Right, after all those people sketches, here is a building. This is the Memorial Union at UC Davis, and it has just recently reopened after a big upgrade. The still-closed Freeborn Hall is on the right, and the modernized shiny bookstore is there on the left.
As some of you may know, I have a book out called “Five Minute Sketching People”. It came out in the autumn and has been apparently doing well; I don’t really know exactly how well, I’m not told these things, but I often check the ranking on Amazon. And then, to compare, I always check the ranking of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s book, “I Am Zlatan”. I don’t check it against any other book, only that one. And every day I would check, and my book would be above it in the Amazon rankings. I’d be at 26,000, Zlatan would be at 46,000. It was always up and down, but I’d usually be higher than “I Am Zlatan”, so regardless of how high it actually was or what any of it means, as long as I was above “I Am Zlatan”, that was all that mattered, beating Zlatan. I mean it doesn’t mean I’m somehow better than Zlatan, that would be ridiculous, all I’m saying is that the numbers don’t lie, and clearly my next book should just be called “I Am Better Than Zlatan”, obviously. It’s a fun game I play every day.
And then recently I noticed that Zlatan had overtaken me. Is it because he is finishing up his contract at Manchester United, that saw a spike in his book sales? I too do not play for Manchester United. Coincidence? And the worrying thing is, he has stayed there! Today for example he is at #57,515 and I am at #88,844. Now I don’t doubt that Zlatan is a great writer, after all He Is Zlatan, and admittedly he is slightly more globally well-known than I am, him being a Premier League/Serie A/La Liga, Ligue 1/international superstar, and me being a bloke who draws pictures of things in a town nobody has heard of. So, fair play to him.
Oh, these by the way are some of my quick people drawings from the past month or so. These are the sorts of ones I did in the book, simple, quick, passers-by, capturing what you can in a tiny amount of time, most of them being at UC Davis, except the ones at the top which are at the Farmer’s Market. Many were sketched at the Silo, or nearby, sketched on days when my lunchtime wasn’t long enough for a building sketch (or I just had no inspiration to draw more buildings). The ones immediately below were sketched at the UC Davis Picnic Day, Battle of the Bands. Hence the funny costumes. It’s all very silly.
The whole Zlatan thing is just a bit of a joke I have with my son, we find it funny to look up the numbers. I did notice recently though that someone had given my book a “1 star” rating. I mean I don’t mind, that’s fine, but I had to look at it anyway. They wanted to see step-by-step tutorials rather than tips on techniques, you see, which I totally get. They even said I was a good artist, which I do appreciate. But, 1 star? I mean I don’t care obviously, but that 1 star, it stands out, like Sirius glaring at the constellation of Orion. I looked and saw they had given 1 star to the other book in the series, the one Liz Steel wrote about 5-minute Architecture Sketches. In fact they had written exactly the same review word for word, which saves time I suppose, and to be fair they changed the word ‘him’ to ‘her’ for the other review so it’s not a total cut and paste. But it’s totally fine. I had a look at what else they had given 1 star to, just out of interest, and the next 1-star was for a book called “Guns: Weapons Guide for Total Beginners”, because “the only picture was on the cover”. Which is a fair assessment. He gave 5 stars to “Think Like A Winner” though, which sounds like a book I could use, though I must point out that book is even further below “I Am Zlatan” than I am, so.
I looked to see if Zlatan had any “1 star” reviews, and was pleased to discover that unfortunately he had two. And they aren’t really very good reviews either. One said that they were a huge fan of Zlatan as a player but that his book was “full of ego and painful to read”. (Haha, just wait until “I Am Better Than Zlatan” comes out!) But “painful to read”? More painful to read than a 1 star review? The Darkhold is painful to read, or The second one said that “There is a lot of “I” in his book. Its really not that good.” Now to be fair, you need to use the letter “I” a lot in english, otherwse t mght look lke ths. You see? Also, the book is called “I Am Zlatan”, which yes it starts with the letter “I”, but he left out his last name, which has at least three “I”s in it, maybe more. Also there are a lot of lower case “L”s, which could be mistaken for “I”s. If however the reviewer is referring to the fact he talks about himself a lot, well, Zlatan is guilty as charged, but what with it being an autobiography, that is to be expected, unless you think an autobiography is a biography of a car. But if the reviewer really thinks Zlatan is a massive egotist, well he’s wrong, and he proves it by saying that he uses “I” a lot. Truly massive egos don’t do that, they prefer using the third person, like “Zlatan is hungry, Zlatan wants a new contract,” or like Pete does in his profile page on this very website. In fact if he was truly as egotistical as these reviewers think, his book would have been called “Zlatan is Zlatan”.
You’re probably wondering who this “Zlatan” even is, don’t worry about it, he’ll come up again I’m sure. He is a very good footballer, look him up on Youtube, his skills are amazing. Buy his book too, keep it above mine in the charts, I don’t mind honestly. The figure in the second row, second to the left looks a bit Zlatan-like, though he is significantly taller, a very tall bloke. By the way the fellow in the above sketch, bottom row, yes that one, he is not yogic-flying, he is in fact sitting on grass that you cannot see. Invisible grass. And yes, top left bloke is wearing a Liverpool shirt. Anyway, these are my recent quick people sketches, I do hope you like them and if you have five minutes why not do some yourself?
At the end of April, we drove over the Sierra Nevada mountains, still heavily packed with quickly melting snow, across the state line into Nevada. My son played AYSO Select this year at the U10 level, and his team (the Davis “Duh”) were off to play in their third tournament, the Comstock Shootout at Carson City. It was a two-day tournament, playing against other teams from northern California, but the location was utterly spectacular. The backdrop of the snow-peaked Sierras on one side, and rocky high desert hills on the other, this was, let’s say, a little bit different from Davis. The sketch above, a panorama in pencil and watercolour in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, was sketched in roughly 20-25 minutes while our team warmed up elsewhere; this was actually the U14 team, the Davis Dissent, for whom several older brothers of our lads were playing. But I couldn’t resist those mountains! I was trying to channel my French urban sketching friend Vincent Desplanche, who does amazing sketches up in the mountains back in Europe. Davis is too flat for mountains, they are usually too far in the distance.
The altitude was high, so our players had more sub breaks during the games (our coach was really good at managing that). I was reminded of when South American teams go and play in Bolivia, and struggle with the altitude in La Paz, which the Bolivian players are well used to. This was so problematic that between 2007 and 2008 FIFA actually banned international games from being played at above 8,200 feet. Carson City is at around 4,800 so nowhere near that high, but you do feel it. I was also reminded of when Premier League teams go to West Brom, who have the highest ground in England, and they often struggle with the altitude, which is a whopping 551 feet, so actually it’s more the Tony Pulis tactics they struggle against.
We were actually put to the test though by another team who were much more used to playing at altitude, a team from the town of Bishop, which is in California but on the High Desert side of the Sierras. Bishop is at 4,150 feet, and their players definitely outplayed ours, giving us our only defeat of the competition (and a pretty big one too). Davis, I might add, is only 52 feet above sea level. We may not be mountain-top athletes, but our cakes are baked to perfection. Above, here are some sketches I did during the game.
We stayed in the nearby town of Minden, at the Holiday Inn. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Minden, so in the evening while my son slept I grabbed a cold drink from the gas station across the street and sketched in the seating area of the hotel. I brought my books about perspective, as I was planning for my workshop in June, and so couldn’t help a nice bit of interior perspective. It was very yellow in there, though.
And here are those mountains again, this time sketched from our hotel window in the morning. It’s pretty beautiful there with that backdrop. I’d like to explore that part of Nevada some day, the High Desert, see some of the old abandoned ghost towns. I’d like to go to Virginia City, where they filmed that TV show Bonanza; I remember once joking it would be fun to do a sketchcrawl there, but at the end you would have to burn your sketches and ride off on horses, like in the opening credits. Tell you what though, those mountains look really pretty but that snow was melting fast. As we drove back over it, you could see it all stacked high but weeping in any direction, with waterfalls gushing and creeks rushing. And the rocks…we saw a huge boulder which had fallen into the road and forced a big car to swerve off, and passed the section of highway that had been partially washed away by the heavy rain and snow in the winter. It was a fun trip, definitely a change of scenery, and a cool tournament for the boys to play in.
Well what an election night that was! I actually bowed out and didn’t watch it seat-by-seat this time, because frankly I wanted to watch Wonder Woman instead (it was pretty good). I got home just in time for them to announce the Hung Parliament, so, more fun then. Sure there’ll be another one around the corner soon. Anyway…I’m still catching up with month-old sketches, and here are a few of the old Star Wars Galactic Heroes figures I’ve had for years, the ones with the odd bow-legged stance, as if they are on the Galactic Loo. The bottom ones were drawn on Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, (for my friends in the UK, that’s on the Fifth of April). They do look like they’ve lost their seats, a whole bunch of lost seats. Nick Clegg’s, for example. I wish I had more, like the Boba Fett one, but you can’t get them any more, except on Ebay or Amazon for a lot of money. I love that Vader one on the bottom row, pointing his sabre like Errol Flynn. These were a lot of fun to draw.
Yeah, another posting break. I can assure you that I have been sketching a lot though – a LOT. Almost as if I needed stress relief from the world at large. 2017 really is making 2016 look like a golden age, as predicted. So I am about a month behind posting my sketches, and this one is of ‘The House’, a building on the UC Davis campus. I really wish The House was located on A Street. It is a good name though, because it is exactly what it says it is. It’s a bit like The Barn, another campus building. I for example work in The Mathematical Sciences Building, which to be fair is equally as descriptive. And A Street is, I must concede, A Street. Have you missed this? The inner workings of my thought process made into pixellated reality to justify the space beneath the drawing, as if the larger the paragraph the more justified the illustration (this paragraph is totally not justified though, it is left aligned). This year has flown by, and at the same time felt so long. There is still a lot of it left. Tomorrow is the British snap general election (actually it is today now) (I’m up late writing from California), because we weren’t already drained enough. It feels so much worse than even a decade ago. I remember drawing a political cartoon for the 2005 general election that actually got shown on the Channel 4 website, with the leaders of the Three Main Parties as the Three Bears, with Goldilocks running away from them, it seemed funny and innocent at the time. These days I’d draw it as something like the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Death of the Little Hen’ or something equally, well, grim. I ain’t going all politics here though, I honestly cannot be bothered right now. So, this is The House. Actually I really wish it could have been located on R Street, maybe in the middle. I’d write a song about it.
This is Three Mile Brewing in Davis. Everywhere is a brewery these days. This place is fairly new, and brews right here, in the courtyard of Cedar Court behind 3rd and G Streets. I came here one other time and had a ‘Frankenweizen’ which I quite liked. This time I had an Irish stout which was less my thing, followed by a Kolsch, which was nicer. I enjoyed drawing here, having come here one evening after working late (March and April this year had a lot of those long work days!). They have a lot of t-shirts and merchandise which of course all the breweries do these days. The name ‘Three Mile Brewing’ actually comes from an old Davis law, though, that was established in the early 20th century after much lobbying by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that alcohol could not be sold within three miles of campus. This ban went until 1979 you know. Even since I’ve lived in Davis the number of bars has grown by a lot. I should know, I have drawn them all. I enjoyed sketching at the table here, listening to people talk the evening away, and there was a dog that was very contentedly sit next to his family a table away from me. Some of the bars in Davis are quite dog-friendly, with the University of Beer for example having “Puppy Hour” on weekends, most of the day rather than just an hour, where you can get a buck off your beer if you bring your dog. Woof! I don’t have a dog so I pay full price. What if I brought someone dressed up as a dog? What about werewolves? Where do I go from here after talking about werewolves? Let’s get back to the sketch. It took two beers (the aforementioned Stout and Kolsch) to draw including all the colour, and it was another practice test in perspective observation. Knackered, I finished up and went home to my bed, to get up early again next day.
This is the Mary Stephens Library in Davis, our local public library. I like it here, and am super thankful for the fact that public libraries exist. I spent so many years in the library, looking for the exit. No when I was a kid I would go to Burnt Oak Library after school and read every book I could, mostly the ones about other countries, I always wanted to travel. I never thought I would end up in America; I do remember reading all about Australia, and Germany, and Hong Kong – there was this one book about Hong Kong I used to read over and over, and to this day I still have never been. Nor Australia. I used to read a book about Australia and learn all about exotic things such as Lamingtons, Flying Doctors, Funnel Web Spiders. I loved the library. Sometimes I would go to Hendon Library, a couple of stops away on the tube, but it was much bigger and had a music section. I would check out records there, they had a lot of old BBC Sound Effects records I used to enjoy for some reason, you know the ones with “Door Creaking” or “Thunderstorm”, I remember they would check the record for scratches before giving it to you, marking each imperfection with a yellow crayon, and don’t even think about bringing it back damaged. Hendon Library. I spent so many Saturdays in there, sat in the Languages section, they had a lot of books about Languages. That’s where I did most of my reading about Languages when I was a boy of 13 or 14, amazed that there were so many in the world, I tried to learn different alphabets and was especially enthralled with the Cyrillic alphabet, this being back in the days when the Cold War was about the end and it had such a distant and exotic feel, and I loved how different languages that used Cyrillic did it in their own different way, the special letters in Serbo-Croatian (the Serbian side anyway) that the Russians didn’t have, and then all the others across what was then the Soviet Union. I devoured those language books. History too, I would read whatever I could about anywhere, especially the remote far away places; I read one book about the history of the Falkland Islands once, cover to cover. I didn’t only read about Languages and Countries and History but also a lot of fiction, especially fantasy fiction, though my favourite books were always the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, I still have my collection of them (except a couple which I lent to my nephew many years ago) but I would read many many more at the library. Sometimes I would go to Hendon Library on a Saturday after lunch and get a bunch of books at the library, and then get the bus from The Burroughs, the 183 to Harrow, reading book after book on the way, and then in Harrow I would go to the bookshop near the St.Ann’s shopping centre and read more books, mostly about Languages, before popping by the Games Workshop to buy some colourful dice, getting a bag of chips from the chippy, and getting the 114 back to Burnt Oak. Those really were the days. When I grew into adulthood I still spent ages in the Library, like Crouch End Library when I was jobless in Hornsey, or the Maughan Library when I was studying at King’s, and of course the massive Shields Library at UC Davis, the first place I ever came to spend my time when I first moved here, reading as many books about Old English as I could find on the shelves. Libraries were always my natural home, my quiet retreat, and they still are. I stand up for libraries. This one here in Davis is near my house, and I sketched it one afternoon before picking my son up from school, with grey clouds hanging in the sky. We went in afterwards, and spent some time with the books.