midtown, downtown, train back to my town

Ok…this one goes back a while. Back to March, in fact. In my defense, I only got the sketchbook back recently, so I could not write a post about it at the time. Well I could have, but stories without pictures? I was invited by Prof David Del La Peña of UC Davis to take part in a special sketchcrawl, which was to be part of the annual conference of CELA (the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture) in Sacramento. The sketchcrawl would move from midtown Sac and end up in Davis, linking up by train between the two. I joined them after lunch in Sacramento, and we were given accordion Moleskines to draw a series of fast sketches in, on location, at various spots about downtown. Also in attendance was Chip Sullivan, who I was not familiar with but he is very well known as a sketcher and educator and knows James Richards well. So I started off by drawing him and David near the conference center in midtown.

Sac sketchbook p1
Sac sketchbook p2

“Where Are We Going” it said on the sculpture near K Street. Well it turns out we were going down to the Cathedral, and I sat behind the large open angel wings of a statue. I remember drawing this Cathedral (Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament) years ago, 2006 or 2007, back when Pyramid Brewing was right behind, and California was so new to me. I remember trying to draw the Crest back then as well, the classic movie theatre a little way down the street. As we stopped for a moment to mention something about sketching I drew the sign, taking just a few minutes, before we moved on.

Sac sketchbook p3Sac sketchbook p4

And then we moved to the newest part of downtown, the area around the Golden One Center, the massive basketball arena. We saw Paul McCartney there a couple of years ago, an amazing show, one of the first performances held at the stadium. Macca sang for three hours and was incredible. I remember when this was part of the downtown mall, I would come here occasionally, but it is long gone now. You’ll notice I decided to deraw in pencil that day. I find that in those accordion moleskines I find drawing in my usual pen to be frustratingly difficult. The paper, the size of the page, the fact that it’s flopping all over the place, plus the extremely limited time in each spot – so I just went with pencil, which moves so fast across the page, and splashed on watercolour when I could. It was a sunny day with great clouds.interesting shadows, but cool enough for scarves. My favourite weather. We walked from there over to the Crocker Art Museum, not with much time to do a larger sketch (such a tight schedule, and distances to cover!) but enough time to pop into the gift shop. Oh but I did get a sketch, of another sketcher in a red coat. And then we went to old downtown…

Sac sketchbook p5
Sac sketchbook p6

Old Downtown has lots to sketch, I really should go sketchign there more often. This time I decided to draw some of the fire hydrants, one with a yellow cap, one with a green cap. This was followed by fast sketch of the Pony Express statue, before we walked to the Amtrak station.

Sac sketchbook p8Sac sketchbook p7

Sac sketchbook p9

I sat with a couple of the people attending the conference, Penelope and Tatyana (I think one came from Texas, another from California, but this was in March and my memory has faded). It doesn’t take long to get from Sac to Davis, but there was a table and a defined amount of time to sketch. You can see from the window that the Causeway was still full of water, after all the rain we got last spring. I have sketched the inside of Amtrak trains a few times before.
Sac sketchbook p10

And then we got to Davis, with just enough time to draw that iconic and sketchable Davis building, the Varsity Theatre on 2nd Street. And then we relinquished our sketchbooks, and walked back to the UCD campus.

Sac sketchbook p11 (davis)

The books were shown at an evening event during the conference, I was unable to go to it, but it would have been fun to see how everyone else interpreted the afternoon. Everyone sketches at different speeds and with different amounts of detail; I consider myself a fairly quick sketcher but it was hard to keep up! My feet were pretty tired afterwards, and I needed a good rest that weekend.

the answer’s in the looking glass

De Veres Davis

Continuing in nonlinear fashion (until I pluck up the courage to write properly about my summer trip to the Low Countries), let’s stop in at De Vere’s for a pint or two. De Vere’s is my go-to pub for sketching – lots of places to sit, lots of perspective, nice atmosphere, friendly staff. I also really like Sophia’s but it’s smaller, and a bit less light to draw by (but it’s my favourite place for food in Davis). Little Prague used to be my sketchpub years ago when it was there (it closed six years ago), it had a long bar perfect for panoramas, lots of stuff all over the walls, and awesome tall Czech beers. De Vere’s however has Pub Chips, and that is a big win for me.  Their Pub Chips have some thick gravy on them, and some melted cheese. Not quite as nice as proper northern Chips in Gravy, and possibly more similar to Canadian Poutine, either way they taste pretty nice. On this one Saturday night in September I found my favourite spot in the corner at the end of the bar and sketched away. I got into a nice conversation with a bloke from Ireland and his American partner. I lay the paint on very thick, and scribbled away with the pen very hard; I had fun with this sketch. This was one to attack the paper. I’ve drawn this place before, and I’ll draw it again, no need to be precious. I was celebrating; that evening I had sold another drawing at the Pence Gallery in the annual Art Auction, which is always a nice feeling. I really like drawing. Sometimes I get down on myself, start questioning if I’m good at anything, and then I remember I can draw fire hydrants pretty well, and while it’s not a useful skill, it’s a starting place. I can draw a bar too, in my own way, and it’s often fun as well.

De Vere's Davis on iPad

Anyway, I drew De Vere’s again a couple of months later, when I wanted to try out sketching with the iPad. It was a quicker sketch (one beer, late afternoon, on the Nov 11 Veterans Day holiday), while I played with the new Apple Pencil. A good learning experience, also enjoyed alongside those lovely Pub Chips. Now one of the nice things about Procreate is that you can create nice videos showing every stroke you made, very helpful in showing how you put the sketch together. Here it is…

Sketching De Veres

Previously, I had to show this by just taking photos of my sketchbook when I remember to. For that first sketch, I actually did, and even tweeted out the progress. Here are the photos, which helpfully show the beers too, which I’m sure you will agree is helpful to know. No sign of the Pub Chips though. Everything stops for those. Prost!

de veres sept 2019 in progress


UCD Bike Barn
Ok, let’s start this thing again. It’s been a long time since I posted my sketches properly, and it’s about time I caught up. I historically post sketches chronologically, never alphabetically, often autobiographically. However since my last posted sketches were from our trip to Disneyland in JUNE – over six months ago! – we’ve actually been to another Disneyland since then! – in fact my wife has been to Disneyland itself at least once since then – then perhaps I should just post the second half of my 2019 sketches in a nonlinear fashion. Like Pulp Fiction, or the middle episodes of every Netflix series. So let’s start off with something familiar. This is the Bike Barn at UC Davis, I have drawn it a million times, and this time it has those standing stones in the foreground. I drew it on a bright November lunchtime, with the sun in my eyes, glaring off of the screen. The screen? Yes, this was not drawn in the Seawhite of Brighton, or the Stillman and Birn, but on my new iPad, using Procreate. I have joined the Procreate drawing club, and I love it. I finally got a new iPad Air after years of using a 2014 iPad Mini. I was going to get the Pro, but the new Air is just as good and was half the weight. I made up for that by getting an expensive Moleskine cover for the iPad, so it looks like a sketchbook at least. Anyway I got the Apple Pencil and I love it, wow, it’s totally fun. I really like the other sketchers who use Procreate and digital devices (such as Rob Sketcherman, Paul Heaston and the brilliant Uma Kelkar who actually has a book about sketching with a tablet coming out next month, part of the Urban Sketchers Handbook, I’m looking forward to reading that). I especially like that you can watch back a video of how the sketch came together. Very useful for demonstrations. Still, I’m trying to get the hang of it, see what I like. I like using layers, that is very handy. The colouring part of it is very different to what I’m used to with real paint, so that’s something I am experimenting with. This sketch and the one below, the Crocker Nuclear Lab drawn quickly from my office window, were two of my first attempts at Procreate. I’ve got a lot I am figuring out and I am already getting used to some of the different brushes, but I can already see I am going to use it a lot more. In fact I drew this year’s advent calendar with it, mostly while sat on a plane back from England (I went to England in November).

UCD Crocker Lab

It’s been a while since I posted, so you’re probably wondering how UC Davis is doing. UC Davis is doing fine, it’s been getting some new buildings, and renovations, and I’ve been drawing those. Walker Hall is still being refurbished, it’s nearly done. I’ve been drawing that too. I even sketched it on the iPad last week. One of the best things about the iPad, one of the absolute greatest things, I don;t have to scan the drawing afterwards. It’s right there digitized already. I do have a new scanner, faster and quieter, but I’m still getting the hang of the lighting settings on it, there are always shadows near the crease of the book that I have to edit out afterwards, as best as I can. None of that with iPad sketching. Having just scanned half a year’s worth of sketches this past week, that is a big bonus.

And that was 2019.

It’s been a long time! Happy New Year 2020. Nearly three weeks into 2020 it’s still a new year. A new decade (all those people who smugly say, the new decade doesn’t start until the “1”, I say to you, you are soooo clever, you’re well clever you are, cor, I wish I was clever like you, meanwhile I am going to enjoy the 20s while you are still in the whatever-the-last-decade-was-called). It has been ages since I posted a sketch, wrote a ‘well-clever-you-are’ story about that sketch, but in my defense I have been avoiding scanning the sketchbooks. 2019 as it turned out was my most productive year for sketching, and I will start the posting soon. This weekend in fact. I have to remember what I did last summer. There’s been a lot going on. Without any further ado, here is the annual ‘list of all the sketches’ for 2019. You can zoom in or click on the image to see them bigger, or move your face closer to the screen, or simply ask an ant to describe them to you.

2019 sketches sm

I hope I haven’t missed anything out. As I wrote that sentence, Ir ealized that in fact I missed out scanning an entire sketchbook of quick drawings from a special sketchcrawl in Sacramento back in March I think it was, with the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. That added one extra line to this. But FINALLY I am caught up.

2019 really was the sketchingest year in ever. As a comparison to recent years, it beat them all, even 2017. 2108 saw a drop (very busy coaching soccer that year) but 2019 came right back at ya. Here is the chart from 2013-2019…

2013-2019 sketches

I’ll also be announcing the next Let’s Draw Davis dates soon. Now I have my soccer schedule kinda-sorta settled (I am coaching AYSO Select again this year…our first game ended 7-6 so it’s going to be Keeganesque!) I can start planning. 2019 was very busy, I think 2020 will be too. I went to England three times in 2019 though. We also went to Hawaii over Christmas / New Year, and the summer was a trip through Belgium/Holland/France. I had better start writing about it all, before I forget.

And we need to talk about Star Wars…


Let’s Draw Davis: December 2019

Let's Draw Davis Dec 2019

Seasons greetings! Join us for the last Let’s Draw Davis of 2019, an afternoon sketching around downtown Davis, looking at all the nice festive windows, maybe stopping in places for a nice hot chocolate.


START: 1:00pm, E St Plaza

FINISH: 3:30pm, E St Plaza

We will meet at the E Street Plaza at 1pm, by the clock near Baskin Robbins, then sketch about the downtown shopping area we all know so well, before meeting up again at 3:30pm at E Street Plaza to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this event is free and open to all who like urban sketching. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on! And maybe a scarf if it is chilly. Or a hot chocolate.

Hope to see you there! Pete

PS If it rains we will start or finish in Mishka’s or Peet’s, I’ll keep an eye on the weather and update the Facebook event page accordingly!

Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2552373148131298/

Let’s Draw Davis! November 23, 2019

LDD Nov 2019

If you are in the Davis area on Saturday November 23, why not join us for a sketchcrawl around the Fifth Street? This month’s Let’s Draw Davis we will sketch along this big road, meeting up at the corner of B and 5th (northwest corner of Central Park) at 1:00pm, meeting up there again at 3:30pm to look at each others’ sketchbooks.

As always this sketchcrawl is free and open to everyone who likes to draw. Fall is a lovely time of year with all the colourful crispy leaves falling, and this is one of the most autumnally pretty spots in town. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on! And maybe a scarf.

If it rains…I’ll still be out there sketching, but maybe using the famous umbrella-in-the-jacket technique.

Earlier that day, the annual Turkey Trot will be held nearby, for those who want to come along much earlier and sketch people running. If you do, you’ll see me also running. And I will be easier to sketch, because I will be running very slowly.

Details about this month’s Let’s Draw Davis can be found on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/515991652317375/

Happy sketching! Hope to see you there.

PS…if you are wondering where all my regular sketching is, well I have so many sketches built up and summer stories stored up I need to get down and start writing. Soon! I promise, I’m still sketching loads, and I even started iPad sketching recently, using Procreate. That has been fun. I’ll probably be using that on the sketchcrawl…

Let’s Draw Old East Davis! Oct 12 2019

Let's Draw Davis, Oct 12 2019

I’ve been on a break from posting for a while (writing in general), but in the meantime I have finally finished scanning all of my summer break sketches. Now I have to write the stories that go with them. It shouldn’t be hard, I’m just saying things that happened, that’s easy enough. Just like I’m drawing the things in front of my face, easy. Anyway, I’ve also not been organizing any sketchcrawls during the summer, but now as the Boo Radleys sang, summer’s gone. Fall is here, a new academic year, and so Let’s draw Davis comes back on Saturday October 12, this time exploring the interesting Old East Davis area. This is an interesting little neighbourhood with some historic houses (like the Schmeiser House), the Trackside area which is likely to be under much-debated redevelopment soon, and of course the historic Davis Amtrak Station. In fact we will start and end at the Amtrak.

START: 1:00pm

FINISH: 3:30pm

As always, the sketchcrawl is FREE and OPEN to anyone who likes sketching, any age. It’s good to get out and draw and see how other people do it. Sketchers can sketch individually or in groups, and sketch for as long as you like. We will meet up at the end to look at our sketchbooks, and of course, I’ll have stickers.

Information: https://www.facebook.com/events/542367752972885/ 

Hope to see you there!

Now to start writing up my vacation posts…