that was twenty eleven

toy planeAnd so 2011 draws to a close.

I was afraid that the world would be ending tonight, because my calendar has no more days in it after December 31st, but I guess I’ll just get a new calendar tomorrow (see, Mayans?). This has been a very busy year, and it still seems so weird to be talking about twenty-eleven, which used to be just a year so far into the future, and now it’s over. I’m fully expecting hoverboards sometime in the next few years.

Anyway as some sort of retrospective, here’s a run-down of what I did art-wise this year:

January: ArtAbout at Armadillo. I exhibited some sketchbooks and prints at Armadillo Music in downtown Davisas part of the 2nd Friday Art About. This was a great evening, with music by the popular country musician Rita Hosking (who lives in Davis). I also got written about in Davis Life magazine by Walking Bob Schultz.

artabout jan 14Rita Hosking and her bandAndy the fiddler

April: Artery show ‘8×8 Small Is Great’. I contributed one piece for this group exhibition at local art co-op The Artery, ‘Miscellaneous Details’, and it sold! I went by to do some sketching and met more great Davis art folks.

May: ‘The Revengers’, background art. I drew some pictures for my actor/director friend Simon Nader in London who was staging a play called The Revengers. The ‘Avengers’ themed drawings were part of the background of the set.

hat"miscellaneous details" at arteryumbrella hilt

July: Urban Sketching Symposium: in July I flew to Lisbon to meet up with nearly 200 other urban sketchers from across the globe (all continents represented!) to take part in the 2nd International Urban Sketching Symposium. Lisbon’s an incredible city, and I learnt so much from being around all the other urban sketchers whose work I have admired over the years. And there were lots of fire hydrants!

contrastes rua bicaLisbon perspectives sketchcbookshydrant rua santa justa

August: Pence Gallery Art Auction. I contributed a drawing of the UC Davis Arboretum for the 2011 Art Auction (and it sold!).

August: Dr. Johnson’s House cards were produced (on sale at Dr. Johnson’s House museum in London). The kind folk at the Johnson house sent me a pack of the cards, they look great!

arboretum bridge at pence gallery auctionjohnson house and hodge the cat

November: Davis Library display. I exhibited sketchbooks and drawings in the display cabinet at the Davis Public Library for the month of November. That was fun!

November: ArtAbout at the Avid Reader. I displayed some sketchbooks and prints at the Avid Reader bookstore in downtown Davis for the 2nd Friday Art About, on 11/11/11.

Sketchbook display at Davis Public Library11-11-11 art about event!ArtAbout 11-11-11, Avid Reader

December: Grace Cathedral Christmas brochure. I illustrated the cover for Grace Cathedral (San Francisco)’s Christmas Concert brochure and program, and was invited to come and see one of the shows.

December: Pete Scully, Urban Sketches upstairs at the Pence Gallery. Saved the best one for last, my first solo exhibition at a proper gallery, and it went really well! The artist reception on Dec 9th was especially fun. Many thanks to everybody who came to see my work, and especially to those who bought my drawings.

grace cathedral xmas brochurespreparing for my show at the PencePence Gallery Show, Dec 2011

Sketchcrawls / Let’s Draw Davis:  We held ten ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawls this year, in every month except March (rained off) and December (too tired!). January’s was the most popular, with thirty people coming out to sketch. We were also featured on Aggie TV. In October our downtown sketchcrawl was featured on the front of the California Aggie. We’ll be continuing them monthly in 2012, starting with the next worldwide sketchcrawl on January 21st – details to come soon! I also went to San Francisco in April for the Worldwide Sketchcrawl, sketching the Mission District, and of course took part in the Worldwide Sketchcrawl in Lisbon in July.

let's draw davis october 15, 2011davis sketchcrawlers!let's draw davis: may 14 2011

Sketchbooks finished in 2011: These are the sketchbooks I completed this year. I still have several more on the go…

Moleskine 7

Moleskine 8

Davis Moleskine

London/Lisbon Moley

Small WH Smith Sketchbook

Little Red Moley

heathrow airportTravels: I went to a few places in 2011. Las Vegas in February, Oregon in July, London in July, Lisbon in July, Monterey in August, and San Francisco several times.

What did I learn in 2011? That I can find time to do anything, but that I can’t do everything. I have lots of plans and ideas! This has been a very busy year.

Art goals for 2012? That would be telling. What is expected for 2012? First of all the new Urban Sketchers book, ‘The Art of Urban Sketching’ will be published on February 1st so be sure to get your copy (I’m on pages 30, 46 and 281). As for the rest, well let’s see what the year brings!

Happy New Year 2012, may it be prosperous and happy for all.

absolutely J street

st paul's, midtown sacramento

Some more sketching from yesterday’s afternoon in Sacramento. Above is St.Paul’s church on J Street, in Midtown. I had thought about sketching the cathedral downtown, but decided in the end to do something a little smaller and homelier. I sat opposite, outside the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, and listened to the most recent Art Brut album (confirming my view that it’s really not as good as their previous ones). I sketched for just under an hour before moving on up J Street. 

french cuff consignment, midtown sacramento

I ended up sketching this building above, which is home to the French Cuff Consignment boutique. They have one of these in Davis (everything in Sacramento has a double in Davis, it seems; I keep expecting to bump into the mirror-version of me, crouched over a moleskine) but it’s not in as cool-looking a building as this. A little sun peeked through the clouds giving some faint shadows so I drew those in.

Drawn on the second last day of 2011. If I don’t get around to posting my 2011 retrospective tonight, then Happy New Year everybody!

to you in your little dream world

hydrant sacramento L sthydrant sacramento, K street

I went to Sacramento today, just to get out of Davis for a bit. Downtown there are so many people wandering about, up and down K, J and L streets, but me I stop and draw fire hydrants. The one with the green top has an unusual head attachement that I’ve not seen before, while the yellow one is a fairly typical design you’ll see in Sacramento. Fire hydrants make such good models, don’t they!

pub lunch

de vere's at lunchtime

I went downtown at lunchtime today, intending to do some drawing in the bright weather. However I suddenly decided that chips in mushroom gravy sounded really good, so I popped into De Vere’s on E Street. Good place to sketch! I drew the bar previously from the middle; this one, which took under an hour, was drawn from the end. The chips in gravy were really good.

just for the kwak


Kwak! One of my favourite Belgian beers (the other ones are Fruit Defendu and Charles Quint, if you’re at the bar) and the one you drink out of the funny glass. My wife got me some bottles of Kwak for Christmas, very enjoyable they are too. I sketched one last night on Boxing Day while watching telly. Boxing Day, though it’s not called that over here, was very much as Boxing Days should be, very little done except hang out at home playing with toys, then going for a walk in the park and trying to teach my three year old how to tell ‘knock knock’ jokes, eating leftover turkey and trifle and pumpkin pie. Christmas lasts a couple of weeks in my house – twelve days, hello like, till January 6th – so it’s sad when I see others taking their decorations down the day after Christmas. I love having the festive feel up as long as possible! Having a glass of Kwak and a nice mince pie helps with that…

merry christmas everyone

our christmas tree

This is our Christmas Tree. It’s a real tree, my first since we moved out to America. I cut it down myself, with a big pole-mounted saw at a local Christmas Tree Farm a couple of weeks ago. I had never cut down a tree before! Okay it’s no bigger than Gimli the Dwarf but still, a macho achievement nonetheless. Now it sits decorated in pride of place in our living room, topping off the festive feeling. I sketched it finally on Christmas Eve, just before hitting the hay.

And today is Christmas Day! And it has been very fun; great times with great family. I love Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone, all over the world!

the answer my friend is blowing in the hair-dryer

hair dryer

How did a hair-dryer save my computer’s life?

It’s a fairly old computer as pcs go, six years old now and very cranky. It gets so dusty inside an periodically I have to clean it out (not with a hairdryer though) to stop it making that awful loud fan noise. Anyway, after the last time cleaning it out, I tried to turn it back on again, but got nothing. “Please, man,” I said, but no response. I am not a techie and didn’t know what to do. I need a new computer, been on the list for a while, but I also wanted to get back those items which hadn’t yet been backed up (including a load of hi-res scans of work that’s now at the Pence). Mostly I wanted to turn the machine on so I could just tell it to sod off, one last time. Ok, it’s not the worst machine in the world, not that slow, every now and then it plays up but it’s still got a fair bit of life in it, and lots of memory. There haven’t been any operating system issues. So what was wrong, had I broken some important tiny part inside it?

Thankfully I have a iPod and was able to google the symptoms straight away. On the back of the machine a little green light was flashing, which would otherwise be green. I love that you can google this stuff, and that so many people have had this exact same issue. Apparently it was something to do with the power source unit, and most of the places I looked said to replace it. Yes very helpful, I thought, but kept looking. Some forums said to go inside the machine and unplug this and reconnect that and put a paper clip here and hold down a button there, and all of this seemed very confusing and unecessary. Then someone said, just get your wife’s hair dryer, aim it at the power source unit, blow on full power for two minutes, and bingo, back to life. Nah, come off it, I thought, but it was followed by about a hundred comments that all said, “oh wow it actually works! Oh wow my computer hadn’t worked in months but two minutes with a hair dryer, and it’s back to life, it’s a miracle!” And words to that effect. Even then, thought, surely not, butwell I had nothing to lose.

I tried it out on cool air at first, but that had no effect. Then I did it on warm, again no effect. I remembered that it had to be hot – this was not just about the air blowing, but about the heat. I was convinced I would cause something to blow up, but I came back, hair dryer in hand, and aimed.

Two minutes later, the green light came back on! I pressed the power button, and the computer was back, as good as before. Back from the dead, like that fellow ET. Who would have thought? It’s a Christmas miracle!

I wish it would work on my awful cold though…

brings to us all both joy and glee

xmas tree 2011

“It’s Chriiiiistmaaaaas!” Here is the Davis Christmas Tree on the E Street Plaza, downtown. I didn’t go to the Davis Downtown Christmas thing at the start of the month; I have been before, and it’s a bit crazy to be honest. I love all the decorations everywhere here though, and people’s houses get truly decked out. Last night we went to one street that must be vying for the title ‘Christmas Lane’, a little cul-de-sac in north Davis completely  covered in all sorts of decorations, and very tastefully done, each house having some sort of theme in its wooden garden ornaments, and hundreds of lights and baubles on every tree. Of course it was a terribly windy night last night, so those baubles were flying off and rolling down the street. It was pleasant at lunchtime though, when I popped out to sketch this, after a thick foggy morning when even Rudolf would have had trouble.

Merry Christmas, everybody! (More Christmas tree stories to come by the way…)

i’ll be back for breakfast

Lori's Diner SF

While in San Francisco we stayed by Union Square, and had breakfast at the popular Lori’s Diner right by the hotel. The hotel was the King George, in case you’re wondering, which I chose because a friend of mine from England stayed there once and liked it (he said at the time he chose a room on the 7th floor, so that no spiders such as black widows would be able to get to him – because the one thing spider can’t do is climb walls, eh…). This diner also came highly recommended by him, as he’d eaten a great breakfast there, and I can certainly vouch for their waffles, which were very tasty (if a little pricey). I loved the red and white and black decor, and the checkered floor, so pulled out the San Francisco moleskine (it’s one of those travel guide ones, which has maps and loads of empty pages to fill in as you go along), and did a quick sketch. It was bustling, and felt both festive and American. I guess they’re open 24 hours. Being located where it is, right outside you get the local shuffling shouting nutters ambling about the streets, who move about as if part of some slow zombie uprising; it’s very specific to this area, not a behavioural pattern I’ve noticed anywhere else, not even on Oxford Street in London. One of them shouted at me as he shuffled by, “Why don’t you go and live in Sacramento!” which I thought was remarkably close. You’ve gotta love Union Square. Well, maybe not love, but it has character.

how sweet the sound

grace cathedral christmas concert 2011

This year, I was given the honour of illustrating the Christmas Concert Series brochure of Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighbourhood. Last Sunday, with my Mum who was visiting from London, I went down to San Francisco and attended their show ‘A Cathedral Christmas’, performed by the purple-clad Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. It was a surreal experience seeing so many people clutching copies of a drawing that I had done! My Mum, as mums naturally do, pointed out to a few people, “he did that!” After being introduced to the Dean of the Cathedral, we took our seats and listened to the amazing concert, and what a location! Immediately I got my sketchbook out – it’s not every day I get to attempt a cathedral from the inside. I intend to go back and practise some more! I drew during all the traditional Christmas music, including some pieces by Handel (I’m no expert on this sort of thing, but it was pretty good; I also learnt from my Mum that Handel lived in Edgware for a bit, so we were near-neighbours, a couple of centuries apart) (Good job he never went to Edgware School though, with a name like that he’d have had a pretty obvious nickname).
grace cathedral xmas brochures

Many thanks to Bruce and Abby for this wonderful opportunity, and for inviting me to the show. Here’s the Grace Cathedral website: And here are the remaining concerts they have this Christmas season, click here. If you’re in San Francisco, I recommend it!

And Merry Christmas everyone! Just another week now, and last week I chopped down my first Christmas Tree (well I say ‘chopped’, I mean ‘sawed’) – there it is in the background of my photo above…