a davis decade

Ten years ago to the day, we moved to Davis. I remember, because it was the Fifth of November. We’re still here.

It was more than a month after we packed up and left London for California, staying with family in Santa Rosa until my wife found a job at UC Davis. We found an apartment in south Davis, and became Davis people. I started sketching Davis at a Sketchcrawl in December 2005 and while I took until the middle of 2006 to really get into sketching Davis, I haven’t really stopped since. Here are a few, sorted by year…

ten years in davis
A decade is a long time. Seen a lot of changes, and a lot of stay-the-sames. The personal highlight of course was becoming a father in 2008,  and my artistic highlight was I think my solo show at the Pence Gallery in 2011.  So, I shall be popping open the Champagne and saying HOORAY DAVIS! (Actually, no, I’ll be having a cup of tea and playing Disney Infinity, but you know, you get the idea)

such a fine time, such a happy time

2nd St Davis

Not been posting as much this past week, but I have been sketching, and I will post a lot more in the coming week. The AYSO soccer season came to an end last weekend, I was coaching a very skilled team of under-8s, and while it was a lot of work, I’m really going to miss it! And so, back to posting my lunchtime sketches. This one is about a week and a half old, sketched downtown on 2nd Street past G, near the station. This little row of yellow buildings is very distinct, and is also the location of one bar/restaurant that I have not sketched inside, Our House. I’ve only been in there once, for a pre-dinner beer on a night out with other couples. I always thought that Our House would be a better located on R Street, somewhere in one of the middle blocks. The red door you can see here is to a piercing and tattoo place called Urban Body. I’ve sketched this row before from a different angle, years ago, and with its unusual angles it’s a but tricky but quite interesting.

turning the wheels

city hall tavern, davis
It was time for another bar sketch. After a Saturday of AYSO soccer, pirates versus knights battles, Disney Infinity super-hero smash-downs and the occasional lightsabre duel, I headed out in the evening to do some drawing, read some comics and have a few beers. I love being a grown-up. Since I have a new book out (available right now!) in which I talk extensively about drawing bars in low light, I felt I should add to the sketchbook a little more, so I popped into the City Hall Tavern, which I last sketched two years ago, to again attempt their bar area with the bicycle wheels on the ceiling. Ice Hockey was on the TV (they just call it ‘Hockey’ here; similarly they say ‘cubes’ instead of ‘ice cubes’, ‘cream’ instead of ‘ice cream’, and ‘stares’ instead of ‘icy stares’ whenever I make this joke). They get so aggressive and fighty in Ice Hockey. For a game in which you are essentially just skating around trying to hit a small disc that won’t stop moving, players seem to get unusually angry, angrier than in most sports. Perhaps it’s because they dress head to toe in armour and carry huge sticks, it brings out the medieval warrior in people. Maybe the sport needs to change its image a little, and rename itself ‘Nice Hockey’. Ok, from now on I am calling it ‘Nice Hockey’ in the hope that it catches on. And those stares I get when I do will be called ‘Nice Stares’.  So, back to the sketch. I sat on the opposite side of the bar to when I last sketched this bar, for a slightly different angle. I follow City Hall Tavern on Twitter, and I notice that they are using one of my sketches of their bar as their header image (I think I said ok to that), but they have removed whatever was on the screen and replaced it with an actual shot from a real basketball game. Hmm, no, not really a fan of that. Replace it with a shot of Harry Kane scoring for Tottenham, maybe, or of Jose Mourinho huffing as Chelsea lose again, perhaps. Anyway, I tried a couple of different beers, one was a Gose Wheat beer (tasted like Strongbow), the other was a Sudwerk Aggie Cruiser, which was nice too. Lots of people were coming in drinking cocktails as part of some local bar crawl event that was happening. By the time I was done with my sketch, all the City Hall bar patrons were standing and chatting and dancing, and so I popped down to De Vere’s for a comfy seat and one more wheat beer to read a couple of comics (“the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” if you’re interested, and it’s great) before walking home.

Here are my previous City Hall Tavern sketches (inside only; I’ve sketched the outside building since way before it was a bar):

city hall tavern, davis

July 2012

city hall tavern, davis

October 2013

sketchcrawl 34 city hall tavern

January 2012


fit for a queen

what used to be Dairy Queen
This used to be the Dairy Queen. Long-term readers (hello by the way!) may remember that I drew this before, back in its DQ glory days. As you can see, it looks a little different now. A couple of years ago, the DQ finally closed its doors and sold its last chicken strip, but rather than lose the building entirely for something new, glassy and nondescript, an architecture firm called Indigo took over the space and did something creative with that very distinctive wavy roof, creating a modern but unintrusive structure. They have described it as a “Bioregional Building”, which sounds like they’re taking a word, remodeling the word, keeping the word’s roof and making a new, modern eco-friendly word (in other words yes, I don’t know what “bioregional” means). Indigo (Hammond and Playle) explain their process for rebuilding the old Dairy Queen into a modern energy-efficient and “climate-adapted”office space on their website. As well as this award-winning structure they have also created an adjoining space which, “clad in corrugated metal alludes to the agricultural vernacular of California’s Central Valley”. It all does look very nice. Not however as strikingly red as its predecessor, but surely a lot healthier. Here are my previous sketches of the Dairy Queen, the first from 2011, the second from 2013. I actually sold both of these drawings, the first was part of my 2011 solo exhibition at the Pence Gallery. I learned that the Dairy Queen in Davis was very popular, despite it never appearing to be that busy. There was something all-American about Dairy Queen (I mean ‘is’, because it still exists elsewhere). When I was asked years ago to sketch something ‘American’ for an old university friend in the UK who had an American husband who missed the USA, I chose to sketch the Dairy Queen. The one in Davis was beloved as a place to take the grandkids for a treat (people who have grandkids have told me), and my wife used to stop off here for an ice-cream on the way to picking up my son from pre-school. Alas, Davis Dairy Queen is no more, but we still have its roof.

dairy queen davis
dairy queen, davis

I did sketch the reconstruction process of course, back in July last year. I think it all turned out rather well. But I never did try their cake…
dairy queen former location

sorority seems to be the hardest word

alpha chi omega davis
One of many downtown buidlings I’ve always wanted to sketch but given a ‘some other time maybe’ thought to, this sorority house on the corner of C and 2nd in Davis, Alpha Chi Omega (I think it’s a sorority. I always have trouble saying that word, “sorority”, words with too many ‘r’s are never easy. Many Americans have trouble with the word ‘mirror’, pronouncing it more like ‘meer’ as opposed to ‘mirrah’ like we Londoners do). I always thought that Alpha Chi Omega was a Greek equivalent to the A-to-Z maps of London. If you are wondering, I didn’t really, I just made that up and had never actually thought of that before. Anyway, I sketched it one lunchtime in brown-black ink, decided against colouring it in. The weather is nice right now in Davis, a little more autumnal, though still sunny.

walker hall

walker hall, uc davis

This is the old UC Davis building known as Walker Hall. I sketched it earlier this week at lunchtime while listening to the Football Weekly podcast, so my thoughts when looking at this are all about Arsene Wenger, Tim Sherwood, Jurgen Klopp. It’s always a bit tricky to sketch this building at lunchtime because the sun is invariably shining right behind it, losing it in shadow, but on this day I found a good spot out of the direct sun and sketched it anyway. Walker Hall was named after Harry Walker, who sounds like an east end pub landlord but was actually a professor of agricultural engineering. It still says Engineering above the door but they don’t do any engineering in there now.  In fact it is currently vacant, but there are plans to seismically refit and upgrade the building for new and much-needed lecture hall space (see this). I have sketched Walker Hall before from the other side, early last year (here’s the blog post), in panorama format:

panoramarathon 2014 walker hall sm

hart now hear

hart hall, uc davis

Hart Hall has a new sign. I have sketched this building many times, so this is a bit like telling an older joke that I have told before but with a slightly new twist. I’m all for that as you know. Maybe new people heard that joke for the first time and laughed. Maybe the same people heard it again and laughed again. Maybe nobody laughed at all, either because it wasn’t funny or because they just didn’t get it? Maybe I need to tell it again and again until people do get it. Well it’s the same with drawing Hart Hall (sort of), but this time there is an added detail, the new sign, coloured in to show it off. I like these new signs on campus. It took more than three years to get our new sign and it looks nice, nicer than the old plain orange one. Hart Hall. I used to have a drama teacher called Mr. Hart, he was not a fan of my jokes let me tell you. Once he angrily stopped a performance I was doing in class, in which I played a pretty spot-on and (I felt) serious performance as a down-and-out, just because when another character asked me my name I had said it was “Freddy Reddy”. I know people called Reddy! And Treddy! Ok maybe not Freddy Reddy but it’s not an entirely inconceivable name for a real person. It’s not like “Fredo Play-doh” or something, that would be ridiculous. Honestly, he just shut the whole thing down because I said my name was Freddy Reddy, because he assumed I wasn’t being serious. Not my fault everyone laughed inappropriately, including me. Poor old Freddy Reddy. I wonder what would have happened to Freddy Reddy if his character had been allowed to grow and develop, he might have made something of himself, picked himself out of the gutter, turned the laughter into nods of respect, but alas his life was cut short by an angry drama teacher in a purple top. So when I see Hart Hall, among the many many other things I think of (I have known much better Harts since then), I do think of Mr. Hart, and of good ol’ Freddy Reddy.