all the young dudes

automuseum 1958 edsel pacer
Time to draw some classic cars. I went to the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento last week (can I just point out, I cycled, then took the bus, then walked for a long time to get there, ironically). It’s only the second time I have been, but they have a lot of very interesting historic vehicles there, I’d recommend a visit. After sketching cars with Lapin and Gerard at the Manchester Symposium I was eager to draw some really old classics. I didn’t sit super close to them for that distorted perspective, but close enough, and closer than usual in one case anyway. So, above is a 1958 Ford Edsel Pacer, shining black with cool orange trim. If it kind of looks like the old Batmobile from the 60s, it’s because that car, designed from a Ford Lincoln Futura, was designed by the same person who made the Edsel, Roy Brown. No, not Roy Chubby Brown, a different Roy Brown. The fire exhaust and red batphone were probably not standard issue. Apparently this car did have its problems though, I was told, what with most of the controls being just a bunch of buttons – it was easy to press the wrong one. You might think you are indicating to turn left, when in fact you are releasing anti-Joker spray.
automuseum 1987 lamborghini countach
When I was a kid (playing Top Trumps, also watching Transformers), you knew that the coolest car in the world was not a Ferrari, not even the Porsche Carrera (which was pretty bloody cool), not even Face’s Corvette from the A-Team, but it was the Lamborghini Countach. I had a toy one, the doors went upwards. That was even cooler than the DeLorean (without time-travel or flight, neither of which most DeLoreans could do anyway). This is a 1987 Countach, and I sat as close as I could get (there was a sign saying “no touching”), and there were only 2,042 of these ever made, between 1973 and 1990. Yeah if I was ever super rich, I’d want one of these. Plus some guards.
automuseum 1929 american race car
This was a race car from 1929, American. I loved those old race cars, makes me think of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, reminds me I haven’t seen that film in ages, which reminds me of Dick Van Dyke’s odd American accent (both his father and kids are British in the film) but as a Transatlantico myself now, I don’t care. I just love that opening sequence with the old grand prix races. I actually started a new Seawhite sketchbook to draw this, having run out of room in the Stillman & Birn one (except for a double-page spread I was saving for a panorama).
automuseum 1943 military jeep
I had to sketch this old American Military Jeep. The Jeeps, made by Ford, are those classic army vehicles, Jeep probably standing for ‘G.P.’, general purpose. One thing I was told, and I notice this now looking at all the modern Jeeps out there (of which there are loads), is that military Jeeps have nine openings in their front grilles, while civilian Jeeps only have seven. It’s their thing. I never knew that. I do hope it’s true.
automuseum 1914 stanley steam car

Finally, exhaustion set in and I could not finish this one, the 1914 Stanley Steam Car. I drew it because of Stanley, the founder of Radiator Springs in the Cars movie. Apparently its nickname was “the flying teapot”. Also, I was told that the Stanley Steamer is completely unrelated to the Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaner, who, I was told at the museum, totally stole the name, allegedly. Anyway, these were all the cars I could sketch, and so I trundled off on the hot Sunday afternoon back to Old Sac for a cold drink.

big mechanical monster on campus

weird chainsaw machine at UC Davis
If you had to come back as a monster machine, this one is about as badass as you can get. I can’t believe I just used the word ‘badass’ because I’m not twelve, but really there aren’t many other available words in our lexicon that can describe this thing quite as well (and it’s anatomically accurate too, the big chainsaw thing being at the rear). I saw this machine near Shields Library on the UC Davis campus, I believe its purpose is to open up the Earth’s core and tear out its soul; either way when you show up for work in the morning this is the machine you want to be playing with. Give this one a parking ticket, I dare you, I double-dare you. When you absolutely positively got to rip up every piece of sidewalk on the street, accept no substitute. It looks like something out of Robot Wars. I sketched this in the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, with a micro pen that has seen better days.

take me anywhere, i don’t care, i don’t care

racecar in davis CA
Here are a couple from my second visit to the monthly meet-up of local classic automobile enthusiasts in the parking lot of a shopping mall a couple of blocks from where I live in north Davis. This was the last meet of the year, and I managed to get there with enough daylight left to sketch more than one car this time. The yellow car on top is an actual racecar, which races locally for Team Tinyvette (they have a Facebook page) and races in something called 24 Hours of LeMons (this is a vehicular urban sketchers dream if ever there was). I understand the pun ‘LeMons’ because my son’s a big fan of Cars 2. Anyway the driver of this car is called Mike.
austin healey
This beauty is an Austin Healey. The owner was very happy to find out that I was British, and talked about the history of Austin Healey and how the guy who made them refused the make any more after the powers that were decided in the 70s to make several safety features (such as shoulder seatbelts) mandatory. I don’t know much about any of that but this is a gorgeous car, classic old British style.

I must visit the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento again some time. I’m itching to sketch more old classic cars…

1956 mercury montclair

1956 mercury montclair
The other evening, after dinner, I cycled down to the Marketplace parking lot in north Davis (that cultural hotbed) where there was a meeting of classic automobile enthusiasts. By that I mean that the automobiles were classic, not that the enthusiasts were classic, though they probably were, I don’t know about how to judge an enthusiast’s classic status. The ones I met were very nice. Anyway the sun was already going down and so I didn’t have a great deal of time to choose a car to sketch, but this beauty stood out above all the others. Now some of the cars were spectacular beasts, and some were, to be fair, verging on the old banger. This fine automobile however was bright and shiny and oozing in fifties Americana. Its yellow trimmings reminded me of California sunshine (that, and the fact I was in California and it was sunny, for a few more minutes anyway). So I sketched it, and you can see my reflection in it, and the owner liked it; it was his first car, in his family since 1977, and it is a 1956 Mercury Montclair. Now this says ‘America’ to me, not your beige Toyotas. Three people sat in the front, like in the movies, cruisin’ low and slow, all of that. I do like to sketch a classic automobile. They’re having one more this year, next month, same place. I might get there earlier this time, and sketch some more.

old white volvo

old volvo
This old Volvo was parked in downtown Davis last week, I’ve seen it about before but was able to sketch it this time. I sat in the shade on B St. I don’t know the model.

celebrate davis 2013

celebrate davis 2013: cochon volant
Last Thursday May 16 was the tenth annual “Celebrate Davis” event, held at Community Park, the big park near my house. There were food stands, live music, bouncy castles for kids, a petting zoo, a big zipline was set up, even a dunk tank where kids can throw balls at a button to send some poor volunteer splashing into a vat of water. Mostly there were stands from various different businesses from Davis, this event being organized by the Chamber of Commerce. I did a little bit of sketching: above is Cochon Volant BBQ (“Flying Pig”), which I sketched with the smell of grilled pork wafting all around. I don’t eat pork any more but I’m sure it was lovely. I also sketched an old police car which was parked nearby, the local police were letting kids get in to take photos. This looks very 70s TV cop show to me. I wonder if it ever drove through big piles of boxes on the sidewalk, like they did in the 70s, on cop shows, on TV.
celebrate davis 2013: old police car
Celebrate Davis 2013 ended with its usual spectacular firework display, which thnaks to out location we can see from the comfort of our bedroom window.

and the clock waits so patiently on your song

castro street SF

The 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl took place in the Castro, San Francisco. This here is Castro Street (click on the image to see a larger version), and I was very eager to sketch a panorama of this scene. The magnificent Castro Theater could take up an entire day of sketching all on its own, so full of detail it is. I enjoyed speaking later to other sketchcrawlers who had attempted it, some having drawn more detail and some having drawn less, each impactful in their own way. It’s a tricky one. For me, the horizon was the thing – I had intended on sketching a lot more of the beautiful slopes of old houses on that hillside, but the smaller size of my sketch and the level of foreground detail meant leaving it out would be better. Well, that and I would have been there until about Thursday. No, with this sketch I wanted to capture the sweep of Castro Street, sinking and rising among San Francisco’s many hills. The Castro is well known as the predominantly gay neighbourhood of the city, and you’re not really left in any doubt of that! Rainbow flags adorn lamp-posts, bars, houses; this is an area which is open and proud. I was stood at Harvey Milk Plaza sketching this, and if you have seen the movie Milk, you will know a bit about the Castro and its history, and the great gay rights campaigner and city supervisor Harvey Milk. I saw a documentary about Castro Street once; this community really has a fascinating history. Anyway as I stood sketching this, first in the morning before the sketchcrawl meeting, and then going back to finish it off after lunch, the wind really started picking up, making me rue not bringing little clips for my sketchbook. Is topped without going the whole spread, and I stopped in the right place. Here’s another tip – sketch a scene with a clock in it somewhere, and you can keep good time, without checking your watch and worrying about being too slow.

sketching castro street

Here is a car parked a bit further down Castro Street. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to sketch – there is a lot to choose from – but when I saw this it looked like the distant cousin of this other car I had drawn once, and I just HAD to sketch it. Now whenever you draw a car on the street you are always running the risk that the driver will drive away. I checked the meter, still plenty of time left, but I took a couple of reference photos first, and then started sketching, sat on the kerb. Behind me, a stall on the street was offering free HIV tests at a nearby clinic; further down, tourists were giggling at the skimpy male underwear in the shop windows. I got as far as the outline, the license plate and about half of the details before the car’s young owner came and drove it away. He didn’t see me sketching; if he did, I hope he didn’t think I was a traffic warden. I considered putting more money in the meter if he could leave it there a bit longer, but it gave me an excuse to go and sketch other things. Which I will show you in the next post…

car on castro

In the meantime, check out the other great sketchers from around the world at the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum.

where we’re going we don’t need roads

1938 rolls royce25-30 sport sedanca
More from the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento – above, a metallic blue Rolls Royce 25/30 Sport Sedanca. This Roller was enormous. It looks like something from a 1930s film noir. You had to be a pretty special type of gangster to ride in one of these, none of your “shtick em up, see, this is a frame-up, see” lingo from this motor. This is a roll up slowly, window rolls down, give you a look of disdain from beneath a silvery fedora and move on to the opera before the real thugs come and throw you in the canal. Lots of stories in a car like this, see.
1966 shelby cobra
Oooh, the race car section was superb. As keen readers may recall I was at Disneyland Cars Land last week so race travel’s in my blood, there is nothing I can do about it. Well my five-year-old son loves them, and I’m always tripping over them on the carpet. This zippy little creation above is a 1966 Shelby Cobra, a car built by former race-car driver Carroll Shelby. I should like to learn more about race cars like this. Of course this would mean more reading and less drawing so I took a photo of the very detailed history displayed by the exhibit, and I promise I will read the rest of it some time. I don’t know if this car won any races, but it should have done. Being number 13 reminds me of a car I built once – not a real car, like, but a cardboard model with wheels made of those yellow plastic balls you get in Kinder eggs and elastic bands to make it go. I was about thirteen or so, it was for a competition in my design technology class at school. I won, by the way, I won a fun-sized Mars bar, which wasn’t all that fun. And it was not number 13, but number -13 (my favourite number, the opposite of unlucky). I retired from my automotive design career on a high.
1981 delorean dmc12

Of course, I really wanted to design a time machine. Who wouldn’t? Back to the Future was one of my favourite films. I count it as one of the reasons I moved to California. So you can imagine my heart-thumping glee when I saw the 1981 DeLorean, a real DeLorean, DMC-12, with car doors up prancing majestically like, you know, the karate kid. The Flux Capacitor was gone and it ran on neither plutonium nor trash, but every angle of this car brought me back to being the ten year old who went to see this at the movies and fantasized about time travel ever since. I still nod approvingly at the clock when it strikes 10:04. Time was pressing on and I really had to sketch it before it was too late, because I needed to get to the bus, and get back to 2013. This was a fun trip to the Cal Auto Museum, and I think I’ll be back there soon.

http://www.calautomuseum.org/

reinvent the wheel

1904 ford model B
On Saturday, a sunny but breezy February afternoon, I took the bus over to Sacramento for an afternoon of sketching. I had heard about the California Automobile Museum, but had never sought it out, until now. Not far down the river from the Tower Bridge, but still a bit of a walk for my aching feet, the Museum is set into a large warehouse building and jam-packed with amazing historical cars. As someone who likes to draw classic old cars but is frustrated by the samey-samey beige vehicles and unnecessarily testosterone-powered SUVs of the 21st Century, it’s amazing I’ve never been here before, and wow what a find. I will be coming back here again. I wanted to draw everything, so started in chronological order. I didn’t draw the absolutely oldest things on show, but drew the 1904 Ford Model B touring car, above. I say ‘car’, it is a lot bigger than it looks, with a roof straight out of a Great Plains Wagon. It’s intersting to see the evolution of automtive design – many of the touring cars there are larger than a standard SUV of today, but still resemble high-end horse-drawn carriages, where the horse is a long engine in a box at the front.
1914 hupmobile model 32 touring
Here is a slightly smaller vehicle, but still sizeable, the 1914 Hupmobile Model 32-Touring car. I kept thinking of Mr.Toad, “poop-poop”. I loved the hand-cranks on the engines, another reminder of old movies. This was accompanied by an exhibit about the Lincoln Highway, one of the great roads that was built across the United States in the early twentieth century, the age when the motor-car allowed the idea of America’s Manifest Destiny to truly become reality. There was an exhibit about Camp Curry, Yosemite, and that big tree you could drive a car through. No need to go around trees any more, we can just go through them. With our motorcars, we are now the Masters of the Universe.
1938 buick special

Here is a later one, the 1938 Buick Special, when cars became great design masterpieces, curves and shine and power. I sketched some more, to follow in the next post. Even by this point though, my aching feet were joined by an aching arm as my sketchbook-holding left arm was starting to feel tired from my standing posture, while I rushed to draw as many as possible. But there was so much to draw! More to come…

http://www.calautomuseum.org/

…and his spirit truck

aggie firetruck
Campus is extremely an busy place these days. At lunchtime today I cycled over to the Memorial Union, where all the fraternities, activity groups, leaflet hander-outers, placard-holders (like the bloke holding up a sign saying ‘stop the left lean of campus’; I was going to suggest he gets one shoe slightly bigger than the other, that should fix it for him). There was music, of course, and there was the blue Aggie Pack Firetruck. Oh, all this Charing-Cross of life, what to draw? Silly question!

I’ve wanted to sketch this for ages. It’s a 1973 Crown Pumper Truck which was serving in the UC Davis fire service for three decades before it was retired, and bought by the UCD Athletics Dept, painted blue and reborn as the Aggie Pack Spirit Engine. You can read more about it on the Aggie Pack website. I sat on the ground with my sketchbook. The DJs playing the music were nearby and quite loud so I put my headphones on and listened to my iPod.