portland pals

portland with rita sabler
A few more from my recentish trip to Portland (early November, recent in geological terms). Above, I joined my friend Rita Sabler for her husband Jim’s birthday celebration at a cool little place in on Beach Street Portland I had never been to before, which involved some sketching and a lot of interesting conversation. Rita had invited me up to teach a workshop in Portland which was really fun, but it was really nice and relaxing to meet up with some of her friends. I last saw Rita in Porto in the summer at the symposium, she is actually a former UC Davis student (from before even I came to Davis). Check out Rita’s sketching work at www.portlandsketcher.com, she has done some great things lately (including a residency at the leper colony on Molokai!).
kalina at thirsty monk
On my second night there I met up another old sketching buddy and fellow pirate-sketcher, Kalina Wilson. I really wanted to go back to this Belgian place that we had sketched one rainy Sunday afternoon back in 2012, Bazi Bierbrasserie, so we arranged to meet there. Except it’s not called that any more, it’s now to my surprise The Thirsty Monk. Beer was still nice though, and the conversation fun, always good to catch up after quite a while, I think I last saw her either at Manchester symposium or when my wife and I visited Portland one November (I forget the year). Check out Kalina’s sketching.
pdx doubletree hotel bar

And above, a sketch I did at the hotel bar of the Doubletree in Portland. You have to go down to the bar to use their Wifi because it’s not included in the rooms (booo, join the 21st century Doubletree). I usually stay at this hotel because it is easy enough for the places I usually want to go, it’s right by the MAX line to the airport, but I don’t know, time to find somewhere else maybe. There was a heavy metal weekend going on at the hotel while I was staying there, so there were lots of long-haired metally people, dressed pretty much the same way (“metal”), which didn’t really fit in with the bland corporateness of the Doubletree. I always kinda laugh at the sameyness of metal outfits and rock dress, but of course when I was younger this was very much the scene in London that I enjoyed being around the most, the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street, the Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street, the Marquee on a Thursday night, I loved those places. And I would dress, well actually I would wear a bright green football shirt and have short hair because I liked to be different to everyone else, but I could mosh with the best of them. Those were the days. I felt quite at home around all the rockers, even in the sanitized corporate setting (and Doubletree, don’t put the toilets so far from the bar, yeah?). Anyway I sketched the bar, in its bland corporate light wood and screen showing basketball. Not exactly Old Town Pizza (now that is an interesting bar to sketch!) but a good way to get sleepy before bed.

Outside Walker Hall

walker hall uc davis

I have kept on sketching Walker Hall, from the outside, because it is near to work and easy to go and draw at lunchtimes. All of these are form this month, January 2019, and I’ll probably take a break for a while now until the building changes a bit more from the outside. This is a fun project though, and as this renovation continues, it’s a reminder that Walker Hall will not be seen like this again. Sketched documentation is showing a moment in time that will pass.

walker hall UC Davis

Part of me though is like, yeah but get a move on eh. The changes are subtle – the roof is covered in different material now, in a different colour. Also, I look back at my sketchbooks from exactly a year ago, and it looks like it used to, undisturbed by large machines.

walker hall uc davis

Walker Hall actually dates back to 1927, as one of the first permanent buildings on campus, designed by the architect William Hays. It was renamed in 1959 for Harry B. Walker, former agricultural engineering professor, this being the old Engineering building. In 2011 it finally stopped being used, and sat empty. I remember years ago there used to be a wall, and a load of cacti, and the path along the back of Walker Hall was narrower and didn’t have such a good view of Shields Library. I remember walking past the windows above next to the rows of bikes and seeing people drawing on huge tables, design students most likely, though I never went in for a look around. That side of the building has an unusual pattern on it now. My most recent sketch was the one below. I think that will do, for a while.

walker hall (AGAIN)

inside walker hall

walker hall nov 2018
As you may know I have been sketching the ongoing reconstruction/renovation of Walker Hall, the big old building in the middle of the UC Davis campus that is being transformed into the Graduate Center. It’s an interesting and exciting project that will provide the university with a dedicated hub for graduate students in a setting that retains the elements of a historical piece of UC Davis architecture with a refreshing modern upgrade. Phew that all sounds like a brochure for a condo complex. Never ever write like that again, Pete. Anyway, there was a nice write-up about my documentation of this on the UC Davis Graduate Studies website, and back in November I was invited to go inside and actually sketch the site. “As long as I can get a photo of me sketching with a hard hat!” was my response. Urban Sketching cred you know. Of course the yellow vest has in the time since taken on slightly different undertones on the other side of the pond but it can be a handy tool. Years ago someone told me that they often wear a yellow vest when they go out filming on the streets for their art projects, so that nobody questions them, they look like they are from the council. Well I’ve never done that, but it was nice to be officially kitted out by the management for sketching a building site, though I could only sketch after the builders were out of the way, and I wasn’t to jump over any big holes. I didn’t have long before the sun went down so I did as much as I could, and coloured in at home. Above, the view from the second floor overlooking two of the wings. Below, the sought-after picture of me in a hard-hat, sketching that very scene.
img_9701walker hall (sign) nov 2018

The front of the building will remain mostly unchanged, though I imagine the tiles will be cleaned up a bit.
walker hall (tiles) nov 2018
Inside was gutted with cables and crevasses and equipment everywhere. I loved this broom though. I
walker hall nov 2018
walker hall nov 2018

The scene below was mostly drawn afterwards. It was the last thing I attempted to draw and I plotted out the perspective and where the intersecting lines would go, I drew the yellow tape barriers and the crane, and then I had to go. So I came back to it this weekend and finished it off. It’s funny drawing it from the outside so many times and then finally showing the inside.
walker hall interior

Finally, a sunset photo from the second floor. I have several more sketches of Walker Hall’s exterior that I have sketched since, but this seems like a good place to stop.


a song with no words and no tune

cats on sunday
After a very busy/tiring few days, which included my son having friends over for a sleepover last night, Sunday is quiet and peaceful and the family are all taking naps. I took the peaceful time not to go out and draw in the sunshine, but to sit in sweat pants and listen to podcasts and draw the sleeping cats. Pay no attention to the boxes piled up outside, that’s a job for later this afternoon. I’ve been listening to Adam Buxton’s podcasts lately which have been entertaining in their niceness. I had to paint fast as the colours outside kept changing as the noontime January sun kept shifting position. I’ve had a good idea for a book which I am thinking of spending the rest of the day working on. After I’ve done some tidying up.

les parapluies de davis

south silo
Sketched through the window of the Market Place (UC Davis South Silo) while eating a sandwich. Sketched on the third anniversary of David Bowie’s death. I still can’t believe he has gone. Look at what he has missed on planet earth, these past three years! My sandwich was spicy, jerk chicken with chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese. Maybe I was trying to numb the thoughts of Bowie still being gone. It wasn’t raining but the metal parasols over the tables look like a crowd of umbrellas on the other side of a wall. Maybe it was raining on the other side of that wall? We could be heroes, just for one day. What d’you say.

I see the c

F St Davis
I sketched this downtown on F Street, but before I could colour it I got tired. I was going to colour it later, but again I got tired. So just imagine this, the colour of the Volkswagen in the foreground is bright orange. It was a very sunny afternoon. I was drawing very accurately, proud of my observational skills, wow look at this, I’m really getting it down, bisual measuring, effortless, and OH BUGGER I FORGOT THE “C” IN STARBUCKS. In my defense, I don’t drink coffee. But what the fuk? So I tried to shoehorn it in. Nobody will notice! It’s not like it’s one of the most recognized logos in the world. That might help actually, people don’t really look at it, they just see the font and go, “oh Starbucks”, in fact I could have written “Stervafks” or “Swppfghswiks” and people would have been like, “oh Starbucks”, but no I had to try to add it back in, I may as well have written it in bright red felt-tip pen. I don’t mind though. Americans routinely miss letters out of words, as in “donut”, “thru” and “color”. I got myself into the sketch, if you can spot me (no I am not the “Ike’s Sandwich” cartoon guy). That is where Tower records used to be, before it folded. It was also where the record store that came after it was, I used to go there a lot but now the name escapes me. Dimple, that was it. Starbucks/Starbuks has been there as long as I have lived in Davis, and I think Posh Bagel has too, I sometimes go there for a chocolate croissant. Anywy, hapy wekend, foks.

kappa kappa gamma

Frat House Russell Blvd, Davis CA

This is a fraternity house on Russell Boulevard in Davis, on the edge of the UC Davis campus. Kappa Kappa Gamma. Good job they have that Gamma. (If I created a fraternity I’d call it Gamma Gamma Gamma Gamma Gamma Chameleon). I sketched on a late Saturday afternoon, shortly before the sun started dropping low. After the rainy week there was a day of sun (followed by more rain next day). I stood on the grassy field opposite, and mosquitoes, out for a dinnertime feast, swarmed about me, not put off by my occasional clapping of the sketchbook (was I hoping for a dead mosquito squashed all over my sketch, well yes I probably was but in hindsight maybe not, they were very big mosquitoes). I must have done a very good job in stopping them biting me because I had no itchy spots afterwards, but they did fly around me a lot, like drones trying to close an airport. Anyway this is a building, seen from across a street, with a tree in the foreground to one side. If I have three chords those are my three chords. I do like those trees that run alongside Russell though. Not so much the leaves, while are a bit annoying to sketch, but the bark on the trunk, I should spend a whole sketchbook just studying that. Hey there’s a good idea. It’ll be a bit dull but at my time of life I am allowed to be a bit dull. What my excuse was in the earlier part of my life was I don’t know.

freeborn rain

freeborn hall, uc davis
This week has been very rainy in Davis. We have so much of the year without rain, when it finally comes it can be heavy. I had a pre-lunchtime meeting on the other side of campus, and so was stuck in the MU when a deluge came down. So I sketched Freeborn Hall, because it’s going to be knocked down anyway. Yes, I read recently that they decided to demolish rather than redevelop.  They have almost finished with the plaza in front of the MU (that took forever, and I thought it was fine the first time they redeveloped it a couple of years ago), but it is interesting to have sketched this section of campus several times over the years, and to see how it has changed. Well, it’s going to change again. That rain was really bucketing down.

Portland’s Autumn

pdx saturday market

In November I went up to Portland, Oregon, to teach one of the 10×10 Urban Sketchers workshops, on Interior Perspective. I was invited by my friend Rita Sabler (the excellent Portland reportage sketcher), and it was as always an enjoyable visit to one of my favourite cities. I only ever seem to go these days in dark November, but this time it was not rainy at all. It was very colourful in fact, with the autumn leaves out in full force. I tried to capture as much of that as possible in my out-and-about sketches. Above, Portland’s Saturday market, with the Skidmore Fountain in the foreground. I sketched this fountain in 2010 at the first USk Symposium, on a Saturday morning perspective sketching class with Frank Ching. That was the moment I always look back to when I really gave up my inhibitions about drawing in public; rather than find a place to hide and be invisible, better to sketch openly and not worry about being ‘in the way’, become part of the place. On this day, I was able to observe the market as some stalls were still setting up, and as people passed by I got a real feel for the character of this quarter of Portland.

steel bridge portland

I like the Steel Bridge, another one I drew on that first Portland symposium, that time at a workshop with Lapin, I sat between him and Gerard Michel discussing different approaches. I’ve always wanted to return to this riverbank in the Spring when the blossoms are all pink, but coming back in Fall with golden leaves floating down is almost as nice. I did get a bit cold though, and so streetcarred it back to the hotel for a rest before my workshop.

pdx food trucks alder square

This one was sketched at the food carts area at Alder Street, after I had spent a good long afternoon wandering about Powell’s. Powell’s is such a great big bookstore, I could spend forever in there. They had my books, too, which is always exciting to see. I have a tradition now of going to Powell’s and then wandering up here for a big hot dish of Thai food, and I was not disappointed. I sketched across the street, the sunlight starting to fade, the urban greys brightened up by the reddish orange of the trees.

star theater portland

Not too far away, a bit earlier in the day, the Star Theater, with yellowy leaves scattered about. A group of homeless people sat nearby talking and laughing, streetcars rattled past, a slight breeze blew leaves and thoughts past as I sketched. My legs were hurting; I had had a night out before, and a good lie-in, but as each year passes I always forget I need a bit more rest. I spent the rest of the afternoon in Powell’s. And below, of course, an orange Portland fire hydrant, weather-worn and pock-marked.

pdx hydrant

Tributes to Officer Natalie Corona

5th st tribute to natalie corona

Last Thursday evening, at around dinner-time, a three-car traffic collision on the busy Fifth Street in Davis was attended to by Police Officer Natalie Corona. It was an unusually foggy evening. I had gone back home not too long before then, we ate dinner, watched TV, and then received calls and texts on our phones that came from the Davis PD, telling us to stay inside and shelter in place until further notice, that the police are searching for an active gunman in downtown Davis. Living in America, these are the alerts you fear most. We learned that a police officer had been shot and that the shooter had fled. Police Officer Corona was taken to hospital in Sacramento, where she passed away. She was only 22, and had been a full police officer for only a few weeks. Watching the Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel give a press conference that night when so little was still known was difficult, it was clear he and the whole of Davis PD were in a state of shock. A massive police presence in downtown Davis scoured the area, eventually surrounding a house about a block from the crime scene. Reports were that the shooter was inside. Eventually at around 1am it was reported that the gunman had shot himself, confirmed by more automated phone calls and texts at around 2am. It was a shocking evening in Davis, one that it is hard for me to stop thinking about. I pass that way most days, I know a lot of people who were around that area, this is a small city. The next day I walked up to the area around Fifth and C, but it was all still closed off by police. The name of the shooter was not released until Saturday, one Kevin Limbaugh, 48. It transpired that Limbaugh was not related to the traffic collision, but had cycled up to officer Corona and shot her multiple times, then discharged his weapon around him, hitting the boot of a firefighter, a student’s backpack, and the back of a bus; it’s a miracle nobody else was hurt or killed. Then he circled back and went home to a house he shared on Fifth and E. The details of the evening, what is known of it, has been reported in the Davis Enterprise, whose reporters provided excellent coverage throughout, especially Lauren Keene posting on Twitter.

At the spot where officer Corona was shot, tributes from all over have been left, by police officers and members of the public, thanking her for her service, shocked at this terrible loss. Blue ribbons have been put up around trees for many blocks around, and a candlelit vigil attended by hundreds took place in Central Park. A memorial service for officer Corona is being held this Friday. Our community in Davis has been shocked by this horrible crime, but it’s at difficult times like these when community is most important; I’m glad that we have one.

R.I.P. Natalie Corona.

Also posted at urbansketchers.org