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.


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…


…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.

davis street food rodeo

street food rodeo: star ginger

Last night we popped down to the Street Food Rodeo, a special event over by the Co-Op sponsored by the Davis Dirt with lots of food trucks and street food available. There was music and dancing, and I had some nice samosas and paella. I also managed to get in a sketch of the “Star Ginger” Thai food truck, which is usually found on campus by the Silo. I have never eaten from this truck but will try it some time; I do like Thai curry. Plus it’s called Star Ginger. I like to think I’m a star ginger too (though nobody else is allowed to call me that; it’s star redhead to you). I drew this in the Moleskine while my son was off playing with big sticks in the parking lot – it was better than him playing on the adjacent railroad tracks, like many other preschoolers were apparently being allowed by their parents to do (completely mental). The early evening was nice though, and lots of locals were out enjoying the food. It’s been a busy week, and by golly it’s going to get busier. Better stay well fed.

keep on truckin’

truck at lunchtime
Yesterday lunchtime I was looking for something inspiring to draw. Up by 3rd and University Streets, just off campus, workmen are doing some important work on the road, so there was a lot of machinery about. I was drawn to a big yellow truck, and this being lunchtime it was just parked there under a tree. I drew it for about fifteen or twenty minutes before the driver came back and drove it away (actually on a bit further up the street, but I had enough of a sketch to be happy with). Decided I preferred it unfinished anyway, and left it colourless too. Machinery is fun to draw. After this, I popped into Ali Baba’s on 3rd for a falafel gyro – nice, but not a fan of the peanut sauce.

i’ve been around for a long, long year

chrysler in medford
While up in Medford my wife spotted this long blue/black Chrysler parked out near an old laundry, so I had to try and draw it. It was so long and mean looking it reminded me of the Batmobile. I stood in the hot sun to draw this, trying to get shade from a lamp-post (they don’t give much shade, by the way). This is a car that says, you’re gonna listen to what I gotta say, then I’m gonna run ya outta town. This isn’t a car for the streets of Colindale. This car is master of his domain.

a bug’s life

vw beetle
A Volkswagen Beetle, yellow of course, my entry for the Pence Gallery’s Bug Show – yes, it’s not an insect type bug but it is still a bug. When I dropped it off, Eileen at the Pence (a big VW Beetle fan) told me someone else had also submitted a Beetle; I’m not surprised! It is a classic among automobiles, the old Beetle. I have always loved them, and love seeing them (those newer ones are nice too, they look a bit like stormtroopers, but I prefer the older ones). Jurgen Klinsmann drives one I recall (I heard he got into a minor collision, fell theatrically out of the door and the other driver got a red card, or maybe I dreamed it). We all remember Herbie the Love Bug (well, actually it’s unlikely anybody has heard of Herbie any more, let alone remember it, in fact I don’t really remember it). My personal favourite was Bumblebee the Transformer, the original one, which was a classic yellow Beetle. When they made the new ones and turned him into a Chevy Camaro, I thought that was like remaking Star Wars and turning Chewbacca into Cousin It.

I didn’t draw this from life, it’s from photos, drawn on Canson textured white paper in micron pigma 005 ink, with watercolour. It’s for sale at the Pence Gallery in Davis for $66, during the Bug Show.

and like a true nature’s child

motorbike outside bainer

Saw this Honda motorbike parked outside Bainer Hall today. After massive wake-you-up-at-night rain, the Sun came out at lunchtime, and so did the sketchbook (Stillman & Birn gamma one). I stood and drew, until the glare of the Sun started to make me squint so badly, and my eyes were heavy anyway from my allergies (and from the wake-you-up-at-night rain waking me up at night), then they started to stream like the Tigris and Euphrates. People probably thought I was a bit mental, crying while drawing, but I wasn’t really crying. Still the glare was getting to me so I put my hood on and crouched over the paper (and I look odd when I draw normally). I laboured on, trying to get every, um, axel, er, metal machinery bit (I am not an engineer, unlike the folks in Bainer Hall). And get this – by the end of the drawing, it had started raining again! Wouldn’t you know.

Tomorrow my eyes and the weather will all be fiunctioning perfectly once more, because it’s the next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, on G Street. Meet us at 10:30am on the corner of 2nd and G. See you there!

free as a firebird

blue pontiac firebird

This blue Pontiac Firebird, with furry dice in the window, was parked on 2nd Street last week when I was on my way downtown. I had to stand and sketch it. There’s a real primary colours feel to the classic cars I’m finding to sketch lately (ie, they’re usually red, yellow or blue). Speaking of primaries, big ones today in America. Michigan and Arizona. Mitt vs Rick, with Newt and Ron sitting it out. They should just merge them all into one candidate, “Mittrick Newtron” and have done with it. I must say, I’m dreading this marathon-of-marathons election season reaching California, all those horrible endless pointless soul-destroying attack ads, paid for by super-pacs and other nefarious organizations, which unfortunately really do have an effect on the outcome of elections, regardless of a candidate’s actual worth. And these torrential ads are called free speech… free to the highest bidder. I’m almost glad I can’t vote for any of them.

she’s a nice girl

red fiat in davis

Bloody lovely weather yesterday in Davis, so I went and sketched for a bit in the afternoon. I spotted this beauty parked on 3rd Street, so I parked myself on the sidewalk and whipped out the moleskine sketchbook. There were quite a lot of very sketchable cars out yesterday, for some reason, but I didn’t have time for them all. One thing that drew me to this car was its shadow – basically, it is Batman. Who knew?! There’s this advert on the telly these days for Fiats where this guy is confronted by a tall young Italian woman who slaps him in the face and then acts all seductively, before the guy realises she is just a car. My four-year-old saw that commercial, and he said dryly, “she’s a nice girl”, which had me in hysterics. He does like cool cars though, so this one’s for you matey.