Tag Archives: people

take the high woad

alex salmond
Today, September the 18th, 2014, is the day of destiny. No I’m not referring to the opening games of the group stage of the Europa League, I’m talking about the matter of a vote happening among our friends north of the border. No, sorry, not the Canadian border, I’m talking of course about Scotland. Living over here in America as I do now, you could be forgiven for not hearing much about what is actually a pretty massive issue, that of Scotland finally breaking from the UK and gaining full independence from the Union. The people of Scotland are answering a simple question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, with a simple answer “Yes” or “No” (though why “Aye” isn’t also an option I don’t know). Despite whichever side of the argument you sit on, this is a pretty proud day for Scotland, and especially for their First Minister, the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond (that’s him drawn above). As a Londoner who now lives in America, but who has always had a long affinity for Scotland, I really don’t know what my opinion is. For a long time I might have harboured quite an excitement at the prospect of Scottish independence, but now it is an actual prospect, I find I’m quite on the fence.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think about it. I’ve thought about it for years yet I feel a bit under-informed and uneasy about it now. First and foremost I’m of the mind that, as a non-Scot, it’s None Of My Business, but in fact I’m not so sure it isn’t. I believe Scots should choose their own destiny, no question. However it will probably mean the break-up of the Union, and as a UK citizen that affects me directly, as well as millions of other non-Scottish Britons. Politically speaking, Scotland carries a lot of weight nationally – it’s not really a big Tory-voting area, so the UK Labour Party would stand to lose a lot of its voting power if Scotland no longer sent MPs to Westminster. Hence the big Labour presence in the “Better Together” campaign; if Berkshire was voting for independence you can bet your life that Ed Milliband would be on the “Yes! Freedom for Maidenhead!” trail. But Scottish independence would also technically mean English independence. England, you see, isn’t independent. Nor does it have a devolved parliament like the Scots; it only has the direct British government, because that evolved from the English parliament following the Act of Union in 1707. Ah but no, you say, England along with Wales and Northern Ireland would remain “the United Kingdom of Great Britain”, right? Yes, in the eyes of the world and the EU and all the international treaties…but they wouldn’t be. Not really. The band will have broken up.

It’s hard not to think of the U.K. like a band. You have the big bossy lead singer (England) who often gets mistaken for the whole band by an ignorant foreign music press, you have the quiet mysterious bass player who has an amazing singing voice (Wales), you have the eccentric and beautiful drummer (Northern Ireland is the Keith Moon of the U.K.), and then you have the creative songwriter, the one with all the best ideas, maybe plays rhythm guitar but plays lead better than any of them, and is probably the best drummer too. We won’t mention the drugs. Maybe they had a decent solo career before falling on hard times and being convinced to form a band with their neighbour and set about conquering the world (but you know, literally). Now Scotland wants a solo career. The remaining members of the band keep the record deal and can carry on playing the back catalogue…but they’ll never replace the member they lost, and then the bassist and the drummer will want their own record deals, and before long, England is reduced to playing on Cruise Liners and appearing on Celebrity Big Brother Get Me Out Of Here. Ok maybe the band analogy is going a bit far, but it does feel like that, a little. Hey, in about twenty-five years when they’re all broke they can get back together for a comeback tour.

As Scotland votes though, there are a few things I am thinking about:

  • If Scotland votes “Yes”, the Union is not breaking up any time soon. It just means that it is more likely that it could. England historically though is not good at letting go.
  • After much vexing about the Union Jack (and I do love vexillology), I have decided I don’t care what happens to the flag. In fact, start again, let’s have all new flags. We can have a contest, the one with the most ‘likes’ on Facebook wins.
  • If Scotland leaves the UK, England should try and start a Union with France, just to make Scotland jealous. They can even call the new flag the “Union Jacques”
  • Independence or not, Scotland isn’t actually going anywhere, it’ll still be in the same place. It’s not going to the Moon. We can still visit. Our kids can still get married there without our permission (my mum did that, at 17).
  • UKIP – hahahahahaha!
  • They’ll need their own national football team oh no they already have that. They’ll need to print their own money oh no they already do that. They’ll need their own national newspapers oh no they already have those. They’ll need their own monarch, och nay they actually already have that as well, with The Queen (you might argue that in fact England has their monarch, given that the English royal line died with Elizabeth I, but that would ignore all the German Saxe-Coburg fun and games that came later and they definitely were not Scottish at all).
  • Scotland should adopt the GMT+1 time zone. Here’s a story, when my wife (from America) lived in England she went on a business trip to Aberdeen and I told her, as a joke, to put her watch forward an hour. I bottled it the day before and said I was joking, of course. But still, it was a good one ‘cos it seems so ridiculous, unless you’re from a country that does actually have different time zones, like, er, America. So Scotland tell everyone they are adopting the GMT+1 time zone, but then don’t, just as a joke. It will be hilarious.
  • The Economy. The NHS. Everything. Whatever happens, the rich greedy guys will always try to take away from the poor guys. A change in the makeup of the UK will provide a whopping opportunity for them to dismantle everything that benefits the disenfranchised in the name of “oh but it has to be this way”, both sides of the border.
  • My affinity with Scotland starts with my mum getting married there at 17, my best friend when I was 12 being Glaswegian (he got me into the guitar), Gregory’s Girl being one of my favourite films, and watching a lot of Rab C. Nesbitt. However… I’ve only ever been to Scotland once, and I got lost in Edinburgh. And drank garlic vodka. I’m hardly an expert.
  • England should adopt “I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor” as their national anthem if Scotland leaves. “Go on now go, walk out the door…”. Scotland on the other hand should adopt the Bay City Rollers “Bye Bye Baby”. If they stay together, let’s change the national anthem to, no not “Let’s Stay Together”, but “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. It has nothing to do with the whole England-Scotland thing it’s just a great song I’d like to hear played at the Olympics.
  • However the vote goes I hope at least one tabloid sub-editor uses the headline “Rubbing Saltire into the Wounds”. We may never get another opportunity. Unless…
  • Scotland could ask Wales and Northern Ireland if they want to start a brand new Union with them. I imagine the idea might go down rather well…

Who knows?! Good luck today Scotland, however you end up voting. It’s your country. Just be careful what you wish for, whichever way you wish.

part of the queue

davis farmers market may 2014
Recently I went to the Davis Farmers Market on a Wednesday evening to do a bit of sketching. It was a warm evening, as you get around here, and a lot of people were buzzing around getting food from vendors and listening to live music. It’s always tricky figuring out what to sketch; in order to capture the vibrancy of the scene, you need to sketch a bunch of people moving around. I chose a spot near the food vendors and sketched the market information building, which sells t-shirts and baskets and other such stuff, while a queue of people lined up before me for tacos, finding themselves inevitably the foreground subjects of my sketch. I stood holding my big sketchbook (the larger size Stillman and Birn Alpha book rather than my smaller everyday sketchbook) at an unusual angle, I look kinda funny when I sketch like that. Someone came to look at my work, but they were at the wrong angle and probably thought I was holding it up so they couldn’t see, but that’s just how I hold it, close to my chin like a violin. I had time that evening so added the paint on site, sitting down on one of those benches by the tree to do that. I didn’t eat a Naanwich or any other of the market foods, I can’t really eat and sketch.

Anyway this particular sketch (and several others) will be on display and for sale this month at the ‘Art Is Davis’ Co-op on D Street, Davis, as part of the ‘Scene In Davis‘ show. We will be having an artist’s reception in the early evening of Friday June 13th, so if you are in Davis please do come by, look at some of my sketchbooks, and say hello!

UCAAC 2014 – part 4

UCAAC E-Knowledge sm
Here are the final few sketches from the UC Academic Advising Conference. I went to two different workshops on the Friday and when I say different I mean polar opposite. One had superhero costumes and databases, one had cops and guns. The session sketched above was given by staff from UC Riverside, and they shared with us some of their “E-Knowledge”, their use of certain databases and websites to gather up student data. The first presenter dressed in a Superman outfit (or maybe Supergirl, minus the Supergirl costume adjustments, I’m not an expert, I’ve been reading a lot more Marvel lately than DC)
UCAAC Active Shooter sm
The final workshop attended was the most interesting by far, albeit disturbing. “Surviving an Active Shooter”, presented by the UC Davis Police, is unfortunately in the United States of America an all too real factor to consider, as we saw tragically at UC Santa Barbara last weekend. Mike Valenzuela was the main presenter and he showed us all a variety of scenarios and types of firearm. I was official sketcher so I didn’t have to take part in the exercise on how to run out of the building. The videos we had to watch were scary to say the least, but the tips they gave on survival, and the mantra of “RUN-HIDE-FIGHT” (very much in that order) were very strong. I would recommend anyone to take a course like this, and many thanks to Mike, Mary, Tim and Janet for offering this workshop. I absolutely hope I never have to use what I learnt.
UCAAC Elizabeth sm
These last couple of sketches are of some UC Davis staff I know, my former department colleague and one of the conference organizers Elizabeth Dudley (I had to include her camera as she is a great photographer), also a keen cyclist and foodie – check out her website, the Cycling Foodie. I must thank Elizabeth, as it was she who recommended me as the official sketcher to the organizing committee (after I had left it too late to register, doh!). Cheers Elizabeth! Below is Cris Breivik, a long-term academic counselor who works with Elizabeth in the L&S Dean’s Office (who I’m sure I have I have sketched before at a meeting or previous conference). He is very well-known on campus and even has a banner devoted to him (it’s near the Silo). I think I captured him quite well.
UCAAC Cris sm
And so that is that. I enjoyed this UC Academic Advising Conference, in both my daily work and my sketching capacities, and am pleased I had the opportunity to live in both worlds for a couple of days. By the way, the UCAAC posted all the sketches on Facebook in this full set: “UCAAC SKetches by Pete Scully” Cheers!

UCAAC 2014 – part 3

Day Two of the UC Academic Advising Conference opened with a series of brief ‘TED Talks’. What are TED Talks? I showed up a but late to find out, and was somewhat crestfallen to discover that it wasn’t a series of storytimes with teddy bears (yeah I know, what was I thinking, but I watched Playschool as a kid, Big and ittle Ted, Humpty, Jemima, Hamble etc and, well I don’t know, but anyway it wasn’t anything like that. Forget I mentioned it.) Ok, so apparently they are academic presentations which are short and delivered at breakneck speed on various subjects to popular audiences, at least that’s the impression I got.
UCAAC Ted1 Ristenport sm
The first one, which I walked into a few minutes late, was by Prof. William Ristenport from Chemical Engineering, and was all about coffee. Science stuff about coffee. UC Davis made headlines recently because it was doing some sort of sciencey thing about coffee which apparently made people very excited because, you know, they drink it. I don’t like coffee personally so I see this sort of excitement in the same way as when people get excited over pictures of dogs wearing clothes, but I daresay the coffee scientists and enthusiasts enjoyed this one. The time limitation factored and everything was presented at high-caffeine speed so I wasn’t able to take many notes but it was interesting and Prof. Ristenport did a good job of entertaining everyone. And yes the students who take part in these coffee science sessions do get free coffee which I’m sure makes all the difference.
UCAAC Ted2 Mozet sm
Again, I didn’t write many notes in the next TED Talk, given by Jonna Mozet, who is a Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in the School of Vet Med. It was about diagnosing mystery illnesses and explored epidemiology in the wild among animals, and was interesting but a bit above my head.
UCAAC Ted3 Marilyn sm
The third one was really interesting, given by Marilyn Ramenofsky, an adjunct professor in Neural Biology, and a former world-record holding swimmer. Her story spanned the decades and she told us about her years as a swimmer, medalling at the 1964 Olympics, and breaking the world record for the 400m freestyle. She fell in love with Biology and now researches bird migration at UC Davis. I think everyone loved her talk most, lots of people were talking about it afterwards.
UCAAC Ted4 Housefield sm
Finally, there was a talk given by James Housefield, Professor of Design at UC Davis. I have conversed with James via email (about sketchcrawls) before but hadn’t met him until now, and I really enjoyed his talk (although he did make everyone hug each other at the start which – see previous post – is not really my thing). This was a very lively talk and as you can see I was getting into the people sketching by that point and took a lot more notes. “Embrace the Unfashionable!” this was his mantra.

So that was the breakfast session of Day To. The rest of the conference’s events will be covered in the next post. Thanks for sticking with it!

(By the way, “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design” and has nothing to do with furry inanimate bears)

UCAAC 2014 – part 2

And so, continuing the sketches from day one of the UC Academic Advising Conference at the end of last month…
UCAAC Jenny Blake1 sm
The Keynote Speaker was Jenny Blake. Jenny is an author and career coach who used to work for Google before branching out on her own, travelling the country giving talks and signing her successful book “Life After College”. According to her website, http://jennyblake.me/, she loves helping smart people organize their brain, and it really shows. I’m not one to go for all the motivational speaker stuff that is so popular over here and elsewhere, but I must say that Jenny was extremely inspiring. “Is the life you’re living worth the price you’re paying for it?” This is a great questions for us all. I’m always wondering how to manage my life and all its busy-ness. I’ve had a ‘cluttered’ time the past few years, and even considered reining in stuff like my drawing all the time, as if that would help. Jenny talked a lot about ‘decluttering’, and then at one point she encouraged us all to do something we’ve always loved doing. I realized that in my case I was doing it right there and then – drawing!
UCAAC Jenny Blake2 sm

I felt pretty positive after listening to her speech and my sketches over this conference showed it, . Here is Jenny with the sketches after her talk. Thanks for an excellent seminar!

JennyAfter the keynote speech, it was time for the first afternoon breakout workshop, and I happened to attend one of those which sounded useful but was perhaps a little less up my alley. “Self-care Made Simple”, sketched below, was a popular workshop because while it had little to do with actual advising, it was offering ways to better manage our stressful lives and a lot of people, as they say, love that shit. I came in a few minutes after it had already started, and took one of the only spare seats, which was at the front. The whole place was silent, apparently in the middle of some period of quiet meditation. Ok, I thought, I’ll sit at the back, better view. The only sound in the room was my pencil case opening, the zip tearing through the silence, my pens scratching against the paper. From then, there was standing and stretching, walking about in a circle, there was some hugging (and another session next day also tried getting people to do this thing called hugging – yeah, no, I’m British), there was a lot of conversing (or “ventilation” as they called it) and of course there was “visualization”. They put on a tape which sounded like something from the Dharma Initiative, one of those self-hypnosis things, “Imagine you are on a sandy beach…become the sandy beach, imagine you are that sandy beach”, all that sort of stuff. I really fought hard to Jules Winfield it, “do I LOOK like a BEACH?”, but I didn’t need to break the spell as one lady (who is in the sketch) was asleep and snoring away. That made me smile. I don’t mean to mock the workshop, it was probably really great for almost everyone in the room and I met the presenters and they were very nice and I think they liked my sketch, but as I say, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. (A nice cup of tea is more my cup of tea.)
UCAAC Self Care sm
The final workshop of the day was very interesting and informative. “Helping and Supporting International Students” outlined (in admittedly technical terms with diagrams) the tribulations that are faced by students from other countries adjusting to degree programs in the U.S. I did really enjoy it and recognised a lot of the issues not only with my own experiences of international students at work, but also with my own experiences as someone living in a foreign country (and yes I do still see this as a foreign country – see above under ‘hugging’). There were some foreign students there sharing their experiences, and I sketched away. It’s funny sketching these sort of workshops because they are like a time-lapse photo, the lady speaking by the podium wasn’t there when the students were seated in a panel up front, and the blonde lady with the pink scarf stood to the left is the very same person sat to the right there, at a different moment. An important lesson in sketching however is that none of that matters, you are sketching an hour in history and all of those things were true at various moments. Also, you weren’t there so you don’t know any better (or care, probably).
UCAAC International Students sm
Hope you liked the sketches! Check back for Day Two!

UCAAC 2014, part 1

UCAAC opening 042414 sm
A few weeks ago, I attended the University of California Academic Advising Conference which was held at UC Davis. This conference was always held annually, hosted by a different UC campus each time, and I had previously attended the conferences in 2007 (Anaheim) and 2009 (San Diego). I hoped to go in 2010, however the UC had a big budget crisis and sadly, the advising conferences were cancelled for the foreseeable future. That was a shame, but nobody could afford to send staff on these trips like they used to. There was a mini-revival one year in Riverside, however this year 2014 marked the first year that the beloved “UCAAC” returned in full swing, and our very own campus was to be this year’s host. I however left it too late to register, and almost missed out. Fortunately though, I was at the last minute invited to attend as the “official sketcher”! Many great thanks to the organizers for extending this opportunity to me, I was incredibly honoured and took full advantage (and of course, learnt a lot about advising, this all being massively important for my day job too). I sketched quickly and productively, colouring on site as I went along too, using the smoother but thicker Zeta paper in a Stillman and Birn sketchbook.

Here are my sketches from the first part of the first day!

UCAAC Carolyn de la Pena sm
The Welcome Speaker was Carolyn de la Peña, American Studies professor and vice-provost and dean for undergraduate education, who opened the proceedings. I tried my best to write down some of the things she was saying while sketching her.

UCAAC Creative Strategies sm
The first breakout workshop I attended was about graduate student recruitment (ever wonder what I do all day? That’s a really big part of it). It was called “Creative Strategies” and was presented by Melissa Woehrstein from UCLA. I enjoyed it, and asked questions, but it was just long enough for me to get this whole scene sketched. I did tell Melissa beforehand that I would be sketching, and many of the same people show up in each of my workshop sketches, many of whom I have attended meetings with for years. It’s always funny when they suddenly get to see you in your other guise as the sketcher, I kinda felt like as if Clark Kent wore his cape while sitting at his desk at the Daily Planet (actually he probably does, under his shirt, but that’s the best analogy I can come up with, not that I’m Superman or anything). Anyway hopefully it didn’t distract anyone, but everyone was very positive about my sketches which was nice. Plus I had a badge that said “Official Sketcher” (handwritten admittedly but still, Official).

More to come…

night cap

de vere's april 2014 sm
Have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet? Spoiler alert – it’s great. I’ve seen it twice. I’m quite a fan of Cap. I like my heroes to be heroic, and you can’t get more heroic than Steve Rogers. After the movie, I popped into De Vere’s for a couple of pints and to do some more bar sketching. I had spent the previous few days sketching manically at the UC Academic Advising Conference (sketches to be posted next) and well, I can’t really stop sketching. I wanted to sketch a different angle  than usual and include a lot more people, but they all kept moving about, so in the end I turned and asked the group next to me if I could sketch them. Most of them had beards which is always a nice thing when sketching.
de veres people april2014 sm