big bird on campus

turkey
Look at this big geezer. I had to go into the office in early April, a few weeks into the shelter-in-place, and found an overgrown campus where the wildlife had taken over. Standing like a sentinel outside my building was this turkey, looking enormous with his feathers all ruffled up and on display. Strutting. His long wobbly beak and that colourful chin feature looked like something from an early 1980s Dr Who prop department. The ‘snood’. Always reminds me of those Arsenal players who wore those snoods when it got cold but the Premier League said they couldn’t. And the long hairy bit on his chest that falls down, look how long it is! That’s called a ‘beard’. Some humans have those. As far as I’m aware legs covered in tattoos, shaving one side of your hair and sampling snifters of craft beer aren’t yet popular in the turkey population. And he didn’t want me entering the building. He kept shaking his feathers at me as if to say, #stayhomesavelives ! #gobble #itscalledasnoodnotafacialnutsack (and other popular hashtags). When I went in, he came and stood by the door looking through the window at me and stayed there for a few hours, goading me when I came down to use the vending machine, I better not try to leave or he will stop me and ask for my attestation, am I going out for essential items (cranberry sauce or gravy I suppose). There are a few other doors to the building though so unless his mates are covering all the exits he wasn’t stopping me. He did loads of poos all over the entranceway though. You needed to know that. We get a lot of turkeys in Davis, there is a flock that lives near me on the north Davis green belt. They strut about making loud gobble noises when I go for an evening walk. They live quite high up in very tall trees, you’d be surprised how high they fly up. You may recall the story of Downtown Tom, a solo turkey who lived in downtown Davis for a while, occasionally terrorizing citizens and catching bad guys, evading all attempts at capture, until The Man had had Enough, and called in a sniper to assassinate him in his sleep. I imagine they though if they ever did catch him, they would all stand around wondering whether Tom actually intended to be caught, because he had some other nefarious plan up his snood. But no, they took him out in the dead of night, not releasing the news for six months, presumably it took that long to be sure he was really dead and didn’t have some kind of horcrux somewhere. Dudes, he’s a turkey. Tell you what though you don’t want to get into a ruck with one, they have much bigger claws than you do.

I drew this from a photo I took, in the grey paper sketchbook.

splish-splash!

six flags: shouka

We went to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom at the weekend. It is a large theme park in Vallejo, formerly known as Marine world, and alongside the enormous scary rollercoasters and thrill rides there are plenty of zoo animals, such as tigers and elephants and alligators. However, their main attractions are of course the marine life. I have never seen a walrus in my life, but wow those things are huge! They moved about too fast in their pretty small tank for me to sketch, but I did take the opportunity to sketch some of the shows we saw. Above, in a packed amphitheatre, Shouka to Killer Whale danced about for the audience. I’ve never seen a killer whale show to my memory either, and it is quite amazing how high those massive beasts can jump. It reminded me of that stupid Shark v Octopus film, which we caught on TV the other week (and watched for its utter ridiculousness). Shouka was a far better entertainer, though she didn’t take bites out of any jumbo jets. I was amazed to learn that killer whales are found everywhere in the world, equalling human beings in their dispersal. Funny how you never hear see them at the supermarket or on the subway though.

We also saw the dolphin show, acrobatic and charismatic, they even sang songs (probably “goodbye, and thanks for all the fish”). My son in particular loved the dolphins. I sketched while he watched, trying to capture them as they dove in and out, and I managed not to get my sketchbook splashed on. I started a new small cahier moleskine, I’m calling it the ‘red moley’, for small quick in-your-pocket sketches. I am about to start my next watercolour moley (number 8) but these ones are fun to have too.

six flags: dolphinsanimals at six flags

We saw sharks, and sea-lions, and I got to sketch a very sleepy lioness (opposite the enclosure of a sleepy and very cuddly looking tiger), while we sat for a rest, feeling very sleepy ourselves. I enjoyed the butterfly habitat, with all its colourful butterflies flying around us, and sketched one beautiful (and patient) one. We got milkshakes – by the way, if you go here and buy milkshakes, they won’t give you a straw to drink it with, ‘for animal safety’. The plastic forks and spoons and other junk food paraphernalia is allowed for some reason but straws are all out. I didn’t go on any rollercoasters, though I did start to queue up for one (until I got to a sign saying it was 60 minutes until the ride – no thanks). Eventually I did go on one ‘thrill’ ride, called Voodoo, which just straps you in and spins you around and around before letting you feel gravity and fear for a second or two, before it’s over. I had my eyes closed for most of the time. It was a tiring but fun family day.

rural sketching

ponies in medford

It’s good to get away, for a few days. We (and family) drove up I-5 to Medford, Oregon, for the fourth of July weekend. There were ponies there, in the field opposite my wife’s grandma’s house. I’ve never drawn ponies, or any sort of horse before, so I grabbed a bic and quickly sketched them while they munched on the grass.

mount shasta

The long road up to southern Oregon takes you right up the hot, flat Central Valley, paasing places such as Redding (where Merle Haggard lives), Weed (where they sell a lot of tacky souvenirs based on the fact they have an amusing name), and the magnificent and perfect Mount Shasta. If you said to someone, draw a mountain, just a typical moutain, from imagination, it would look just like Shasta. It looms lonely on the horizon, still crowned with snow, and then you pass its feet from across a broad meadow, and even though it’s right in front of you it still it doesn’t look quite real. I’ve never really seen a mountain like it, not even Mont St.Victoire in Aix. I drew it on the way home, quickly from the window of the moving car.

dog bless

26, dog person

#26 in a series of 30. Dogs. Not my thing. I’m just not that into them. People – and not smart people – love to think the world is divided into ‘dog people’ and ‘cat people’, elvis people and beatles people, lib’rals and cons’rvatives, celtic and rangers, tea and coffee. And it’s not. I don’t even like the whole pigeonholing thing. I happen to like cats a lot though. And tea, and lib’rals, and the beatles and celtic, but you know what I mean. And then people act as though liking both cats and dogs (as many do) is a novel and radical buck of the trend. It isn’t. They’re both animals, they both poo on the carpet. Personally I love tortoises. They don’t leave hair on your best black clothes.

So in this drawing there is a toy dog. It’s not mine, and no I’m not scared of it. There is also a lead, to continue the dog theme. Ok it’s a power cable type of lead but you know what I mean.

For me however, Dog People has another meaning. When I lived in Aix-en-Provence, the centre-ville had a small but prominent population of ‘dog people’, scruffy ‘swampy’ types who would hang about the fountainsides beating drums and smoking and letting their many dogs, possibly their daemons, chase each other around the town squares. The Dog People. Everyone knew them.

I like that phrase though, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. It’s true, too. We had a dog when i was younger (‘Soppydog’) and it used to tell some whoppers in its sleep.