the other side of the tracks

trackside center, davis

This is Trackside Center, on 3rd Street, Davis. Or the “under-threat” Trackside Center, as I must call it, for the developers are moving in. I’m not sure of the latest, but what is proposed is to demolish the existing building and build a large six-story complex with apartments and businesses, as well as basement parking, which is part of a plan to re-invigorate 3rd Street as a corridor to campus. Something along those lines, anyway. I sketched the above on the day before Thanksgiving, to capture the colours of autumn in their full glory – it really is spectacularly colourful here in northern California right now. It was chilly though, and the tips of my fingers were feeling numb. I show the railroad crossing – this is not called “Trackside” for nothing – though the tracks themselves were hard to see going across the street so they aren’t in the sketch.

trackside center, davis CA

For the sketch above, done a couple of weeks earlier, I focused more on the building. I’d wanted to do a full panorama, but I am panorama-shy lately (can never commit to the two to three hours it takes…) so only did half of it. I used to cycle past here so often on the way back home when I lived in south Davis. The building is covered in paintings of leafy landscapes.  Other than that, it’s not anything special, but is home to several good local businesses. That shop on the end is an amazing chocolate shop, I always bring boxes of their choccies home to England with me. If this all gets redeveloped, what will happen to them? I’ve watched progress happen in Davis – my barber on 3rd Street had to relocate to G Street and the old building has been replaced with something more modern (and frankly more solid looking) but it does look alright, and the cafe on the first floor has tables along the sidewalk which creates a, dare I use the cliche, ‘European’ feel. The problem with the proposed building at Trackside however is the size. In the top sketch, I’m showing you the view of sky, which would be gone. It is the residents of Old East Davis who have most to complain about. We don’t have a lot of tall buildings in Davis, and this would block the afternoon sunlight for a good deal of the surrounding residents. As I stood to sketch this, still largely unaware of the details of the project other than what was posted onto a telegraph pole across the street, a man eyed me warily, asking me if I was of the project. “Nah, I’m just a sketcher.” I feel a bit like the Watcher, from the Marvel Universe, there to observe the events but bound by an ancient code of my species not to get involved (plus I wear a toga, am completely bald and live on the Moon). He (the man, not the Watcher) told me a bit more about the proposal, saying it was very controversial and that the residents nearby are very unhappy about its height. Here is an article in the Davis Enterprise about the fight to save the Old East Davis area from over-development: I’ll follow the story, and sketch this building a bit more as its fate is determined.

but all the things that you’ve seen slowly fade away

3rd street building

This old building is on 3rd Street in Davis, near the train tracks. I believe it is part of the Ace Hardware complex of buildings, and I’ve always wanted to sketch it because I’m drawn to the way the shadows hit the light, the corrugated metal, the general weather-worn feel, and also it’s an easy  thing to draw. As much as I long for those big urban scenes, actually what I really like are views like this, where everything is a bit self-contained. As much of Davis seems to be slowly changing, upgrading, especially along 3rd Street (more on that in the next post), these older buildings are looking a little lost in the passage of time. I sketched in the shade on a sunny November weekend while leaning on an electric box. Those Fall colours are finally starting to come to life here in Davis.

islamic center of davis

islamic center of davis

Another Davis building along Russell, a bit further down from the International Center. This is the Islamic Center of Davis, a strikingly light blue structure just opposite some campus dorms. This building, opened in 2008, replaced one that was demolished in 2006. I can talk about those long-ago dates now and yeah, I was living in Davis then. That’s what ten years in this town does, it makes you a local, you get to see all the changes. That said, I don’t remember the building here before. I don’t come up Russell that often, but I have sketched this center once before, back in early 2010.

enter the international center

international center uc davis

This is the International Center of UC Davis, under construction. I cycle by it each day, and have done since it was an empty lot. It’s at the edge of campus by Russell. Here is a website that shows what it will look like. We have a lot of international students on campus (I should know, I deal with a lot of their applications), but also scholars and indeed staff (I should know, I am one). This whole building is costing almost $30 million and will open by Fall 2016. I hope they keep that big pink sign of the man playing tennis.

I kept giggling at that sign about cross traffic not stopping. Presumably this means that polite traffic would stop?

There’s a lot of new building going on across campus right now. We need it to, with the student population increasing, especially international students. We are a growing university…

pea green soup

mrak & king from the arboretum
While walking in the UC Davis Arboretum earlier this week, I was greeted with an unbelievable sight. The entire creek and Lake Spafford was a bright, grassy green. It wasn’t the water itself, rather the green stuff floating on the surface. It wasn’t a sickly green, rather a very healthy looking green. It looked like the fairway of a golf course. So I did a quick sketch, which is below. You can see it in the sketch above as well, though in patches the water is visible and reflected the sky. Those scribbly dark areas are shadows.
arboretum uc davis
Just a little green. Or a lot of green. Anyway, the arboretum is a lovely place right now, with leaves turning autumnal colours and the change in the weather (pushing 90 a week ago, pushing 60/70 now). Ok, so back to the top sketch, this is a scene that I’ve sketched many times over the years. I watched this view change over the course of a few years, once per year, until it settled upon the current look, when I got bored and stopped. You will remember, I have been in Davis ten years now, and it’s not a big place, things will get sketched multiple times. This is King Hall, with Mrak Hall in the background. This used to be a view of Mrak alone. Here are the sketches; I really do feel like a sketch historian now…


mrak & king halls

mrak & king halls

mrak & king halls

mrak hall... with the law school ruining the view

mrak hall

mrak, seen from the creek

Coming next: a new sketch of the Bike Barn, which I have sketched about two million times…


Tercero Halls
These are the Tercero Residence Halls at UC Davis. They are colourful, and still pretty new. In the background, the other UC Davis water tower (no not that one, the other one). I stood here one lunchtime and sketched in the shade, the weather still being really warm at this late-October time of year (it suddenly turned cooler this week, at last). Now as you know I like to showcase the changes in Davis, and this is no different, so below is a sketch from the spring of 2012 of these halls’ predecessor, already closed and about to be destroyed forever. Today, it is much prettier.

pierce hall (being demolished)

a davis decade

Ten years ago to the day, we moved to Davis. I remember, because it was the Fifth of November. We’re still here.

It was more than a month after we packed up and left London for California, staying with family in Santa Rosa until my wife found a job at UC Davis. We found an apartment in south Davis, and became Davis people. I started sketching Davis at a Sketchcrawl in December 2005 and while I took until the middle of 2006 to really get into sketching Davis, I haven’t really stopped since. Here are a few, sorted by year…

ten years in davis
A decade is a long time. Seen a lot of changes, and a lot of stay-the-sames. The personal highlight of course was becoming a father in 2008,  and my artistic highlight was I think my solo show at the Pence Gallery in 2011.  So, I shall be popping open the Champagne and saying HOORAY DAVIS! (Actually, no, I’ll be having a cup of tea and playing Disney Infinity, but you know, you get the idea)