the wizard’s tower

the silo

As I said before, lunchtimes are more crowded now that the students are back in town (such exciting daily reporting from Davis, California! Tune in tomorrow when I tell you whether there were any chocolate croissants at the coffee shop or not) Anyway, seating being limited I sat out in the shade with a different view of the Silo, and one that I could not resist putting into the sketchbook. Yes, that’s ivy covering the Silo tower. With a few more windows that would be a brilliant place for a fantasy-story wizard to live. The Wizard of the Silo, sounds like a mystery novel already. Well, NaNoWriMo is coming up, why not write it? Here’s the plot: in the hot, hot valley there lived an old wizard, who despite the heat always dressed in a long thick robe, and wove ivy into his long flowing beard. (I know what you’re thinking, ‘another bloody hippy’, but let’s carry on with the story). Anyway, this wizard had grown tired of all his magic and all his crows (that’s a thing, there used to be loads of crows in Davis but you don’t see them any more, where are they all? Sorry, back to the story) and … actually you can finish the rest, I’m bored of this epic tale already. Never mind NaNoWriMo, I’ve given up before it’s even October. Well, I have a lot of drawing to do for my December show…

school boards

frat boards at quad, uc davis

It’s a new year on the UC Davis campus, thousands of students new and continuing all over the place, eager enthusiasm abounds and so do bikes, clattering into everything that moves or stands still. All around the campus are the frat-boards, advertising frateernities, sororities, societies, fellowships, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, political groups, you name it. Maybe I should get one for “Let’s Draw Davis”. Our next Sketchcrawl is on October 15th, downtown (exploring the ‘hidden spots’ of downtown, it should be fun, and it’s our first anniversary of Let’s Draw Davis too). I gave out a flier to a fellow sketcher who spotted me drawing the same frat boards (it’s always great to bump into other people out with their sketchbooks!). One other thing about the new academic year on campus is that after a summer of not having to queue much for lunch, suddenyl you’re back into spending ages in line (at least the beloved Thai soup is back), meaning there’s a lot less time for filling sketchbooks. So I only had ten minutes to do a very quick sketch (I had to add the colour later). But I think I caught what I needed to catch in those ten minutes.

my young apprentice

luke painting

I forgot about this sketch, I did in July, of my three year old son Luke painting with his winsor and newton paints in his own sketchbook. He likes to draw. The other morning, he woke me up early putting a pack of crayons and some paper on my bed. He drew a shape, and then told me to trace over it with a red crayon. He wasn’t impressed with the results though. “No no, daddy,”  he said, “triangles have five sides!”

across the tracks

davis amtrak station

Attempted Davis Amtrak station again, from a different angle this time.  Went downtown on Sunday morning to do some sketching, and it rained! Not much, spitting really, but it was difficult to sit and draw in the rain. Sure I’ve done it before, but under shelter, not when the drops are getting on the page. So I gave up and did most of this back at home.

d’you wanna pizza me?


I don’t eat pizza very often, and I don’t ever get pizza from here, but Woodstock’s is one of those Davis staples, and a student favourite. On Friday lunchtime I was not sure what to woodstocks thumbnail sketchsketch, and in the end I left it too long to decide. I stopped on G Street and drew a quick ten minute thumbnail of this well-known pizzeria, with the intention of coming back and doing a bigger drawing. I came back downtown this afternoon and sat out on G Street sketching. That’s a sushi place next door, very popular. I don’t eat sushi.

Here’s a note. I drew this on Canson Montval watercolour paper (the main one; the thumbnail was in my watercolour moleskine), with a micron pigma pen, but decided to use the very thin nibbed uniball signo for the bricks. I’ve used it recently with drawings that were subsequenty given a wash and had no problem, but this time, my initial issue with the pen happened again and it bled. I don’t mind too much because it toned down the bricks a bit, but nonetheless i had not expected it. I guess when you leav it for a few hours, it doesn’t bleed, but when you add a wash right away it does. Interesting to know.


hoe does your gaarden grow


Beer. A great thing to drink on yet another very very hot day, when work has kept you busy (also a very good thing to drink while the season opener of Gray’s Anatomy is on in the same room). I used to like drinking Hoegaarden when I was in Belgium, and in fact was given a set of Hoegaarden glasses and beers, from the various types they make, as a parting gift by some Belgian friends. Wow, that was more than eleven years ago. This is one of those very glasses (though the beer is newer). Drinking it does remind me of Belgium, of Blokker and Inno and Champion (they’re shops, not greyhounds), of squared paper notebooks and crazy drivers, of warm cosy pubs and freezing cold rainy walks home, of phonecards and mitraillettes de dinde, of sitting on trains and trams just for the pleasure of reading a book. You can imagine me at a beer tasting festival. “Ah yes, this one has a fruity aroma, with a hint of waiting half an hour to use a cashpoint and then stepping in dogpoo.” Funny thing is, I didn’t drink Hoegaarden that often, I usually drank Fruit Defendu (made by them, though) or Leffe, perhaps a nice cold a Maes or occasionally my favourite, Charles Quint. I love a Kwak too. Mmm, that one has a nutty palatte, an aroma of that time when my mate Tel came over and downed one too quickly, and the room started to spin and he spent the next hour and a half in the toilet before wandering home in the snow. Happy times!

Sketched in my ‘bottle and glass brown paper sketchbook’. That name has nothing to do with cockney rhyming slang, by the way.

…but some of us are looking at the stairs

north hall again

Lunchtime, and I decided to draw this building (back of North Hall, UC Davis) again, having done some of it last Saturday. This time I used to uni-ball signo brown-black pen on creamy Canson paper. It makes it look almost wintery, doesn’t it. Your eyes can decieve you, don’t trust them (I heard a wise man say that somewhere, far far away). This week, though they are calling it Fall, Summer is giving us a last hefty whack, with temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s. Some days it’s too hot to draw. On this day, I found a nice spot in the shade. I always do though.

she’s not quite right and she don’t fit in with the small town

british phonebooth D st

This one was a bit of a bugger. This phonebox (and I know I’ve drawn phoneboxes more than once lately) is on D street, it’s the ‘other’ Davis one. Authentically British (no phone, no glass in the windows), the Giles Gilbert Scott masterpiece and distant cousin of Waterloo Bridge adds to Davis’s quirky and vaguely Britophile character (there’s the phoneboxes, the old London double-decker buses, and that handsome red-head guy who draws the fire hydrants). Shes  just decoration, really. My son and I pretend she’s a rocket ship. She’s a space oddity, standing outside the Mustard Seed. Anyway, last week I went downtown, sat down here to draw her, got everything ready and then realized I had left my pencil case in my office. D’oh. So I went and got a couple of new microns at the Paint Chip, and decided to draw something else, but for some unknown reason I couldn’t, I was feeling derailed. So I came back next day, and sat and drew as much as possible, in this very detailed spot. I finished off the remaining details and colours at home, but for some reason I’ll always have an awkward feeling about this one, like I was never comfortable, took too long, maybe irritated by drawing another phone box. But here she is, a little piece of the homeland relocated to Davis. I would say I know how she feels, but I’m not a phonebox, I’m a person.

my little green friend

toad hollow, davis

Toad Hollow, Davis, an amphibian ghetto near the post office, by the Pole Line Road flyover.It is the entrance to a tunnel which allows toads (and frogs, no discrimination here) (but not newts, coming over here, nicking our jobs and our lilypads). This is a much beloved spot in Davis, one of our quirkier details, the story of which I’ve written about before here. The flags are up, I think they were for September 11 but am not sure. Notice how they have little solar panels, very eco-friendly, it is easy being green in this town. You never see a toad driving an SUV. You see people who look like toads driving SUVs, maybe. If Davis toads could drive, I can just imagine their bumper stickers. “Hop springs eternal”, “Stop the Wart”, “The only Romney I like is a Marsh”, etc etc

the last days of summer

wright hall fire hydrant

This hydrant is by Wright Hall, UC Davis, and I drew it at the end of yesterday’s sketchcrawl. Well I drew most of it there, and then finished it off at home, adding colour too. I drew it on a 8×10 piece of Strathmore hot press paper in uniball vision micro, so it’s bigger than what goes in my sketchbook. I have had my eye on this fire hydrant for a while, sitting among the long leaves, with the colourful theatre dept building and the Eggheads outside the Art building behind it. It’s so calm, but tomorrow the new academic year will begin, and so will the craziness…