I pass a lot of houses in Davis that I think ooh I would love to draw that house some time. And then I walk on and forget about it until the next time I pass by and think, oooh yes I’d love to draw that house, when I have time. And then I carry on walking or riding my bike until the next time I pass it and I go, you know I should really draw that house some time, it’s so nice. and then I walk or ride or jog along, and forget about it. Until the next time, etc and so on. There is one house though in north Davis that is probably my favourite house in town, it looks a bit like a red barn or farmhouse on the corner, almost Scandinavian in its picture postcard cuteness (it even has a mailbox that looks like a small version of itself). There is a whole barn section around the back, and the circular brick chimney with the little brick spiral going up it is probably the cutest cute-house thing I have ever seen. And no, I don’t watch HGTV (though for some reason it reminds me of Jamie and the Magic Torch). I always wonder about its history, when it was built, was it ever moved from somewhere else (as so many other Davis houses were), did any famous Davisites ever live there, does it have a locally know name that I’m unaware of? Is it haunted? (No, a house this lovely can’t be haunted, because there’s no such thing as ghosts). So on one of my many many walks home from work (since my bike’s been acting a bit weird I have gotten back to walking, I’m killing those ten thousand steps a day, totally whooping that goal) I saw that the house had a big ‘For Sale’ sign outside, well in fact it was a ‘Sold’ sign, well in fact it was a ‘Snooze And You Lose’ sign, not that I’d have been able to afford it, but then again I did buy my current house exactly a year ago so I’m now in the homeowner’s club (I’ve heard it’s a cool club, they meet in a treehouse). So, what if the new owners hate red barns and decide to turn it into a modern brick and chrome palazzo? Or paint it taupe? Or rent it out to conspiracy cultists who never mow the lawn? You never know, so I decided right, I should draw this beautiful building. But you know, I was walking somewhere, I didn’t want to stop. I do feel self-conscious drawing houses too, even now; it would be nice if the City of Davis gave me some sort of card that I could show people to say “local urban sketcher, totally normal, just ignore”. So I decided to draw from a photo. I don’t mind drawing from photos, if I have at least drawn the backbone there and then, but straight from the photo I don’t get the sense of personal depth that comes from seeing the space with my own eyes. It’s why I’m always a little hesitant about commissions, unless the reference photos are at least close to what I would see from my own perspective. I’ve done quite a lot of house commissions in Davis by the way, and I do usually like to go and take a quick sketch on site or at least take a couple of photos that would mimic my on-site style. I dunno. It’s not always true, depends on the thing I’m drawing. Also, I find that when I paint at home sometimes I’m doing it in living-room light, and the colours end up a bit darker, unlike when I’m out on the street in the light of the outside. I think that shows sometimes. Anyway with this one, I drew right from the photo I took, but I decided (for some reason) to put some masking tape around the edges of the paper in my sketchbook and draw and paint right over the edge, and then peel the tape off at the end to reveal a perfectly straight-edged rectangular frame. It worked when I did some watercolour studies recently, though in my sketchbook it feels a little too…I don’t know, flat? I’m used to scruffy edges. Years ago I used to draw frames around my sketches, but almost never with a ruler – the straight, straight line is really out of place with my work, give me a slightly wobbly line any day. I used to have items like lap-posts, stop-signs, trees, hydrants that would pop out of the frame, like Deadpool breaking the fourth wall (but much more PG-friendly). If I were to do that here I should have had the chimney break the frame. Still, it’s a lovely house and I’ve drawn it the best I can in a smaller-than-I-usually-draw rectangular frame, even though it has a kind of ‘Drawn-by-Pete-in-2009’ feel to the style.
The students are back!
Everyone else is too. Campus feels full again. I think I said this already in a previous post. Well I repeat myself a lot, but each time I say it slightly differently until over time it is a completely different sentence.
For example this time I am using the ‘return’ button a lot more.
Ok that is enough of that.
This, as you know full well, is the UC Davis Silo, with the ongoing construction of the Teaching and Learning Complex behind it. The very-nearly-finished ongoing construction, I should say. It’s looking more like the finished article now. The TLC. I’m glad there will be both teaching and learning going on, it’s handy when they both happen. Sometimes there is teaching but no learning, and sometimes there is learning but no teaching. The University of Life is not a fully accredited degree-awarding institution as far as I am aware, but Life is the best teacher. Unless you learn very little, or learn the wrong things. People did used to say that though, back in the day, you’d say “I’m studying at uni,” and they’d go, “I go to the University of Life, me”, and I just wasn’t sure what to make of that, being fairly sure I was also alive. I mean it’s better than the University of Death, which sounds pretty shit, like a really crap heavy metal club. And I liked crap heavy metal clubs when I was at uni, I went to a lot of them, even though I couldn’t do the long hair and the whole look. My hair just grew upwards. But even I’d turn my nose up at the University of Death. But the University of Life, it sounds like something you get invited to by leaflets through your letterbox. I think it was a rival to the School of Hard Knocks, which I assumed was a place that has very heavily soundproofed doors. And they would say, “ah you’re book-smart, but I’m street-smart”. Yet I would spend considerably more time walking the streets than actually reading my books, you have no idea the lengths I would go to to avoid doing the reading in my French literature classes, or those undramatic books on dramatic theory in my Drama classes, I’d be walking all over the streets of east London. I couldn’t afford the bus fare.
So anyway, I stood beneath a tree and drew this panorama over a couple of lunchtimes. The tower of the Silo, which used to be covered in green foliage, is now bare and concrete-coloured. People passed by, some would sit and look at their laptops on the grass, most were on their way to either doing some teaching or some learning or let’s face it, a little bit of both. You never stop learning. The game is the best teacher.
At the start of this month we held the latest ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl at Vanderhoef Quad on the UC Davis, meeting outside the Manetti Shrem Museum. Long-time readers might recall that I drew the construction of this building and it’s complicated canopy back in 2015-16, and was invited to the grand opening where I was able to sketch the artists mingling in this great space. I didn’t sketch inside on this sketchcrawl, but I did attempt that canopy again on this sketchcrawl. There’s a lot to take in. I didn’t quite get the gradient from red to purple right on the big sign, I need to play with mixing watercolor gradients a bit. We had a good turnout, it is always fun to see other people sketching.
I drew a quicker sketch from across the street, using a purple pen. It was a pretty hot day, and there wasn’t anywhere to get a cold drink, it’s not a busy part of Davis on a weekend. I had been coaching soccer that morning at a game in Woodland (we drew 5-5; we had been 4-0 down, but came back to lead 5-4, but with about three minutes of stoppage time our opponents scored an equalizer in the last second. Exciting game!)
The last sketch I did was of the Buehler Alumni Center. I’ve only drawn this once as far as I recall, and that was a curvilinear sketch from about a decade or so ago. There it is below. I drew that in 2010, the years have flown. Anyway, we gathered again to look at each others’ sketchbooks and it was fun.
I took a little break in posting there; I’ve been busy, lot going on, plus my computer was making a noise like a tractor, so I wasn’t scanning any sketches, and I can’t write a blog post without a sketch, it’s like a crutch. I like writing though, it’s an important thing to do. I don’t do enough of it these days. November is coming up; I remember trying to do NaNoWriMo a couple of times, that didn’t last long. I don’t know if I have a novel in me. I just like to draw fire hydrants, I’m not that interesting. If I were a novelist, basically I would write the same story with the same characters over and over, but in each one you would see one or two small changes from the last time I wrote the novel, until eventually the thirtieth novel is completely different from the first. Wow, when you pitch it like that it sounds like a good novelist career plan. This view is a bit like that though. I have been drawing this view, from the steps of Bainer Hall looking towards the Silo and the Bike Barn (the most sketchable places within short walking/eating distance from my office) since 2007 and it has changed a bit each time, as has my style of drawing. This was drawn nearly a month ago, about a week into the new quarter of the academic year at UC Davis. Things are going well though, all these big classes in-person, everyone doing their bit to stay healthy, fully vaccinated and masked, no new spikes, at least not yet. Many staff still work at least partially remote. Students and bikes are everywhere, as they were in years past, though still feels a little quieter in other places. I like going in every day, though in addition to computer issues I’ve been having bike issue, so I’ve not been riding as much. I’ve been walking a lot though, totally smashing the ten thousand steps a day challenge. I’ve been coaching soccer in what spare time I have, that has been very battery-draining; our team has been winning though so that’s good, and we have a Halloween themed tournament next weekend which will be fun (our team costume is Spider-Man, and I love Spidey and the Marvel stuff as you know). I have been wanting to find some time to make another animation with the various Marvel Legos I’ve been collecting over the years, the last one I did was a couple of Halloweens ago, Dr Strange themed. I’ve been reading a lot of old comics on Marvel Unlimited – I love all the old X-Men stuff in particular – but I still love that old Fraction/Aja Hawkeye series, so I’m well excited about the new Hawkeye series coming on Disney+, seriously bro. I have been breaking out the guitar again for the first time in years, I’m still not any good at it but I don’t care, I like playing chords and remembering songs. I started getting back to the ukulele when we were in Hawaii in August, I forget how much playing music to myself is soothing on the soul, even if not on other peoples’ ears. But I have been drawing, still drawing, when I can. It’s never enough; I would like to be out drawing today, though I’ve decided to stay home and rest while rain finally starts to come down outside; after all these long months, we are at last getting some rain. I walked to work in the rain the other day, and it felt like home, felt like being back in London. By which I mean I was all romantically gazing at the grey sodden skies and taking in the breeze for the first ten minutes, and by the time I got to my office I was wet despite the umbrella, sweaty and grumpy, and wishing London was California. I am missing London right now though. It’s nearly two years since I was last home; this pandemic has kept me away too long. All I hear in the news and from friends is how depressing it is there right now, but I miss it, still. I am nervous about travelling international right now, in case I get a positive test and can’t fly back on time; things are just too busy. But do I want to stand on the embankments of the Thames and get depressing grey London rain down my face? Yeah, I do. Do I want to get on a packed tube train? Not really, no. Isn’t that the same London story as ever for me, just a few details changing over the years? Pretty much. So for now I draw Davis, and I’ve finally caught up on the scanning so I’ll post my newer drawings here soon, maybe with more interesting stories. Or maybe just the same stories again.