“The Barn”. There are a lot of buildings that look like this on the UC Davis campus, but this is the only one actually called “The Barn”. It was a rainy day (not been too many of those), but there was a brief spot of calm so I was able to sketch this at lunchtime. I added the colour when I got home. It was one of those days where I really needed to get away and sketch something (ah now there have been many of those lately); I’ve felt a bit stressed lately, feel like there’s a lot on my plate, many “to-dos” to check off my list. When I am out sketching, I’m in control of something, and everything else washes away, for a short time. I like being busy though. I have sketched this Barn once before (from the rear, almost exactly two years ago), but it looks like so many others. These old wooden campus buildings that I have drawn over and over so many times, they start to feel like my Mont St Victoire if you know what I mean, Cezanne’s main subject, covered and covered and covered again over the years. This one is actually shaped a bit like Mont St Victoire, in fact. I should know, I have climbed up the thing twice (the Mont, not the Barn).
Haven’t drawn a two-page panorama since the end of January, and now trees have leaves, which means drawing a lot more foliage. Now here is a difficult building to sketch – “Third and A”, on the corner of 3rd and, surprisingly, A. Two imaginatively titled streets equal an imaginatively titled building, yes, but an imaginatively designed building it is. I have never in all my time in Davis been able to attempt it. You can’t really see it properly; the trees block its shape, it goes in and out bringing unusual shading, and you can’t really fit it comprehensively onto a page. What’s that Pete, a challenge did you say? So I did my first two-page spread in the Stillman & Birn Alpha landscape book, sat outside on a Sunday afternoon while the rest of the family went to a kids birthday party miles away. I had all afternoon to sketch, so I took all afternoon to sketch. Over three and a half hours! Actually it may have been more than that, all said. Sure it was a LOT of observation. There was a LOT of detail. I also added the colour on site. I was hurting afterwards. Still, I am very pleased with the result, and while it’s a lot of detail, it was what I was after. And now I have finally checked this building off of my Davis must-sketch list, and keeps the brown wooden buildings theme going in my current sketchbook. Here are some close-up views for those of you who don’t have a zoom feature in your non-mechanoid eyes:
I am always busy at this time of year, from January to early April, and yet every year I find I have a burst of sketching activity, which then tails off as the trees lose their leaflessness, and we move into the Spring Sneezing Season. I have a little time left, but those leaves are a-growing, that pollen is a-coming.
Another of those wooden campus buildings; in fact this is the same building as in the last post, just seen from the other side. This is the UC Davis Bike Barn, which yes I have sketched many times. I did this on Friday lunchtime; the ink anyhow, I added the colour later on. All of those boxes in the foreground were moved away right after I sketched them, so I’m glad I drew them, they add something. Davis loves its bikes. The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is here in Davis, and this really is a great place to be a cyclist. I commute to work each day on my bike, and laugh at those who drive and pay loads of parking. I muts admit though I don’t like drawing bikes, especially when there are loads all parked together outside a building – quite common here in Davis. But I like drawing the Bike Barn.
The building formerly known as Outdoor Adventures. This is at the rear of the Bike Barn, and is another of those old wooden buildings I am currently sketching through on the UC Davis campus.I drew this all in a lunchtime, and added the colour later on (didn’t need little notes or photo references – I know what this building looks like, I pass it every single day). When Outdoor Adventures was based here, there would be canoes parked out the front, people walking tightropes suspended between the trees, all manner of fun happening. Now they have moved to another part of campus and the tightrope walkers are gone, but it does kind of make the building a bit easier to draw when the activity is gone.
I suppose you could call urban sketching on location a form of outdoor adventure. I don’t know if it’s actually adventurous half the time, but it is fun.
The series of these old brown campus buildings continues with North Hall. I stood opposite on lunchtime of St. Patrick’s Day, wearing my green 1994 World Cup Ireland football shirt (the one Ray Houghton wore when scoring the winner against Italy) (not the actual one, you understand, but one that looks just like it). North Hall is another century-old building, just north of South Hall funnily enough. Hey, check out this timeline of when campus buildings were constructed – it’s very informative. I may yet draw them all, those that remain anyway. That has to be the ambition though doesn’t it? To draw all the buildings on campus? Can it be done? I’ll give it a good old go, let me tell you.
One thing about sketching UC Davis for such a long time now is that you get to see how buildings change, if not necessarily in appearance, certainly in name. The last time I sketched this building was in March 2011, three years ago if you do the math (sorry, I mean, do the maths), when there was also pink blossom on that tree. Back then, it was the Cross-Cultural Center. I seem to recall it was empty for a while, but used by some student groups in an unofficial capacity. These days it is known as the Educational Opportunity Program Information Office Building Type Thing Place, which admittedly is a long name. Spring in Davis, weather in the upper 70s and low 80s, last opportunities to draw those tree shadows on buildings.
While sketching this, I was listening to a podcast about Hadrian’s Wall. I have been listening to Melvynn Bragg’s “In Our Time” series of podcasts, which go back more than a decade and cover a wide range of topics from history to science to culture, and so on. Highly enjoyable listening while you sketch. I did however have to stop and finish this off at home, but I did about 90% of the penwork (added some of the detailing later) on site and coloured it in at home while watching, well, the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix. From one Empire to another.
I am pleased to tell you that some of my drawings are currently to be found in an excellent new book by fellow Urban Sketcher, Thomas Thorspecken, the USk correspondent in Florida. You should check out his website Analog Artist, Digital World. I have been a fan of Thomas (aka Thor) for a few years now, for his colorful and energetic sketches of performances and events, and have sought his advice in the past – you can learn a lot from him. Well, he came out with a book, which is very much a ‘how to do it’ book, right down to giving advice on scanning and correcting images in Photoshop (which is very familiar territory to a regular sketchblogger), as well as nuts and bolts such as perspective and composition, even giving step-by-steps by Thomas and other artists. I’m honoured to have been included; here is one of mine:
Thanks for including me Thomas! To everyone else: buy the book! Learn a lot!
This is South Hall, UC Davis. One of the oldest buildings on campus. There is another building next to it called, er, North Hall. There used to be a West Hall as well but they got rid of that one. There was no East Hall of course, that would be silly. South Hall is more than a hundred years old, and was originally a student dormitory, but now houses such things as Advising Services. Sketched over a lunchtime and coloured in later on.
There is an old barn out on Covell Boulevard in Davis, on the edge of town in the flat wilds of Yolo County, weather-beaten and rusty, propped up defiantly like an old tramp. It is a popular icon, photographed and probably painted many times before as if it represents a little slice of “America Lost”, because as you know we don’t need barns any more, we just download all our hay these days. We’ve passed this barn so many times, and for the past couple of years my son has been insisting that I sketch it. I was waiting for the right moment. It’s kind of far away to draw too well, you can’t go an sit right up to it (well you can but you’d be trespassing, and I have this image of Yosemite Sam in farmer’s dungarees chasin’ after me shootin’ away at my heels). I sat across the street near the shops (yes there is a supermarket and a Rite-Aid and all sorts of other shops right opposite, sorry to spoil the image of rural idyll) while cars and trucks whizzed past. It was a nice overcast Sunday morning. And now the Barn is drawn. Can’t beat an old barn. I can’t imagine it is too long for this world, and there is a big housing development happening up in this area in the near future called The Cannery, so the times are a-changing; all things must pass, etc and so on.
Hart Hall, UC Davis. That is George Hart, not the guy who invented Morph, was named after three different body parts and who regularly asked kids all over Britain to send him drawings they would never get back for a gallery they would see only briefly. I suppose there are a lot of Harts. Miranda Hart, Joe Hart, White Hart Lane, and my old drama teacher at Edgware School, Mr Hart. Actually I used to work for a Hart called Mike who owned a bookstore, a top bloke by the way. But this is Hart Hall, a nationally recognized historic building no less. Many years ago it was called ‘Animal Sciences’ (which would be a good name for a bad 80s film) and glows a nice colour in the sunshine, though you’ll have to take my word for it, as I didn’t really fancy painting it that day. Sketched in brown uni-ball signo um-151 pen in a stillman & birn alpha book.