rockin’ around…

Merry Christmas!

This little tree was the one we got for our first Christmas in Davis. It’s tradition to draw the tree. It’s tradition to draw everything…

Merry Christmas everyone! Stay well! Eat lots!

oh, the weather outside is frightful

sketching burnt oak in the snow

So… as you may have gathered from my non-posts this past week, I am away from rain-sodden California to lovely London, where I’ve had a week without any rain whatsoever.

Oh, but we’ve been having the worst snowy winter weather I’ve ever seen here. Many days after a sudden blizzard, the snow is still here there and everywhere, tough it hasn’t stopped me from getting out there with sketchbook. Yes, fingers freezing off and pens giving up the ghost doesn’t get in the way of this urban sketcher. Not two months ago I was sketching in hundred degree weather heat. Thing is, I grew up with snow lasting only a day or two before sodding off, and always tell people about our comparatively mild winters, but now it seems the snow comes earlier and stays longer, and the disruption is magnified. Naturally, Britain fails to cope, as the absolute madness of Heathrow attests. I’m glad I came a few days earlier than I would have. I just hope we can get back…

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

These are a couple of photos of what I have been out sketching though; the top one being the street where I grew up, about an hour after the biggest blizzzard I can remember here. I’m sure people thought I was a nutter sitting out there freezing, well they’re right, but urban sketchers are tough beasts. My fingers took a battering in the second one too, sat down by the River Thames, looking out at HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge. My toes were frozen too. I warmed up with a nice chicken and mushroom pie. That’s one thing Britain can always get right!

But boy, is it cold…

of mists and mellow fruitfulness

mrak hall in december

This is Mrak Hall, the big powerful building at the heart of UC Davis. I have drawn this view a few times before, and in December too, because the leaves on these trees turn glorious colours at this time of year. This was a lunchtime sketch, a moment of much needed calm in the busy busy time of year.

it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas

xmas tree E st

After all those fire hydrants, plus a short break from sketching, I was starting to forget what the nearly-finished Moleskine 6 looked like. I have three pages left, and intend to complete it in London, but I added a sketch yesterday lunchtime of the Christmas tree in the E Street Plaza, Davis. I drew it (as I’ve done before) from the window of Chipotle, with the clock fountain thing in the way, reminding me of how little time I have left to sketch. the trees are absolutely amazing right now, all brilliant reds and yellows and oranges, though as I speak a big storm is sweeping through the valley and blowing many of those leaves into the gutter.

So it’s nearly Christmas, folks. I did start making an advent calendar but it looked rushed and so I’ve abandoned it. I spent too much time on fire hydrants last month. Still, people seem to like them. I love the Christmas time of year. Santa’s not happy though, his naughty/nice list was published on Wikileaks. Here’s a tip, folks: don’t get the England world cup bidding team to write your xmas list, no matter how good you are Santa’s elves will stick you in the ‘naughty’ pile. I’m looking forward to mince pies and Quality Street, etc. I didn’t go to the Davis Christmas tree lighting thing though, which they hold here every year, as it is usually crazy. One thing I do love here though are all the houses that go mad with decorations; there’s one near us in Davis who really decks his halls out every year and has hourly music and light shows, even a little train that rattles around. Many cities have whole streets of houses that compete with each other for festive garishness, ‘candy-cane lanes’, with amazingly elaborate shows and attractions that must take all year to plan, all the windows, the whole garden, the whole roof, covered with loud Christmas ornaments – that must be a heavy burden to keep that up every year. I daresay in Britain you’ll say with a grumble, “ooh, it’s getting like that here now,” but believe me nobody does Christmas like the Americans*. They’re really really good at it.

(*Except the Germans, of course – German Christmases are truly wonderful, but I won’t mention them because they beat England 4-1 in the World Cup, lest we forget)

towering over our heads

nanodrawmo 50

Finally! I reached my goal of fifty drawings in November for NaNoDrawMo 2010, and here are the last four. Actually I drew more than fifty drawings this month, but I’m not counting those not in this set. I filled a whole watercolour sketchbook front to back with drawings of fire hydrants and other metal pipes that come out of the ground. The final sketch is the biggest metal pipe, the larger of UC Davis’s iconic water towers. This was a fun project, and the majority of the drawings were done on site (except for those few from photos taken in LA), as I had really wanted to use this project to explore and take a closer look at the missable stuff around us. I can now spot even subtle differences between the hydrants I see around town, so the observation exercise was successful. Everything is interesting if you take an interest in it.

nanodrawmo 49nanodrawmo 47nanodrawmo 48

And now, no more fire hydrants for a long, long time! Here’s the book they all fit in, and the pen that made it through to the end (others were chewed up like, er, I dunno, chewits).

nanodrawmo sketchbook

See the other great artists who made it to 50 here.