sketching the same scene twelve years apart

silo feb 2019
Today is my fourteenth birthday. Sorry, I mean today is the fourteenth birthday I am having since I moved to America. Fourteen birthdays in California. I counted them, and it’s fourteen of them in total. In terms of my life it’s a bit like, was there really football before the Premier League? And of course there was, but we only quote records since the Premier League started these days. It was a good reboot point, a good place for newcomers to jump on board the story without knowing years of character history, like a new issue #1 in Marvel Comics terms (they do that a lot). And I have just realized, the top flight of English football has been called the Premier League for nearly two thirds my life now. You start measuring your life in halves and thirds and quarters, and wow those quarters become thirds pretty quickly. Fourteen birthdays in America is a third of all the birthdays I’ve ever had. I don’t like doing anything for my birthday any more, it’s just one more day of aging, same as yesterday and tomorrow, but with cake. I do get anxious leading up to it though, thinking about all the years, all the different phases of existence, who I was, who I will be, all that stuff. Some people look through photo albums at their old selves, but of course I look through the old sketchbooks. I have an album on my computer (also a Flickr album) of all my Davis sketches and it takes me through a journey of staying in one place. Interesting to see how my drawing has developed, gone one way, back another, but not quick obvious changes. A sketch is a series of decisions based on decisions I’ve made before. Above, yesterday’s lunchtime sketch. It’s the view of the Silo from Rock Hall, UC Davis. Below, the same view from the same spot on the same date February 6, but twelve years earlier (and Rock Hall was the Chemistry lecture hall back then). Above, sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, below sketched in a WH Smith sketchbook. Some things have changed. That grass is gone. The general view is not all that different though, unlike some of the recent sketches I’ve posted with more dramatic changes. Will I sketch this again on February 6th 2031?
silo um mittag


california hall

california hall uc davis
The new lecture hall on California Avenue at UC Davis is now finished, except for a few bits outside. Classes are now being held there (hooray!). So, time for me to sketch it, since I have sketched this spot for the past few years.
california hall uc davis

Below, sketches from the past few years, to show the changes from a nice green spot to a brand new building…

asmundsen hall, uc davislecture hall ucd march 2016
Lecture Hall UC Davis
lecture hall UCDlecture hall construction UC Davis
california hall feb2018 sm

you say jump i say how high

Jump Bike at Playfields
These red bikes are everywhere right now. “Jump” Bikes they are called. I don’t know much about them except they are apparently rentable and work with some sort of app. Oh and you don’t have to bother parking them in proper bike racks, you can just leave them wherever you want, like on the sidewalk or by the doors of any building, like you’ve not noticed the bike racks that are like right there. Certainly seems that way. Do they go faster than a normal bike? Seems like it. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never ridden a Jump bike, for all I know they are smooth as martinis (I wouldn’t know that either, I’ve never drunk a Martini, for all I know they are smooth as Dr. Pepper) (I’ve never drunk Dr Pepper either, I could go on all day with other things I’ve never done, it’s a long list). I don’t think these Jump bikes actually jump either, I would have assumed they bounce down the street like Tigger, but they don’t. They aren’t particularly pretty, being bright red with those rigid shapes and fixed on basket (why can’t it bounce around uncontrollably like my wire frame one, coming off its hinges every time I go over a bump?). Haha, here’s me talking about these Jump bikes, I’ve never ridden them, I can’t even really draw them (seriously why do I even bother drawing wheels, I can’t draw circles while standing holding a sketchbook) and I know nothing at all about how they work. This is how people do it now though isn’t it, just say ill-informed stuff online when it would take 10 seconds to find that information out, if only we had instant access to like the entire world’s information in our pockets on little electronic devices or something, that would be a great idea. (Like British Tory MPs who tweet incorrect information about the Marshall Plan which is so easy to call out, almost like he knew that already and was trying to get attention for himself) (errrr…no, I’m not doing that. /Shudder!/) Alright fine, let’s look up these Jump bikes. /Googles Jump Bikes/ Ok, so they are, wait let me get this right, ride-shares? Owned by Uber apparently. They were introduced to Davis and UC Davis in May 2018. Here’s an article about them which explains them more.  Unlike those bikes they have in London they are dockless which means you just leave them anywhere (apparently you get fined $25 for not locking them up in a proper rack). They do have an electric assist which is probably what the ‘Jump’ means. I don’t fully understand the fee structure but $1 for the first 15 minutes then 7c a minute after that seems to be the thing. So, you leave the bike. Ok, does that mean if someone else wants it they just take it?  Do you have to look for another one? That’s great, when you wanted to ride home and oh man, they are all gone – better call an Uber…oh I understand now, they’re owned by Uber. Now you are probably reading this thinking, you dinosaur, I love these, my life is so much easier thanks to Jump bikes, get back to 1985 Marty McFly. To which I say, these don’t hover, they don’t even jump. I’m sure these work for a lot of people but I think I prefer just having my bike, I think I’d feel a bit stressed out by these modern contraptions with their fee structures. Of course when I get a flat tyre and these Jump bikes go whizzing by me, I’ll be like, noooo!!!!! Curse you Jump bikers!! Now I’ll have to walk!!

so long january

shields library uc davis
Another quick one from campus, this is the rear/side of Shields Library, a very big library full of academic books. January was very long this year wasn’t it, don’t you think? I know it has the same number of days as every other month with 31 days, and there are even a couple of holidays, but it just really dragged on. Like looking at your watch and seeing that it’s still 2:41. Nope, still 2:41. I’ll check again now, at least ten minutes have pa- still 2:41? What’s going on? January is like waiting for your food at the restaurant only to be told they lost your order. January is like those endless commercial breaks during any primetime American TV show. January is like those but actually it’s election season so the ads are all repetitive and political nonsense (actually no, January is nothing near as bad as that). January is like when you get stuck on a delayed Eurostar and they have to make announcements every ten minutes in English, French and Dutch. January is like a meeting where it feels rude to be the only one getting up to leave at the end but someone always has an extra question to bring up and they take a really long time bringing it up even though it has nothing to do with anyone else but them but you still have to sit there and pretend to listen out of politeness, and then you start piling up your notebook and pens and then they go into an all-new topic and nobody seems to want to wrap it up. January is like being stuck on the freeway in traffic for hours after time spent away from your home and all your stuff but your phone and iPod batteries are dead and the only thing on the radio is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I could go on but January would be like one of my blog posts where I just say whatever comes into my head, like this. January goes on forever. And then February is like, ok now it’s March.

portland pals

portland with rita sabler
A few more from my recentish trip to Portland (early November, recent in geological terms). Above, I joined my friend Rita Sabler for her husband Jim’s birthday celebration at a cool little place in on Beach Street Portland I had never been to before, which involved some sketching and a lot of interesting conversation. Rita had invited me up to teach a workshop in Portland which was really fun, but it was really nice and relaxing to meet up with some of her friends. I last saw Rita in Porto in the summer at the symposium, she is actually a former UC Davis student (from before even I came to Davis). Check out Rita’s sketching work at, she has done some great things lately (including a residency at the leper colony on Molokai!).
kalina at thirsty monk
On my second night there I met up another old sketching buddy and fellow pirate-sketcher, Kalina Wilson. I really wanted to go back to this Belgian place that we had sketched one rainy Sunday afternoon back in 2012, Bazi Bierbrasserie, so we arranged to meet there. Except it’s not called that any more, it’s now to my surprise The Thirsty Monk. Beer was still nice though, and the conversation fun, always good to catch up after quite a while, I think I last saw her either at Manchester symposium or when my wife and I visited Portland one November (I forget the year). Check out Kalina’s sketching.
pdx doubletree hotel bar

And above, a sketch I did at the hotel bar of the Doubletree in Portland. You have to go down to the bar to use their Wifi because it’s not included in the rooms (booo, join the 21st century Doubletree). I usually stay at this hotel because it is easy enough for the places I usually want to go, it’s right by the MAX line to the airport, but I don’t know, time to find somewhere else maybe. There was a heavy metal weekend going on at the hotel while I was staying there, so there were lots of long-haired metally people, dressed pretty much the same way (“metal”), which didn’t really fit in with the bland corporateness of the Doubletree. I always kinda laugh at the sameyness of metal outfits and rock dress, but of course when I was younger this was very much the scene in London that I enjoyed being around the most, the Hellfire Club on Oxford Street, the Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street, the Marquee on a Thursday night, I loved those places. And I would dress, well actually I would wear a bright green football shirt and have short hair because I liked to be different to everyone else, but I could mosh with the best of them. Those were the days. I felt quite at home around all the rockers, even in the sanitized corporate setting (and Doubletree, don’t put the toilets so far from the bar, yeah?). Anyway I sketched the bar, in its bland corporate light wood and screen showing basketball. Not exactly Old Town Pizza (now that is an interesting bar to sketch!) but a good way to get sleepy before bed.

Outside Walker Hall

walker hall uc davis

I have kept on sketching Walker Hall, from the outside, because it is near to work and easy to go and draw at lunchtimes. All of these are form this month, January 2019, and I’ll probably take a break for a while now until the building changes a bit more from the outside. This is a fun project though, and as this renovation continues, it’s a reminder that Walker Hall will not be seen like this again. Sketched documentation is showing a moment in time that will pass.

walker hall UC Davis

Part of me though is like, yeah but get a move on eh. The changes are subtle – the roof is covered in different material now, in a different colour. Also, I look back at my sketchbooks from exactly a year ago, and it looks like it used to, undisturbed by large machines.

walker hall uc davis

Walker Hall actually dates back to 1927, as one of the first permanent buildings on campus, designed by the architect William Hays. It was renamed in 1959 for Harry B. Walker, former agricultural engineering professor, this being the old Engineering building. In 2011 it finally stopped being used, and sat empty. I remember years ago there used to be a wall, and a load of cacti, and the path along the back of Walker Hall was narrower and didn’t have such a good view of Shields Library. I remember walking past the windows above next to the rows of bikes and seeing people drawing on huge tables, design students most likely, though I never went in for a look around. That side of the building has an unusual pattern on it now. My most recent sketch was the one below. I think that will do, for a while.

walker hall (AGAIN)

inside walker hall

walker hall nov 2018
As you may know I have been sketching the ongoing reconstruction/renovation of Walker Hall, the big old building in the middle of the UC Davis campus that is being transformed into the Graduate Center. It’s an interesting and exciting project that will provide the university with a dedicated hub for graduate students in a setting that retains the elements of a historical piece of UC Davis architecture with a refreshing modern upgrade. Phew that all sounds like a brochure for a condo complex. Never ever write like that again, Pete. Anyway, there was a nice write-up about my documentation of this on the UC Davis Graduate Studies website, and back in November I was invited to go inside and actually sketch the site. “As long as I can get a photo of me sketching with a hard hat!” was my response. Urban Sketching cred you know. Of course the yellow vest has in the time since taken on slightly different undertones on the other side of the pond but it can be a handy tool. Years ago someone told me that they often wear a yellow vest when they go out filming on the streets for their art projects, so that nobody questions them, they look like they are from the council. Well I’ve never done that, but it was nice to be officially kitted out by the management for sketching a building site, though I could only sketch after the builders were out of the way, and I wasn’t to jump over any big holes. I didn’t have long before the sun went down so I did as much as I could, and coloured in at home. Above, the view from the second floor overlooking two of the wings. Below, the sought-after picture of me in a hard-hat, sketching that very scene.
img_9701walker hall (sign) nov 2018

The front of the building will remain mostly unchanged, though I imagine the tiles will be cleaned up a bit.
walker hall (tiles) nov 2018
Inside was gutted with cables and crevasses and equipment everywhere. I loved this broom though. I
walker hall nov 2018
walker hall nov 2018

The scene below was mostly drawn afterwards. It was the last thing I attempted to draw and I plotted out the perspective and where the intersecting lines would go, I drew the yellow tape barriers and the crane, and then I had to go. So I came back to it this weekend and finished it off. It’s funny drawing it from the outside so many times and then finally showing the inside.
walker hall interior

Finally, a sunset photo from the second floor. I have several more sketches of Walker Hall’s exterior that I have sketched since, but this seems like a good place to stop.