Jan 102018

Here is a watercolour sketch of German Christmas ornaments seen at Julia’s parents house.

Her parents live on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, where we spent Julia’s birthday on a rainy New Year’s Eve, just last week. Each time we’ve visited beautiful Bainbridge I’ve always wanted to sketch, but the weather is often too cold and/or rainy rainy to sit outside for long, hence choosing this cosy interior view instead.

Happy New Year everyone!

Apr 162017

Here’s a sketch I just scanned that was drawn last year when Julia and I went drawing in San Francisco’s Castro neighbourhood.

A week or two earlier we’d eaten nearby at a great little restaurant called FRANCES and we’d noticed that the neighbourhood had a lot of pretty houses, and came back later to draw the area.

Apr 042017

Last weekend Julia and I joined some friends to sketch from the roof of their flat. Kim & Randy live over by Japantown and the view from the top of their building is stunning. There was so much to choose from to draw, that I decided to simply attempt to sketch as much as I could.

We were expecting a foggy day and I dressed in flannel, but as more of more of Kim’s pals showed up for a rooftop sketch-posse it turned out to be bright sunny and HOT. After I spent a few hours blocking in the basic composition with pencil and watercolour, and trying my best to finish it all on site, Julia & I eventually had to skedaddle to get out of the sun and beat the heat.

After a pleasant lunch on nearby Filmore Street (a burger) we went home and I finished the the last 20% of this watercolour (of the Buchanan & Pine streets intersection) from a photo.

Mar 012016

A few weeks ago, Julia and I went back to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, for another free day of relaxing and sketching.


On our previous visit, I sat in the mezzanine (and sketching a dodo bird) and this time I visited that exact same place, but sketched instead a view of the T-REX skeleton in the lobby. It’s a quiet spot with chair & table where I could work undisturbed, and I was able to apply most of the watercolour on site. After a short break for lunch, we returned to that old fave sketch are, the diorama room. Julia sketched the BONGO on her new iPad (and Apple Pencil) while I sketched the LION diorama.


When the Academy closed we met our pals Bosco & Steve at nearby San Tung restaurant for their yummy signature dish of dry fried chicken for our dinner!

Jan 252016

In the final days of 2015, we flew to Washington State to celebrate Julia’s birthday (which is also known as New Year’s Eve in the rest of the world).


Although it was quite chilly in Washington (by Californian standards anyway) we were blessed with some beautiful sunny weather, and Julia and I both did a little sketching near the Winslow Wharf Marina on Bainbridge Island, where Julia’s family lives. Alas, despite new coats gloves and scarves (bought specially for a Washington winter) we were only able to fit in that one chilly sketch session before the cold got too much for us. Thereafter, we caught the Ferry several times across Puget Sound for beautiful sunny trips into the wonderful city of Seattle, one of my very favourite American cities.


Jan 032016

In summer of 2015, Julia and I went to Chicago to visit her family and enjoy that great city. We both did a lot of sketching on that trip, but I only just scanned mine recently and here they are.


Julia’s Sister and Brother in Law were attending an out of town wedding and we volunteered to hang with their two boys while mum & dad were away. This was a great excuse for Julia to spend quality time with her nephews and visit some of her old Chicago haunts. Together with Julia’s mum and nephews, we stayed at a hotel on Michigan Avenue for a few days of exploring Chicago’s fabulous downtown. A highlight of our trip was a visit to The Art Institute (across the street from where Julia got her own art education at The American Academy of Art). The only doodle I managed at The Art Institute was of the cafe courtyard (above) while eating lunch. The next day, while the others were running about hither and thither, I sketched another courtyard, an oasis of quiet just steps away from bustling busy Michigan Avenue (below).


Then it was back to the South Side to welcome Julia’s sister and brother in law home from Mexico. Julia and I met some of her college cronies for drinks, and I was able to hook up with my fave Chicagoan, Jon McClenahan, an early animation mentor of mine who became a lifelong friend. Jon recently left the animation biz to run a farm in Missouri, but as luck would have it he was back on Chicago’s South Side while Julia I were there, and it was great to see him again.  Julia’s sister and brother in law then surprised us with a few nights in a super swanky hotel by the Chicago River back downtown, which gave us the chance to visit the wonderful Field Museum.


My first time in Chicago was early 1989 when I lived downtown at Jon McClenahan’s Startoons Studio (before it later moved to the South Side). After Jon and his studiomate (illustrator John Hayes) had knocked off each day and gone home, I’d simply sleep in the studio on a couch and it was then that I fell in love with exploring Chicago, wandering about on evenings and weekends. Till then, the only US cities I’d experienced were Los Angeles and San Francisco, but Chicago was the first time I’d visited a city that matched the fabled American City I’d had in my mind’s eye since childhood. Elevated railways clattered through streets while clouds of steam emanated from beneath from the sidewalks, distinctive water towers atop the buildings.. you’d look up and almost expect to see Batman leaping about the gothic skyscraper spires as you chewed on your bratwurst. I’d seen such views in comic books and movies and TV shows since I was little, and here they were in person at last.


One recent improvement to the downtown since my first days in Chicago is The Riverwalk. I’m not sure why it took Chicago so long to realise what a wonderful urban leisure space was hidden in plain sight, but glad that the realisation finally came. Perhaps some Chicago city planner saw the beautiful walks along The Seine, or Portland’s own lovely riverwalk, and thought ‘we can do that too.’ By adding pontoons and landscaping the riverbank, the Chicago River is transformed into a winding park of relaxing coffee shops and eating spots away from, and yet close to, the bustling energy of the ‘City That Works‘, just a staircase away.


Julia and I spent a few days just lazily walking the Riverwalk and stopping to sketch views from the riverbank and drink coffee and/or grab a mimosa as we saw fit. The weather was perfect and many people were enjoying the river; canoeing, taking architecture tours (as we ourselves had done) or lounging on the decks of their powerboats. The Riverwalk has been opening section by section over the past few years, with more sections still planned, and the most recently opened section was where our hotel was conveniently located.


It was pleasant to have enough free-and-lazy time to get more than our typical amount of sketches done. Simply sitting and chatting while drawing lazily for an hour or two, before getting up and walking to a new location where we’d go through the cycle again. The sketchbook I used for these drawings was about half as small as the sketchbook I was using previously, which necessitated that I work even more loosely and in a way this was good for me. The drawings were pretty squiggly, and in some cases would be almost indecipherable to anyone but me, but a few simple watercolour washes helped clarify the scenes.


Chicago is a wonderfully picturesque place and is one of my favourite American cities. I look forward to visiting it again sometime soon.

Oct 012015

Last weekend Julia and I took advantage of our Neighbourhood Free Weekend at The Academy of Sciences. After doing a full sweep of the museum to scope out our targets, we went to a room full of skeletons and taxidermy where I sketched a model of a Dodo bird. The area was quiet enough that I was able to sketch and watercolour this drawing on site.


We are both members of the nearby De Young, and visit it often, but only go to the Academy of Sciences infrequently, so it was a great to sketch at this wonderful museum on a relatively uncrowded weekend, for free. The Neighbourhood free weekends are for San Francisco residents of each specific zip code, and therefore are significantly less busy than the Academy’s quarterly free days, when anyone can enter for free and absolutely everyone wants to.


After I finished my drawing of the Dodo, and Julia sketched several bird displays, we had a break for some lunch at the Cafe. Next, Julia had wanted to draw in the downstairs aquarium, but unfortunately it was the one area of the Academy that was quite crowded that day, jam-packed with families and strollers, so instead we went to the diorama room, and I drew the oryx display.


When the Academy of Sciences began to close at 5pm, we walked to the nearby Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park to sit and relax. It was a very pleasant evening and I drew a scribbly sketch of a beautiful tree, later adding the watercolour washes at home.


After our fun day of drawing, we strolled through the park to the 9th & Irving area for a tasty dinner, before catching a cab home.

Sep 072015

To close out all my recent TV sketching, here are a few more from 2014 and 2015.

THE HOUR was a British TV drama that we started watching last year, about the birth of British investigative TV news in the 1960s. Two seasons of 6 episodes were made, and both Julia and I were very much on the hook, but sadly the planned third season was never completed. Although it is a good show I’m loathe to give it an enthusiastic recommendation because there is no closure to the story, leaving you on a season two cliffhanger that was not resolved. Feeling thwarted, we subsequently got our fix of British drama with that 1960s flavour by throwing ourselves into ENDEAVOUR (a prequel series to the 1980s INSPECTOR MORSE shows). This show about a young detective in mid 1960s Oxford I can heartily recommend, for its attention to period detail, fine acting, and clever scripts (I haven’t done any TV sketches of that one yet though). I’ve always had a fascination for Britain in the 1960s, and sometimes wonder whether deep in my subconscious there are submerged memories of that place & time. Although I was tiny when I was there (just over a year old when my parents and I returned to Australia) and I have no conscious memories of my visit in the 1960s, the look and feel of 1960s Britain may have made an impression on my young mind, who knows?


GAME OF THRONES is a TV phenomenon these days. A sprawling Sword and Sorcery epic with violence, spicy language and lots of R-rated humping; LORD OF THE SCHWINGS. I’ve not seen any Orcs, Wizards or Elves, but there IS one dwarf. However, he’s not of the badass variety with a war hammer, more of a truth-telling court jester type. There’s lots of sword fighting and cussing, and there are dragons.. and Ice Zombies.. Where those plot threads are headed would be anybody’s guess at this stage (perhaps even including the author) and the political intrigues, battles and supernatural elements meander about willy nilly. The only certainty is that if we meet a comely mead wench at the start of a scene, we’ll inevitably see her vigorously boned on the tavern trestle-table by a dirty-faced bloke with bad teeth by scene’s end. (For this reason, Julia calls the show GAME OF HORMONES).


I’ve only read the first of the many books that this TV series is based on, written by George R.R. Martin, but Julia has read all of them. Angrily. Twice. (Despite her prior frustration with the books, she avidly watches the show). We are constantly told that ‘Winter is coming’ with ponderous ’mark my words’ gravity, but five seasons later, here we are, still waiting for winter to come, dragons to grow up and cook something, and Ice Zombies to do anything at all, as one character after another is seemingly groomed to be the protagonist only to be grimly killed off. Then the cycle repeats. At a certain point you start to wonder if there is an overarching plan at all, beyond punishing us readers/viewers for aligning our hopes with a ‘hero’.

Aspirational characters in GAME OF THRONES all come to a very grim end. In season one, NED STARK seemed to fit the bill of the ‘reluctant hero’, who’d nevertheless prevail. But no, he got his head cut off. Then KHAL DROGO, who’d once seemed a mere thug, but became likeable enough over the next season for me to want to see him kick some arse and avenge his missus. Only to die a drawn-out unheroic death after a wound became infected. PRINCE OBERYN was the next heroic sap to go; skull-squished. ROB STARK too; gutted at his own wedding. JAMIE LANNISTER started out as an unmitigated arsehole, but nevertheless grew on me, and just as he became likeable, wham; his sword-hand was cut off. JON SNOW was promoted to commander of the Nightwatch and poised for greatness, but no.. Hmm.. I’m starting to see the pattern. If author Jar Jar Martin had written LORD OF THE RINGS, ARAGORN would have been belly stabbed in the pub to die in his own gore at the very end of the first book.


Jar Jar Martin takes such great delight in killing off hero types that I wonder what happened to him at high school. (Are all these grisly hero-deaths a way of getting back at the jocks who whipped him on the arse with a wet towel?) While merciless toward ‘heroes’, he has a soft spot for cripples, orphans, bastards, dwarves and children. All of these from the first season have suffered setbacks, humiliations and mutilations, but as long as they avoid any overtly heroic actions they’ve survived. If they’ve made the mistake of trying to be a textbook hero, they were horribly dispatched. The downtrodden are all (with one recent exception) still alive at least, and my money is on one of THEM to prevail, though perhaps I’m a sucker for expecting anyone to ‘prevail’ at all.

A recent TV favourite over the past few years has been the relaunched series of Doctor Who, and shown here is one of my favourite incarnations of the changeling nerd from outer space; the 11th. I’ve not really bonded with the 12th guy yet. His debut season was (to my mind) very uneven, with some of my the silliest episodes of the relaunched series nestled right alongside some of my favourite episodes. It is very hard to say which way this version of the Doctor will go– Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat have the combined talents to make one of the most innovative versions of The Doctor, but it remains to be seen if this particular soufflé rises or collapses. The second season of Doctor #12 is soon to be broadcast and I will watch with great interest..

Jun 032015

Driving up Highway #1 from our visit to Monterey Aquarium, Julia and I saw a beautiful spot and pulled over to see Pigeon Point Lighthouse. This picturesque scene was made even moreso by the sight of a grey whale and her calf swimming past the lighthouse at close quarters.


We enjoyed the scenery so much that we decided to extend our homebound journey. Travel spontaneity is often punished when it comes to finding a last-minute hotel, but we lucked out with a great room by the harbour in Half Moon Bay, and across the road was a cosy and homey seafood restaurant where we had our dinner. Perfect. The Next day we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then set out on foot to find something to draw. We found a view of Pillar Point at the north end of Half Moon Bay, I set up my drawing rig, of easel and folding chair, and got to work.


The colouring for this sketch was done on site. I’ve only managed this a few times since starting to draw left-handed, and hope to do it more often. Part of the issue is that I become uncomfortable after an hour or so in the chair and must move and stretch all my broken bits-and-pieces. When the subject is elaborate (such as my earlier posts about the BAY) or the site is crowded (such as my earlier post about the AQUARIUM) I capture as much as I can on site and refine the picture later, but when the subject is free of architectural detail and I’m in a secluded spot, I can do the whole thing on site. I hope this becomes the norm as I get faster.


The next day we checked out of the hotel and hit the road again. Further up the coast we came to Montara State Beach, parked the car and started to draw. Julia bust out some great pastel sketches, but I’d stupidly left my watercolours back in the car (rather than in my coat pocket as I’d thought) so was only able to do the drawing on site, even though I think I could have finished this entire painting on the spot. By the time we got back in the car it was nearing time to eat, so we took a detour on the homebound leg of our trip to check out a pizza place we’d heard about. A tasty end to great trip. Then it was homeward bound to feed the hungry cat.


This trip to Monterey, the Aquarium, and back, was a very pleasant start to a month of travel. Stay tuned for tales (and sketches) of our trip to CHICAGO.

May 312015

Following my recent post about sketching Monterey Bay, here’s what happened when Julia & I finally got up early enough to use our Two-Day passes to the MONTEREY AQUARIUM.


I’m such a shuffling and slow walker these days, so in the interest of getting to the aquarium as soon as possible, we caught a taxi from the hotel. We began by doing the full sweep of all the exhibits to get a sense of all the sketching options available to us, and finally sat down to draw later in the day. For me, the hands down winners every time I’ve visited the aquarium have been the jellyfish tanks. Unbelievably hypnotic and beautiful displays, but of course impossible to draw in the dark (unless using a glowing drawing tablet as Julia did.)


Having realised that all the swimming and wriggling live exhibits would be too quick-moving for me to draw in my current doddering state, I decided to warm up by drawing the giant whale skeleton hanging in one of the main areas of the aquarium. I managed to find a relatively traffic-free area on a balcony opposite to pull out my folding chair and sketch an overview of the whale skeleton (see above) but then saw a chance to get my own back for Julia’s tablecloth doodles of me the night before, when I sketched her sketching in the atrium below me.


Even though my drawing rig is pretty comfy, eventually I had to move to keep comfortable, so packed up and looked for another subject elsewhere. Having earlier enjoyed working with a static whale model, I continued by drawing the life-sized killer whale display hanging in the atrium.


After a fun day of sketching at the aquarium, we ate at AUBERGINE, a posh restaurant in nearby Carmel where Julia had made the reservation; one of those fancy shmancy ‘molecular’ food places. When we arrived, the maitre’d addressed me as Mr Lundman (he pronounced it LOONTMAN, which Julia says is probably closer to the actual Swedish). Realising I was to be Julia’s Australian arm candy for the night, we went in to eat. About 5 courses into a 9 course meal (teeny tiny courses mind you – I think that’s why it’s called ‘molecular‘) the Maitre’d introduced Mr & Mrs Lundman to the tiny portion of beef they’d soon eat. Where it grew up and so on. The only detail he left out was the animal’s name, but after eating it, I dubbed it Damn Tasty. Once the meal was done, we were introduced to the chef, given his autographed menu for the night, and then walked around the corner (me doddering in the pitch dark) for a drink at Doris Day’s hotel bar. (Que sera, sera..)


On the final day of our two-day Aquarium pass, I tried drawing the coming-and-going crowds looking at the Kelp-Forest tank. It’s quite an impressive display. We got there early and sat on the backmost bench, where crowds would later assemble to watch the presentation. After I’d started drawing the scene you see here, a diver entered the tank to hand feed the fish, including a few very persistent and greedy leopard sharks (though small, I thought they might take his hand off). Speaking of feeding, for the second day in a row, we again ate at CINDY’s, the excellent restaurant at the aquarium. I’m not quite sure about the ethics of eating seafood in an aquarium, but whatever the moral ambiguities, I can tell you the flavour was very unambiguously excellent.


After lunch, in an attempt to get away from crowds of raucous schoolchildren, I entered a small display about the aquarium building itself (which began as a fish cannery) to draw some of the unused canning paraphernalia on show. This was going well, till that exact spot became the focus of a rowdy bunch of second graders on a school assignment, and I became the star attraction. “hey Mister, What’s that?” “Are you drawing?” “How come you are drawing that?” So that the youngsters’ education not be further disrupted by my presence, I hastily exited the scene.


I finally found a quiet space, which was ironically out in the atrium near the busy information desk, and drew my old friends; the fibreglass killer whales. It was only long after we’d left the aquarium that Julia and I realised that we’d missed the aquarium’s resident giant octopus, which is ironic, as this year the star attraction was called TENTACLES; starring octopi, squid, cuttlefish and so on. The display was heavy on the audio visual but not as impressive with the live articles as the seahorse exhibit years ago, where everywhere you looked were all manner of seahorses.


I will have some sketches of our TRIP HOME up Highway #1 along the coast, in my NEXT post.