every. thing. awesome.

Legoland entrance, California//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

If you’ve been following any of my posts lately you may have seen that we like a bit of Lego, chez Scully. Last weekend we wet to Legoland, where everything actually is awesome. It was our second trip to Legoland California (and we went to Legoland Windsor last year too), and you might think that, well Pete loves sketching, he loves Lego, he loves sketching Lego, perfect yes? Well this was the only sketch I did, I was having too much Lego fun! It’s a great place for a seven year old (I’m not seven by the way, I’m pushing forty). We stayed a night at the Legoland Hotel, in a knight-themed room, and spent a lot of money in the Big Shop. What was nice about this trip was we spent the afternoons either at the hotel pool or at the really fun Chima water-park. Legoland is small enough that you can fit a lot in all in the morning, and it wasn’t particularly crowded, which was a surprise for the summertime. Last year at Windsor we waited almost an hour and a half just to get in! Here in Carlsbad there were very few long lines for rides (unlike at Disneyland), and we could just go back to the hotel for a rest if we wanted. The Star Wars section is better this year, with a huge Death Star and a bit where my son and I built little spaceships. Yes, everything was awesome. We will be back.

those magnificent lego men and their flying machines

ninjago ronin rex

I hope you like Lego, because you’re just going to keep seeing more of it on this sketchblog. Denmark’s Greatest Invention. Occasional bane of my bare feet on the carpet. I’ve been busy Lego-sketching, especially mini-figures, so many mini-figures. You’ll get to see those once I’ve coloured them in. That won’t take too long. In the past week I have also been to Legoland, where you might imagine I did a lot of sketching. You might imagine it would be the perfect sketch-paradise for someone like me. Well in fact I only managed one sketch because Legoland is so much fun! More on that another time. This was done before the trip, and is one of my son’s newer Lego sets, the Ninjago Season 5 ‘Ronin REX’. You have no idea the anxious wait for the season 5 Ninjago stuff to come out (my son’s anxious wait, not mine, but yes mine too). It was agonizing, and all the more so because when I had been in England in June I had seen all of these and didn’t buy any to bring home, figuring they would probably be out in the US already (same reason I am still new-Tottenham-shirt-less). Two months he waited, saving his money (I say his money, I gave it to him). In the meantime the show came out, and then finally the toys were in the shops. He really wanted this particular set, which has one of those Airjitzu things actually built into it, and he even entered a competition to win it, just in case (I told him that if he does win, we’ll keep the second one in its box and sell it in a few years time for three times the original price). This is the flying vehicle of the Han-Solo-esque scoundrel character Ronin, introduced in season 5, and I must say that the shape of the ship (and the colour scheme of Ronin) really reminds me of Slave 1, Boba Fett’s ship. I drew this in the book of my son’s things, which is becoming ever more Lego-heavy. As it should!

you terrestrial gastropod molluscs and your guns

slugterra blaster

This is another of my son’s toys. It is called a Slug-Terra Blaster, or something like that. It is what they use in the TV show “Slug-Terra”, which he really likes. It’s actually not a bad cartoon, but the premise of it is that they are in some sort of underground world where slugs are not only intrinsic to the society somehow but are used as weapons. Well, they fight on behalf of their owners, a bit like Pokemon I suppose, I don’t know. All the slugs have different abilities, some get really close to their owners, and then they get blasted out of these things, and then it’s all zap, pow and ka-blam. Oh there are evil slugs too. Now these slugs are all different colours and have names, but this isn’t a society of slugs, the people are all either humans (I think), trolls (maybe), or weird mole-folk (I really have no idea). One of those has a comedy Mediterranean accent. Or are the evil slugs zombies? Or wraiths? I don’t actually pay much attention. So you can imagine my son’s excitement when we spotted these at Toys R Us (I always wonder how that store got its name, did they got through a lot of other stupid combinations before settling on that one, “Toys Am We” “Us Is Toys”, “Toys Er America”, “Help”) (I used to call it “Toys Ya Us” because that backwards R looks like a Russian “Ya” (я). This was during the Cold War as well so I’m surprised people didn’t think it was some sort of Russian spy agency, I mean it all fits in the name…Cold War conspiracy theory at slightly higher prices than other stores, I like it!). So, this doesn’t works like a toy gun with a trigger (we’re not really into the toy gun thing, all the Nerf rubbish. Fingers and saying “pew! pew! pew! is fine though). Instead, it has a spring mechanism inside, you pull back the handle, let go and the little slug comes out. He has another blue one which looks cooler than this but I didn’t draw it, so you’ll have to imagine how cool it is (or watch the show! If you watch the show maybe you can help explain it to me).

where the streets have a slightly different name

Streets pub Sacramento
This is the midtown Sacramento pub called ‘Streets’. Click on the image to see it in closer detail. This pub was formerly known as the ‘Streets of London’, but they decided to drop the ‘of London’ part presumably in an effort to appear more inclusive to the other metropolitan centers of the UK and indeed the more rural counties. They could have gone further and called it ‘Lanes’ or ‘Highways and Byways’. They have an actual National Express Coach-stop sign outside the pub, and still have a number of British-themed (specifically London-themed) objects in the pub, but not as much as they used to. When I first came here back in 2006 or whenever it was, they had football shirts and scarves hanging from the ceiling. Those are sadly long gone (and you know how much I love football shirts). Otherwise though the pub really hasn’t changed a lot. One TV ahead of me was showing the Giants baseball, another was showing French football (which these days just means ‘PSG and someone else’, you know how much I don’t like seeing PSG). It’s been a long time since I was in here last, but I have wanted to do a panorama sketch of its brick walls and cozy layout for ages. I hadn’t planned on it; we spent the morning in Arden Fair mall, mostly at the Lego store (and you know how much we love Lego). I then took the opportunity to go to midtown Sacramento, to look at all the goodies in the University Art store on J Street. I picked up a ‘Cathedrals of the World’ colouring-in book (and you know how much I love drawings of the Cathedrals of the World). I then wandered about looking for something new to sketch, but by now it was hot, very hot. Very very hot. I considered sketching the historic Governor’s Mansion (which I last drew in, um, 2007) but could not find the right angle, what with all the big trees in the way (stupid trees, providing shade from the oppressively hot sun and the air we breathe). Maybe I will come back in winter.

By this point, the searing heat was giving me a headache, and I had to cool off urgently. So I went back over to Big Brother Comics on J Street, bought the latest issue of ‘Thors’ (one of the very fun and inventive books from Marvel’s ongoing ‘Secret Wars’ event; the ‘Thors’ are like the cops of Battleworld, and this plays like a classic cop drama, but, you know, with more hammers and lightning), and popped into the Streets of London pub to cool off and read. Sorry, ‘Streets’. No more humming Ralph McTell. After finishing ‘Thors’, I thought, ah what the hell (sorry, what the ‘hel’, Thor joke) and started to sketch a panorama. I sketched quickly and drank my two beers slowly (one after the other, not slowly at the same time). It wasn’t particularly busy, but the staff were friendly and the atmosphere nice. At one point a large party of Sunday pubcrawlers came in, had a pint, and left. I remember this being a thing the last few times I have been at this pub. There are a bevvy of boozers in midtown now, and I imagine an afternoon pub-crawl with all your friends on a hot Sunday in mid-August would be quite a lot of fun, but you don’t get to spend long enough in any place to enjoy it before the fastest drinker in your crowd claps his hand loudly and orders you to move on (that’s what happened here). They do have these pedal-powered contraptions now that groups of people ride on, all pedaling, drinking water, being directed from pub to pub, while yelling ‘wooh’ and ‘yeah’. The pub returned to quiet Sunday afternoon peace very quickly, but I had to get the bus home to Davis. I finished off adding all the paint the next day. Another pub sketch checked off the list!

building the pitzer, part three

pitzer center uc davisContinuing 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…pitzer center uc davis

enter the bladecopter

ninjago bladecopter
More Lego, drawn in the book of my son’s stuff. This is the Ninjago Blade-Copter (the what, i hear you ask?), a recent addition from the season before the most recent season of Ninjago. You have to live in this world. So, in season 4 of Ninjago, the ninjas travel to an island to take part in a martial arts tournament organized by the mysterious Chen (who normally runs a noodle shop), where the other participants are all masters of their own various elements (such as the element of ‘sound’). The tournament however turns out to be a cover for a more nefarious scheme (stealing the elemental powers of each ninja). It’s a solid season with lots of characters and makes a lot of fun references. As I drew this last night, ironically, probably the biggest influence of all came on the TV: Bruce Lee’s classic Enter the Dragon. I am a big fan of this movie, and can probably quote all the words if I have to. And do the facial expressions of the hapless guards. If you ever see, I will prove it. Just don’t ask me to do any of the kung fu moves, I’m a tad  out of shape. In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee fights in a tournament on an island organized by the mysterious ‘Han’, but the tournament turns out to be a cover for a more nefarious scheme (recruiting fighters to his drug and crime empire). There are a few more parallels (one of the Lego sets is called ‘Enter the Serpent’; the scene where Chen punishes everyone because certain people have been sneaking around the palace at night; the scene where Chen tries recruiting Jay while showing him his collection of weaponry from the past, just like when Han tries recruiting Mr Roper), and in a previous season the ninjas learn the style of ‘fighting without fighting’, a direct reference to Bruce Lee’s chat with the bully Parsons on the boat. Look, you have to live in this world, ok. Master Chen is a pretty silly and whimsical villain though, but Mr Han is a classic supervillain of the highest order. He has a classic supervillain face; he lives in a palace surrounded by utterly useless guards; he is missing a hand (he keeps the skeletal remains in a glass case) but has a series of dangerous attachments such as the one with four-knives (for added “snikt”). Truly, as Mr Williams says, he comes right out of a comic book.

I drew this using a black Pentel pen, which I swear didn’t used to run much with a wash, but actually runs all over the place. Back to Microns for black lines I think. I use the non-running brown uni-ball signo um-151 pen mostly these days (the black variety runs bad). It’s on the Stillman and Birn Alpha paper.

the egg of good luck

egghead "bookhead"
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.