among the redbuds

Redbuds Arboretum Mar 2018 sm

And all of a sudden, two months passed and I didn’t post a thing. Perhaps I just really liked that sketch of the Manetti Shrem; whenever I would give out my little Moo card recently, I always thought, oh the past is old now but yeah, great sketch, I liked that one. I have sketched a lot since my last post (which was dated March but in sketching time zone it was still only January). My computer broke, so I took that as an opportunity to be really lazy about scanning my sketches regularly. Now I have a new machine the time has finally come to sketch the backlog. I’m going to break chronological order though, even sketchbook order, and post for my return to the sketchblogosphere this opening illustration of the latest Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, the bright pink redbuds in the UC Davis Arboretum, with the Water Tower behind the tree. Those redbuds are gone now, but that colour is a powerful opening line to this book.

Now, in the middle of May, my seasonal allergies are going haywire at the mere sight of foliage. Seasonal allergies are the most boring thing ever. For me, very little really works, other than staying insulated in my office. However since I do have to coach soccer, and I also have to get out and draw from time to time, and also cycle from home to work, exposure to the outside world is, regrettably, necessary. It is boring though, having allergies. Boring, because everyone has a solution you haven’t tried. “Mm, yes, thanks, yes,” I nod, trying to find the facial emoji for “I am pretty sure I didn’t ask you for a cure”. Boring, because there is so much sneezing and never enough Kleenex. It’s funny how sneezing is automatically asking for a tissue. Sneezing is not however asking for a blessing, so come on world, let’s stop doing that. “Bless you.” says random person after sneez one. “Bless you!” they say again after sneeze two. “Oh, bless you,” they say after sneeze three, the concern creeping into their voice. They no more want to continue the blessing than I want to receive it. They have now locked themselves into a trap of politeness, like someone holding the door open for you when you are that bit too far away, they stand there expecting you to walk faster because they are holding the door for you, and even though you weren’t actually going to go through that door but turn and go another direction you feel you have to go through the door and pretend to be doing something in that building, you stand there looking at your phone like you are trying to remember the place you are pretending to look for, and you have to wait for them to leave the vicinity before creeping back outside the door and going the other way (that’s never happened to you?) “Bless you again!” they say on sneeze four, as if to say look, you’ve had your fun, nobody sneezes this much on purpose, and I’m not made of blessings. “Wow, hahaha!” they say on sneeze five and you want to vanish into a portal as you fumble for the dry half of the tissue in your back pocket. On sneeze six they raise their eyebrows, as if saying an internal prayer for forgiveness because they are refusing to bless this clearly sick individual who cannot stop sneezing. On sneeze seven they are ready to fight you. On sneeze eight you are obviously dangerous and they get their phone out, either to tweet about you or to call the police. On sneeze nine they dial, but this time they dial the Guinness Book of Records. On sneeze ten you’ve gone viral, the world’s media shows up and talk shows are discussing whether you are just a crisis sneezer, sneezing for attention, or whether you are the first victim of a new epidemic that will soon sweep the nation if we don’t vote for tax cuts for pharmaceutical companies (oo-er, little bit of politics, mrs thatch, mrs thatch). On sneeze eleven you’ve sold the advertising rights to the space between sneezes, mostly to those same pharmaceutical companies who offer allergy products with names like Zqxywfyl or Snotadrine. On sneeze twelve you’ve received so many blessings that you can officially be listed as a religion on the Census form. On sneeze thirteen – seriously thirteen sneezes? – you’re already appearing in sponsored ads at the bottom of websites with titles like “whatever happened to sneezing guy”. On sneeze fourteen, nothing happens. Everyone is calm and has just accepted you have allergies and will sneeze a lot. Everything is quiet. And then someone says, “I take local honey, that always works for me.” Which is code for “if you ever sneeze again, I swear I will end you.”

So yeah, no more bless-yous, no more “my sister-takes-this” cures, please just ignore my sneezing. By mid-June I should be ok. At least when I am sneezing, I am not making loads of dad-joke puns (oh right, except for the “a tissue!” one).

reflections of the way life used to be

king hall from uc davis arboretum sm
This is in the UC Davis Arboretum, that view of King Hall from Putah Creek, with Mrak Hall in the background, that I have sketched before. Look at that Creek! Regular listeners will recall how the Creek has so often at this time of year turned into a pea green soup, but the Arboretum people have been doing an amazing job renovating the Creek (is ‘renovating’ the right word? I’m not a Creek Scientist so I’m not sure how it works). Now the water is clear and reflective, and what a reflection. It was that that drew me to sketch this scene yet again. For years I sketched this every summer, usually around June, to track its changes. King Hall is home to the Law School, named after Martin Luther King Jr, while Mrak is where the University administration resides, named after Emil MRak, the first UC Davis Chancellor. This is the extension to King Hall built within the past decade, but the original King Hall was dedicated to Dr. King in April 1969, a year after his assassination.

Ok, I always do this when I sketch this scene, but here are a bunch of previous years’ sketches.
2015:
mrak & king from the arboretum
2012:
mrak & king halls
2011:
mrak & king halls
2010:
mrak & king halls
2009:
mrak hall... with the law school ruining the view
2008:
mrak hall
2007:
mrak, seen from the creek

I sometimes talk about being a ‘sketchbook historian’, and this is the thing, if you live somewhere, draw it. And then draw it again, and again, and you will have a record of how it changes, a record that goes beyond mere memory, and one that photographs don’t always capture in the same way. On top of that, you can see how your own sketching style evolves, improves, changes, sometimes be design, sometimes naturally and unexpectedly.

lodge by the creek

putah creek lodge uc davis
This is Putah Creek Lodge, in the UC Davis Arboretum, sketched one lunchtime. It’s a short walk from the office. People don’t really lodge there, it’s just a good place for meetings or staff retreats, dinner events and so on. It feels out of the way enough though that you’re not in the bustling heart of campus, it’s a little more peaceful. I sketched in the shade while listening to a football podcast.

counting acts and clutching thoughts…

putah creek uc davis

It’s February, the birthday month. I don’t really do a lot to celebrate, I don’t have parties or anything, don’t really have enough of a social circle for the sort of nights out I used to have when I was younger, now it’s more a quiet meal with the family, a pint of beer and some cheesecake. Now this sketch, done on the first day of the month at the UCD Arboretum about a minute from my office, was not meant to be metaphorical of  birthdays but in that great way you can retrospectively attach meaning to anything, this is a bridge, signifying crossing from one time to another. Weak I know. On the far side though is the Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Wine Sciences, which includes the Beer lab, so I supposed that signifies celebratory tipples in some way. There is a STOP sign, which must mean I need to stop and assess myself, and there is a yellow sign for a roundabout, which of course as we all know signifies the Circle of Life, obviously, that one’s obvious. The path, well part of it falls into shadow which of course means the path is not always clear, and then of course there is the Creek, and that one is easy, it signifies my creaking body as I get older each day. I had no idea there was so much semiotic depth to my sketches! I wonder what all the fire hydrants mean? Actually don’t answer that.

more fall you

fall in the arboretum
It’s Fall. Autumn. So the leaves are all changing. You expect that sort of thing. Hey, you might remember I sketched this scene (from a different angle) only a week or two ago when it was all still green (actually I left the trees white I think, so that doesn’t work), I didn’t even compeltely colour this one in, but it was so peaceful and colourful. The scene below, sketched last week in the Arboretum, was also colourful, but there’s only so much time to colour everything in. It wasn’t that colourful I suppose.
arboretum greenhouse

pea green soup

mrak & king from the arboretum
While walking in the UC Davis Arboretum earlier this week, I was greeted with an unbelievable sight. The entire creek and Lake Spafford was a bright, grassy green. It wasn’t the water itself, rather the green stuff floating on the surface. It wasn’t a sickly green, rather a very healthy looking green. It looked like the fairway of a golf course. So I did a quick sketch, which is below. You can see it in the sketch above as well, though in patches the water is visible and reflected the sky. Those scribbly dark areas are shadows.
arboretum uc davis
Just a little green. Or a lot of green. Anyway, the arboretum is a lovely place right now, with leaves turning autumnal colours and the change in the weather (pushing 90 a week ago, pushing 60/70 now). Ok, so back to the top sketch, this is a scene that I’ve sketched many times over the years. I watched this view change over the course of a few years, once per year, until it settled upon the current look, when I got bored and stopped. You will remember, I have been in Davis ten years now, and it’s not a big place, things will get sketched multiple times. This is King Hall, with Mrak Hall in the background. This used to be a view of Mrak alone. Here are the sketches; I really do feel like a sketch historian now…

 

2012:
mrak & king halls

2011:
mrak & king halls

2010:
mrak & king halls

2009:
mrak hall... with the law school ruining the view

2008:
mrak hall

2007:
mrak, seen from the creek

Coming next: a new sketch of the Bike Barn, which I have sketched about two million times…

the concrete bridge

arboretum uc davis
This was a quick lunchtime sketch down in the UC Davis arboretum, while I was on my way downtown. I’ve sketched this bridge before. The weather right now is very warm.

tower of white

UC Davis watertower
Oh the sketching is back. I got out one lunchtime when it wasn’t rainy and walked along the UC Davis Arboretum, which runs by Putah Creek. I was on my way to eat from that little food truck outside the Mondavi. They do nice chicken-cheesesteak sandwiches. Anyway I realized it’s been a while since I last sketched the UC Davis watertower, so I stopped and drew it with the palm trees in the foreground. The bridge to the left was pretty hard to see behind the foliage so that got left out. Sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook.

decks appeal

Wyatt DeckAnd so, finally back to posting some sketches, if I can even vaguely remember what that feels like. The World Cup is over! Gone for another four years, what will we do? It’s not like there is any other football to watch in that entire time. Haha. I enjoyed going over the kits so much I may even torture you all with more, from the clubs, as many as I can possibly do. Mwahahaha. And football-puns? You ain’t, as they say, seen nothing yet. Oh, alright I’ll lay off the puns for a while, it is pre-season after all. I need to train for a few weeks to get my football-punning back up to match fitness for the new Premier League season starting in August. Expect to see me jogging around the green belts of Davis trying to make punchlines out of Pocchetino and find an angle on Van Gaal (you see? Much training needed). But in this time of world-cup-football-ness, amid all the dodgy haircuts and the acrobatic goalkeeping and the constant non-stop biting (it was only the one bite, wasn’t it?), I did manage to do some sketching. This was a panorama I did over two lunchtimes at the Wyatt Deck in the UC Davis Arboretum. Technically it was three lunchtimes but on one of them I didn’t do any sketching as I forgot my pen (doh!). I had intended to add paint to it as well but I decided I preferred it like this. I listened to a History podcast while sketching and it was a man who was a South American football historian talking (among other things) about the great Uruguay team of the 20s and 30s, the River Plate team of the 50s, and what football meant/means in terms of national identity among the nations in South America, how historically it was able to strengthen their differences while also presenting them with an opportunity to announce themselves globally (at the Olympics and later the World Cup). Very interesting. It’s funny how what you listen to when you sketch gets so involved with how you see the sketch from thereon – none of you will see any reference to Paraguay’s style of play or the founding of great Brazilian clubs by British immigrant workers in this drawing of some wooden buildings at the Arboretum, but I see those great south American football names in every line drawn. Except in the middle, which will always be about Batman, because I was listening to another podcast by that point which talked a lot about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Again, you can’t see that, but I do. Now I always wonder what was really going through artist’s minds when they were creating their work. I look at one of Mondrian’s compositions and I think, I wonder if he was thinking about getting a cat and in between colouring in those squares whether he went down to the pet shop to look at kittens, I don’t know. You don’t know. Or when Van Gogh painted that portrait of himself with no ear, maybe in fact he was listening to his annoying unemployed next door neighbour practicing their singing really badly day in, day out, and he just subconsciously painted himself with no ear without even thinking about it, you just don’t know do you. Or when Damien Hurst was putting that sheep into the formaldehyde, maybe at the same time he was listening to his favourite gardening show on the radio? And now every time he sees that sheep he keeps thinking, ooh I’d better water the petunias when I get home. You just don’t know.

By the way, click on the image above and you’ll see a bigger version. What you won’t see is any reference to Boca Juniors or Bruce Wayne.

the 100th picnic day

picnic day 2014 smA couple of weeks ago, UC Davis celebrated its 100th annual Picnic Day. One hundred! Click on the images to see larger versions (or you could hold your face close to the screen, though I wouldn’t advise it). Picnic Day is a UC Davis institution, the largest university open house in the country, attracting thousands of visitors to such attractions as the Doxie Derby, Battle fo the Bands, the Chemistry Magic Show, and, er kittens. Yes, we waited for half an hour in line to see kittens, only to find out they were now cats (they were probably kittens when we started queuing). Four cats, just sitting there doing nothing, two of which were asleep. Yet massively popular. My six year old wanted to see nothing else. The first thing we watched however was the Parade, the annual march of bands, bikes, floats, the occasional political candidate, which was as fun as ever. We sat down outside Shields Library to watch it, when I started painting, but broke my water jar (as described in a previous episode). I added the rest of the colours at home.

picnic day 2014 battleofthebands sm

This second spread was sketched at the Battle of the Bands. I went home with my family, already tired after the excitement of the cats, and had a rest before heading back in to see the famous band battle. I’ve only seen it once, briefly, but I don’t really like crowds. I am getting better at sketching in large numbers now though, but nonetheless it was tricky. I stood at the top of the slope leading down to Lake Spafford, on the banks of which were gathered the bands themselves. Now these aren’t your guitar-hero indie-beard bands, oh no these are the colourful marching bands, and boy is this an event. The bands come from universities around California. The idea is that each band takes turns playing a song, and then by the end of the day (or night), the last band standing, the last one that has not exhausted all its known songs, is the winner (and I’m told it’s always the UC Davis Aggies). It is crazy, and chaotic, but it all works, and those musicians really keep it up for hours and hours. On the left there is a dancing tree from Stanford. I finally left during a long bit in the middle where all the bands came together in groups of the same instrument, and placed themselves around the crowd in a kind of promenade-theatre fashion, playing a continuous jam (I left after 45 minutes and it was still going on) in a variety of poses. Definitely a Davis event to be experienced at some point in your life.

And this was all. In nine years this is the most Picnic Day sketching I have ever done.