upstreet downstreet san francisco

SF filbert st
Here then are the final few sketches from last month’s San Francisco overnighter. These were drawn on the Sunday, after getting up and walking down to Mara’s Italian Pastries on Columbus for a delicious (but messy!) Cannoli and a huge pastry that looked like a chocolate croissant but was much denser, took me all day to finish. It was so good. So here I am in North Beach, and by the way on June 3rd I am holding a workshop in this very place all about perspective, called “Perspectives of San Francisco”. Check out the Urban Sketchers site for details of other workshops in the 10×10 series in the SF Bay Area. I wanted a bit of practice, because sketching cities with hills is not a simple task when it comes to perspective. I stood on Filbert Street next to Washington Square Park and sketched past the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, looking up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower.
SF Columbus Cafe
Here were are now on Green Street, across the road from where I sketched in November. I like this set of signs leading up the hill, and I had intedned to colour them in but in the end could not muster the energy. I love this old Columbus Cafe sign. the greens and reds around the edges are mostly faded in the sun. Next door is a place called “Pete’s” which of course I just had to eat lunch in. I had lovely eggs benedict there, I definitely recommend.
SF salesforce tower
If you go down to San Francisco these days you are sure for a big surprise. The newest addition to the skyline is a massive skyscraper visible from what feels like everywhere being constructed down in the SoMa district, South of Market. It dwarfs the TransAmerica Pyramid. It will ultimately be crowned with thousands of LED lights to display images, created by artist Jim Campbell. This impressive (and thin) new building is called (wait for it) “Salesforce Tower”. Yes, “Salesforce”. Sales, force. Sales. Force. Not exactly “Empire State” or even “Transamerica Pyramid”. I get that buildings must be names after corporations but do the corporations have to have dull names? Salesforce Tower sounds like a grey block located on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Slough, not the leading light over one of the most iconic cities in the world. If this was London it would have a hilarious nickname by now too, like the Erotic Gherkin or the Cheesegrater or the Vampire’s Collar. I’m sure the fun-loving fellows of Frisco (I know, don’t use that name, but alliteration here trumps acceptable usage) will think up a more interesting name. I sketched this from Market Street looking up, the perspective of drawing tall buildings is one I’d like to work on a bit more. Hey there is a great chapter by Japanese artist Kumi Matsukawa in my book ‘Creative Sketching Workshops’ all about drawing tall buildings. I’d recommend that highly (all puns always intended on petescully.com).
SF hydrant

But let’s get back down to earth. I love a hydrant, well here are two. One is near, the other is far away. This is a good example of perspective. Near, far away. I love rusty hydrants. Gives them character. It makes it feel like a Used Universe. This little guy dates back to 1909 if the date on its side is to be believed. He is found in the heart of the financial district.

And then, I boarded a train back to Davis. It was a tiring couple of days hanging out in the City, and while I always enjoy the change of scenery, I’m really starting to get a “done-this-all-before” feeling. A new challenge is needed…

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the view from telegraph hill

SF view of Golden Gate sm
Here are the last couple from my day in San Francisco, and these are the bridges. Above, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge as sketched from Telegraph Hill. There are always a lot of tourists around the base of Coit Tower, and on this day the clear views of the Bay were incredible. Isn’t San Francisco beautiful? It’s amazing. I love drawing cities, and as cityscapes go this is iconic.
SF Bay from Telegraph Hill

I went around to the other side of Telegraph Hill to a quiet spot on Vallejo that I have also sketched before, about eight and a half years ago. The view has not hanged much (though if you could see beyond Treasure Island to the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge, it is now completely different – the old bridge has been almost entirely removed, with the new spacious modern bridge taking its place. This view however shows the classic San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge. This hill is so steep that it’s quite a climb to get up here. I couldn’t imagine living up here (what a view if you did!). Below, the first time I sketched this. I stood a few steps down, closer to the tree. I’m told there are green parrots in Telegraph Hill, flying free and wild. Telegraph Hill was known by the Spanish as Loma Alta, and later called Goat Hill by residents. It became known as Telegraph Hill due to the large semaphore tower erected in 1849 that would act as a signal to the city about which types of ships were entering the Golden Gate.
view of the bay bridge from telegraph hill//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

sanfranciscorama

San Francisco panoramic

The last one from last weekend’s trip to San Francisco, finally scanned and stitched together photoshopically. I don’t get to draw great vistas in Davis, not like this anyhow. All those panoramas from the Art of Urban Sketching and Sketching in Lisbon books have inspired me a little, so while up Telegraph Hill last weekend (where I saw none of the famous parrots but did see quite a few hummingbirds) I sat on my stool and drew what I could. I was there for almost an hour and a half before the sunshine got the better of me, but I didn’t fancy overdoing the details anyhow, I liked the skyline as it was. I mostly used a uniball vision micro.

sketching the city
sketching the city

i’m only a droid, and not very knowledgable about such things

hydrant at kearny & vallejo, san franciscohydrant at union st, north beach SF

Wow, you MUST think I’m obsessed with fire hydrants, right? Well I am alittle. I can spot differences and everything now though. But I’m no expert, I don’t even really know how they work (it’s basically a tap, right?), and I know the colours on the caps signify some sort of difference in water pressure or something, maybe, but I like to think they’re just fashion choices on the part of the hydrant itself, which is of course a little robot with thoughts of its own. The one on the top left, drawn on the sloping streets of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, is related to R2-D2, but probably more of a ‘Moopet’ version, with a graffiti tattoo and chains. Perhaps those pentagonal bolts are really restraining bolts, like the ones fitted by Jawas. These larger, fat hydrants are common in SF. The green-capped one on the left was on Union Street. I actually sat a little bit off the sidewalk to sketch it from the preferred angle, shielded by a parked car. At one point though a girl came up and asked if she could photograph me sketching. I forget how odd I look when I sketch, all hunched over and tangled up.

opposite ends of the day

telegraph hill

Now this is an actual sunset. I love watching the Sun go down behind Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, as i often do when waiting for the Amtrak bus to take me back to Emeryville, and from there back to Davis. I say often, I really only go to SF three or four times a year, but I feel like I know it pretty well now. I like catching the early train to the Bay Area, when the Sun casts long shadows across the Delta and the grass is golden and the hills are brown. Actually I really like it when the Delta is covered in thick early morning fog, but it’s harder to draw things when it’s like that. Anyway, the sketch below (the now common sketch of the Pepsi Max can and train window) was done on the way there, the sketch above was done on the way back.

california train sketch

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.

how many roads must a man walk down

I ambled and jaywalked into North Beach. That view down Columbus of the TransAm Pyramid, my final destination, a big triangular monolith on the horizon, calling me like a dark lord’s tower, but i would not draw it, for i was on another quest, to be as relaxed as possible about wandering up and down hills and streets and slamming in as many sketches as possible.

 the view from lombard street 

I feel I put too much pressure on myself sometimes. After drawing ‘Bimbo’s’ below (mainly for the powerlines, and the name, not the building), and stopping by LaRocca’s across the street to add the wash, I just had to climb Russian Hill; it was just ‘there’. At the top of Lombard I stopped and drew the view out to Coit Tower (above), doing it little justice, but after the slog of the climb it didn’t really demand penance, just adoration. Oh ok, it wasn’t really a slog as such, I just felt it later on.
bimbo's north beach

The thing about Lombard Street is that they say it’s the crookedest street in the world, but surely Wall street is crookeder? The tourists didn’t care. Cable cars rattling by behind me. Weekenders standing out of their sunroofs camcording while zigzagging carefully downslopes. There’s me meanwhile, sat there using a micron 0.1 and a newly discovered micron 1, for things in the foreground. And occasionally a camera too, just to fit in with the crowd.
the dim light of day