In August I took the morning off work and went to Sacramento for a small medical thing, my wife drove me there. It took a little longer than expected so I had to get the train back to Davis, but there was quite a long wait for the train (so I ended up taking most of the afternoon off too), so I sat outside the station in the shade of a big tree and tried to draw the old Sacramento Valley Station, which I’d never drawn before. It’s a grand old structure dating from 1926, and is the end of the line for the Capitol Corridor route which goes down to the Bay Area. I had quite a long wait (there were two hours between the train that I had missed and the next one) although it’s a bit of a schlepp to the platform, takes a decent ten minutes to walk. Ok maybe a couple of minutes less but you have to hurry. I did add the paint and some of the window shading later though. I like to draw train station exteriors, I’m building up a collection of those as well now. One thing I love to do is travel by rail. I often dream of taking one of those really long train trips across the country, the ones that take several days, but who has the time for that now. The closest I did was the long train ride down from Davis to Santa Barbara, which was on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train, the epic journey from Seattle to Los Angeles. That was a fun experience, though I wasn’t an overnighter unlike many others. You can see the post from that trip here: https://petescully.com/2016/05/19/rails-whales-and-tales/. There are many train journeys in Europe I still want to take as well, like that steam train in Scotland through the Highlands, and I’d really love to take that bullet train across Japan. I just like trains.
Tag: train station
and on to Antwerp
After my morning pain-au-chocolat I took a train from Brussels Centrale to Antwerp. It’s been 22 years since I set foot in Antwerp, and even then it was at night, and the one time before that it was a rainy dark grey autumn day. So I’ve never seen Antwerp in actual daylight. It wasn’t very sunny today though, but it was dry and good weather for sketching and exploring. It was a city that always interested me though, full of places to discover, and lots of shops as well. I don’t actually remember the train station being all that interesting, but my Belgium guide book put Antwerp’s Centraal Station as one of the big architectural highlights, and they weren’t wrong. After eating a quick waffle, I sat down on a bench and started drawing the scene below, but decided after about ten minutes that this would be just too much to attempt, I should do this later. In the main interior ticket hall there was a big basketball court set up with TV cameras, filming some famous Belgian basketball players bouncing balls about. Basketball is popular in Belgium; my local Charleroi team Spirou were quite good (and named after one of the local comic book characters). I went outside in the fresh North Sea air and drew the exterior (above). It’s pretty magnificent. Inside the mainline platforms are all on several levels, it feels a bit like a huge deep shopping mall underneath a Victorian exhibition hall. The building was finished in 1905, designed by architect Louis Delacenserie, and is sometimes nicknamed the “spoorwegkathedraal” (“railway cathedral”). I left the outside sketch unfinished as I wanted to move along and get some frites (it was nearly lunchtime already!), and as for the drawing below, I kept the outline I’d already started but ended up doing the rest later on from photos. So many details.
And so, into Antwerp. It was a fairly long old walk from the station to the main city centre where all the shops are. The first time I came here, on a gloomy day at the end of 1999, I was pretty excited by all the big shops, because it was better than what Charleroi had at the time. This time I was most excited to find a really cool art supplies shop, and spent longer in there than I meant to, buying quite a few little things. The woman behind the counter spoke to me only in Dutch, and I did manage a few words myself (I tried to learn Dutch twenty years ago but found it hard to speak because every Dutch speaker would only ever reply to me in English). I didn’t completely understand her, but I did my best. I really should get learning that language again, and it’s not hard to read. The Dutch of Belgium (which is usually called Flemish, or ‘Vlaams’) does sound a bit softer to my ears than the Nederlands of the Netherlands, and I really enjoyed listening to it while I was out and about. I discovered that even the garbage bins speak Dutch. As I put something into a bin, it made a funny sound, like I was feeding it. When I threw something else in, it made another sound, saying something in Dutch. The bins are very peculiar.
On Meir though, it was too noisy to listen to anything. Meir is one of the big shopping streets of Belgium, like the Oxford Street of Antwerp. I did pop down the adjoining street called ‘Wapper’ (they really need to put a Burger King on that street) to have a look at the Rubenshuis museum, where Antwerp’s greatest painter son Rubens used to live. I didn’t go in though, just mooched about the gift shop. I mean I like Rubens I guess, but I also really like drawing fire hydrants and there was one I saw on Meir that I really had to sketch. Meir was just so noisy though. There was some construction going on in a building nearby, the echo of the pneumatic drill bouncing off the buildings. There was a fire alarm in a nearby Primark, and the shop staff all stood outside. People passed by on their phones, dogs barked, and it was one of those moments when I have a bit of audio-sensory overload and can’t fully concentrate. I got through the hydrant quickly (there was a sticker on the hydrant that said ironically “Take Sides – Silence”) and went looking for somewhere a bit calmer.
I headed over to the Grote Markt. That’s where you’ll find the statue of Antwerp’s most famous hero – no not Rubens, no not Romelu Lukaku, no not Toby Alderweireld. This is the statue of Silvius Brabo. Now we enter the realm of mythology and city origin stories that we all love, like Romulus and Remus (Rome), King Lud (London), and He-Man (Manchester). Brabo was a Roman soldier, who cut off the hand of a giant and threw it in the river. The giant in question was a big lad called Druon Antigoon, and he would demand money from people who needed to cross the river Scheldt. (I really hope he would say “Thou Scheldt Not Pass!”) If they didn’t pay up, their hand was chopped off and thrown into the water. I would have thought that made it more difficult to put their hand in their pocket after that but giants might be big but they are not clever. He tried it on with Silvius Brabo. Brabo, who as we can see was stark naked, clearly had, um, balls. He told Druon Antigoon to go and do one, and while he was scratching his head to see if there was a pun on his name, Brabo beat him up. It’s not clear whether he had clothes on before the fight or if they came off during the fight, but in the end Brabo sliced off Antigoon’s hand and slung it into the water. Everyone thought that was hilarious, except Antigoon, who left the story at this point. So the people decided to honour Brabo by calling the region ‘Brabant’ (dubious mythology klaxon #1), and calling the town ‘Antwerpen’ (dubious mythology klaxon #2). Antwerpen means, so the tale goes, ‘hand throw’, from ‘hand-werpen’ in Flemish. Ok, let’s be fair, Antwerp is almost certainly not named after this event (poo-poo on your parade klaxon #1) but it’s a much more fun story than the likely real etymology (something about wharves or mounds on riverbanks, nobody knows for sure) but it’s a fun story and even if it’s not true, we can say it is because who cares.
“Hand-throw”, yeah alright. Imagine you are one of all those people Antigoon dismembered, and then they go and name the town “hand-throw”, well it’d be a bit of a slap in the face. More likely it was already called “hand-throw” before Brabo showed up, maybe Antigoon himself named it so people knew what they were getting themselves into. The Grote Markt is a pretty nice square. The statue of Silvius Brabo (after whom the Duchy of Brabant is definitely NOT named; if anything his name comes from that) is in front of the town hall. Around the square are the old guildhall buildings. Antwerp is a historic Flemish merchant port with a rich history. I sat at a little tavern (‘Den Engel’) on the square with a delicious Maredsous beer, wrote some postcards, and drew this. I remember coming here on that damp and gloomy day in 1999; I also remember coming here in early 2000 after a day out in Ostend, and spent much of the evening at a nearby pub where people were singing karaoke. Chatting with locals, I was encouraged to sing too, and I did a version of the Pulp song ‘Help the Aged’, a version in which the words had been replaced with football-themed lyrics, called ‘Help the English’. That version was written by me and my friend Roshan, along with many other popular songs that we had re-clothed in football colours. ‘Help the English’ was probably our favourite, all about how England might need help because they can’t win trophies (no change there then, though the caveat now of course would be that it just means the men’s team). “When did you first realise / You’re never gonna win another World Cup? / Sixty-six, don’t it make you sick / Funny how you’ve won nothing since.” Anyway the Antwerp crowd in the room, well some of them liked it, others were either England fans convinced that Euro 2000 would be their year (spoiler alert, it wasn’t), or people who disliked football and assumed it was just some English hooligan chant, or massive Pulp fans who really wanted to hear the right lyrics. Still, it got a cheer (just one cheer) (and I probably misheard it). There were these two women who walked out, and then came back inside right after I was finished. They actually told me (in that straight-talking Flemish way) that it wasn’t only because I changed the lyrics, or that it was about football, but because I just couldn’t sing at all. I mean, yes, this is true, but ouch. I’m surprised they didn’t throw my hand in the river. Instead, they brought me some sandwiches, for some reason, and I chatted with them all about music until it was time for my train back to Charleroi. The year 2000 was a long long time ago.
I had a few nice family days in London, went to my older brother’s wedding, met my younger sister’s baby for the first time, ate some lovely breakfasts after discovering that Richmond Irish Sausages now come in a chicken sausage variety. Yes please guv. I must point out, I gave up eating red meats (beef, pork, lamb) when I was 12, and one of the only things I regretted giving up were the Richmond Irish Sausages. I bloody loved them. But they had to go. So when I was in Asda and saw that they had a chicken variety, well, that was discovery of the century. They were so good. Anyway, breakfasts aside, I took another day out for some London sketching, and went down to St Pancras. I was headed towards Classic Football Shirts, always a destination when I come back, but now in a new location near Aldwych. Outside Kings Cross, I had the most delicious lime and coconut doughnut (wasn’t cheap, was well worth it though), and then draw the road between Kings Cross and St Pancras, towards the latter’s famous gothic station facade. The sky was fairly ominous; we would have lots of rain later, but this is England, where the weather can go either way, but rain is never off the table. So I had to paint the sky. Across the street, unseen in this (unfinished) sketch, there was a queue of people stretching almost a mile long. I asked a station worker who was managing the line what it was for. “Eurostar!” he said. Delays caused by staff shortages, too many people travelling, the Jubilee, all sorts of things. I was worried, because I was going to be taking the Eurostar myself to Lille just a few days later on Saturday. How long were these people in line? “Three hours at least,” he said, clearly having a miserable day at work; he had my sympathies. I asked what time he advised I come for my 10:30am train on Saturday. “Jubilee weekend? When the station opens, I’d say, if you are lucky.” That would be at 5:00am. Right. Oh well, I thought, I’m glad I asked. I hope his day got better, he was very helpful. So I’d have to show up five and a half hours before my train? Phew. My ticket said to arrive 90 minutes early. I’d have to leave Burnt Oak at what, 4:30am? Would there even be a tube? I’d have to get the night bus, and we all know how I feel about those. Doesn’t feel right if I’m not eating cheap greasy fried chicken, and wake up at the wrong stop. Tant pis, as they say in France. If I end up not getting to France, I’ll get more time to enjoy the Jubilee. I was determined to get that train.
The main reason I’d stopped at St Pancras was because I wanted to visit St Pancras Old Church. I’ve never been there before, but had seen pictures of the graveyard and thought, I should sketch there next time I’m in London. So I walked up to find the church, and a man seated just inside the gates asked if I needed any help. He told me that unfortunately the church and the grounds were all closed for an event for the next few days (Jubilee related? Not sure but probably) which was a bit disappointing, but there’s a lot of London to draw so I wasn’t too miffed, there’s always next time. I did try to draw the church from outside the fence, looking up, but to be honest it was a weird angle and I wasn’t super comfortable, so I gave up and headed for the tube.
I’ll post the rets of the day’s sketches next time, but wanted to keep on the St. Pancras theme by posting the next sketch which is actually page 1 of the following sketchbook (landscape sketchbook #43 if you are following along; check out petescully.com/sketchbooks for the full list!). So Saturday came, the news was all about travel chaos at the airports and stations, and did I leave at 4:30am? No I did not. I left at about 7:00am, thinking you know what, I’m not daft. When I got there, instead of desperate queues and confusion, the hall was empty and orderly, and there was a sign for each scheduled Eurostar’s line to start, with my one not opening for a good hour and a half. Plenty of time to just hang about, and do what? What would I possibly do with all my time? So outside I went and sketched St. Pancras Station again, from a bit closer up. This is a very detailed station that requires a bit more time a touch of patience and a lot of good eyesight, and out of those, two out of three ain’t bad. I wasn’t right on the street level so nobody bothered me, and I was done with time to still wander about the shops and get a snack before my journey to Lille. Travel lucky again.
You know I always wondered who St. Pancras actually was. We used to see that name on the Underground map when we were kids and laugh, because it sounded like ‘pancreas’, and since we had no idea what body part the pancreas was, we giggled because it was probably a rude part. The Underground map is actually full of possible naughty double-entendres, none of which I would have understood when I was nine, but still sniggered at “St. Pancreas”. Apparently St. Pancras was from Phrygia but moved to Rome and was beheaded when he was only 14, just for being a christian. To paraphrase Stewart Lee, “These days mate,” Roman chariot taxi drivers used to say, “they arrest you, lock you up and chop your head off just for saying you’re a christian.” This was in fourth century Rome, under the persecution of Diocletian, so they totally did, even though he was only fourteen. So now Pancras is the saint of children. And years later, children in London (such as I) would laugh because his name sounded a bit like a rude part of the body that isn’t even rude. It’s a funny old world.
Next up, more London sketches (with more completely sensible history). I’ll leave you with a joke. “‘Scuse me mate, how do you get Kings Cross?” “Forget their birthdays. Hahaha.”
(42) Buxton, and (43) Manchester
I’ve never really been to the Peak District, except passing through it on a coach once as a kid (and even that I’m not sure about, I might have imagined it), but I am told it is very nice. One of my friends went there by himself a couple of years ago to rent a cottage and write a book, which sounds like a great idea. I’ve always thought that would be fun, but I’m not sure what I would write about. I’d just end up drawing, and then write about it like that book I admire so much, Richard Bell’s Britain. It would sound a bit like this I suppose; I’m not sure I could stay serious. On on earlier post I compared the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 to a grueling extra-time football semi-final ahead of a final at Hastings on the other side of the country; a couple of posts ago I was talking about “Hereward The Woke”, while in the last one I was telling you about my nightmares about Sheffield and nuclear war. Eh, it’s usual for this site I guess. Some days I’m serious, some days silly, some just confusing. On my original blog, when I started posting drawings and not just observations about my new life in America from a mid-2000s, early 30s perspective, I would make the accompanying text font really small so you had to squint as if to say “look at the drawing, don’t worry about the nonsensical text”.
Anyway this counts as “going on a bit”, so let’s get on with it. The top sketch is in the Peak District town of Buxton, Derbyshire, which I hadn’t intended on stopping at and sketching, but wow it’s very nice there, very nice indeed. I know Buxton from the spring water, which I am going to say is very nice even though I’ve never had it, because the old adverts in England made it look delicious. The building I chose to draw is the Buxton Opera House, a beautiful looking building. It was built by the same guy who designed the London Palladium, the London Coliseum, and the Hackney Empire, Frank Matcham. Buxton also makes me think of one of my favourite sketchbloggers who lives in this neck of the woods, Andrea Joseph, who I followed online in the early days of sketchblogging, 2006 era. Back in those days I’d check in on her blog regularly, along with Jason’s, and Gabi’s, and Jana’s, and Suzanne’s, and Martha’s, and France’s, and Daniel’s, and Julie’s, and more and more others as I found them, learning a lot from them along the way. Buxton also reminds me of Adam Buxton, who is not from here and has nothing to do with the place, except his name. I really like listening to his podcasts though, old Buckles, while I’m out sketching or jogging, he makes me smile.
Right, moving on from the Peak District (whenever friends from London say that it sounds like “the Pete District”) I took the road up to the city of Manchester. I first properly visited Manchester during the Urban Sketching Symposium there in 2016, which I really enjoyed, one of my favourite symposiums. I was astonished how sketchable Manchester was, especially the Castlefields area. See my Manchester sketches here. And yes, it rained every day, and I loved it. Sat on the pavement in the rain eating chips in gravy for lunch with a can of orange Tango is up there with my favourite memories. Though it was quite noisy in the area where I stayed downtown, which I think was on the edge of party central; thankfully the bedroom of the apartment I rented had double glazing. I do remember walking past this train station at Deansgate early one evening when I was wandering about lost, looking for the pub where everyone met nightly during the symposium – I had taken a wrong turn, those famous Scully map reading skills not working out on this one occasion. It happens sometimes, I get lost, but hey it’s the only way to really discover. I like drawing railway bridges. Manchester is a famous city you’ve all heard of, football, music, telly; the only time I had been here before 2016 was when I visited the old Granada TV studios with my family back in 1989, and we did the studio tour, seeing the Coronation Street set. My mum loved that show. The old set has now been demolished and rebuilt at the new Granada Studios at Salford Quays.
Well that is Manchester, and I want to go back there and eat chips in gravy in the rain again, but we must press on to the city with my favourite accent in England, Liverpool, and the nearby city of Chester…
(6) Stratford, (7) New Cross and (8) Tooting
Going east from the city, this is the last bit of vaguely familiar territory for a while for me. On the left, number 6, that is the Town Hall at Stratford in east London. I have been inside there once, while I was a student at Queen Mary University of London in nearby Mile End, and I took a French exam there. I studied French, though I probably didn’t study it as hard as I could have. I lived in Belgium and France for brief periods, but my French is not the best. Chaucer made a joke in the Canterbury Tales about one of the pilgrims, the Prioress, speaking only the French of “Stratford at Bow”, not the “proper” Parisian French (“And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly, After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, For Frenhssh of Parys was to hire unknowe.”) Seems to me he was making a joke at my own poor French, learned at Stratford atte Bowe, seven hundred years early. Oh well. You may know Stratford from the 2012 Olympics in London, that was a beautiful occasion wasn’t it, still my favourite opening ceremony, made me miss home for sure. I’ve spent a bit of time in Stratford over the years, seen it change, I would never have guessed the actual Olympics would end up there some day, but that happened.
Right let’s not linger, time to jump on the Overground and end up in New Cross Gate, across the river in southeast London. Have I ever been to New Cross? I don’t think I have. It was always one of those places I’d see interesting indie club nights advertised on fliers handed out in Soho or Camden, but then I’d see where New Cross was and I lived in the complete opposite end of London. If it was beyond the river, yeah probably too far. I don’t know south London very well; as a north Londoner you grew up with a lot of people basically acting like it was a different city entirely. They talk different them Saaf Landoners, and there aren’t as many tube lines down there, and cabbies won’t go saaf of the rivah after dark, see. Not that I ever got a cab anywhere. I did get to know some of south London in the late nineties though through the medium of going out with women that lived in Clapham. That’s an interesting area, divided into Clapham North, Clapham Common and Clapham South, but there’s also Clapham Junction but that’s not on the Northern Line. It’s an area so full of European au pairs that my friends referred to it as “Nappy Valley”, though I didn’t get the pun on Napa Valley at the time, I assumed it was some saaf London thing. I love that we call it “saaf” London, even though I also pronounce “south” as “saaf” more than half the time. My norf London accent can be quite thick, even now I’m Californian. For example when I was a kid, true story, I though Bran Flakes were called that because of their colour, because they were “Braan”, literally brown flakes. Not all norf London speaks like that, in fact there are loads of slightly different accents across London, but most Burnt Oakers like me have quite strong cockney voices. So no, I’ve never been to New Cross. Why did I include it here? Not sure, maybe I really wanted to go to nearby Goldsmiths College years ago, doing art and whatever else they are famous for, but I ended up choosing Queen Mary and studying French and Drama, and life takes whatever turn it has to.
Right, turning away from New Cross, I now have to get across south London somehow to reach Tooting. I probably should have left this stop out, or drawn Greenwich or moved directly to Canterbury, but I didn’t want to be so dismissive of South London that I would draw New Cross and then be like right, that’s all there is. So I went (virtually) to Tooting, which is a stop on that lower part of the Northern Line, the line that stands on one leg, and a place I have never been. I know it only from that TV show that was on when I was about 3 or 4, Citizen Smith, with Robert Lindsay as Wolfie Smith. Aparently when I was 4 and filming a TV show at BBC TV Centre in White City I saw Lindsay and went up to him excitedly. My mum told me that years later. Never been to Tooting, but I’ve been to nearby Balham a couple of times, both times going to parties there in my early 20s. Being on the Northern Line, that meant I could get home without changing trains, theoretically, so I wouldn’t be lost in the wilds of saaf London. This sketch is of Tooting Market, which looked interesting but I will probably never go to. Maybe I should have drawn Croydon, that’s a more interesting place, but in my mind I probably still thought, yeah but I should be near the tube so I can get home in time for dinner and watch Gladiators and Noel’s House Party, even though actually I’m sitting at a desk in California in 2020.
Ok, enough norf-London bewilderment at saaf-London, now time to get all London-centric with the rest of the country. Next stop, Canterbury! (checks notes) I mean, next stop Broadstairs! Broadstairs?
a day hanging around brussels midi
I got to Brussels Midi station early, I wanted to make sure I got my Thalys (the high speed train that runs between France, Belgium and the Netherlands) in good time, with a bit of extra time to wait in line at the infamously slow ‘Quick’ restaurant. It was still so hot, and as I sketched I heard of trains getting delayed. I had been telling people that I am ‘travel lucky’ – it always seems to work out for me, somehow. Well today my travel luck might be running out. The heatwave cancelled trains all over this part of Europe, especially in northern France, from where my Thalys was arriving. The Eurostar too was being cancelled, as well as many flights – several people I know coming from the UK were not able to make it to the Urban Sketching Symposium.
It was travel chaos, and there were many hundreds of confused or angry people lining the platforms, but not at the time when I made this sketch. In fact the sole woman on the platform at this time, she spoke to me a little while later and she too was going to the Symposium from France, in fact she ended up being in my first workshop. But this was before all the delays had really kicked in. After many hours being stuck in the station not sure of what to do, the train was officially cancelled, as were many others, so I tried to find a route to Amsterdam by slower means. I have never enjoyed being stuck at Brussels Midi (or ‘Zuid’ as the Flemish call it) but well, what can you do.
Eventually I was in line to get a ticket for a slow train, and right at the moment my number was called I noticed on the screen that my Thalys, by some miracle, was not cancelled but on the platform. I dashed upstairs and got on board, not believing my luck, and while the journey was slow, I sketched and had some free beer provided by the train staff. So in the end I was travel lucky. Off to the Symposium! Where the weather would get even hotter and more unbearable…
It was so hot that my Big Nuts melted. Big Nuts is one of my favourite Belgian chocolate bars and when I bought one, I did know it would probably melt but I bought it for the silly punchline. I still ate it though (well, drank it).
Here was the weather at the time. (By comparison Davis was up in the 108s, but we don’t notice it as much in Davis because we have good air conditioning and dry heat, in the low countries of Europe these temperatures are totally unbearable)
Exit from Exeter
“Exit from Exeter”. That is really not a very relevant title. I just really wanted to use the word ‘Exit’ in the same title as ‘Exeter’. I scratched ‘Exiting Exeter’ because it could be misread as ‘Exciting Exeter’, and who am I to judge? I was only there for about 50 minutes, and I never left Platform 1. I wasn’t really in Exeter long enough to be really Exiting. ‘Departing from Devon’? I had taken the train from Barnstaple, and changed here at Exeter St. David’s for the train back to London. There was an Exeter rugby match happening that day, so there were several fans on board the train across Devon. I knew that I could get some sketching time in at the station while I waited, so I picked a spot and drew. It’s pretty standard classic English railway station stuff. I like travelling by train, and my journey went well. I actually did the colouring-in while on the train, reserving a table seat ahead of time. I would like to spend a bit more time in Exeter if I came back here again, maybe just a couple of hours to draw the cathedral, which I hear is quite nice. I do like drawing cathedrals. I have a dream to travel the whole of England, drawing all the cathedrals, and then go to France and do the same. I wanted to get back to London though, to pack my bag for the flight back to California. I was in Paddington by the late afternoon. Stepping onto the Paddington platform, I was struck by how cathedral-like it was. Maybe I should draw the railway stations of Britain. I’m sounding like a trainspotter. I already look like one.
Saturday afternoon and I needed to sketch more. Yes yes I have drawn everything in town and want a new perspective on the same things, I am not feeling super creative right now though, and finding little comfort in the usual sketching, i suppose I am just in need of another long journey somewhere far away with lots of interesting streets and angles, somewhere like Porto for example (but maybe without the tired legs). There are still views to discover here though. I have drawn the Amtrak station before, of course I have but never while stood behind that circular fountain feature outside of Tres Hermanas on 2nd St. So that is what I stood and drew, while listening to a History podcast (two guys talking about the extraordinary history of ordinary things, such as the ‘history of the lean’, or the ‘history of clouds’, a really fresh perspective not only on history but on observing the world and universe itself – the sort of thing I should really be thinking about more, in fact you might say it has inspired me to think more like that, or rather, it’s inspired me to do that tomorrow. Next week). I needed a panorama. I must say I am using the softcover Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ landscape sketchbook and, while I do love the paper, I can’t wait to be done with this book. The softcover is starting to bug me. I need the hardback again. My next cued-up book is another Seawhite of Brighton book, then I’ll likely use the hardcover Alpha again. The softcover is fine if I’m sat at a table, and its slightly smaller scale means I can draw a panorama more quickly than in the slightly bigger hardcover. The way I stand though, it becomes awkward keeping it open, especially as I get further into the book. So, I’m looking forward to finishing it, which means I need to draw a lot more.
I’d really like to publish a book of Davis panoramas, that’s my intention. I’ve not worked that out yet, but I do have quite a few already. To see this one more closely, either move your face really close to the screen, or click on it and a larger version will pop up.
out and about in madrid
Not far from where we were staying in Madrid was the Mercado San Miguel. This covered market – well, more like a food hall – was chock full of fresh food and drink to buy and enjoy in a very Madrid atmosphere. We came here a few times for tapas, churros, sangria, but I decided it needed sketching so late one evening when the family went to bed I came across the street, got a sangria and some olives stuffed with mussels, and sketched the bustling gourmet mercado before going home at midnight. The red sangria was delicious. There were lots of tourists there, Americans dragging their sleepy teenaged kids around to experience late-night Spanish culture, some groups of English men on more sensible weekenders than the ones down at the Costa Brava, young ladies sampling Spanish wine and desserts, and occasionally a few locals too, I guess, or maybe visitors from other parts of Spain. I wasn’t really paying much attention to all the people and their conversations, I was looking at the ironwork on the ceiling. I did really enjoy this place, though it is very self-contained and not as large or diverse as the big market in Barcelona that I sketched in 2003. However it was a nice taste of Madrid, literally.
Above is the Palacio Cristal, located in the Parque Dell Buen Retiro, the expansive green space in the heart of the city. We spent an afternoon wandering about here, among the trees and lawns, and we sat for a while by this lovely old building. This might have been my favourite part of Madrid. I sometimes forget in my rush to see big exciting urban wonders that I actually love great urban parks more than anything. I always loved Hyde Park, Regents Park, Central Park in New York of course. Buen Retiro (“Pleasant Retreat”) is exactly that, and dotted with great structures such as this, the Palacio Cristal. This was built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, possibly inspired by Paxton’s great Crystal Palace in London. Unlike that one, this palace was never relocated to a southern suburb to become the name of a football team and then burn down, and it still sits pretty among the greenery today. I sketched it while we took a break from all the walking. There was a pretty steep street to enter the park, Calle Claudio Moyano, lined with second-hand book stalls and the occasional cold drinks spot, so by the time we reached the middle of the park our feet needed a rest. Well my son’s didn’t, he wanted to kick a ball around but had left it at the apartment. So, we drew this.
Speaking of greenery, this is the Atocha train station, in Madrid. We went there to catch a train to Toledo, and were then delayed by the fact you need to wait in a long line to buy a ticket to Toledo. More like Delayed-oh. Sorry, that was a bad pun, even for me. So, it gave me time to do a sketch of the incredible botanical garden they have inside the main atrium. This was also one of the stations where the awful terrorist attacks of 2004 took place, killing 193 people. The legacy of that atrocity is still visible in the fact that to board a train in Spain, or at least the ones we boarded, you need to go through security and have bags x-rayed.
Here are some Madrid people, sketched while we lunched on pizza outside the Museo Reina Sofía. We spent all morning in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, yet barely scratched the surface of this large art gallery. I was there first and foremost to see Guernica, Picasso’s huge classic, which paints the horrors of an aerial bombardment of a small Basque city by German planes late in the Spanish Civil War. It’s been one of my favourite paintings since I was at school, so to finally see it for real in all its vast, immersive terror was quite an experience. It was accompanied by lots of Picasso’s preparatory sketches, and other paintings by him and by other artists around the time that led up to and influenced this masterpiece. There was a whole section on the art of the Spanish Civil War. That is one conflict I feel I have never really understood properly. It’s always been talked about, written about, painted about, but its legacy lived on right through the end of Franco and probably beyond. Being in Madrid for the first time, I felt a sense of urgency that I need to educate myself about this civil war and about the people of Spain, which I think is a much more complicated country historically than many non-Spanish people know. So, I need to start doing some reading. If our trip to the Reina Sofía has done anything it has made me resolve to learn more. The other thing I enjoyed about the Reina Sofía was the abundance of works by that other great cubist, Juan Gris. I used to love Juan Gris when I was an A-Level art student, I did a project on him and we all went to see an exhibition of his work at Whitechapel. My favourite thing about him though was all the jokes I could use with his name, all really based on either being Hungry or Angry. As I repeated quite often, “Don’t make me Juan Gris, you won’t like me when I’m Juan Gris.” I bet Picasso and Braques used to say that to him all the time.
sketchcrawl sunday scavengers
Last Sunday we held the latest “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl in downtown Davis, starting at the Amtrak Station and finishing up at Mansion Square. This one was, unlike the other ones I’ve organized in Davis, a “scavenger sketch-hunt”. I provided everyone with a list of things at the start, things which could be found in that section of downtown Davis, and they had to draw between 8-12 of them to win a sticker at the end. In truth, just getting to the end meant you got a sticker, but it’s a good fun way to explore and have ideas of things to draw. I think everyone really enjoyed it! I was told it helps some people get over the “what should I draw” conundrum, like Inktober or Every Day Matters – little prompts, totally optional. I’ll do that again.
The list is as follows:
- The Amtrak Station (or part of)
- A Fire Hydrant
- A Bicycle
- A Piece of Public Art (sculpture, mural)
- A Giraffe
- A Public Pay-phone
- A Musical Instrument
- Another Sketcher
- A Barber’s Shop
- A Bottle
- A Street Sign
- The Varsity Theatre (or just the sign)
For the record, I managed eight of them – numbers 1, 2 (obviously, come on), 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Here’s why I didn’t get all 12 – I draw fast, but not that fast. No, not just that. IT RAINED ALL DAY! Unusual for Davis. But I spent some of the summer sketching in Manchester so it felt a little familiar. It wasn’t raining when we started, and we had quite the turnout (around 25 sketchers) despite the threat of rain. A lot of people set up across from the station to sketch it, and I sketched some of them – and then the rain came, and it didn’t stop until, haha, right after the sketchcrawl finished. Like, immediately afterwards, blue skies. Ah well. So, here are my sketches of the sketchers Jesse, Omar and Emily:
As you can see, splotches of rain started slowly splashing onto the page as I sketched Omar and Jesse; I had to duck under cover when adding colour to Emily’s sketch.
Here is my sketch of the Amtrak Station, sketched in a dry spot next to the building opposite. Most sketchers had ducked for cover, but there is one with a brolly (a few others held umbrellas and sketched too but didn’t last as long as that sketcher!).
Yeah it was raining hard when I sketched this bike. I was stood beneath a shopfront awning and the rain was still getting to me, so I just painted it quickly. I had wanted to sketch either the large giraffe statue or the giraffe bench opposite this on F Street, but the rain was too heavy to get a decent vantage-point.
I did have a nice dry spot to sketch the Davis Barber Shop though. I have never sketched this place before, and should really sketch inside some day. I was glad they were open on Sundays. The barber was kind enough to let other sketchers in to sketch, and I think he liked my rendition of the outside. I kept it simple and didn’t add paint, as I wanted to move on.
I have sketched the Varsity a million times before and this day was so rainy and grey that I didn’t need to worry about that blue sky bringing out the white building or the shadows cast beneath it, however the pink and blue of the neon sign was too cool to pass up. I added a blueish grey marker to the foreground tree.
Right, a few items to check off the scavenger hunt list. The street sign, obvious. The bottle, that was at De Vere’s though I had included a bottle on the list just to advertise my show at Putah creek Winery, basically, in case people went by there. And the trumpet, fulfilling the ‘musical instrument’ sketch. Actually it is a coronet, and I sketched it at Watermelon Music on E St, which will be vacating its downtown spot at the end of the year and relocating to West Davis, due to the new landlords downtown forcing all these local businesses to close. Yes, some tough times ahead for downtown. Well, I like Watermelon, and bought some guitar strings as I am inspired now (after seeing Paul McCartney live in Sacramento recently – wow that was awesome! My 12 year old Macca-obsessed past self was smiling down on me that night). Several other sketchers had been in drawing stuff, they didn’t seem to mind too much, and I asked if it was ok if I drew too. I’ll miss them; I probably won’t cycle out to West Davis, see, kinda far for me.
Yeah, the rain was getting a bit much so time for an interior, and where else but De Vere’s. This time I drew the familiar bar but played a bit with the colours and I LOVE it, that blue and yellow. I’ll do more of that. I had a nice stout, good choice on a drizzly day.
And then we all met up at the end, well about a quarter of those who had started, and I gave out more stickers such as those ones below. I hope everyone had fun! The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be on Saturday November 12, at Vanderhoef Quad on the UC Davis campus, starting at 10:30am. I’ll post a poster soon!