brief shoe

14: the brief shoe

Last summer I started a series in a small moleskine cahier, drawing every one of my toddler son’s shoes, in order of being worn. This is number 14 (some have been drawn more than once, at different angles). It’s a blue Old Navy shoe with orange sides and three strips, and was only worn for little more than a month! He outgrew them fast. So I’m calling it the ‘brief shoe’. Ironically, he still wears shoes he had for a good while prior to this one (shoe 10/11, the USA shoe); they just grew with him. 

Drawn in Itoya finepoint 0.1, in a small moleskine cahier. Incidentally, I was in the bookstore on Saturday looking for a new watercolour moley, and could not find any; apparently (I was told) all Moleskines have been recalled in California due to some state law saying they had to state on the packaging which chemicals were used in making their covers! So I have to get it online instead. Oh well.

tanks for the memories

hunt boyer mansion & tankhouse

The Dresbach Hunt-Boyer Mansion on 2nd Street is one of Davis’s historic old buildings, flanked on its left by an old tank-house in a little orange-tree yard – hang on, er, flanked on its right. It has been physically moved. I had heard that the local cafe Mishka’s was going to build a new space between the Mansion and the Varsity Theatre, which would mean bye-bye tank-house. Well, the tank-house has been moved, and is now plonked, literally plonked, right on the other side, looking a little awkward and not un-carbuncle-like. So while moocing downtown, I felt I had to sketch it, having forgotten to do so before. It’s not the first time it’s been moved, though; apparently it was relocated to the spot it just left some time in the 70s, from a bit further away. The magical moving tank-house. I don’t know if it will stay where it currently is.

all the world’s a stage

mondavi center

The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center, at UC Davis, is a huge performing arts venue. It’s a pretty spectacular looking building, but I’ve not been inside to check out any performances. One day I will. It’s on the same square at the edge of campus as this building and this building.Years ago, when I did a degree in drama at Queen Mary in London, I took an enjoyable course in places of performance (taught by Dr. Schoch, who would call me ‘Scully’), studying theatre spaces through the centuries, how they allow audiences to relate to the plays or shows, the urban semiotics of the building and how it fits in with its community. Visited at Shakespeare’s Globe, looked at Greek theatres, explored East-End music-halls; it was interesting stuff. I was personally into theatres-in-the-round, and by extension football stadia – I subsequently wrote a piece about the old (and soon to be demolished) Wembley Stadium, but from what I remember it was a fairly tired and so-last-century piece of writing. In my defence, it was the last century at the time, and I probably was tired. I did learn a lot though, reading Marvin Carlson and co, and in fact I still think of what that course taught me when I’m out sketching urban buildings here and there, because I’m always thinking about how each building is a performace unto itself, speaking to and defining its environment, and how each sketch puts that building or that scene into centre stage. Just in case you’re wondering about what goes through my head when deciding how to compose a picture.

Oh yeah… I have changed the layout theme of my sketchblog. New header, wider space for pictures, different colours, and easier to find those categorized things (though some much-needed reorganization still to be done). I like it. It’s long overdue.

the special one

jose mourinho

The European football season is over; Internazionale, of Milan, are European Champions for the first time since 1965 after beating Bayern Munich. Their manager, Jose Mourinho, has won it with Porto (but not with Chelsea), now with Inter, and it looks like he’s off to Real “we will do anything to win it yet again because we’re, like, obsessed” Madrid.

Drawn in my football journal, which is becoming increasingly manager-centric.

up, up and away

airplane toy

The ‘Little People’ airplane, we all had one as kids, and my two-year-old has one. He loves airplanes, loves to read about them, even knows his Spitfires from his Messerschmidts, and loves airports; he’s been on enough flights already, he’s an old hand. This plane is full of wooden letter-blocks, which in his universe are actually suitcases, luggage, and that makes sense.

This drawing is appropriate, as this weekend is the finale of plane-crash drama/mystery series Lost, a show I’ve followed avidly ever since we moved out here. It has been a great show (particularly season 4), but last year started to get a little, um, confused, and this season has been a let down to say the least. It’s almost as if they decided all those things which they built up as important over the years – the Others, Dharma Initiative, Ben vs Widmore, even the time travel stuff introduced last year – are in fact irrelevant because they’ve changed the story. They had to resolve the Widmore character (aka Jim out of Neighbours) so they brought him back and had him shot in the cupboard like a, well, a pussy to be frank. All season they’ve been showing us this alternate timeline and wasting time with new characters who are ultimately completely unimportant (ahem, Ilana). So the long awaited finale is tomorrow, and rather than excited, I am feeling like I just want it to be over and done with. At the least, I want to feel that all those years geting involved with the show and watching it with eager anticipation were not all for nothing. I don’t get into TV shows much, so it would be nice for it to be at the least satisfactory.

on yer bike

The Amgen Tour of California, the state’s biggest cycle race, is currently wheeling around the Golden State to much fanfare. I didn’t see any fanfare when the Tour came to Davis – starting one section here and ending in Santa Rosa – just a few TV vans left over on my way home.   

US Bicycling Hall of Fame

But as I was having dinner downtown anyway, I decided I would draw the latest national tourist attraction to appear in Davis: the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, which occupies this building on B and 3rd. I haven’t been in, but I’m sure it is enormous fun. I imagine it’s like the Guinness World of Records, with exhibits such as the Cyclist Who Could Text and Cycle for Three Whole Miles Without Getting Into an Accident (lots of people try for this record in Davis), or the Completely Invisible Stop Sign (actually most of them are, apparently), or the Severed Head of Whoever it is Who Thinks Stealing the Light off your Bike is Funny (seriously, what low-life nicks a cheap bikelight?). If I ever go in, and find out that it’s not like that, I’ll be seriously disappointed.

leave me hanging on the iPhone

phonebox at uc davis

I have told you I’m sure that UC Davis has some old things that used to live in London; some old double-decker buses, a couple of red phone booths, and, er, me. I’m not that old, but I do remember when people actually used phone booths, ah yes them were simpler days, 10p a call, with those big heavy phonebooks and the odd, ahem, business card stuck to the window. Phoneboxes. Remember when you had to queue to use one? People just don’t any more, now they carry the latest personal holographic cyber-communication devices from apple or orange or some fruit or other. Me, yes i have a cellphone I hate using, but I haven’t joined the iPhone age yet (never understood that name, wouldn’t an earPhone be more useful?). I can’t quite bring myself to join the Church of Apple, and become a devotee in sleek white and make annual pilgrimages to Macworld and worship the word of Mr Jobs. Then there is the iPad… when I first saw it I thought it was a joke iPhone, like the ‘HELLO?’ guy Dom ‘Triggerhappy’ Joly. ‘YEAH I’M IN THE APPLE STORE IT’S RUBBISH!’ What is the small ‘i-‘ prefix all about anyway? Apparently it makes things cooler. If they got rid of the nuclear deterrent and replaced it with iBomb or iNuke, CND would be finished. Countries would only stockpile them to make other countries jealous (hang on, that’s what the Cold War was all about, wasn’t it?). But that ‘i’… it’s a bit self-centered isn’t it? There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team; ah but there is in ‘iTeam’.   

Ironically enough, this old booth (drawn at the MU bus terminal, in micron 1 pen) has no phone in it. It’s just there to look cool. Which it does.

sc27: epilogue

sc27: rickenbackers
After the Sketchcrawl, I popped down to 2nd and Minna to a place I like to visit each time I go to the city: Eddie Rickenbacker’s, a cool pub which has many antique motorbikes hanging from the wall. They also have an enormous cat called Mr. Higgins. Last time I was there, I played  several games of chess against my friend Simon,while he discovered that shots of whiskey in California are much bigger than in England! Coming in to warm up and relax, I just had to get one more sketch in, and drew one of the bikes on the ceiling above the bar. It was a 1919 Triumph.

I like the Sketchcrawls. The next one will be at the end of July, when I will be at the Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland. Anyway, here is a map of where I drew last Saturday.
sketchcrawl 27 route map

And to see everyone else’s results from San Francisco, visit the Sketchcrawl Forum! There are some really cool sketches there. It was a great creative mixer.

sc27: joined in the race to the rainbow’s end

sc27: battery st

Keep on ‘crawling.the meeting end-point was at Union Square, but that was many blocks away from the Financial District where I was. I really had to draw some newspaper boxes. Being from the UK these boxessc27: kearny st seem so ‘America’ to me. I don’t mean the ones where you get the free paper, like the ones in London that stock all those Aussie magazines like TNT (do they even still have them?), but the ones where you put in your money and take a single newspaper (even though any thief could just nick the lot). I think of Superman, with Clark Kent getting his tie caught. But with newspapers closing nationwide, these things could very well be a historical relic (like the phonebox…)

Something else you don’t see much in American cities these days are streetcar cables, hanging over the traffic. San Francisco still has lots of them; I drew some on the corner of Post and Kearny. These cables remind me of Europe, but not London, where we haven’t had them for donkey’s years (incidentally, if you ever buy a donkey calendar they are incredibly good sc27: post stvalue because donkey’s years are very long. Never, ever buy a dog calendar though.)

Fire hydrants however will never go out of fashion (at least I don’t think so). I love them, another reminder of  ‘America’ (and possibly a Superman film again). We don’t have them like this in the UK. Did you know it’s illegal (or at the very least a bad idea) to park in front of one? If you do, fireman can smash your windows to run the hose through it, I am told. Seems like a bit of an effort, while rushing to put out a fire, threading the hose through the car, squeezing over the seat, meanwhile buildings are burning down. Think about that before parking there next time.

sc27: union sqAnd so the final meet-up in Union Square. I ambled in, saw the sketchers plotted about in clusters, didn’t see anyone I recognized, so sat and drew Union Square’s palm trees. Eventually sketchbooks were passed around and I spoke to some other sketchers, including Enrico Casarosa (Sketchcrawl’s founder), and met fellow Urban Sketchers correspondents Gary Amaro and Marc Taro Holmes, among other very interesting artists. It’s always a big learning experience to meet other sketchers all with very individual styles. 

It got cold, as the fog was rolling in, and so after a little while I called it a day. Well nearly a day, still had just a little more sketching to do before going home. More to come…

sc 27: a dime or a dollar in this old town

sc27: california & davis

The 27th Worldwide Sketchcrawl continued. Naturally I drew California from Davis (that is, Davis Street). You don’t get hills like that in Davis. You don’t get hills at all in Davis. It does remind me though of the hills I used to slog up in Highgate, though the ones in San Francisco are slightly steeper and a tad more dramatic (but completely lacking in Dick Whittington tales). After quickly sketching the bike first, its owner was kind enough to move it out of the way. You gotta be quick.

sc27: schroeders

From there it was time to explore within the Financial District, around all those lovely big corporate banks and their big tall shiny buildings. It’s not a good time in history to be a big corporate bank. Well, that is, if you value public opinion more than making millions of dollars, which let’s face it, they don’t. So I’ll rephrase that. No, actually I can’t be bothered. As back home in London, many shops and things tend to be closed in the financial areas at weekends; funny that. One German hofbrau that I’ve been to before (and on weekends, I add, though it was closed on this day) is Schroeders, on Front St, an interesting old gaff that has been there forever and just begs to be sketched. I finally did so. The street was smelly though, and stank of wee and beggars and booze and spit, not of dimes or dollars or hedge funds.  

More sketchcrawl to come…