tree’s last stand

The Barn UCD pano Jan18 sm

One damp grey day last month I ate my lunch and went over to The Barn (an old building on the UC Davis campus) to draw, surprise surprise, a panorama. I approached it in the following way. I mapped out the scene with a few light guidelines in pencil, so that I could be sure to fit the whole building in, and then went straight into pen with the drawing itself, drawing the large, heavy leaning tree. I started there. I knew my lunchtime was short (I had eaten at Shah’s Halal food truck by the Silo, spicy chicken over rice, so good) and that this would take more than one lunchtime. Normally I would draw the front of the building first but it’s always easier to draw on the left page when standing, back to the wall, holding a landscape-format sketchbook. For some reason I always struggle a bit more sketching the right page while standing. So I drew the big tree, it was just too interesting. I did the tree, left the rest, went back to work.

I came back two days alter to continue, and THE TREE WAS GONE!!! Totally gone. The place was all cordoned off while the tree-chopper-people finished off chainsawing it up, and I stood there looking at my page like, “but…but…”. I don’t know how old the tree was, but look at it. It was really leaning over. It was an aging ballerina, tumbling in slow motion as time froze around it. I’m sure the tree was older than me. And I had sketched its very last days. This scene no longer looks like it does in this sketch. I carried on drawing the rest of the scene, The Barn itself, the buildings behind, the lines of the bike path. I was going to add paint but, I don’t know, it didn’t seem right. That tree was drawn at the end of its life. I wonder what it was thinking at the time? “I’ll Be Bark”

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but to you in your own little dreamworld

2nd G St Pano Feb2018 sm
Well this is part two of the previous post, really.It jumps forward in time from last month to today, but posting that sketch inspired me to get out and complete the circle. The sketch I posted yesterday was done on the other side of the street from this one, directly opposite, here at 2nd and G. Froggies is now on the right, with Sole Desire is on the left (oh I get it, Sole like in a shoe and Sole like, no actually I don’t get it). If I had a shoe shop I would call it Over The Heel, maybe if it were a shoe shop for mature audiences. You can see the train station from here. My barber (Razor’s Edge) is a little way down the street on the right. I got my hair cut today. I am the most boring person when getting a hair cut. I get the same thing every time, for years. And every time he asks, how does it look. And every time I say, I assume it looks fine (my glasses are off, I cannot see a thing). I get an easy hair cut. I basically get it cut so I don’t have to brush it, brushing hair is so tedious. I do have a hairbrush for those times when it gets a bit longer. It is green and the initials ‘PWS’ are carved into it, because I bought it when I was 13 in Spain (my sister got it for me actually), a cheap plastic hairbrush from a souvenir shop, that has lasted me until my 40s because I hate brushing my hair. Why on earth am I telling you this? It is in no way relevant.

I have more sketches to post from the interim period, between the last post and today’s. I can’t guarantee the text will be as riveting as my 1989 hairbrush discussion. I did go to England, briefly and unexpectedly, at the start of this month and have a few sketches from there. I’ve been up a long time today. I woke up early and registered for the 9th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Porto. I am excited, but nervous all the same. It’s changed a lot since the first one, back in Portland in 2010. Portland to Porto. Anyway, if you are going to Porto for the Symposium, do say hello to me. You can if you like mistake me for someone else, that sometimes happens at the symposium. I remember Lisbon in 2011, a woman came up to me and said, in an excited but serious manner, “I know you, stay here, my friend really wants to meet you.” I was talking with Florian Afflerbach at the time. He had to go, and I was stood there like a plum, and a few minutes later the woman’s friend comes up to me, and the woman says “this is Paul” and her friend peers at me over her glasses and says , “no that’s not him, ” and then without another word they just walked off!! I’m standing there like an eejit, obviously they think I’m “Paul” (Heaston probably, another redhead urban sketcher) (or McCartney maybe?) (Weller?) (Pogba?). No what I love about the symposium is meeting all the people whose sketches I have followed online, been inspired by, learned from, it is very educational like that. You make connections, you might meet someone at one symposium just briefly, literally a couple of words, then follow their work on instagram or something, and by the next time the symposium comes around you’re like old buddies. It’s nice. I’m interested in seeing what Porto has to offer, it looks like a really interesting city. Of course, the first thing I think about is FC Porto, and that time Spurs beat them in 1991 in the Cup-Winners Cup (which no longer even exists), with an incredible team goal scored by Lineker. I’m looking forward to seeing the Portugal Urban Sketchers again, I enjoyed meeting them before (and eating a nice dinner with a group of them in Manchester, though I understood barely a word). I guess I had better start brushing up on my Portuguese…

you get from day to day by filling your head

2nd G St Pano Jan2018 sm
Another downtown panorama from January. Remember a few years ago when I did loads of panoramas (panoramae? panorami? panoramodes?) in January 2014 and called it a ‘Panoramarathon‘, or in the spirit of naming months after doing artwork, a ‘januaramarathon’, yeah that one didn’t catch on, not exactly
‘inktober’ is it. Hey maybe there is still time for us to do another movement, okay February is already gone but perhaps this March we can dedicate it to panoramic sketches and call it “Panoramarch”. Seriously we have to do it in March because “Panoramapril” sounds rubbish. “Panoramay” could work though, if you can’t do March. I like drawing panoramas over two pages, in fact I would love to bring out a whole book of my Davis panorama sketches, that would be a fun thing to flick through, maybe include some witty little stories, observations, reminiscences, maybe the odd story with long-term locals about the places they love. If I did that I would probably edit down the nonsensical stuff, the ‘stupid-don’t-make-sense-stories’ as me and my friend Terry used to call them when we were at school. Back then we had a short-lived home-made magazine called “The Silly Goats Gruff” which honestly made zero sense. Like, literally. Like if you read some of my more long-winded go-nowhere blog posts, that is not even close. The ‘Stupid-Don’t-Make-Sense-Stories’ were pretty ridiculous. I should try to find some and post them here. There weren’t very many. Terry’s ones were actually pretty good, I thought, while mine always felt a little forced. Listen to me critiquing my 14 year old self’s writing style. That guy who reviewed my book on amazon (the one who said “the author’s explanations are so boring by the time he gets to the point I’ve forgotten what he was talking about“, that guy) (by the way, that guy, if you have forgotten what I was talking about, just look at the page titles), well he would have hated The Silly Goats Gruff. Definitely would have given it 1 star on amazon, plus a whole bunch of links to better publications about goats. “It doesn’t even tell me how many goats there are!”

Anyway, back to the sketch. I know, I know, you’re thinking “that guy has a point”, well yes, he definitely does. So, this was sketched one Saturday afternoon in mid-January after I got a haircut in downtown Davis, on the corner of G and 2nd. The heart of historic downtown, this. That new signpost is nice. On the left, Froggie’s, a bar that has been there for ages. When Terry came to visit me in 2006 I took him there, he loved it. He doesn’t write Stupid-Don’t-Make-Sense-Stories any more, more’s the pity. Now on the right is a shoe shop called Sole Desire, which again, thinking back to the last post, is another example of a Davis shop using some sort of pun in their name and I just can’t tell what it is. This took me under a couple of hours of drawing, but I added the colours when I got home.

e-street trees and memories

E St Pano Jan2018 sm
This is E Street, Davis. Click on the image to see it in more detail. Actually to see it in even more detail, go to the actual place. You have to stand just by the bins near The Hotdogger, near the rear of Uncle Vito’s, the pizza place. Well not just pizza, they do beer and fries and other things. They show sports. It’s nice, I’ve sketched in there before. When I first moved to Davis it was actually a Chinese restaurant called “Wok’N’Roll”. Wok’n’roll. Wok. ‘N’ Roll. There is another place in south Davis over where I used to live called “Wok of Flame. Not having an American accent I did not get that pun at first. Wok of Flame? IS there a Rock of Flame, is that a thing I need to look up, like Rock of Ages (which is another thing I don’t understand but nevertheless laugh when Iron Man uses it to refer to Loki). Now with Wok of Flame, when I realized, oh that is supposed to be ‘Walk of Flame’ but even then it was like, but I still don’t get it. What is the Walk of Flame? Took me ages to realize it means Walk of Fame. That’s two puns in one. So I started to think maybe all the other shops and restaurants in Davis were punny references to things I didn’t get? At this point I should roll off a load of Davis shops and restaurants and try to make vaguely funny guesses at what they could potentially be puns for, in a completely silly manner, but honestly I feel like I’m above such frippery. No, ha ha ha no no I am totally not above that actually so here goes. The Avid Reader, is that a reference to David Ginola’s Bird Feeder? No, that doesn’t work, not even close. Being a punster in the ‘Wok of Flame’ league is harder than you might think. But Wok’n’Roll…that works too because you have woks, and you have spring rolls. And it’s like Rock’n’Roll. I used to eat there sometimes on Saturday when I worked at the Avid Reader (my first job in Davis was at the David Ginola’s Bird Feeder) and to be honest, Wok’n’Roll wasn’t very good. I didn’t like the food much. I just liked their name.

Anyway, enough wok-ing down memory lane, back to this sketch. This is E Street, like the Band. The building on the left is the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion which was built in 1875, I have sketched it before (remember my Davis centenary sketchcrawl last year?) but not from this side of the street. There is also Mansion Square behind it, with lots of various businesses which may or may not have punny names, like ‘A Better Place to Bead’, I don’t know what it’s referring to.

Actually I have a story from this building on the right, when I first came to Davis, before I had any job (back when I’d spend the day playing scrabble by myself before leaving the apartment at 4pm and go to the library to translate Anglo-Saxon poetry; boy I needed a job) (this was before I started drawing Davis) I interviewed for Kaplan, who did all the SATs and GREs and stuff. I ultimately never got the position, which I think was teaching people how to pass those exams, exams which I had never ever taken myself because I’m from the UK and we don’t require them, but I did get on very well with the people there and had to do a presentation on the subject of my choice. Now you might think, well that’s an obvious one, drawing, or maybe history, or even historical language, no definitely football shirts. Interactive Theatre. You’d be wrong. What I decided to talk about was Black Shuck. You know, Black Shuck the ghostly dog who terrorized East Anglia hundreds of years ago. Black Shuck who had this massive great big eye and breathed fire and burnt church doors with his paws. Black Shuck used to keep me awake at night. Black Shuck scared the living bejeezus out of me. He was huge, like a horse, and would roam the country lanes of Suffolk or wherever, and cars would feel his icy flaming breath (seriously myths and legends, make your mind up). I used to have nightmares about Black Shuck, like he would for some reason seek me out in my terraced house in Burnt Oak, north London, and, what? Roar at me? Burn me with his imaginary paws? Look at me with his massive single eye that looks like a bowl? Black Shuck, ridiculous, silly ghost stories. Like the Beast of Exmoor, or the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor. Yes, the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor, look them up, it’s one of those great local English legends.

That’s not a very interesting story actually. I may even be remembering it wrong, maybe I did talk about Interactive Theatre, leaving the Legend of Black Shuck story in my notebook, deciding last minute not to bother anyone with it. Memory can be a funny thing. Not everyone remembers everything the same way, so what is reality? Speaking of memory, one more thing to add about this sketch. Until about ten years ago there used to be a massive tree which stood right in the middle there, huge thing it was, towering high above the Davis skyline. It was leaning though, to the left (left-leaning like much of Davis), leaning to quite a large extent that if it fell it would have probably meant the end of Mr Dresbach and Mr Hunt and Mr Boyer, so they chopped it down. I still see it, like the ghost of trees past.

i love it when a plan comes together

A St Belfry Dec2017 sm

I never finished this one. Ah, I’ve sketched it before. It’s the Belfry an A Street, Davis. Not “a street”, it’s “A” Street. I feel like I have explained this before. I suppose if I had written, at the start of a sentence, A street, then you could be forgiven for thinking it was just a street, obviously you would say this is not a street, it’s part of a street but it’s clearly a building. Look when I was a kid I would get really confused by The A Team. Make your mind up, Hannibal! Definite or Indefinite article! I would imagine another show called “A The Team”. You had M.A. Baracas, who is smarter than the original, Murmuring Sane Murdock, Scipio Africanus Smith and of course, The Head. No, no I didn’t. I wasn’t that original. No, when I was a kid and first heard of the A Team, before I had seen the show, I misheard and thought it was called “The 18”. This is actually true. To this day I still wonder if my cousin was actually describing a show called “The 18” (it’s possible; I’m not sure he was allowed to watch the A Team, since he wasn’t allowed to play Star Wars) (well no, he was, but it was a frowned upon) (not much admittedly) (in fact we played it all the time) (I remember this one time we got in trouble in Brent Cross Shopping Centre for having a lightsabre duel with homemade cardboard lightsabres my sister made us) (reading stories about Armageddon and being turned to pillars of salt before bed was fine though, totally, no nightmares there) (but we did watch Superman 3 and that bit where the villainous sister gets turned into a mechanical killer probably gave me more nightmares, but was awesome) (age 7 was probably my most fun summer!). Where was I? A street. I drew this on A Street, a street which will now always make me think of the A Team theme. In Davis, B.A. is probably working on being Ph.D. Baracas by now. So this is the Belfry. I intended on colouring it in, but I got a little sidetracked.

a day in the city

Amtrak Dec2017 sm

Just before Christmas I went down to the city (San Francisco) for some pre-Christmas sketching, and to spend money shopping for last-minute gifts. Well, one last-minute gift. And it was from Tiffany’s so it was less ‘last-minute’ and more just ‘minute’. Well, maybe not that small. I walk in there and I say, look, I am a man and utterly clueless, I don’t even know what a Tiffany’s is, I actually thought you sold cakes, and they are like, absolutely sir, don’t worry, you are not alone, let me help. And they were very helpful. But you don’t want to hear about my complete cluelessness when it comes to shopping for things that aren’t made by Nintendo or Lego (hey, I feel sophisticated when I buy myself a new jumper, like I’m a style guru or something). You’re here for the sketching, and that’s what I do. Actually it’s not all I do, I’m also really into history and language and writing, and I totally love football (soccer) and spend ridiculous amounts of time obsessively making spreadsheets of football stats you don’t need (for example, the most worn kit make since the Premier League began is Umbro, also the most successful in terms of games won and equal on titles won with Nike, but Nike has a goal difference of +1316 compared to Umbro’s +341 (compared to Adidas whose goal difference is +480 – you really don’t need to know all of this, but this is the sort of stuff I think a lot about) (I do work for the Statistics Department, it kind of rubs off on me). Anyway, the sketching. I used a new Palomino pencil that my friend Terry in Japan sent me (I thought palominos were horses) (I should tell people, this pencil was sent by a pal o’ mine) to draw the Amtrak train scene above, because you have to draw on the train.

SFMoma Dec2017 sm

Now I haven’t sketched around SoMa in about ten years, so I went to the Museum of Modern Art for a little inspiration. I was mostly inspired by the entrance fee to maybe go and do some sketching outside instead, but not after spending a lot of time in the gift shop. They have the best stuff. I sketched outside in Yerba Buena Gardens, which is always a nice place for people watching (I love that phrase, I never watch people, they’re not very interesting). Fun fact, Yerba Buena is the original name of San Francisco, being renamed after the local mission in 1847.

SF Jewish Musuem sm

Now this unusually shaped building is part of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and I could tell before looking it up that it was designed by Daniel Libeskind, as those diagonally turned buildings are somewhat of a signature of his. It reminded me of the building he designed on Holloway Road in London, I used to go past on the bus. London Metropolitan University, that’s it. This one is much more dramatic. As I sketched, a rather shouty man, tailed by a police officer on a bike, wandered past yelling some angry gibberish at the world, with the cop shadowing him all the way. I didn’t add any paint, but moved on, as I only had an hour or two of daylight left.

SF Johns Grill Dec 2017 sm

I was near Union Square by now, and so I stood just off the Christmas shopping masses and sketched the signage of John’s Grill. I don’t know who John is or what his grill i all about but they appear to specialize in Jazz, cocktails, steaks and seafood, and have been around since 1908. Well done Pete, you have successfully read words, pat yourself on the back. I really liked that tall building in the background, on Market Street, and I used a grey pen to sketch it. San Francisco’s slightly damper air gives a muted, softer feel to its colours and lines.

SF Union Square Xmas Tree 2017 sm

Yes, I have posted it before but here it is again to round off the daytrip. It’s the big Christmas Tree in Union Square. It was busy, lost of people stopped to take pictures with the tree (a lady sitting nearby was asked many times by people to take their photos, she was very obliging; nobody asked me, I was sat above, my head buried in a sketchbook). I did draw a couple taking a selfie though because that’s the thing nowadays, actually people have always done it even with their old cameras but it didn’t seem to offend grumpy people as much. Seriously, people who get irritated by people taking selfies, get over it. I know the standard response to that is “seriously, people who get irritated by people who get irritated by people taking selfies, get over it” but if you start down that road you end up on a continuous looping paradox of nonsensical arguments (aka Twitter) (or aka everywhere these days). Anyway, after this sketch, the sunlight fading faster than fog in a funfair, I switched into hapless Christmas shopper mode and spent the rest of the day making the wallet a bit lighter. And then I caught the train back home to Davis.

west sac hydrant

West Sac Hydrant Dec2017 sm

I had an early morning appointment in West Sacramento to renew my permanent residency. I arrived very early, on the bus, and had a while to wait outside in the cold before the doors opened and my money could be spent on taking my fingerprints (which haven’t changed since the last time they took them a decade ago, I guess they don’t gain weight like the rest of me has). I took that time before my appointment to sketch one of the fire hydrants outside. It was really cold. Afterwards, I went and had breakfast at IHOP (which was delicious by the way), before catching the bus back to Davis.