another changing corner

3rd and G streets, Davis CA
A couple of years ago I sketched the corner of 3rd and G when it was home to a much older, shorter building, which housed both my barber Razor’s Edge and the little shop called Tibet Nepal. See this post for example. Then the building was demolished, and replaced with this. It’s a bi taller, has more modern fittings, is pretty brown, and hoses a cafe which spills onto the street (with orange chairs) and I think another eatery of some sort. I sketched it one lunchtime last week and added another image to the endless list of Davis sketches. I think it’s about time I came out with some sort of Guide to Davis, but one entirely sketched, and written from a definitely Pete point of view. I know, I’ve had these ideas before, and I still intend to do a full on guide to the bars of Davis (“Davis Bar By Bar” the limited run mini zine had one volume and I never had time to print volumes 2 and 3). “A Davis Sketchbook” is something I have also long considered, I have enough material but time passes by so fast. Perhaps this will be a summer project. Or you can just look at all the posts on my blog that say “Davis“. It’s been quite the week for UC Davis. The Chancellor has been placed on administrative leave for a number of reasons I won’t go into right now (read the news…). I’ll just talk about this sketch. So this new building came in replacing an older building, and all those trees around make this spot very shady. Speaking of shady, it’s been quite the week for UC Davis, the Chancellor has been placed on administrative leave for a number of reasons I won’t go into right now (read the news…). Back to the drawing, I was in a hurry and so I kept certain elements pretty sketchy. Speaking of sketchy, it’s been quite the week for UC Davis…

bus stop inspiration

3rd st bus stop, Davis CA
I stood at the bus stop on Third Street in downtown Davis. I hit the point recently where I have drawn all of Davis, literally the entire town. No that isn’t true, really, it can never be true, but sometimes it feels like it. I have drawn the building to the right before (actually that was a commission for the lovely couple who own it). I do wander about trying to get inspiration for a new sketch though and a lot of the time, nothing comes. That happens. You get uninspired. Everything looks so “common” and “everyday” and unworthy of recording again. I’m sure Paul Cezanne used to have days like that, “Oh not Mont St Victoire again, mon dieu” but he lived in Aix-en-Provence and unless there are Moleskine sketchbooks filled with his sketches of the Cours Mirabeau and the Dog People then I’m afraid he wasn’t really trying. Pull your finger out Cezanne! Mont St Victoire was like a comfort blanket for him, he’d get down, have a poulet-frites and paint the mountain again. It’s ok, I lived in Aix once, it’s a funny sort of town. More to sketch there than in Davis though. I have actually climbed Mont St Victoire you know, twice. I tell people this all the time like I discovered it or something, like I’m some big rugged mountaineer, Sherpa Tensing or someone. I walked up it, on the easy side, I didn’t freescale the steep side. Well, there are no mountains in Davis, but we do have this bus stop on Third Street. I wasn’t even waiting for a bus. I could tell you a great story about how I had twenty minutes to wait for the bus and I just whipped out the sketchbook and freescaled the Cezanne out of that blank page. The truth is I cycled there, and this wasn’t even my destination. I had no destination. It was lunchtime, I really needed to sketch, the final few pages of Watercolour Moleskine #14 had been blank for long enough and I had been putting off filling them until I had something amazing to fill them with. All I could find however was this bus-stop. It is a nice bus-stop, you have to admit.The incline on at least one of those metal poles is reminiscent of the incline on Mont St Victoire, if looking at it backwards. The moral of the story is if you have nothing left to draw, draw a bus-stop. YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE IT MIGHT TAKE YOU…

(Oh groan groan, and anyway yes you do, just look at the bus map. This line is on a loop anyway so if you want a rubbish bus metaphor it should be “drawing Davis is like the E line, you just always end up going back to all the places you’ve just been” or something)

the tall wings of the dark side

kylo ren lego ship

And back to the Lego. This is my son’s Kylo Ren spaceship, from a movie called The Force Awakens. Did you see that? It’s pretty good. It’s about this girl, and there’s this guy, and there’s this other guy who’s really grumpy, and they meet these guys and then all this stuff happens and the force wakes up, and the end. I saw it four times at the movie theater, or rather I saw it twice at the cinema (that is, in England), and twice at the movie theater (ie, in America), and one of those times was at the IMAX. I’ve seen it a couple of times at least on DVD now. So the shiny stormtrooper, if you live in London and go on the Northern Line, her other job is saying “This station is Chalk Farm. This train terminates at Morden, via Bank. Please stand clear of the closing doors.” I recognized the tall hairy bloke as well, I’ve seen him in something. So, I loved the film. I must point out that I am a massive Star Wars fan, I like all the Star Wars, all the wars, they’re great, and then there’s the stars, I love them, love all the different stars. Sirius, the Sun, Rigel, Nigel, Rigella, all the stars.

So there is a fair bit of Star Wars Lego in the house, and this is the tallest. Those wings are collapsible, much to Kylo’s annoyance. He needs those big wings, none of the other dark lords had wings that tall. Vader’s wings were tiny, and Darth Maul’s. You just know General Hux made him get collapsible wings so they would fit in the Star Destroyer. “Do you know how expensive those big bay doors are Ren?” he says. “You should be careful I don’t make your bay doors bigger Hux!” Ren retorts, before they both give each other very embarrassed looks, and Ren says “sorry that came out wrong, I need to go and speak to grandfather’s melted helmet,” before Hux suppresses a giggle and Ren shuffles away. On the back of this ship is a sticker that says “Chewie is my co-pilot” which obviously he put there years ago and forgot was there. That’s the thing, when you turn to the Dark Side do you go back and delete all those Facebook photos of selfies from high school, do all your friends unfriends you because your posts start getting all political, posting all “How to Talk to a Rebel” nonsense and changing your profile picture to a big Imperial flag with all “Proud To Be Imperial” and sharing “First Order First” posts that definitely aren’t racist against wookiees or gungans, but all seem to be stuff like “Who remembers when Coruscant was all Imperial shops, oh them were the days, now when you fly down a Coruscant street it’s all gungan blue energy ball shops, it’s a health hazard.” I bet Kylo gets into all sorts of arguments online, and all his comments are about three pages long full of links to Wikipedia or right-wing pro-first-order news editorials. He seems the type. I imagine being online was very much like that for Kylo, except I bet Facebook made him change his name back to Ben Solo because they have that bloody must-use-your-real-name policy, honestly you would think he would just not use Facebook, he doesn’t even like showing his face. I like how he smashes up his computer when he gets annoyed, that’s one way of getting a new computer. See I think that if Han and Leia didn’t keep getting him new computers every time he smashed one to pieces maybe he would have developed the emotional intelligence not to turn to the Dark Side. Then again I bet they were all like, “You’re not parking that ship in here, not unless you get collapsible wings” and he went out and got the wings made even bigger, just to rebel. Teenagers eh.

I can’t remember where I was going with this. As I said, I like Star Wars a lot. I really enjoyed The Force Awakens, but not in a fashionable smirky-cool “Hate The Prequels” way. No, I actually love the prequels, I love all the prequels. Prequels prequels prequels that’s me, I love them. Right, Lego. So I drew this in the Book of My Son’s Things. It’s a Stillman and Birn Alpha book. This was a fun sketch to do, and a fun ship to build, and play with. Note the little show running along the edge of the scan. I call that the Dark Side. Get it? Do you get it? Dark Side? No?

the last pink blossom

lecture hall ucd march 2016
I’ve had computer issues for a while, and ended up with a dead hard drive which I was able to replace myself, like a tech expert or something. Then I couldn’t scan until I had gotten the absolute right driver for the printer. I went through a lot of drivers that just didn’t work, one chauffeur after another, none of which knew where they were going, no sat-nav or even an A to Z could get my computer to find my scanner (I mean, it’s right next to the computer, duh, even a complete wally can see where it is, yet my computer can’t find it, idiot). Anyway, all resolved now, so I am starting to catch up on some of the sketching from the past month or so that got missed, including this. Actually I have done a lot less sketching this past month anyhow, due to a massively busy schedule, but I’m getting back on track. This sketch was made over a month ago on the UC Davis campus when blossom was still bright pink. It is the site of the future (unnamed) Large Lecture Hall, to be built at a cost of $22 million (or about the price of Gareth Bale’s left thigh). It’s over near Kleiber, and Storer, and I believe it will cover all this lovely grass up so take a good look while you can.


my son's books

More drawings from the Book of my Son’s Things. These are some of the books that we read at bedtime. I’ve always read to him at night, though now he is a pretty avid reader himself and loves a book. These ones really had to be recorded though. First off, Mr Chatterbox. I loved the Mr Men when I was a little kid, I was the go-to Mr Men expert in our class. I remember in primary school one time we actually did a Mr Men performance for assembly and made huge paper Mr Men – whose job was it to draw them? I was “Mr Mr Men”. And the “Little Miss” series too, I loved them though thought that calling them “Little” was a bit belittling. I think I liked Mr Rush best, or maybe Mr Silly, but my son, who got his Mr Men interest basically from me, loves Mr Chatterbox. Rather, he likes how we read it. I do the Chatterbox voice super fast, and we have now read it so many times that the story has evolved into something else entirely. One bizarre version of it replaces all nouns in the book with the word “hat”. We deconstruct other Mr Men books too, such as Mr impossible, which we refer to as Mr I’m Possible, because he seems to only do things which are actually possible, if you look closely. Ok, next book, “Too Many Cats”. No, I’m not ready for that one. Next up, “The BFG” by Roald Dahl. We read this last year, before embarking upon a Dahl-fest reading blitz, picking up loads of his books one after the other (I love “the Witches” best, though when I was a kid it was “George’s Marvelous Medicine”). He reads them at school too, and last Christmas while in England we went to the Roald Dahl museum at his old house in Buckinghamshire. That was pretty brilliant. Since then my son has been reading a lot about Roald Dahl’s life at school and coming home with all sorts of interesting facts. Ok, next up is “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by JK Rowling. He hadn’t seen the movies, but one of his friends really likes Harry Potter, and my wife and I do as well – the first film had come out just before we met, and we read the books and watched the films together. So recently we started reading the Potter books at bedtime, and he loves them. I have great fun doing all the voices, especially Snape (poor old Alan Rickman! He was my favourite actor, so sad he died). We are watching each of the movies upon completion of the book. We’re up to “Prisoner of Azkaban” now, and I can’t wait to watch that film again.
Right, ok, “Too Many Cats”. We got this book years ago before he was learning to read, it’s one of those where you read one page, and then the child reads the other which might have two words on it. I think because he knows I can’t stand the book he still gets me to read it, though he himself reads full novels now. It’s another one that we just have fun deconstructing and having fun with, it has us both laughing at the silly cats. We now have this idea that the main character Suzu is actually a time-traveler with anthropomorphic rabbit feet stuck in a strange time-loop and the ten colourful cats are pan-dimensional visitors carrying warnings she fails to fully understand. I don’t know, you need to read it. I hope they never make a movie about it. Too Many bloody Cats. I had to draw it, another one of our many fun memories.

drawing UCDAAC 2016

Last month I attended the annual UC Davis Academic Advising Conference here on campus. It is part of my day-job, but on this occasion I was invited to be the official sketcher of the event as well. Two birds, one Pete. I would be drawing everything anyway, but now I get an official excuse and it saves my department some money in registration. It’s also an opportunity to draw people. Five-minute sketches of people in fact – a good thing to practice. Hey if you are interested in five-minute people sketching there is a book coming out all about that later this year (hint, it’s why I have been so busy the past few months). Back to the UCDAAC though, it was a day long event, a series of workshops and talks, tent-poled around the keynote speech of David Spight, president of NACADA (the National Academic Advising Association). It was St.Patrick’s Day so a lot of people wore green.
Here is David, above, and below are two of the organizing forces, Brett McFarlane of UC Davis and Elizabeth Dudley, also of UC Davis, also a former co-worker in my office. Below them there, Sharon Knox of UC Davis, and Alejandra Garibay, also a former co-worker in my office.

The thing with five-minute people sketches is that they don’t have to be entirely accurate, but it’s a good idea to try and get the sense of people. However, thinking about it, talking about it, and then actually doing it are different things – I always feel a little hesitant when sketching people, not wanting to take too many risks, probably for fear of that “you’ve drawn me as a massive scribble” “it looks nothing like me” “can you make me look younger” reaction. But my favourite ones are the much looser, less inhibited sketches. It can take you a few people sketches to get into your groove, so keep them quick and keep them coming. I enjoyed myself sketching people on this day, so here are a few more.

Here are a couple where I kept the linework in these workshop presenters fairly basic, but it looked like them so it still served its purpose. In the second I had to look over my shoulder to sketch the attendees, and loosened up the lines a lot more. The session was called “What color is your cape?” and had a superhero theme. We each had to say who our favourite superhero was (quite a lot of “Batman”, “Wonder Woman”, “My Mom”). One woman beat me to the one I was going to say, Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan) who I think is absolutely awesome. I gave her a mention too but also went with Captain America because I happened to be wearing Captain America socks (as you do). I wanted to say Magneto of course but he might not have been the model of a good adviser they were looking for, what with his whole “Master of Magnetism, Homo Superior” stuff. It was a fun session though.

This was an interesting session, about Cultural Capital, there was some good discussion and I learned a lot. I enjoyed it most though because I had an opportunity to sketch the lady with bright blue hair, and I had a nice shade of W&N watercolor to use, I think it was the Antwerp Blue. I like sketching that large ovular table as well, a challenge in perspective sketching.

Here is David Spight again, giving a Q&A after his keynote.


And the final session of the day before the closing speakers, this was a session devoted to “wellness through art” (above), whereby people cut pictures out of magazines and made big collages. They were mostly full of the typical “peace”, “love”, beach”, “growth” type phrases and images, all trying to convey a certain wellness and spiritual mindset – except for that made by Alejandra, who made a collage of people in the magazines she found attractive, which was in my opinion easily the most fun one. It was a pretty calming session, they played classical music (the instructor explained why, something to do with increasing brainpower, and I understand that, I listen to certain bands sometimes to make me feel clever). One of the pieces they played I recognized straight away as the theme song to the BBC TV show “The Little Silver Trumpet” from the early 1980s, a TV show which I was actually a cast member of, at the tender age of four. If ever you should come across it, I am pretty instantly recognizable as a scruffy red-head kid in the main family of red-heads (my “mum” was Patsy Byrne, aka Nursie from Blackadder, and my “Dad” was the brilliant but scary Ron Pember), and in one scene I actually remember filming I was drawing, showing the other kids how to draw stuff, and holding my pen in that distinct way, all those years ago. That’s what I was thinking of when that music came on. I enjoyed this sketch most of all, the composition of the scene and the different directions people were sat in. It probably reminded everyone of kindergarten.

Check out information about the day at the UCDAAC Website.

constructing the manetti shrem, part six

Manetti Shrem under construction 030216 sm
The continuing construction of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis has reached a new phase, with the large metal canopy now finally coming together. Early last month I sketched the scene above, the framework for the canopy undergoing its paint job, while the large metal slats that would make up the design were beginning to be inserted. It’s like a massive Airfix model but without the smell of superglue.This was particularly fun to sketch, figuring out the complicated lines and curves, but also because this scene is so brief – already it looks totally different.
Manetti Shrem under construction March 2016
Here you see, just a few weeks later, the canopy is already complete, or as good as. I sketched this on a day when the sky was lovely, with deep blues and fluffy white clouds, not a very common sky for Davis. Reminded me of Britain.I sketched this from beneath the shade of the UC Davis Welcome Center. The buildings around Vanderhoef Quad are modern and bright. This is a really exciting part of campus now. Below, I sketched another view of the Manetti Shrem from a little further back, beyond the Mondavi Center. You can see the interesting shape of the canopy as it curves around the entrance. This will be a really photogenic spot. I stood beneath a tree to sketch. As i did, I got several odd looks from people as they passed by. Nothing bad, just, I don’t know, frowns. Shifty looks, suspicious glances. I must look odd standing there with a sketchbook under a tree, it’s fair enough. People on this edge of campus are usually a bit better dressed. No, they are, I don’t know why. They are walking to their cars parked at the Mondavi or on their way to an important meeting at the Founders room at the Buehler or the Graduate School of Management or doing something in the Conference Center, I don’t know, they dress better than the people hanging out at the Quad or at the MU Bus Terminal. Maybe that is why they gave me shifty looks, “who is this odd freakish weirdo beneath a tree with a small creepy black book staring at the distance like a fool?” I put it down to turning 40. This didn’t happen so much when I was 39, no back then it was all, “who’s this cool character coolly hanging in the shade making fantastic cool urban art which is so cool?” But now I’m 40 it’s all changed, it’s all downhill from here. Or it would be, if Davis had any hills.
Manetti Shrem and Mondavi Center

I’m enjoying sketching this construction though, and the Manetti Shrem will officially open its doors in the Fall with a Grand Opening on November 13, 2016. Check out their website at:

Here are the previous posts charting the construction in sketches…


be my, be my beyblade

my son's beyblades
Ok, back to drawings of my son’s things, which I keep in a book dating back a few years now and update only sporadically. What, you are asking, are these? What indeed. If you have kids, you probably know all too well. These little things are called “Beyblades”. Oh, Beyblades. So my understanding is that they were really popular, and then they weren’t as popular, ok fine. So my son made a Christmas list late 2015 (“late 2015”, yeah right he started it in June), full of all the Pokemons and Legos and video games he wants, not a mention of Beyblades. Come November, safe now to say his list is final, yes; safe to go shopping. No. No, for some reason by then he had suddenly become obsessed with these Beyblade things. At his afterschool daycare, all the kids were now into these “Beyblades”, an obsession fueled by the daycare staff, the same people who had the year before organized Pokemon tournaments and therefore got all the kids into little Pokemon people. And Pokemon is rather irritating. I understand it not one bit, and the TV shows that go with it are just, look, I watched He-Man when I was a kid and that was 100% awesome and not ridiculous at all. This Pokemon stuff makes no sense. I’m sure the game itself is actually a lot of fun. I will say that having all these cards accelerated his reading and numeracy skills so I’ll admit they have been beneficial, but since they are all over my living room floor 24-7 I will reserve my right to grumble like any old dad.

And then it was Beyblades, and suddenly the List had to change. If anyone got him Beyblades that was automatically his favourite thing. Again, it was down to daycare – they were having Beyblade tournaments daily, so all the kids were playing them, and then going home and getting parents to look them up online to buy them. I know some people who had actually sold all their son’s old Beyblades when it seemed like that time had passed, and then when all the boys got into Beyblades, well they had to go looking for new ones. I’m a parent, this is just how it works. These things are not actually blades, they are in fact little spinning tops that you build and launch into a little arena. Two or more will spin around each other, hitting each other occasionally (“battling”) until one stops, meaning the other one wins. And spin they do – they can go for sveeral minutes silently whirring away. There are low quality, fake Beyblades out there and you better get the right one. Because the fad lost energy a while ago, these are less easy to find. If you have enough of them all over your living room floor, your bare feet will also pick up many injuries, something which only happens to adults who are of course stupid. There is a tv show that goes with it too. Now I say that Pokemon makes no sense, but Pokemon is like Citizen Kane compared to Beyblade. If you are a fan of shrieking irritating voices and plot concepts that make no sense whatsoever then Beyblade TV show is for you. Or perhaps Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (oh I could have a whole blogpost about that). Oh, Beyblades. They make these kids very happy indeed. For his birthday, my son had a Beyblade tournament, and a whole load of kids came over and “battled” with their Beys, I even tried it myself, and of course lost, the silly old boring useless grown-up that I am. They love it, and that’s fine. It can I guess be fun. They are quite pretty. Ok lad, I’m on board, I’m even going to draw them; tell me more.Which one’s faster?

What? You don’t play these any more? Your daycare has moved back to Pokemon, so it’s all Pokemon again? Yep, in the time it took me to draw and then finally post these, they have sat idle in the red plastic stadium, waiting for the next time the fad rolls in. Ah well, at least my feet are safe again, for now.