Well, that was annoying. It’s the day after the General Election in the UK, and, well, what a let down. I did manage to vote this time, from afar, little difference that it made. Anyway, I’ve not posted in a while as I did a little traveling (and also, you know, lazy), but I have a whole bunch of recent sketches to post so I’ll have them online soon. I went to LA, sketching beaches, bars, buildings and more hydrants. I also sketched more toys at home. But this one, well, it’s a quiet moment of repose, sketched at the rear of Hart Hall UC Davis early last week. Back in the UK, five more years of the Tories, but this time without any Lib-Dem cling-ons. Sigh.
I went to see Belle and Sebastian last week. That has nothing to do with this sketch, but I am telling you anyway. Now if you have followed my sketches at all you will of course not know that probably at least 75% of them were sketched while listening to Belle and Sebastian, except that I use lyrics from their songs as blog post titles with alarming frequency. They have a pretty unmatched residency on my iPod matched only by David Devant, and the various podcasts I listen to ( which are headlined by “Football Weekly”, “The History of the English Language” and “Rachel and Miles Xplain the X-Men”). But the Belle and Sebastians, they come up Most Played, and so when I saw that they would be playing in Davis at the Mondavi Center, I had to go. And it was a brilliant show. The Mondavi is a great venue, and in fact it was the first time I had been to a show there. Yes, in almost ten years – this was well worth the wait. They played an incredibly varied set, mixture of old ones, new ones, fast ones, slow ones, and the lead singer Stuart was actually really funny. My wife came and she loved it. She knew all the songs because, in her words, “they remind me of being in the car with you”. I actually started listening to them around the time we first met, back when we lived in France that one year, I had bought the Boy With the Arab Strap album at a CD shop in downtown Aix-en-Provence (that I used to go to like every day) and have made her listen to everything since. Really though, they remind me of my time in Davis. Their 2006 album The Life Pursuit had a really distinctive sound, and every time I play it, I am brought back to 2006, that first summer in Davis, the epic heat, the bike rides around town, my discovery of watercolour and starting to sketch everything a lot more. That album came out on the very last day of my twenties. The funny thing is, I hadn’t actually listened to it for ages. I wasn’t, for some reason, on my iPod where everything else they did was, even more obscure stuff. I don’t know why I shunned it, I think part of me didn’t want to be reminded of my first year here, when everything was so new, so different, exciting. Looking back it was a tough transition, settling in a new country. I worked two jobs to keep me busy, ploughed into my art, and when I think of that year I think of this album (this, and Mr.Solo’s first album which I also listened to endlessly). Now in my tenth year over here I’m older (and fatter), more cynical (yeah right, like that is even possible), I have a fast-growing son (I live in a house made mostly of Lego and Pokemon cards), I feel different. It’s only natural. So when Belle and Sebastian played a whole bunch of songs, LIVE, from that very album, songs that I absolutely loved (particularly “Another Sunny Day” and “The Blues are Still Blue”) I was brought right back in a great way: the people who actually came up with these songs are actually playing in this actual city. Yeah, I liked that a lot. As soon as I got home I dug the album out and put it straight on my iPod, mystified as to how I’d not uploaded it on there before. I love their new album “Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance”, there are some cracking tunes. “The Power of Three” is my current listen. So, a great show, an evening to remember in a really lovely venue.
As I say none of that has anything to do with this sketch, I didn’t even listen to them while sketching it (it was a BBC History podcast about Galipoli). This is Bistro 33 in downtown Davis, a restaurant based in the side of the old City Hall, a building which has been a fire station, a police station many things over the years but is now a restaurant with a pretty large outside seating area. I kept it quick because frankly my seasonal allergies have kicked into gear in an epic way this week, and on that Sunday they were starting to destroy me a little. I would not have gone out at all but that I really needed to sketch some stuff. This whole week has been a bit of a sneezing-induced ‘mare. I ended up escaping inside to the adjoined City Hall Tavern to de-pollenify, before heading home. I’m still sneezing.
This is Celeste Turner Wright Hall, a colourfully painted building on the UC Davis campus, home to the Main Theatre and to the Department of Theatre and Dance. Yes, that’s spelled “Theatre” not “Theater”. This building was named after Celeste Turner Wright, who was the first tenured female faculty member at UC Davis. She was also the first drama instructor on campus; you can find out more about her long and illustrious career here. This building was built in the 1960s and was famously photographed by Ansel Adams. In front there are a couple of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads called “Yin and Yang”. I sketched it last week at lunchtime, furiously drawing as much as possible. but added most of the colour later. Oh, click on the image if you want to see it larger.
Hey I thought you might like to see this, the first time I ever sketched it, which was back in November 2006. I remember doing this and loving playing with all the paint, still actually one of my favourite Davis sketches, mostly because it’s so different from what I do now, but also it was still that first year here, still discovering everything. Looking back, it really took me a lot of time to settle in, even though I worked both on campus and downtown and explored whenever I could, riding around on my bike in the stupid, ridiculous heat. Well, I’m still here, still exploring.
Another panorama to click on and see in bigger format. This is Uncle Vito’s, Davis, a pizzeria and bar which I come to every couple of years or so. I needed to go out and do some sketching, and since it had been a while I needed to come here and sketch it again. It’s a nice place. There was baseball on – the season as started again, and the Giants, champions in 2014, were losing. After that, there was basketball. I decided to not colour it all in and leave it simple. This is called laziness, but I spend so much time on the ink and that is what I enjoy most. It wasn’t super busy, which is another reason I went in to sketch. That and the lamp. Let’s face it, it was entirely the lamp. Another one for the bar-sketch portfolio…
One last one from Monterey. Click picture to make grow in size.
I’ve wanted to sketch the Old Fisherman’s Wharf at Monterey for a long time, it is very sketchable. When I first heard of it I imagined an old Klingon in a dinghy, but it’s a weather-beaten pier with garish candy stores, whale-watching tours, non-kid-friendly seafood restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. Apart from all that it’s great. They have a few sealions hanging out at the end for people to look at (the first time I came there were hundreds, but they must have had enough and left) and occasionally massive pelicans perch on the railings because they just don’t care; you wouldn’t if you were a bird with a mouth that big. It’s very pretty from here though, and so on our last day I finally got a chance to sketch it. It was a beautiful sunny day and very pretty beside the beach. Boats moored in the harbour swayed gently, seagulls squawked, people strolled hand in hand on the sand. I was going to colour the whole thing in, but I left it just with the Wharf coloured, but imagine it all blue and pretty. Yeah, I love Monterey.
I love the sea. I love the land even more, because I tend not to sink when I stand on it, but the ocean is definitely nice to look at. The Monterey Peninsula has some dramatic coastline, and on our recent trip we were blessed with fog-free weather. The fog would hang out in the distance and occasionally wander in, but mostly it was very sunny. Above is a sketch I did while we were hanging out and hopping around rock pools at one of the beaches just west of Monterey itself.
Later that day, we spent a few hours at our favourite little beach, Lover’s Point. Lovers gonna love. We really do love this spot, a very short walk from where we stay in Pacific Grove. We’ve been coming here since our son was about two, making sandcastles, paddling in the water, getting sandwiches stolen by seagulls (out of my hand! My actual hand!). This time we saw a whale! It was pretty majestic, what looked like a humpback whale, its tale coming out of the waters of the bay. There were a couple of them but I only saw the one. I’ve never seen a whale before.
If you want sea-life though, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the place. It’s a brilliant aquarium (the large red octopus is my favourite, and it spread its tentacles across the glass) and I took the opportunity to sketch some of the fish and other creatures. Sketching fish, you need to be fast.
Pacific Grove is lovely. We stayed in a beautiful little house not far from the beach, just a few houses up from the place we stayed back in 2010. This isn’t it; this is the view from the window, which I sketched early on the first morning, while my son played on the Wii. All of the buildings around there are so lovely, and I was going to do a panorama, but we had to go to the Aquarium. I could sketch Pacific Grove for ever. The house we rented really was lovely, but I never sketched it from the outside; next time. I did sketch the living room on the second morning, while we all sat around (my son’s on his Wii U again, my wife is on her iPad).
Here’s another beauty of an old building, around the corner on Lighthouse Avenue. I sketched it from across the street (right after sketching that fire hydrant; see last post). Imagine living in a building like this, old and full of places to explore. Maybe hidden passageways and secret doorways behind bookshelves, and paintings with eyes that follow you around the room. I was going to finish this off with some colour, but we had ordered pizza, so back home I went.