In September for our anniversary my wife and I took a weekend away in Santa Monica. It’s a city we really like, and this time we even rented a convertible and drove out to Malibu, that was really cool. The large beach there was very nice, peaceful, not many people, great for social distancing. Busier back in Santa Monica of course, and the only sketching I did was there. (I didn’t even sketch at the Getty Villa, another place we visited in Malibu, that was gorgeous). So in Santa Monica I did a few quick sketches down by the ocean. I really liked the look of the hot dog hut above. The thing in the foreground is a public payphone, we used to have them in the 20th century. If you needed to make a phone call to someone you had to wait for someone else to be finished. They were quite clever. If you needed to end your conversation you couldn’t pretend you were going into a tunnel, but you could pretend you were running out of quarters, or witnessed a gang shooting, or there was a big wave coming from across the beach. As you can tell I’m trying to use American examples rather than British examples. In Britain you had to pretend your 10p coins were running out, or witnessed a football hooligan punch-up, or the vicar was waving from across the lane. Anyway we didn’t have cellphones or mobiles and everything was better and kids played with sticks and hula hoops and holidays were just a tent in the garden and something about health and safety gone mad.
Anyway back to the real world, we stopped off for e delicious cold drink and snack in 3rd Street, and I took the time for some people watching. Which for me means people sketching. I don’t really like people watching – I’m more for people ignoring if I sit anywhere – but if I’m going to watch people they may as well get sketched. There was a sad clown making (and presumably selling) balloon animals.
This is one of those Jump things. Not the bike, this is a scooter. It works like a Jump bike in that you have to leave them all over the place in easy-to-trip-over places, and then ride them around on sidewalks not watching where you are going as if you have never been on a sidewalk before and don’t understand how they work. Grumble grumble grumble, that’s all I do, kids these days, get off my lawn. Anyway they are everywhere in Santa Monica now so I thought I’d draw one while I was walking back to our hotel.
Now every time I go to Santa Monica I always say “right! I am going to draw that sign to the pier entrance, and it’s going to be brilliant.” And then I leave it to the sunny busy part of the day and can never find a good angle and never want to colour on site and never want to colour it in later (for some reason it feels flat), so this is all I got to do. I think I’m going to practice painting with gouache, get really good at it, then come back and try this again so it looks like how it should in my mind. Or maybe do a digital sketch. I don’t know, I like penwork on a lot of things but have never felt comfortable with this sign. But I really like Santa Monica and any excuse to come back is great. No travel for a while now, though! Nearby to this junction is a place which does nice Belgian frites. I love a frite.
Recently we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is part of the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood (well, Universal City). It was a surprise trip for our son who loves Harry Potter (so do we!). It was pretty great, and the butterbeer was lovely. Wands at Ollivander’s were expensive, but really cool – you can cast spells around all the windows and make things move about. This is the second Wizarding World built after the first one at Universal Florida, and has a cool Hogsmeade area. The castle itself is pretty cool, and I sketched it while sipping butterbeer as a chorus of toads sang to my right. Overall though, I think the Harry Potter tour of the original sets at Warner Bros outside London was better, but this was still fun. The ride inside the castle though was utterly mental, a total thrill ride. By the way, I got ‘sorted’ on Pottermore into Gryffindor, which makes sense. My son got Gryffindor as well. My wife however got sorted into Slytherin! So I got her a Slytherin scarf. We had lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and later I had a pint at the Hog’s Head. Oh, I didn’t sketch with a Quill, but I totally would have done.
Oh, this was page 1 of my second Stillman and Birn “Beta” landscape sketchbook (blue softcover). Those are nice. I also enjoyed the whole Simpsons-themed area as well, having a pint of Duff in Moe’s Tavern, getting a massive pink Lard Lad donut, eating chikcen and waffles from Cleetus’s Chicken Shack, popping into the Kwik-E-Mart, great fun. Oh, and here is a sketch I did on the plane down to Burbank in my Miquelrius “Lapin” covered sketch/notebook. .
Before Christmas we took a family trip to Disneyland, down in southern California. I managed to get a couple of sketches in, namely the Fantasyland castle, and Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land, over in the California Adventure park. Christmastime in Disneyland is fun. Hey what is your favourite Disney movie? I’m not including all the ones owned by Disney like Star Wars and Marvel movies, but the cartoons, and some of the live-action ones like Mary Poppins and stuff. I suppose Pixar counts as well. Mine is probably Jungle Book, or maybe Aladdin.
These were the first sketches in my new Stillman and Birn (Beta) softbound landscape sketchbook. That’s a mouthful, so we’ll just call it the Sm&B(B)SbLsSb for short.
Cars Land, aka Radiator Springs, the most popular attraction at the Disneyland California Adventure, and the main reason we travelled all the way to southern California. My son, who had his birthday recently, is mad about Pixar’s Cars movie, as are many kids his age. Cars Land is HEAVEN. One thing Disney does really well is attention to detail, nothing is done in a half-hearted way. It is expensive to go there, but you can see they spend the money really well. Above, I had about half an hour or so to do some sketching while my son, overwhelmed from a morning spent inside his favourite movie, rested for a bit. I stood at the excellent Cozy Cones motel while happy tow-truck Mater posed for photos with ecstatic kids. Every building there is an incredible and absolutely faithful recreation of the Radiator Springs in the film, from the rocky backdrop catching the warm light right down to the detailing of Sarge’s Surplus Hut or Luigi’s Casa Della Tires. Occasionally, the great car Lightning McQueen himself will ride through, and as the sun goes down, the neon lights of Flo’s V8 Cafe and other buildings come on to the music just as in the film. Every so often the DJ Car (one of the ‘”import punks” from Cars 1) rolls in and plays music while dancers dance with the kids. The Radiator Springs Racers ride is wildly fun, though my son preferred only the Junkyard Jamboree ride, in which the wild tractor cows dance around while riders sit in carts behind them. We went on that about ten times. Yep, for any parent of any Cars-mad kid, a trip to this place is worth every penny.
We went to Disneyland at the end of last week, my son’s first ever visit, a fifth birthday treat. The main destination was the wonderful Cars Land, which I’ll write about next, part of the adjacent Disney California Adventure park, but the main Disneyland park is the original and really is a fabulous place. I first went in 2002, on my first trip to America, having wanted to go all my life. I was a big fan of Disney films as a kid and as a grown-up, the Jungle Book and Aladdin especially, and Disneyland is addicting. Expensive too, and you find yourself constantly forking out money, but it is Disneyland after all. The attention to detail is staggering. I particularly enjoyed the Star Tours ride, the Star Wars themed one, and the Jedi Training Academy for the kids was very entertaining. While my son went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap, I had some time to sketch so I sat and drew the classic Sleeping Beauty Castle. This has been here since 1955 (so it’s older than many buildings on the UC Davis campus!), the original Disney Land.
Here’s another sketch from the area inside the castle grounds, Fantasyland, which is full of very sketchable things. As I sketched, kids got on and off the King Arthur Carousel, lined up for the Peter Pan flight ride, strolled about with cotton candy and ‘churros’ looking for Mickey and his mates, while embarrassed daddies took their little girls into the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique to get dressed up as princesses and little boys found swords and shields to dress as knights and fight dragons. Happiest place on Earth.