snow is falling, all around us…

snowy norwich walk

This is Norwich Walk, the street where I grew up. On this very block in fact; my old bedroom window is on the third house from the right.  I’ve never seen so much snow in London, as fell on my recent trip. It was on the Saturday morning a week before Christmas, and despite a little fall of snow the day before, we decided to take the short trip to Colindale to visit the RAF Museum. I wanted to draw old planes. In Burnt Oak, carol singers stood outside the station singing Christmas songs as snow fluttered down like a picturesque postcard (without the picturesque of course; it was Burnt Oak tube station, not one of London’s nicer spots). Then our bus stopped due to ice on the road, and we got out and walked across the estate. As we did, an absolutely massive amount of snow pounded down upon us. We were walking snowmen by the time we finally snowy pillar boxreached the musuem, which had just decided (wisely) to close. The buses then stopped, as did the tube, and cars were quickly becoming buried beneath feet of snow. Thankfully my dad managed to dig his car out and came to rescue us, though the roads were treacherous, and we had to crawl along. Snow was coming down in ice cubes. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see those little paper umbrellas too. We got home, and warmed up, and then I went straight back outside with my little sketching stool to fill the last page of moleskine sketchbook #6 and freeze my fingers off. The snow had just stopped falling, and I had to capture this before it all vanished (little did I know it wouldn’t vanish for another week and a half).

Passing locals must have thought I was a nutter (those that have known me all my life knew it for a fact…). I quickly sketched the pillar box I’d drawn two days before, and then drew the street panorama. I gave up halfway through, my fingers freezing off, but then decided to soldier on, finish the block, and I’m glad I did. My micron pen didn’t give up so neither would I. Thankfully snow isn’t hard to draw. I added the paint when I got home.

So this is the last page of this sketchbook, which was started on a very hot day in southern Oregon on the fourth of July, and finished in freezing cold London in December. I did a good bit of travelling in this book, and you can see the whole journey on my flickr site: Moleskine #6 


sunset doesn’t last all evening

SF inner sunset tryptich

More from the Inner Sunset, San Francisco. Following the ZineFest I did some sketching first in Golden Gate Park and then around 9th and Irvine Streets. I’m really grateful for those newspaper boxes you get in big cities in America, because it’s something to stand against and lean upon, as I did when sketching the middle image of this tryptich. tutti frutti on irvine street, SFThat store, Tutti Frutti, was too colourful not to sketch. They sell lots of interesting little bits and bobs, cards, t-shirts, miscellany. I like drawing in these little segments, running them together, but it’s fun to see how they look on their own as well, so I’ve cropped the middle piece.

Apparently (I’m told by my wife) I have been around here before, when we stopped by for a doughnnut almost five years ago, days after moving to America. That five-years-since-emigration date is approaching fast; I should celebrate. Half a decade in the US… wow. Anyway, if I recall it was a nice doughnut.

I sketched Sutro Tower from the Park in glorious sunshine. It’s such an odd structure, like an invading insectoid alien stuck on a hill. I can imagine lazers popping from his eyes and zapping everyone in the Mission or the Sunset, before being laughed at. This might be a good zine, if anyone wants to write it (I don’t).

The last image was from The Mucky Duck pub on 9th. I liked it in there, it was a good pub to sit and draw things, especially the way the light came in through that slanted window. The only problem wa there were some people playing that annoying dice game people sometimes play in pubs here, do you know the one, where they slam the dice (or whatever) down onto the bar or table making a loud slamming noise every thirty seconds or so, so loud that you can’t concentrate on your drawing, your conversation, your beer, anything. They should really tell them, oi, no! Go and play ‘penny-up’ in the street or something.

So I only stayed for one, before grabbing some food, sprinting down the street to catch the N-Judah, and trekking back to Davis. I have some more sketches from that day to show though, so stay tuned… (hint: it includes fire hydrants)

inner sunset

inner sunset 9th street
“Inner Sunset”… i like that phrase, like a good way to describe slowly turning to the dark side, or perhaps a piece of you inside of you that is always calm and golden and peaceful. Actually, it’s just a neighbourhood of San Francisco, but an interesting one that I’d never really been to before (and one which has a park side). I was there for the Zine Fest so I took the time to draw some of the area. The above was drawn in the morning, while the Farmer’s Market went on nearby, and a woman played three different tunes on a violin, over and over and over again. When I was done, I went and bought a load of zines.

the streets and the thousands of colours

USK PDX 2010

And so, the 1st International Urban Sketching symposium officially began. I liked staying at the Mark Spencer hotel, because most of the non-Portland sketchers were staying there too, and it was nice to meet new people at breakfast. At the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), Gabi Campanario opened proceedings and we set off on our field sketching sessions. You could taste the level of excitement!

pdx10: gabi introducing symposium portland fire hydrant

My first session was Urban Colour with Jason Das. Our group walked a couple of blocks, and I drew the fire hydrant above (I love fire hydrants, and here they are orange).  I was surprised to find that Suzanne Cabrera was sketching with us; I hadn’t realised she’d be at the Symposium! I’ve followed her work for years so it was a pleasure to meet her in person. Jason’s session was quiteNW 11th and Hoyt interactive, which I liked, and made us focus on colour in different ways. It was a particularly grey morning though. While I was sketching, a lady came out of the store in front of which I was positioned and asked if I’d like some work. She wanted to know if I would be interested in painting the big rock she uses to kep the shop door open, in the style of a ladybird (and she said ‘ladybird’, not ladybug, becasue she was British, though she didn’t know I was). Paint a rock like a ladybird? In watercolours with a tiny brush? Not for any money, like, just in case I wanted something to do she said (because I didn’t look busy). I politely declined.

After the first quick sketch, we all did a drawing using a lighter coloured pen than we’d normally use – I used a fairly light blue – and then coloured it. I wasn’t much pleased with my results (partly because I didn’t finish the colour), but it’s all about trying stuff out. I do like drawing street corners though. There it is on the right.

The next exercise was to draw the same scene twice, once with normal colour, and the second with different colour. I liked the idea of this one, and it certainly allowed you to break out of the bounds a little, but I think it worked a little better for others than for me.

urban colour

The final exercise was a winner, and one which made some people understandably nervous. We were to draw a picture in our own sketchbooks of any scene, and then hand the sketchbook to a partner, who would then colour it in themselves. This was very interesting. First of all, the person I was partnered with, Robin Carlson, originally came from, of all places, Davis! Drawing the linework was a little nervy for me, as I knew it would then be scrutinised by someone else, but once the sketchbooks were swapped it was very liberating! I loved colouring in a different book, it was so liberating. Several people said the same – the hard work was already done! But I was so pleased with how robin had coloured my book – see below. The colours are so vibrant, and really leap out (mine are usually a little muted), and complement each other so well. I particularly like the values on the tree. Thanks Robin! This could be a fun exercise, like an online art exchange, you draw something and hand it over to other online sketchers to add their own colour or tints; this is something worth exploring.

drawn by pete, coloured by robin

urban sketching in portland

Thus ended session one. There wasn’t a massive amount of time for lunch, before the lectures began…

Symposium blog:

on yer bike

The Amgen Tour of California, the state’s biggest cycle race, is currently wheeling around the Golden State to much fanfare. I didn’t see any fanfare when the Tour came to Davis – starting one section here and ending in Santa Rosa – just a few TV vans left over on my way home.   

US Bicycling Hall of Fame

But as I was having dinner downtown anyway, I decided I would draw the latest national tourist attraction to appear in Davis: the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, which occupies this building on B and 3rd. I haven’t been in, but I’m sure it is enormous fun. I imagine it’s like the Guinness World of Records, with exhibits such as the Cyclist Who Could Text and Cycle for Three Whole Miles Without Getting Into an Accident (lots of people try for this record in Davis), or the Completely Invisible Stop Sign (actually most of them are, apparently), or the Severed Head of Whoever it is Who Thinks Stealing the Light off your Bike is Funny (seriously, what low-life nicks a cheap bikelight?). If I ever go in, and find out that it’s not like that, I’ll be seriously disappointed.

sc27: joined in the race to the rainbow’s end

sc27: battery st

Keep on ‘crawling.the meeting end-point was at Union Square, but that was many blocks away from the Financial District where I was. I really had to draw some newspaper boxes. Being from the UK these boxessc27: kearny st seem so ‘America’ to me. I don’t mean the ones where you get the free paper, like the ones in London that stock all those Aussie magazines like TNT (do they even still have them?), but the ones where you put in your money and take a single newspaper (even though any thief could just nick the lot). I think of Superman, with Clark Kent getting his tie caught. But with newspapers closing nationwide, these things could very well be a historical relic (like the phonebox…)

Something else you don’t see much in American cities these days are streetcar cables, hanging over the traffic. San Francisco still has lots of them; I drew some on the corner of Post and Kearny. These cables remind me of Europe, but not London, where we haven’t had them for donkey’s years (incidentally, if you ever buy a donkey calendar they are incredibly good sc27: post stvalue because donkey’s years are very long. Never, ever buy a dog calendar though.)

Fire hydrants however will never go out of fashion (at least I don’t think so). I love them, another reminder of  ‘America’ (and possibly a Superman film again). We don’t have them like this in the UK. Did you know it’s illegal (or at the very least a bad idea) to park in front of one? If you do, fireman can smash your windows to run the hose through it, I am told. Seems like a bit of an effort, while rushing to put out a fire, threading the hose through the car, squeezing over the seat, meanwhile buildings are burning down. Think about that before parking there next time.

sc27: union sqAnd so the final meet-up in Union Square. I ambled in, saw the sketchers plotted about in clusters, didn’t see anyone I recognized, so sat and drew Union Square’s palm trees. Eventually sketchbooks were passed around and I spoke to some other sketchers, including Enrico Casarosa (Sketchcrawl’s founder), and met fellow Urban Sketchers correspondents Gary Amaro and Marc Taro Holmes, among other very interesting artists. It’s always a big learning experience to meet other sketchers all with very individual styles. 

It got cold, as the fog was rolling in, and so after a little while I called it a day. Well nearly a day, still had just a little more sketching to do before going home. More to come…

whole wide world

social sciences

The day after the General Election… more on that later. I decided to brave the pollen this lunchtime and get out and draw something. The Whole Earth Festival was going on, with its hippy sensibilites and world food, so I avoided that colourful bonanza and drew something else. That was silly of me (I had actually forgotten about Whole Earth, despite the tie-dye shirts and VW vans that were grooving around the skirts of the university). Then again, I don’t like drawing crowds. I drew part of the ‘Death Star’ building, Social Sciences, from the corner of 3rd and A streets.

I won’t be drawing any of the Whole Earth Festival this year I’m afraid; we’re going to the beach instead. However I did do a very quick and quite intimate sketch three years ago of my wife’s friend’s son’s band (Sholi; they’re very good) playing on the Quad in front of the hippies and their kids. There it is below. I like it.

whole earth festival, uc davis (sholi)