I’ll settle down with some old story

university of beer, davis
Last Saturday evening, the weather was nice, and the daylight a little later than I was used to (it’s always a surprise, every year), so I took a walk downtown to do a little bit of sketching, a little bit of reading, have a few beers. I walked over to E St Plaza, where I noticed that local band Wealth of Nations were playing again; I’ve sketched them several times. I did this quick sketch below. After that, I went to the University of Beer, and sat at the corner of the bar. I have been planning my summer travels, going to the Urban Sketching Symposium, adding in a bit of Belgium as well, and a day in Paris. For some inspiration I re-read Lapin’s book of Parisian sketches, “Paris je t’aime”. The fellow sat next to me saw the book and was looking at it with me, I was telling him about Lapin and all the other Urban Sketchers, I didn’t mention about my own sketching but when it came time to get my sketchbook out he left me to it, I did manage to include his right hand and phone into the sketch though. Another bloke was sat to his right, reading a book. After a while they both left, and another pair of men were there, one of whom was one of those guys who was loud and a bit overbearing, I think he was quite a bit into religion and never paused for breath about how he “only respects people who know their purpose in life!” and “I don’t mind atheists but they have to know what they believe in or I can’t respect them!” He never seemed to take even a sip of his beer, all I could think was, mate are you drinking that or what? Some writers and sketchers take inspiration from overheard conversation, I on the other hand actively try not to listen to anything anyone is saying. I looked at my sketch, remembering the quiet reading man and the friendly man who liked looking at Lapin’s drawings. Eventually loud man and quiet friend also departed. I saw a couple of other faces at the bar I knew through soccer, said hello. Various sports played on the tv screens. The beers I had were the Russian River STS Pils, and the much more familiar Firestone Walker 805. I sketched the bar in dark blue pen. The walk home was nice; I’m trying to get my 10,000 steps in every day.
wealth of nations E St plaza


Let’s Draw the Arboretum!

LDD April 2019

Join us for another sketchcrawl in Davis California! This time we will head back to the Arboretum, one of the prettiest places on the UC Davis campus in the springtime, and spend a couple of hours sketching the plants and scenery. It’s the day after Picnic Day, so campus should be a lot calmer and quieter.

We will start at Wyatt Deck, which is located on the northeast side of Lake Spafford and just off of Arboretum Drive (near Wyatt Pavilion, the oldest building on campus) at 1:00pm, and I will give a short intro to botanical sketching. We will then go off and sketch solo or in groups, around the Arboretum, and then regroup at 3:30pm back at Wyatt Deck to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this event is FREE and open to anyone who likes to sketch outside. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on. And a small foldout stool might be handy! I will provide little maps of the Arboretum on the day, and everyone will get a ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sticker.


I drew a map of the Arboretum (I really like drawing maps) which you can use if you come along. It’s not to scale, but shows whereabouts things are.

Arboretum map drawn by Pete Scully

NOTE: if you are interested in tea, there is an event right before at Wyatt Deck from 11am-1pm called ‘Tea and Conversation’, sponsored by the Global Tea Club: https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/events/tea-and-conversation-041419

It’ll be the nice quiet day after Picnic Day, and what better way than to spend it sketching among the flowers? Hope to see you Sunday!

Spring Break in Surf City

Huntington Beach view from hotel
“Yes, yes I think that will do.” Those were my first thoughts on seeing this very nice view from our hotel balcony in Huntington Beach, aka ‘Surf City’, on our trip there during Spring Break. Palm trees, orange rooftops, a deep blue ocean, blue sky with a bit of fog, very sandy sand, big waves and even the view of Highway 1, which (along with Highway 101) runs along the whole Pacific coast of America (as the ‘Pacific Coast Highway’). Yeah, I can’t really go wrong with a view like that. My wife certainly knows how to pick the hotels with the good views. We had expected rain – in northern California, huge whopping storms were beating down while I splashed about in the pool, getting out to read my travel stories book and sip a refreshing mango beer. Yes, mango beer, that’s right, it was from a local brewer, the poolside barstaff told me. I like mango flavoured things. Oh is it raining in Davis? Well never mind. We had glorious sunshine, and we used it wisely, at the beach and at the pool. It’s at times like this when I think, yeah, actually it was a good idea to leave London and live in California.
Huntington Beach Naugles
I did a little bit of sketching. The building above is Naugles, some sort of eatery by the beach. It wasn’t open, though the building next door was renting those surreys and bikes to people. I think I imagined Spring Break to be a bit more Spring Break-like, if you know what I mean, Florida style, but warm as it was, it’s still too cold in California for that sort of thing. For which I was very grateful, I do love places without big crowds. I even went into the ocean myself (which was fairly freezing), my son and his friend out there splashing about in the waves. I can’t surf, but we had one of those boogy-boards and so I floated about on that, on my belly, riding the waves like a dead whale. I’m not sure if dead whales ride the waves, but ‘dead whale’ was the only thing that came to my mind when the tides flopped me back onto the shore. I was a dead whale enjoying myself though. We even built sandcastles and dug tunnels. These sketches though were done while they were back at the hotel pool, which was heated and had water slides. Below is one of the many lifeguard lookouts that stand along the beach like the watchers on the wall. At this point it’s obligatory to mention ‘Baywatch’, but I never watched that show, so I wont. The beach was clean, and well trimmed like a suburban lawn. There are firepits for people to use when barbecuing in the warm summer evenings (like in pretty much every teen LA-based movie or TV show), but there’s a curfew on this beach, nobody is allowed after 10pm. In the distance, Huntington Beach pier, and further behind still are off-shore oil rigs, which maybe adjust the perfection of the view a bit (but offer something a bit different to look at). The waves get pretty big; you can see a surfer making their way in. Huntington Beach is nicknamed Surf City: there is a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, legendary Hawaiian surfer and olympic sportsman, standing outside one of the big surf shops downtown. I popped in, and discovered that surfboards cost a lot more than I though they did. There goes that dream!
Huntington Beach Lifeguard Hut
Speaking of ‘The Duke’, we had a very filling and quite delicious dinner at Duke’s restaurant, on the beach next to the pier. We went to the Duke’s restaurant in Waikiki a couple of years ago, and had our very first Lava Flow drinks. They were delicious. The ones we had here were just as nice, but served in those great tiki glasses. I only had the one – they are pretty filling! So are the enormous Hula Pies. We got one to share between the four of us, and I’m glad – we barely finished it. I bought a Hula Pie plate as a souvenir. I did get to tell a great pun when the waiter was giving us the list of specials. My wife wondered if she should have the fish special, and I said, “why not, just for the halibut!” The waiter didn’t get it though. I thought it was good. One of the fish specials was halibut. Now I have to engineer some other situation where I can use the “just for the halibut” line.
Lava Flow at Duke's
It was a long walk back to the hotel, but since I had eaten so much I was rolled along the seafront like one of those massive snowballs. I was still basking in the glory of my “just for the halibut” line. It was not yet ten o’clock, so the beach was dotted with the glow of numerous firepits. In the parking lots, travelers were sat outside immense RVs enjoying the spring evening’s cool ocean breeze.
Ruby's Choc Mint Shake

On the second evening in Huntington Beach, after an incredibly fresh tasting dinner at a place called Lemonade (which as you might expect made delicious multi-flavoured hand-made lemonades – I had ‘Cucumber Mint’. So refreshing. Everyone was tired, and so the rest of the family went back to the hotel, but I still wanted to walk to the end of that long pier, so I talked my sore feet into making the trek up over the boardwalk into the Pacific Ocean. There are lots of people fishing from that pier. It’s not full of amusements like Santa Monica or Walton-on-the-Naze, but right at the very end in the red-roofed building is one of my favourite places in California, Ruby’s Diner. I have a lot of favourite places in California, I can’t really choose; ok this is in the top 100. It’s a classic American diner at the end of a pier, there’s a great classic American atmosphere, and when I say classic American I mean ‘like in the movies’, probably. It doesn’t feel themed or kitschy though. There is a tiki bar upstairs, which I passed through to use the bathrooms, that was a distinctive change of look. All I wanted was a milkshake. A bit of history here, the very first time I came to the United States was in 2002, to visit my still-new Californian girlfriend whom I had met while living in France, and she took me on a road trip down California and to the Grand Canyon. Oh by the way my then-new Californian girlfriend is now my Californian wife of course! Back then though America was completely new to me, I was a fresh-faced twenty-something, and on this road trip we visited our friend Erin (whom we had met in France; actually it was Erin who introduced us to each other) and she lived in Huntington Beach. She took us to Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier, and I had what up to that point in my life was perhaps the best milkshake I had ever tasted. It was a butterfinger milkshake, it was huge, it made every milkshake I grew up with seem like Nesquik. By the way every milkshake I ever grew up with was Nesquik. I’ll never forget the taste of Nesquik gone BAD. Never leave banana Nesquik in a flask out of the fridge for a couple of days in summer and then try to drink it. I was six. Anyway, all I had on my mind was coming back to Ruby’s and having a milkshake, and I was not disappointed. They had the same menu of shakes, but they were also doing a special Mint Chocolate shake made with Girl Scout Cookies. It was delicious. The long walk down the pier and the long walk back to the hotel were good exercise, and I’m now still dieting to get over all the big foods I had on that trip, but it was worth it. Huntington Beach is cool. And below, for those who really need a gumball, they have them in a gas pump. Classic American.
Ruby's Candy Pump

Ok after Huntington Beach we went to Great Wolf Lodge for one night, which had some fun water slides but overall was a bit of a disappointment after Huntington Beach, and so we ended up going to see Captain Marvel instead (loved it!). We got back to Davis to hear that there had been even more heavy rain (this is the rainiest I’ve ever known Davis, except maybe that first winter here).

sketching sustainability – this week!

Sketch Crawl Flyer-01

As well as the ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl coming this Sunday (I’ll post the map I drew for that soon), there are a couple more sketching events coming up this week that I’m leading, both on the UC Davis campus. They are lunchtime sketching events, organized by the Sustainability folks on campus (specifically Camille Kirk) as part of the ‘Cool Campus Challenge‘. If you are nearby, join us on Wednesday April 10 (12pm-1:30pm) and Friday April 12 (12pm-1:30pm) meeting at the lobby Student Community Center, right in the middle of campus. I’ll give a few tips on quick sketching, while xxxx will talk about things to focus on that are to do with the theme of Sustainability: people riding bikes, sustainably-built buildings, recycling and composting bins, water-efficient gardens (I think they are called), that sort of thing. UC Davis is the #1 university in the country for campus sustainability (and #3 in the world). If you are at UC Davis with a sketchbook this week, and want to learn a bit about sustainability on campus, come and join us!

ARTICLE in Dateline: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/news-briefs-be-cool-your-school-cool-campus-challenge

flying south for spring

We went to Southern California, for a short Spring Break vacation away from the rainstorms we’ve been having. Tell you the truth, we thought it might rain in Southern California too, and were taking a bit of a chance staying right by the beach with a nice pool, but dangit it was a chance we were willing to take. Besides, our last night there would be at Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water-park forest themed resort for the kids which would keep us out of the rain and yet still, oddly, soaking wet. As it turned out, the weather was gorgeous and sunny, so there was plenty of beach time and outdoor pool time in Huntington Beach (meanwhile, Great Wolf Lodge was a bit of a let-down, so we ended up going to the cinema). But first, we had to get there. I sat in the row behind la famille, so I sketched and listened to podcasts. We flew JetBlue into Long Beach. When we landed, I saw something which was just, well, WOW:
Long Beach Airport Doggy Hydrant

A doggie-themed fire hydrant!! It was in a little fenced off grassy area designed for pets to go pee-pee. Now as someone who sits sketching hydrants and getting t know them quite well, I’m always one to roll eyes at the boring tired cliche of dogs weeing against hydrants, but this is just amazing. Except actually I really hope dogs don’t wee against this one, gross. But isn’t this the best hydrant you’ve ever seen? I never thought I’d see one so cool. Another one to add to the collection.
Long Beach Airport

Here is another JetBlue plane, which I sketched while waiting to board for the flight home. I’ll post the beach sketches later, just imagine them (yellow at the bottom, light blue at the top). This one was drawn, like the top one, in the dark blue uni-ball signo pen, it looks really nice on the paper. I have quite a few planes in this sketchbook now, and with those wings you have to draw them over a two-page spread. You can see where the page break is. I spend a lot of time in airports, on airplanes, up in the sky. I remember being a kid and being terrified of the very thought of flying (despite being obsessed with air force jet planes), I was so scared of planes that I would not let anyone else in my family fly. When I was six my older sister was going away somewhere, a school trip to Germany I think, and I wouldn’t let her leave the house, cried my eyes out, I was hysterical at the thought of her flying. She eventually went, and I’m glad she did, because from Germany she brought back this amazing stuff called ‘Nutella’ I had never seen before, and started my lifelong love of this mysterious ‘Nutella’. When I was 10, my family finally convinced me to fly, and I got in my first ever plane, flying to Ibiza off the coast of Spain. They took me to see the pilot in the cockpit (it was the 1980s, they probably would have let me fly the plane), and I’ll never forget the pilot asked if I wanted to see out of the window, and I said yeah, and so he just tilted the whole plane sideways! I thought that was cool, but everyone back int he cabin were freaking out a little bit. After that, I was fine. No idea how many planes I’ve been on since. I don’t really like flying, but it’s more that I don’t like the hassle of airports, I’m not a fan of taking off and landing, but the bit in the sky I’m totally fine with.

First and A

A & 1st Davis

This is the corner of 1st and A. If Davis were a chessboard, this might be where you find the Rook. Davis would work well as a game of chess. In fact this might well be the middle of the board, because a game of Davis chess might be between the City of Davis and UC Davis, the natural delineation. Or it might be between the students, who spend just a few short but massively formative years here, and the residents, living here much longer-term and bringing up families. Or the chess game is the cyclists and the motorists (nah, in Davis the cyclists win that one). Perhaps it could be a chess game between the small businesses downtown and the big box companies just outside? Yeah, that’s been a game for quite a while now. Maybe the chess game is between the Davis Moms At The Park and Everyone Else. Or the chess game is between the Youth Soccer Teams trying to find a spot to practice at the park and the Youth Baseball teams trying to find a spot to practice at the park. Could be that the chess game is a downtown match between the Thai Restaurants and the Frozen Yogurt shops? Again, this could be happening. Or maybe the most thrilling chess game would be between the turkeys of Davis and the humans of Davis? Downtown Town would have been the king. I told you about Downtown Tom a long time ago, but come to think of it I never showed you the drawing I did for the Pence Gallery, I’ll have to dig that out. Downtown Tom, what a legendary beast, he was the Kasparov of Davis.

This is the corner of 1st and A. I have drawn this corner before, a few times, already. This building, a frat house (how could you tell?), was painted white before but is now custard yellow. I like the warning sign on the barrier, warning that it might drop on your head. It reminded me of the fate of Cyrano de Bergerac. “Mais on ne se bat pas dans l’espoir du succès, non, c’est plus beau lorsque c’est inutile!”

some spring cleaning

Arboretum Sketch 040119
I still have some March sketches to post (a go-go-go sketchcrawl in Sacramento in an accordion book, and a relax-relax-relax vacation by the ocean in Huntington Beach), but it’s April now. Here is my first sketch of the month. I went down to the Arboretum and sketched the redbuds by the creek, and then went for lunch. April is here, and I have a few months before the summer travels. Belgium and Holland await. There are sketchcrawls planned – several sketching events in Davis, and I want to do that sketchcrawl historical-hunt in San Francisco (I drew a map on Sunday), but I think more than anything I want to lose a few pounds, so April is easing-myself-into-a-diet month. It won’t be easy but I’m going to give it a go. And then when I get to Belgium, I’ll put it all back in chocolate, waffles, beer and frites. So I need to clear some room. Spring is cleaning time too, and I have to clear my yard, it’s gotten a bit out of hand. I already organized my clothes drawers (though my closet is full of football shirts, which by the way necessitate the dieting). Then there is the Art Materials Cupboard. That is eternally out of hand. I don’t know if it’s ever been in hand. It’s the cupboard that whenever I get it all out to reorganize, my wife always says the phrase “oh boy”. Spring cleaning though, it’s not like when I was a kid. My mum was really into spring cleaning. When the curtains and nets came down and that bright April sunlight would stream into the living room, when you could only smell furniture polish and Windolene, when book shelves were cleared for scrubbing and dusting, that was when it was time for me to sneak off to my friends house for a game of football. Of course I could not escape the Spring Cleaning, and my room, usually impenetrable, would have to be cleaned. This usually started with my mum throwing all of my things onto the floor, and then I would have to tidy up from there, and I remember it was a very satisfying feeling to hoover the floor at the end. Anyway, with this sketch I decided to keep it clean, just the watertower shading and the still bright but starting to darken purple-pink redbud blooms.

By the way Davis folks, the next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be at the Arboretum on Sunday April 14: https://www.facebook.com/events/838512119829255/