who let the hogs out

heitman center, uc davis
This is the Heitman Center, UC Davis. Well, it’s the Hog Barn really. I’ll always know it as the Hog Barn. See the pig on the weathervane? Well these days it doesn’t house sows or lodge hogs, nor is it digs for pigs. It is modern and clean and used for staff development classes, with flip-charts and coloured markers and overhead projectors. I went to a class there recently, though I left halfway through, it was a bit of a boar.

you don’t need a weatherman

silo uc davis
Don’t be fooled by the colourless demeanour of this image – it was very sunny, and warm, mid-70s. The rains have come in the couple of days since this sketch though. this blog is fast becoming a Davis weather report. Spoiler alert – there’s very little to report. The storms last night were fun though, but it was just a bit of rain, not like the deluges you’ve been getting back in England. The rain, of course, first item on the local news, with shots of reporters in their yellow raincoats offering such insights as “people struggled to stay dry” while showing locals strolling about calmly without umbrellas, unperturbed. (The news here does make me laugh; second item on the bill was a story about some hay that been stolen. Yes, stolen hay.) Anyway, to sketch this I sat in the shade of Rock Hall (the building from the previous post) to stay out of the warm sun and listened to a podcast about Merlin of all subjects. I haven’t sketched this scene from this angle in about seven years, amazingly. The big tower is the UC Davis Silo, which of course I have sketched many times. This was done in brown uniball signo pen in the Stillman & Birn alpha sketchbook.

rock on

rock hall uc davis
One from campus, a lunchtime sketch of Peter A. Rock Hall. This building used to be called 194 Chemistry (or ‘Chem 194’), a catchy name that sounds more like an indie dance combo with a middlebrow following. It was renamed about a year or so ago after the former Math & Physical Sciences Dean Peter A. Rock, a Chemistry professor who sadly died in 2006 (I was new to Davis then but I remember that). The front of the building has been recently revamped and so Chem 194 was renamed in Prof. Rock’s honour. This is a much better name, I think you’ll agree. Rock Hall. Now it has a name that means something. One thing I learned, in order for a building at UC Davis to be renamed after someone, that person must be dead for at least two years. Apparently so. I do love all of the touches made outside the building – an improved sidewalk, dotted with interesting little hand-made tiles depicting colourful interpretations of each of the elements, as well as details such as a brass periodic table. What was once just a big Chemistry lecture hall is now a pretty cool part of campus.

when you find that things are getting wild don’t ya need days like these?

(the former) newman chapel, davis
This is the Newman Center on C and 5th Streets, Davis. I have sketched it before, when it still had a sign outside calling it ‘Newman Chapel’. I guess they don’t hold mass there any more, having moved that sort of thing to the nearby St.James’s. I’m told it’s still used as a meeting center, and it’s still part of the Catholic community in Davis. I just like the brickwork, though in this sketch it was the last thing I did on site and I rushed it a bit, as my tummy was rumbling. What a gorgeous sunny Saturday afternoon though! Mid-70s weather, perfect for cycling about outside and then sitting down on the street with a sketchbook, listening to some music. Life is busy, so it’s nice to stop, and breathe, and create.

shoes in the sky

3rd and University, Davis
Springtime in Davis. Pink blossom on trees. Shoes on telegraph wires – huh? The last time I sketched this view (see below) you’ll notice there was just the one pair of shoes. I’d be more impressed if they managed to get a single solitary shoe up there. Eventually they’ll bring the line down, I imagine. What are they for, I wonder? One common explanation is that this marks the boundary between where gangs sell drugs, which is possible. Or maybe this signifies the territories of door-to-door preachers? They must be all the lost soles.

This was sketched over a couple of lunchtimes in the landscape-format Stillman and Birn ‘alpha’ sketchbook, which is a delight to draw in (and it takes a watercolour wash well), though I don’t imagine I’ll do many two-page panoramas, as that middle ridge doesn’t lay very flat, at least not in this part of the book. Still at least it is in my favoured landscape format. Many more sketches to come in this one.

Below is the same scene from October 2011…

3rd and University

plastic people

lego figures

Lego. Everything is awesome. We very much live in a Lego Universe right now. Kipling couldn’t have put it better. “If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs…” I’ve been spending a fair bit of time drawing much of my son’s Lego (and some of it is mine – see Boba Fett and Magneto, naturally) which is nearly as much fun as building the stuff. Here are a load of the figures, which as any parent knows are way more important than the vehicles or dragons or giant robots they come with (except for the giant robots). There is a mixture of super-heroes and super-villains (both Marvel and DC, though Superman and Wonder-Woman have since been added to this collection), plus several of the Ninjago ninjas, plus a few other characters including Emmet from the Lego Movie you may have seen recently (it’s awesome, yes, if a little visually crazy, and it looks like my living room floor). I’ve included some of the accessories in this picture, Ninja swords and so on, and you may notice a little Wolverine-claws piece near the bottom. Sadly Wolverine himself was lost, we don’t know where (you know how Logan likes to just skip town), but his claws were left behind. I hope we find him. Big robots don’t just rip themselves apart, you know. Incidentally, did you see the last Wolverine movie? I really enjoyed it, Logan’s adventures in Japan. My wife pointed out though that despite his famous catchphrase, he definitely isn’t the best there is at what he does, because he’s actually not all that as a fighter: always getting shot or stabbed or cut, relying on his mutant healing factor and his adamantium-coated skeleton to get him out of trouble. It’s like saying, yeah I’m brilliant at chess, as long as every time you take one of my pieces I can just go back and do that move again. No, that ain’t how you learn. Still, all said and done, you’d still want Wolverine on your side, bub.

where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing

little prague panoramarathon
And so on to the very last spread of the Panoramarathon, and of the Seawhite sketchbook. The Year of the Horse had just begun, so time to saddle up and gallop the last furlong. So, cue the joke about the horse and the bar and “why the long sketchbook?”. I never got that joke anyway. The barman shouldn’t be asking why a horse has a long face, but what exactly a horse expects to be served in a bar. Unless bars are serving sugar-lumps and brewing hay-beer (and they probably are, these days) I would say, “oi, Tonto, never mind your long face, you drink from the trough outside mate, or you can git the hell outta this town, and the man who rode in on you”, or words to that effect. This is technically the old wild west after all, or Back to the Future III country at least. Anyway, back to the drawing… I have sketched the Little Prague bar on several occasions over the past seven years or so, but not quite from this angle, so I decided that I would take up that challenge to finish out the project. After a very busy week I popped by on a quiet Friday evening and sketched away. After a while, a large crowd of people came in en masse (there they all are in the sketch, mingling away with their pitchers and their nametags). That chef bloke with the bleached hair and the goatee, Guy Fieri I think he is called, was on the telly. I didn’t really pay attention to anything much except finishing the sketch. This panoramarathon was going to be done by the end of January, dammit! February is just not long enough to keep saying such a complicated word. After a while, the DJs came in and the loud dance music started, and so after one quickly-sketched panorama and three slowly-drunk dark beers, I finished up and went home to bed.

Here are the close-ups, for you to marvel at the intricate details.
little prague bar, davis
little prague bar, davis

So that was the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, started in August, finished in January. You can see all the images form that book in this handy set on my Flickr site.

go go power rangers

power rangers swords

More toys documented. These scary plastic looking things all have something to do with Power Rangers. Above are the Power Rangers Samurai swords; the top one makes noises and the weird golden head thing spins around. The one below it has a detachable plastic sword blade that is all bent out of shape from defeating bad guys and monsters. Have you ever seen Power Rangers? In all of its many iterations it is completely barmy. I remember when my nephews back in the mid-90s would watch it, and it made zero sense¬† to me then with its hammy delivery and terrible rubbery bad-guy costumes (and as for the cheap-looking pound-shop toy design of the big robot things, zords or zoids or whatever they are). And as for the dialogue, its either all “Go Go Mega Blast! Blah Blah Zap Power Robo Blast Batteries Not Included!” or its the cheesy teenagers sitting around with concerned faces saying “we’re here for you if you want to talk about your feelings,” nonsense. Yeah, with Netflix and Xfinity on-demand we have many different seasons on our TV each day. And then there are the storybooks, which make as much sense as the shows. Give me the Ninjago any day.

But the boy loves it, and that’s the main thing. The creepy plastic face below is a Gosei Power Morpher (of course it is, you couldn’t guess?) into which you place various cards that make it say specific Power-Ranger phrases; in the show they ‘morph’ the heroes into the Power Rangers.

power rangers gosei morpher

stand and deliver

2nd & G panorama
Penultimate entry of “Panoramarathon”, and second to last spread of the sketchbook. It’s funny, this was only a couple of weeks ago now but Davis already looks quite different. Spring came; bright blossoms covering the so-inclined trees all over town before the end of January, and then finally last week we got the rain we have been waiting for. It has been a long dry spell. I took advantage of the bright clear January while I could though, and this panorama shows a building I have only drawn from the G St side before, one of the historic blocks of 2nd St. This took a long time to complete. I originally went down on a late Saturday afternoon and sketched until I ached all over. Standing there by the side of the road clutching my panoramic sketchbook got very uncomfortable after a while. It was so enjoyable, stood there in an awkward position cramping up, that I went back a couple of days later to add more details and do some of the colouring-in (adding the rest of the paint later at home). I could have sat on my stool, bu I hardly ever bring it with me any more. You get a better view standing.¬† I like the outcome though, I captured a segment of downtown that I’ve not covered before. I think I, ahem, stood and delivered. At this point I should probably write something about the history of this big old building, but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about it. I do know that to the left of the building is an alleyway called Tim Spencer Alley, which was named after a UPS deliverer, the “nicest UPS delivery person who ever lived” according to Davis Wiki.
2nd & G, Davis
2nd St Davis

“jump up, kick back, whip around and spin”

ninjago gold dragon
That confusing sounding title comes from the theme tune of Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu, a show that my six-year-old son absolutely loves. Which means of course I have to love as well, and I’m fine with that. Admittedly I couldn’t figure out those lyrics on my own; I had to actually google them, to get it right and not look the inevitable fool. That’s how it is when you’re a dad, you get to be immersed in the culture of being a six-year-old (as opposed to the rest of my time, spent reading comics, watching football and Star Wars and drawing pictures of Iron Man and Magneto). The best bit is all the Lego though, and this Christmas just gone (and his recent birthday) was very Legocentric. I have built a great many highly complicated Lego sets, many of which I have also been drawing pictures of afterwards in the sketchbook devoted to my son’s things; you’ll have seen some already.
ninjago gold mech
The top one is the Golden Dragon, piloted by none other than the Gold Ninja. That was a satisfying one to build, and I built it really quickly on Christmas Day. The gold doesn’t stop there. Next up is the Gold Ninja Mech, which came with the Temple of Light set. I sketched this one because who doesn’t love drawing big robots, and I showed it to my son who, while he did like the robot, basically highlighted my ignorance of the Ninjago genre by having Sensei Wu (the bearded fellow with the stick, a kind of Lego Mr. Miyagi) piloting the thing. Oh no, it should have been the Gold Ninja, he said, Sensei Wu doesn’t have a Mech. But, but the Gold Ninja’s already flying the Golden Dragon, I protested. I’m not drawing it again.
ninjago kai fighter

So for the last one I drew the Red Ninja Kai-Fighter, and I left it pilotless. I do know the Red Ninja (known as Kai) flies this and I have even seen the cartoon, but knowing me I will probably get the version of his uniform wrong or something. Listen, if you think young kids don’t pick up on tiny tiny details you’re wrong. I still remember years ago when my son pointed out a slight difference between the Lightning McQueen on his diaper to the one on his night-light, a detail so small only a highly trained supreme intellect would notice. I was the same. At age four I was counting vertebrae on dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum and pointing out errors to the scientist tour-guides, nowadays I can barely remember the dinosaur’s names. Diplocerataurus Rex, right? Tell you what though, I’m good at this Lego lark now though. More has been built since, and there’s more to draw.