and the stinking streets of summer are washed away by rain

2nd st alley
I’ve been away, out of the state, up in Portland Oregon if you must know. I wanted to walk about in the rain. Well of course we get rain here in Davis now, and some of it came the same week I left. So one wet lunchtime I got out during a lull in the weather and filled in the last remaining space in Watercolour Moleskine 10. I only sketched a bit before the rain started again, but as Alan Partridge might say, you get the general idea. The long long summer is finally gone, autumn is here, a new stage in the year begins.
Anyway, that ends Moleskine #10. Watercolour Moleskine that is, which are generally my ‘alpha’ sketchbooks. I have other Moleys, and other sketchbooks besides, but I’m already well into Moleskine 11 now and will have to do a 12th to keep some symmetry (I remember when I was ‘stopping at 9’). I’m used to them now, and they look good on the shelf (which is odd, because I keep them in a box).
If you want to see the rest of the sketches from this book, which cover London, Paris, San Francisco, Oregon, Davis Santa Cruz and some other places, please visit my Flickr set “MOLESKINE 10“…

whole in the market

whole foods davis, harvest hullabaloo
When failing book behemoth Borders closed last year, there was a large empty space in downtown Davis where something should really go. Now finally something is in there: Whole Foods Market, a chain of grocers that specializes in fresh organic food. The grand opening and bread-baking ceremony was today, but on Sunday they held a ‘Harvest Hullabaloo’ over at Davis Commons, with stalls and tents offering free samples of their organic foods and drinks. I tried some very nice chocolate, followed by some air-cooled roast chicken, which I must say was quite lovely. There were other stalls with other predictably ‘Davis’ oriented stuff (such as ‘decorate your vegan bike with corn-fed soy glow-sticks’ or something) but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It was the end of our monthly sketchcrawl, so I preferred to sit down and draw. Interestingly enough the first time I ever sketched in Davis I drew this view, back when it was Borders.

I’m sure Whole Foods will be a hit, at first, though I know it can be quite expensive. It will be competing with our much beloved Davis Co-Op (to which Davisites are very loyal) and the very popular local chain Nugget (my personal local favourite, though Nugget too can be not so cheap). Another issue is that it’s not an obvious location for a grocery store – finding a spot in the small parking lot at the back is already a challenge, though of course you don’t always need a car to shop (hello, public transport / baskets on your bike / spare the air, like?). (in fact they are offering free 24-hour bike trailer rentals… really trying hard to get the Davis vote!) Still, I hope it doesn’t hurt the Co-Op. I always worry about national chains moving into towns and driving custom away from locally owned business (eg, a branch of national sandwich/bread chain Panera just opened right opposite local independent deli Zia’s), and then after closing the small local store the chain potentially decides further down the road to close thus leaving a gap… but I don’t know if I should be too worried for Davis. Borders came and went and the local bookstore Avid Reader lived through it, same as record store Armadillo Music outlived Tower Records right across the street. Whole Foods will probably be a success, and appears to be interested in the community, and I don’t think Davis is going to lose sleep about having yet another place to buy fresh healthy organic food. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

widescreen e-street

E st panorama
On Sunday, about seventeen sketchers of Davis (and surrounding areas) got together again for another urban sketch crawl, this time downtown at the E St Plaza. I must admit I didn’t do quite so much ‘crawling’ this time, and spent most of the day in the same spot, sketching people in the morning (see below) and spending over a couple of hours in the afternoon stood up drawing the above panorama, a two-page spread in my Moleskine. You can see a larger version on my Flickr site, and below is a detail. This was drawn in uni-ball signo um-151 pen.

I wanted to sketch the sketchers, needing to practise some people drawing. Amazingly I was able to get a quick sketch of my four-year-old son, when he stood still for a few minutes to draw a rocketship (mostly it was all about the sprinting about). On the right is Syd, another of the sketchers.
And here are two more sketchers, Emily and Scott.
Next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be in November, date to be announced soon…
let's draw davis october 2012

get to portland

steel bridge, portland
This weekend I am going to be in Portland! The one in Oregon, not the one with the Lighthouse and the Bill and the Fear of Rabbits. Just a weekend away sketching, food-carts, micro-brews, book/comic-shops, sketching. And bridges, I must sketch bridges. And old signs. I was last there for the first Urban Sketching Symposium in 2010 and loved it, but didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked. I never even had a single Voodoo Donut. So I will be remedying all of that, and I don’t care how much it rains (after this long hot dry Davis summer, a bit of rain would be welcome*)

So, any sketching/local-beer/food-cart/comic-shop tips would be welcome!

Also, if you are Portland-based and fancy meeting me for some sketching I will be meeting the some of the Portland Urban Sketchers this Saturday Oct 27 for some sketching around the Saturday Market in the morning, and then perhaps some bridges and river (or some food carts or some old town) in the afternoon. We will meet at 10:00am at Floyd’s Coffee, on NE Crouch St. I am looking forward to it. They have a great group of sketchers in Portland, and were one of the original ‘regional’ Urban Sketchers blogs to be set up.

Also, on Sunday evening I’ll be going to Dr.Sketchy’s Anti-Art-School event on SE Morrison, at 7:00pm. I’ve never been to one of these before so it will be intriguing. Details about that can be found on their Facebook page. There will apparently be pirates to draw. Something different to fire hydrants and bridges!

PDX here I come! If you see me, say hello.

*that said it finally started raining in Davis yesterday after many months, and there was a tornado warning!

what’s it all about, alpha?

uc davis boards
It’s the time of year when the Frat Boards are out in force. Not just for Fraternities, but Sororities and other organizations too. I have lived in Davis for seven years and they are all still a mystery to me. Obviously not all these societies are ‘Greek’ (or maybe they are), or rather they don’t all have mystical Greek acronyms, but many of them have big frat houses and spend a lot of October pursuing recruitment activities and initiations (such as ‘hazing’). Fraternities are national, with chapters at many big American schools, and some societies are very old indeed. Some are specialist organizations, such as the ones for Pre-Med students or Latino students, or that fraternity for those really into boating (Rho Rho Rho) and another one for dairy farmers (Mu Mu). (There is probably one for really crap old jokes too, Tee Hee Hee).

Speaking of the Greek alphabet, I was listening to an excellent podcast today, the History of English Podcast by Kevin Stroud. As an avid and excitable enthusiast of language history I was giddy to discover this recently, and listened to all the podcasts so far almost every day on iTunes. It is a history of the English language alright, but is starting from the very beginning, in a super comprehensive way that you do not get in standard English language histories. It does not start from the usual “Angles, Saxons and Jutes crossing the North Sea” angle (excuse the pun, just this once), but from the roots of Proto-Indo-European. As the series has progressed, Kevin Stroud has neither skipped a connection nor simply narrowed the focus into proto-Germanic, but includes anything that is relevant to the development English and shows us why. There was one episode devoted solely to the letter ‘c’. Now I understand that this may not excite you in quite the same way it excites me, but I have listened to that one quite a few times and have already started doing some reading again. I studied Germanic philology as part of my MA in Medieval English and so the episodes on sound shifts and Grimm’s Law made my heart race, as all those hours spent pondering dusty books and dictionaries in Senate House and the Maughan Library came flooding back to me. This was my passion, more so even than drawing, and one I have not had time for these past few years (though I was interviewed on ABC radio in Australia about the topic of my MA thesis last year). Today’s eagerly anticipated episode was about the alphabet, and its origins in Phoenician and subsequently Greek. The move from a syllabic-based script to an alphabetic script was huge, as it made learning to read and write a lot easier, there being far fewer phonemes or letters in a language than syllables. Imagine if we’d stayed with Cuneiform or hieroglyphs, and that show Countdown would have been very different (“a scarab please Carol, and a bird, and a river…”). As I say, Stroud always ties it to English, as that is the podcast’s name, and since we use that alphabet every single day the origins of it are of immense importance to the history of English. If you have an interest in such stuff, I strongly recommend this podcast. More than anything, it is good to listen to while out and about sketching, especially when you sketch Greek letters and can say, ‘Alpha’, ah yes, that used to be a consonant, not a vowel.

studio lines

in their studio, pence gallery october 2012
I am honoured to be in another group show at the Pence Gallery in Davis (212 D St; website), called “In Their Studio”. This show features the works of many local artists, along with a picture showing them at work in their studio. Well as you know, my studio is out in the street with my sketchbook! The two works I submitted are “A Londoner in Davis” (the double-decker bus drawing, which was recently featured on the cover of the Davis Enterprise), and “Old City Hall“, which I sketched on a very sunny, very windy day in January.

Can you guess where I am in that photo?
in my studio!

The show runs upstairs at the Pence until October 28th. If you are in Davis, pop by and check it out!

five little houses

Back in May I did some sketching for the Pence’s Garden Tour, and one of the things I drew was a set of birdhouses which I just loved. I sold the original, and I wanted to draw them again but never got around to it, until now. I drew these lovelies on the Stillman & Birn Delta paper (very nice for these types of things) using the sepia uniball signo um-151 pen (the pen of choice) with a bit of watercolour to wash it.

Hey guess what, it’s available to buy in my Etsy store! If you’ve not been to my Etsy store there are several prints and originals for sale, got to

your cover’s blown

welcome to davis editions
I didn’t post the rest of the Davis Enterprise’s “Welcome to Davis” editions from a couple of weeks back, so here they are. These are big!! Broadsheets, really. Plus they make good curtains as you can see. I’m pretty chuffed to have had this honour, and hope that the people of Davis enjoyed them. Now the Toad Hollow sketch from the ‘Only in Davis’ edition, as I mentioned previously, is pretty small – a few inches up and across. I though you might be interested to see the other originals set against the papers themselves.
On the Go
For the ‘On the Go’ edition my drawing of one of the Unitrans London double-deckers was used, so here’s a size comparison – the original was about 7″x5″ or so, and in fact if you’re in Davis and want to see it (or buy it) it’s at the Pence Gallery on D Street right now.
Our Community & Market
For the ‘Our Community’ edition my recent drawing of the Farmer’s Market was used. Incidentally, the sign in the middle has only some of the writing on it because they started packing up when I got to drawing that bit and I missed the rest. I did think ahead though and took a photo beforehand, very smart, but there was a lot of glare so I never could read it all. Doesn’t matter. The fellow standing next to it, he has a passing resemblance to me, because the passer-by that I actually drew was actually wearing a Tottenham t-shirt and stopped to talk for a moment when I said ‘Come on you Spurs!’ So in honour, I actually made this person look like me, though he really didn’t. Most moving people in these in-public-place drawings look generic anyway, as it’s always hard to really capture someone while they’re walking past, though otherwise all of the people that ended up in this one were actually the people stood there. Anyway, I loved how this turned out in the paper, and if that’s you in the drawing, hello there.
On Campus & sketchbook
And finally, the really small one, which actually translated pretty well large, I thought. I sketched that one lunchtime at the Memorial Union back in 2009, and it took up a third of a page of my Moleskine. So anyway there you are. Many thanks to Tanya Perez at the Davis Enterprise, who does a great job in the Welcome editions, and it was great to be a part if them this time.

up on the rainbow bridge tonight

living room
The living room as seen from the armchair on a Friday night. Watching the TV – a bit of Colbert, a bit of South Park, a bit of Formula 1 Qualifying (well done Vettel, another pole) and a bit of The Avengers with the director’s commentary on.

Sketched in sepia Pitt pen (S) in the large Moleskine cahier with the Paul Wang cover. I mostly use that book for ‘big ideas’ but last night I just wanted to draw the room, and our colourful rug. TV and sketchbook after a busy week.

impossible acres

impossible acres, davis
Every October, we head out to the north-western edge of Davis to a farm called Impossible Acres. There we try to take a photo of our son as he easily navigates the hay maze, spend a couple of minutes holding a baby duck and stroking a kitten before leaving the animal petting zone to rush back to the corn maze (cost me seven bucks, but holding the baby duckling was worth it), ride around in a circle on the back of a tractor to see, well, fields, and then pick some pumpkins and get home before the young one has a meltdown. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. It’s great out there though, and I always try to grab a very quick sketch if humanly possible. While my son and my wife were lost in the corn maze, I sketched the big barn. You can make out one of the heavily pregnant goats in the picture; there were tiny baby goats, kids rather, wandering about in the enclosure, one was only a day old. Before very long my son came back from the maze and wanted to do some sketching himself. I forget this, now he’s at the age where he needs to draw if I’m drawing, and I always forget to pack his sketching stuff as well. This whole thing took me less than fifteen minutes so I’m happy with the result. We picked our pumpkins (I got a white one, I am thinking ‘stormtrooper’ this year) and went home. Our annual tradition in Davis.