The Darling Buds of April

LDD Arboretum flowers April19
The sneezing starts slowly for me each year, and this week it is starting to ramp up. There is always a nice period before the sneezing begins however when I can enjoy the sudden colourful bloom of Spring in relative peace, thinking “you know what, this year I’m just not going to sneeze, everything’s going to be fine.” By the darling buds of May though I’ve turned into Rentaghost’s Nadia Popov. Also, the “are you taking anything for it?” conversation is even more boring than saying “bless you” after every sneeze and then laughing after the fourth, so when people ask me what I’m taking I say “sneezing powder”. I  have seen a lot of floral sketching recently in my Urban Sketching Community’s online feeds, inspiring me to draw more flowers myself; my sudden upsurge in walking everywhere and seeing so many colourful gardens, parks and pathways made me really see this year that Spring is actually quite visually beautiful. So, out comes the sketchbook. Now I wish I knew the names of all the plants, and thankfully the Arboretum does label most of them, but I’m a little bit plant-clueless. All the more reason to sit and really look at them, see how they work.
Arboretum Flowers
The walk to Northstar Park in the north part of Davis has a lot of beautiful flowers.
Flowers on the Green Belt
And here in the Arboretum, I took a stroll through the Acacia Grove, drawing in pencil this time.
Arboretum Acacia Grove April2019 sm
Finally, a tree stump. It was too interesting to leave out. Happy bloomin’ Spring to you!
LDD Arboretum tree stump April19


Afternoon in the Arboretum

Arboretum Redwoods

Last Sunday, we held a Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl in the UC Davis Arboretum. It was actually full of people out having photoshoots with family, either the ones with graduating students or maybe because they have lots of family visiting for Picnic Day, or maybe just the parents-and-small-kids photoshoots; all of them were there, mostly in front of me in the scene above. It’s a good spot for it. The Redwood Grove is quite beautiful. Those Redwoods were planted about seventy years ago or so. It was probably my favourite spot in Davis when I first moved here, though I don’t walk down here very often any more. You can almost imagine that you are deep in the Redwood forests, maybe an Ewok or two whistling in the branches. Plus picture-perfect photoshoots. I didn’t draw the people though.

I was photographed myself, in the Redwood Grove, when a couple came and said hello to me, who had met me before at my sketchbook exhibit event a couple of years ago, Brian and Susan Monchamp. Many thanks to them taking this pic of me in action.


The Arboretum has had a lot of work done over the past few years. The section closest to downtown in particular has been completely renovated. Pathways newly paved, handrails along the creek in the narrowest sections, the Creek itself completely refurbished. I haven’t been here in ages. I drew the bridge that I have sketched several times before. As I sketched, a lady walking past made a big point of going and picking up a crisp-packet wrapper from somewhere up the verge. I mean, that’s good of course, but she did feel the need to announce it vocally to the world, as if the person who dropped it were still around. The day before was Picnic Day, so I’ve always felt that Sunday is ‘litter everywhere’ day. That said, it’s never really that bad, I always expect it to be worse. IT was a lovely Sunday afternoon, at the end of the sketchcrawl we went back to Wyatt Deck and looked at all our sketches. I’ve done a lot of foliage sketching lately, by the way, which I’ll show you in the next post.

Arboretum Bridge

Let’s Draw the Arboretum!

LDD April 2019

Join us for another sketchcrawl in Davis California! This time we will head back to the Arboretum, one of the prettiest places on the UC Davis campus in the springtime, and spend a couple of hours sketching the plants and scenery. It’s the day after Picnic Day, so campus should be a lot calmer and quieter.

We will start at Wyatt Deck, which is located on the northeast side of Lake Spafford and just off of Arboretum Drive (near Wyatt Pavilion, the oldest building on campus) at 1:00pm, and I will give a short intro to botanical sketching. We will then go off and sketch solo or in groups, around the Arboretum, and then regroup at 3:30pm back at Wyatt Deck to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this event is FREE and open to anyone who likes to sketch outside. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on. And a small foldout stool might be handy! I will provide little maps of the Arboretum on the day, and everyone will get a ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sticker.


I drew a map of the Arboretum (I really like drawing maps) which you can use if you come along. It’s not to scale, but shows whereabouts things are.

Arboretum map drawn by Pete Scully

NOTE: if you are interested in tea, there is an event right before at Wyatt Deck from 11am-1pm called ‘Tea and Conversation’, sponsored by the Global Tea Club:

It’ll be the nice quiet day after Picnic Day, and what better way than to spend it sketching among the flowers? Hope to see you Sunday!

some spring cleaning

Arboretum Sketch 040119
I still have some March sketches to post (a go-go-go sketchcrawl in Sacramento in an accordion book, and a relax-relax-relax vacation by the ocean in Huntington Beach), but it’s April now. Here is my first sketch of the month. I went down to the Arboretum and sketched the redbuds by the creek, and then went for lunch. April is here, and I have a few months before the summer travels. Belgium and Holland await. There are sketchcrawls planned – several sketching events in Davis, and I want to do that sketchcrawl historical-hunt in San Francisco (I drew a map on Sunday), but I think more than anything I want to lose a few pounds, so April is easing-myself-into-a-diet month. It won’t be easy but I’m going to give it a go. And then when I get to Belgium, I’ll put it all back in chocolate, waffles, beer and frites. So I need to clear some room. Spring is cleaning time too, and I have to clear my yard, it’s gotten a bit out of hand. I already organized my clothes drawers (though my closet is full of football shirts, which by the way necessitate the dieting). Then there is the Art Materials Cupboard. That is eternally out of hand. I don’t know if it’s ever been in hand. It’s the cupboard that whenever I get it all out to reorganize, my wife always says the phrase “oh boy”. Spring cleaning though, it’s not like when I was a kid. My mum was really into spring cleaning. When the curtains and nets came down and that bright April sunlight would stream into the living room, when you could only smell furniture polish and Windolene, when book shelves were cleared for scrubbing and dusting, that was when it was time for me to sneak off to my friends house for a game of football. Of course I could not escape the Spring Cleaning, and my room, usually impenetrable, would have to be cleaned. This usually started with my mum throwing all of my things onto the floor, and then I would have to tidy up from there, and I remember it was a very satisfying feeling to hoover the floor at the end. Anyway, with this sketch I decided to keep it clean, just the watertower shading and the still bright but starting to darken purple-pink redbud blooms.

By the way Davis folks, the next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be at the Arboretum on Sunday April 14:

going down different paths

arboretum bridge uc davis
Another from the last month of 2018, this sketch was down at the Arboretum on the UC Davis campus. It was more colourful than this looks; there was a lot of yellow leafage strewn along the rising bank to the left there, and a greenish hue to the water (though since the creek has been thoroughly redeveloped, there is no longer a pea-soup thick covering of algae).

By the way, I was interviewed by Anjini Venugopal for the California Aggie (UC Davis’s long-running student-managed newspaper), and the article appeared this week: Check it out! “I’m just obsessed with drawing,” Scully said. “It’s something I have to do.” I totally said that.

Right now I am (in addition to sketching) actually doing lots of logo design, both for our Select soccer team (the “Dawgs”) and also the Davis World Cup, so I have been drawing lots of ideas, and teaching myself how to use Illustrator, which I have just nor bothered with for years (I typically use Photoshop when doing anything digital).  At some point I might share that stuff, but for now, I’m just teaching myself and messing about. And it has been immense fun!

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…

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.”