As you know I don’t like getting wrapped up in unnecessary hyperbole, but we are living in a time of absolute legends, of whom our grandchildren’s grandchildren will tell tales of unfettered genius and unrivaled skill. Yes, I’m talking about the Tale of Two Footballers, the great sporting rivalry of our time, the main reason TV companies around the world are trying to convince you to spend some of your lunch hour watching the first leg of a Spanish Cup semi-final. Yes, I’m talking about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and unfortunately for our Portuguese friend, we really are all obliged to say their names in that order for all eternity. They are Mozart and Salieri, McEnroe and Borg, Pepsi and Coke, the USA and the USSR, Tesco and Sainsburys, er, Professor X and Magneto…
It’s easy to get carried away. For sure, they are the talismanic figures of their teams, Spain’s ridiculously massive Barcelona and Real Madrid (the Celtic and Rangers of La Liga, the Target and WalMart, etc). And fair enough, they both scored so many goals over the past couple of years that no other player in their league comes close, but that’s not to say…oh, let’s accept it, they are unbelievably great footballers. The 2012 Ballon d’Or ceremony recently was another clash between the two titans (oh, and Andres Iniesta, who many smart folk said really should have won it, though he of course doesn’t have the huge bags of goals but did win a European Championship with Spain, not that international football means anything any more). Ronaldo had an outstanding year, finishing 2011-2012 with a whopping 60 goals – sixty, and he’s not actually a striker – and a Spanish league title. But oh no, even though Barcelona didn’t win anything, Lionel Messi had to go and get 73. That is SEVENTY-THREE, in one season, a European record, and that is just for his club. Yeah, he’s not a traditional striker either. Then when he broke Gerd Mueller’s world record for number of goals scored in a single calendar year, well, Messi just had to get that fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or.
I like Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s easy to paint him as the villain, self-obsessed and sulky, and even more so when compared to the cuddly selfless mercurial goody two-amazing-shoes Messi. (I imagine Ronaldo standing there, fist clenched, “Messi!”) When he first broke out as a young lad at United, with his funny step-over and his waving of invisible yellow cards he was pretty easy to deride, but what a player he became. Ronaldo just gets better and better and better. And as he does so, Messi gets better and better and better and better. I often wonder if they spur each other on to reach new levels of greatness; I get the impression Messi would be doing this anyway. Their habit of collecting goals each week really is like an arms race. Ronaldo got a hat-trick at the weekend; so Messi scored four. (“Messi!”). In any other age, our Cristiano would be the legend. What can he do? I would drown my sorrows in hair gel too.
Last Friday, at the end of a ridiculously busy week, I went over to the Davis Art Center (helpfully located a few minutes from my house) for their latest “Arty Party”, organized by Shelly Gilbride and Ariana Rundqvist. It’s the second one, and there will be more so check out the Davis Art Center’s website (http://www.davisartcenter.org) for details. I sat down and started sketching people (something I enjoy more and more), starting with this couple Alex and Jon Bieda. While I sketched, well-known Davis artist Heidi Bekebrede, who was also sat at the table, sang the “Davis song”, a song about Davis which I think anyone who has lived here will certainly get (you can see a video of the song here on Youtube). Very cool to have it sung in person by its singer. I was going to sketch more people, but they all started drifting off, and Friday night was catching up with me, so I spent the rest of the evening talking urban sketching, Boal and art projects.
This building, on the corner of 2nd and C in Davis, is one I have drawn before, one which looks so much more interesting in the wintertime when no leaves are blocking the view. It houses the offices of Lyons realtors, I believe. I think I will draw the building next door as well, while the weather is so pleasant. I am starting to think more and more about joining up the dots in Davis and drawing every bit of this town, to be glued together in one contiguous massive sketch map. One other way to find all of my Davis sketches (or 250 recent ones, at least) is on my Davis Flickr map.
Here is another lunchtime sketch with my lovely brown pen. This is Hart Hall, UC Davis, one of the more historic buildings on campus. Many years ago it was the Animal Sciences Building. To me, it looks very Mediterranean, and with its cypress trees lining the entrance it reminds me of Rome, which was appropriate as I listened to an episode of the History of Rome podcast while sketching it (this sketch took about 20-25 minutes). I am getting very close to the end of that podcast series now, and I can heartily recommend it. Which one did I listen to while sketching this? The one about the Sack of Rome by Alaric and his Visigoths. There is a name for a classic album and a long-haired metal band if ever I heard one. Learning about Rome this past month or so has been very enlightening. When I first started working at UC Davis my former department chair told me that the organization of UC was modeled on the Roman Empire, and I can certainly understand what he meant. Now though, my desire to see Rome is greater than ever. You see, like Barcelona, it’s one city in Europe I have always yearned for but never actually went to, and now we live in the US it is, you know, quite a bit further away. Now though I would certainly sketch Rome a lot more than in the past, and when I think of sketching Rome I think of fellow Urban Sketcher Matthew Brehm, who travels to Rome each summer to teach location drawing to his students, check out his excellent work. As for the Rome podcast, at the time of writing Alaric is long dead, Rome has been sacked again, Attila and his Huns have come and gone, but Rome’s Western Empire still limps on, like a massive rock band (Augustus and his Caesars) that has long had its day but still plays in the odd pub and makes embarrassing appearances on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”, while the guitarist who left on creative differences (Constantinople and his Byzantines) continues to sell album after hit album for another thousand years. Rome, the city itself long irrelevant to the Empire, is nearly done with. Sure, one day the Pope will hold an audition for a new tribute band, eventually crowning Charlemagne (of ‘Charlemagne and his Franks’ fame) as lead singer. For me though, there are just a few podcasts left until the end, and I’ll miss it. So check out the History of Rome podcast, by Mike Duncan, available for free download on iTunes.
My second one from the afternoon of Martin Luther King day, this is Cooper House on 4th Street, one of the prettiest old buildings in downtown Davis. I have sketched it before, a few years ago, but have always wanted to come back when I had a bit more time to savor it, and in the later afternoon, when the light would wash the house beautifully, allowing the leafless branches to cast their long patterns. Or something to that effect. I stood outside the Chinese restaurant opposite (the Silver Dragon I believe it is called, I have never been there), and sketched away. I had my little stool, but I wanted to able to see over the cars parked on my side of the street. Downtown Davis was full of flags for MLK day, a public holiday for many people (myself included, but not all, as many workers were still at work. A woman who works in this building stopped and said hello as she passed. I understand (from Davis Wiki) that the Cooper House is about 80 years old or so, built in the old Georgian colonial style, and currently it is the workspace of therapists. Well let me tell you it was therapeutic to stand and draw this building. I don’t know who it is actually named after, some old landowner or farmer or someone, so in the interest of making things up I’m going to say that it is named after the late great comedian and magician, Tommy Cooper. Why not. That’s who I think of whenever I walk by.
And in the spirit of things, here is one of Tommy Cooper’s old jokes.
I went to the doctors. He said ‘I’d like you to lie on the couch’.
I said ‘What for?’
He said ‘I’d like to sweep the floor’
Taking a lunchbreak during a very very busy work week, I walked down to a spot in the shade of the bike path near Old Davis Road to sketch once more the Robert Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine and Beer and All Sorts of Other Fun Stuff. I always forget the correct name but that’s what I call it, and I had a tour of the facility last summer, and it really is a very interesting place. They have very scientific wine tasting auditoria and are home to some of the best enologists in the world. Seriously, these guys know their stuff, and not just the enologists, but the other food researchers too. They know their beer too, and have a whole new section devoted to beer science.The wine in California goes without saying, of course, but I love the beer out here, as you may have guessed. Now back in England if I say American beer, most people I know will think Bud-bleurgh and other such nonsense. No, no one thing I can say is that Americans, especially out here in the West, really do know and love their brews. Anyway with thoughts of a nice cold one at the end of a week of cold mornings, sunny lunchtimes and hectic workdays, it was nice to relax and concentrate on all those lines and windows.
Funny to think, when I started working here, when I started sketching Davis, this building didn’t even exist. Now I see it every day, and I still like it.
Happy Martin Luther King Day! And Happy Presidential Inauguration Day! It’s a Monday, but a special Monday, a day off, a proper day off. Also, the day after my son’s Batman birthday party, the day after the 49rs reached the World Series (sorry, I mean the Superbowl; I was asleep at the time having eaten a lot of birthday cake), the day after that great Spurs v Man United match in the thick snow with American forward Clint Dempsey’s late late and very great equalizer. I also finally watched last night the Wim Wenders movie Wings of Desire (I have it on dvd, but forgot where it was), which was a good film, and one which, I realized, has quietly influenced me for years, despite me never having seen it before. Well, I like German cinema. Today was a sunny and pretty warm day, and I headed downtown to spend some time relaxing in my sketchbook, and drawing some of the buildings I’ve wanted to focus on. I told myself I would draw the Orange Court complex on E Street in full, so stood in the sunshine for an hour and a half or so, and listened to the History of England and the History of Rome podcasts (I am pretty far along with Rome now – Constantine just died and now his similarly-named offspring are acting all Sonny, Michael and Fredo with the Empire, apparently. Also the Roman Empire seems to have nothing to do with your actual Rome any more by this point, which is interesting). I drew this in the watercolour Moleskine in brown uni-ball signo with watercolour to colour it in. The sky was blue and clear, though I didn’t colour it in. These simpler colours illustrate this interesting piece of Davis architecture so much better.