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 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!


"Suicide Bridge", Archway

On my full last day in London, I took the tube down to Archway to meet my cousin Dawn for some sketching around Highgate. This was my old neighbourhood before we moved to the States., and I still love it around there. I used to live on Hornsey Lane, a few doors down from the bridge above, Archway Bridge. Of course, this bridge is better known as Suicide Bridge. Unfortunately, it’s a name more commonly earned than I realised before I lived up there. Dawn (who also lives nearby here) and I sketched beneath the bridge, beside the busy Archway Road, where the 134 bus charges down on its way into central London. Because I lived higher up Highgate Hill I would not come up this way much, so it was fun to come back and explore a bit more. We popped into one store full of second hand stuff and I saw (but did not get) a full set of Worzel Gummidge dvds. We grabbed a sandwich at Tescos (I love that about England, proper normal-size sandwiches everywhere, not the doorsteps you get over here) and sat opposute the Jackson Lane building, an arts centre not far from Highgate tube station.

Jackson's Lane, Highgate

We walked around inside there, and I picked up leaflets for events that of course I can never go to, but I’m always dreaming of us all living in Highgate again some day. It’s my favourite part of London, along with Crouch End. We walked further up to Ripping Yarns, an amazing antiquarian bookstore stacked to the brim with wonderful books. Hardly enough room inside to turn around. They specialize in old children’s books but also have lots of other books as well. We spent a lot of time in there, I was looking through many of the old annuals, Roy of the Rovers, the Beano, Topper, all those I used to have on my own shelves. I did pick up an interesting (and slightly quirky) little book, The Observer’s Guide to British Architecture; it’s quite hilarious in its description of Saxon building practices, dismissing them as “primitive”, “uneducated” “crude”, complaining that “they built their churches piecemeal like children playing with bricks”. It does give a comprehensive history of architectural methods with nice little illustrations so it’s a great find, plus it has that old old book smell.

We sat opposite the bookshop and sketched it, and then it was time to go. It was lovely spending time with Dawn and you should check out her incredible work on her Flickr site.

Ripping Yarns, Highgate

I had a few more things to do in London, no more sketching unfortunately (I bought an Ireland  football kit for my son), but this was the day that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour so lots of people were hanging around waiting anxiously for the big news. I was already home packing my suitcases when the as-yet-unnamed heir to the throne was announced. The next day we flew back to America. I still have to post my Barcelona sketches; those are coming soon…

track 1, side 1 of album 12

Page 1 of Moleskine 12

Page 1 of Moleskine 12. I wanted it to look impactful, and so I wrote ‘Davis CA on the page and the next day I went downtown at lunchtime to sketch a typical street, maybe 2nd St. It’s so sunny these days though and the shade was too great so I moved into F st and drew Armadillo Music. I drew the whole thing, except for some detailing on the tree, in my lunchtime, and added the colour at home. Armadillo is an independent record store in downtown Davis, I exhibited there a couple of years ago at the Art About, famous local singer Rita Hosking performed, lots of people came and it was a great experience. Always nice to have independent stores like this, but especially records stores. So, first page of a new sketchbook, let’s see where this particular illustrated journey takes us!

whole in the market

whole foods davis, harvest hullabaloo
When failing book behemoth Borders closed last year, there was a large empty space in downtown Davis where something should really go. Now finally something is in there: Whole Foods Market, a chain of grocers that specializes in fresh organic food. The grand opening and bread-baking ceremony was today, but on Sunday they held a ‘Harvest Hullabaloo’ over at Davis Commons, with stalls and tents offering free samples of their organic foods and drinks. I tried some very nice chocolate, followed by some air-cooled roast chicken, which I must say was quite lovely. There were other stalls with other predictably ‘Davis’ oriented stuff (such as ‘decorate your vegan bike with corn-fed soy glow-sticks’ or something) but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It was the end of our monthly sketchcrawl, so I preferred to sit down and draw. Interestingly enough the first time I ever sketched in Davis I drew this view, back when it was Borders.

I’m sure Whole Foods will be a hit, at first, though I know it can be quite expensive. It will be competing with our much beloved Davis Co-Op (to which Davisites are very loyal) and the very popular local chain Nugget (my personal local favourite, though Nugget too can be not so cheap). Another issue is that it’s not an obvious location for a grocery store – finding a spot in the small parking lot at the back is already a challenge, though of course you don’t always need a car to shop (hello, public transport / baskets on your bike / spare the air, like?). (in fact they are offering free 24-hour bike trailer rentals… really trying hard to get the Davis vote!) Still, I hope it doesn’t hurt the Co-Op. I always worry about national chains moving into towns and driving custom away from locally owned business (eg, a branch of national sandwich/bread chain Panera just opened right opposite local independent deli Zia’s), and then after closing the small local store the chain potentially decides further down the road to close thus leaving a gap… but I don’t know if I should be too worried for Davis. Borders came and went and the local bookstore Avid Reader lived through it, same as record store Armadillo Music outlived Tower Records right across the street. Whole Foods will probably be a success, and appears to be interested in the community, and I don’t think Davis is going to lose sleep about having yet another place to buy fresh healthy organic food. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

shine on alphabet moon…

alphabet moon

Very sad news this first week of the year, our favourite local toystore Alphabet Moon has announced it will be closing this month. It’s come as a great “oh no!” to the people of Davis, parents and kids and others alike. The day after hearing the news, I just had to get over there at lunchtime and sketch the place for posterity. I must say I am gutted by this news. I take my son there most weekends, and they have toys out to play with such as the great wooden railway table. When I told him, he was none too pleased. It’s always sad to see local shops go out of business, especially toystores. Toystores are where you can find those things you never see elsewhere, you never knew you wanted. Buying toys online is not the same – for one thing it’s rarely cheaper, and two you can’t see the thing, pick it up, maybe play with it. Now everyone will have to go to Target or WalMart, and while they have a lot of toys they only carry the things that all the other big box stores carry, nothing unique. As Art Brut once sang, “Don’t buy your albums from the supermarket, they only sell records that have charted.” Toys R Us? Please, that place is depressing. They have a Thomas the Tank Engine set laid out as well, but you can’t play with it, all the trains are glued down. Small independent toystores are always better, and once they are gone they’re hard to bring back. But, as with everything, we’re all to blame. As more of us buy online, and we all do nowadays, more stores go down, both big and small, and that ultimately leaves us with emptier downtowns, and much less choice. Either way, the young kids of Davis will have one less fun place to go on the weekends.

absolutely J street

st paul's, midtown sacramento

Some more sketching from yesterday’s afternoon in Sacramento. Above is St.Paul’s church on J Street, in Midtown. I had thought about sketching the cathedral downtown, but decided in the end to do something a little smaller and homelier. I sat opposite, outside the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, and listened to the most recent Art Brut album (confirming my view that it’s really not as good as their previous ones). I sketched for just under an hour before moving on up J Street. 

french cuff consignment, midtown sacramento

I ended up sketching this building above, which is home to the French Cuff Consignment boutique. They have one of these in Davis (everything in Sacramento has a double in Davis, it seems; I keep expecting to bump into the mirror-version of me, crouched over a moleskine) but it’s not in as cool-looking a building as this. A little sun peeked through the clouds giving some faint shadows so I drew those in.

Drawn on the second last day of 2011. If I don’t get around to posting my 2011 retrospective tonight, then Happy New Year everybody!