This is Washington Square, in San Francisco’s North Beach, sketched on a warm Saturday afternoon at the start of June. Last month I led an urban sketchers workshop as part of their “10×10” series, more specifically the series organized by Urban Sketchers East Bay. My workshop was called “Perspectives of San Francisco”, and was of course all about perspective, specifically how to use it when sketching tricky subjects like cities with hills. It went very well, and I hope that I got some of my ideas across. I drew on the many things I have learned over the years (and continue to learn) from perspective experts I have met over the years with Urban Sketchers. It was a workshop of about three hours, and North Beach really is a great place to practice your sketching. When it was all done I drew a scene of Washington Square (above) before heading home. In the morning when I got to the City however I did do a couple of practice sketches not far from the Amtrak bus station, in SoMa. The scene below is of some of the modern buildings that have sprouted up South of Market. I drew it in pencil in about 5-10 minutes, to show the basics, before drawing it again (different page) in pen and watercolour in about 40-45 minutes. While I sketched a woman asked if I was lost. “No,” I said distractedly (I was looking up at the sky with a sketchbook under my chin). “Are you British? Welsh, Scottish, Irish?” she then asked. How you can tell all of that from one mumbled two-letter word surprised me a lot and I didn’t know how to answer except, “oh, um, er” and she said, “ok” and walked off. Very odd. I suppose answering “oh, um, er” to a perfect stranger in the street and looking aghast and confused is pretty much the most British thing you can do, but you see within that question there are a whole number of possibilities which don’t add up to quite the same thing, but may need explaining, which while in the middle of a sketch I really didn’t have time to get in to. British yes, Scottish no, Welsh no, English, well from England so yes but identify as Irish through family, British is easier, European too yes, for now, I suppose I’m Californian these days, but not an official American, what is identity anyway, look it’s confusing. I’m Pete, I come from Burnt Oak, I draw pictures of things and really like Spurs and Lego, that’s where I’m from. So yes, “oh, um, er” is a good description of my identity.
See the top of the fire hydrant poking into this drawing. That’s you, that is.
This is my 200th post on petescully.com, thus my 800th in total since April 2005 (including the ones from the previous incarnation). That’s a lot of scullybloggery, and a lot of drawings (though not all of it was drawing, of course). And so, more from San Francisco, the efforts of last weekend: a triptych of pen drawings around SoMa, the area South of Market. On the left is Eddie Rickenbacker’s cafe/pub place, a really cool place with loads of motorbikes all hanging from the ceiling. This was the last I drew, before racing to the bus / train back home.
It was a slightly damp, grey morning, and I had aborted one drawing made post-doughnut-breakfast in North Beach (I’ve finished it since at home) due to a brief spattering of rain, so I went to the shops instead. Well, Virgin Megastore – not often these days after all that you can do that. And I found that this one too was closing down, with everything on sale. All of the others back in the UK changed to Zavvi a couple of years back, and then suddenly went bust at christmas with the downfall of Woolworths (its distributor). Great shame. when I was a young teenager, going down to that huge Virgin at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street was a weekendly ritual, a place where I could find anything I could possibly want. I would spend hours there. So it was a little sad I guess going to one for the last time. Perhaps we are seeing the end of the big chain record store. The irony is that, for now at least, a lot of smaller independent record stores are still about and outliving the chains nearby, over here at least. Tower Records (actually a local store founded in Sacramento) closed down a couple of years ago; yet the independent Armadillo records across the street in Davis stayed open. In fact where Tower used to be is now a newer independent record store called Dimple. The fall of the global chains may actually benefit smaller stores.
But back to the drawings. I sat opposite Virgin on Market St and sketched the final days of the store, but hidden behind a lamp-post, while looking down Stockton to the tunnel which slices through the hill in the distance, its daylight pushing through like a magic door into another world (yes that’s the best simile I could muster up, but hey I’m tired, I’ve had a busy week). There were a lot of people out shopping, helping the economy. I wondered, if we are shopping only for the greater economic good (as we’re told we must) rather than to get a bargain for ourselves, whether we should in fact shop at places we know are closing down since it doesn’t help them much in the long run? Is that how it works? But I’m no Adam Smith, so I just bought the latest Mojo magazine at 40% discount and was well happy.
I wandered around SoMa, down to Yerba Buena gardens, and drew the SFMoMA and its tall neighbours before popping by the Cartoon Art Museum. Here’s an interesting thing: Yerba Buena was the name of San Francisco before San Francisco. It’s such a cool city, such a great place to sketch, but I was feeling anxious to get home, tired, exhausted from the hills and the pressure I put on myself to draw everything. I think it showed in the previous day’s efforts, a lot. I nearly didn’t do any more drawing at all, and considered putting away the sketchbook and pens for a fortnight or a month or so to refresh my thoughts. But I was pleased enough with these three (especially the first and last) to get me a little way out of that particular mental rut. Here they are all finished, with the wash added later on. The sketchbookery continues unabated…