behold! your guardians of the galaxy!

guardians of the galaxy lego
I can’t stop this feeling deep inside of me…

Remember that movie last summer, the big gamble Marvel took on a space-hero movie made up of a group of characters that doesn’t make sense in the comics, let alone in a movie – a barely heroic scoundrel, the most dangerous woman in the galaxy (who is also green), an extremely literal and violent maniac (also green), a talking raccoon who loves enormous weaponry (also violent), and a giant walking tree (kinda violent but loveable). Let those last two sink in for a minute. Rocket Raccoon (don’t call him a raccoon) and Groot (he’s definitely Groot). Theoretically that sound as bad an idea on film as Howard the Duck (um, spoiler alert…). It was brilliant, and loads of people went to see it, and the script was cool and the soundtrack kicked bottom, and space was fun and colourful and, well, not ‘Interstellar’. It even had Thanos, the mad Titan on his floating space throne. Yep, I loved it. I went to see it in Leicester Square in London with my friend Roshan on a massive screen, and we spent the entire time in the pub afterwards talking comics, which we never do, usually.

My son loved it too, and for Christmas he made sure to put on his list Guardians of the Galaxy Lego sets. So this is what I have drawn this time, in the sketchbook-of-his-things.

Next up in the Marvel-movie-verse: Avengers Age of Ultron. Wake me up on May 1st!

asmundsen, kerr

asmundsen hall, uc davis

Another period of little sketching, but these are actually from a couple of weeks ago, though I never coloured them. The scene above, looking at Asmundsen Hall at UC Davis, now has a lot more bright pink blossom near it, which wasn’t there when I sketched it. It’s been warm and sunny lately, which is nice. Except we need rain because California is running out of water. A year’s worth left, say NASA. Ah. Yes, let’s have some big wet storms please. Below, Kerr Hall. I really wanted to colour this, but never did.

kerr hall, uc davis

gotta catch ‘em all

pokemon cards
Pokemon cards. I thought that this was something from a long time ago, from the time of my nephews. When the odd card came into my son’s possession (thanks, McDonald’s Happy Meals), I thought it would be just another ‘thing’ that gets looked at, popped into the toybox, forgotten. Pokemon’s it seemed were a complicated mess and that was that. Wrong! It happened quickly. A few cards, then a few more, then the floodgates opened. All the kids were into them, all the kids were playing them. My son’s after-school daycare, it transpired, had organized a Pokemon club, and the kids loved it. Suddently the conversations were peppered with ‘Froakies’ and ‘Charizards’ and ‘Megas’ and ‘Mega-EXes’ and ‘this does fifty damage’ and all sorts of other nonsensical terms that were way over my head. And my son LOVES it. I’m not entirely sure he knows how to play the game itself, but thanks to spending his own pocket money and getting a whole bunch for Christmas and birthdays, he has a pretty big collection. This collection often covers our entire living room floor. He was delighted to receive a ring binder to organize them all, but for some reason they seem to have multiplied like rabbits. Water types, fire types, and they all have utterly bonkers names. It’s the first thing he is into that I’m not really part of at all, I have no knowledge or understanding of them, it is a different world. “How is it different from your Panini football stickers?” my wife asked. Completely different! Different also from my Marvel comics, my Legos, my craft beers and my massive collection of pens. Some parents become experts. My son spoke over Christmas with my older sister, who unlike her nonplussed little brother was enthusiastically going on about “Jigglypuff” and all her other favourites. Recently we went to a birthday party of one of his friend’s which was a Pokemon card-swapping party. Other parents talked about how this Pokemon craze had actually been helping the kids to learn how to trade fairly and other useful positive social skills. Additionally, my son’s reading skills just exploded as he tried to understand all the cards, as did his love of big-number maths. He even occasionally creates his own cards: we would build Lego monsters, give them Pokemon style names (such as “Dragaflow”) and he would draw the whole card, so it’s exciting his creativity as well, which was a surprise. Not that this craze was just some cynical marketing scheme to create big-spending pint-sized hungry robo-consumers, “Gotta catch ‘em all”. This is a popular sport, and sets of Pokemon cards ain’t cheap (they also have a very different returns policy at Target than other goods). So I had to draw them. This is another page of the Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ book where I draw his toys and stuff, and I completed it over a couple of evenings. I still don’t know my Lucario from my Makahita, but my son absolutely loves them, and that’s all that matters.

ninja tech

ninjago thunder raider
“Jump up. Kick Back. Whip Around. And…Spin.” No, these aren’t lines from a popular book-turned-movie that is in cinemas these days (“Shifty Grades of Hay”, or whatever it’s called), but is in fact the theme tune to the rather more interesting and well written kids cartoon, “Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu”, based on the popular Lego toy line. Regular listeners will remember that I have drawn some of these toys before (my son has rather a big collection, and you need acrobatic Ninja skills to just get across the floor without stepping on one). Despite being an elaborate (and effective) toy commercial (hah, not like in my day! My favourite shows were Transformers and He-Man which, er never mind), it is actually remarkably good fun and a lot better than much of the nonsense on kids TV these days. At the end of the season three for example, when (spoiler alert) Zane (who is – spoiler alert if you don’t know this yet – a “nindroid”, ie a ninja who is also an android – hey it makes perfect sense, ok?) sacrifices himself to save his friends from the Overlord (who at the time was known as “The Golden Master” after retrieving the Golden Weapons from their hiding place on a comet and had rebuilt himself into a large robotic spider – look just go with it, alright), I was almost in tears. It was (spoiler alert) Ninjago’s “We are Groot” moment. It’s ok though because (spoiler alert) he’s not really dead because (spoiler alert) well, he is a robot after all, and becomes (spoiler alert) the Titanium Ninja. Look I promise you, this is a really good show. It’s not like that Kung Fu Panda show which was on every single bloody morning, where basically nothing happens at all, and they just talk about their feelings. Or the Amazing World of Gumball, or heaven forbid, Uncle Grandpa. God there is some annoying nonsense on kids TV these days. Not like in my day (my favourite shows were Wackaday and Grotbags which, er never mind). Anyway…these items which I have drawn here are tow of my son’s toys he got for Christmas, it’s actually all from one set, the “Thunder Raider” set. This is the name of the vehicle driven by Jay, the Blue Ninja, and is accompanied by the Earth Mech of Cole, the Black Ninja. A “Mech” is a kind of exoskeletal robotic suit. Come on look at it, you want one too. It can actually hook onto the back of Jay’s Thunder Raider. Of course as soon as I showed this to my son, he pointed out straight away that I have the wrong version of Cole riding on the Mech. A slight variation in the costume. Of course, always the perfectionist.

Drawn in a Stillman & Birn “Alpha” book in which I’m documenting a lot of my son’s stuff.

davis, barn by barn

the barn UC Davis
The Barn, UC Davis. I’ve sketched this a couple of times before, The Barn. The word “Barn” comes from Old English, “bereærn“, which literally meant “barley house”. A lot of buildings on campus look like this as you well know. I needed to sketch something familiar. I feel like I’ve sketched a lot of barns (and former barns) in Davis. Barns and bars. I must confess there was more blossom on that tree now than my sketch lets on. Spring is truly sprung in Davis. Can you believe it’s March already? Of course you can. The days march on as they have always done, but as we get older, each day is relatively shorter than the previous one. Albert Einstein said that, or at least it sounds a bit like the sort of thing he might have said. Lunchtimes feel shorter, at least. Once again I did the colour when I got home.

constructing the shrem, part one

shrem museum under construction
More construction on the UC Davis campus, but this one, ladies and gentlemen, is long awaited and very significant. This is the south side of the Vanderhoef Quad, a square on the side of campus I call “Trans-arboretum”, which includes the Buehler Alumni Centre, the Graduate School of Management, the UC Davis Welcome Center and Conference Center, and of course the massive Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Hey, I’m going there in April to see Belle and Sebastian. This is the gateway to campus and has been gradually sculpted since I first arrived in Davis. So what are they building, well this will soon be the Shrem Museum of Art. That is the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, to give it the full name. When the museum was announced it was very exciting news and the designs for the new building were modern and innovative. The final design, by Brooklyn-based architects “SO-IL” along with San Francisco based Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, was announced in 2013 and the ground-breaking ceremony took place last spring. You can read about the design here. I’m not joking – I am seriously excited about this museum. Davis is an artist’s city and UC Davis an artist’s campus (I should know eh, drawn it enough times) and this is going to be an amazing addition. I will be sketching its progress as the building goes up, but this is the first. I stood in the shade of the Mondavi Center (it is very sunny here in California right now, apologies to those buried in the snow everywhere else in America).

Visit their website at:

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato