on the tracks and in the sky

Roma to Venezia
And so we left Rome on a fast train from Termini station, speeding through the Italian countryside (and what countryside!) on one of the nicest trains we’ve been on. I once spent a summer travelling Europe on the trains and this was nicer than all of those as well (that was in 1998 mind you, and most of them were overnight trains in central Europe). It took us over 3 hours to reach Venice from Rome, stopping in Florence on the way (but not getting out and looking around, we’ll save that for next time). My son was proudly sporting his brand new AS Roma shirt that he bought with money his Nanny in England had given him (it’s by far his favourite souvenir from Italy!) (when I say Nanny I mean my Mum, not a Nanny like in someone who looks after kids for a living) (international translations here). I wore my Sampdoria shirt so we were the Serie A Boys. The Calcio Kids. On our way out of Italy, flying back to London, we were both wearing our Tottenham Hotspur shirts and the border guards immediately called out to us with big smiles, “Eh, Harry Ka-ne! Totten-ham!” We had to wait while they looked up something, it turns out they were just trying to look up the name of Tottenham’s stadium, but were confused to see that it was now Wembley. They were very excited about Spurs.

Speaking of airports, while I am showing you my in-train sketch of Trenitalia Frecciarosso 1000, here are the other transport sketches from our summer trip. First off, Oakland to Gatwick, which started with a 3.5 hour delay, which was fun. On mt left was a woman who when I first got on board hurriedly picked up a bunch of items from my seat before I sat down, I assumed they were her things. Then when she just sat there holding them I asked, are those mine? (Blankets, headphones) “Yes, I picked them up for you,” she said, “and you are lucky, I don’t usually do nice.” Which was an odd thing to say to a complete stranger. She was British. “Ok, thanks,” I said, taking back the blankets in a bit of a puzzle. I’m not really one for conversations with fellow passengers. I noticed as we sat on the runway she was reading through not only the Daily Mail but also the National Enquirer, which I’d never seen people actually read before, so you see something new every day I suppose. We were in Economy Plus – these BA flights from Oakland to the UK are so much cheaper than we usually pay that we upgraded for a bit more legroom – but still it was a long and hard-to-sleep-on flight. I did at least get my sketch in. I had time…
Oakland to Gatwick

We flew Ryanair to Italy, from Stansted to Rome. As you may remember I call Ryanair “Difficultjet”, and this time the difficult bit was that they don’t let passengers from the US (or non-EU at least; good luck Brits, in a few years) use paperless boarding passes, unlike for example Easyjet, who do. Which means if you are travelling and need to print your boarding pass a day ahead (because you have to check in online nowadays, no other choice) and don’t have access to a printer, as we didn’t, you have to pay loads of money to Ryanair for them to print it out for you, at least fifteen quid a ticket. So that’s annoying. In the end we did find someone with a printer, but most travellers wouldn’t necessarily have that option. Otherwise though I don’t mind Ryanair, they fly to a lot of places and are cheap. It was exciting flying over Belgium, Germany, Austria; my son asked if he could check these off and say he’d been there now, but no, flying over is not the same as being somewhere. If it were, then we’ve been to Greenland loads of times.
Stansted to Roma
Venice to Luton was on Easyjet, which was pretty easy. My son’s hair in this sketch looks red like mine, bu it really isn’t, it’s more light brown/blond. However my paints were very much stuck in the Easyjet colour scheme. Boy we were tired after that trip.
Venezia to Luton

And the final flight of the vacation! This was a trip in which we went through SIX different airports (Oakland, Gatwick, Stansted, Roma Ciampino, Venice Marco Polo, Luton) which of course is my favourite thing, I love airports, SOOOOO much. This was a decent flight home. I had no stranger with a Daily Mail next to me (although my son put the brown BA blanket over his head, making him look like a Jedi). This little Miquelrius sketchbook/random notebook, which I’ve had for five years now, has a lot of in-flight travel sketches in now. Lots of Bon-Voyages.
Gatwick to Oakland

i am a passenger, and i ride and i ride

Amtrak from Davis
At the start of this month I took a couple of day off from sketching Davis and went to San Francisco for an overnighter. I took the train down as you do, the Amtrak to Emeryville, followed by the Amtrak bus over the Bay Bridge. And because I’m on the train for an hour and a half I have to draw it, even though I’ve drawn it before about a million times. In fact you know what, I was going to tell you about my trip to San Francisco but I’ve decided I’d rather bore you with a bit of trainspotting. Here are my other Amtrak sketches, or as many as I could find, the story of sketching just to pass the time. Training in perspective.

Amtrak from Davis to Richmond
Train to Burbank
Train to Santa Barbara

Amtrak Coastal Starlight 2016 sm
Amtrak from Davis to SF
amtrak in the morning
amtrak sketch
on the amtrak full of knitters
sketching on the BART
quick Amtrak sketch
on the amtrak (with my hat)
philadelphia trainsketchcrawl 31, allan on amtrak
sunday morning train
california train sketchfanta on amtrak
amtrak sketching
on the train to the bay area
on the train
sketchcrawl 20: san francisco
a weekend in the city

And some other trains elsewhere in the world…
Eurostar to Paris
Virgin Train to Manchester July 2016 sm
Virgin Train to London July 2016 sm
northern line
tube sketch
eurostar

And that is quite enough scrolling through train sketches for today.

need a little time to rest your mind

Virgin Atlantic to LHR July 2016 sm

Transatlantic travel can leave you feeling cramped up for days. Well, it does now I am 40. I don’t remember it happening so much when I was 39, a few months ago. Ah well, a week of non-stop sketching and wandering both London and Manchester clutching sketchbook to my body in that peculiar way that I do probably added to the effect somewhat. I have not started all the scanning yet from the many sketches I did at the Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester (July 27-30), as well as the Sketching Wren’s London sketchcrawl (July 24) and the Let’s Draw London sketchcrawl at Trafalgar Square (July 23). Here though are the sketches in transit, starting with the Virgin Atlantic flight to London from SFO. As usual I barely slept a wink, my knees being squashed against the seat in front. I love flying Virgin Atlantic, but their legroom in Economy truly sucks.

Virgin Train to Manchester July 2016 sm

Virgin Trains on the other hand had pretty good legroom, and the train up to Manchester was a very pleasant journey. I sketched again in the “Lapin” Miquelrius notebook and listened to music from Mancunian bands while the countryside whizzed by.

Virgin Train to London July 2016 sm

On the train back from Manchester I sat by the window and sketched a much larger panorama; I had taken Paul Heaston’s workshop in Manchester and realized I do need to stretch that curving perspective a lot more. While I do love a bit of the old curvilinear as you know, I don’t stretch it quite so often as I might, and it’s a good game to play.

Virgin Atlantic to SFO August 2016 sm

And in this last one, the squashed flight back to California. I watched Force Awakens as you can see, and Civil War (while wearing my Captain America hoodie). I also watched Zootopia, or rather, “Zootropolis” as it is called for some reason in the British release. Stay tuned for the sketches from England. There are a lot of them…

digital sketches from the UCAAC


Here are a few different types of sketches from the recent UCAAC in Santa Barbara. I don’t know if they need to be presented in this odd tiled fashion that WordPress has but I quite like it; click on the images to get a bigger view. I’ve been trying to use my iPad Mini to sketch, using an app called Paper by 53. Digital sketching is a whole new ball game and I am very much learning as I go along. I have a little stylus, nothing fancy, it just has a soft rubbery nib. It’s not an expensive iPencil and this isn’t a top of the range iPad Air or a Surface Pro or any of that. There is a very slight lag in time when making my digital marks and working out what the different tools do, the few there are, is interesting. It’s different from the stuff I do in MS Paint, which is more pixel by pixel football shirts, and quite unusual compared to using actual paper and actual pens but it is relatively quick, coloring in using big blocks of colour is intensely fun, you can go back if you accidentally put a big thick turquoise line through the middle (yeah, touchscreens) and you don’t need to scan them. Hey, you DON’T NEED TO SCAN THEM! That is actually huge. Literally years of my life have been lost crouched over my scanner pressing sketchbooks against glass while a slowly moving light trundles underneath me. But I’m a digital beginner, and still exploring, tentatively. If you need any tips…well, there are more experienced digital sketchers out there, but I hope you like these. I’ll enjoy looking back on these early efforts in years to come. The big one is the keynote speaker of the conference, Lester P. Monts of the University of Michigan, who gave a very interesting talk about being a Global Citizen. I included the pre-coloured-in version of that sketch so you can see what it looked like before the colourful blocks were added. The other sketches, two are very quick ones of breakout sessions I attended, and then there is a quick sketch of a curvilinear grid with a sketch of the room I was in (I won’t say the session but it was less fun than some of the others, I was starting to think about going to the pool). The other sketch is one I did in the observation carriage of the Amtrak Coastal Starlight train I took from Davis to Santa Barbara. Fun times!

rails, whales and tales

Train to Santa Barbara sm.jpg

Recently I went to Santa Barbara for the UCAAC (University of California Academic Advising Conference). I took the train down from Davis, an 11 hour journey on an Amtrak which didn’t have wifi, but did have amazing views. For an eleven hour trip it went by quite quickly. Zipping past the ocean, I even saw some whales, poking their heads and their tails out, an exciting sight. I spent at least half of the trip in the observation train, which was bright and roomy, and so I sat at a table and sketched. What else would I do? Sketching on trains is a good way for you to practice perspective. Also to practice steadying your hand while everything is bumpy. I caught the train at 7am, the first time I had taken one of these Coastal Starlight trains in California. They go right down from Seattle to San Diego, passing by many cities on the way. There were people who were making the long trip, a few interesting characters, and the announcers on the train liked to give the occasional piece of commentary. We crossed the Delta, went down the East Bay, through the Salad Bowl, horseshoed around a massive prison outside San Luis Obispo, paraded down the rocky coast before finally reaching the palm trees and beaches of Santa Barbara. It was a big ol’ train, a goliath on the move. I’d take the trip again. I did another on the less-lengthy train journey between Santa Barbara and Burbank Airport a few days later, sat in a regular seat. I’ll post my Santa Barbara sketches next, as I’ve finally started scanning them. Santa Barbara has a lot of red tiled roofs.

Train to Burbank

a stitch in time

on the amtrak full of knitters
I took the train down to San Francisco this weekend past. It’s a lot more expensive than it used to be. However, it’s nice to get out of Davis after a busy, busy week. I had no plan, and only decided to get that early 7:55 train shortly after waking up. I rushed to get to the train, my hair a mess, not even taking the time to stop at the bank for some cash. The train itself was packed with knitters, chattering and knitting, on their way to some big knitting thing in Santa Clara, Stitches West. I was sketching, and not chattering.
Gotts Roadside SF

When I got to the city I stopped at Gott’s Roadside at the Ferry Building for breakfast, before setting off aimlessly for some sketching and walking.

by the california northern railroad

train engines under covell
Beneath the Covell overpass in north Davis, behind the Little League fields, train engines – diesel switchers, I believe though I’m no ‘spotter – lie in wait. They are very colourful. Freight trains pass this way going north to Oregon, Washington, Canada, the North Pole for all I know. The Eastbound trains travel on the other track, nearby our old apartment. The first night I spent in Davis, almost seven years ago now, I was kept awake by the mile-long freight train rumbling through at one in the morning. I got used to that pretty quickly. It wasn’t that loud, but even at a distance I could feel the ground shaking a little. We have our freeways and our bike paths and watch airplanes cruise overhead, but something about the railway makes us feel connected to the wider continent at large. I may never get the time to do a big train journey across America – to paraphrase Cars, these days travel is about making good time, not having a good time (I blame the shorter vacations you get here) – so it’s quicker and easier (and occasionally cheaper) to fly. I like sketching train engines though. Maybe that makes me a trainspotter? Anorak on standby.