little and large

little prague, davis
On Saturday night after the Pence Auction, I popped by Little Prague for a couple of beers and the essential detailed bar sketch. Little Prague is probably my favourite Davis pub. It’s the one I’ve known the longest, and they do nice beer (though the Krusovice I used to enjoy is now no longer available). It’s also the pub I have sketched the most. I don’t go very often, and when I do it’s usually on one of those nights where the music is quite dancey and loud. There is however a lot to draw, especially behind the bar, and the lighting is good bar-light. On this night not only did I sell two pieces at the Pence (hooray!) but the San Francisco Giants won the NL West (as mentioned on the TV screen; the Giants tend to be on the TV in my bar sketches). This is great news in our house. This means the Giants will be in the post-season play-offs. Who knows, maybe even with a shot at the World Series? Baseball is a long season with about seventeen thousand million games, so it surprised me that the NL West division only has six teams in it. Even the Scottish Premier League has more teams than that (well, two really, Celtic and Rang- ah, er…). It doesn’t make it any easier though. They play every single day for hours on end, against teams from all over the country and just have to finish with more wins than their divisional rivals (imagine Celtic and Ra-, er, Aberdeen playing against, say, Ajax, in order to get points to win the Scottish title). You see, it all makes sense, especially after a Czech beer.

Hey if you’re interested in seeing some of my previous Little Prague sketches here are a few… spot the difference!

little prague againlittle prague
little prague, october 2010lil' prague
little prague tonightlittle prague lampslittle prague beer-pumplosing my superpowers


seven years in california

“There’s not much glamour ’bout the English weather…”

Today is seven years since we moved to California! Seven years ago I handed in my MA dissertation, had some pretty massive parties with friends and family and stepped into the unknown. We moved to Davis a month or so later, and have lived here ever since (and while I still can’t speak American, hardly anyone asks if I’m British any more). So to honour that I am posting seven random Davis drawings from each of those years. Actually no, I’ll post eight, to include the first sketch made here in 2005 (year zero). And also a big thank you to everyone who has followed me on this sketchblog, I appreciate all of your visits and kind comments. Cheers!

Dec 2005 Borders Davis

YEAR ZERO: Borders, Davis. December 2005

a little piece of england

YEAR ONE: D Street, Aug 2006

davis 5th and J

YEAR TWO: 5th St, March 2007

how i learned to stop worrying and love the A street

YEAR THREE: A St, March 2008

now wait a second

YEAR FOUR: 2nd St, Sept 2009

shields library

YEAR FIVE: Shields Library, April 2010

dairy queen davis

YEAR SIX: Dairy Queen 5th St, Sept 2011

old city hall, F street

YEAR SEVEN: Old City Hall, F St, January 2012

sketches from the auction

pence art auction 2012
Saturday night I had the pleasure to attend the Pence Gallery’s 2012 Art Auction. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had two drawings in the auction (and I’m pleased to announce they both sold!) and so I spent the evening looking at some amazing art work by local artists. I am always particularly impressed with the incredible ceramic work on show, Davis is known as a ceramicist’s town and several luminary ceramic sculptors were there. The food was nice too! So for the live auction itself I sketched on the program. The auctioneer was entertaining, the bidding exciting (from where I was standing), and I sketched away. Local artist Marie-Therese Brown, who has an amazing show at the Artery right now, was there and sketched me sketching, so I sketched her sketchbook (see bottom left of the drawing above) when she sat down. Art just carries on!

I also sketched outside on the back patio area, where a really nice new sculpture of a woman now stands. A band was playing, people were chattering and eating and drinking, it was a warm late Summer night. The Pence is a great local resource, a true local art hub.
pence art auction 2012, on the  patio

have i got newspapers for you

"Only in Davis"

If you’re in Davis – and many of us are – you might have picked up today’s Davis Enterprise. If you did, you might have seen the first of the annual ‘Welcome to Davis‘ editions. I have always enjoyed these, and in the past would usually leave them in our lounge for new students to read and learn fun stuff about our city. This year, these special editions (of which there will be four) feature my sketches of Davis. Today’s paper, the ‘Only in Davis’ edition, has a close-up of one of my Toad Hollow sketches blown up large, and also has a write-up about me on page two. How exciting is that!! I am pretty massively honoured.

Davis Enterprise today

Many thanks to Tanya Perez, editor of these excellent editions. Tanya also wrote a lovely article on Thursday (“What’s the greatest talent? The one you don’t have” – see the article here) which made nice mention of me and my sketching, and showed off my phonebox drawing.

Davis Enterprise, Sep 20 2012

These are posted courtesy of the Davis Enterprise. It’s not the first time I’ve been in the paper, there was an article about me back in 2009 (here’s the blog post; I must dig out the article) and a short piece about my show last December, but it’s certainly the most prominent. See also:, and the Davis Enterprise Facebook page, and don’t forget to pick up the other editions this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

davis street food rodeo

street food rodeo: star ginger

Last night we popped down to the Street Food Rodeo, a special event over by the Co-Op sponsored by the Davis Dirt with lots of food trucks and street food available. There was music and dancing, and I had some nice samosas and paella. I also managed to get in a sketch of the “Star Ginger” Thai food truck, which is usually found on campus by the Silo. I have never eaten from this truck but will try it some time; I do like Thai curry. Plus it’s called Star Ginger. I like to think I’m a star ginger too (though nobody else is allowed to call me that; it’s star redhead to you). I drew this in the Moleskine while my son was off playing with big sticks in the parking lot – it was better than him playing on the adjacent railroad tracks, like many other preschoolers were apparently being allowed by their parents to do (completely mental). The early evening was nice though, and lots of locals were out enjoying the food. It’s been a busy week, and by golly it’s going to get busier. Better stay well fed.

watching this space

uc davis arboretum
Sketched at lunchtime today, a path in the UC Davis Arboretum. I had wanted my first sketch of the day to be of the space shuttle Endeavour piggybacking a jumbo jet on its way across the Californian sky. But I missed it. IT flew over the State Capitol in Sacramento, and then headed towards the Bay Area, before flying to LA forever. From Davis, you could make it out but it was pretty far. I had a meeting, and when it was over I rushed up to the stairwell of my building to see if I could spot it. I didn’t stay there very long, I heard it was already flying over Stockton, so I left it be. Still, nice to know it was out there, making its final journey. The space shuttle, dudes, gone forever. Still it’s not like it was the Millennium Falcon or anything, it didn’t exactly fly back and forth to Saturn or warp to Alpha Centauri, being more of a bus into the upper atmosphere. But what a ship! It fired my imagination as a kid, and I still remember vividly the day Challenger blew up in 1986, with that awful two-headed explosion. I had cut a picture of it from the paper and put it on my wall, along with a group portrait of all the astronauts, back when being an astronaut was pretty much the pinnacle of human existence as far as I was concerned. I don’t know if I ever wanted to be an astronaut (the space suits and the food put me off) but I loved the Shuttle, loved space. (By the way, UC Davis has produced at least two NASA astronauts, Tracey Caldwell and Stephen Robinson) Alas, today was not the day for me to see it.

So I sketched at lunchtime in the Arboretum and listened to a podcast about Proto-Indo-European instead. All about Grimm’s Law! With a little bit of Verner’s Law! Philology, comparative linguistics, consonant shifts – now that’s my real space shuttle. Been a while since I studied that but listening to the podcast, it all came back, and I had the old urge to start grabbing some foreign dictionaries and making lists. Instead, I just finished my sketch, and went back to work.


gate to UC Davis
The academic year is almost upon us. September moves along so quickly, like a juggernaut, and suddenly BANG! and Davis is chock full of cyclists and orientations and events and people. It’s a little like awaiting an invading army, if it were an army who has never ridden a bike before. The weather is now in the 80s, finally, so still warm and sunny but not ridiculously hot. I needed to sketch at lunchtime yesterday, and so took myself off to near the old Boiler Building (whose demolition is imminent), and sketched one of the gateways into campus. I listened to a podcast about Eleanor of Aquitaine while I sketched this. I have been listening lately to a series of podcasts about the History of England, by David Crowther, I recommend them as a good and enjoyable listen, so far. Anyway, I sketched this in my Moleskine.

Hey guess what, there was a great article published in the Davis Enterprise yesterday by Tanya Perez which gave me a nice mention, you can check it out here: “Are we there yet? What is the greatest talent of all? The one you don’t have” Cheers Tanya!

and if a double decker bus…

bus #17
Another London expat* living in Davis, one of the old red double-decker buses imported here back in the 1960s. Oh, they make me feel nostalgic these buses. Of course we don’t have these types any more in London, except on a few touristy routes. I haven’t seen the new Boris bus, though I’m sure it’s as clumsy as its master. Riding on one of these here in Davis though makes me particularly nostalgic for London buses, because the nice modern accessible ones we have now in London don’t bump around quite so much as these cranky old machines. It’s a joyride, let me tell you, and if you have an upset tummy you may want to bring a bag. The funny thing about these buses is that coming from the UK the exit door is not by the pavement/sidewalk, but in the middle of the road – when you get off, the young conductor will stand in the road with a big flag to make sure the cars and cyclists don’t hit you. If only we had such a service in London!  Still, the conductors here don’t like it if you walk down the stairs of the bus before the bus comes to a complete halt. I did that, in anticipation of my stop, and was met with a very flustered young conductor convinced I was about to fly off the bus at any moment to a messy and litigious death. I grew up on these sorts of buses and could happily swing down the stairs and leap into the street à la Charing Cross Road, but I know that folk over here are much more cautious about stairs on moving transport so I understand their worry. When I was an open-top bus tour guide on the streets of London a decade ago we too asked people not to walk down stairs (or jump from the bus) while it was moving or not at a stop, not only for our insurance but also because many Americans just aren’t used to it (the insurance was the main reason though). I remember being surprised at how many American and other tourists had never set foot on a double-decker before, and were not sure even how to get upstairs, even assuming these buses had lifts. On once occasion I cheekily joked that the luggage space beneath the stairs was the elevator, until one man actually took me seriously and tried to get inside and asked where the button was. That actually happened. Oh, the giggles we had in the pub afterwards.

This bus says it goes to London Bridge Station, but really it just goes to and from UC Davis. Another bus states its destination as Golders Green Station, which always makes me smile. I wonder to myself what people here imagine Golders Green to be like (it’s quite nice actually, could be worse). Another bus is the ‘142’, which was a bus I used to catch to Edgware School from Burnt Oak Broadway whenever I felt the need to make an unnecessarily rowdy bus journey; I usually preferred walking, it took longer but was much less psychologically damaging.

I drew this in micron pen and watercolour; obviously I didn’t draw the bus while it was moving, I am not that quick, so I drew it from a previous sketch and some reference shots I’d taken. The background (what there is of it) was done on location on E Street (while a man stood staring warily at me from across the street, obviosuly convinced I was drawing him from great distance, hiding behind a bus). It is partly an urban sketch then.

*(I never liked the word ‘expat’, for some reason it always made me think of some sunburned fish-and-chips-gobbling union-jack-hankie-on-head-wearing football-moaning hooray henry, until I realised that actually is me, pretty much, except for the hankie, and I only ever got sunburned a couple of times, and I almost never eat fish and chips. I do moan about the footy though.)

2012 art auction at the pence

This month I am participating in the annual Art Auction at the Pence Gallery, on D Street, Davis. The auction is a silent auction which started on September 1 and ends at the main Gala Event itself this Saturday September 22. The event is a fundraiser for the Pence Gallery, which supports the work of many local artists and serves the local community through its exhibitions, classes and events. There is still time thi week to place silent bids if you’re interested in owning some great local art – just visit the Pence Gallery, and see their website for details.

I actually have two pieces in the auction this year, both with a very Davis theme to them (of course):

Varsity panorama (actually, this one sold already!)

Varsity Panorama

The Delta of Venus (still available!)
delta of venus, davis

If you’re Davis-bound this week, pop by the Pence and check them out!

september sketchcrawl at the silo

silo uc davis
Yesterday we the sketchers of Davis met at the UC Davis Silo, my usual everyday sketching spot, for the latest ‘Let’s Draw Davis!’ sketchcrawl. There were about thirteen of us all in all, familiar faces and new sketchers also. I love meeting new fellow urban sketchers, but it is especially fun seeing people draw the same things that I sketch on my everyday lunchtimes, in new and different ways. I started by spending a long time drawing this wing of the Silo in brown pen. My son was there sketching with me in the morning; he’s a sketchcrawl veteran now. It was another warm day, so it was nice to sit in the shade. UC Davis is quiet this weekend, but this week thousands of students will return or start their new journeys in Davis, and the craziness begins. I can’t wait of course, being a busy and exciting period of work for me, but at the same time it’s nice to savour the quiet moments when I can.
work machine at uc davis
There’s also a lot of last-minute construction work going on on campus too, it seems. This work machine was parked near the Silo and just begged to be sketched. I drew this in micron pen and  coloured it in watercolour. I don’t know what ‘MF’ stands for but I can hazard a guess (it reminded me of “TFU” in the robot wars episode of Spaced).
hart hall (back), uc davis

My last one of the day was a fairly quick one of the back of Hart Hall, and I decided to make it a bit livelier by splattering paint all over the page for a bit of texture. After this we all met in the shade outside Shields Library and looked at each other’s sketchbooks, and talked about pens and paper and methods, which is always fun. The next one will be in October, on the date of the worldwide sketchcrawl; details to come at some point soon!