just visitin’

B & 5th panorama 011621 sm

I’ve been trying to draw every day in January, and except for one I think I have done. Ok two, including today, unless I get a sketch in before bedtime. However there is currently a huge storm rolling through northern California and I’m sure the power will go down any moment. Lights are flickerin’, rain is pourin’, wind is howlin’. Trees are takin’ a rollickin’. The gusts are so strong, they have blown the ‘g’ away from the end of all these verbs. We’ve not had much weather this winter, such as on this particular Saturday when I drew this, when it was bright, sunny, a typically fresh January afternoon in Davis. I got out of the house, mask on, and cycled down B Street to the corner of 5th, and decided to draw the view across this school parking lot, looking over at Newman Chapel. Click on it to see a bigger view, if you need to.

Saturday afternoons, sometimes I will stick on a movie, preferably something I have seen a lot of times so I can do something else while it’s on, such as build some Lego, get on with some drawing, do the laundry, cycle downtown and sketch a panorama, that sort of thing. Most recently I rewatched one of my favourite films that I’ve not seen in ages, Les Visiteurs. Les Visiteurs was a French film I first watched in about 1993 or 1994, starring Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, utterly silly in a French humour kind of way. It’s about this knight (Godefroy le Hardi) and his vassal (Jacquouille la Fripouille) who get accidentally transported into the present day (that is, 1993; god knows what they’d make of 2021). Despite the silliness, Reno plays it with such a sincere seriousness, and every single other character is well fleshed out in their own way, I just love it. I was learning French at the time and I would watch it all the time, and funniest of all are the terrible subtitles (“toil toil never recoil”). The soundtrack too is epic, as you would expect from the best French flicks, rivalling Jean de Florette (another of my favourites, along with Manon des Sources). I did watch the sequel Les Visiteurs 2: Les Couloirs du Temps, on VHS when I lived in France, without the subtitles and with a different actor playing Dame Frenegonde, and it wasn’t anywhere near as good. I didn’t have high hopes, whenever I asked French friends about it they shrugged indifferently; but the again they tended to do that a lot in France. Also I once went to a nightclub outside Charleroi in Belgium called Les Couloirs du Temps and it wasn’t all that. See, I shrug indifferently too. I never saw the English language remake Just Visiting that came out about 20 years ago, starring the same two main actors, but with Christina Applegate and set in Chicago for some reason. I shrugged highly differently at that, taking it as an abomination unto a classic of French cinema at the time, but Les Visiteurs isn’t exactly Le Chateau de ma Mère or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg or one of those other ones I haven’t actually watched (though I did a course in French cinema at university), and now I think I’d actually like it in a funny retro sort of way. And then there was a more recent one, back in French, following on from Les Couloirs du Temps, called Les Visiteurs: La Révolution, set during revolutionary France (and called ‘Les Visiteurs: Bastille Day’ in English, for some reason). I’ve not seen that one yet. But nothing can take away from the original Les Visiteurs, one of my favourite films of all time. 


walkin’ back to happiness

walker hall (nearly done)

Regular listeners will recognize this building as Walker Hall, which has been under redevelopment for quite some time now on its way to becoming the new Graduate Center, which was slated to open in 2020 but looks set for 2021 now, unless you subscribe to the opinion that 2020 hasn’t really ended yet. (To be fair, 2016 only just ended yesterday). It’s starting to look quite different now and almost nearly ready, as a lot of the area in front of the building (I mean, the rear of the building, this is actually the rear, but I think it’s the front now) (a bit like Buckingham Palace, you know the part of the building we all see is technically the back? It doesn’t matter, it’s a building not a video game) has been paved and a lot of the construction huts are going, though it’s still all fenced off. The last time I went inside there was November 2018 when I got to draw the insides with a hard hat on (see: https://petescully.com/2019/01/28/inside-walker-hall/), which was very exciting, because your urban sketching street cred goes right up if you wear a hard hat. It has been fun to watch this whole building evolve (by the way I made a handy folder on Flickr to see all the drawings I’ve done of this building, for those who are interested: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157678149480548) but it will be nice to draw it from a different angle once again. 

That said, here are a few sketches of this angle (usually stood on the steps of Shields Library) from over the past couple of years during the rebuild, for comparison. Funny how I usually draw it in January, and twice now on January 15th, which was the traditional Deadline Day for PhD applications when I was a grad coordinator. In fact it was the former Graduate Dean Jeff Gibeling that gave me the idea to draw the redevelopment back when plans for the new Graduate Center was first unveiled years ago, as I had been drawing the developments at the Pitzer and the Manetti Shrem at the time. It’s fun tracking changes in sketchbooks. 

 walker hall uc davis>

Walker Hall UC Davis Walker Hall UC Davis

we rule the school

SSH building 011321

This is the Social Sciences and Humanities Building at the UC Davis campus, also known as the Death Star, despite being incapable of hyperspace travel and having zero giant superlaser weaponry, at least that I am aware of. It’s a complicated structure, and I always get lost on it. I would have been terrible on the real Death Star, I’d never have made it out just by running around. Similarly, if there are meetings in a part of this building I’ve not been to often I will definitely be 10-15 minutes late while I get lost in the Escher-like architecture. Not a problem any more now we are all Creatures of Zoom. I drew this building after working at home all day, and at the end of the day before the sun came down I felt the need to get out of the house, so I went down to campus and drew this quickly. January keeps moving along. 2021 keeps dragging 2020 along with it. I’m writing this post early in the morning after one of those nights where I fell asleep very early (on the couch after dinner, with a headache, having been up very early yesterday morning to watch Tottenham play Sheffield United on TV) (if someone had told the teenaged me that in my mid-forties I would be living in California during a global pandemic and getting up at 6am to watch Spurs play Sheffield United I would have said, yeah that sounds about right. “Oh but Spurs are wearing green shirts.” “WHAT!?!”). It was a sleep last night littered with the mad dreams, all over the place, all sorts of things going on. I’m usually back in London somehow during these dreams, they were the sort of dreams that take me a few hours to get over when I wake up, which I did today at about 4:30am. So I got up, and listened to podcasts about football tactics and X-Men, listened to some Belle and Sebastian, they always fix my mood, and I’ve been trying to draw a picture of Boulogne Sur Mer, which is taking longer than it takes to cross the English Channel. I started a new virtual sketch tour, since there’s no travelling, I’m going to go on a virtual Tour de France. I drew Calais already. I should miss out Boulogne, but it’s impossible, since they go hand in hand from a British day-trip perspective. The sun is coming up now and I should get ready for a morning run but these quiet dark pre-dawn hours I always feel I need to learn stuff, practice a language, work on my drawing, write something interesting, achieve something to start the day with, but that sun keeps on coming up. It’s windy out there today. New week, wonder what fun it will bring.  

jog on

norh davis greenbelt 011021 sm

We live near the North Davis Green Belt, and that’s where I walk or run most days. I started running a little bit in 2019 but after the Turkey Trot I picked it up a lot more by the start of 2020, intending to do all these 5k races, and I did the Davis Stampede no sweat and signed up for the Lucky Run, and then coronovirus came along and that was that. So I started running more in general, as if training for these runs that were not going to happen, building up to not just 3 mile but 4 mile runs (I never managed further than that), improving my times each time, usually getting up and running just after sunrise so the hot weather wouldn’t drain me. And then when the fires came and the sky got smoky from August to October, that stopped all of that, and it’s taken me a bit of time to get back to running regularly, but as 2020 ended I decided to get back out more, and I’ve been doing 2 mile runs each time, not fast, but as regularly as I can. I managed a 3 mile run yesterday. It’s the shower afterwards I look forward to most. I couldn’t run marathons, at least I don’t see that in my future, mostly because I don’t want to. Running for more than 26 miles! At some point it’s like, ok this is a bit pointless. At least, this year’s London marathon looked a bit pointless. Due to the coronavirus, rather than being an epic journey in the rain through the streets of Britain’s capital dressed as a kiwi fruit, crossing over Tower Bridge, doing the Lambeth Walk, going down the Strand, having a banana and running up the Mall to Buck House, this year they just had a few proper runner starting before dawn and just running round and round and round St.James’s Park like the Indy 500 or something. They told everyone else they had to run virtually, in their own areas, dressed up as mangoes or peaches or whatever. You do feel great after a good run though, even when not dressed as a fruit, and with all the fun stuff in the world happening,  running helps because it’s like you are trying to outrun it, like Brave Sir Robin. “Run away! Run away!” You have to be mindful on the paths though, trying to keep a good distance from everyone else, so I always end up verging off when there are people on the path. I remember early in the pandemic, everybody gave everybody a wide berth, people crossed the street or went around parked cars. That was my favourite time in the pandemic, people crossing the street to avoid you, it was like “finally this is ok”. Back then, they told everyone to stay home, so there were suddenly more people outside walking than ever. 

Anyway I drew that sketch above whilst walking the Green Belt, I was stood off of the path and on the grass, I like this intersection of several paths and that big old wooden house in the background. This is probably my favourite sketch of this year so far, I like this one. It reminds me of all the walks we’ve done this year.


dog statue on the greenbelt

This isn’t a real dog, it’s one that was turned into metal by a wizard or something, probably because it was off its leash. Riding a tricycle. Or as Yoda would call them, a docycle. Bit of Star Wars humour there, cheer us up in these dark times. These trying times. Or as Yoda would call them… Down below is another sketch from the path, this time of a neon yellow sign, indicating “bike” “person” “go down left slightly”, not necessarily in that order. Along with another sign lower down that says “wear a mask” “stay 6ft apart” and “wash your hands”, not necessarily in that order. I like the shape of that building in the background, it’s like an opera house made of cereal boxes. I like the way it forms triangles or as Yoda would call them etc and so on. Honestly Yoda give it a break mate, it’s been a difficult year for everyone without you giving it all that. I haven’t even got the energy to shoehorn in a joke about this week’s impeachment trial or as Yoda would call it impeachment do-al (the joke there being ‘dual’ impeachment I suppose?) because we’re done with the Yoda stuff now. 

Catalina Ave, Davis

let them eat cake

C Street Davis

This is ‘Let Them Eat Cake’, they make cakes, and when you buy them they will let you eat them. It’s a good name, they are a well-known local business. Like most people I like cake, though I don’t eat cake very often. Birthdays, usually a good time. My favourite cake is probably a Victoria Sponge Cake, classic simple British cake with a layer of jam in the middle, and maybe some of that nice icing on top but that’s not really necessary. That and a cup of tea, yes please guv. ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ is a phrase commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette, headless Austrian wife of the headless French King Louis XVI. Of course the phrase has been translated wrong over the years, she was supposed to have said ‘Let Them Eat Brioche’ but most English people would have been like, what, eh, bri-what, what’s that fancy foreign food, I don’t know what a croissant is. So they said ‘cake’ instead. Or maybe, maybe the mis-translation goes deeper. Maybe it’s “Let the Meat Cake”, that is, “Let the Meat Brioche”, which when you think about it, that’s where we get Meat Loaf. And I do mean the singer. It could also have been “Let Them Meet Cake”, like perhaps cake was a person that they needed to met to discuss their grievances about food, perhaps his name was Monsieur Brioche, maybe the famous brioche was named after him, that’s a thing that happens, see for example the sandwich. Imagine if you will that the Earl of Sandwich was in charge of free school meals, and the king’s wife said that we should “Let Them Meet Sandwich” to discuss increasing the size of food packages for those in need, you can see how it would be mistranslated to “Let Them Eat Sandwich”. We’ll never know, we’ll never know. Of course there is zero evidence whatsoever that Marie Antoinette ever said such a thing, so all this silliness is just as valid as any purported historical fact. Of course Marie Antoinette wasn’t the only historical figure with a very-probably-made-up story about cake associated with them. King Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex who was on the run from invading Danish armies, famously burnt the cakes while hiding out in Somerset at a West Country peasant woman’s hovel. “Ok Alf I will let you stay here but can you watch these cakes while I just go and feed my goats? Cheers my lovely.” “Right, right, cakes, cakes.” (A few hours later) “Alfred what the hell! Seriously, you had one job, you’re like a chocolate teapot.” “I did wonder what that smell was. I thought it was my socks, I’ve not changed them in six months.” “Well you may as well take them, perhaps you can throw them at the Vikings, they are rock hard now.” “Good idea! I’ll throw them at the Danes! Let them eat cake!” “Good idea? More like a GREAT idea, amirite?” I imagine it went down something like this, but with a lot more alliteration and no rhyming. But Alfred the Great never let the cakes burn, it’s another old myth, but again one that doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. And these days, we have the Great British Bake-Off, which Alfred the Great would have been terrible at. Not being technically British for one thing, that being something different back in 870 AD, plus also being very bad with cakes. There was a show in America called ‘Cake Wars’ for a while, but I think it was cancelled because nobody could think of any good cake / war puns, though there are many to pick from.

Coming back to reality and away from ideas for Horrible Histories sketches, I drew this late in the afternoon shortly before it got dark, and it was pretty cold out, cold for Davis anyway. This was the short of sketch that I would have loved to have taken round to the pub to warm up and finish off there over a pint, but the pubs are all closed. This pandemic, man. I need a cake.


Lego Christmas Carol

This here is my Lego “A Christmas Carol”, which I got as a Christmas present to my delight. In the run-up to Christmas this year we sat down each evening in the living room and read A Christmas Carol, which we’d never actually done before, aloud with hot chocolate and cookies and mince pies. I found it hard to read aloud with my mouth full of mince pie but I gave it a go, it’s what Dickens would have wanted. Dickens really stuck faithfully to the original Muppets version which was nice to see. While reading Scrooge’s voice I managed somehow to avoid doing a Michael Caine voice, and instead did something more along the lines of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s Old Gits. We always watch the Muppets version on Christmas Eve, for us it’s the best one, and of course the Blackadder Christmas Carol. I like the Albert Finney one too. This Lego set then was a really nice surprise and I made it straight away to put on the shelf. I drew this (deciding not to add the colour) on January 6th, traditional last day of Christmas, after finally turning off the endless news of the bloody awful events at the Capitol. I still can’t really gather my thoughts on that as it feels like we don’t really know where this is going, but it’s so depressing. At times like this, getting the sketchbook out and furiously scribbling away feels like the best way to get through it. I have Lego to build though. I did start making a Christmas themed Lego animation but I was struggling to find the time to work on it (despite hardly ever leaving the house, it’s finding the ‘mental’ time) and now I’m putting the Christmas Lego sets away. But here is one final festive image for you, Han Solo on a tauntaun.

IMG_0412(1) sm

keep on steppin’

Nike size 5.5Y

Right, it’s been a while since I posted my son’s footwear. These feet keep growing, and I keep drawing them. I’ve drawn every single one of his shoes in his life, though I’m still only halfway through ‘volume 2’ (the first volume having been very small black and white drawings in a tiny moleskine cahier sketchbook, a decision I made when the shoes themselves were tiny and I wasn’t really drawing shoes much; I did a few in colour on larger paper for a show, and when we got to volume 2 I started just drawing them properly in colour, at which point he started wearing almost exclusively black or dark blue shoes. Thankfully, these ones have a little bit of colour, though not as much as the old Lightning McQueen or Captain America shoes from the very young days. Actually looking back at the Flickr album, I realize there are quite a lot of shoes I have previously scanned which aren’t uploaded there. To be a completist I should put them in. Anyway, this was a fun way of showing his growth and journaling something of his during his life. When they are toddlers this is such a nice family record, as he turns into a teenager this will become something I do maybe before he starts wearing the shoes (or wear a peg on my nose) (I was a teenager with very stinky shoes) (let’s not talk about my adult shoes), and if I’m still doing this when he’s like 45 then maybe it’ll be time to stop. But anyway, the ones above are the newest, barely worn, mostly because we’ve barely left the house. In go-to-school times shoes wore down much more quickly. He likes Nike shoes, like I love wearing Adidas shoes.

Under Armour shoes size 5Y

These ones are a bit older, as you can see from the dates, although he only just stopped wearing the ones above, and will probably need to replace the ones below. The grey Under Armour ones above are nice, but I have to tell you, in real life they look longer. I’ve definitely drawn them too compressed. This is as a result of using a square shaped book for the drawings, which was another mistake, going back to when the shoes were small enough to fit easily on a small square page. I need to start drawing them diagonally, or start going over two pages. These feet are getting bigger. I have the real shoes right next to me here (much cleaner than they would be in a non-pandemic leave-the-house year). We like our Under Armour gear, they made some good Tottenham shirts (16/17 home kit is a classic), and I have this one UA hoodie which is my favourite piece of clothing, so comfortable. Below, his latest football boots, silver Nikes, worn during the 2020 Select season which was cut short a month after this by the Pandemic. This was drawn shortly after we came third in a tournament in San Jose, he scored a number of goals there in these shoes, everyone played really well, and I thought we could go on to win more medals, until the COVID came along and stopped all that. These days we are still playing as AYSO Alliance but it’s training only, no games and certainly no tournaments, not even scrimmages, and all practices are socially-distanced with strict COVID protocols, wearing masks, six feet apart, lots of shooting and passing, zero tackling or man-marking. So we’ll be brilliant at free kicks after all this, but not so great at defending. It’ll be like Kevin Keegan and Marcelo Bielsa mixed in with Ossie Ardiles circa 1994. I like how this shoe (cleat, they are called cleats here) turned out, I’m happy with this drawing. One of the last ones before the world went all topsy-turvy.

Nike football boots size 5Y

fifth street between b and c

 5th st panorama, Davis

This is Fifth Street, between B and C. (Click on the image to see it in more detail, on my Flickr site). That is the Newman Chapel on the left there, with the blue building also bein part of the Newman complex. The last time I drew this building was two years ago, January 2019, shortly after the terrible news of young Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona’s death, shot in cold blood by a man who lived a block away. That was an awful tragedy, and today (January 10) marks two years since it happened. The spot where it happened is now marked with a bench commemorating Officer Corona, which you can make out on the right of the drawing. Still unbelievable, the events of that night. I think that was the first time we had to ‘shelter-in-place’ since coming to Davis (obviously much more familiar with the term now). I always think about it when passing down this stretch of Fifth. I drew most of this at lunchtime when on my way from home to a meeting on campus at the Silo, though I did pop into the football shirt shop (Football and Lifestyle) on the way and pick up the new Spurs 3rd kit, looks great.


tri co-ops garden UC Davis

This has been a week. The despicable events of Wednesday in DC definitely shocked me, and yeah, I worry what more havoc could be wrought in the next couple of weeks. And beyond, I don’t think this sort of thing is over for a while. I haven’t much energy to gather all my thoughts about it all to be honest, other than angry shouting at a cloud. I never imagined all that was to come at the start of the week, when I sketched this. I went down to campus to get my COVID test, a weekly requirement if we are working on campus (which I will still do once or twice per week, if only for a few hours to take care of some things). These are the gardens at the back of the Tri Co-Ops, not far from the ARC. I stood next to a big puddle, it having rained a lot before this. I have sketched the other side of the Tri-Co-Ops, but not the gardens. This is a gateway of some sort. I feel like we are always passing through gateways of some sort, but this week definitely feels like a gateway of some sort, and a dangerous one. 2020 hasn’t actually stopped yet. Call it 2020 2.0. Jeez, if this is 2021, can it be 2022 yet?

resolution in the head

D St, Davis

First outside sketch of 2021, which is just like 2020 but with a “1” instead of a “0”. Classic Pete format for a Davis sketch, straight-on look at a building across the street, tree on this side of the road as a foreground framing it, there you go guv, that’s what we do. “Hi, would you be able to draw a picture of my grandchild?” “Does he or she look like a house on the other side of the street with a tree in the foreground on this side of the street?” “Um, no.” “Sorry guv, no can do.” It’s a bit like a three chord song, or a Hollywood action movie, or a Christmas episode of Eastenders (minus the ‘shocking’ main character death), or Mourinho going a goal up and then defending until the other team scores an equalizer from a set piece in the 88th minute, it’s a formula I can hang on to when I am out sketching and am not sure what to draw, or don’t feel adventurous enough to draw from a slight angle up close. It’s comfort food, like baked pasta, or noodles on toast. I feel like I’ve drawn all of Davis hundreds of times but actually I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are so many houses and streets I would love to draw but admittedly self-consciousness of being a guy on a quiet street drawing outside houses gets in the way of all the places I would love to draw most. So I tend to choose my spot to draw more subtly, not standing right outside someone’s front yard to draw across the street, but here I stood in the public grounds of the Davis Community Church, the D Street side, downtown side of 5th, and drew the nice little place opposite. I love the look of this one with its colours, the touches of green, the little bit of red in the tree, it may not have been covered in Christmas decorations but it still made me feel festive. The buildings around this part of Davis are so historic, many going back to the very beginning of the city. I’ve considered doing a long panorama sketch of Fifth Street, like the one I did on campus a few years ago. I still might, though maybe not in an annoying accordion book, maybe just on different spreads of a Moleskine that I can stitch together digitally. As I drew this sketch, from a slightly elevated position away from the sidewalk (I was able to take my mask off; I find it hard drawing with my mask on as my glasses fog up more when I am looking down at my book, but right now sketching in a street where people will pass by you need the mask, and besides my masks have prints of my drawings on them) (by the way if you want a facemask with one of my drawings on it, go to: https://society6.com/petescully/masks, they come out really well and are very comfortable), I listened to a history podcast about bizarre books. And I kept thinking, surely it’s about time I put together this book of Davis sketches I’ve been threatening to do for years? So my new year’s resolution is to keep telling myself to start thinking about planning that. New year’s resolutions. “Don’t get stressed out by the news” was one, and to be fair, I thought that might last a bit longer than January 6th. What an exhausting bloody day that was/continues to be. “Exercise more” was another, and to be fair I have been back out running and doing long walks, but the gym is still closed. “Write more” is always one, I always get a lot out of writing even if it’s just nonsense like this on the blog. At least words are being placed next to each other in some sort of order. “Draw every day”, now I know you’re thinking I do that anyway, but this past year has seen a lot more gaps where I’ve chosen not to draw, because I’ve drawn everything in my house or not felt like it. But at least for as long as I can I will try to draw something every day. Preferably drawing life, but if I have to draw from photos or do another big virtual journey via street view than so be it. So that’s at least what I’m doing, trying to draw more. It’s harder while working from home, because on campus at least my lunchtime was the dedicated drawing time, while at home I tend not to leave the house for lunch. Oh the final one, “improve my foreign languages”, that is get better at the ones I know, read and learn more in them, and also maybe try to learn a new one. As a kid nothing excited me as much as discovering foreign languages, not even football or drawing. Well maybe they are all tied. I have plenty more not to discuss here, like family stuff and work stuff, learn new skills that sort of thing, plus a random resolution I have had to actually let my microwave food sit in the microwave for one minute after cooking (I’ve never done that, who does? Maybe I should start) but I like to think of resolutions as things you can start any time, not just when the year changes the little number on the end of it. Oh, and my last resolution is to edit my posts down more before I post them so they aren’t such long and unreadable clouds of words; obviously that one starts tomorrow.