turtle recall

turtle house davis

This is the Turtle House on 2nd Street, Davis. I’ve drawn it before, and passed by it a million times, and it looks like another student house. It’s quite well known in town though as a place for events, bands will play there, bands have lived there I think, I don’t know; there’s a whole page on DavisWiki about the place. Reading that it feels a little bit outside my experience. They have an Instagram page too. Not having been a student here, and having only really worked with grad students and faculty during my time in Davis, there’s this whole undergrad student culture that exists in Davis that I know literally nothing about, and don’t really relate to much. Been a long time since I was a student, and that was in England. So I just draw pictures. It’s an interesting looking building for sure. The turtle is there, hanging above the porch.

another view of university house

University House 020123 sm

Another building I have drawn before. University House, UC Davis, first day of February 2023. I’ve drawn it a few times over the years, from slightly different angles, but usually, curiously, in the winter, February or March. Below, sketches from 2017 and 2013. The first time I drew it, this was where SISS was housed (they handle the international scholars, visas and so on, for the university), but they have since moved over to the big International Center that was built a few years back.

University House, UC Davis

University House was built in 1907/1908 as the house of the farm director when the campus first opened as University Farm, an agricultural research offshoot of UC Berkeley. It’s one of the oldest buildings on campus.

university house


Mrak tree stump 012523 sm

Did I post this one already? With time moving along so quickly I cannot remember. January seemed to go on forever, and now suddenly it’s April. This is the stump of one of the trees that blew down in the massive storms that opened 2023. I sketched it, needing to sketch at lunchtime as I do, listening to a podcast about the Beatles as I do, documenting. The very next day, even the stump was gone. Goodbye big old tree. Gone to the great big forest in the sky, as they say. This was on Mrak Lawn, that green are in front of Mrak Hall, shaded with trees (well, fewer than before) and a nice place to walk through. As I sketched a couple of people said “hello Pete” and I replied although I don’t think I actually recognized them. When I’m in sketching world it takes a minute for me to remember people. This was a nice sunny day, not rainy and windy as so many days have been. This is a very unusual year for Davis, it’s never this wet. We were inviting in faculty candidates from all over the country, and I always use the pleasant weather compared to say Michigan or Washington at this time of year as a pulling point as to why Davis is a great place to live. It was a bit harder this year with so much fun weather. One thing I like about January on campus, you can always tell if someone is there for a job interview, because they are the ones walking around in pristine suits with well brushed hair, unlike the rest of us who are casual Californians. Anyway, it is now April, we’re still getting rain, but the sunshine is coming. It always does.

ruhstaller, dixon

Dixon Ruhstaller 012823 sm

In late January, on a rare dry day, my wife and I went to a 50th birthday party for a friend we know in Davis (Jenna), who my wife actually went to school with (they were on the cheerleading team; there’s a bit of Americana for you, we didn’t have those at my school in London). it was at the Ruhstaller brewery in Dixon, near Davis, an interesting location that was definitely getting sketched. There were a lot of people there in the covered but large and airy barn, so I went outside and drew the building against the setting sun. The party was fun, the beer was nice, and it was a good evening. The only thing was that they had these wood fires for warmth, but inside; when stood next to or near one, you immediately smelled of wood fire. All our clothes reeked of it when we got home, it reminded me of nights out in Camden in the old days before the smoking ban. The wood smoke seemed to get into our pores, so I had to have a good shower that night and thoroughly wash all my clothes. That wood smoke would put me off going there again to be honest. But it was a popular place and the beer tasted very nice, and the party was enjoyable.

every sketchbook needs a race car

automuseum 1988 IndyCar March 011523 sm

On one of those many ridiculously rainy days in January we went down to the California Automobile Museum to look at the old cars. I only ended up drawing one of them this time, and of course it had to be a race car. The 1988 March, driven by Steve Saleen in the 1989 IndyCar world series, was a cool little vehicle I just had to sketch. What I really want to do is sketch a Formula One car. I am more than a little bit obsessed with Formula One, and have been into it since I was a kid, my dad would watch it, back in the days of Mansell, Prost, and of course Senna. I’ll never forget the weekend Senna died at Imola, because I was watching the Qualifying the day before when Roland Ratzenberger died, and it was pretty shocking. I couldn’t believe the Sunday race went ahead, but when the greatest driver himself then died also? I still feel shocked and stunned by it. I still followed Formula One through the 90s with Hakkinen, Hill, Villeneuve and the other great Schumacher, everyone’s favourite loveable villain, who after a glittering world-beating career on the track ended up suffering terrible injuries in a skiing accident and has not been in public since. He was a classic racer, extremely annoying and easy to dislike early on, but by his later career you couldn’t help but be in awe. Then there was Alonso, who somehow is back and has three podiums out of three this season already, and along came Lewis Hamilton, a real British superstar right from his rookie season. When he won his first title with McLaren in his second season, on that final race in Brazil, I was watching on a terrible feed with no sound on my TV in California, and while I was delighted for Lewis, I was very sad for Felipe Massa who thought he’d done enough to win it, but it wasn’t to be. Lewis of course won loads more with Mercedes, and though at the time it felt like a gamble to switch teams to the Mercs, it really paid off. In between though we had the Vettel dominance with Red Bull, when my son was very little and that cocky young’un Seb was his first sporting hero (followed by Luka Modric and Gareth Bale), and the 2012 season I remember as being one of the greatest. Back then he loved his toy cars and we would draw these huge race tracks on poster board, one for each F1 Grand Prix, and play with the cars on them. Then the years of Lewis becoming all powerful, and even though some years it felt easy for Mercedes (that’s the nature of the sport, a great driver needs a great car, it felt like that with Schumacher and Ferrari, it feels like that now with the Red Bull and Max, even when Hakkinen was winning that McLaren felt unstoppable) there were some high drama years and I watched as avidly as ever, and I’m a big big fan of Lewis, and I hope he still has another good challenge in him. I am still feeling gutted and angry about how the 2021 season ended, when he’d done so much to come back and lead the title, only to be stitched up by the FIA on the last couple of laps of that race. That had been an amazing and dramatic season, the Max v Lewis, Horner v Toto, Red Bull v Mercedes season. And then the cars changed, Mercedes created a dud, and Red Bull got it completely right, and with Max Verstappen steaming away at the front they look like they will be unstoppable for a few years. Our nickname for Max is ‘Waluigi’, he reminds us of that Mario Kart character. (Side note, I love Mario Kart, and it was my F1 obsession that led me to buy the original Super Mario Kart not long after it came out, as it was the greatest racing game, and me and my brother will still play the original version all these years later). I’m not particularly a fan of Max, I don’t like his character much, but I do have admiration for him as an unbelievably determined racer, and the lad’s got talent. He may well be another Schumacher, if this Red Bull keeps developing. I’ve not even mentioned Jenson Button, who was one of my favourite racers, and the season he unbelievably won the title in a Braun, that white car with the neon yellow bits on it that looked amazing, in a year that felt like Formula One was turning upside down a little bit during the global economic downturn (remember that), that was still one of my favourite seasons of all time. Now, a lot more people over here are getting into F1, thanks to the popularity of Drive to Survive, which has for me at least brought the less well-known racing battles into greater light, the midfield drama that we often overlook when focused solely on the podium places. Formula One has always been a soap opera for me, and unlike football, where I only really love Tottenham, mostly indifferent to everything else (though I’ll sometimes watch Serie A) except for the kits which I’m obsessed with, and of course the World Cup, which is enjoyable except when watching England when it’s agony, or Ireland when it’s 1994. I don’t support a particular team, or even a particular driver, I just like the sport and the characters and the drama, and I just want good racing, although I have always loved Lewis. Here’s my sketch after he won that first title back in 2008, right before Obama won the presidency. I’ve not watched a lot of IndyCar, to be honest, whenever I do it’s really just to watch the few former F1 drivers taking part (like when Alonso was involved for a bit), but that’s usually a lot of fun as well.

lewis hamilton