As you could have guessed from the previous couple of posts, I’ve spent the last two weeks in exciting, sunny, and disconcertingly humid North America. Mostly in the USA but with a little trip up to Montreal, which is not part of the USA (and some would claim it’s not even part of Canada). Here is a big pile of the best of the drawings from there (some but I thought it’d be best to put them all together).
The journey begins here, as all journeys should, in an airport but also in a pub. Airport pubs are funny because they attract a really odd clientèle, exclusively of people waiting for planes, and also because they’re really just as corporate and soulless as Burger King but they’re dressed up to look like ye olde English taverns and given names like “The Duck and Donkey” or whatever.
Jump forward about twelve hours or however long it took, and I’m in another pub, this time in Cambridge MA (I was actually born in Cambridge, England, and you’d be surprised how similar the two are). This one is down the road from my sister’s house and it’s called the Toad, (by Porter Square,) and it’s really excellent- nice beer and live music constantly. I think I went there about three or four times on my trip. It’s really that good.
This is the band who were playing that night.
This is from the area that my sister lives in, which looks like something out of a Rockwell painting with lovely old tree-lined streets and everything. Very different from my only previous trip to the USA was at the start of last year, when I went to New York and was overwhelmed by the big imposing skyscrapers. That said, six months afterwards I went to Hong Kong, where all the buildings are twice as high and the streets are half as wide.
She’s just finished a postgrad scholarship year thingy at Harvard, so we wondered around enjoying the serious student lifestyle:
Also the architecture of Cambridge MA is very European- I remember reading somewhere that one of the Ivy League Universities had been designed too artificially look as old as universities like Oxford and Cambridge and the Sorbonne, even down to actively encouraging ivy to grow on the walls, and using acid to make the stones look more aged though. I can’t remember if it was Harvard or Princeton though, and it might might have been Princeton, or it might have been both, or more likely, it might not actually be true.
The other big thing that happened, and reason for going to Cambridge, was that my sister was singing in a concert. Here’s a drawing of the conductor, who was great fun to draw:
Anyway, it’s not all eating burritos in the sun (although it mostly is). I am also capable of doing touristy things while on holiday, as evidenced here. I went and looked at the historic harbour of Boston, and drew a picture of it. This is actually seen from the top floor of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, so that’s actually two tourist attractions in one.
Before going I always assumed that Harvard was in Boston, in the sense that Boston is quite big and Cambridge and Boston share the same municipal area and infrastructure. But it turns out that people in Cambridge consider themselves to be an entirely different and proudly separate city. That’s fine, and sort of makes sense because they have a very wide river between them, as a clear geographical boundary (Budapest is the same- lots of places are the same).
But there’s another separate “city” in the Boston-ish area, called Somerville, and I almost got lynched in a cafe in Somerville for mistakenly saying “here in Cambridge” when Somerville is most definitely not Cambridge. The weird thing is (and I would get lynched if I said this in the same cafe in Somerville, but now I’m on the internet so I can say anything) that there’s no real boundary between Cambridge and Somerville; the streets all look the same, and the border itself seems to be marked out by nothing but a small bicycle shop on Beacon Street.
The only notable thing I saw in Somerville was a man in a broken down car- a nice image, but not enough to merit it having it’s own city.
The best thing I did in Boston (apart from Margaritas in the sun, etc) was the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which I mentioned in two previous blog posts, as well as in every conversation I have had with every human being I have met in the last two weeks. The inside of it looks like this, and it’s full of lovely art and things:
One night we went there and they had all sorts of live music.
That night was actually strangely themed around the Red Sox baseball team, though the link seemed pretty tenuous, and I’m not sure you even need a link like that to persuade people to spend all evening drinking wine in a beautiful museum.
That said, I did actually to a Red Sox game, which was an interesting affair. The best way to give you a first impression of it would be to quote my good friend, famous musician and New York cool-cat Shane O’Connell:
“Lord in heaven – you sure are jumping right in as they say. The Red Sox at Fenway Park has to be the most extreme and sadistic way to introduce yourself to our national pastime. But I suspect this was your aim? Red Sox fans are loudest, drunkest, most confrontational group of mutants our country has to offer. If you’d like to incite many colorful interactions with your fellow game-goes, wear a NY Yankees hat, I’m sure you’ll come away with many thrilling stories, and a neck brace. But be warned – though you’ve chosen the most exciting venue possible, you will undoubtedly be bored out of your mind and utterly confused by the game’s mystifying rules. I once took my Argentine friend to a Mets game and am sure that he remembers it as one of the most unpleasant episodes of his life. Drink plenty of $12 beers and I’m sure the buzz will carry you through to at least the 5th or 6th inning.”
Which summed it up pretty accurately. The only thing is that a lot of Americans described baseball is having bafflingly complicated rules and drunkenly violent fans, but being British and familiar with cricket’s rules and football’s supporters, I was able to prepare myself. Great drawing place though.
I did have a great time , and you can expect further work in the baseball theme in the near future. And I did manage to last two and a half hours before getting exhausted and cold and leaving- who knows who long the actual game carried on for?
So that was Boston (or Cambridge, or Somerville, whatever). The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn a boarded a bus for Montreal.
I made the mistake that a lot of Europeans make in North America, which is assuming, given that you can drive from one end of Britain to the other in about twelve hours, and that Boston and Montreal are basically in the north-east of North America, that driving between them is like driving from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. Turns out it isn’t, it actually takes about eight hours. Eight hours through beautiful idyllic New Hampshire and Vermonth isn’t unpleasant (plus we stopped in Montpelier, VT: what a hilariously idyllic town!) but it is still eight hours. Here’s a drawing from a bus stop in White River Junction, VT.
Not much going on there. Still, I eventually arrived in Montreal, where there is lots going on. So much in fact, that I don’t have many drawings from there. But here are a few, some in a park:
And in some pubs:
I only had a few days there, and was going around by bicycle which restricts the carrying of big sketchpads. But just take my word for it, Montreal is a nice place.
After the weekend I went down to New York, which is just action and adventure all round:
As you can guess, lots of pubs, lots of jazz bars, lots of drawing. I also had quite a few art director meetings, like a proper illustrator. Thanks to those who took time to look over my portfolio!
One of the products of this trip is I’m not much better at drawing double-basses.
I also spent a good amount of time on the subway, which is just gold for drawing people:
And in museums:
And just strolling around on the street: (this is outside the NYT building, I always think its really funny that there are these tiny fruit stalls in the middle of the really expensive midtown area)
And obviously in pubs. Always spend a lot of time in pubs:
So that’s it! That’s my American adventure. One last piece of good news (wasn’t it all good news, though?) is that I’ve just found out I’ve got a place on the Prince’s Drawing School postgraduate programme, starting in September. So you see, all this observational drawing isn’t just an idle habit!