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.
Memorial Day was Monday, and for once we had some cooler weather. Yea, even a drop of rain. Not much though. I went out and drew a building that I have sketched before, in more leafless times, coincidentally on another public holiday. On US national holidays, the flags come out in downtown Davis. Cooper House on 4th St is a lovely historic building, and I stood sketching while listening to podcasts about football and about history and about language (right there are my main interests). Sketched in Micron Pigma 01 on Canson paper. I enjoyed this brief moment of cool air; this weekend we are back to the hot weather. We’ll be hitting the hundreds. Ouch, Davis.
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!