sand between the toes

goat rock beach

The Sonoma coastline of California is utterly spectactular. Today was a lovely warm sunny March day. This naturally equals going to the beach for a fun family day out, and it was fun. We went to Goat Rock Beach, at the mouth of the Russian River, where harbor seal pups were enjoying the balmy weather. We had sand in the hair and sand between the toes; soft, warm sand, a gentle breeze, perfect sun. The waves were loud and dangerous. We skimmed flat stones on the river. I sat on a log and drew some of the rocky coastline, before turning about on the same log to draw the Russian River snaking towards the Pacific Ocean. I thought how so very different this is to the seasides I grew up with, the windy English seasides with pebbles and candy floss and buckets-and-spades, and those amusement arcades with the bingo machines (“maggie’s den, number ten”). Not that there’s anything wrong with that (far from it, I love those places!), it’s just that this spot is so spectacular, so incredibly breathtaking that I can’t believe it’s real.  

the mouth of the russian river

going for gold

goldbeaters school

This is Goldbeaters School in Burnt Oak, where I went to school from the nursery until the age of 11. When I left the Berlin Wall was still up, Thatcher still had some years to go as PM, and Glenn Hoddle had just left Spurs for Monaco. This was drawn from a photo I took on a previous trip back home; I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. I was up early yesterday morning and needed to do a drawing. I decided to make it sepia; in a way this is how I remember it. Apart from the grass and a bit of graffiti I left out, everything else is actually the right colour, pretty much.

I was inspired to finally draw my old junior school when an old, good friend from Goldbeaters got in touch with me via Facebook, Lee Glenn. I’ve not seen him since back then, so it was a real pleasure to hear from him. Reminded me of all the fun old times we had when we were kids, playing A-Team and, er, Hammer House of Horror in the playground. I will need to dig out my old school photos on my next trip back home. He blogs too – at, and he made a very nice mention of me over there – and also runs a forum about film, music, books etc called ‘the popcorn patch’. Check it out!

I have good memories of Goldbeaters. I always remember most fondly my friends from the juniors, in the days when swapping Panini football stickers was pretty much the most important thing in the world. That was like a little microcosm economy of its own, the football sticker swapping market. Couldn’t have too many Spurs badges or Maradona stickers on the market otherwise the whole thing would collapse, and every so often there’d be a bust when some silly sod would knock someone’s wad of Football 86 into the air and shout “SCRAMBLE!”, showering the playground with doubles and triples of Ian Rush and rare Hamilton Academical team stickers alike. I have always imagined that that, essentially, was what the real Stock Market is really like.

don’t let the sun blast your shadow

small house on 3rd st

I was outside Newsbeat, on Third Street, Davis. I don’t normally sketch standing up but the noisy trucks parked in front of me meant I couldn’t avoid it. I tried to lean against the wall, but I think someone had if not peed against it, then certainly left their scent there. There are smelly people in the world, I accept that. The fact I could smell it meant at least I was getting over my cold (although allergy season is apon me to re-block those nostrils). My pen didn’t like drawing at the funny angle of standing up, and protested. At least I had shade; it was sunny. But sunny is good, as it means I get to draw shadows of bare trees against cool little wooden buildings.

with never a whisper in the sea

fisherman's wharf

I got up early on Sunday morning, to see what San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf looks like without all the slow-walking touristy people milling about. It looked better. I thought of how much more I like it, being near the sea. But it was very foggy, and then it started raining. It was ‘mizzly’. I went back to the hotel for a bit, and drew the view from the window, looking out towards Coit Tower (below). I went back out, when the sourdough-bread-and-sealion-photographing masses had emerged, and I drew a boat (above), while tucked away under some shelter. I like drawing boats these days; if it hadn’t been so rainy, and if I’d had more time, I’d have drawn boats all day long.

telegraph hill

Telegraph Hill reminds me of a Provençal hill town, such as Gordes or Lourmarin, in this drawing.

Incidentally, the Pier 39 sealions appear to have gone. I’d heard that they had moved on from their home, which they have occupied since the 1989 earthquake. A few remain, honking for the cameras, but the rest have swum away.

weekend in san francisco

Here’s the Moleskine spread, after drawing at Fisherman’s Wharf. I’m quite pleased with how these pages look.

mission accomplished

church & market, SF

Last weekend in San Francisco, continued… After another stop at a trendy cafe, we walked up the slopes of Mission Dolores park to enjoy the incredible views over the city. I stopped to sketch the tower of the Mission school yet again, while behind me pit-bulls tried to mate with chihuahuas (please, I know what the offspring would be called, don’t go there). We left that image behind and walked up Church, and towards the Castro district, where I drew the corner of Market street while my friend searched for a 3-day Muni pass (he’d been looking everywhere, with no luck). He did find one eventually, at a magazine kiosk on Castro Street (I noticed one magazine had what looked like Cristiano Ronaldo on the front, but, um, it wasn’t about football). Why you need to know all this I don’t know, but it’s a fun enough story, and means I get to call this entry ‘mission accomplished’, rather than ‘mission impossible’, which is what I thought I’d call it at the time. To be continued…

mission dolores park, SF

just the same as all the rest

outdoor adventures

It’s summer, there is no thai soup, and that means I sketch more at lunchtimes. Lately of course the weathera part of the bike barn has been too hot and smoky, but now it’s a bit cooler, and so it’s outside to draw all the same stuff I always draw at work. This is the Outdoor Adventures building: seems like I’m drawing something new, but looks the same as all those bike barn drawings i did (see right) – because it’s the other side of the same building. It’s currently Summer Sessions on campus, so there are more students around than you’d expect in a break. It’s a mixture of strangely quiet and too busy.

en grève

allez les bleus, on est tous ensemble

I’ve started drawing and writing in my small wh smith book, some of what’s happening on the day, loose and unplanned, and usually at lunchtime. Today was July 14, Bastille Day; also today there began a strike of service workers on the UC campus. Having lived among the French (and the academia French at that) I know their own love of a good strike, no matter how small (one bus strike I experienced in Strasbourg lasted, bizarrely, 59 minutes). In fact I think was even technically on strike once, when Fac des Lettres librarians downed datestamps for the afternoon. It’s hard to remember.

you’re gonna be the one that saves me

This week I received a small thin moleskine sketchbook, which I am to fill with drawings etc to the theme of “How to Save the World”. how to save the worldIt is for the Sketchbook Project, an event organized by the art house in Atlanta, Georgia; they mail out 500 sketchbooks worldwide to people who have signed up, the sketchbooks are filled and returned, and then exhibited all together. It’s a pretty interesting event, though being so far away I’ll not see it.

It reminded me a bit of the 1000 Journals Project; I bought that book last year, and was blown away at the creativity of some people. I’m not sure I’ll be quite as colourful, I will probably just draw as I always do. Except without watercolour, I don’t think the thin paper will be able to handle it.

I decorated the cover already, there it is look. And some of my pens. And, appropriately enough, a super-villain/anti-hero. I may post some of the contents from time to time. It must be finished by the end of July.