The Barn, UC Davis. I’ve sketched this a couple of times before, The Barn. The word “Barn” comes from Old English, “bereærn“, which literally meant “barley house”. A lot of buildings on campus look like this as you well know. I needed to sketch something familiar. I feel like I’ve sketched a lot of barns (and former barns) in Davis. Barns and bars. I must confess there was more blossom on that tree now than my sketch lets on. Spring is truly sprung in Davis. Can you believe it’s March already? Of course you can. The days march on as they have always done, but as we get older, each day is relatively shorter than the previous one. Albert Einstein said that, or at least it sounds a bit like the sort of thing he might have said. Lunchtimes feel shorter, at least. Once again I did the colour when I got home.
More construction on the UC Davis campus, but this one, ladies and gentlemen, is long awaited and very significant. This is the south side of the Vanderhoef Quad, a square on the side of campus I call “Trans-arboretum”, which includes the Buehler Alumni Centre, the Graduate School of Management, the UC Davis Welcome Center and Conference Center, and of course the massive Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Hey, I’m going there in April to see Belle and Sebastian. This is the gateway to campus and has been gradually sculpted since I first arrived in Davis. So what are they building, well this will soon be the Shrem Museum of Art. That is the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, to give it the full name. When the museum was announced it was very exciting news and the designs for the new building were modern and innovative. The final design, by Brooklyn-based architects “SO-IL” along with San Francisco based Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, was announced in 2013 and the ground-breaking ceremony took place last spring. You can read about the design here. I’m not joking – I am seriously excited about this museum. Davis is an artist’s city and UC Davis an artist’s campus (I should know eh, drawn it enough times) and this is going to be an amazing addition. I will be sketching its progress as the building goes up, but this is the first. I stood in the shade of the Mondavi Center (it is very sunny here in California right now, apologies to those buried in the snow everywhere else in America).
Visit their website at: http://shremmuseum.ucdavis.edu/index.html
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato
There are changes afoot on the UC Davis campus. Oh, there are always changes afoot, things coming down, things going up, it’s been change change change since I’ve been here. Very soon however there will be a major remodeling of the Memorial Union, which is kind of their Student Union buidling and a big hub on campus (including the UC Davis bookstore where I buy a lot of my art supplies). Freeborn Hall on the right has been closed for a while, ready for its remodeling.
January ploughs on. I’m doing some sketching but not much (actually none in more than a week, but I still have a couple of panoramas from Sacramento to finish colouring and then scan in). The first month of the year is always a busy one, and I have been building new Lego sets (my son’s birthday was last weekend) and making birthday banners and what not. The weather’s alright, been kinda warm this week, was a bit chilly on the first day I did this (it was done over a couple of different days). No rain though, a very dry January, which isn’t good for our droughts. Otherwise, a little morning fog but lots of nothing really. Out east they’re having really big blizzards. I hear out east that they have fifty different words for snow, or rather fifty different ways to describe any sort of snowstorm, “Snowmageddon”, “Snowpocalypse”, “Snowgnarok”, “Apocalypse Snow”, “The Towering InferSnow”, “World War Snow”, “Age of Snowtron”, “The Snow Awakens”, “Gone With The Snow”, “The Snowfather” and of course “Snowzen”. Yeah, it’s bad out there. Here in Davis, typically bland winter weather continues. The “Blandocalypse”, weathermen are calling it. “Blandmageddon”. “Blandgarok”. “Apocalypse Bland”, “The Towering InferBland”, “World War Bland”, “Age of Blandtron”, “The Bland Awakens”, “Gone With The Bland”, “The Blandfather” and of course “Blandzen”. Yeah, it’s bad out here.
Why do I like sketching panoramas in January? Perhaps it is because I am so busy and it is a way of concentrating on something else for a while, more complicated than a smaller one-page drawing, with a bit of meat that I need to come back to and maybe colour in at home (or next day on site in this case). Or maybe it’s because sketching in January in Davis is usually sunny, not that cold, and with leafless trees giving a better overall view (I don’t really like drawing foliage). Maybe because I liked last year’s panoramas so much (I made lots of mugs of them, you can buy them here) that I’m just trying to recapture past glories, trying to one-up myself from what I’ve done before. Maybe it’s because panoramic sketches, filling the whole spread as they do, eliminate that white space that nags at me in my books (I like to draw maps or maybe write pointless barely legible notes on the unused pages). Perhaps it is vanity, I like how they look when I am showing them to people, in person or in shows when they are laid out on a table, even though on my sketchblog they look much so smaller, and you have to click on them to see more detail. Or maybe it’s because of that, knowing that to see it you have to make that extra effort of clicking once with your finger, maybe it makes it worth more? I think it’s a mixture of all of these things. I draw more in January than in December, like despite being busy in my day job I am trying to fill some sort of post-Christmas void, the decorations are down so I’d better draw stuff. In truth it is the counter-balance; January is traditionally my busiest work month (working with graduate program admissions) and being busy gets my creative juices flowing, so it’s a kind of release.
This sounds very much like I am trying to justify my constant need to be drawing stuff. “What is it for?” is the most common question you get when out sketching. It’s a natural question, but one which often makes us the sketcher feel nervous and uncomfortable, as if we’re being put on the spot (which we usually are not, except in rare cases, and I’m not going to go into those here). There is always this nagging feeling that the world at large expects us to be doing something for a clear purpose, that we have to prove that this drawing outside thing we do is of actual value (I have actually had someone recently actually say to me while complimenting me on my work that the world doesn’t see art as having any actual importance. Thanks a lot, those paper snowflakes didn’t just make themselves you know). This is almost always not the case and people are almost always genuinely interested and even inspired by seeing you out there drawing, and if they are artists themselves they will let you know and maybe that evening they will go home and draw something amazing. If you are someone who is intimidated by drawing outside, as I once was (and occasionally still am), for fear of interaction with people who may witness your work in its raw unrefined state, just remember that your very presence out there creating and observing is making the world a better place, and most people really do see it that way. “What is it for?” When asked this question, the answer is always, always that it’s because you love to draw. Regardless of what it is really for, commissions, learning about architecture, spying etc, that is always the best (and truest) answer.
As I was drawing this, which is of the Chemistry buildings at UC Davis (I always see fire trucks outside, which is a bit worrying) sketched from Bainer Hall, home of Engineering, (that sculpture in front is related to something to do with engineering, how’s that for detail, I only walk it past it every day of my life), one of the janitorial staff on campus stopped to chat, as he was emptying the bins, a nice chap he was, very interested in drawing. He told me that he draws too, and also does woodwork, that was his personal creative release. I”m always well impressed by woodworkers, but I think he recognized straight away the need to create, and though he asked at first if I was studying art, when I said I was a staff member he understood right away, no need to ask “what’s it for” because it was just for the love of it. That was nice. I told him that one of the things I like to draw on campus are the bins, I never leave them out to make something look nicer, in fact I vehemently keep them in to the point of obstinacy. This brief interaction made me smile, and so having had my one allowable interaction while sketching I put my headphones back on and pulled down my hat so that nobody would bother me again (only joking) (kind of).
This was actually sketched over three lunchtimes, standing up, the first being only about twenty-five minutes (I had to eat), the second almost exactly an hour (I still had to eat, but I ate fast) and on the third day I added the paint, which took about two-thirds of my lunchtime, but I spent that sitting down. I was sitting down for almost the whole time while writing all this too and I’ve been here for a good hour already so it all evens out. There is another panorama ready to be scanned and posted, with one more on the way so stay tuned, there is more to come folks…
Oh the sketching is back. I got out one lunchtime when it wasn’t rainy and walked along the UC Davis Arboretum, which runs by Putah Creek. I was on my way to eat from that little food truck outside the Mondavi. They do nice chicken-cheesesteak sandwiches. Anyway I realized it’s been a while since I last sketched the UC Davis watertower, so I stopped and drew it with the palm trees in the foreground. The bridge to the left was pretty hard to see behind the foliage so that got left out. Sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook.
The UC Davis Silo. We had a lot of rain this past couple of weeks. Last Monday it was raining, but I really wanted to sketch at lunchtime, so I did a quick one of the Silo’s tower while stood under some shelter. I wanted to colour it in a little so I did that too, but I had forgotten my water-jar. I crouched down and used water from a puddle. I must have looked a sight. I don’t care. Sketch done.
Well it is the Thanksgiving Holiday, and by this time of year in Davis the autumnal colours have really exploded into bloom. It happens that bit later than in most parts of America, it seems, and the transition between November and December is when it hits its peak. This is Mrak Hall, above, where the main administration for UC Davis sits. I sat on a bench one lunchtime this week (a more pleasant experience now that the campus is smoke-free) to sketch this view, and I remembered that I’ve sketched it in Falls gone by on a couple of other occasion. Below, December 2010, a couple of weeks or so later in the season. You can see how the red-tinged tree has turned more orange, while the yellow tree has started to thin out on top.
Let’s go further back in time to 2007. The same date, December 10th, and a similar rate of autumnalisation (not a word people use, but I just did) though with more leaflessness on the top of the trees (I neglected to draw the leaves on the ground, obviously too difficult for me back in 2007).
That top sketch of Mrak was the final sketch in watercolour Moleskine #13, which was the ‘Art-Plus’ version (and slightly inferior to all the other versions, paper-wise). This bottom sketch was from watercolour Moleskine #2, and the middle one from #6. Time for a new sketchbook!