turning the wheels

city hall tavern, davis
It was time for another bar sketch. After a Saturday of AYSO soccer, pirates versus knights battles, Disney Infinity super-hero smash-downs and the occasional lightsabre duel, I headed out in the evening to do some drawing, read some comics and have a few beers. I love being a grown-up. Since I have a new book out (available right now!) in which I talk extensively about drawing bars in low light, I felt I should add to the sketchbook a little more, so I popped into the City Hall Tavern, which I last sketched two years ago, to again attempt their bar area with the bicycle wheels on the ceiling. Ice Hockey was on the TV (they just call it ‘Hockey’ here; similarly they say ‘cubes’ instead of ‘ice cubes’, ‘cream’ instead of ‘ice cream’, and ‘stares’ instead of ‘icy stares’ whenever I make this joke). They get so aggressive and fighty in Ice Hockey. For a game in which you are essentially just skating around trying to hit a small disc that won’t stop moving, players seem to get unusually angry, angrier than in most sports. Perhaps it’s because they dress head to toe in armour and carry huge sticks, it brings out the medieval warrior in people. Maybe the sport needs to change its image a little, and rename itself ‘Nice Hockey’. Ok, from now on I am calling it ‘Nice Hockey’ in the hope that it catches on. And those stares I get when I do will be called ‘Nice Stares’.  So, back to the sketch. I sat on the opposite side of the bar to when I last sketched this bar, for a slightly different angle. I follow City Hall Tavern on Twitter, and I notice that they are using one of my sketches of their bar as their header image (I think I said ok to that), but they have removed whatever was on the screen and replaced it with an actual shot from a real basketball game. Hmm, no, not really a fan of that. Replace it with a shot of Harry Kane scoring for Tottenham, maybe, or of Jose Mourinho huffing as Chelsea lose again, perhaps. Anyway, I tried a couple of different beers, one was a Gose Wheat beer (tasted like Strongbow), the other was a Sudwerk Aggie Cruiser, which was nice too. Lots of people were coming in drinking cocktails as part of some local bar crawl event that was happening. By the time I was done with my sketch, all the City Hall bar patrons were standing and chatting and dancing, and so I popped down to De Vere’s for a comfy seat and one more wheat beer to read a couple of comics (“the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” if you’re interested, and it’s great) before walking home.

Here are my previous City Hall Tavern sketches (inside only; I’ve sketched the outside building since way before it was a bar):

city hall tavern, davis

July 2012

city hall tavern, davis

October 2013

sketchcrawl 34 city hall tavern

January 2012


fit for a queen

what used to be Dairy Queen
This used to be the Dairy Queen. Long-term readers (hello by the way!) may remember that I drew this before, back in its DQ glory days. As you can see, it looks a little different now. A couple of years ago, the DQ finally closed its doors and sold its last chicken strip, but rather than lose the building entirely for something new, glassy and nondescript, an architecture firm called Indigo took over the space and did something creative with that very distinctive wavy roof, creating a modern but unintrusive structure. They have described it as a “Bioregional Building”, which sounds like they’re taking a word, remodeling the word, keeping the word’s roof and making a new, modern eco-friendly word (in other words yes, I don’t know what “bioregional” means). Indigo (Hammond and Playle) explain their process for rebuilding the old Dairy Queen into a modern energy-efficient and “climate-adapted”office space on their website. As well as this award-winning structure they have also created an adjoining space which, “clad in corrugated metal alludes to the agricultural vernacular of California’s Central Valley”. It all does look very nice. Not however as strikingly red as its predecessor, but surely a lot healthier. Here are my previous sketches of the Dairy Queen, the first from 2011, the second from 2013. I actually sold both of these drawings, the first was part of my 2011 solo exhibition at the Pence Gallery. I learned that the Dairy Queen in Davis was very popular, despite it never appearing to be that busy. There was something all-American about Dairy Queen (I mean ‘is’, because it still exists elsewhere). When I was asked years ago to sketch something ‘American’ for an old university friend in the UK who had an American husband who missed the USA, I chose to sketch the Dairy Queen. The one in Davis was beloved as a place to take the grandkids for a treat (people who have grandkids have told me), and my wife used to stop off here for an ice-cream on the way to picking up my son from pre-school. Alas, Davis Dairy Queen is no more, but we still have its roof.

dairy queen davis
dairy queen, davis

I did sketch the reconstruction process of course, back in July last year. I think it all turned out rather well. But I never did try their cake…
dairy queen former location

sorority seems to be the hardest word

alpha chi omega davis
One of many downtown buidlings I’ve always wanted to sketch but given a ‘some other time maybe’ thought to, this sorority house on the corner of C and 2nd in Davis, Alpha Chi Omega (I think it’s a sorority. I always have trouble saying that word, “sorority”, words with too many ‘r’s are never easy. Many Americans have trouble with the word ‘mirror’, pronouncing it more like ‘meer’ as opposed to ‘mirrah’ like we Londoners do). I always thought that Alpha Chi Omega was a Greek equivalent to the A-to-Z maps of London. If you are wondering, I didn’t really, I just made that up and had never actually thought of that before. Anyway, I sketched it one lunchtime in brown-black ink, decided against colouring it in. The weather is nice right now in Davis, a little more autumnal, though still sunny.

walker hall

walker hall, uc davis

This is the old UC Davis building known as Walker Hall. I sketched it earlier this week at lunchtime while listening to the Football Weekly podcast, so my thoughts when looking at this are all about Arsene Wenger, Tim Sherwood, Jurgen Klopp. It’s always a bit tricky to sketch this building at lunchtime because the sun is invariably shining right behind it, losing it in shadow, but on this day I found a good spot out of the direct sun and sketched it anyway. Walker Hall was named after Harry Walker, who sounds like an east end pub landlord but was actually a professor of agricultural engineering. It still says Engineering above the door but they don’t do any engineering in there now.  In fact it is currently vacant, but there are plans to seismically refit and upgrade the building for new and much-needed lecture hall space (see this). I have sketched Walker Hall before from the other side, early last year (here’s the blog post), in panorama format:

panoramarathon 2014 walker hall sm

hart now hear

hart hall, uc davis

Hart Hall has a new sign. I have sketched this building many times, so this is a bit like telling an older joke that I have told before but with a slightly new twist. I’m all for that as you know. Maybe new people heard that joke for the first time and laughed. Maybe the same people heard it again and laughed again. Maybe nobody laughed at all, either because it wasn’t funny or because they just didn’t get it? Maybe I need to tell it again and again until people do get it. Well it’s the same with drawing Hart Hall (sort of), but this time there is an added detail, the new sign, coloured in to show it off. I like these new signs on campus. It took more than three years to get our new sign and it looks nice, nicer than the old plain orange one. Hart Hall. I used to have a drama teacher called Mr. Hart, he was not a fan of my jokes let me tell you. Once he angrily stopped a performance I was doing in class, in which I played a pretty spot-on and (I felt) serious performance as a down-and-out, just because when another character asked me my name I had said it was “Freddy Reddy”. I know people called Reddy! And Treddy! Ok maybe not Freddy Reddy but it’s not an entirely inconceivable name for a real person. It’s not like “Fredo Play-doh” or something, that would be ridiculous. Honestly, he just shut the whole thing down because I said my name was Freddy Reddy, because he assumed I wasn’t being serious. Not my fault everyone laughed inappropriately, including me. Poor old Freddy Reddy. I wonder what would have happened to Freddy Reddy if his character had been allowed to grow and develop, he might have made something of himself, picked himself out of the gutter, turned the laughter into nods of respect, but alas his life was cut short by an angry drama teacher in a purple top. So when I see Hart Hall, among the many many other things I think of (I have known much better Harts since then), I do think of Mr. Hart, and of good ol’ Freddy Reddy.

constructing the manetti shrem, part four

manetti shrem museum under construction

More from the series on constructing the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis (which was previously abbreviated to just the ‘Shrem’, but is now formally referred to as the ‘Manetti Shrem’). As you may know I’ve been following its progress through lunchtime sketches, and now that the large steel frame of the canopy is going up, it is time to carry on. The museum will not open until next year some time but you can really see it taking shape now. In fact as I sketched the construction site last Friday from the edge of the Mondavi parking structure, One of the large steel girders, with two smaller girders hanging beneath it, was raised into place, as you can see from the sketchbook shot below with the ‘forty-minutes later’ scene behind it. I spoke to one of the construction workers before I began, showed him what I’d done the previous week, and then there he was up on that roof helping to weld that massive structure together. This building is going to be such an important addition to Davis, and particularly as it stands on the Vanderhoef Quad, named for the much beloved and respected former chancellor of the university Larry Vanderhoef, who passed away last week on the day before I made that sketch below. I met him just the once, in my early years at UCD, and shook his hand, a very sincere and likeable man, who had recently brought out a book about his quarter-century in Davis called “Indelibly Davis”. Indelible is right – many of the impressive large projects at UC Davis, such as the Mondavi Center, are part of his impressive legacy. RIP Chancellor Vanderhoef.

manetti shrem under construction

manetti shrem museum under construction

Previously on ‘Constructing the Manetti Shrem’:

Part Threehttps://petescully.com/2015/08/07/constructing-the-shrem-part-three/

Part Twohttps://petescully.com/2015/07/01/constructing-the-shrem-part-two/

Part Onehttps://petescully.com/2015/02/26/shrem-museum-under-construction/

building the pitzer, part four

pitzer center (under construction)

More sketches detailing the construction of one of the campus’s new buildings, the Ann E. Pitzer Center (Music Recital Hall) on the location of the old Boiler Building. A few more angles here. Above, more work being done on that large front piece, I sletched this on a lunchtime a few days ago.

pitzer center oct2015-2 sm//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The day before, I sketched from the other side, next to the art buildings. And the bottom one is a very quick ten-minute sketch that I did in purple. This project marches on…

pitzer center UCD

frat’s entertainment

A & 1st & Old Davis Road
The last time I sketched this Frat House it was a different Frat that was in there. I’m not a massive fan of the whole Frat thing, but then I’m a pushing-40 British sketcher so I don’t know, I’m not the demographic. This is that time of year though isn’t it, when the Fraternities do all their Frat Boy stuff, and the Sororities do all their Sor Girl stuff (it isn’t actually called that, is it. See? I’m clueless). I’m actually surprised that the helicopter parents of these students haven’t set up special societies of their own, to keep an eye on them, Mat Houses or Pat Houses, as it were. That is a terrible idea of course, which makes it surprising that they don’t exist (and they probably do). You see all the boards over campus each year for ‘Rush’, why they are in such a hurry I don’t know. Young people, eh. Actually I was in a hurry when I sketched this, as the lunchtime ticked away and I needed to go and eat something unhealthy. Anyway, this is at the very start of campus, the intersection of Old Davis Road, 1st Street and A Street.

green is the colour

watching ireland v poland
Did you see it? Did you see Ireland beating Germany? I missed it! But it did happen. I’m talking about the football now. I’ve been proudly parading my various Ireland shirts from the past twenty-one years, but it’s not just the Republic. Northern Ireland may not have beaten the world champions, but they did win their group and will be going to Euro 2016 in France! I’ve not seen them play in a tournament since Mexico 86, the first World Cup that really did mean the world to me (not for Northern Ireland, but for Panini stickers, Gary Lineker and Diego Maradona. I can still hum the “Aztec Gold” TV theme tune used by ITV, at least I think it was ITV). I was ten. I don’t have a Northern Ireland shirt, despite my family connections (my grandad was from Belfast, my other grandparents all came from the Republic) but I might get one now. Wales also made it to the Euros, and I’m super happy about that, though I’ve never been to Wales and have no Welsh family, I do like Gareth Bale, and their manager. England made it too by winning all their games, whatever. But the Republic of Ireland, despite beating Germany and going a point behind them in the qualifying table, were not quite there yet. They had to go to Poland, and either win or get (specifically) a 2-2 draw. Not easy against Poland and their striker Lewandowski, who has scored about four hundred goals in the past couple of weeks alone. (American readers: I am joking, it was more like two hundred). It was on TV. It was Sunday. I wasn’t going anywhere. While my son played on the floor, I watched the game and sketched, naturally in green. Remember, we needed a 2-2 draw. Unfortunately, Ireland lost 2-1. So near, and yet so far. And so Ireland go into the play-offs to see who will get the final few spots at Euro 2016. There is still hope yet! However, poor old Scotland didn’t make it this time, so the almost-there prospect of a tournament with England, both Irelands, Wales and Scotland all in it was just a distant dream (what, there already is one? Oh right, in Rugby…)

sketching sofia and hennessy

DES001 UC Davis 100615

Last week I was invited to attend an undergraduate Design class at UC Davis, DES001, by Professor James Housefield. I was there to sketch the special presentation by two guest speakers, Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel, who form a design team called LC Studio Tutto. It was in a large lecture hall (Kleiber; I’ve sketched the outside before), quite a lot of people in there. I sat on the side at the front, it was a struggle to get a good view of the speakers so I moved on to the floor! They were very interesting, and talked about their local projects, including “Same Sun”, the colourful one on the massive water-tank that you may have seen as you enter Davis westbound from Sacramento. This one. Pretty cool! Very interesting to hear about their design process. Of course I had to sketch quickly and try to add a few nuggets of what they said. A lot of it resonated with me, from what I learned and experienced back in the days of Interactive Theatre at uni.  Here’s a tip when doing this sort of sketch, it is always important when doing that to get the relevant information, if you write down the wrong things it can affect the context and undermine what public speakers really said. That said, the line that stood out most for me was “Whenever possible, make a cake of your artwork”. Now, this was accompanied by a very beautiful picture of a cake of their artwork, but, well, I couldn’t agree more. All I could think of afterwards was fire-hydrant cakes. It made me very hungry!  DES001 UC Davis 100615

I kept thinking about cake as I sketched the students listening to the talk. Many of them asked questions, and it was very engaging. I sketched these people in my newer pink pen, which made me think of frosting, which made me think of cake. I was thinking of Battenberg, that’s a nice cake.
DES001 UC Davis 100615

Sometimes when you are going to sketch people, it’s fun to pre-prepare a block of colour so that you can draw over it. I’ve done it before, it is fun. Unfortunately this time I chose red, and although one of the speakers Sofia was wearing red, the overall effect didn’t really work quite as well as I’d hoped, and the likenesses weren’t all that close. That’s ok. Perhaps I needed more words all around the figures like I did when pirate-sketching that one time. I didn’t have much time on me though, because it was wrapping up, and was my turn to speak. I got a few minutes to say some things about sketching in general, and show my sketchbook to the audience projected onto a big screen. DES001 UC Davis 100615

One interesting thing in this class, Prof. Housefield has his students all stand and sketch for five minutes at the start of class, while music plays over the PA. They all sketched an image of Magritte’s pipe, but I sketched them. Just five minutes though! Overall it was a lot of fun, and I had some very nice conversations afterwards. I didn’t mention, but a couple of weekends ago my sketches were featured on the UC Davis Instagram account all weekend as an “artist’s takeover”.  Which meant that I myself had to start an Instagram account. I’m @pwscully, if you are interested. (@petescully, which is my Twitter and everything else handle, was already taken, so I went with my “novelist name” – thanks, kid Pete of the 80s – and now in 2015 of course I don’t use for the book I have actually authored). I haven’t got the hang of the old Instagram yet either, and approach it grumpily as another thing which doesn’t quite make sense. But I’m veering off topic.

So many thanks to James Housefield (I’ve sketched him too) for inviting me and many thanks to Sofia and Hennessy for their inspiring talk. I hope you can check out their work.