This old BMW was parked on a street near us, and that means it needed to be drawn. What a beauty. My parents had a white BMW for a while when I was a kid, not the sort of car we’d usually have but it was nice, and I loved telling people at school we had a BMW because those cars were always cool. Before that, my dad even had a white Mercedes for a while. Those were the nicest cars we had, but my dad would go through cars a lot when I was young, often buying and selling. I wasn’t drawing cars back then, I wish I had been. I wish a lot of things.
I like these types of truck. There’s something very ‘Pa Kent’ about them. I’m not a fan of modern American trucks which are more along the line of macho monster truck take up as much room as possible macho nonsense, the ones that stick out too far at parking lots and have their headlights up higher so they can blare directly into the windscreens of more normal-sized vehicles. Everything’s bigger in America, and if it isn’t, then GM have a way to help you overcompensate. I love this one though, especially as it’s all nice and shiny, and the shade of cerulean blue, slightly teal, is lovely. It was parked out on Oak St a few times and I cycled past thinking, I must sketch that some time. So in mid-February I did. Those are the sports fields of Davis High School in the background. It was another of those windy days we had a lot of in February.
Vaccine’s feeling a lot better today, two days after second shot. Yesterday the body was feeling very fatigued, but the seasonal allergies were kicking up as well. Hopefully the rubbish-joke side-effect has cleared up now. I thought I’d post this sketch since things are starting to pick-up…
Recently we decided to finally get out of Davis for a bit and took a pre-birthday trip to Southern California, pre-birthday for my wife that is, post-birthday for me. Roughly equidistant between the two. We were headed to San Diego, but on the way there we spent a couple of nights in the lovely seaside city of Laguna Beach. We hadn’t been there since before my son was born, and the very first time we went was back in 2002 on y first trip to the US, and it was perhaps the prettiest place I had ever been. Sunset over the ocean from the cliffs is like something you wouldn’t believe (and something I cannot draw). Lot of rich people live here though, so a lot of flash cars. I personally love to see a Jaguar (there’s a house near us in Davis that has three old Jags outside, one of them, an E-Type, is kept in a special inflated plastic presentation box, I kid you not). Well there was a cool looking Jaguar sports car parked opposite out hotel, an XJS, that I just had to sketch. It was a schoolday when we were there so my son still had to go to remote school, taking his classes on the balcony overlooking the Pacific, with that Jag on view below. I was working too, inside the hotel room on my laptop, eager to get stuff done and get down to the beach in the afternoon sometime. After we took a long walk downtown, I spotted this incredible old Jaguar Mark 4 parked along the Pacific Coast Highway. It looked like something a 1940s gangster might drive. “Meeeah, sheee, wise guy huh?” I said to myself over and over while drawing. People stopped and took selfies with the car. More than one person asked if it was mine, and I laughed hahaha, no, because obviously I don’t look like a 1940s gangster. I did like Bugsy Malone when I was a kid (my big sister used to watch it a lot) but I’m not sure I could pull off the look. I can do the voice though, “Myeeeeaahhh, sheeee?” Because that is how 1940s gangsters all talked, as we know. This was a pretty beautiful vehicle though and had some little metal British logo thingies below the grille, ‘RAC’, ‘AA’, ‘BARC’ and a special one for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. But the car’s steering wheel is on the left so this is definitely a car for the US. What a beauty, not something you sheee too often.
Now this is part of the very long Pacific Coast Highway that stretches all along the west side of America. I like the quirky looking architecture along this road in Laguna Beach, so I had to stop and draw some. Click on the image to embiggen it for a closer view. I have to say this road was very noisy. Cars zooming up and down, it felt like a bit of an adventure when we drove downtown to pick up our dinner later that evening. I think I listened to a podcast rather than to the sounds of the city, but I can’t remember what it was I listened to now, probably something to do with Formula 1, which would have been quieter than this road. I do really like Laguna Beach though (despite the fact it sounds like the word ‘Gooner’ and we can’t talk about that since Arsenal beat Spurs this weekend, grrr), and here is the sunset from our balcony. I’m not quick enough to paint sunsets like this, so I just looked out and enjoyed it.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 ended with its usual spectacular firework display, which thnaks to out location we can see from the comfort of our bedroom window.
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.
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…
In the meantime, check out the other great sketchers from around the world at the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum.