Orange you glad it’s the weekend? Actually it’s Monday now so very much not the weekend, very much Monday. But it was still the weekend when I drew this, and what a nice time to have a weekend, at the end of a ridiculously busy week. Those are the best. On Sunday I had actually nothing to do, nothing that couldn’t wait, so I spent the afternoon downtown with my sketchbook. The night before there had been a tremendous thunderstorm over Davis, one which had knocked our power out for a couple of hours. There was so much lightning that we didn’t really need candles. The rain was much needed though, and gave everything a fresh autumnal feel the next day. It was bright and breezy, still warm but not hot like it has been, and I decided to return to Orange Court, a good spot for practicing perspective. That by the way was the reason behind the ‘Orange’ joke. Straight ahead of me is Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, let’s face it one of my favourite spots in Davis. Their food is amazing. I was sat on the decking in the shade beneath a tree, and there were loads of little green bugs and ants crawling and flitting all around me. I did most of the colour there on site, but those bugs got the better of me so I retreated to a comfy seat in De Vere’s Irish pub, a block away, to finish off the rest. I have been doing precious little proper urban sketching lately, but this month I will start ramping it up again. “Inktober”? I’m not going for faddy fads, though I might do one of the lesser known ones, this month is full of them. “Thinktober” I could do though, where you spend all month thinking about doing stuff but don’t actually do them. “Octobler”, where you just eat Toblerone. “Mocktober” where you make fun of everything. “Etctober”, and so on.
I am back! I have been busy. I have more busy to be busy about but that is coming. In the meantime here is a sketch I did a couple of weeks ago at the University of Beer on 3rd Street in Davis. I had just sold a couple of sketches at the Pence Gallery’s annual Art Auction (hooray! Thanks for buying them!) and was in the middle of a very busy period of history, so an evening at the pub trying a few new different beers was in order. Not my greatest bar sketch but I enjoyed drawing it. It was a strange night in downtown Davis though. The evening before a man was tragically killed in an altercation at another bar about a block away, which has since prompted the City Council to impose a 45-day moratorium on all new bar and restaurant development / expansion. The downtown Davis area has been becoming a lot busier at night in recent years, but Davis as a city is growing, and becoming more of a destination. Being before the UC Davis school year officially began, it wasn’t particularly busy on this Saturday night so was quite a pleasant evening, which I followed by the long walk home. I’m not a fan of the walk through the too-dark streets of Old North Davis, which are poorly lit because ‘residential’ but I always think a better lit street is a lot safer than one where you can’t see the person about to jump you. They say, “well we want to be able to see the stars” but forgive me if I’m wrong, the streets between fifth and eighth aren’t full of budding astronomers every night. Oak Street is the worst, the road I cycle up after work, in the winter months when it’s dark early it is complete pitch darkness. Ah well, at least on this night as I strolled back to my bed I had the internal glow of four and a half craft beers to light my way. This was the first spread of a new sketchbook, another Seawhite of Brighton one, which I’m hoping to fill quickly…
This is on A Street, in Davis. Sorry, not ‘a street’, but “A” Street. It’s named after the letter “A”, in recognition of all the Amazing words A has given us, like “Aardvark”, “Apple”, “A”, “An”, “And”, “Abba”, all the A words. I sketched this at lunchtime today, the weather was ever so slightly cooler and more bearable, and I didn’t want to eat food. If I had been hungry this might have made me hungrier, for this is on the corner of A Street and Rice Lane. Rice Lane, of course, named after Rice, the food, in recognition of all the Amazing foods rice has given us, like “Rice Krispies”, “Rice Pudding”, “Rice”, “Things with Rice”, all the Rice foods. This is on the border of the UC Davis campus, where the smokers are banished now that the campus is 100% smoke-free. They come here and sit on the curb outside peoples’ houses. There’s one right across the street there. That curb was always red, it hasn’t been especially painted for the smokers, the ‘shame step’. You don’t see many smokers here in Davis, though, not like in London. Now I have sketched this very spot before back in March 2008; see below. Apart from the tree in the foreground (there’s a smoker hiding behind it), spot the difference.
Continuing my series of sketches showing the Ann E Pitzer Center going up on the site of the old Boiler Building. Two different angles a week apart, you can see that the front frames have gone up now, rising like a musical crescendo (is that the word? I don’t do musical terms). Exciting work this summer…
Another Egghead, this one is called “Bookhead”, by Robert Arneson (1991). It is located outside the Shields Library at UC Davis. There is a legend that students touch it for good luck. Really. I think that is one of those things that people just say, and then people do because people just say, “it’s a tradition”. It’s one of those things that people say because there are no other interesting stories to tell about it. Yes, I know this old trope, I used to be a tour guide too. “Legend has it the lions in Trafalgar Square will get up and dance if Big Ben strikes thirteen,” that sort of thing. Nonsense with no evidence at all. Or “Charles Dickens used to drink here, even the plaque outside says so,” when he may have popped in for a pint on his way to his next bar; he drank in pretty much every pub in London, it’s amazing he wrote any books at all. Ok, so here’s what I would like someone at UC Davis to do. Have someone stand next to this Egghead and every time someone touches it for luck, have them give their name, and then have them come back with their mid-term results or final term grades, perhaps include their grades prior to touching the Egghead for a comparison, and then do some sort of statistical analysis to see whether touching the Egghead gave them any particular advantage over those who did not, or if it signaled a shift in their general academic progress, and maybe have them indicate if they had won any competitions or survived an accident, or if they had bad luck, like, well the opposite of those things. Then perhaps we will know the truth. In the meantime I am willing to hazard a guess that it does not give any magical gift of luck, and I might even have a sign posted next to it warning people that touching it will not give any guarantee of an upturn in your fortunes, and that UC Davis is not held responsible should your luck be not quite as good as you expected. In fact, just move the whole thing completely, put it somewhere else, on the roof maybe , somewhere nobody will be able to touch it. Then there could be a story behind it, “too many students were using ‘Luck’ to affect their grades that the UC Regents voted to have it moved to ensure academic integrity”.
Or perhaps tour guides could just not mention this obviously misleading legend at all, let it die a death, and perhaps use this opportunity to tell perhaps the most appropriate joke there is to tell when faced with a big egg in a book. What did the chicken say in the library? “Book-book-book-book…”
No? Alright, keep telling the silly ‘good luck’ story. Doesn’t make it true.
The Shrem Museum of Art (under construction) now has some walls, covering the skeletal framework that has been going up these past few months. This building is bigger than the Pitzer Center (the new Music Recital Hall whose construction I am also sketching, see previous posts) but it also had a head start – but the race is on! Which will be finished first? It’s exciting. It’s exciting because it means more ART and MUSIC. More Sciences are great, UC Davis is cutting edge in so many fields but we are also great at art. I’m not talking about me and my little drawings of things, but the bigger art world of Davis and UC Davis, which is substantial and world-renowned, encompassing not only fine art and music but also the dramatic arts. I sketched the scene above on an overcast day earlier this week, meaning I didn’t have to find some shade and could sketch the front without getting too hot in the sun. The lamp-post in the foreground carries the image of Maria Manetti Shrem and Jan Shrem, the donors for whom this museum is named. Wait hang on, an OVERCAST DAY IN DAVIS IN AUGUST? I never thought it would happen again (and unlike last week, it was overcast with clouds and not smoke from all the wildfires, though that was probably mixed in). Yes, actual clouds. For those of you who live in Davis and aren’t sure what clouds are, them being so rare here, they are made up of moisture and float in the sky. Moisture, for those of us in Davis who aren’t sure what that is, it’s made of water. Again, for those not sure what water is, it’s what happens when – look I can’t keep this up. It’s a long-winded way of saying this unending drought we are having in California seems to have no end in sight, so to see actual clouds is encouraging. Last night it even rained a few heavy glops, though it all seemed to evaporate upon impact. We’ll take what we can get in this state.
I did sketch the side of the Shrem museum last week on a far hotter and sunnier day. I found the shade of a tree and listened to the X-Men podcast “Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men”. I have mentioned it before. It’s a really great podcast going through the history of the X-line of Marvel Comics, the “ins, outs and retcons of your favourite superhero soap opera.” Since I started listening to the show certain phrases they like to use have become stuck in my head, such as “Angry Claremontian Narrator” (the voice used by Chris Claremont when narrating comic panels, often berating the characters), “Ah’m Nigh Invulnerable When Blastin'”, a phrase uttered by Cannonball (Sam Guthrie), “The Eternal Moppets of the Marvel Universe”, a reference to two mutants who never seem to age beyond childhood, and “Charles Xavier is a Dick”. If you’re not listening to it, even if you are not an X-Men fan, even if you don’t listen to podcasts or human voices or read anything, I still highly recommend it. Here’s their website. Anyway back to the sketch: so yeah, the Shrem Museum of Art, under construction still.
Previously on ‘Constructing the Shrem’:
To be continued!
The Pitzer Center, which is the new Music Recital Hall, still under construction on the UC Davis campus. I wanted to sketch from this angle, on the corner of Hutchison and Cushing; you may remember that I recently sketched the initial stages of construction. To be continued…