Tag Archives: art

there is a season, turn turn turn

silo panorama jan2015 sm
Panoramas carry on. This is a scene that I used to sketch twice a year, once in January and once in June or July. Then I stopped, because it wasn’t really changing and I was getting bored. I never did a two-page spread, though, so over a lunchtime and a half (the inkwork) and adding colour later on I checked it off the list.

Out of interest, here are some previous versions of the same scene, sketched from roughly the same spot:

bikebarn from bainer (yet again)bike barn from bainersmoky and the bikebarnno leaves for yousouth silo uc davisview from bainer uc davisheitman center, uc davisuc davis trees encorelunchtime sketch by the hog barnrainy rainy daythe view from bainer, againstanding stones near the silo

i’ll settle down with some old story

F Street Davis. Sunday afternoon. Click to see bigger.

F Street Davis. Sunday afternoon. Click to see bigger.

My son was having friends over for a playdate, so that was my cue to get a few hours of quiet sketch-time downtown last Sunday afternoon. After filling my stomach with a large burrito, I stood out on F St to draw a panorama which includes the Old City Hall (now City Hall Tavern) and the little package delivery shop. I stood next to the bins near the Paint Chip art shop. I listened to podcasts about (a) History and (b) the X-Men. After two hours of drawing all the ink (I coloured it in at home)  I stopped, and went for a pint at de Vere’s, where I read (a) a magazine about history and (b) an X-Men comic. They both make perfect sense now.

what more in the name of love

The chemistry buildings from bainer hall. Click to make big.

The chemistry buildings from bainer hall. Click to make big.

Why do I like sketching panoramas in January? Perhaps it is because I am so busy and it is a way of concentrating on something else for a while, more complicated than a smaller one-page drawing, with a bit of meat that I need to come back to and maybe colour in at home (or next day on site in this case). Or maybe it’s because sketching in January in Davis is usually sunny, not that cold, and with leafless trees giving a better overall view (I don’t really like drawing foliage). Maybe because I liked last year’s panoramas so much (I made lots of mugs of them, you can buy them here) that I’m just trying to recapture past glories, trying to one-up myself from what I’ve done before. Maybe it’s because panoramic sketches, filling the whole spread as they do, eliminate that white space that nags at me in my books (I like to draw maps or maybe write pointless barely legible notes on the unused pages). Perhaps it is vanity, I like how they look when I am showing them to people, in person or in shows when they are laid out on a table, even though on my sketchblog they look much so smaller, and you have to click on them to see more detail. Or maybe it’s because of that, knowing that to see it you have to make that extra effort of clicking once with your finger, maybe it makes it worth more? I think it’s a mixture of all of these things. I draw more in January than in December, like despite being busy in my day job I am trying to fill some sort of post-Christmas void, the decorations are down so I’d better draw stuff. In truth it is the counter-balance; January is traditionally my busiest work month (working with graduate program admissions) and being busy gets my creative juices flowing, so it’s a kind of release.

This sounds very much like I am trying to justify my constant need to be drawing stuff. “What is it for?” is the most common question you get when out sketching. It’s a natural question, but one which often makes us the sketcher feel nervous and uncomfortable, as if we’re being put on the spot (which we usually are not, except in rare cases, and I’m not going to go into those here). There is always this nagging feeling that the world at large expects us to be doing something for a clear purpose, that we have to prove that this drawing outside thing we do is of actual value (I have actually had someone recently actually say to me while complimenting me on my work that the world doesn’t see art as having any actual importance. Thanks a lot, those paper snowflakes didn’t just make themselves you know). This is almost always not the case and people are almost always genuinely interested and even inspired by seeing you out there drawing, and if they are artists themselves they will let you know and maybe that evening they will go home and draw something amazing. If you are someone who is intimidated by drawing outside, as I once was (and occasionally still am), for fear of interaction with people who may witness your work in its raw unrefined state, just remember that your very presence out there creating and observing is making the world a better place, and most people really do see it that way. “What is it for?” When asked this question, the answer is always, always that it’s because you love to draw. Regardless of what it is really for, commissions, learning about architecture, spying etc, that is always the best (and truest) answer.

As I was drawing this, which is of the Chemistry buildings at UC Davis (I always see fire trucks outside, which is a bit worrying) sketched from Bainer Hall, home of Engineering, (that sculpture in front is related to something to do with engineering, how’s that for detail, I only walk it past it every day of my life), one of the janitorial staff on campus stopped to chat, as he was emptying the bins, a nice chap he was, very interested in drawing. He told me that he draws too, and also does woodwork, that was his personal creative release. I”m always well impressed by woodworkers, but I think he recognized straight away the need to create, and though he asked at first if I was studying art, when I said I was a staff member he understood right away, no need to ask “what’s it for” because it was just for the love of it. That was nice. I told him that one of the things I like to draw on campus are the bins, I never leave them out to make something look nicer, in fact I vehemently keep them in to the point of obstinacy. This brief interaction made me smile, and so having had my one allowable interaction while sketching I put my headphones back on and pulled down my hat so that nobody would bother me again (only joking) (kind of).

This was actually sketched over three lunchtimes, standing up, the first being only about twenty-five minutes (I had to eat), the second almost exactly an hour (I still had to eat, but I ate fast) and on the third day I added the paint, which took about two-thirds of my lunchtime, but I spent that sitting down. I was sitting down for almost the whole time while writing all this too and I’ve been here for a good hour already so it all evens out. There is another panorama ready to be scanned and posted, with one more on the way so stay tuned, there is more to come folks…

there are many things that i would like to say to you but i don’t know how

G Street Davis. Click on image to see it all big and stuff.

G Street Davis. Click on image to see it all big and stuff.

Another panorama. I like drawing panoramas as you can guess. This is probably coincidental but I also like a pan of Ramen noodles. This is down on G Street, Davis, down between 1st and 2nd Streets. G Street as you can tell was named after the letter “G”, probably short for “G. Whizz” who was of course a real person. Gordon Bennett was a real person too, no he actually was, no look it up. Where am I going with this? I’m not sure, but this was done on a cool Sunday afternoon early in the New Year, back in the heady days when you could still make resolutions and pretend you would stick to them. On the right there is my barbers, Razor’s Edge, formerly located on 3rd Street but now found down here after the building on 3rd and G was demolished (as you of course will remember from previous chapters. It’s ok, there won’t be a test). There is also a shaved ice shop called Vampire Penguin. I’m glad they shave the ice before they serve it, one thing I cannot stand is hairy ice. Except on an Ice Wizard? It’s ironic that you get shaved ice right next door to Razor’s Edge. Vampire Penguin though, now that’s an interesting name. Reminds me of that cartoon, Count Duckula. He of course was a duck which despite being of the bird family and rather fond of water is actually quite different from a penguin, so it’s not really the same at all. On the left, some kind of beauty place called Y2K, which of course is a reference to the year Y2K (don’t laugh, it’s an important year in the robot calendar, almost as important as the year 5J2X, which of course is like the robots equivalent of 1066). Thanks for stopping by, by the way. If you have read this far through the nonsense I just want to say thank you for coming by, for visiting my blog and looking at my drawings and reading (skim-reading) my writing. If you like panoramic sketches followed by nonsense I can assure you that there is more of this to come. I have at least two more panoramas already done, waiting in the wings. It’s actually all the rambling verbiage that follows it that takes me the longest time to come up with. On my old blog, from a million years ago on “20six”, whenever I would post a picture I would do the same but make the writing really small, in a tiny font, sometimes even in a kind of middle grey. Thanks again by the way if you have gotten this far. And this far too, and this far. If you read the first line and thought, “blah blah skip a few” and are just rejoining the text now, you’ve not missed much, I can tell you that I stood for about an hour and a half drawing this (aka “until my fingers got cold”), and then coloured it in at home. Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, uni-ball signo and watercolour paints.

new year, old town

Old Town Sacramento. Click on image for larger view. Or move closer to screen.

Old Town Sacramento. Click on image for larger view. Or move closer to screen.

2015, the future. On New Year’s Day I had a day off. New Year’s Eve is always a bit unnecessary in my opinion these days, old fogey that I am becoming, just watching TV waiting for that awful pointless ball drop in New York City that actually happened three hours ago. God that is awful, isn’t it? Times Square on New Year’s Eve, in a massive crowd of people doing basically nothing, being forced to listen to the most awful bland TV music in the history of popular entertainment, if you happen to be watching on TV you also get treated to hours of the most awful TV presenter banter intermingled with nonsense about how Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve is somehow magical and amazing, well it is for you random celebrity pop singer, you have all the trappings of being a random celebrity pop singer, you don’t have to wait in a big crowd listening to you bawl on before some stupid ball comes down a stupid pole. And you know what? They didn’t even show the actual ball on the TV channel I was watching, like it must have been sponsored by the other side, was it? I bet it was. The fireworks if there were any must have been too because they were also lacking. Oh I watched the fireworks from London on YouTube, and London won New Year’s Eve this year. Anyway, if you’ve managed to read this far into my anti-NYC-NYE rant (Happy New Year, by the way), here is what I managed to sketch on the first day of 2015. I was in old town Sacramento, while my wife went to Arden to return some stuff, and I had about an hour and a half. I did most of the drawing on site, but finished the detailing and added the colour later at home. It was a lovely sunny day. I do remember the very first New Years that I was here in California, I remember having the exact same rant about the three-hours-ago nonsense on TV back in 2005-06, that was NINE YEARS AGO. I remember the news stations were asking people in Sacramento not to be shooting their guns up in the air on New Year’s Eve (a popular pastime apparently) because bullets, you know, come down again and could hurt people. I remember how stormy it was that year, how we had a lot of flooding in the area. I was new to America, still not working at that point, with Davis being all new and fresh and undiscovered. Anyway…this was done in the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, and yes, same as last year, I’m spending January doing panoramas. More to come…

a bright centre to the universe

Columbus Avenue (not "St"), San Francisco. Click image to see bigger.

Columbus Avenue (not “St”), San Francisco. Click image to see bigger.

It was getting a bit nippy by the mid afternoon in San Francisco, but I had a lot of drawing left to do. I wanted one more panorama, and I wanted it in one of my favourite spots in the city, that bit of Columbus Avenue (not ‘Street’ as I always write it) by Jack Kerouac Alley, with City Lights Books and Vesuvio. I like how this street slants down and I have drawn it before looking downhill to the financial district, but never from here. I stood for an hour and a bit sketching before it started to rain a little, and had to finish off the window shading later on. God I love San Francisco sometimes. Anyway I have always wanted to sketch inside Vesuvio, so I popped in for a couple of pints of Anchor Steam and sketched the scene below. This place merits a whole lot of sketching, it’s so full of detail and character. I love bars like this at Christmas time.

Vesuvio, San Francisco

After this, I made the odd decision to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, five days before Christmas, which was a bit manic but hey, I once worked on Oxford Street at Christmas time. I got my bus to the train at Emeryville, and went back to Davis, tired and full of sketches.

Leave the pen. Take the cannoli.

amtrak in the morning
Late last month, on the weekend before Christmas, I took a day in San Francisco, just to get out of Davis for a little while and sketch things on ground that slopes a bit. I didn’t have much of a plan beyond “go to the Ferry Building, have a cannoli, draw loads”. So I did. Here’s my sketch from the early morning Amtrak train, above. It’s not cheap, traveling the Amtrak, but it’s a lovely journey and you get free wifi.

So I got to the San Francisco Ferry Building, where they have the Saturday Farmer’s Market. I like getting here on a Saturday, and finding the little stall inside that sells Italian cannoli filled with chocolate, and sugary messy lemon-filled ‘bombolini’, little doughnuts. After cleaning my face I went outside to draw a panorama, which took about an hour and a quarter. Those sugary treats made me work very energetically.

SF Ferry Building

SF Ferry Building. Click on image to see larger version.

From there I walked aimlessly before taking a bus up to North Beach, where I also walked aimlessly, but its a great place to be a bit aimless. I ended up at Grant Avenue near Green Street, where I looked through some nice little shops and sketched the Savoy Tivoli, a colourful establishment I had a pint in several years ago while listening to some live jazz musicians I bravely attempted to sketch. This place dates back over a century, opening in the year after the 1906 earthquake.

savoy tivoli, san francisco

I’ve never had a pint in this place, The Saloon, which is at the bottom of Grant near Columbus, but it has a sign outside which says its the oldest saloon in the city. It was once Wagner’s Beer Hall, named for its owner Ferdinand Wagner, an immigrant from Alsace, back in 1860. It survived the 1906 earthquake, the prohibition era (when it was the “Poodle Dog Cafe”), and went through a few names before settling on “The Saloon” in 1984. It’s historically a rough-and-ready part of the city this, and some day I may pop in for a beer and some history, but on this day I sketched outside. I had some more drawings to go, and I didn’t want to stand around for too long so I kept it quick.

the saloon, san francisco

To be continued…