It’s been a funny week. State of the Union address, Rebuttal by thirsty Republican, flaming Meteors crashing into Russia, the Pope resigns, North Korea detonating a nuclear weapon underground and causing an earthquake, Oscar Pistorius shooting his girlfriend, a big fight on top of a moving train in Turkey between a spy and – no hang on, that last one was the James Bond movie I saw last night, Skymall or something. It’s been a busy week for me as well. Lovely weather, but my lunchtimes have been disorganized, so little sketching. Yesterday I did pop into the building next door to where I work, for some reason, and saw their display of stuffed birds in glass cabinets. The Bohart Entomology Museum is in there, not that entomology has anything to do with birds. I was interested in the bird skeletons. This was all I had time to draw, a pigeon. Look! I am drawing birds! Not so much a rat with wings (and pigeons are certainly not rats with wings, they’re not even mammals), more the leftovers of late-night fried chicken left in a greasy box on the N5.
When I think of pigeons, sure I think of Trafalgar Square in the olden days, and do you (in the UK) remember those short TV kids movies that would sometimes be on the BBC at about 5pm on a Friday, terrible old movies they were, but they would always open with a shot of a deeply grey Trafalgar Square with deeply grey pigeons suddenly taking off? Yes you do. But when I think of pigeons I really think of Pigeon Street. Remember that? (again, thinking more of UK folks of a certain age) Pigeon Street was great. Well when I say great, it wasn’t as good as Rainbow or Emu or any of those shows, even Tickle on the Tum was better, even Michael Bentine’s Potty Time, but Pigeon Street had its charms. Fortunately I cannot remember what they were, or I would have to tell you. But I’ll bet one thing it never had was a skeleton pigeon.
Here is another lunchtime sketch with my lovely brown pen. This is Hart Hall, UC Davis, one of the more historic buildings on campus. Many years ago it was the Animal Sciences Building. To me, it looks very Mediterranean, and with its cypress trees lining the entrance it reminds me of Rome, which was appropriate as I listened to an episode of the History of Rome podcast while sketching it (this sketch took about 20-25 minutes). I am getting very close to the end of that podcast series now, and I can heartily recommend it. Which one did I listen to while sketching this? The one about the Sack of Rome by Alaric and his Visigoths. There is a name for a classic album and a long-haired metal band if ever I heard one. Learning about Rome this past month or so has been very enlightening. When I first started working at UC Davis my former department chair told me that the organization of UC was modeled on the Roman Empire, and I can certainly understand what he meant. Now though, my desire to see Rome is greater than ever. You see, like Barcelona, it’s one city in Europe I have always yearned for but never actually went to, and now we live in the US it is, you know, quite a bit further away. Now though I would certainly sketch Rome a lot more than in the past, and when I think of sketching Rome I think of fellow Urban Sketcher Matthew Brehm, who travels to Rome each summer to teach location drawing to his students, check out his excellent work. As for the Rome podcast, at the time of writing Alaric is long dead, Rome has been sacked again, Attila and his Huns have come and gone, but Rome’s Western Empire still limps on, like a massive rock band (Augustus and his Caesars) that has long had its day but still plays in the odd pub and makes embarrassing appearances on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”, while the guitarist who left on creative differences (Constantinople and his Byzantines) continues to sell album after hit album for another thousand years. Rome, the city itself long irrelevant to the Empire, is nearly done with. Sure, one day the Pope will hold an audition for a new tribute band, eventually crowning Charlemagne (of ‘Charlemagne and his Franks’ fame) as lead singer. For me though, there are just a few podcasts left until the end, and I’ll miss it. So check out the History of Rome podcast, by Mike Duncan, available for free download on iTunes.
This is a true story about when I blew up the kettle (accidentally) when I was nine. Probably long forgotten by everyone else, but something I remember every time I plug the kettle in. I drew this, my kettle and tea-making equipment, here in my kitchen in Davis, and it is part of the Pence Gallery’s ‘Teapot’ show, being displayed until the end of December upstairs at the Pence (D st, Davis: visit www.pencegallery.org for details). I do love a good cuppa tea. I don’t use a teapot (no point unless there’s a few of you) and I don’t do none of your fancy nonsense, just a working class cup of tea, thank you, lovely. Fortunately I can get my normal teabags here in America, so I can have my typical four or five cups a day. I would not have lasted long here otherwise. I remember being nonplussed when my American mother-in-law first came to England and remarked at how cute our little ‘tea station’ was (it was the kettle and jar of teabags), now I live here I know it’s not actually typical to have an electric kettle in every single household- in Britain and Ireland it’s so essential, we get a kettle before we get a bed or a roof or anything. A cuppa tea back home is a language we all understand. I won’t drink anyone else’s tea here in California either, not even in cafes, I only drink my own tea, made at home, perfect and unbeatable in every way. And when I discovered you can get chocolate Hobnobs here in Davis, well my cuppa tea experience moved a little closer to perfection. Now I’m just waiting for my son to get old enough, and that’ll be his job, just as it was mine. Hopefully, of course, he won’t blow up the kettle.
At the end of a busy and interesting week, a Friday night trip downtown was in order. The hundred degree weather has cooled into low 90s and mid 80s, a sigh of relief from me for one. Davis is too hot in the summertime, you just don’t want to be outside doing anything. Summer makes for nice evenings though, so I biked downtown after dinner and walked about. Popped into Newsbeat, the Avid Reader, Bizarro Comics, and then went to De Vere’s Irish pub to spend the rest of the night drawing the bar and drinking the beer. It was as super-crowded as on previous visits, though it got busier later. I read the comic I bought (one of the new DC ‘Before Watchmen’ prequels, this one based on the Comedian; it really wasn’t all that, to be honest) and got out the sketchbook to draw this bar one more time. I have often thought about organizing a ‘Drink and Draw’ group in Davis, perhaps going to different Davis pubs each time; I think it’d be a good idea, though I have had little time to work on it. So I occasionally get out to draw the bars myself; it’s good practise, all those bottles and shapes and light, and you get to sample the local beers. I intended to do the whole thing in dark brown but I had picked up the purple instead, only realising after drawing the beer pumps. The light wasn’t bad, but it was hard to tell between brown and purple. Once I realised, I decided on a two-colour scheme which I really liked. Purple and brown reminds me of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk too. It took a while to draw this, about 3.5 beers (someone did ask me how long it had taken but I couldn’t remember what time I came in, I had been in Bizarro Comics next door for quite a while). You might be able to spot my reflection in there somewhere. The level of detail tails off a bit towards the end, on the right, because of the larger movement of people, the darker light, and the effects of the Sudwerk Aggie ale (not my favourite Sudwerk beer by quite a long shot, but it’s nice enough and only $4 a pint). I chatted to some people at the bar while I sketched, watched the Giants win at the baseball, and made the long walk home through dark Old North Davis (they don’t like streetlights there; apparently they want you to be able to see the stars. Be quite nice to see the street as well though, I would have thought). Passed the bats that live under the bridge at Covell too, squeaking and flapping about. Summer is nearly done, and Fall is coming in, but the warm weather and balmy nights will be with us for quite a bit of time yet, and it’s nice to get out every so often.
(Click on the image to go to a bigger version)
PS: here are my previous sketches in De Vere’s Davis:
On Sunday I had to get out to draw. I cycled downtown and stood on a bench (yes, stood, so I could see over the large vehicle in the way) on 2nd Street and drew a famiiar scene, but this time as a double-page spread in that lovely brown pen I have. I do like drawing these panoramas. This took about two hours, maybe less, stood in the shade on that bench. The funny thing about standing so high is that people don’t look over your shoulder quite so much. One other thing about sketching these panoramas is you have to scan them in two sections, stitch them together, and then they are so hard to post. If you want to see a bigger version, click on the image above. Below, you can see how big it is in real life. And the thing is, I intend to redraw this as a bigger and more colourful drawing.
Here is a close up of the middle section, for those who can read the tiny writing and are interested in the movie times…
Last Sunday, I took part in the Pence Gallery’s annual ’Garden Tour’, as one of the artists placed into one of the artistic gardens to make art while people looked at all the interesting garden features. The garden I was in was a particularly interesting garden – many very interesting plants (including an actual banana tree!), but also lots of architectural features that begged to be sketched. This one was my favourite, however, the wooden birdhouse. I actually sketched it twice (and will probably draw it a third time for good measure!).
I hope this terrace of bird houses is well used by our local feathered friends. I have noticed since moving to north Davis that there are different birds up here than in our neck of south Davis (which by the way was the only place in Davis where I’ve seen pigeons, hiding away). I’m not a bird watcher; I can tell a magpie from a pelican, but that’s about it. I know someone in Davis who is though, Pica over at Bird by Bird, check out her excellent (and mighty quick) bird sketches. I do like bird houses; when I was a kid we had one on a big pole in our garden that my grandad had made, but it had long been overtaken by wasps. Bloody wasps. Speaking of bird houses, you may be interested in seeing/buying one of these lovely hand-made unique wooden bird houses designed and built by my cousin Dawn. I was reminded of her when I was drawing this. Check out her other delicious work available on her Etsy store, ‘London Clay Birds’.
This was my last drawing of the day, I’ll post the rest of my drawings soon. It took about half an hour, and I drew it in uniball signo um-151 brown-black pen on the Stillman & Birn ‘delta’ paper. That is nice paper, very thick, sturdy.
Lunchtime, and I decided to draw this building (back of North Hall, UC Davis) again, having done some of it last Saturday. This time I used to uni-ball signo brown-black pen on creamy Canson paper. It makes it look almost wintery, doesn’t it. Your eyes can decieve you, don’t trust them (I heard a wise man say that somewhere, far far away). This week, though they are calling it Fall, Summer is giving us a last hefty whack, with temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s. Some days it’s too hot to draw. On this day, I found a nice spot in the shade. I always do though.
The eleventh spread of the Davis moley, only 1.5 spreads left! It was a bright and sunny Halloween day, warm to boot, and so I went down to the historic Davis Amtrak Station and sat in the sunlight (wearing my Giants cap – hey, no bandwagon-jumping here, I’ve had that for over eight years) (when they were last in the World Series). I sat beside a yellow fire hydrant, which just had to get in there somewhere. And spiderwebs! It’s that time of year here in Davis, when long strands of spiderweb float annoyingly from every tree, lamp-post, fire-hydrant; they just float around in the air, sometimes carrying little spiders with them. I had a few little spiders crawl over my page while drawing this. Well, it is Halloween.
Spread 10 of the Davis Moleskine… this is a funeral home on D Street, sketched from outside the Cafe Mediterranee opposite. I’m struggling to get these sketches in at the moment, splitting them over lunchtimes on different days (they seem to take me longer than usual, I’m still getting used to drawing larger and using these Pitt pens and this paper). I only have two and a half spreads left though! And I think I know what I’m going to draw.
The weather has changed here though. It’s now cold, there is rain, the long-awaited jumpers are out and at last it feels like autumn. Amazing to think that just a couple of weeks ago, it was pushing a hundred degrees.
A funeral home…reminds me of Six Feet Under, that was an enjoyable show to watch, back when we watched it. Never did see the last ones though. We watch Dexter now, that is a great show.
Spread 9 of the Davis moleskine, and this one is an interesting little courtyard off E Street, where you can find Sophia’s Thai Kitchen. That’s a great little restaurant, their Jungle Curry is particularly tasty. The smell was pretty irresistable, I must say! This took a couple of lunchtimes, on neither of which did I have time to eat there – some other time!
Only a few spreads left in this book… I intend to do at least one interior…