downtown in paint and pencil

1st st Davis
The next series of panoramas I did in the first part of August, when the sky was dull and dire and the air was a soupy paste, were outside campus in downtown Davis. The one above includes that white house on First Street, the Dutch-gabled building I have sketched before (I even sold a drawing of this house at the Pence Gallery once).
E Street Davis
Above, E Street, looking out at the heavily treed E Street Plaza, with Baskin Robbins on the left. This is a small pedestrianized part of the plaza, with a clock fountain, and a small area at the back where bands will sometimes play (such as the Wealth of Nations, a local band I have sketched there before). It is also popular with homeless people. The rest of it is a parking lot. I have heard there are proposals to do something with E Street Plaza, just early proposals, whereby the whole Plaza would be pedestrianized and become a new town square for Davis, which is something I would definitely support (if we can find alternative parking solutions downtown for those who drive, such as a new parking garage, who knows where though). I think E St Plaza does need a facelift.
Bistro 33, Davis CA

And finally, Bistro 33 on Third Street. Third Street itself has seen many changes over the past few years and further along it is undergoing even more, as it becomes a new interesting corridor for Davis between downtown and campus. This building though is part of the old building that was City Hall, as well as the police station and also a firehouse, as you can imagine with those big arched doorways. It’s a restaurant now. I stood outside on a Saturday afternoon and sketched in the heat until I was very tired, and then finished off the paint in the nearby Three Mile Brewing with a cold beer. The sky was a bit bluer this day, as the wind was blowing the smoke in a different direction.
5th street Davis CA
Finally, this one was drawn on 5th Street, the view of Newman Chapel, I have drawn this view several times before. The air was a bad on this day too. So, lots of panoramas this August! I’ve stopped now. Actually there’s one more interior panorama to come.

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panoramas and poor air

hart hall panorama UC Davis
At the start of last month I opened a new sketchbook and had a burst of post-symposium “gotta-sketch-it-all”. What I wanted to do were more panoramas, however they take a long time and I wanted to go more quickly. Having been a big fan of Vincent Desplanche‘s work since meeting him at the USk France Rencontre in Strasbourg in 2015, I’ve wanted to try more pencil and watercolour panoramas. I had a bunch of new Palomino pencils my friend Terry sent me from Japan, which I wanted to try out as they are darker and softer than the usual H pencils I use occasionally. So I drew a bunch of panoramas over lunchtimes or after work or weekends, adding the paint on site, and I have to say that it was a quicker than the long pen ones but still felt time-consuming. For one thing, the pencil smudges a bit more, even after being coated with watercolour wash. That said, I really like the pencil and watercolour and it was fun to draw these. Here are three from campus. Above, Hart Hall, one of the more interesting looking buildings on campus. I have drawn it a few times before.

UC Davis MU terminal

One of the other details about this summer is the terrible air in California, brought about by all the huge wild fires. California is hot and dry and the fires have been really bad the past couple of years. This summer the fires made the air thick and smoky for weeks on end, as you can see with the two sketches above and below. The one above was sketched at the Memorial Union Bus Terminal on campus. I had walked across campus to drop something off at the International Center late one afternoon, and was going to catch the bus to go home, so I sketched this at the bus terminal while waiting. The air made me feel so physically sick that I had a huge headache and a nasty sore throat. This was one of the worst air days I’ve experienced here. One thing that often happens here in summer is on the very hot days we have ‘Spare The Air’ days, when riding on buses are free. I think this year we had eighteen spare-the-air days in a row. In the sketch above there is an ironic sign – we are a smoking-free campus (good), and the sign reminds us we are 100% smoke and tobacco free. Well, not so much on this day.

UC Davis Silo food trucks

The one above was sketched on the next day at the Silo. The air was still bad, but felt significantly better. Why go out and sketch in it? I still needed to sketch, and this is where I come to eat. This one was an easier and quicker sketch, not really too much detail, just a fun piece of perspective. The food trucks and the large sloping shade thing were added last year to the redeveloped Silo area. I have a few more of these panoramas to post, sketched in downtown Davis.

metamorphosis of walker hall

walker hall 080218
Some of you may recall that I enjoy drawing the in-progress construction (and deconstruction) of buildings on the UC Davis campus. For example, the construction of the Manetti Shrem (completed 2016), and the long removal of the Boiler Building and replacement with the Pitzer Center (also completed 2016 – see the sketches from that project in this Flickr album). So when I was told a few years ago or so that the empty Walker Hall, a historic E-shaped building in the middle of campus, was going to be completely reconverted to house the new Graduate Center, I was super excited. I’m a big advocate for graduate studies on campus so am pleased they will be getting a modern new space, while still reusing an existing building. I started sketching the renovation already back in May, and drew it quite a few times in its previous dormant state, but this summer the real work began, so when I got back from Portugal I took the sketchbook over and started sketching from the outside.
walker hall 081418
walker hall 081518
As you can see, the whole building is empty now, leaving the shell. It looks like the wings at the rear of the building will be slightly shorter than they originally were, but that is where the largest degree of change will happen, and will be completely modernized – the front however won’t look too different.
walker hall 081518
Above and below, sketched from the side closest to the Shields Library. The Graduate Center will be located in between the Shields Library and the Student Community Center.
walker hall 081618
The most recent sketch I did is below, stood across the street outside Everson. It’s hard to see a lot of the building because of the trees and trailers in the way, but it’s a hive of activity. I’m looking forward to sketching some more as the year goes on. It’s expected to be completed by Spring 2019. You can find out more about the Graduate Center at the Grad Studies website, and also at at the Design & Construction Management site.
walker hall 082918

summer dragging on

3rd St Davis

A more recent sketch now, later in August, from Third Street in Davis. I have sketched this row a few times now, and the shed opposite has had that colourful pattern on it for a few years now. I’m sure I have sketched it pre-paint-job but I don’t recall when. The shop on the left is Boheme used clothing, I have sketched that colourful building two or three times now. This was sketched on a Saturday afternoon when I needed to go out and do some drawing, but it was so hot and I was feeling tired, so rather than a big panorama I just did this. I have big panoramas I want to draw but sometimes I forget they take so much longer and my tolerance for standing in the heat and drawing things I have, well, sketched a few times before (ie most things in Davis) is low sometimes. I can’t wait for October, which is one of my favourite sketching months in Davis, as it starts getting a bit cooler, the leaves start crisping up and glowing with colour, and Halloween is just around the corner. For now, still getting through the long dry summer.

never mind the lovelocks

arboretum bridge with padlocks
And so August began, and a new sketchbook was opened. I bought a softcover Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape book from the UC Davis bookstore – I do like that paper a lot, and the softcover is slightly smaller than the hardcover making panoramas a little faster – more on those later. However it is a bit more difficult to hold in the way that I hold my sketchbooks, trying to keep them flat and sturdy, but it’s not impossible. The dark red cover is very nice. It was the first day of August, my sketching muscles were twitching, the weather was unbearably hot, my inbox was overflowing. On this particular lunchtime I took myself into the Arboretum and sketched one of the bridges over Putah Creek. This one has a lot of those padlocks attached to it. You know the ones, like on that bridge in Paris, the one which got so overrun with these ‘love-locks’ that they were worried the weight would drag the bridge into the Seine and they were removed. There are a few such love-locked bridges in the Arboretum. So if you are unfamiliar with the concept, what people do is they carve their initials or their names into a padlock, and then attach it to a bridge, so that they can come back some day and say, oh look it’s still there, amazingly. Or they can come back with a future girlfriend/boyfriend and say, “no, that isn’t me, that’s another person with the same name/initial.” Or, more plausibly, they can come back with a future boyfriend/girlfriend and say, “yah, this was probably me, I don’t remember, this one too, and this one, you don’t know them, they went to a different UC” to which the boyfriend/girlfriend can roll their eyes and say “yeah right, you put these here yourself”. You get the picture.

Whenever I see these ‘love-locks’, my inner Severus Snape always comes out, curling his lip, “Hoooow … Romantic. Ten points from Gryffindor.”

to warwick and stratford

Warwick Castle
And now for the final part of our recent trip to Europe. I was determined that we’d visit a historic castle, something we don’t have many of here in California (sorry Mr Hearst, Mr Disney, but those ain’t castles). So we hit the motorway (thanks to my mum for driving us) up to Warwick, in central England. I had been there a few years ago, and knew it was a pretty great sight. Warwick Castle is a little theme-y (being owned by Merlin Entertainment now) but as it has a Horrible Histories maze and some fun jousting entertainment that doesn’t matter. Actually, we missed the jousting as it’s not every day (though I did see some four years ago, and it was fun). Warwick Castle is in a beautiful location on the banks of the Avon river, and a historically significant geopolitical spot, being in the middle of the country and therefore an important stronghold for the balance of power. The Earl of Warwick in the late middle ages was known as the ‘Kingmaker’, not without exaggeration. The site of Warwick Castle was founded as a ‘burh’ by the formidable Anglo-Saxon lady Æthelflæd, ruler of Mercia (also ‘Ethelfelda’). She fought against the invading Danes and the Welsh, she was also a daughter of Alfred the Great, and in fact there was a re-enactment of her funeral in June 2018 in nearby Gloucester. When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, the Normans built a motte-and-bailey castle here on ‘Ethelfleda’s Mound’, and Warwick Castle was subsequently built up over the next few centuries by later lords and earls. The first Earl of Warwick was Henry de Beaumont, from 1088, and the 16th Earl, Richard Neville (who gained the title through marriage to Anne de Beauchamp) was the famed Warwick the Kingmaker, who rose to prominence during the Wars of the Roses before dying at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. There’s a lot more history too, but I was interested in the old armoury. The suit of armour below is actually a child’s armour, likely for ornamental purposes. I sketched the castle above while taking a break with my son, who didn’t want to walk around the dungeons.
Warwick Castle Armoury
We didn’t stay in Warwick, though I’d love to sketch that old city some day. Instead, we stayed the night in Stratford upon Avon at a place called Alveston Manor, a large country house converted into a hotel just a short walk from central Stratford. It was lovely, and I love drawing buildings like that. Stratford is Shakespeare’s town, and they do not ever let you forget it here. We did walk up to see Shakespeare’s birthplace, and walk along the Avon, and I had a huge knickerbocker glory (with extra chocolate) at a local pub. So good.
Stratford Upon Avon Alveston Manor
In the evening after watching France knock Belgium out of the World Cup, I walked down to the riverside as the last mid-summer light faded away, and sketched the bridge below. This was around 9:30pm at night. I decided to walk across the other bridge to get back to the hotel, whcih was a mistake. It was a logn bridge along a road with a fairly narrow path for pedestrians, and lots of cobwebs. During the day the cobwebs were quaint. In the evening they were covered with thousands of busy, chubby spiders, loving their little legs and spinning and completely freaking me out. They weren’t dangerous, unlike the ones in my Davis back yard right now, but so many of them moving all around me was pretty much the creepiest thing ever. I ran as quickly as I could, but it was a long bridge. Yeah, I’m not into spiders.
Stratford Upon Avon

seven dials

Seven Dials, London
Another panorama intended for colouring in but ultimately left as is, due to running our of time. This is the last one for London, then I have another post from elsewhere in England, and then it’s Davis all the way. It was the day of the England v Croatia semi-final in the World Cup. The evening before we were in Stratford-upon-Avon, watching France eliminate Belgium, and when we got back to London I took the tube down to central London for some last minute sketching and shopping, ahead of our trip to the Iberian Peninsula. This is Seven Dials, which is a junction of seven narrow streets located between Shaftesbury Avenue and Covent Garden. It’s one of my favourite spots in London, being right by the London Graphic Centre (where I stopped by for some replacement paint half-pans). That’s one of my favourite shops in London. The other is just around the corner, Stanfords, the cartographers and travel book store. I love a map. Ironically I get lost quite often. I think I see maps like art, beautiful objects of winder and magic that I just can’t understand nor explain. I always get there in the end, even if takes a long time. Seven Dials in London reminds of Seven Dials in Brighton (aka London-by-the-Sea), where in the early hours of one New Years Day a couple of decades ago I got terribly lost trying to find my way back to the indistinguishable house I was supposed to be looking for where my companions were staying. Brighton I thought is an easier place to navigate because there are only three directions – North, East and West, with South just being The English Channel. Haha, you foolish boy. I could not remember the name of the street I was supposed to be on, just that it was one of the ones going off of Seven Dials. Hours of walking around each of the ‘Dials’. I did have a mobile phone (this was 2000, well 2001 by that point) but it didn’t work very well and I may have been out of pay-as-you-go credit. I found it eventually, and forever have an amusing Brighton anecdote to tell.

But back to Brighton-by-the-Land (David Devant reference), I stood here sketching a panorama as people walked by, many heading to the pub to start drinking ahead of cheering on England. A lot of people, I noticed, were wearing yellow clothes. Yellows skirts, trousers, shirts, the occasional hat. I don’t think this signified anything, and certainly has nothing to do with the football. Perhaps yellow is ‘in’ this year. I don’t know fashion, but once thing I do remember about living in London, people would say, “oh green is ‘in’ this year,” or similar. “Brown is the new Black.” Football shirt fashion I understand, but real clothes, well I just wear navy blue and black mostly. Anyway I did notice this trend of wearing yellow, but I didn’t add anyone to my sketch in a yellow blouse or anything, so forget I mentioned it. The only colour I added, well you can see for yourself. The Union flag stands out. England were in the semi-final, and while it’s been a few decades since this was the flag waved at England games, it still seemed nice to include it.

I went home to watch the game with my family. England lost to Croatia. That’s that, then.

By the way, you might be interested in seeing the last such sketch I did in this neighbourhood, four years ago at the end of Monmouth Street, looking toward Seven Dials, below. This is one of my favourite sketches I have done of London.

monmouth and neal streets sm

Ok and one more for luck, this is a sketch of Seven Dials I did a few years ago around Christmas-time. At least in this one you can see the top of the coloumn. London can be beautiful sometimes.

seven dials