you do something toomey

toomey field

Last day before I fly off to the 1st International Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland!! How exciting! It will be a huge learning experience for me, I’m sure, rubbing shoulders with some incredible sketchers, amazing artists, and meeting lots of people I’ve never met before. I’m pretty shy though. I’m all packed (spent longer deciding which paints to bring than which clothes to bring), bought my new pens, I’m all set.

Anyway, I got out at lunchtime today and sketched in the pleasant sunshine. This is Toomey Field (or rather, that sports stadium in the distance is) at UC Davis. The grass in the foreground is called A Street Field, according to the map.

brown is the colour

I got this small brown paper sketchbook from the campus bookstore for only 89 cents, and it’s a real find. It has a corrugated cardboard cover and is handbound with a piece of string. These past few days it has become my favourite thing (funny how that happens) and I’ve been scribbling in it whenever I can (starting with the sketches at the Railroad Museum). I tend to sketch more quickly in this book; a drawing will take about ten minutes. Here are some of the things I’ve drawn (all in uniball vision micro pen, for the fellow pen geeks out there). 

sudwerk marzen

This is Sudwerk Märzen, a local Davis beer I like. It’s an amber beer, and the Sudwerk brewpub was the first place we visited when we decided to move to Davis. Funny what we may have decided if I hadn’t liked the beer.

toy digger

This is my son’s toy digger, or rather, one of them (a boy can never have too many construction trucks).

luke skywalker

This is Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and part-time firefighter. This is actually my toy. I love Star Wars.


A quick profile sketch of my wonderful wife. I really am trying to draw more faces on the spot and I think this turned out well.

enterprise and pole

Finally, a quick lunchtime sketch at the corner of A and 3rd streets, Davis. I’ll take this little sketchbook with me to Portland Urban Sketching Symposium I think. I’ve already packed my bag and chosen my materials, I just need a couple more pens (and maybe a new brush) and I am all set.

call the engines, call the engines

toy fire truck

Above: a toy fire truck, drawn in my brown paper book. This was actually in the course of being played with while I was on the floor sketching it. At one point, Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi – volunteer firefighters, didn’t you know – jumped on board and went to rescue a kitty. I find I’m drawing things I think my kid will like. Below is UC Davis fire station, drawn during a lunchtime this week. Did you know the firefighters here actually have collectable baseball-type cards that kids can collect? It’s true, and they’re pretty cool, they tell you about the fireman or firewoman, and they have a safety message on there and everything.

UCD fire station

ghost of a steam train, echoes down my track

railroad museum

We went to the Railroad Museum in Sacramento this morning. A train-obsessed toddler’s paradise, for sure, but I loved it too – I could go back some time with the regular sketchbook and spend a whole day! As it is, I had my small brown-paper book (only 89 cents, it’s great) and made a couple of quick captures, 5-10 minutes each one. The engines there are absolutely enormous, much bigger than I had expected. I can see why train-anoraks get so excited.

railroad museum

the beautiful game

 football collage

It was time for another collage drawing, and after the frenzied obsession of the World Cup, what better theme to draw than football? I scrambled together some of the football related items of mine – old ticket stubs, football stickers and keyrings mostly – plus drew a thing or two that I don’t actually have (those subbuteo players? Sorry, I stepped on and broke mine decades ago). You never know where these things will end. I’m happy with the final outcome. Click on the image to go to my Flickr site for a closer view (or you could just move really close to the screen, but I don’t recommend it). Here is a step-by-step to show you how it was done:

football, work in progress #1

Stage one: I had a World Cup keyring, and I knew I wanted to draw some football stickers. the subbuteo men were, however, drawn from memory, as the careers of my own ones were long ago ended by being-trodden-on-related-injuries. Speaking of little plastic figures who don’t do much on the big stage, there’s Wayne Rooney.

football, work in progress #2

Stage Two: more details, more Panini stickers, plus some from previous years. I have old sticker albums, plus a small collection of random football stickers from Belgium, Germany, Italy. My Spurs shirt keyring makes an appearance, as does the THFC tie-pin, and you can see a bit of my old mid-90s Ireland shirt, the same one Fatehr Dougal Maguire wears to bed.

football, work in progess #3

Stage Three: the ink drawing is done, and more old tickets, some thrity years old, plus some badges and the CD of ‘Three Lions’. the magazine France Football finds its way in – that’s a great magazine, probably the best. There’s a lace representing a football boot, unfortunately I’ve not owned boots in over 20 years so a lace is all you get.

football, work in progress #4

Stage Four: time to add some colour. I toyed with the idea of only colouring part of it, but the colour was always going to be a big part of this drawing. It’s supposed to remind us we just had a World Cup in the rainbow nation, in a way. I had to think about composition, but in truth when I start these types of drawings I have no idea how they will look, I just go with what comes to mind as I go along. If I hadn’t done the step by step here, you’d still have guessed I go from left to right.

football (detail 2)

Stage Five: finished! Here is a detail from the final piece. You can see it at the top of this post. I’ll write another post about my thoughts on the recent World Cup later on.

do you know the way out of san jose?

san jose, 2nd street

After the Tottenham match ended in a 0-0 draw, I cycled down the Alameda (part of El Camino Real, I believe, and an interesting looking road) towards downtown San Jose. I’d never been to San Jose, so was looking forwrad to doing a little afternoon sketching around what is in fact one of California’s largest cities. Wow, was I underwhelmed. Now San Jose isn’t bad, it’s not all run down or shady or full of junkies and hobos and boarded up shops, like a lot of cities, no it wasn’t like that at all. But it’s just that, downtown on a Saturday afternoon, and it was dead, there seemed to be nobody about. There were some interesting buildings, but mostly it was just tech company HQs and convention centers, or at least it felt like that. I headed towards what little bustle there was, but just couldn’t feel any heart, despite signs telling me of all the history here. It was like the city was trying to get people interested, but they were all at the Mall. There were lots of night clubs; I’m sure this place is a lot busier after dark, but something told me I probably wouldn’t want to be here after dark too. I drew a vaguely interesting building at the corner of 2nd Street (hey, we have one of those!), which I think was also some sort of nightclub or bar, called Toons (probably not a hangout for of Newcastle fans). I wasn’t all that into it though, and so decided to leave early, and cycled back to the station. I’m sure that San Jose has other, more charming areas (Santa Clara for example seemed very nice, and I liked the Alameda), but downtown just didn’t do it for me. Still, at least I finally saw another part of my adopted state, and the Amtrak journey down to the South Bay is inspiring.

Before catching my train, I grabbed another sketch, powerlines and a meat sign. It was hot, and I had a long journey back to Davis.

san jose, stephens meat

i want to be in that number

buck shaw stadium
The World Cup is over, and it’s a long wait until the Premier League season begins. But that doesn’t mean no footy! And who should come to California for a friendly but my own beloved Tottenham Hotspur FC. They kicked off their US tour with a match against their club partners in the MLS, San Jose Earthquakes, who happen to be my ‘local’ big team. When I say ‘local’ it’s all relative of course – San Jose is almost three hours away by train, and I’d never been before Saturday. When I say ‘big’, it’s all relative… their ground, Buck Shaw Stadium, is located on the Santa Clara University campus, and the Earthquakes recorded their largest attendance there with a whopping 10,712. I was in that number.

Sure, the match ended 0-0, but it was a fun occasion. We had our big names there, those who didn’t go to the World Cup – Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, and the returning Robbie Keane (who missed some sitters). I coudn’t believe how many Tottenham fans there were! A good deal of whom were American, but many were British (with their American kids tagging along; that’ll be me in a few years). And it was like a walking gallery of Spurs football shirt history! I’ve never seen so many different era Spurs shirts, not even at the Lane. All the classics were there, with the exception of the 1986 hummel one, I never saw that. My one wouldn’t fit me now, I was only ten back then. I wore the all-white Kappa shirt. On the field, the players were wearing the new Tottenham shirt for the first time, and it’s a beauty, I’ll be getting that. Surprisingly, here and there were dotted people in bright and obvious red Arsenal shirts; unsurprisingly, each of them were roundly booed as they passed (and some looked genuinely surprised at that fact too). There were lots of other shirts on show from all sorts of clubs and countries, something you also wouldn’t normally see at the Lane. A guy sat near me had the old Wales away shirt from the early 90s, the white Umbro one with little green and red arrows and lines on it. Haven’t seen that in years. Even the Earthquakes fans were well decked out, and I saw kits going from the current black Adidas tops to the old Nike blue ones with white arms.

yeah, that was offside

But enough football-kit geekery. You know I can’t help myself. I enjoyed watching the Earthquakes; it’s America, for sure, and there are cheerleaders and sunburn, but it felt a lot like how football used to be, or still is for small clubs, intimate, friendly, informal. I really enjoyed that. I would go again. I also liked that I cycled to the stadium from San Jose train station. Good job I knew the way.

mission at santa clara

Oh yes, and some urban sketching. Before the match I drew the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, on the SCU campus right by Buck Shaw.

Come on you Spuuuuuurs!!!!!!! Tottenham play New York Red Bulls on Thursday; I think I’ll watch that one on telly.

summer sessions

davis in the summertime
Regular listeners will recall that often, in the summer time, it gets quite hot here in Davis. A hundred degrees, pah that’s nothing. It was at least that today, so I didn’t venture out into the oven world to sketch. I stayed in the stairwell, sat on a very dusty step, and looked out of the big window. I have drawn this view before, the UC Davis skyline, the tall water-tower dominating events. However, the stairwell in our building isn’t air-conditioned, so it started to feel very sauna-like after a short while. It gave me a headache. I’m not designed for hot weather, I’m red-headed and freckly.  I got this finished during lunchtime though, and in the incredible dry heat the paint dried as soon as it hit the paper.

preachin’ to the converted

st.andrew's church in jacksonville
More from Jacksonville. There are so many interesting buildings to draw here, it’s impossible to know which one to choose. When in doubt, draw the church. Actually this was not as easy a choice as you might think, as there are several old wooden churches from the mid 1800s to choose from. I sat in the shade opposite the very classic Americana structure of St.Andrew’s church, originally built as the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1856. Picket fence, white wood, pointed steeple, all you need is a well-dressed bald guy with a pitchfork. How could I resist? 

I started drawing another church just around the corner, another one from the 1850s but this time for the Catholics, but only got a third of the way through before giving up – I had no shade that time. Sitting in shade on sunny southern Oregonian days is a good idea. It looked just like the one above, but had some windows, and a telegraph pole next to it. Just imagine it, I’m probably not going to scan it. 

Shade is good, but shade with fans and a bar and a cold beer is even better. That’s how I ended the July 4th sketching trip to Jacksonville, in the J’Ville Tavern. They have pool tables in there; I like the sound of pool, the kinetic crack of a break, the soft clunk of white potting black. I don’t hear it very often any more! They also have stuffed animal heads, lots of them in fact, and what looked like hundreds of dollar bills attached to the ceiling, for some reason (I didn’t ask; I prefer the mystery). Locals were very friendly though, and told me tales of historic Jacksonville. I guessed they tell them tales to all strangers.

J'Ville Tavern

drawn on the fourth of july

jacksonville, oregon
On a warm July 4 morning I was dropped off in Jacksonville – sorry, historic Jacksonville – just outside Medford, in the hills of southern Oregon. It’s a gorgeous little town, like the Old West, and Old Glory was draped up and down the main thoroughfare, California Street. And the cyclists! It was like the tour de France, so many cyclists, many of whom were on tandems – there was even a whole family of five on a single tandem bike, the tallest at the front, the shortest at the back (seems like it would make more sense the other way round). They received applause and cheers as they cycled south. There was a small British themed store, run by a woman from Yorkshire, and I bought a package of Yorkshire pudding mix (I love them!), which came with the warning that if I tried to make the puddings at any sort of significant altitude, they wouldn’t rise. I think I’ll be ok making them in Davis.

page one in jacksonville, oregonI opened up a brand new watercolour moleskine (number 6), drew a stretch of the main street, as cyclists and daytrippers whizzed and waddled by respectively. One passing woman stopped, asked me to remove my earphones, and told me that I should put my drawing on a t-shirt, Jacksonville needs that, “because you’ve probably noticed but there aren’t many t-shirts with drawings of Jacksonville on them.” I hadn’t noticed, no, I said, and put my earphones back on.