not-even-that-funny line to use if the need ever arose. When I was 19 I actually went all the way to the Danish city of Århus, took a long train journey and everything, just so that if anyone ever asked me where Århus was, I could say “in the middle of Årstreet”. Hey I was 19 and it’s still funny all these years later, folks, I’m still getting mileage out of that one, sure I live in America and people don’t know Madness or Denmark or understand anything I say but it’s still funny, that long train journey with only twenty-five quid in my pocket was worth it in the long run. Anyway where was I? Oh yes, the Paint Chip, nice shop, you should go there some time.

in the state of denmark street

Denmark St panorama sm

This is Denmark Street, just off of Charing Cross Road in Central London. I sketched it over a period of two and a half hours one Wednesday afternoon, having taken the morning off from sketching (I was up in the loft searching for my old collection of Fighting Fantasy books), and added the rest of the colour later on. Denmark Street is famous within British musical history as our very own ‘Tin Pan Alley’, home of music publishers and recording studios, and later of music stores. There are lots of guitar shops, as well as other instruments of course, and is also home to the famous 12 Bar Club. The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, all are associated with this street in some way (the Pistols actually lived here for a bit). Not only music – the comic shop Forbidden Planet was founded at number 23, where that red awning is in the picture now. It’s around the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue now. This place is steeped with history and it’s a street I have always had a lot of love for, being a bit guitar-obsessed when I was younger (it took me years to actually pluck up the courage to enter one of those stores though, very intimidating to a shy teenager!). I actually bought my current acoustic guitar from Macari’s, though it was from their other branch, on Charing Cross Road, back in 1996.

Denmark St panorama sm L Denmark St panorama sm R

So when I heard that Denmark Street was under threat of demolition, all part of the Crossrail redevelopment that has completely destroyed the junction of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, I knew I had to sketch it while it still looked like this. Many of these buildings are ‘listed’, historic buildings of importance. Whether they will be knocked down or just somehow modernised is not clear, what it will mean for the historic character of Tin Pan Alley is also unclear, will the music stores be forced out in favour of latte shops and corporate office space is also not clear, but let’s face it. If Denmark Street loses its character it will be yet another blow to London.
Sketching Denmark St, London

Here’s my sketchbook. I used the watercolour (“art-plus”) Moleskine, with a uni-ball signo um-151 brown-black pen. Oh, and here is a map showing where Denmark Street is.

Denmark St map sm

And finally, I thought you might like this. As you may know, I like drawing fire hydrants, mainly because I find them exotic and foreign, for we don’t have them in the UK. Well, actually we do, but they are underground, with metal coverings on the pavement. Here is one I sketched on Denmark Street. So there you have it!

Fire Hydrant in London

oh so soho

Berwick St panorama sm

My first two-page street panorama in London! Click on the image to see it in closer detail. This is the intersection of Berwick Street and Broadwick Street, looking down towards Wardour Street in Soho, the heart of London. I have loved Soho since I was a teenager, all its narrow, slightly grimy streets, alleys and shortcuts. I love sketching down there, in this neighbourhood between the Big Streets. Do you know why it’s called Soho? I used to tell people it’s because it is “South of Hoxford Street”, and some people even believed it, but in fact the name comes from an old hunting cry (“So-ho!”, like “Tally-Ho!”). This area in fact used to be a hunting ground in years gone by (yes, yes in some ways it still is, ha ha, very funny). Now, the hunting ground would be bordered by posts which were painted blue, and that is why there are two pubs in Soho called the Blue Posts, one of which is in the middle of the panorama above. Here’s a close-up, below.

blue posts pub, soho

Ok, there’s some history for you. This is on the edge of the Berwick Street Market, which has its origins in the 18th century. Down the end of Broadwick Street on the corner of Wardour Street used to stand a famous old pub, the Intrepid Fox, which for more than 200 years was one of Soho’s best loved drinkers. I knew it as the rocker’s pub, the best in town (along with the more trad-pub but still rocker-heavy Ship across the road) and used to go there many years ago with friends before heading to the Hellfire Club, but alas it eventually closed down, and is now a gourmet burger restaurant. What a shame. The Ship’s still there, unchanged. I think I’ve only been into the Blue Posts once, but this is the second or third time I have drawn the building. I spent two and a half hours standing there on the corner opposite, sketchbook in hand (Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape). Occasionally tourists and passers-by would stop and look, or ask me for directions (“Excuse me,” one Italian guy asked, “where is Soho?” Right here, my friend, right here.)

Pete sketching SohoPete sketching Soho

Here I am sketching, in a photo taken by Random Passing Chinese Tourist. And below, the sketchbook-selfie (really? That’s what it’s called?) showing what I was able to do on site. Two and a half hours of penwork. I added all the watercolour when I got home.

Sketching Berwick St

Around the corner, the Soho staple art store Cowling and Wilcox now stands empty, closed after fifty years, though they are still open in other locations. A representative from Cass Arts around the corner was stood outside handing leaflets to people directing them there instead, but I told him I didn’t need one (I had just been to Cass). He didn’t take that for an answer and told me to take the leaflet. No thanks mate, I don’t need one. “Take it anyway,” he insisted. No, I don’t need one. “Take it and throw it away then,” he kept on. I don’t want a leaflet, mate, will you leave me alone. He wouldn’t. “You’d be doing me a favour by taking the leaflet.” He was quite pushy. No mate, please leave me alone. He glared for a while incredulous at the idea that I wouldn’t take a leaflet telling me where a store is that I have just been to but then left it and started bothering other people. That’s Soho for you, but there are sometimes pushier sales-folk on these streets, if you know what I mean. By the way, there is another sketch I did in Soho that afternoon, around the corner on Brewer Street. It’s a cool looking shop called Lina Stores Ltd on the corner of Green’s Court, and I just had to sketch it.

Brewer St, Soho

And that was the end of my first day back in London! Here’s a map of Soho showing where these two were sketched. IT doesn’t show the previous two from earlier in the day but well, you can figure them out.

soho map

soccer, lifestyle and everything

Soccer and Lifestyle June2014 smSoccer and Lifestyle, 2nd Street Davis. Click on the image for a larger view. You’ll want a larger view, to get a look at all those lovely football kits – or soccer jerseys, uniforms, shirts or whatever your preferred vocabulary choice is. This is one of my favourite shops in Davis (actually it is my favourite shop), and was the first shop I ever came into when I first visited Davis. I remember chatting that day to the owner, Rami, about Spurs and also Charlton Athletic for some reason. I was just so impressed there was a shop here devoted to my favourite things – football shirts – that I told my wife “we have to move here!” and since I’ve been here ever since that is fairly big. Anyhow, I’ve sketched the window before (in 2010) but never sketched the store itself, so with it being the height of the 2014 Brazil World Cup I figured that now was the right time. I went down there one lunchtime, wearing my recently purchased dark blue France shirt (it is in my opinion the best kit at the tournament) and sketched while watching the first half of France vs Switzerland, a demolition of a match for France out tore the usually pretty strong Swiss up. The owner, Rami, is a friendly guy who knows his stuff (actually they all are, those who work there, always welcoming for some footy chat). I love standing among all the colours of the World Cup shirts; I bought my son the new green Mexico shirt, which he loves because of the little lightning flashes on it. With all the crazy colourful boots (cleats) and all the footballs (soccer-balls) from various World Cups, as a kit-nerd and a footy-fanatic, this is very much my kind of store.

And what a World Cup it has been! The most entertaining yet probably. Certainly the most random-statistic-filled yet. All of which means the knockout stages will be dull tired affairs, but then I said the whole tournament would be so, and I was wrong. England were poor, predictably so, but my adopted team USA has been heroic and will face Belgium in the Round of 16. Then you have the Suarez biting story, which is such a bizarre pantomime villain tale it is almost as if it was all pre-fabricated to give this amazing World Cup a proper bad-guy, to add drama to the plot as we enter the middle act. Who knows. Anyway, of the flags hung up on the wall, the following sixteen are left…

DSC01351

So it’s “Get on the Plane, Spain”, “Get your Coats, Croats”, “You’re a Gonner, Ghana” (works better with an American accent that one), “Cote D’Au-Revoir” (come on, that’s pretty good), “Here’s the Door, Ecuador”, “Herze Today, Govina Tomorrow Bosnia” (I think I heard that one on the Guardian podcast so don’t blame me for that one, my original pun were “Everybody Herz” or “Who’s the Bos” but I wasn’t sure about either), “Iran Away”, “Export-ugal” (yes I know), and “Russian Home to Beat the Traffic”. Phew. (I actually couldn’t think of a good one for England) That is a very small sampling of what it is like living in the Scully household during the World Cup, or any cup for that, and I can’t apologize for that. There are so many punning opportunities I can’t help it. If you like hearing the very worst scrape-the-barrel World Cup punning perhaps you would be interested in following me on twitter, @petescully. Converseley if you absolutely cannot stand it and it makes your head want to explode, maybe unfollow me until after July 13 when my tweets will be all about sketches of little houses I promise you.

IMG_0853 sm

And football shirts…I have been meaning to do a run-down of the kits at the world cup, and wanted to give illustrations while talking about (complaining about) each one. But that was too time-consuming, so you have to wait a bit longer. In short, I hate them all except France, Mexico and the USA (only kidding, there are some others I quite like). I think I will do that in a separate post. Tomorrow is Brazil vs Chile, and you’d better get your kit on, it’s going to be a great game. It’ll be followed by Colombia v Uruguay, and Colombia are the better team, but I reckon Uruguay will clinch it by the skin of their teeth*.

(*I actually don’t, I think Colombia will hammer them but the time period for using that admittedly feeble joke is running out and I don’t like wasting opportunities like that)