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…

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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.

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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)

bohème

Boheme, Davis
And back to the posting of sketches. I’ve been a little preoccupied with the Scene In Davis show, and also that other thing called the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Wow, what a World Cup it’s been so far! A million miles from the 0-0 borefest I had expected (though today there was finally a 0-0 draw). It’s been gripping stuff, and today especially I must so “Go USA!” Which is American for “Come On USA!”, it’s not a slogan for the tourist board. I do intend on posting a full description of the World Cup shirts, but perhaps tomorrow, after everybody has played once. Anyway, this sketch is of Bohème, on Third Street, Davis. I drew it all on site but added the colour when I got home. They sell hip used clothing, which is nice. Probably no old football shirts, though. If I were to wear a hip old international world cup shirt, I would probably go for an old USSR one (with the cyrillic CCCP emblazened across the chest), or maybe a green German away kit from the 1974, Italy’s kit from Italia 90 was cool too, or perhaps – and this is a controversial choice – the USA away kit from 1994, the light blue one with the stars, though I don’t think that really qualifies as ‘hip’. I’m not much of a hipster, unfortunately.

days of future fast

fast mart. davis
This is Fast Mart, on the corner of B and 2nd in Davis. I think it’s called that because you go there when you don’t want to be tempted to eat anything. Or maybe this is where Quicksilver shops. I’m not sure, all of these stores have similar names after all (like Kwik-e-Mart). In actual fact, if you look closely, the store is called “Fast and Easy Mart”. This is what happens when you get mergers, Easy Mart was probably bought out by Fast Mart like when Sky bought BSB (that’s pretty obscure reference for you, people not living in Britain twenty years ago), resulting in “BSkyB”, or as it’s more commonly known, “Sky”. I’ve never liked ‘mart’ as a shortening of ‘market’ either, as another word for ‘shop’ or ‘store’, though we don’t really use it in everyday conversation, “I’m just going down the mart, want a tin of pop?” Still, it’s a place to get a massive fountain soda on a hot day. I like what is above the store though, the sculptures of the musicians. “The Lamplighter Players”, they are called, sculpted by local artist Tony Natsoulas. This little shopping strip is sometimes called Lamplighter Square. The clock behind them must be wrong, because I sketched this during my lunchtime. Perhaps they are located three hours into the future? Either that or my eyesight is going (which it is, but thankfully my optometrist is just across the street). No map this time folks, just have to imagine it, or go there yourself.

pennywise

Pennywise at the Pence Gallery

I have a piece currently on display at the Pence Gallery as part of their “Tiny” show. Each artist submitted a piece no bigger than 5″x7″ (about my usual drawing size!) and were given a piece of canvas board on which to create their masterpiece. I usually draw on paper, but wanted to give it a go on this different material, and it was fun. As you can see below in the step-by-step I actually put the paint on first, and then added the ink details. Normally I draw ink first (colouring-in is an afterthought) but the ink stayed wet on this canvas board so that wasn’t possible, but this way worked really nicely. The ink didn’t get glazed over by the wash, and really popped. Because of the rough nature of this canvas board, scanning was a bit difficult, so hopefully you can get a good idea from these photos.

pennywise step-by-step

Pennywise…that is – or was, I am now told – a shop in Burnt Oak (where I was born and grew up) that was there my entire life, unchanged. I didn’t exactly need to go there often (great place for plastic buckets and sponges) but it was just one of those shops, always there, with that funny little orange symbol. I’d always intended to draw it. I didn’t have time while in London so took a photo. I am glad I did – shortly after drawing this I learnt that Pennywise has now closed and become something else.  “The curse strikes again” I thought. Several things I have drawn have subsequently closed down. I’m not going to list them now but this is why it is important for the urban sketcher to record the world while it is here. This of course is not an on-location urban sketch, being drawn from a photo, but it’s for the same purpose. I wish I could go back and draw all the other landmark Burnt Oak places from my past.

rambling free

La Rambla, Barelona

Back to Barcelona… I was impressed with all the shop fronts in Barcelona. On a future trip, I will organize myself better, and spend a whole day sketching ONLY shop fronts. As it was I managed just a couple, on the big bustling thoroughfare you’ve all heard of, La Rambla. Also called Las Ramblas. La Rambla is bustling alright, full of tourists rambling up and down, lots if interesting sketchable buildings, and absolutely no other reason to stay there whatsoever. It’s not really my thing, all those people. Pickpocket paranoia on overdrive. Ok, I must confess, what actually bugged me were those guys walking about making the bird-whistle noises with those little plastic kazoo things. It sounded like Sweep (of Sooty fame) being beaten up. Annoying noises aside, the architecture and shop fronts were a sketcher’s delight. I loved the one at the top, Viena, which I sketched in the Beta book. A group of young Australian lads who were staying in the hotel next door chatted to me excitedly about this place while I sketched, saying they had amazing breakfasts. There were lots of groups of excited young lads from other countries in Barcelona. It a popular place for stag parties (bachelor parties). My friend Francesco came here for his one several years ago, went to an FCB game (I couldn’t come, I was in America). Definitely a good-time city.

Farmacia Nadal

Above is Farmacia Nadal, which I sketched on the last day when strolling back to my hotel. Below, a much quicker sketch, the warm evening sky with La Rambla going left to right, looking down Carrer del Carme, Catalan flags waving from balconies. I bumped into a few urban sketchers while sketching this one, on their way back from their USk workshops, including Matthew Brehm; it was his workshop in Lisbon back in 2011 that inspired me to try this sketch out.

La Rambla & Carrer del Carme

miss the train. take the cannoli.

2nd St Davis
A break from Barcelona posts; this is 2nd Street in Davis, sketched on Saturday morning after I’d missed my train. Whenever I go to San Francisco, rather than getting my tickets in advance or maybe getting to the station early, I always try to get there about two minutes before the train arrives and try to get my tickets then. I don’t know why I partake in this masochistic practice, perhaps I’ve seen Back to the Future so many times I feel like I have to do these mundane things by the skin of my teeth. I’m nearly always lucky. I always, somehow, make it. Not this time; I got to the station, and there was a large crowd of Chinese students huddled around the ticket machine (which can be notoriously slow) while the ticket office lady closed up her booth to assist someone onto the train as it pulled in (which I must say is something I’m very glad the station staff do). Not knowing how long the students would take with the machine I asked if I could get my ticket on the train, but it costs 50% more to do that. Ouch! So there I was, scrambling to use the machine, the train comes in, doors close, off it goes. “Well, we recommend getting here much earlier,” the ticket office lady said, which again is fair enough and completely true. I was annoyed with myself though – I’m usually lucky, but I really should have got my tickets the day before. Why was I so peeved with myself that I couldn’t get the 7:55 train though? After all, I was going to the ZineFest, which didn’t even open until 11:00. I’ll tell you why – Cannoli.

At the Ferry Building in San Francisco there is this place which does amazing cannoli. It really is outstandingly good. I had wanted to stop off there on the way to the ZineFest and pick some up, but taking the later train at 9:25 meant I probably wouldn’t have time to stop, not even for cannoli. I was looking forward to it. Then I remembered that Whole Foods in Davis also does pretty nice cannoli. Not as good, but not bad, so I went there instead and ate a relaxing cannoli breakfast. It was more relaxing taking the later train, not rushing about like a fool. I also noticed that the block of 2nd Street with all the brick shops was looking wonderfully free of large cars and SUVs parked outside, so I took this opportunity to sketch it at last while I waited for the Amtrak. I finished it off on the train, where I had a nice conversation about sketching with one of the guards who was also an artist. So actually, I am glad I missed the earlier train, it all worked out nicely!