Phew, today was a day in the World Cup, huh. Belgium-Russia, meh. Algeria-Korea, whoah! And then the drama of USA-Portugal, well this has been a tournament to remember. I can’t even remember what life was like before this World Cup began. Thankfully my sketchbook offers a glimpse into the pre-Brazil days of almost two weeks ago. On a hot, hot day in early June, I stood on 3rd St one lunchtime and sketched as quickly as I could. It was pushing a hundred degrees so I needed to finish up before I melted. This is Burgers and Brew on the corner of C St, a restaurant with a name that is designed to excite people in an ‘ooh-Burgers-Beer-I-love-those-things-gotta eat there-then’ type way (though in fact almost every restaurant in America specializes in burgers and brews these days it seems). I’ve only been here a couple of times, the last being about three or four years ago, and while I don’t do burgers (at least not the red-meaty kind) I had some nice Belgian Kwak beer once. Not on this day however, this lunch hour was for sketching.This is in the landscape-format Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ book, sketched with brown uni-ball signo um-151 pen, with a watercolour wash added later.
Bizarro World, Davis. A comic shop that used to reside on 5th St, before moving into its present location on E St when Bogey’s Books closed down. I prefer this location, and I’ve been there many times over the past four years, as opposed to the one time I went to the 5th St location in the preceding five years. Then again, I read a lot more comics now. I mean a LOT. Not all of them physical, mind, but I do buy a fair few paper comics from here (and also from Big Brother Comics in midtown Sacramento and Mission Comics in San Francisco, whenever I am there). See now I have an iPad and a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, so I can read all the Marvel backlog (I have read hundreds since signing up in January). I like this place’s location though because it is right next to the pub. After a long day, it makes a lot of sense to buy a comic or graphic novel and pop inside De Vere’s for a cold brew. Or University of Beer a block away. So on a very hot hundred-esque Saturday afternoon I stood outside and sketched my local comic shop, the sweat dripping off of me. While sketching, a bearded man on a bike stopped in the street and asked me a series of questions (“are you a painter, did you draw that, what building are you drawing, do you have an email”). I had to say, sorry I can’t really chat, I am up against the time a little here, because it really was hot and I wanted to get finished and get inside. But then about fifteen minutes later another guy on a bike, this time with a moustache, stopped and asked exactly the same questions. It was, as they say, bizarre (if not quite bizarro, which as we all know means something else entirely) I’m starting to wonder whether they were in fact the same person in different disguises. I’ve had odd people come up and say odd things on E St before while sketching so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Perhaps I read too many comics? Nah, if that were true I’d believe it was Loki, out to trick me. I finished up all the penwork, the only colour added on site being the red pen, before cooling off with a beer in De Vere’s and finishing the paint at home. I did get a comic too, the Thanos annual, by Jim Starlin. Pretty good it is too.
Incidentally this framed drawing is currently for sale at Art-Is-Davis (222 D St, Davis) until July 6th…
The rain came down in San Francisco, but I took a bus up to the Haight. It has been years since I was in this part of San Francisco, and I had forgotten how many amazing old colourful buildings there are to sketch around here. And hippies too, can’t forget the hippies, there are still lots of hippies. I walked about looking for a good dry spot to sketch from, and settled on a spot across the street from the historic Red Victorian, an old hotel and arts cafe, and a mainstay of “Peace, Man” San Francisco. I’ve always liked this building. There is the Peaceful World Cafe, they hold Peaceful World Conversations, and there’s also a Living Peace Museum. I must say, stood sheltered form the rain as I was, I felt pretty peaceful sketching it too (apart from one odd ‘crunchy’ guy making incomprehensible comments every time he shuffled past, but you get that when you’re out and about). You can find out more about the Red Vic and its owner, founder and artist in residence Sami Sunchild here: http://www.redvic.com/. Oh and here’s the map from my sketchbook.
This is Mrak Hall. That’s “MRAK”, my dear autocorrect, not “Mark”. It is a big solid looking building on the UC Davis campus, the place where the administration sit, and make all the rules and policies we have to follow. I have sketched it before but not in a long while. I come here often to drop off paperwork and turn up a day early for meetings (doh!). In front there, on those two little hillocks (“HILLOCKS”, dear auto-correct…) are two of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads. This is called “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”, which was obviously named after a hilarious movie with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. The last time I drew them, they were located in a slightly different place, in fact they were pretty much where I sat to draw this picture. I sat on the steps of King Hall, whose extension forced the eggheads to move to the middle of the roundabout in 2009. In fact my last sketch is below, from 2007. That long ago?
“The Barn”. There are a lot of buildings that look like this on the UC Davis campus, but this is the only one actually called “The Barn”. It was a rainy day (not been too many of those), but there was a brief spot of calm so I was able to sketch this at lunchtime. I added the colour when I got home. It was one of those days where I really needed to get away and sketch something (ah now there have been many of those lately); I’ve felt a bit stressed lately, feel like there’s a lot on my plate, many “to-dos” to check off my list. When I am out sketching, I’m in control of something, and everything else washes away, for a short time. I like being busy though. I have sketched this Barn once before (from the rear, almost exactly two years ago), but it looks like so many others. These old wooden campus buildings that I have drawn over and over so many times, they start to feel like my Mont St Victoire if you know what I mean, Cezanne’s main subject, covered and covered and covered again over the years. This one is actually shaped a bit like Mont St Victoire, in fact. I should know, I have climbed up the thing twice (the Mont, not the Barn).
Another of those wooden campus buildings; in fact this is the same building as in the last post, just seen from the other side. This is the UC Davis Bike Barn, which yes I have sketched many times. I did this on Friday lunchtime; the ink anyhow, I added the colour later on. All of those boxes in the foreground were moved away right after I sketched them, so I’m glad I drew them, they add something. Davis loves its bikes. The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is here in Davis, and this really is a great place to be a cyclist. I commute to work each day on my bike, and laugh at those who drive and pay loads of parking. I muts admit though I don’t like drawing bikes, especially when there are loads all parked together outside a building – quite common here in Davis. But I like drawing the Bike Barn.
One thing about sketching UC Davis for such a long time now is that you get to see how buildings change, if not necessarily in appearance, certainly in name. The last time I sketched this building was in March 2011, three years ago if you do the math (sorry, I mean, do the maths), when there was also pink blossom on that tree. Back then, it was the Cross-Cultural Center. I seem to recall it was empty for a while, but used by some student groups in an unofficial capacity. These days it is known as the Educational Opportunity Program Information Office Building Type Thing Place, which admittedly is a long name. Spring in Davis, weather in the upper 70s and low 80s, last opportunities to draw those tree shadows on buildings.
While sketching this, I was listening to a podcast about Hadrian’s Wall. I have been listening to Melvynn Bragg’s “In Our Time” series of podcasts, which go back more than a decade and cover a wide range of topics from history to science to culture, and so on. Highly enjoyable listening while you sketch. I did however have to stop and finish this off at home, but I did about 90% of the penwork (added some of the detailing later) on site and coloured it in at home while watching, well, the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix. From one Empire to another.
One from campus, a lunchtime sketch of Peter A. Rock Hall. This building used to be called 194 Chemistry (or ‘Chem 194′), a catchy name that sounds more like an indie dance combo with a middlebrow following. It was renamed about a year or so ago after the former Math & Physical Sciences Dean Peter A. Rock, a Chemistry professor who sadly died in 2006 (I was new to Davis then but I remember that). The front of the building has been recently revamped and so Chem 194 was renamed in Prof. Rock’s honour. This is a much better name, I think you’ll agree. Rock Hall. Now it has a name that means something. One thing I learned, in order for a building at UC Davis to be renamed after someone, that person must be dead for at least two years. Apparently so. I do love all of the touches made outside the building – an improved sidewalk, dotted with interesting little hand-made tiles depicting colourful interpretations of each of the elements, as well as details such as a brass periodic table. What was once just a big Chemistry lecture hall is now a pretty cool part of campus.
This is the Newman Center on C and 5th Streets, Davis. I have sketched it before, when it still had a sign outside calling it ‘Newman Chapel’. I guess they don’t hold mass there any more, having moved that sort of thing to the nearby St.James’s. I’m told it’s still used as a meeting center, and it’s still part of the Catholic community in Davis. I just like the brickwork, though in this sketch it was the last thing I did on site and I rushed it a bit, as my tummy was rumbling. What a gorgeous sunny Saturday afternoon though! Mid-70s weather, perfect for cycling about outside and then sitting down on the street with a sketchbook, listening to some music. Life is busy, so it’s nice to stop, and breathe, and create.
This is Freeborn Hall, UC Davis. It’s a big building near the Memorial Union, and from what I understand, this will be its last year, at least in its present form. There are many on campus who will mourn its loss, so I thought I’d better add it to the roster of things I have sketched in this town. To be honest I’ve never really liked this building much, and that is partly because it’s a bugger to sketch – those trees in front normally block any decent view when they are leafy, and it’s so long and sloping that you need to do a panorama to catch it all. So I did a panorama, to catch it all. Click on the image for a larger view. This was drawn on location furiously over one extended lunchtime and colored in later on at home.
Yeah, I’ve never been a big Freeborn fan, since I went to see an Art Brut gig here about four years ago or so, late 2009 I think it was. I don’t know why Art Brut, a band I followed back in the early days in London and have seen in San Francisco, chose this particular venue as it was completely the wrong place for a band like them: a cavernous empty arena with about fifty or so fans huddled in front of the long stage for warmth. The band were excellent, playing many of my favourite tracks at full belt, but by their nature they are best in more intimate spaces with more people packed in (that said, first time I saw them was at the Tate playing alongside David Devant in a spatially weird but utterly compelling gig). Getting inside Freeborn was a hassle too, with the slightly paranoid security checking every part of every person coming in, more thorough pat-downs than I’ve had even at an airport, not even allowing things such as coins or dollar bills to remain in pockets (I was told to put my money on a table where it was blowing around in the strong wind while they searched my jacket for illicit objects). I understand they have their security, but it felt well over the top for any gig I have ever been to, especially as it was such a small crowd (put it this way, I’m pretty sure they don’t search the attendees at the Whole Earth Festival like that). Inside, there was nowhere to get a drink; not that I am looking for a full bar, like, but I couldn’t even find a vending machine for a diet Coke, just a small water-fountain. So yes, not a place I’d enjoy going to a gig again, but Art Brut of course were great that night, and the novelty of them being in Davis is still funny to me (hey by the way, Art Brut released their 10-year anniversary album last April, “Top of the Pops”, and if you download the free app that accompanies the album – search on iTunes – you will find an original comic drawn for every single song, and two of them were drawn by me! Part of Classic Rock’n’Roll history, mate.)
I’ve been to other events at Freeborn as part of work, a seminar here, an event there. Freeborn though is well known as the location of beloved Davis radio station KDVS, and you gotta love them. Hopefully I will get to go and sketch their immense record collection sometime before Freeborn is redeveloped.