Oh the sketching is back. I got out one lunchtime when it wasn’t rainy and walked along the UC Davis Arboretum, which runs by Putah Creek. I was on my way to eat from that little food truck outside the Mondavi. They do nice chicken-cheesesteak sandwiches. Anyway I realized it’s been a while since I last sketched the UC Davis watertower, so I stopped and drew it with the palm trees in the foreground. The bridge to the left was pretty hard to see behind the foliage so that got left out. Sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook.
And so, finally back to posting some sketches, if I can even vaguely remember what that feels like. The World Cup is over! Gone for another four years, what will we do? It’s not like there is any other football to watch in that entire time. Haha. I enjoyed going over the kits so much I may even torture you all with more, from the clubs, as many as I can possibly do. Mwahahaha. And football-puns? You ain’t, as they say, seen nothing yet. Oh, alright I’ll lay off the puns for a while, it is pre-season after all. I need to train for a few weeks to get my football-punning back up to match fitness for the new Premier League season starting in August. Expect to see me jogging around the green belts of Davis trying to make punchlines out of Pocchetino and find an angle on Van Gaal (you see? Much training needed). But in this time of world-cup-football-ness, amid all the dodgy haircuts and the acrobatic goalkeeping and the constant non-stop biting (it was only the one bite, wasn’t it?), I did manage to do some sketching. This was a panorama I did over two lunchtimes at the Wyatt Deck in the UC Davis Arboretum. Technically it was three lunchtimes but on one of them I didn’t do any sketching as I forgot my pen (doh!). I had intended to add paint to it as well but I decided I preferred it like this. I listened to a History podcast while sketching and it was a man who was a South American football historian talking (among other things) about the great Uruguay team of the 20s and 30s, the River Plate team of the 50s, and what football meant/means in terms of national identity among the nations in South America, how historically it was able to strengthen their differences while also presenting them with an opportunity to announce themselves globally (at the Olympics and later the World Cup). Very interesting. It’s funny how what you listen to when you sketch gets so involved with how you see the sketch from thereon – none of you will see any reference to Paraguay’s style of play or the founding of great Brazilian clubs by British immigrant workers in this drawing of some wooden buildings at the Arboretum, but I see those great south American football names in every line drawn. Except in the middle, which will always be about Batman, because I was listening to another podcast by that point which talked a lot about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Again, you can’t see that, but I do. Now I always wonder what was really going through artist’s minds when they were creating their work. I look at one of Mondrian’s compositions and I think, I wonder if he was thinking about getting a cat and in between colouring in those squares whether he went down to the pet shop to look at kittens, I don’t know. You don’t know. Or when Van Gogh painted that portrait of himself with no ear, maybe in fact he was listening to his annoying unemployed next door neighbour practicing their singing really badly day in, day out, and he just subconsciously painted himself with no ear without even thinking about it, you just don’t know do you. Or when Damien Hurst was putting that sheep into the formaldehyde, maybe at the same time he was listening to his favourite gardening show on the radio? And now every time he sees that sheep he keeps thinking, ooh I’d better water the petunias when I get home. You just don’t know.
By the way, click on the image above and you’ll see a bigger version. What you won’t see is any reference to Boca Juniors or Bruce Wayne.
A couple of weeks ago, UC Davis celebrated its 100th annual Picnic Day. One hundred! Click on the images to see larger versions (or you could hold your face close to the screen, though I wouldn’t advise it). Picnic Day is a UC Davis institution, the largest university open house in the country, attracting thousands of visitors to such attractions as the Doxie Derby, Battle fo the Bands, the Chemistry Magic Show, and, er kittens. Yes, we waited for half an hour in line to see kittens, only to find out they were now cats (they were probably kittens when we started queuing). Four cats, just sitting there doing nothing, two of which were asleep. Yet massively popular. My six year old wanted to see nothing else. The first thing we watched however was the Parade, the annual march of bands, bikes, floats, the occasional political candidate, which was as fun as ever. We sat down outside Shields Library to watch it, when I started painting, but broke my water jar (as described in a previous episode). I added the rest of the colours at home.
This second spread was sketched at the Battle of the Bands. I went home with my family, already tired after the excitement of the cats, and had a rest before heading back in to see the famous band battle. I’ve only seen it once, briefly, but I don’t really like crowds. I am getting better at sketching in large numbers now though, but nonetheless it was tricky. I stood at the top of the slope leading down to Lake Spafford, on the banks of which were gathered the bands themselves. Now these aren’t your guitar-hero indie-beard bands, oh no these are the colourful marching bands, and boy is this an event. The bands come from universities around California. The idea is that each band takes turns playing a song, and then by the end of the day (or night), the last band standing, the last one that has not exhausted all its known songs, is the winner (and I’m told it’s always the UC Davis Aggies). It is crazy, and chaotic, but it all works, and those musicians really keep it up for hours and hours. On the left there is a dancing tree from Stanford. I finally left during a long bit in the middle where all the bands came together in groups of the same instrument, and placed themselves around the crowd in a kind of promenade-theatre fashion, playing a continuous jam (I left after 45 minutes and it was still going on) in a variety of poses. Definitely a Davis event to be experienced at some point in your life.
And this was all. In nine years this is the most Picnic Day sketching I have ever done.
I am catching up, slowly. This is another one from UC Davis, Valley Oak Cottage, over at the Arboretum’s Headquarters. It’s a stones-throw from where I work (admittedly quite a big stones-throw, and no, campus health-and-safety officials, I don’t throw stones around to determine distance). Another one where I stood and drew all the ink on site but added the colour in later. I’ve had to do this a lot lately, rather than paint on site, because of three very important reasons. First, lunchtimes are limited and my level of detail is increasing. I do love drawing so much that the colouring in is just an afterthought. An important one but not as important to me as drawing on site, getting all the perspective in there, etc. I do prefer to add the colour from real life but I’m not all that with paint anyway. So basically, if I have a short amount of time I have to prioritize, then my priority is inkwork first. Also my sketchbook, the Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape, is bigger than I used to use and bigger sketches take longer. Second, lately I have actually been enjoying doing big complicated sketches in the daytime, and then having something to colour in at night while watching television. It’s like I’m drawing myself a colouring-in book. You have no idea how satisfying it feels. Actually its better when I draw superheroes rather than trees and buildings, but it’s still fun. Third, I actually lost my favourite little waterjar, then one I used for years, and then a couple of weeks ago I broke my only other favourite small waterjar, the back-up one, sketching at Picnic Day. It smashed all over the kerb, just before the marching band arrived, scattering broken glass all over where we were sitting, good job there Pete. So I need to get a new little jar, and then I can paint on site again. My previous experiments with waterbrushes didn’t really pay off for me. So there you have it. I must say though, it’s Spring and all the leaves are back, and, meh, I don’t like drawing foliage.
This is a quick lunchtime sketch of a new piece of public art in Davis (and there is so much new public art in Davis), located near the entrance to the Arboretum behind Davis Commons, on the bike path (yes, there are so many bike paths in Davis). A few months ago I recall the Arboretum was asking for donations of shovels (or spades as I call them), and this ultimately was the result: the Shovel Gateway. It was commissioned by the Davis Arts Council and the UC Davis Arboretum as part of the renovation of that whole area (it’s now the ‘Arboretum and Public Garden’) and was designed and built by sculptor Chris Fennell. More than 400 shovels make up the sculpture. It almost resembles a laurel wreath, and is an interesting and welcome addition to Davis’s scenery, and an opportunity for thousands of people in the coming decades to make bad jokes when they see it like, “I really dig that”. We can handle that.
I got a new camcorder, so I thought it would be fun to try it out by videoing a quick sketch in progress. Easier said than done of course! Here though is a quick demonstration on how I approach a sketch. I had to use the waterbrush (I prefer a regular brush and a little jar of water, but had forgotten it), and this being quite impromptu was rushed a little but, as Alan Partridge might say, you get the general idea. This is a bridge in the Arboretum. Once I’ve got the hang of this I’ll do a nicer video of me sketching a building or something. I can’t stand drawing foliage…