I’ve drawn the old City Hall, but have never drawn the current one. Davis City Offices, from where Davis is governed by the City Council, are housed in an old brick high school building on Russell, a lovely building to draw you might think, if it weren’t for those trees in the way. I’ve never really found a good view which isn’t mainly foliage, but this one from across the street is as good as I could get. I’ve been in here once, to sketch an arts council meeting. There is a plaque inside apparently which lists the name of every “Davis Citizen of the Year” since 1945 (hint hint, you know).
Sketched in Watercolour Moleskine #12 with a brown uni-ball signo um-151, coloured in when I got home. There are a lot of buildings along this street I’ve meant to sketch for a while but haven’t gotten around to, time to start checking off that list.
Last Monday was Presidents Day. For those who don’t know, Presidents Day is, well, just a day off. Unlike British summer bank holidays, my experience of Presidents Day is usually nice sunshine, perfect for some urban sketching. I had it in mind to sketch bigger and slowly, take my time on the details, and after an hour and a half or so (without colouring) a big drawing of Dairy Queen, I moved on. I’ll post the DQ pic when it’s finished. What else to draw? I wasn’t sure. so much of Davis to sketch, but so much already sketched. Sometimes it is about catching a building at the right time of day. Well, I’ve drawn this a few times but never quite how I wanted to, but in this late winter afternoon sunshine the setting was just perfect. This is Antiques Plus, on D Street. I love this building, in fact most of these buildings in this little quarter of Davis are sketchworthy. I used Micron pen size 02, and the picture is larger than my usual sketchbook size, at around 8″x6″ or so, on Canson watercolour paper. Because the sun was going down, I had to do most of the colouring-in at home, with my trusty W&N Cotman set (and for me, it is ‘colouring-in’, really: I don’t consider myself a painter, I’m much more about the drawing, the linework, though I do vastly prefer the drawings to have colour as it brings them to life). On the right is the Pence Gallery, and on the left is the Mustard Seed. I’ve now drawn most of the buildings in this block too, just a few more to go…
Speaking of the Pence Gallery… exciting news, I will have a mini-show there on the wall of the stairwell this coming April. This may well be one of the pieces displayed!
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.
My second one from the afternoon of Martin Luther King day, this is Cooper House on 4th Street, one of the prettiest old buildings in downtown Davis. I have sketched it before, a few years ago, but have always wanted to come back when I had a bit more time to savor it, and in the later afternoon, when the light would wash the house beautifully, allowing the leafless branches to cast their long patterns. Or something to that effect. I stood outside the Chinese restaurant opposite (the Silver Dragon I believe it is called, I have never been there), and sketched away. I had my little stool, but I wanted to able to see over the cars parked on my side of the street. Downtown Davis was full of flags for MLK day, a public holiday for many people (myself included, but not all, as many workers were still at work. A woman who works in this building stopped and said hello as she passed. I understand (from Davis Wiki) that the Cooper House is about 80 years old or so, built in the old Georgian colonial style, and currently it is the workspace of therapists. Well let me tell you it was therapeutic to stand and draw this building. I don’t know who it is actually named after, some old landowner or farmer or someone, so in the interest of making things up I’m going to say that it is named after the late great comedian and magician, Tommy Cooper. Why not. That’s who I think of whenever I walk by.
And in the spirit of things, here is one of Tommy Cooper’s old jokes.
I went to the doctors. He said ‘I’d like you to lie on the couch’. I said ‘What for?’ He said ‘I’d like to sweep the floor’
Cold sunny Saturday downtown in Davis, there are so many great cold-day shadows about that some urban sketching is impossible to resist. I think this is the last house in this row on 3rd St that I’ve not actually sketched. Maybe I have. Anyway after getting my hair cut (you don’t need to know that unless it somehow explains my sketching…my head was a bit colder than usual, sharpened my focus, I don’t know) I stood outside Newsbeat and sketched as quickly as I could. It was chilly and I had to walk home listening to 3rd century crisis Rome.
Hey you might be interested, here are all the buildings in that little stretch of 3rd Street. Now I have completed the set, it feels like Monopoly, I can start building hotels. If I’m in Davis any longer, eventually I’ll be able to geographically join up all of my sketches. It’s like a sketched version of Google Street View.
A small break from the Portland sketches (many more to come!), to bring you something I sketched on Saturday afternoon. This is International House, aka I-House, one of Davis’s great institutions (for foreigners such as me). I have been meaning to come by and sketch for a very long time, and finally on Saturday I did, and a nice building to sketch it was too. I haven’t personally been to many events here in the past but I really should. A few years ago when my son was a baby we came to a potluck party here for internationals, which was nice. I brought trifle (that didn’t sit there for very long! My trifle is lovely, I’m not kidding) and we chatted with a friendly German couple, but that was it really, I was shy and didn’t speak much. Still, I like being an international. It’s nice and you get to travel.
As I sketched this I listened to the latest History of English podcast, which was about the Greek word horde that has filtered its way down to English, and I was especially pleased because there was a mention of Wulfila (or Wulfilas; it means Little Wolf), the fourth century Gothic bishop whose translation of the Bible from Greek to old Gothic provides us with our earliest example of a Germanic language, and an East Germanic one at that – I loved studying that. Wulfila’s my hero – though his choice of Gothic vocabulary may have been heavily influenced by the Greek rather than what was in general use among the Goths, his work is a massive resource to Germanic philologists. It has been a few years since I read about it all though.
In other news…well done Barack Obama!!!! Re-elected President tonight! Knew you could do it!
The academic year is almost upon us. September moves along so quickly, like a juggernaut, and suddenly BANG! and Davis is chock full of cyclists and orientations and events and people. It’s a little like awaiting an invading army, if it were an army who has never ridden a bike before. The weather is now in the 80s, finally, so still warm and sunny but not ridiculously hot. I needed to sketch at lunchtime yesterday, and so took myself off to near the old Boiler Building (whose demolition is imminent), and sketched one of the gateways into campus. I listened to a podcast about Eleanor of Aquitaine while I sketched this. I have been listening lately to a series of podcasts about the History of England, by David Crowther, I recommend them as a good and enjoyable listen, so far. Anyway, I sketched this in my Moleskine.
Santa Cruz Lighthouse, on the cliffs overlooking Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the city of Santa Cruz itself. this little lighthouse is home to the Museum of Surfing, dude. There is a plaque outside explaining how three very dapper looking Hawaiian princes brought the royal sport of surfing here. I didn’t have time to really look around, as I was still in agony from sunburning my feet the previous day, but wanted to sketch it; last time I drew it was on our previous trip here in 2007. This is a beautiful spot. Huge waves crash right up cliffs to the left, and surfers young and old dance about on the crests and currents, while pelicans and seagulls fly overhead. Sealions pop their heads above water too, to see what all the fuss is about, and sometimes you can spot whales in the distance.
At the corner of Filbert and Webster in San Francisco’s Cow hollow neighbourhood is a very peculiar looking building. I noticed it on a previous trip to the city and wanted to go back and draw it. This building is the Old Vendanta Temple, topped with exotic domes and adorned with fanciful windows, yet still retaining that sense of old San Francisco. Well, this is old San Francisco – built more than a century ago, it was said to be the first Hindu temple in the Western hemisphere (according to this interesting piece on sfcityguides.org). I sat acros the street behind a telegraph pole (my only shade) and sketched from the domes down, which was fun, but by the time I was messing about with the windows I was getting a bit antsy and wanted to stop. I prefer the unfinished look of the sketch though, it tells more of a story and leaves details to be filled in by the brain. Plus it gave me time to go looking around the shops on Union Street. After the morning at the Tenderloin, Cow Hollow with its flash cars and fine heels and fancy bistros where it is brunch all day is the exact direct opposite.
On Saturday, I took the early train down to San Francisco for a day of sketching and walking. I like to do that from time to time, just head down to the city and explore, before heading back. On this occasion I took the Amrtrak to Richmond and then the BART to Powell, intent on visiting the big Blick art store on Market, and then sketching this building – the old Hibernia Bank building, on the corner of Jones. I have never drawn it, put off by, well, the local Tenderloin personality shall we say. This building always reminds me of Marc Taro Holmes though, who has painted it so expertly on a number of occasions (such as HERE and HERE). The building has been due for redevelopment for some time now, and is still boarded up, but as one passer-by mentioned to me, it survived the earthquake in 1906, and do I have a dollar? Several people stopped asking for change (I presume they meant change of the monetary kind, rather than like change as in widespread reform or revolution, though they may have taken that too). As always in this part of the city there were lots of ‘shufflers’, people ambling about hither and thither with no particular place to go. There are a lot of panhandlers around here, and a fair few drug users, and one or two frequent drinkers; this area has long been an unfortunate byword for social problems. But the number of people who stand about on street corners just yelling at people or growling does make you feel a little uncomfortable. I drew for almost an hour before I’d had my fill, and then decided, for some reason, to walk through some of the blocks which were probably the shadiest and most dodgy-character-filled, especially on this Saturday lunchtime. I found myself trying not to stand out too much, by pulling crazed faces and growling at my feet, as if I was in that scene in Shawn of the Dead trying to fit in with the zombies. It must have worked, because I passed a rudimentary soup kitchen and the kind lady serving offered me free soup and fresh water. Eventually, I started to leave the shuffling, yelling Tenderloiners behind as the hill I was climbing went sharply upwards: Nob Hill. I stopped and drew a fire hydrant which had been comically wrapped in police tape. Someone had also stuck German football stickers to the top, but they can’t be seen. This city is an experience.