Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Music and Musicians

Music plays a big part in setting the scene at the Dickens fair.

Here are the carolers rehearsing. (And yes, I came home and listened to Sting’s version of The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came.)
music1

 

music2.jpg

The fair has been so well thought out. There are little spaces for all sorts of activities. The Bruno Academy of Music is actually a space where performers can take a break in public view. Musicians sat around taking a break between sets and they welcomed me in to join them.
parlor_1

This lady tuned her instrument and practiced her piece before it was time for her to perform.
music3

 

The Dickens Fair runs through this weekend. If you’ve never been, you can still visit.

So far in this series:
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Scum, Sweeps and Peelers
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Costumes
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Building London

Posted in california, Close to home, people, reportage, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Building London

Victorian London takes weeks to set up at the Cow Palace in Daly City. On a cold day, I watched new shopfronts and sets being built and painted and older ones being assembled and touched up.
buildup_green.jpg
buildup_indianeatery

They all looked super-garish when I was there, but Gregory, who was painting away at Samira’s East India Cookery reminded me that the colors would look positively muted under the much dimmer lighting at the fair. They did, and what really struck a chord with me when I saw the final setup was how much of the attention to detail and finish was hidden by the mood lighting.And yet everyone at the fair worked hard at the details. Truly a labor of love.

I watched the Fezwig Warehouse sign go up at the big dance.
buildup_fezwig

Nearby, one of 14 trees that are setup around the fair had last year’s “snow” pulled off it, fluffed up and freshened before going back on.
buildup_tree

Every little detail in this huge, cavernous space gets set up: an empty corner outside the luggage depository gets a casual arrangement of baskets and trunks.
buildup_baskets

 

The Dickens Fair runs through this weekend. If you’ve never been, you can still visit.

So far in this series:
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Scum, Sweeps and Peelers
Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Costumes

Posted in california, Close to home, people, reportage, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Costumes

Costumes play a big part in making the Dickens Fair feel like a little corner of Victorian London.

At practice, this dancer wears a crinoline over her jeans so she can practice moving in it.
costume_crinoline

I really enjoyed chatting with Mr. Alan Jeffries on practice weekend. On that day, he sold deadstock and Hollywood extras costumes at very reasonable prices, for participants who needed to build up their wardrobe.
jeffries-shop

At the actual fair, Mr. Alan Jeffries sells far more high end costumes. This one is a custom made piece he created for Mr. Pluck from Nicholas Nickleby (or rather, for the person playing him). I asked him to describe the character and he said Mr. Pluck was a “very high class, somewhat pretentious fop”.
jeffries-shop2

I’m partial to the men’s costumes from this era: they’re flamboyant without being as fussy and constrained as the women’s costumes.

The participants costumes are as historically accurate as they can get. But my favorites at the fair were these three visitors. No historical accuracy for them. They took their inspiration from the era and then gave it their own personal twist.
costume
The Dickens Fair runs through this weekend. If you’ve never been, you can still visit.

The first post in this series is Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Scum, Sweeps and Peelers . More to come in this series.

Posted in california, Close to home, people, reportage, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Behind the Scenes at the Dickens Fair: Scum, Sweeps and Peelers

Through a few days in November, Uma Kelkar, Laurie Wigham and I went behind-the-scenes at the Dickens Fair. The fair invited us to attend a day of practice sessions, another day at the build of the fair, and a day of the actual fair. The next few posts are little bits of reportage from the event, going back and forth between the three days.

Being a performer at the fair means meeting some pretty rigorous standards. (See this link for requirements) You need costumes that pass inspection, accents that take training, and workshops to be better educated on the history of the times. One of the workshops I sat in on was called “The Scum Look”. Scum performers asked an expert instructor for tips on creating authentic costumes. scum_workshop
My favorite ‘scum look’ tip? Liquid nails, dribbled down the front of your shirt makes good ‘snot’.

This chimney sweep at the fair was looking for an apprentice, one small enough to shimmy into a little chimney that stood by him. Seeing the jolly, grubby sweeps was a good reminder of a basic tenet at the fair: suspend your indignation at the abject unfairness of the Victorian Age and enjoy this romantic look at it. (In all fairness, workshops that performers attend cover the disparity of the class system in great detail.)
scum_sweeper

This game at the fair was a little like watching someone play Whac-A-Mole. You got 12 turns at whacking a little wooden device that made a rag doll chimney sweep catapult through the air. If your sweep landed inside a chimney flute, you won a prize.
scum_sweeper_game

Patrolling close to where the scum hang out at the fair and keeping an eye on them, were the Peelers, named after Robert Peel, their founder. (incidentally, the more well-known ‘Bobbies’ are also named after him.) A wooden baton, a whistle and a pair of handcuffs is all these police patrolled the streets of London with.
peelers

If you enjoyed this little vignette, there’s a few more to come over this week.
The Dickens Fair runs through this weekend. If you’ve never been, you can still visit.

Posted in california, Close to home, people, reportage, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Random Sketches (and a workshop signup reminder)

I keep finding random sketches from the last few weeks that never did show up here. So here’s a couple. Also, at the bottom of the post, a reminder to register THIS Sunday for a joint workshop with Stephanie Bower, Shari Blaukopf and me.

A few weeks ago, my daughter cut off most of her hair. I needed to remember that, and a photo with huge amounts of hair on the floor of the salon can look pretty gross… funny how it doesn’t look like that in a sketch.
haircut

I don’t enjoy the winter (yes, even when ‘winter’ means only a dip in temperature to the 50s). My kitchen window is a mad assortment of plants I try to keep alive, many of which are tropical. It’s my little version of Rousseau’s jungle, and while it’s completely unrealistic to try and grow these plants where I live, it makes me feel a wee bit like I’m back in the tropics. This contour drawing is with two random pens I found on my desk, one pink, one black.
contour_plants_window_sill.jpg

For those of you interested in signing up for this workshop, signup starts THIS Sunday, at noon Pacific time, and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Instructions on how to do just that are at this link.
https://sketchaway.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/announcing-a-joint-sketching-workshop-stephanie-bower-shari-blaukopf-suhita-shirodkar/

People | Places | Color
A Sketching Workshop by Stephanie Bower | Shari Blaukopf Suhita Shirodkar
May 15-16, 2020 • 10am-5pm • Downtown San Jose, CA
PPC_Promo

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fall Yellow

Fall is a very short season where I live. It starts with the first day the temperature drops low enough at night for the colors to turn. And it ends with the first breeze that takes all the colorful leaves off the tree.

Fall is oranges, reds, yellows (and a fair share of browns I don’t paint). But the color that seems to jump out at me the most is yellow.

The yellow of my favorite gingko tree, reflected in the carpet of leaves on the ground.  Here are two back-to-back sketches from my car. I do this often: I’ll start a first sketch and then want to try it another way.

I was done with Sketch #1 on the left and then looked back at the scene and was struck by the primary yellow(tree)-blue(sky)- red(stop sign) bit, so I did a second version. 2_yellow_gingkosSomedays I like version 1 better, somedays version 2. Do you like one over the other?

This yellow hydrant is right on my street corner. But I only seem to notice and sketch it in the fall. Yellow, again. On the left, my first sketch. I enjoyed the looseness of it but noticed as soon as I was done how wonky it was. SO I did a more controlled second sketch.
2_yellow_hydrants.jpg

If you had to pick one, would it be #1 or #2?

That base yellow in all these sketches? The super-versatile Hansa Yellow Medium that can warm up or cool down really easily. I love it so much, it gets two half pans in my palette.

 

 

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, san jose, Silicon Valley, supplies | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Faces of Recovery: Nat and Matthew

It’s been a while, but here are more stories and portraits from Recovery Cafe.

Nat Duran turned up early in the morning at Recovery Cafe to talk to me today. She said the simplest thing to me to explain that she feels well now, and how she can do things she never could do before “I say hi to people when I meet them.“, she said.nat_face.jpg

Matthew volunteered to sit and talk to me when he heard that someone else scheduled today couldn’t make it. He insisted he was boring and had no story to tell. And then told me in the same breath that he volunteers to do all the prep chopping and cleaning for a meal for about 30 folks, twice every week at Recovery Cafe.
matthew_face

To make these portraits, I focus on the stories I’m told, trusting that the person before me will paint a portrait in words that my hand translates on to paper. This is when all that study at life drawing and urban sketching practice drawing people really helps. I’m just doing one thing: listening and recording stories. The rest takes care of itself.

Find every story recorded so far here. Or read more about the cafe, it’s members and programs here

Posted in Activism, california, Close to home, Faces Of Recovery, people, Portrait, reportage | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment