sketching by the train tracks

H St & 2nd St Last week we braved the elements (it was a bit cooler than usual) and held a socially-distanced Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl. We started out at the Amtrak station and went down 2nd Street. It was kinda sorta a scavenger hunt, but my list wasn’t very good, putting two of the items/prompts twice, and I didn’t follow any of them. I only did two drawings, at pretty much the same place (just from opposite sides of the train track). In the second one (the panorama of the Amtrak station, below) I stood leaning against the wall and my fingers got chilly. It was only a few weeks ago we were hitting temperatures in the big 90s! I mean it’s not cold cold, but it was noticeably more autumnal. I drew the above sketch with a Lamy safari fountain pen in black ink, and below the uniball signo um-151 in brown-black ink (click on it to see it bigger on the Flickr site).

amtrak station panorama

though nothing, nothing will keep us together

G St 111120 On Veteran’s Day I went downtown to get a sketch done, and ended up on G Street, where I drew the outdoor seating areas outside Woodstock’s Pizza and the Davis Beer Shoppe. Much of downtown Davis is now an outdoor food court, with streets blocked off on certain evenings so restaurants can expand further outside. I’m glad there is life, I don’t want these places to go out of business. I still only get take-out though, which we do quite a bit, and while it would be nice to pop down for a beer, I still don’t like being too close to others. Cases are spiking, but I think Davis businesses are doing their best. I’ve noticed a few new outside toilets have been installed downtown too, nice permanent ones rather than dirty portapotties. I drew this in the watercolour Moleskine. Weather is turning cooler, we even had rain on Friday, with more to come.

Co-Op

Davis Co-Op 11-07-20 On the day the winner of the election was announced and made clear to anyone who understands elections I popped out to do some drawing and catch the last bit of sunlight on a pretty well sunlit day, before heading back with some beer and cheese to watch the speeches. The Davis Co-Op on G Street has been here for decades, they have a great selection of food and drinks, especially their beers and wines. I stood across the street and made sure I included the sculpture of the big orange carrot. Maybe the Co-Op made me think of the new administration-elect’s calls for co-operation. It also made me think of the incumbent wotsitsface who may or may not be attempting a Co-Up. Drawing calms me down from thinking about politics and the sheer 2020-ness of 2020. I don’t draw the Co-Op very often, for some reason I find it a tricky subject, maybe it’s all the trees in the way, maybe I need to stand or sit closer. Wow, is it mid-November already? The hardest thing I’ve found about this year is the impossibility of planning for anything. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up, and thinking about the family gatherings with all the distancing is tough. And it’s nearly make-the-advent-calendar time of year! I’ve no idea what this year’s theme will be. Maybe a huge drawing of the house since we’ve spent so much time there this year, and we now officially own it. Off to the drawing board…

dominoes are fallin’

dominoes in north davis They are, aren’t they. I drew this one warm autumnal lunchtime last week during the Endless Agonizing Election (the Endless and Agonizing bit is still nowhere near over, the rest of 2020 is not going away with dignity is it). Even as I drew we were not yet close to an outcome but the dominoes were falling alright. Like Domino Rally, remember that game? I always wanted that as a kid, those adverts for it looked so brilliant, little plastic rectangles racing against each other falling over. I never had it, but I finally got one for my son for Christmas several years ago, I think we played it once on Christmas morning and was like, right that’s not as much fun as I thought it might be. It’s sat in the hall cupboard ever since, I think it will be heading to the Goodwill at some point, if future archaeologists can ever excavate our hall cupboard. This domino sculpture is actually on the North Davis Greenbelt, it was something that eluded me for years, I managed never to come across it. This year since I have been walking and running so much, exploring all the pathways on this side of town, I’ve gone past it many times and now finally gone to draw it. It was installed in 1994, the work of artist Eddy Martinez Hood, and it is called Domino Effect II. I assume there was a Domino Effect I, but if this is a sequel it’s a superb sequel. Like Street Fighter II, I don’t know the original at all. Or maybe Domino Effect I was done afterwards like a prequel? I don’t know, if only there were some form of global information  network where I could look this up, but as with lyrics that you can’t completely make sense of, the not-knowing is more fun. We live in an age when being able to know things is so immediate that I think maybe this is why so many have turned to the world of not-knowing, of alternative facts, of disbelieving the evidence in favour of the made-up, and let’s face it that’s why we are where we are. Wow that took a turn didn’t it.

I really enjoyed drawing this. It was a break from the endless red and blue TV maps and breaking news from Gondor and the fall colours were really exciting my senses. We have a lot of public art in Davis, it’s an artists town. (Speaking of which, we have a sketchcrawl this Saturday afternoon, 1:00pm starting at the Amtrak Station. Let’s Draw Davis!) I like how this sketch turned out, I was pleased with the colours and the dark values, and right now I feel like I am enjoying my sketching again. My number of sketches this year is way, way down on previous years, but I feel like I’m pushing myself out to draw a lot again, like I was when the pandemic first started.

Dublin part 1: This Is Your Liffey

Dublin GPO sm
Earlier this year during the first months of the pandemic, Sheltering-In-Place, I decided that since there was no travel back to Britain this year I would do a virtual tour of the island, and that was a fun and enlightening journey. I wanted to do another virtual tour, maybe of France, but the thought of it overwhelmed me a bit (the planning, fitting all the places into a certain number of pages, and pretty much everywhere in France is sketchworthy) so I picked up a much thinner sketchbook a mate gave me last year from Dublin and decided to do a shorter virtual tour around Ireland. This quickly became limited to just Dublin (there are only fifteen spreads in the book) as the paper was very thin, too thin for watercolour, and I knew I’d need to add a bit more paint to the Irish countryside. Well, mostly green, and probably grey for the sky. But a trip around Dublin, well that sounded pretty grand. My mate who gave me the book was in the process of moving to Dublin while I drew this, so I was thinking of him at the time, but also of my own family history, most of whom came from Dublin, from my grandparents’ generation backwards (3 from Dublin, 1 from Belfast). I still have loads of family in Dublin, the vast majority I’ve never met or know anything about, except for my great aunt and a couple of my mum’s cousins I met when I was a kid. I only just recently learned about the family beyond my nan’s generation, when my sister dug a bit further, finding out some very interesting things about great-great-grandfathers with big General Melchett moustaches. Nothing too exciting, just regular Dubliners going back years. We just didn’t really know much though, people didn’t talk about the past. It was a fun bit of discovery, but Anyway, let’s start this Dublin journey off with that most important of Dublin buildings, above: the GPO, or General Post Office, on O’Connell Street. The first time I came to Dublin in 1988 this was one of the first places we came to (right before going to eat at Beshoffs, which I’ll never forget because I poured sugar all over my chips and got upset). I knew about the 1916 Easter Rising – hard not to, I was brought up on the rebel music – and this was the epicentre, the headquarters of the rebellion it was here that Pádraic Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. So, a good place to start, but we had a lot of city to cover, in no particular direction. So let’s set off around Baile Átha Cliath.

Dublin O'Neills sm We move down across the Liffey to the corner of Suffolk Street, Church Street and St.Andrew’s Street, to the huge O’Neill’s pub. I’ve never been here but I like the look of the building. This was the page that convinced me I wouldn’t be adding paint to any other pages (though I gave it a go one more time). You’ve got to draw pubs in Dublin. If I should come back I’d mostly be doing that. In fact I’d go when it is most likely to rain so I’d have an excuse to go to more pubs. I hear the rainy season is shorter than people say though, it’s only from August to July. (I got no problem recycling jokes from my London tour bus days, feel free to use that for whatever city, Manchester, Portland, Brussels). This one is near the Molly Mallone statue. Molly Mallone wheeled a wheelbarrow through streets of all different widths selling coppers with muscles from Hawaii Five-O. 

Dublin Four Courts sm Here is the river Liffey, with the Four Courts along the north bank. The river isn’t green, it just appears like that in with the trees reflected in it. It’s not been dyed like that one in Chicago does on St.Patrick’s Day (is it Chicago, I don’t know, or care). Also, it’s just green paint on thin paper. The Liffey (An Life in Irish) flows from the Wicklow Mountains, curves around a bit and ends up in Dublin Bay. Dublin is centred on the Liffey and has some lovely bridges, the most famous being the Ha’penny Bridge, the iron footbridge which I did not bother drawing because it’s difficult and I couldn’t be bothered. I’ll draw it in person maybe if I go there unless it’s raining in which case I shall be in the pub drawing people playing bodhrans. Last time we were in Dublin my wife twisted her ankle on it. The bridge you can see is called the O’Donovan Rossa Bridge which is from the 18th century. I remember a fountain/statue that used to be on O’Connell Street called the Anna Livia which represented the female embodiment of the River Liffey, my great-aunt told me they called it the Floozie in the Jacuzzi. It’s moved somewhere else now. 

Dublin Christchurch sm And this is Christ Church Cathedral. We stayed in an apart-hotel near here last time we were in Dublin, six years ago, and went to the Dublinia exhibit located in the big section to the left. That was a lot of fun, learning about Dublin’s Viking history in particular. There’s a lot of Viking in Irish history, my great-uncle Albert Scully used to tell me that the Scullys had Viking origins, but I don’t think he really knew, but it would explain why I read so much Hagar The Horrible when I was a kid I guess. I did love Hagar. Sorry, Hägar. And Helga, and Hamlet, and Lucky Eddie. They did that advert for Skol on TV where they’re all singing Skol-Skol-Skol-Skol but Lucky Eddie doesn’t know the words. That might be where the Scully name really comes from, people singing Skol-Skol-Skol. Skol is actually from the Danish for Cheers, skål, though in fact the beer originated in Scotland. This is really off topic now. By the way I am aware that ‘Scully’ bears zero relation to ‘Skol’ but it doesn’t stop Americans mispronouncing my name to sound like Skol, or mis-spelling my name with a k despite seeing my name spelled with a c literally all the time. It comes from “O Scolaidhe” meaning “scholar”, and like so many Irish names has one of those nice little shields you can get on keyrings in gift shops all over Ireland. My family names are pretty common Irish names: Scully, Higgins, O’Donnell, McIlwaine (that’s the branch from Belfast), plus there’s Barrys and Kennedys and Crokes and Byrnes and more in my siblings and cousins families, plus who knows what. I do remember going to Rock of Cashel (the ancient seat of the Kings of Ireland) when I was 12 and being stunned to find so many graves bearing the name of Scully, along with the big Scully Cross, which is more of a pillar these days, because the top of it was blasted off when struck by lightning in the year of my birth. Moral: don’t make a Scully cross?

Join me next time for part two of my virtual Dublin tour, when we visit another pub, a publisher, a campus, and I dunno, another pub.  

the avid reader

avid reader bookstore, davis This is the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd Street, drawn on the first day of November while stood outside the Varsity. It’s a great little independent store that has been around since the 80s, and I worked here shortly after I first came to Davis, at first as the book-keeper and in the shop, then just as the book-keeper, part-time. It was my first job in America, though I actually started full-time in my current department at UC Davis only a couple of months after starting here, so I worked two jobs for a couple of years, helpful while I was still paying a student loan in the UK (back then the dollar was so week against the pound, it was about $2.10 to the £ at one point; it’s about $1.30 now, for example). The owner of the store and my first employer in the US was Alzada Knickerbocker, and if you remember my post from about seven or eight months ago, she retired in February and sold the bookstore to a local family, the Arnolds, who’ve done well to keep the store with a very local community flavour, despite the massive hiccup of the pandemic. I do love the Avid Reader. Well I heard that a few weeks ago, Alzada sadly passed away. I was pretty shocked to read that, the last time I’d seen her was on that evening in February when she officially handed over the store. So I came down to the store on this Sunday afternoon, signed the commemorative book for her, and drew the shop. When I first started there Avid Reader also had a children’s bookstore in E St Plaza, but that closed and we moved all the children’s books upstairs in the main store, where they still are. When our favourite independent toyshop Alphabet Moon, a few doors down on 2nd St, closed down in 2013 Alzada took over the space and kept it as a second part of the main branch, keeping some toys in there along with travel books and cards and stuff. It is now called Avid Reader Active, and is still more of a toystore than a bookstore. It was at the Avid Reader that I learned about the Davis community, from speaking to locals and listening to speakers at various events, so I owe it a lot, and am grateful that Alzada gave me my first job over here. Rest in peace Alzada, and thanks for everything! And may the Avid Reader continue to thrive. 

memor(i)al union

MU panorama Oct 2020 sm

Another panorama, this time in the Moleskine. Click on the image for a closer view. This is the Memorial Union (or “Memor al Union” if the sign is correct) at UC Davis. I don’t know if I ever drew this whole view before. Campus is much quieter than it is supposed to be, although there are still people about. Jeez I miss everyone. I wish everyone were on campus. I come in a couple of times a week, to get things done in the office, and I’ll get a sandwich from the Silo Market, showing my Symptom Survey each time, but it’s just so quiet. We will be almost fully remote in Winter as well, and probably Spring. It’s hard, but I can’t imagine how isolating it must be feeling for students. I wish this pandemic were over, but it’s not. I wish this awful president we’ve had for the past four years would be over too, but we have to wait a bit longer, and boy is that going to be a headache. We do what we can to make things feel better. I like to draw. I can’t get to all the places I want to go to right now but I can imagine, and travel-dream. I spent my youth doing just that, drawing loads and dreaming of all the places I would travel to when I was old enough. Looking out of the window a lot. Also obsessing about Tottenham, and football in general. Reading books about languages. Eating noodles on toast. I guess I’m not that different from when I was 14. Except when I was fourteen I probably wasn’t reminiscing about youth, “ah remember when I was five, oh that was great”. Actually I do remember being five, I remember Spurs winning the FA Cup with Ricky Villa’s goal, but that is about it. That may also have been the year I decided to put Weetabix in my big sister’s school blazer pocket, “in case she got hungry when she was at school”. Not just the Weetabix biscuits but the milk as well. I actually remember doing it, thinking I was being really helpful. Have you ever tried to get dried Weetabix off of a bowl? Imagine trying to get it out of a blazer pocket. I also put knitting needles up her nose when she was asleep too apparently but I don’t remember that. I remember being four and being on a BBC TV show called A Little Silver Trumpet, I thought it was all real. Nursey out of Blackadder played my mum, Patsy Byrne. Most of it was filmed at White City, in the big round BBC Television Centre, but I remember going to film in Brighton. Spending hours getting my hair and face made up in black grease (it was set in olden times and we were a poor and dirty redheaded family in the slums) and the agony of having it all washed out afterwards at home. Memories are a funny thing, you have snippets of this and that, and even more grown up times can be not that much different. I obviously remember a lot about being at university, but then it’s like, do I? There are people who I know I met and spent time with but have absolutely no recollection of now, name or anything. Same with secondary school. The memories are there but are jumbled up, and appear in dreams, that strange dreamspace which looks like my old school (which no longer exists, it was knocked down), where I get lost wandering around like it is a forbidden zone, and people who are probably dead or at least quite old now appear like ghosts. That’s what I don’t like about Facebook I think (well that and all the St George’s flags), the past can sometimes be better left as a hazy memory. This is why I draw stuff. It’s more reliable than writing a diary. I can see into my head and connect with my past self better when I look at a sketchbook, whereas a diary shows me someone I don’t necessarily recognize any more. So here then is the Memor(i)al Union, on theme, at a time which frankly we ain’t gonna forget. 

back on the sofa

Living Room watching Spurs lose to Antwerp Another view of my TV screen from my sofa, drawn on the iPad, because it’s 2020 and there’s a lot of this. Before the election of course. I use Procreate to draw on my iPad, it’s great, although I feel like I have a lot I could learn. I should take an online course or watch videos or something I don’t have a lot of time for. This is a different brush than I usually use though, the Dry Ink brush. I was watching Tottenham play Antwerp, a team that had somehow overtaken my Belgian team Charleroi at the top of the Belgian Pro-League. And we lost, we bloody lost 1-bleedin’0. I wasn’t super happy about that. I’m still not, but ah well, that’s football, we’ve won a few games since. The cat sleeps on the chair, not giving a tommy tit about the football, or the election, or anything until dinner time, or play time.

all we need is music, sweet music

kamala harris 11-07-20 And so, it finally ended. Woo – and I cannot stress this enough – hoo! Though of course it will keep going on for a while. Almost worth it being most of a week to get the results on a Saturday morning, and celebrate the rest of the day (or in my case, go for a run, coach soccer, draw a lot, and have some beer). As if there weren’t quite enough words filling this week, the three sketches I did of the TV (one above, of Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, first female VP as well as first black VP and first VP of Indian background, gave a great speech introducing President-Elect Biden. I wrote down as much as I could while drawing. Same below, though my sketch of Biden doesn’t look too much like him, more like Alan Pardew. Personally I am just really looking forward to having leaders where we don’t have to worry about what nonsense all-caps words they have rage-tweeted. But I try not to think about those too much, I don’t follow it, nor engage in it; as much as I use Twitter (mostly I tweet about Tottenham or football shirts) there are so many bots and trolls sweeping it looking for fights about politics, it’s like Camden Town at 2 in the morning but with Warhammer and Robot Wars thrown in. Actually it’s nothing like that at all, because that sounds awesome. (Who hasn’t witnessed Sir Kill-A-Lot glass a Giant Orc outside the Mixer before getting a bag of chips and jumping on the Night Bus?) Apologies to my American friends, this reference is possibly niche. Joe Biden 11-07-20 Still it was nice to hear a calming voice, a voice of reason, rather than one moaning about how unfair everyone is to him and how tremendous he is. I get enough of that watching Jose Mourinho. By the way, this morning Tottenham actually went Top of the Premier League for a few brief moments, before Leicester retook the lead in the next match, which was a fake match and actually Tottenham have in fact won the league with a big 1-0 win, and I’m claiming victory in all remaining games. (Literally the entire world has done a variation of this joke already, better than I could). By the way, the actual funniest thing yesterday is far and away the press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Straight Outta The Thick Of It. Earlier in the day while still watching the Newsathon, I drew various announcements on my iPad (below), as people celebrated and danced on the streets of Washington DC, and cities everywhere. My cat looked out of the window, unaware that there has been a change in the human leadership, only concerning himself with whether he will be allowed to play in the yard or get dinner a bit earlier. The cat agenda is never taken into consideration by human politicians. I’m glad the new President will have pets though, the only pets the last President (whoever that was – still is, I guess) had were peeves. Of our two cats, they disagree on a number of issues and call each other all sorts of uncivil names but they cross the aisle when it comes to Being let outside to play in the yard, or Opening the window a bit, or Getting fed now right now. Biden wins 11-07-20 It’s been quite a week, exhausting and exhilarating, and sure the fun isn’t over yet (not by a long shot; just give it up, man!), but I probably won’t be glued to the TV waiting for Breaking News Updates about there maybe being a few extra votes counted in Wherever County or whether the Losing campaign claims there were votes from time-travelers from the future or something. I’m glad I drew some of it though, historical record and all. 2020 is really the story that keeps on storying. I got a new great-nephew on Friday when my eldest niece gave birth (welcome baby Che!), and a new President and Vice-President on Saturday. Take the good moments when they come!

almost nearly there

1st St Davis We’re nearly there, aren’t we! The longest week since that week in March that went on until June. I’ve not watched this much news since, I don’t know, 9/11, the death of Diana, JFK, Battle of Hastings, Vesuvius. IF I EVER go to Allegheny County or Maricopa County I will kiss the ground and hug the trees and sing like meeting an old friend. I actually do none of those things when I meet my actual old friends, that would be weird. But last night when I saw the update from Georgia I immediately had a vision of Lucas Moura celebrating after THAT goal in Amsterdam for Spurs vs Ajax. To be fair though the real heroes are the people on the news channels next to the big screens trying to calculate maths in their head, drawing numbers with digital pens onto red and blue maps of this county or that to tot up what the new score is, trying to beat the clock before the number actually calculates on the screen, like Carol Vorderman on Countdown figuring out the Numbers game when the two contestants have only managed to get two away, getting praise from the news anchors, all the while never letting a single second of broadcast go without a moment of audible speech. It’s like those productions of Shakespeare where they don’t want to cut out any text but want the audience to get at least half an hour in the pub afterwards so go at breakneck speed through the Merry Wives of Windsor… I’ve always said that Shakespeare and Scissors should be friends, and I love overly long and uncomfortable pauses in theatre. Which reminds me of my second favourite joke, A polar bear walks into a bar and says “I’d like a………pint of beer please,” the bartender replies “why the long paws?” There are various versions of that joke, sometimes it’s a grizzly bear, sometimes the pause is between the beer and the packet of crisps, sometimes he doesn’t drink beer at all but prefers lager so not to confuse the words bear and beer, but either way the long pause is funnier when longer. Once I told the joke and I actually went away and came back before finishing it. I actually left the country one time. Sometimes you have to do the right thing to get the joke right. And then if the other person doesn’t get it you have to say it again. My third favourite joke is similar, A polar bear (or a grizzly bear) walks into a bar and orders a beer (or a lager) and another for his lawyer who insists on the barman signing a contract to provide indemnity against any damage caused by the polar bear (or grizzly bear) as a result of drinking said beer (or lager). The bartender says “why the long clause”. Right that one probably isn’t my third favourite joke and I’m remembering it wrong, which is pretty impressive considering I only just thought of it, but after this week of endless election coverage I think all of our brains have melted. But we are nearly there folks, we are nearly there! We are nearly there. Nearly there. 

I drew this as the second sketch in my new Moleskine and it’s a lunchtime drawing of a familiar building on 1st street. NOT on “A Street” as I have incorrectly written on the sketch. Fifteen years in Davis, drawing A Street loads of times and 1st Street quite a few times, and I make this rookie error. I’ll need to cross that out and write “1st” next to it. I have drawn this building at least three times before. It has a Dutch Colonial style, I think someone told me in a comment on one of the previous posts years ago, now I tell people like I’m an expert in reading American architectural styles or something. I just like the shapes, and the shadows on the walls.   

I just remembered, it’s “why the big paws” not “why the long paws”, that’s why it didn’t seem as funny earlier. Oh well, next time I’ll get it right.