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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Another from the last month of 2018, this sketch was down at the Arboretum on the UC Davis campus. It was more colourful than this looks; there was a lot of yellow leafage strewn along the rising bank to the left there, and a greenish hue to the water (though since the creek has been thoroughly redeveloped, there is no longer a pea-soup thick covering of algae).
By the way, I was interviewed by Anjini Venugopal for the California Aggie (UC Davis’s long-running student-managed newspaper), and the article appeared this week: https://theaggie.org/2019/01/11/the-artist-pete-scully-discusses-urban-sketching. Check it out! “I’m just obsessed with drawing,” Scully said. “It’s something I have to do.” I totally said that.
Right now I am (in addition to sketching) actually doing lots of logo design, both for our Select soccer team (the “Dawgs”) and also the Davis World Cup, so I have been drawing lots of ideas, and teaching myself how to use Illustrator, which I have just nor bothered with for years (I typically use Photoshop when doing anything digital). At some point I might share that stuff, but for now, I’m just teaching myself and messing about. And it has been immense fun!
Here’s a little bit of my past, a drawing of an old concert ticket I still have, the Sex Pistols comeback show at Finsbury Park in June 1996. It’s pretty worn out – most of that wear and tear was from being in my pocket while pogoing around with 30,000 other sweaty punk rockers on a very hot Sunday evening. I went with my uncle Billy, and my Hungarian friend Andrea (we lost her during Skunk Anansie, one of the many supporting acts). I had been a Sex Pistols fan since I was about 13, when Billy first played me some Pistols records at his flat, but never thought I’d ever get to see them – I was not even two in 1978 when they split up. When the ‘Filthy Lucre’ comeback reunion tour in ’96 (with Glen Matlock back on bass) was announced, we had to go, and the Finsbury Park gig, being in Johnny Rotten’s home area (he used to go to the same school as my dad actually, but much later), was going to be great: support from loads of old (and new) punk and similar acts, most exciting of all for me being Buzzcocks, another group I’d always wanted to see (and never saw again; RIP Pete Shelley, by the way!) I had been at the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street the night before, practicing my pogo, Iggy Pop was on stage right before the Pistols, shirt ripped off, all abs and muscles and dancing (I couldn’t relate) and then it was time for the Sex Pistols and it was loud and crazy and too much fun, going right into the night. We were at the front, crushed against the barrier, barely able to move. I remember there was a woman next to me cheering and dancing, and behind her this lecherous bloke made many gross moves on her, and didn’t stop even when people called him out; I’m happy to say I elbowed him in the face as I was pogoing to ‘Seventeen’ and he sodded off. It was a crazy night. I went over the top of the crowd eventually, the crush at the front being a bit much, and then jumped up and down for the rest of the night in the middle of the Finsbury Park crowd. Rotten gave a massive fun performance, I remember him announcing “Fat, Forty and Back!” (I was Skinny and Twenty). They rattled off all the classics (they don’t actually have that many songs so it was basically their whole catalogue), in front of an audience that was probably larger than the total number of people they had ever played in front of, combined. Well, their largest gig ever. Not exactly how I grew up imagining Pistols gigs – in some sticky-floored ballroom jumping up and down on broken glass, or down at the 100 Club with cracked ribs and sweat and smoke (though there were those things), and not exactly Manchester Free Trade Hall, but I daresay a few bands were formed that night too. Andrea must have gotten home on her own, and Billy and I found his car on the other side of Finsbury Park and sped back to Burnt Oak. Wicked, we just saw the Pistols, no big deal. Not going to be going on about this for the next twenty years or so. It’s especially more fun telling people about that day now that I live in America, where people are more impressed, “oh yeah I saw Buzzcocks supporting the Pistols,” like it was in 1976 or something. It does go down as one of those things I’m glad I went to, and glad I went with Billy, and I’ll remember it all my life.
As I do every year, here is a list of all my sketches from 2018. It was a less sketch-ful year than 2017, and than 2016 too, but still it’s a decent haul. I’m not showing huge pile of twelve sketchbooks from fifteen countries or anything; I’m a quick sketcher who draws a lot, but I love lots of detail . Sure, it’s been a very busy year, working lots in my full-time job, and coaching soccer for much of the year, but I always find some time to sketch (though so far, 2019 equals zero actual sketching…). The busiest month by far was July, when I was in England, Spain and of course Portugal. Sixteen fire hydrants, not bad. Some Lego, not as much as last year (but I’ve been animating quite a lot of it!). I’ve done other drawing, some design stuff, creating logos. I’ve also started teaching myself Adobe Illustrator the past couple of weeks which has been fun. Anyway, as a pound-for-pound comparison with the most recent years, here is the new chart…
In 2019, I am planning to go to the Amsterdam symposium in the Netherlands, and also sketch around the country of Belgium right before that. I don’t know if I have any new-year sketching resolutions, perhaps to draw more nature, I’m so inspired by Richard Bell’s book ‘Britain’, I would love to explore more. Anyway, happy sketching in 2019!