Friday, 30 August 2013


The final stage of our tour: we arrived in Los Angeles. What a city. I must say I really liked LA, even though it's a sprawl of endless suburban housing.

LA lacks those things that turns a city into a recognizable entity, like a clear definable city centre (there is one, but that is not really alive), citywalls (OK, that's the European in me) or parks. 
There are no clear points like cathedrals or townhalls or pedestrian shopping area's, no Eiffel towers or Tower bridges or something. 
No. LA has Motorways to define the city. And the Hollywood sign.

So here are my sketches of Hollywood. The Chinese theatre drawing is not that good, but in fact it was the most lively place we saw in all of LA. And Godzilla was looming over the roof of the "Ripleys believe it or not"exhibition.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Palm Springs woodfires

Palm Springs. No sketches this time, there are times I don't draw....
This is a picture made during the thursday evening market in Palm Springs: a road closed for cars, lively public, a lot of market stalls, artists, music, good food and excellent restaurants. And nice bars with good beer. We had a terrific time.

But in the background you can see the woodfires in the mountains above Palm Springs. It's the faint red glare high between the two palmtrees on the left. But you should realize that the bright lamplights can't even hide it; it was very present in the less lit urban area's.
All streets were covered with a fine layer of ash, and there was always a very faint smell of smoke.
It was warm and a bit hazy that night, but I am not sure whether that was from the smoke or humidity.
We were never afraid or weary, but the looming fires were always there, in the back of our minds.

We hear the stories about the Rim fire in Yosemite Park, which we visited a few weeks ago. We can only hope the fires can be controlled before they do irrecoverable damage.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Joshua tree park

Before driving into Palm Springs we visited the Joshua tree National park. One of my favourite parks during the trip. No idea why.
The trees are peculiar. They reminded me of men, each standing at some distance from each other, a bit alone, but not too far from the others. The trees together never form a forest, they are too individual for that, but all together they still form an entity. Weird.
We also visited the "hidden valley"; a surreal landscape coming straight out of a Salvador Dali "soft construction with boiled beans" painting.
I know now where Hanna-Barbera got its inspiration for the Flintstones. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Route 66

After the grand canyon we drove along parts of the legendary Route 66, among others in a little town called Seligman. We visited some relicts of the 50's like an old barbershop.
Dave (our driver) even had some personal stories of how they stayed here when his family moved to LA in the 50's. I love these kind of stories: objects and places come to life with them.
There were also a number of old rusty cars, like this 52 Chevy Bel air. (I just found out it's a 1953, thanks Jim)

Later that day we passed Roy's Motel, on one of these endless desert highways. The motel featured in the 1987 movie "the hitcher", one of my favourite films (the 2007 remake is horrible though).

Thursday, 22 August 2013

BMW Isetta 300

Something totally different. I went to a meeting of car enthusiasts in Brunssum, Schutterspark. They meet each thursday evening and show off their beautiful vintage cars. There was this shining and well restored microcar, a 1957 BMW Isetta 300. BMW produced a lot of these tiny bubble cars just after the war, so small because of lack of materials. It had a one cylinder 300cc motor, and the owner said it could reach 70 km/hour. Downhill that is.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Grand Canyon !

The Grand Canyon. Can only be expressed in superlatives.
It was a bit hazy though, it had just rained when we arrived, and another rainstorm was coming up. Actually, we were lucky that the helicopter flight was not cancelled. And what a fantastic flight it was: passing over the deep canyon below, and these rock formations as far as you can see. An experience I won't forget for a lifetime.
But I also felt quite dwarfed by the immense size of this wonder of nature. Not only overwhelming, but also intimidating. In this respect I was touched more by the beauty of Bryce canyon or the tranquillity of Joshua tree.
I made the ink drawing on the southern rim outlook. But just as I started to fill in the background, it started to rain, and we had to move. We had a severe thunderstorm while driving to our motel, half an hour away. I finished the coloured parts the next day during the busride, on route 66 to Laughton.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Ruby's Inn

After our visit to Bryce canyon we stayed in Ruby's Inn. Scattered around the motel you could find ancient car wrecks and rusty tractors. I went out to draw them. Dave, our driver, was in for some small talk and joined me. He told me all about the cars, which were Ford B and A types, and an "International" lorry.

Frederick's Sun-Strippers He also told me that his mom was an illustrater working for "Frederick's of Hollywood". That's a lingerie brand like Victoria's secret nowadays. In the 50s and 60s she illustrated the catalogues.
Dave told me he was very popular with his friends, especially if they could sneak into the "atelier" to have a peek at the work at hand. I will believe these "dare-to-be-bare" drawings will jog a boys mind.
Some story!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The wedding of Peter and Julie

Last Friday my Belgian colleague Peter married with his fiancé, Julie.
As a surprise present I made this digital photoshop collage of them, pasted into a Bouquet book cover.

The Bouquet books are a series of cheap hyper-romantic novels.

I'll continue with USA drawings tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Bryce Canyon

How can you ever come close to drawing something that is so overwhealmingly beautiful as Bryce Canyon. Even pictures don't tell the beauty, you just have to be there, if only once in a lifetime.

We arrived late in the evening, it had rained, we first went to Ruby's Inn, then made the visit.
It will rank very high on my "most beautiful things I ever saw" list.
An impression of reality.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Painted desert

Songs of the endless Highways. This is Indian Navajo country. Coloured mountains and endless uninhabited flatlands. Roads ending into a vanishing point. It's called the Painted Desert.
One of the advantages of a coach trip is that you can draw and paint during the ride. Just put down on paper what you see through the window.

Monday, 12 August 2013

New York-New York

Like with everything in Las Vegas: all is larger than life.
It's hard to imagine that anything would be able to surpass the real New York, but here it is: a condensed version of NYC. All famous sights available within a hundred meters, evenly spread among rows of slot machines. And they were even able to fit in a rollercoaster....
I made the drawing in the shade of the Excalibur Casino across the street, but at a certain point the burning sun hit my head and I had to stop. Sweat was dripping on the paper. So I coloured the drawing at home.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Zion national park

After leaving Las Vegas we visited Zion National park.
Not the most impressing af the parks that we visited, but certainly one of the most beautiful in a tranquil sort of way.
No the drama of Yosemite, the almost kitsch colours of Bryce or the overwhelming Grand Canyon, but beautiful coloured mountains, lovely waterfalls, clear creeks and fine green and trees.

We were able to make a small hike here, just a few miles, but so lovely there.
And time left for this sketch. Ehhh.. I should add that the bus had to wait for my return...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

More Las Vegas

Paris, Las Vegas.
Almost like the original, but without the downsides..... like inhabitants who live there.
And they have Venice, New York and Luxor in the same condensed style.

Next year they'll probably open Amsterdam - Las Vegas....

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Las Vegas

Of all the cities I ever visited, this is the weirdest one. A completely over the top city.
Everything is exaggerated. From the thousands of slot machines to the larger than life canals of Venice, from the neon signs to the endless corridors of hotel rooms. From the Eiffel tower to the Gordon Ramsay hamburger joints. From 4 meter high chocolate fountains to stretch limousines. Not to mention the heat on the pavements and the endless rows of cars waiting for the traffic lights on the Strip.

It would have been a nice town for a Italo Calvino story.

Above a sketch of the neon sign of the "Gold Coast" casino that we stayed in. Just a small casino counting only 2000 slot machines and 50 table games....
And a totally over-the-top shoe for sale at "Chinese Laundry".

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Calico ghost town

We left the valley towards Las Vegas, and stopped at an old, abandoned silver mine: Calico.
It is a regular ghost town: all buildings like the saloon, the firestation, the corral, the sheriff's office, the little school and even the undertaker were all restored to its old glory.
It felt a little weird, it really looked like a Disney World fake; and it was funny that you had to remind yourself constantly that the place had been a real silver mine once.
Anyway, it was really hot out there, and after a while we all sat on grandpa chairs, in the shade on the veranda, exhausted by the heat.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Mariposa grove

After Yosemite we proceeded to Mariposa grove, where you can still find a few hundred of the highest and oldest trees in the world.

Beautiful and unimaginable high trees, some up to 80 meters: the Eiffel tower is only four times higher....
We made a beautiful walk to the Giant Grizzly. Imagine: 2000 years old, and having an enormous trunk, 30 meters measured around.
Also to the California tunnel tree. A hole was cut into the trunk in 1895, fit for coaches. Hard to imagine, but the tree is still alive.
Maybe Salvador Dali got his inspiration from this tree?

Anyway, it's a beautiful forest: the light filtering down through the branches has a very special quality and colour. I can't name it, but that light will stick in my mind.