christmas is all around

e street plaza davis
Happy Christmas to you all. This is the E Street Plaza in Davis California, decked out with the big tree. This came after a long period of not-sketching. I did this after work, after our office closed for the holidays; I just really wanted to capture a bit of Christmas, and followed this up by the evening sketch at De Vere’s. And now it’s Christmas Eve. Well, it just turned Christmas Day (better get to bed, the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t going to haunt itself). I’ve spent today scoffing cheese, mince pies, turkey, hot chocolate, a couple of beers, pumpkin pie, and the second-worst level of Quality Streets (the strawberry / orange cremes, not the rock-hard toffee ones; it wasn’t a big box, in fact it only had two purple ones and one green triangle, but four toffee pennies? Inequality Street more like.) And of course, watching Christmas movies. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourites, though actually most of it doesn’t take place at Christmas, and in the end they sing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve, bizarrely. Abother one I always watch is Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is probably the best version of that story that exists (the other one I love is the 1970 Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which I feel the Muppets drew from quite heavily. That Ghost of Christmas Future gave me nightmares for years!). One of the reasons I love the Muppet’s version is that Michael Caine plays it so straight, so believably, among all the Muppets, he doesn’t just pretend it’s all a larf. Home Alone is another classic Christmas film we love, my son adores it, so I like it a lot now as well. I have a soft spot for Love Actually as well, silly though it is. It reminds me of London in 2003, and seeing the occasional shots of the skyline, when not even the Gherkin was finished, it makes me very nostalgic for that period right before we moved to America; that was the London I left, the London of Hugh Grant being a bachelor Prime Minister telling American President Billy Bob Thornton to go and do one. We always watch some classic Christmas telly as well: The Snowman, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and the Christmas edition of Father Ted (“and now we move on to liars…”). Of course in proper British Christmas TV someone always dies, at least in Eastenders and Downton Abbey anyway. Now it’s also the time of year when people include Die Hard as one of their favourite Christmas movies, because those people are really clever and perceptive and are the first people to figure out Die Hard was set during Christmas; well done you, here is a prize. One thing that is different over here in California is that we don’t get the special Christmas edition of Radio Times (and/or TV Times), when all the TV listings would be set out like great, epic events. Die Hard With A Vengeance is on at 11pm on ITV two days before Christmas? Set the video timer! Get home early from the pub! And the Queen’s Speech, oh I always loved the Queen’s Speech, though I don’t remember ever actually watching it, as we usually had Christmas dinner at that time and it was the one time of the day when the TV was off (the one time of the year in fact, our TV was always on). I like the idea of the Queen’s Speech but the only thing I remember was the Annus Horribilis bit. And that was because I thought it meant Horrible Bum. And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Bum!

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a festive friday

de vere's davis

It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.

on a colourful day

Davis Farmers Market
I’ve been a bit slow with posting this year. My sketching numbers are down too; but then again, 2016 and 2017 were a little hard to beat for sketch volume! I have a fair number of recent sketches still to scan though, but before we get on with those, here are the two I did on the last Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, which was on a lovely sunny-after-the-rain morning at the Farmers Market. The trees were painted in exciting colours. We had a good turn-out, I talked a bit about drawing crowds and perspective (remembering all the things James Richards once taught me). These trees are almost all leafless now, as we hit mid-December. There were a lot of locals out this day, gearing up for the festive season. Below, sketched from almost the same spot but looking in a different direction, across C Street to the rear section of Davis Community Church.
C St Davis

let’s draw Davis! Dec 1, 2018

LDD 120118

Let’s do some sketching! The November ‘Let’s draw Davis!’ sketchcrawl ended up not happening (due to all the unhealthy air) but it’s time for another sketch-crawl meet-up, this time at the colorful Davis Farmer’s Market. Just a short one this time, 10:30-1pm, but enough to get a few bits of sketching in.

We’ll meet up at the benches by the Carousel in Central Park (located between B and C Streets, the Carousel is about in the middle of the park, just past the market), and then do some sketching around the market and the park, before meeting up again at B and 3rd St, at the entrance to the Davis Bicycling Hall of Fame at 1pm (which provides a nice shelter if it rains). At the end we look at each other’s sketchbooks and, if you like, share our sketching methods.

START: 10:30am, Central Park (C St / 4th St) at benches by the Carousel)
FINISH: 1:00pm, B St / 3rd St (outside Bicycling Hall of Fame)

As always the sketchcrawl is FREE and open to anyone who likes to sketch, and meet others who also like urban sketching. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on.

Hope to see you there!!

Event Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/543061586165953/

https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis/

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…

on and on across the universe

Lego Obi-Wan Starfighter
More Lego sketches! These are the mid-prequel-era Jedi star-fighters of Obi-Wan Kenobi (above) and Anakin Skywalker (below). The Obi-Wang ship actually comes with a huge ‘hyperspace ring’ (because one-man fighters this small don’t have space for an internal hyperdrive). I like the simple, sleek design, like a paper airplane, or a teeny-tiny Star Destroyer. The droid, R4 (or ‘Arfour’ as in ‘Arthur Daily’) liked to deal in dodgy motors and go for a drink down the Winchester. One thing always bugged me though. In Attack of the Clones, when Obi-Wan flies one of these to Kamino, Mace Windu orders him to apprehend Jango Fett and bring him back to Coruscant for questioning by the Jedi. But look at that ship! How’s he meant to do that? It’s not like there’s tons of room. Is he going to sit on Obi-Wan’s lap? Think, McFly, think!
Lego Anakin Starfighter

Anakin’s Delta 7B fighter is a similar but not identical design (Obi-Wan’s is technically a Delta-7 Aethersprite-class light interceptor). The R2 unit sits in front of the cockpit. That must be awkward as you can see, because he’s always looking sideways. He’s going to be very uncomfortable like that. This ship didn’t appear in the movies but turned up in some of the animated media. I wish Lego had designed a more pointed nose but I suppose they didn’t want to take kids’ eyes out.

Flashback to last year…I drew their later versions, the ones flown in the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith (which were trashed on Grievous’s starship). First up is Obi-Wan’s red and white (or grey here in Lego), Eta-2 Actis-class interceptor. Yeah I never knew it was called that, I looked it up. Later in the movie, when he flew to Utapau, he had a cool looking blue and white one, but he had to ditch that one too after Order 66. I love this design though, kind of like a B-Wing cockpit and a tie-fighter mixed with a speeder. If I lived in the Star Wars universe, this would be my vehicle of choice, you can keep your Falcons and Slave Ones and X-Wings. Well maybe I’d have this for space and a Snowspeeder for when I’m on-planet.
ObiWan Jedi-fighter
And then there is Anakin’s one. He later flew a dark green and grey one, once he started turning to the Dark Side, abandoning his previous love of yellow vehicles. Later on, he only flew in black (or sometimes very very dark grey). You can see how this design could mould into the classic Vader TIE-fighter. I wonder what that would look like in yellow? I bet the Emperor told him he wasn’t allowed to paint it yellow, he’d ruin the Empire’s whole aesthetic.
Anakin Skywalker Jedi-fighter

 

ten years later

6th and D Davis Oct 2018
On a corner of Old North Davis is a house I drew at the end of a crisp sunny October day in 2008. I remember I left work early that day, and cycled up beyond 5th Street, still then a fairly unknown country for a South Davis-dweller such as me, to the Old North neighbourhood, looking to capture some of its old America charm with the autumnal leaves. That sketch is below. I then posted that sketch on the brand new website called ‘Urban Sketchers’, on day 1 of the blog, for which I was to be the ‘Davis’ correspondent. The header of Urban Sketchers upon its launch featured one of my sketchbooks with sketches of San Francisco. In those days Urban Sketchers, the brainchild of Seattle-based sketcher Gabi Campanario, online sketching friend back when our online sketching community still seemed pretty small, had a few correspondents from around the world but grew fast, issuing a Manifesto and encouraging communities of sketchers to get together and draw their world, or rather ‘see the world, one drawing at a time’. It launched on November 1st, 2008; a decade later Urban Sketchers (USk) is absolutely huge, with countless regional ‘chapters’ globally, many many workshops and gatherings, and the annual International Urban Sketching Symposium, which started in Portland in 2010 (with around 80 participants) and was most recently in Porto in 2018 (with around 800 participants!). So, to commemorate my first post on that first day, I went back to that corner of Old North Davis, a much more familiar district to me now, being on my way home, and sketched that same old house, above. The tree in front has gone, though another younger tree has sprouted up just behind the fence. Obviously in 2008 the leaves turned orange a little earlier than this year. My son was just a little baby. George W. Bush was still president; Barack Obama would be elected a week later. Spurs had just sacked their manager Juande Ramos (after our worst ever start to a league campaign, 1 point in 10 games; think about that, when we’re complaining now about having only 21 points from 10 games) and replaced him with Harry Redknapp. How times have changed. Me, I’m still drawing the rise and fall of trees.

D & 6th, davis

You can see the post I put on Urban Sketchers today at: http://www.urbansketchers.org/2018/11/a-decade-on.html