such a fine time, such a happy time

2nd St Davis

Not been posting as much this past week, but I have been sketching, and I will post a lot more in the coming week. The AYSO soccer season came to an end last weekend, I was coaching a very skilled team of under-8s, and while it was a lot of work, I’m really going to miss it! And so, back to posting my lunchtime sketches. This one is about a week and a half old, sketched downtown on 2nd Street past G, near the station. This little row of yellow buildings is very distinct, and is also the location of one bar/restaurant that I have not sketched inside, Our House. I’ve only been in there once, for a pre-dinner beer on a night out with other couples. I always thought that Our House would be a better located on R Street, somewhere in one of the middle blocks. The red door you can see here is to a piercing and tattoo place called Urban Body. I’ve sketched this row before from a different angle, years ago, and with its unusual angles it’s a but tricky but quite interesting.

turning the wheels

city hall tavern, davis
It was time for another bar sketch. After a Saturday of AYSO soccer, pirates versus knights battles, Disney Infinity super-hero smash-downs and the occasional lightsabre duel, I headed out in the evening to do some drawing, read some comics and have a few beers. I love being a grown-up. Since I have a new book out (available right now!) in which I talk extensively about drawing bars in low light, I felt I should add to the sketchbook a little more, so I popped into the City Hall Tavern, which I last sketched two years ago, to again attempt their bar area with the bicycle wheels on the ceiling. Ice Hockey was on the TV (they just call it ‘Hockey’ here; similarly they say ‘cubes’ instead of ‘ice cubes’, ‘cream’ instead of ‘ice cream’, and ‘stares’ instead of ‘icy stares’ whenever I make this joke). They get so aggressive and fighty in Ice Hockey. For a game in which you are essentially just skating around trying to hit a small disc that won’t stop moving, players seem to get unusually angry, angrier than in most sports. Perhaps it’s because they dress head to toe in armour and carry huge sticks, it brings out the medieval warrior in people. Maybe the sport needs to change its image a little, and rename itself ‘Nice Hockey’. Ok, from now on I am calling it ‘Nice Hockey’ in the hope that it catches on. And those stares I get when I do will be called ‘Nice Stares’.  So, back to the sketch. I sat on the opposite side of the bar to when I last sketched this bar, for a slightly different angle. I follow City Hall Tavern on Twitter, and I notice that they are using one of my sketches of their bar as their header image (I think I said ok to that), but they have removed whatever was on the screen and replaced it with an actual shot from a real basketball game. Hmm, no, not really a fan of that. Replace it with a shot of Harry Kane scoring for Tottenham, maybe, or of Jose Mourinho huffing as Chelsea lose again, perhaps. Anyway, I tried a couple of different beers, one was a Gose Wheat beer (tasted like Strongbow), the other was a Sudwerk Aggie Cruiser, which was nice too. Lots of people were coming in drinking cocktails as part of some local bar crawl event that was happening. By the time I was done with my sketch, all the City Hall bar patrons were standing and chatting and dancing, and so I popped down to De Vere’s for a comfy seat and one more wheat beer to read a couple of comics (“the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” if you’re interested, and it’s great) before walking home.

Here are my previous City Hall Tavern sketches (inside only; I’ve sketched the outside building since way before it was a bar):

city hall tavern, davis

July 2012

city hall tavern, davis

October 2013

sketchcrawl 34 city hall tavern

January 2012


sorority seems to be the hardest word

alpha chi omega davis
One of many downtown buidlings I’ve always wanted to sketch but given a ‘some other time maybe’ thought to, this sorority house on the corner of C and 2nd in Davis, Alpha Chi Omega (I think it’s a sorority. I always have trouble saying that word, “sorority”, words with too many ‘r’s are never easy. Many Americans have trouble with the word ‘mirror’, pronouncing it more like ‘meer’ as opposed to ‘mirrah’ like we Londoners do). I always thought that Alpha Chi Omega was a Greek equivalent to the A-to-Z maps of London. If you are wondering, I didn’t really, I just made that up and had never actually thought of that before. Anyway, I sketched it one lunchtime in brown-black ink, decided against colouring it in. The weather is nice right now in Davis, a little more autumnal, though still sunny.

do the maths

MSB panorama pen full 2015 sm
This is my – oh hang on, wait a minute. Today is “International Talk Like A Pirate Day”. Right, I’ll start again.

Yarr, this be the ol’ Mathematical Sciences Buildin’, yaaarrr, this be where I be workin’ each day. Click on the ol’ picture to see it bigger, yarr, or be usin’ a telescope, me old shipmate. So aye, yarr, ye lily-livered-landlubbers, I be drawin’ this oh I can’t keep this up. Talking like a pirate is not easy you know. When I went to the Swashbuckler’s Ball a couple of yarrs ago (did you see what I did there? Did you see that?) someone said I did a really good pirate voice, but I wasn’t doing one, I be just talkin’ normally. Anyway, if for some reason you were unable to translate my piratespeak (and if you weren’t, shame on you. Like the old saying goes, “fail to translate my piratespeak once, shame on me. Fail to translate my piratespeak twice, er, er, I won’t get fooled again.”) Ok, where was I? Ok, so, this is the building where I work. It’s called the Mathematical Sciences Building, or “Math” Sciences Building, as some people call it. Or “Maths Sciences Building” as I sometimes call it. Ok so for those who don’t know, in America they say “Math” but in Britain we say “Maths”. We also say “Mathematics”, and so do Americans, and let me tell you they don’t like it when pretend to assume they say “Mathematic”. They definitely don’t say “Mathematic”. “Mathsematic” is right out, don’t ever say that. Anyway…this is where I work, it was built almost ten years ago and I’ve worked there for most of that time. It’s a nice building, though the elevators are very slow. I drew this to use for work (I like to have a few sketches of the building to use for various things) and I will do a colour version to, but I wanted to highlight our brand new sign which was installed a month or so ago. On either side is a different symbol, one for Mathematics and one for Statistics. It’s been years in the making so it’s very exciting. Many UC Davis buildings have been getting modern new signs, as part of the campus branding process, which has been (for me) very exciting to watch develop over the past decade. So anyway, I haven’t drawn the MSB (that’s what I really call it) for a few years so here we are.

someone sang a song and i sang along

Bistro 33 Davis

I went to see Belle and Sebastian last week. That has nothing to do with this sketch, but I am telling you anyway. Now if you have followed my sketches at all you will of course not know that probably at least 75% of them were sketched while listening to Belle and Sebastian, except that I use lyrics from their songs as blog post titles with alarming frequency. They have a pretty unmatched residency on my iPod matched only by David Devant, and the various podcasts I listen to ( which are headlined by “Football Weekly”, “The History of the English Language” and “Rachel and Miles Xplain the X-Men”). But the Belle and Sebastians, they come up Most Played, and so when I saw that they would be playing in Davis at the Mondavi Center, I had to go. And it was a brilliant show. The Mondavi is a great venue, and in fact it was the first time I had been to a show there. Yes, in almost ten years – this was well worth the wait. They played an incredibly varied set, mixture of old ones, new ones, fast ones, slow ones, and the lead singer Stuart was actually really funny. My wife came and she loved it. She knew all the songs because, in her words, “they remind me of being in the car with you”. I actually started listening to them around the time we first met, back when we lived in France that one year, I had bought the Boy With the Arab Strap album at a CD shop in downtown Aix-en-Provence (that I used to go to like every day) and have made her listen to everything since. Really though, they remind me of my time in Davis. Their 2006 album The Life Pursuit had a really distinctive sound, and every time I play it, I am brought back to 2006, that first summer in Davis, the epic heat, the bike rides around town, my discovery of watercolour and starting to sketch everything a lot more. That album came out on the very last day of my twenties. The funny thing is, I hadn’t actually listened to it for ages. I wasn’t, for some reason, on my iPod where everything else they did was, even more obscure stuff. I don’t know why I shunned it, I think part of me didn’t want to be reminded of my first year here, when everything was so new, so different, exciting. Looking back it was a tough transition, settling in a new country. I worked two jobs to keep me busy, ploughed into my art, and when I think of that year I think of this album (this, and Mr.Solo’s first album which I also listened to endlessly). Now in my tenth year over here I’m older (and fatter), more cynical (yeah right, like that is even possible), I have a fast-growing son (I live in a house made mostly of Lego and Pokemon cards), I feel different. It’s only natural. So when Belle and Sebastian played a whole bunch of songs, LIVE, from that very album, songs that I absolutely loved (particularly “Another Sunny Day” and “The Blues are Still Blue”) I was brought right back in a great way: the people who actually came up with these songs are actually playing in this actual city. Yeah, I liked that a lot. As soon as I got home I dug the album out and put it straight on my iPod, mystified as to how I’d not uploaded it on there before. I love their new album “Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance”, there are some cracking tunes. “The Power of Three” is my current listen. So, a great show, an evening to remember in a really lovely venue.

As I say none of that has anything to do with this sketch, I didn’t even listen to them while sketching it (it was a BBC History podcast about Galipoli). This is Bistro 33 in downtown Davis, a restaurant based in the side of the old City Hall, a building which has been a fire station, a police station many things over the years but is now a restaurant with a pretty large outside seating area. I kept it quick because frankly my seasonal allergies have kicked into gear in an epic way this week, and on that Sunday they were starting to destroy me a little. I would not have gone out at all but that I really needed to sketch some stuff. This whole week has been a bit of a sneezing-induced ‘mare. I ended up escaping inside to the adjoined City Hall Tavern to de-pollenify, before heading home. I’m still sneezing.

wright here wright now

Wright Hall

This is Celeste Turner Wright Hall, a colourfully painted building on the UC Davis campus, home to the Main Theatre and to the Department of Theatre and Dance. Yes, that’s spelled “Theatre” not “Theater”. This building was named after Celeste Turner Wright, who was the first tenured female faculty member at UC Davis. She was also the first drama instructor on campus; you can find out more about her long and illustrious career here. This building was built in the 1960s and was famously photographed by Ansel Adams. In front there are a couple of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads called “Yin and Yang”.  I sketched it last week at lunchtime, furiously drawing as much as possible. but added most of the colour later. Oh, click on the image if you want to see it larger.

Hey I thought you might like to see this, the first time I ever sketched it, which was back in November 2006. I remember doing this and loving playing with all the paint, still actually one of my favourite Davis sketches, mostly because it’s so different from what I do now, but also it was still that first year here, still discovering everything. Looking back, it really took me a lot of time to settle in, even though I worked both on campus and downtown and explored whenever I could, riding around on my bike in the stupid, ridiculous heat. Well, I’m still here, still exploring.

2006 Wright Hall sketch

nice times in pacific grove

Pacific Grove house
Pacific Grove is lovely. We stayed in a beautiful little house not far from the beach, just a few houses up from the place we stayed back in 2010. This isn’t it; this is the view from the window, which I sketched early on the first morning, while my son played on the Wii. All of the buildings around there are so lovely, and I was going to do a panorama, but we had to go to the Aquarium. I could sketch Pacific Grove for ever. The house we rented really was lovely, but I never sketched it from the outside; next time. I did sketch the living room on the second morning, while we all sat around (my son’s on his Wii U again, my wife is on her iPad).
pac grove living room
Here’s another beauty of an old building, around the corner on Lighthouse Avenue. I sketched it from across the street (right after sketching that fire hydrant; see last post). Imagine living in a building like this, old and full of places to explore. Maybe hidden passageways and secret doorways behind bookshelves, and paintings with eyes that follow you around the room. I was going to finish this off with some colour, but we had ordered pizza, so back home I went.
lighthouse ave, pacific grove