christmas crackers

xmas fireplace 2018
Christmas morning, we were up early, opening presents, calling England. Our morning pressie-time is about the time of my London family’s Christmas dinner-time. Then, time to go over to my wife’s family in Santa Rosa for Christmas Day. We have crab for dinner on Christmas Day in Santa Rosa, and I’m always the world’s worst eater of crab, it tastes great but I am such an amateur with the crackers. I did pretty well this year but I live for the broth, I love dipping the bread into that. We have brought the tradition of Christmas Crackers with us from England, along with the hilarious Christmas Cracker jokes. I say hilarious, I mean terrible, but British humour is different from American humour anyway. That said, my five-year-old nephew likes knock-knock jokes, and we always do the ‘interrupting cow’ version (“knock-knock / Who’s there? / The Interrupting Cow / the interruptin/MOOOOO!”) (I got that one from the Vicar of Dibley back in the 90s), and then many other variants (the one I like the most is the ‘interrupting rabbit’, because of course the rabbit doesn’t ‘moooo’ or anything but just makes a noise tapping its foot). Actually my favourite joke EVER sounds like it comes from a Christmas Cracker, but in fact it comes from ‘3001 Jokes For Kids’. It’s the only joke I remember from that book, which I got for Christmas when I was about nine or ten, and to this day is my favourite joke. When I first read it, by myself in my room, I laughed harder than I had ever laughed, and then laughed more. I still find it hilarious. What is the joke? Well if I tell you, promise not to laugh. Well I mean you can laugh at the joke obviously because it’s brilliant and funny, but just not at me for liking the joke so much. Ok, here goes, the best joke of all time, here it is, here goes.

“What is a polygon? A dead parrot.” 

Isn’t that the best?! Many years later in America someone made some reference to the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch being their favourite bit of British humour, and yes it is very funny, the Pythons are my favourites, but it’s not even the funniest dead parrot joke. Polygon is the funniest dead parrot joke. I remember doing maths at school and we had to do shapes and someone used the word polygon, and I laughed so much I had to go to the toilet. When I was in my late teens I visited Strasbourg and the lycee was close to a street called the ‘Route du Polygone’ and every day I would see that sign and laugh so hard, and I tried the French version of the joke, “Que-ce que c’est un polygone? C’est un perroquet mort!” The joke didn’t necessarily translate directly but they laughed at me anyway, and pointed a lot, which I think means it was extra funny. Strasbourg being historically part German I would sometimes impress people with the German version, “Was ist ein Polygon? Ein toter Papagei.” Again the humour isn’t necessarily transferable but I like to think that what I mistook for confused silent stares were in fact their way of saying, wow what a joke, das ist really cool, Pete ist sehr lustig.

snowman xmas tree 2018
Let’s move on from the world’s funniest ever joke (if you are finished laughing about Polly being ‘gone’, if not, take your time). Above, I sketched my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree, which this year was dressed up as a snowman. The hat actually has a history, it was brought over from London by my mum over ten years ago and left at my mother-in-law’s in Santa Rosa, and before that my mum actually got it from my uncle in Belfast, so the hat has a long well-travelled history. I like this snowman tree, and I sketched it while we watched the Water Horse, that movie set in Scotland with the Loch Ness Monster. It reminded me of the Family Ness, that was a cartoon I liked as a kid. Not as funny as the polygon joke but amusing nonetheless. I nearly drew a cartoon many years ago about fish living in a Scottish loch called “Under Loch And Quai”, with a kind of Porridge-like cell-mate dynamic to it, but while the little fishies were fun to draw, I had no actual material other than trying to work in the polygon joke, which doesn’t really work when it’s a cartoon about two fish, because (a) they wouldn’t understand what a parrot is, what with fish being entirely water-bound, and (b) parrots not exactly being aquatic nor common in Scotland. To the underwater community, “Polly” might well be a common name for a frog, for all we know, what with a ‘pollywog’ being another name for a tadpole, albeit more common in America than rural Scotland. So a better version of the joke for two fish to say would be “What is a Polygon? A dead frog.” And you can imagine, this might make two fish roll about in hysterics, but would have us humans just shrugging our shoulders. Maybe humour isn’t as translatable as we think. The only joke I could think of for this cartoon was another one which I may have read in 3001 Jokes For Kids, I don’t remember, but it goes as follows:

FISH 1: “Why are you swimming under the pier?

FISH 2: “Because it is raining.”

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christmas is all around

e street plaza davis
Happy Christmas to you all. This is the E Street Plaza in Davis California, decked out with the big tree. This came after a long period of not-sketching. I did this after work, after our office closed for the holidays; I just really wanted to capture a bit of Christmas, and followed this up by the evening sketch at De Vere’s. And now it’s Christmas Eve. Well, it just turned Christmas Day (better get to bed, the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t going to haunt itself). I’ve spent today scoffing cheese, mince pies, turkey, hot chocolate, a couple of beers, pumpkin pie, and the second-worst level of Quality Streets (the strawberry / orange cremes, not the rock-hard toffee ones; it wasn’t a big box, in fact it only had two purple ones and one green triangle, but four toffee pennies? Inequality Street more like.) And of course, watching Christmas movies. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourites, though actually most of it doesn’t take place at Christmas, and in the end they sing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve, bizarrely. Abother one I always watch is Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is probably the best version of that story that exists (the other one I love is the 1970 Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which I feel the Muppets drew from quite heavily. That Ghost of Christmas Future gave me nightmares for years!). One of the reasons I love the Muppet’s version is that Michael Caine plays it so straight, so believably, among all the Muppets, he doesn’t just pretend it’s all a larf. Home Alone is another classic Christmas film we love, my son adores it, so I like it a lot now as well. I have a soft spot for Love Actually as well, silly though it is. It reminds me of London in 2003, and seeing the occasional shots of the skyline, when not even the Gherkin was finished, it makes me very nostalgic for that period right before we moved to America; that was the London I left, the London of Hugh Grant being a bachelor Prime Minister telling American President Billy Bob Thornton to go and do one. We always watch some classic Christmas telly as well: The Snowman, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and the Christmas edition of Father Ted (“and now we move on to liars…”). Of course in proper British Christmas TV someone always dies, at least in Eastenders and Downton Abbey anyway. Now it’s also the time of year when people include Die Hard as one of their favourite Christmas movies, because those people are really clever and perceptive and are the first people to figure out Die Hard was set during Christmas; well done you, here is a prize. One thing that is different over here in California is that we don’t get the special Christmas edition of Radio Times (and/or TV Times), when all the TV listings would be set out like great, epic events. Die Hard With A Vengeance is on at 11pm on ITV two days before Christmas? Set the video timer! Get home early from the pub! And the Queen’s Speech, oh I always loved the Queen’s Speech, though I don’t remember ever actually watching it, as we usually had Christmas dinner at that time and it was the one time of the day when the TV was off (the one time of the year in fact, our TV was always on). I like the idea of the Queen’s Speech but the only thing I remember was the Annus Horribilis bit. And that was because I thought it meant Horrible Bum. And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Bum!

a festive friday

de vere's davis

It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.

on a colourful day

Davis Farmers Market
I’ve been a bit slow with posting this year. My sketching numbers are down too; but then again, 2016 and 2017 were a little hard to beat for sketch volume! I have a fair number of recent sketches still to scan though, but before we get on with those, here are the two I did on the last Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, which was on a lovely sunny-after-the-rain morning at the Farmers Market. The trees were painted in exciting colours. We had a good turn-out, I talked a bit about drawing crowds and perspective (remembering all the things James Richards once taught me). These trees are almost all leafless now, as we hit mid-December. There were a lot of locals out this day, gearing up for the festive season. Below, sketched from almost the same spot but looking in a different direction, across C Street to the rear section of Davis Community Church.
C St Davis

let’s draw Davis! Dec 1, 2018

LDD 120118

Let’s do some sketching! The November ‘Let’s draw Davis!’ sketchcrawl ended up not happening (due to all the unhealthy air) but it’s time for another sketch-crawl meet-up, this time at the colorful Davis Farmer’s Market. Just a short one this time, 10:30-1pm, but enough to get a few bits of sketching in.

We’ll meet up at the benches by the Carousel in Central Park (located between B and C Streets, the Carousel is about in the middle of the park, just past the market), and then do some sketching around the market and the park, before meeting up again at B and 3rd St, at the entrance to the Davis Bicycling Hall of Fame at 1pm (which provides a nice shelter if it rains). At the end we look at each other’s sketchbooks and, if you like, share our sketching methods.

START: 10:30am, Central Park (C St / 4th St) at benches by the Carousel)
FINISH: 1:00pm, B St / 3rd St (outside Bicycling Hall of Fame)

As always the sketchcrawl is FREE and open to anyone who likes to sketch, and meet others who also like urban sketching. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on.

Hope to see you there!!

Event Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/543061586165953/

https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis/

a tower shining bright

UC Davis water tower
This is the UC Davis water tower. I have sketched it before, but I don’t mind rehashing old material. I’ll happily tell the same jokes many times over to the same people, over a period of many years, as anyone who has read any of this sketchblog can attest. You might think that I’m sketching for a new audience, maybe someone hasn’t seen one of my sketches of the water tower before, and here’s a new one, but no, it’s really just that after 13 years in this town there isn’t a lot else to draw, so you draw things again. Different times of year, things look different; different times of my life, I see different. Let’s not think too much about it. Cezanne never worried about that when he was painting Mont St.Victoire over and over. Well he probably did, and if I had stayed in Aix-en-Provence myself beyond 2002 then I too would be on about my hundred-and-fiftieth drawing of it, and the Rotonde, and the Place d’Albertas and all the other corners of town that might lose their charm. I’d be dreaming every day, while wandering among the ochre stone and narrow cobbled streets, stepping over dog poo, cigarette butts and dried-up wine, wishing I was somewhere far away and different, like some American college town where they have fire hydrants and falling leaves, wide streets and bicycles, huge continent-crossing trains in the middle of the night, where smoking is banned pretty much everywhere and fresh milk isn’t hidden away like some unloved cousin. Sorry Aix-en-Provence, I love you but I married Davis. I came to Davis 13 years ago, and this water tower was the first thing I ever saw of the town, sticking out above the flat valley like a giant sputnik. It reminded me a bit of my first memories of France actually, when we would visit northern France on school trips, and the most striking thing about the French countryside were the distinctive water towers. This water tower has always for me been the symbol of Davis, more than the bike or the frog or the eco-conscious beard. It’s worth a few sketches I think. I drew this one at the start of November one sunny lunchtime, stood on the banks of Putah Creek, adding the paint on site because everything was such an attractive colour. The sky was a clear and breathable blue. This was before the horrible wild fires up near Chico, that brought havoc to the area and covered northern California with a hazardous smoke for two weeks, even closing down the UC Davis campus. As of last week the rains have finally come and the fresh air is back, meaning we could go back to work today. I didn’t sketch during that whole time; I went to Portland a couple of weeks ago to teach a workshop (I’ll write more on that later), and have been on a bit of a sketching hiatus since. Everyone needs a break. But I’m getting back into it. It’s end of November, advent-calendar-making season, and I have to get that done first. There’s a sketchcrawl in Davis this Saturday (see Let’s Draw Davis) and I’ve got a bit more Walker Hall to sketch, but the rains are coming back…

on and on across the universe

Lego Obi-Wan Starfighter
More Lego sketches! These are the mid-prequel-era Jedi star-fighters of Obi-Wan Kenobi (above) and Anakin Skywalker (below). The Obi-Wang ship actually comes with a huge ‘hyperspace ring’ (because one-man fighters this small don’t have space for an internal hyperdrive). I like the simple, sleek design, like a paper airplane, or a teeny-tiny Star Destroyer. The droid, R4 (or ‘Arfour’ as in ‘Arthur Daily’) liked to deal in dodgy motors and go for a drink down the Winchester. One thing always bugged me though. In Attack of the Clones, when Obi-Wan flies one of these to Kamino, Mace Windu orders him to apprehend Jango Fett and bring him back to Coruscant for questioning by the Jedi. But look at that ship! How’s he meant to do that? It’s not like there’s tons of room. Is he going to sit on Obi-Wan’s lap? Think, McFly, think!
Lego Anakin Starfighter

Anakin’s Delta 7B fighter is a similar but not identical design (Obi-Wan’s is technically a Delta-7 Aethersprite-class light interceptor). The R2 unit sits in front of the cockpit. That must be awkward as you can see, because he’s always looking sideways. He’s going to be very uncomfortable like that. This ship didn’t appear in the movies but turned up in some of the animated media. I wish Lego had designed a more pointed nose but I suppose they didn’t want to take kids’ eyes out.

Flashback to last year…I drew their later versions, the ones flown in the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith (which were trashed on Grievous’s starship). First up is Obi-Wan’s red and white (or grey here in Lego), Eta-2 Actis-class interceptor. Yeah I never knew it was called that, I looked it up. Later in the movie, when he flew to Utapau, he had a cool looking blue and white one, but he had to ditch that one too after Order 66. I love this design though, kind of like a B-Wing cockpit and a tie-fighter mixed with a speeder. If I lived in the Star Wars universe, this would be my vehicle of choice, you can keep your Falcons and Slave Ones and X-Wings. Well maybe I’d have this for space and a Snowspeeder for when I’m on-planet.
ObiWan Jedi-fighter
And then there is Anakin’s one. He later flew a dark green and grey one, once he started turning to the Dark Side, abandoning his previous love of yellow vehicles. Later on, he only flew in black (or sometimes very very dark grey). You can see how this design could mould into the classic Vader TIE-fighter. I wonder what that would look like in yellow? I bet the Emperor told him he wasn’t allowed to paint it yellow, he’d ruin the Empire’s whole aesthetic.
Anakin Skywalker Jedi-fighter