on a street where a tall man poses

1st st, davis
This panorama is from a week or so ago, drawn while sitting down on 1st Street on Martin Luther King Jr Day. I sat there sketching for nearly three hours, and still had to finish off the rest of the colour when I got home! It’s those trees, I am trying to look at all the branches, it’s maddening. But great fun, huh! I listened to some podcasts (history, football) and some music (spot the David Devant reference in this post’s title). This scene, latest in my ‘panoramarathon’, shows a row of fraternity houses (all part of Theta Xi, which as I’ve said before is probably the frat house for trainee cab drivers), ending up on the right with the John Natsoulas gallery. This is a whole block between D and E Streets. If you have never been to davis before, well looking through my sketchbook these days is getting to be a hand-drawn Streetview. On the far right (geographically not politically) you can see a large sculpture of a colourful looking figure, a tall man posing, with a head that looks like an old diving suit helmet. It glows up at night like a sentry guarding the entrance to downtown. I don’t know what aliens arriving here would think, but to be fair they would probably not be coming in off of I-80, they’d probably land their saucers in the Quad or beam into Central Park or something. I can’t speak for aliens (although in American terminology I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in Davis, though I suppose I prefer ‘Briton’ or ‘Londoner’) (ok fine I’m a Martian I admit it).

Here is a closer view, for those without built-in Martian zoom-vision. There were a lot of red vehicles parked out on the street that day, I didn’t just paint them that way to break up the beige and white monotony.
Frat House plus Gallery
And this dry weather continues. Some trees are already starting to blossom. Temperatures have been in the high 70s all week.
Frat houses

More panoramas to come, but boy they eat up your time (or my time rather). I’ll have this book finished by the end of the month.

sketching to music

hafter birthday party sm(Click on the image for a bigger view) Saturday evening last week I was invited to a double-birthday party for a local musician, David Hafter, and his son Noah, also a musician. It was at a place called Third Space, on Olive Drive in Davis, and I sketched the above panorama because panoramas are what I’m sketching! But I also did a couple more; below left, a sketch of Noah  playing his set (I gave the sketch to him), and one of Neon Lights (bottom right), many of the members of whom also play in David Hafter’s band Wealth of Nations (above). Regular visitors may remember that I sketched this band before on a couple of occasions in the Fall. The music was very nice, and I always sketch more quickly when listening to music – it’s the rhythm I think! Anyway, it was a nice evening, and many thanks to David for the invite.

hafter party noahneon lights

all these places have their moments

panoramarathon 2014 walker hall sm
This is a scene found at UC Davis, the rear of Walker Hall. It is a view that has changed considerably over the years since I’ve worked there, well I say considerably, there used to be a wall and more cactus where the brown earthy space is now. A lot has been done to improve this whole corridor, make it more open and accessible, especially with the shiny Student Community Center next door (which I sketched last year). It is interesting to see how the campus changes over the years. This building however appears not to have changed itself, and I like that old-school look it still has. Its near-neighbour Hart Hall is still a beloved campus icon, but the similarly-coloured and tiled Boiler Building is now gone. During a very busy week I have struggled to keep it all together, but I found that I would have more focus if I got out to sketch furiously at lunchtime. I have had a mild cold too, so stepping out into the warm weather with that bit of sunshine made me feel pretty good. I did all of the ink in one lunchtime for this one (it’s not that detailed) but coloured it in later. See the lamp-post banner to the right, these have popped up across campus lately showcasing the hardworking people who make UCD what it is (I doubt I would get one though!) Been extremely busy lately though; busy is good. So it’s important to balance busy with creative, and the Panoramarathon continues. Click on the image for a larger view.

By the way, thought you might like to know I just read “The Fifth Beatle: the Brian Epstein Story“, an absolutely excellent graphic novel by Vivek Tiwary, with art by Andrew C. Robinson. Best thing I have read in ages, an astonishing piece of work, and an excellent example of how well a story is best told in graphic novel format. Some things only drawn images can really convey. It’s utterly beautiful, and Brian himself is encapsulating in his enthusiasm, but most beguiling of all was his assistant Moxie, from start to finish. By the end of the story I was almost tearful (yes you read that right). I’ll be re-reading this one for a long time.

in the long dry winter

1st st panorama, davis CA
The sunshine continues. We have a bit of an emergency here in California, with the whole not raining thing. They may even end up rationing water. Let’s have a little bit of rain, please! I remember a few years ago we had a similar situation and then a huge weekend of rain refilled everything and we were like, ok never mind. This time we’ll need a bit more I reckon. Some snow in the mountains, water in our reservoirs, and occasionally a cloud in the sky perhaps. However while it is sunny I will still draw those shadows against those buildings. I got out one lunchtime for another panorama, and with this one I packed a hello of a lot of inkwork into my hour, helped by listening to the second Beady Eye album (which I must say I am really enjoying). I added some of the detailings and the the paint later at home. This is First Street, Davis, the block closest to campus, opposite the parking lot. A very common sight for many UCD employees on their way to work. I have sketched the big white building on the left (with the ‘Dutch Colonial’ roof) on a couple of occasions, but not the Delta-Delta-Delta frat house (it’s actually a sorority) and the building next to it. It’s funny, the panoramas much warmer on the right, with warmer colours and leaves on the trees, while to the left the scene is colder, leafless, much less colour.Like going from Winter to Spring. Winter, haha. Davis didn’t have a ‘Winter’ this year.
Here are a couple of closer views.

1st st davis

One thing you may notice on the sorority house is that it got tp’d – toilet paper thrown over it. You get that here occasionally. You’d think they’d wipe that practice out.

1st st davis

Panoramarathon “rolls” on…

to spend your days in the sunshine

D St panorama: PANORAMARATHON continues!
This latest installment of the Panoramarathon actually took me a couple of days. Sunday afternoon, while my family went on playdates and baby showers, I went downtown with the sketchbook to keep on drawing buildings with nice shadows on them. However it was taking a bit long, so I finished the left side and came back next day at lunchtime for the right side. This is D Street, and keen observers will see the Pence Gallery on the right, and the building to tis left is one I sketched last eyar when it was still Antiques Plus. Alas it is somethign else now, being the home of Art Is Davis, and artist’s co-op. Always nice to see more art in Davis! On the left again is the Mustard Seed, a local restaurant. Now, if you saw the last post, this scene is directly parallel, on the same block, one street over. If you go through the alleys in this sketch, you end up emerging from the alleys in the last sketch. Moreover, a couple more paralels, the parking sign on the left is similar to in the previosu sketch, and the map-post also parallels the one seen last time (which had a yellow flag). Nice to look for those patterns. I might find more of them.

Belows, closer views of each of the pages. The sunshine continues. Davis is sunny in January, blue skies, leafless trees, excellent views of buildings with nice shadows on them. But we really need the rain.
D St Davis: Pence Gallery
D St Davis: Art is Davis Art Co-Op

in restless dreams i walked alone

E St Davis panorama
My spare time is spent sketching the streets of Davis, over and over again. Last Saturday it was actually a little bit cloudy (that is basically our winter, right there) and so in the afternoon I biked down to E Street to continue the Panoramarathon. Yes, the panoramarathon that’s my word, I try to say it a lot, with different stresses every time, I keep wanting to say Panathinaikos or Parasaurolophus, but I’m getting the hang of it. I stood opposite De Vere’s Irish Pub (you’ve seen the inside of that on my sketchblog before) and Bizarro World comics. There are two places I am glad are right next to each other. I love to go to the comic shop, maybe pick something up and pop into De Vere’s for a pint to read it. This time I just picked up a 2014 Marvel Comics calendar. This year I have decided to read a lot more comics, in both paper form and digitally; I have downloaded a couple of good graphic novels on sale on Comixology, and I am considering a subscription to Marvel Unlimited to catch up on years of old comics in digital form. I have been buying more paper comics too, they are works of art and it’s nice to buy stuff at comic shops, I’m grateful they exist. A comics education to come for me this year.

Here are a couple of closer views from each side of the panorama:
E St Davis (L)
I sketched with my headphones on, listening to a history podcast (“In Our Time” with Melvyn Bragg – if you want to hear Mr. Bragg rushing historians through their subjects and getting annoyed with them because they’re not saying exactly how many Vikings fought at Stamford Bridge and then chiding them for taking too long, this is your podcast). As I sketched, a young man with a guitar on his back came up to me, and gestured as if to say something. I took off my headphones and he said, “Are you pretending to be an artist?”

You what? “Are you pretending to be funny?” I replied straight away, and he walked off. What the hell? Strange thing to come up and say to someone. Anyway next day I was in Newsbeat, buying a Snickers bar, when someone behind me said, “Oh wow Snickers, that is good shit that, I survived up the top of a mountain eating only Snickers.” I examined the chocolate bar and said, “yeah, I’ve never heard of Snickers before, thanks.” Then I realised, I think it was the same guy, perhaps he goes around downtown Davis saying stupid things? Like I go round drawing stuff, maybe that’s his thing, a ‘say-stupid-things-crawl’? Or maybe it was two different people, or I imagined it and just need to get more sleep. All things are possible.
E St Davis (R)

So this right here is in the very heart of downtown Davis, E St between 2nd and 3rd. The next panorama I will post is on the other side of this block and mirrors it in some ways. Panoramarathon (or ‘Panoramasnickers’ as it will soon be known) continues…

panoramarathon: olson and sproul

olson and sproul panorama smI love this new word, “Panoramarathon”. I have invented it, so there. It’s what I am using t describe my current burst of energy, I’ve done six in a row in my Seawhite book now (finally using it for what I actually bought it for, page after page of full-on panoramas) and will just keep going, especially while this weather continues (the Polar Vortex – a word I didn’t invent but whoever did is probably enjoying this one – didn’t get to California so we’re having balmy days in the high 60s and low 70s). This above was a lunchtime sketch (inked on site and coloured at home) of Olson Hall and Sproul Hall, two big UC Davis buildings. I need to draw more campus so I am going to do that, even those big white repetitive buildings I don’t like much. This is number 4 of the panoramarathon. Click on the image for a larger view.

Hey why not join in? Ok folks here it is, “Panoramarathon 2014” see how many consecutive two-page panoramas you can do. Ok, ready…GO!

when the half light makes for a clearer view

sophia's bar jan 2014 smSophia’s Bar, Davis. Click on the image to see a larger version. 2014 has started as a very busy little year so far, with not enough time to sketch. Not enough time..? Well, make time. I’ve been feeling a little headless-chicken-esque, so one Wednesday evening I decided I needed to go and pour myself into another bar panorama, this time at Sophia’s, a bar which I have sketched before, but I had not included the fishtank before. The fishtank was going in this time, for sure. My friend Tel, who I grew up with but now lives in Korea for some reason, would like that fishtank. Years ago he used to make me go with him after school all the way to a shop in Colindale called Vibratanks to see the tropical fish in their bright tanks, his nose pressed against the glass staring at the tetras and guppies and swordtails. To get him back, I would make him come to WH Smith in Brent Cross where I’d spend ages looking at pens, travel guides and adventure gamebooks. In a twist of irony he now sells books, while I am sketching fishtanks. Anyway, I sat with an amber beer and covered the pages in paint before going in with the pen. I was spotted by the owner Kenneth who remembered my previous sketch, it was nice to meet him. After sketching the wider view I went to sit at the bar to get a better view of the bottles, and spent a good deal of time chatting to people, many from all over the world, while scribbling away continually. I am on a bit of a roll with these panoramas now, and have done a few more since then (yet to post; I am calling it the ‘panoramarathon’) but still 2014 continues to be busy, busy, busy. I’ve just remembered that when I am so so busy, and so so stressed, it’s always best to balance it with some art. No time for it? Make time for it. You’ll be glad you did.

2013 – twelve months of sketches

2013 in sketches
We are well into 2014 already, and it’s already a busy little year, but it’s time to reflect on the sketches of the past year. Here are most of them. I used a variety of sketchbooks (Watercolour Moleskine, Stillman & Birn Alpha and Beta, Seawhite of Brighton) as well as some being standalone ones made for shows or for sale. I sketched Davis, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Portland, London, St.Albans and Barcelona; I sketched bars, cars, toys, churches, food trucks, bridges, sketchers and pirates; some of the places I sketched no longer exist as they were then (and I forgot to put my last Davis Dairy Queen sketch on this chart – that one now has closed down too). Some periods were full of activity, some periods I actually pulled back from sketching considerably, for one reason or another. I don’t know it was my favourite year as a sketcher, I may have had more productive years but I can certainly see some progression. Switching about my sketchbooks was one of the most challenging aspects, getting used to different papers. The paper you draw on has an enormous effect on how relaxed you are sketching; this Seawhite sketchbook is ok, and I will finish it, but I likely won’t be using another as my main book. I’ve found I have less time for sketchcrawls, and have been ok with not sketching, but I have also had bursts of creative energy which I’ve just wanted to share with everyone around me. Among my sketching highlights have been the Jack the Ripper sketchcrawl in Whitechapel, London, where I met some incredible sketchers ; sketching both Sagrada Familia and the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, both lifelong dreams now fulfilled ; being featured in Danny Gregory’s book ‘An illustrated Journey’, with my sketch of Vipins in Burnt Oak appearing on the cover, and many more. I also produced two short comics which were included as part of the band Art Brut’s 10th anniversary album (they appear on the app, in which there is a short comic with every song). I sketched at the Pence Gallery’s 2013 Art auction where I also sold a large panorama I drew of the Davis Art Center. I also sketched the grand opening of local artist Heidi Bekebrede’s excellent new Davis Song mural, a tile of which is based on my red bus sketch. However it’s been a year in which I feel I’ve struggled to keep up, lacked energy, had to learn my limits. I do have plans and ideas for books and projects, and maybe 2014 will be the year I press the button and get them done, art goals, and if they get done they get done, great, and if not, c’est la vie. One question I’m often asked when sketching is, “nice sketch, but what’s it for?”  I just like urban sketching because it’s fun, not because it is for something. It is for me, and now, here are my 2013 sketches for you.

Roll on 2014…

final stretch of the year

C St panorama dec31 2013 sm

This was the very last bit of urban sketching I did in 2013. I went down to C Street and sketched this frat house, with the Davis Community Church on the corner of 4th St, in the very clear blue sky weather. Well, I say weather. This is the Land that Weather Forgot. The first New Year’s Eve I ever spent here, there was a massive rainstorm, and whole swathes of the local area were flooded. I remember cycling to the edge of town on New Year’s Day to look at what were effectively new lakes where fields used to be. I was so new to town I just expected it to always be like that. Well, it isn’t. It didn’t rain very much in 2013, barely at all. Lately the weather has just been well, nothing. Not even cloudy. It’s not like I want ice storms and tornadoes or anything, but it feels like whoever is in charge of weather here left it on one setting and then went missing. Anyway… 2013 is over, and here’s the last panorama. This frat house is new, built only recently. It replaces a very similar looking frat house, one much older that was demolished last year. That building was well known among former Davis students, a fairly grotty place by many accounts, but much loved and one of the oldest (perhaps the oldest) building in town. Well this one i here now, overlooking Central Park, and it catches the afternoon shadows in the same way so finally it’s in a Scully sketchbook. I like a panorama. Below are the two halves of it, larger so you can see them better.

C St panorama dec31 2013 LEFT
C St panorama dec31 2013 RIGHT