Thursday, 26 May 2011

San Francisco part 2

The last week or so has been relatively quiet which has meant lots of drawing - I'm managing to do a good few hours every day which feels great. It's been a long time since I could dedicate so much time to just drawing and experimenting with different techniques. Annie very generously set me up a drawing desk in her room where I've been busying myself with various long-term projects - it's amazing how much more work you can get done when your drawing desk is computer-free. I've also managed to squeeze in lots more second-hand record and book hunting in various parts of the Bay Area - as soon as I get a moment I'll post up the best pickings.

Last Thursday we headed into SF in the morning - Annie had a focus group and I had record shop vouchers burning a hole in my pocket. Unfortunately I was about two hours too early for Streetlight Records so I wandered over to Duboce Park for a read in the sun. It's the park that was used in Milk for Sean Penn's dog-shit scene in case you were wondering a couple of blocks over from Upper Haight. I met Annie at Aardvark Books then headed back up to Streetlight for some record foraging before moving on to the Mission for lunch. I've been less than impressed with Mexican food the few times I've had it but Annie swears by burritos and suggested we head to her favourite burrito joint Taqueria Can Cun where I had a meat burrito. It was mediocre. It also gave me Cannibal Corpse style food poisoning (ie violent, projectile, both ends, with blood).

Fortunately it didn't kick in until the following day so after my mediocre tasting poisonous burrito we headed up to Molotov's on Lower Haight which has one of the best juke boxes in SF (Kyuss, Gza/Genius, Black Sabbath, Fugazi, Toots and the Maytals, Gravediggaz, Minor Threat, The Specials etc) and drunk a whole bunch of beers. We eat again at Bean Bag on Divisidaro, a hipster hang-out with cheap beer and self-important twats for Annie to get into fights with and then headed home on BART.

By midday Friday I was writhing around in bed with a fever - hot and cold flushes, aching back and the sweats. Then I started vomiting up absolutely everything I'd eaten in the previous twenty four hours and as soon as all the food ran out I started vomiting blood instead. In my incapacitated state and suffering from fever-induced hallucinations I thought it was the Rapture coming for my heavenly soul. It was only a day or so later I worked out it was just a dodgy burrito.

On Saturday feeling a tad wobbly but significantly better we headed down to Santa Cruz for a couple of days - Annie has an old family home there a couple of blocks from the beach. It's a beautiful old wooden house built by her relatives aunt Nell and aunt Bess in the early 1900s with a thousand curious family antiquities left there from various generations of marauding Bordens. I could happily sit and draw all of it's contents from the stove to the stairwell. I don't though. I tend to just sit on the deck and drink beer instead but in a more productive illustrator's hands this place would be a treasure trove of creative inspiration.

After twenty four hours on a simple diet of water and crackers I woke on the Saturday morning early enough to watch the final day of the Premiership bizarrely featuring commentary from Steve McManaman. It's an odd way to start the day in sunny Santa Cruz and baring in mind the previous forty eight hours where I swore to myself to live on a strict fruitarian diet for the rest of my life I start the day with a big bowl of honey-bbq crisps and a bottle of Sprite. By lunchtime I manage to wolf down a huge slice of Woodstock's pizza and finish up with a few cans of Mexican future beer (Tecate) for tea. The less said the better really.

Much heavy lounging ensues for the next couple of days with a generous side-order of book and record digging at the mammoth Logos bookstore - one of my favourite spots in California given the double whammy of cheap books and cheap records aplenty. Pick of the finds is the Woody Allen 'Play It Again Sam' soundtrack lp which fingers crossed features the heavy psychedelia of the one, two, three dance scene - with or without the dialogue - I'm not fussy.

We have a slap-up lunch on the harbour the next day - the very same harbour that felt the after-shock of the tsunami a couple of months ago. I can remember chatting to Annie about the US news coverage of fat rich Americans crying because their expensive boats were getting a bit jostled by the waves all-the-while thousands of people in Japan were dying. Charlie Brooker done nailed it a few hours later here.

We also manage to squeeze in some flip flop powered languid cycling on cruisers, a trip to the local car-boot sale where I very nearly managed to purchase a portly Mexican child and I also did a rather good illustration of an old Borden business from a black and white photo I found. I've been experimenting with ink washes a fair bit of late and with some much needed discipline on my part (usually I'm too impatient to wait for the page to dry between washes) I think I nailed it.

On Tuesday we headed back to the Bay area for a hardcore night in the Mission featuring a friend's new band Boundaries plus Devotion, Run With The Hunted and Until Your Heart Stops. I think Boundaries aside my pick of the bunch were Until Your Heart Stops who played [to-my-ears] an inventive start-stop hardcore set with some metal inspired nods towards Quicksand - typically Annie disliked them. Headliners Devotion play an odd mixture of stoner rock and hardcore - I don't think the two styles particularly lend themselves to each other - one minute it's shouty, intense and urgent; the next minute the guitarist is trying to wig out with his wah wah peddle. Bare in my mind my points of reference for hardcore are pretty much limited to Minor Threat, Quicksand, Black Flag and Husker Du but it was a lot of fun watching all the vaguely homo-erotic aggressively macho dancing. With that sentence alone I should probably exclude myself from any future SF hardcore events...

And that's about it. Apologies for the lack of art stuff and banging on about food and records etc.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

San Francisco part 1

I arrived in San Francisco exactly a week ago today. Highlight of the [pre] flight was a chance encounter with Dylan Moran at Heathrow airport. At least I thought it was Dylan Moran but given the scale of his hangover and the difficulty he had squeezing a Beroca tablet into the top of a bottle of water I think it may have actually been Bernard Black. It's good to meet someone famous that entirely lives up to your expectations. Ten hours later I arrived nervously in SFO ready for a grilling from customs. I thought I was suitably prepared but waiting in line with another Brit (who I have just discovered was in fact X Games gold winning snow-boarder Jenny Jones) I quickly discovered I wasn't nearly prepared enough as she went through all of the stuff I should have got together in advance but didn't... As it turned out the customs guy was more content to point out I shared my name with a leading brand of American snack - I did my best I've-been-awake-for-twenty-hours smile and breezed through to collect my eighties suitcase and meet Annie.

The subsequent week has featured some jet-lag, much Pabst beer, lots of foraging for second hand books and vinyl and a steady diet of fast food. I think I could do a whole blog on the pizza I've eaten this week - each slice has been quite fantastic - why on earth does the UK struggle to do a decent slice of pizza? It can't be that difficult surely.

In addition to this we managed to make it to a talk with Paul Madonna at Moe's book shop in Berkeley which was interesting enough for me to stay awake beyond the hour of nine on my first night in California - this is more impressive than perhaps it reads. He has a new book out 'Everything is it's own reward' which is the sequel to 'All Over Coffee'. I bought the first book for Annie a couple of years ago as it features page after page of beautiful illustrations of San Francisco. The sequel goes further afield and also features more behind-the-scenes insight. The most important thing I garnered from the night was that Paul uses rapidograph pens for his line work. I have some and I can't use them at all - I'm pretty much stuck on dipping pens for life which is deeply frustrating. I also found out Paul is a thoroughly nice and super talented chap who squeezes more creativity into a day than I do into a fortnight. Which made me dislike him for about a second but he really is quite difficult to dislike even from my grumpy misanthropic stand point.

On Friday we headed into the city for the day. In the past when I've been over here I've insisted on going in to the city virtually every other day but this time around I simply can't afford to. I'm on a rather modest budget of around $10 a day which just about keeps me in pizza and second-hand books. Anyway we headed in and did North Beach, Haight and finished up in the Mission. By 'did' I mean I got to go to lots of record shops, thrift shops and second hand book shops and eat lots of pizza.

We snuck into a dive bar for some happy hour drinking before going along to Needles and Pens for Nigel Peake's exhibition. It was a bit bizarre seeing this particular exhibition in SF - I first discovered his intricate illustrations at Analogue Books in Edinburgh a few years ago when I bought one of his stunning shed screen-prints; to get to see his show in SF the very same week Analogue Books have approached me about stocking 'The Film One' is a bit of a coincidence. But not freakish enough for me to muster the balls to talk to him [obviously]. Actually he was surrounded by fawning middle-aged women while we were there and I had the taste for cheap beer so we fled to another dive bar with the intention of dropping back in later in the evening. This didn't happen [obviously].

On Saturday we spent the evening in Oakland at one of Annie's friends - for his birthday he set up a projector in his garden to watch Anchorman. We left before that started but I did get to see some of the ace 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' projected onto the wall, drink beer from a keg and meet some of Annie's pals from the SF hardcore scene - more of that later I hope.

I'm doing a fair bit of drawing at the moment (which feels great after being bogged down with zine chores for a month or so) but most of it is for a long term project I need to finish - if I get a chance I'll post up some of the rougher sketchbook stuff. I seem to be going through a superhero phase - it happens to the best of us. Annie does not approve.

Friday, 6 May 2011

'The Film One' - Shogun Assassin

Here is the colour version of my submission for 'The Film One'. I'll be the first to admit 'Shogun Assassin' isn't my favourite film but I was having all kinds of trouble coming up with a nifty illustration for both 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'The Last Detail' so I decided to channel my inner fifteen year old and do something a little more comic-like and epic. There's a blood splatter version too!

I'll probably do a limited giclee print run of it when I return from San Francisco in August. Right I best start packing...