On Friday (July 1st) Annie had demolition duties all day so I set off into the city in the morning for another day of rooting around for records. You would think I'd get bored of this activity but apparently not. First stop was the Civic Centre where I negotiated my way through the tourist hordes to Rasputin's. I spent a while going through the records there but didn't find anything that quite grabbed me enough to exchange money for goods so I left and hopped on a bus up to Haight. I got off again just below Lower Haight slightly earlier than I wanted to when a crack-addled couple decided to sit on top of me and swear at each other loudly. It did mean I stumbled across a nifty Jeremy Fish statue that I didn't know existed.
Rather than blather on about all the individual record shops I'll keep it succinct - I got Bob Ray's 'Initiation of a Mystic' from Groove Merchant which has been a long-time want and a cheap second-hand copy of indie miserablists The National's 'High Violet' from Ameoba. I'm still not entirely convinced by the latter but I'm hooked on this song and some random old bloke kept telling me I needed to buy it. I'm not entirely familiar with interaction with strangers so I generally assume anyone that talks to me is massively mental and/or trying to lure me back to their sex dungeon but apparently American people do just talk to strangers. It's a little unnerving but I'm gradually getting used to it. I'm still not comfortable with all the hugging and touching though.
I gave the chatty weirdo the slip in the Jazz section and made my way through the hippies and bums to Golden Gate Park where I found a quiet spot for a beer-in-a-bag and bit of a read in the sun. Rock and roll. My initial plan was to walk all the way through the park to Ocean Beach but after a couple of beers realised my tiny bladder would never hold so instead walked back to Haight to a bar for a wee. And another beer. It's a vicious circle - drink a beer or two, need a wee, go to a bar for a wee and buy another beer then need a wee again. I should probably just drink coffee instead but it tastes ugly.
A couple of beers later I wandered down to Lower Haight to Molotov's for some more beers and some impromptu drawing. I'm not one for getting my sketchbook out in public (not a euphemism) but drinking alone in bars isn't something I do very often either so I forced myself to do some drawing. The results were surprisingly okay considering but I'm yet to finish inking the pencil work so I can't share yet. I made my escape soon after when some women insisted I draw their horrible little precocious dog. I declined gracefully insisting I don't draw animals. Ahem.
The following day we headed down to Santa Cruz for a week taking the stunning scenic route on Highway One that travels alongside the ocean for most of the duration. After an evening of hot links, beers and a fire we spent the next day riding around town on cruisers. We set off past the giant concrete whale at the Santa Cruz Museum of National History where I paid my respects to the mighty Bear Spirit. He's not a shy fella.
We rode on past the boardwalk to the wharf - it was the first official weekend of the summer holidays and blazing hot so everywhere was heaving. We made a quick detour into town to cool down and eventually rode back to the Borden house and down to the end of the road to sit watching the sea and drinking beers in the sun. I turned up my t-shirt sleeves white-trash style for a no more than two hours (baring in mind it was already four o' clock or so) only to get quite burnt. Feeling suitably buzzed we returned to the house where I proceeded to fall asleep on the sofa and then wake up again at ten or so with minor sun stroke. Early boozing and sunshine had taken their toll on me.
The following day was July 4th which is apparently some kind of day of celebration for American folk. Given the location of the house and it's close proximity to the beach the entire neighbourhood was buzzing with people. The beach itself was guarded all day by security ensuring no alcohol or fireworks were permitted but there was talk of people stashing both in advance under the sand and in bushes. I was still feeling a little rough from the previous day so I was especially wary of being out in the sun. The buzz about town grew progressively during the day and by early evening there were already plenty of beer/sun casualties out and about. I strolled up to the local store for some beers only to find the police had blocked access to the beach and were man-handling a drunken frat-boy in the store car park. The more raucous it got the more inclined I felt to stay at home and draw. Roaming gangs of overly patriotic drunks aren't really my thing whatever country I'm in and Annie wasn't getting any pangs of loyalty to the Stars and Stripes either so we tucked ourselves away for the night making one skirmish to the beach for a few rogue fireworks in the fog. I think in retrospect my mum does July 4th better than the Yanks.
The morning after the night before it dawned on me one pair of boxer-shorts would not last the duration of this week long excursion so inexplicably I found myself searching for underpants in Santa Cruz. It's an odd place to find yourself. After a successful pant mission to Capitola we returned to the Seabright harbour for an incredible lunch at Aldo's - deep fried cod, calamari, prawns and chips with sweet and sour dipping sauce. I wouldn't usually allow myself such extravagance but I was made aware of the fact my time in the US was slowing coming to an end so decided to push the boat out. The rest of the day was fairly low-key; I did a couple of illustrations including the one below which was from memory looking down at some rocks at the harbour. I've been playing around with water colours and gouache and trying to simplify my line-work just to give you an idea of why it looks a bit odd. That and the fact it looks like a mountains leading off into the sky rather than rocks leading off into water. Oh well. In the evening we went to see Submarine at a small cinema in town. It's actually the second time I've seen it but it's brilliant so I wanted to see it again with Annie. She approved.
The next day (Wednesday 6th July) we decided to drive down to Big Sur to see what all the fuss is/was about. If it's good enough for Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson... Annie employed all her skills of cartography by illustrating this annotated map for us to find our way, we stopped off for some provisions for the journey at the supermarket deli and we set off.
The drive down was aesthetically fairly typical of what I'd seen of California already but as we got closer the scenery started to get all kinds of epic. Vast rugged mountains dropping off into thickset green forests on one side and stunning ocean views on the other. We even saw a bleak farmstead looming out of a dense bank of clouds over the sea.
It took a couple of passes but eventually we found the turn off towards the beach and trundled down a narrow winding lane following a handsome orange camper van. Twenty minutes or so later we sat in a queue of vehicles waiting to get into the beach car park with a one in one out policy - not the most encouraging of signs and certainly a far cry from the Kerouac's Big Sur but inevitable in this day and age I suspect.
After a twenty minute wait we drove into the car park and set off towards the beach. The canopy of trees gave way to a spectacular sandy beach surrounded by impenetrable rocky slopes. I'm struggling a bit at this describing things with words shit so I'll just post up some photos instead...
Despite what the photographs suggest there were some other people there - mostly Europeans - but not too many. We spent a relaxed afternoon reading, drawing, drinking cold beers and even managed a quick dip in the ocean but the sea is incredibly cold in California. Colder even than English seas I think.
It was so beautiful there I was keen to stay and camp nearby but Annie isn't very keen on camping so instead we stayed until the sun started to go down and headed back up to Santa Cruz. There was a one-off showing of Lost Boys at the Beach Boardwalk in the evening which we were quite keen to see given that much of it is shot in and around Santa Cruz but by the time we got in we were too tired to do anything.
The next two days in Santa Cruz were more of the same - a mixture of illustration, cycling, a quick foray into town for some record shopping (the new Kurt Vile lp, some dirt cheap Randy Newman lps and a battered but by the looks of things playable copy of 'Exile On Main Street' for a dollar, since you asked...), beers and beach-lounging. I did a pencil sketch at Big Sur of a fuck-off big rock and finished it later with inks and water colour. I'm reasonably happy with it - the line-work is good and the subtler colour washes on the rock are okay but the sea errs a bit on the wrong side of water colour hell. In hindsight I wish I'd just done a block of colour for it rather than try and do waves and such but it was a quick experiment so it doesn't really matter.
I took a photo for reference that I didn't use as I had no access to a computer but I've included it here just for reference. The scan of the illustration is a bit rough and ready too and far too bright but I'm without Photoshop again so can't tweak it accordingly. I will say in my defence it looks better in the flesh.
It's a new technique I'm trying to develop whereby I reference things from real life but not explicitly so I can be as vague as I like. And I like to be vague. I think I mentioned in the past I used to draw virtually everything from my head without any referencing at all but increasingly it's good to be able to draw from real-life but by doing it like this without the baggage of having to get stuff to look totally correct or take a veritable fucking age to do it.