Portland’s Autumn

pdx saturday market

In November I went up to Portland, Oregon, to teach one of the 10×10 Urban Sketchers workshops, on Interior Perspective. I was invited by my friend Rita Sabler (the excellent Portland reportage sketcher), and it was as always an enjoyable visit to one of my favourite cities. I only ever seem to go these days in dark November, but this time it was not rainy at all. It was very colourful in fact, with the autumn leaves out in full force. I tried to capture as much of that as possible in my out-and-about sketches. Above, Portland’s Saturday market, with the Skidmore Fountain in the foreground. I sketched this fountain in 2010 at the first USk Symposium, on a Saturday morning perspective sketching class with Frank Ching. That was the moment I always look back to when I really gave up my inhibitions about drawing in public; rather than find a place to hide and be invisible, better to sketch openly and not worry about being ‘in the way’, become part of the place. On this day, I was able to observe the market as some stalls were still setting up, and as people passed by I got a real feel for the character of this quarter of Portland.

steel bridge portland

I like the Steel Bridge, another one I drew on that first Portland symposium, that time at a workshop with Lapin, I sat between him and Gerard Michel discussing different approaches. I’ve always wanted to return to this riverbank in the Spring when the blossoms are all pink, but coming back in Fall with golden leaves floating down is almost as nice. I did get a bit cold though, and so streetcarred it back to the hotel for a rest before my workshop.

pdx food trucks alder square

This one was sketched at the food carts area at Alder Street, after I had spent a good long afternoon wandering about Powell’s. Powell’s is such a great big bookstore, I could spend forever in there. They had my books, too, which is always exciting to see. I have a tradition now of going to Powell’s and then wandering up here for a big hot dish of Thai food, and I was not disappointed. I sketched across the street, the sunlight starting to fade, the urban greys brightened up by the reddish orange of the trees.

star theater portland

Not too far away, a bit earlier in the day, the Star Theater, with yellowy leaves scattered about. A group of homeless people sat nearby talking and laughing, streetcars rattled past, a slight breeze blew leaves and thoughts past as I sketched. My legs were hurting; I had had a night out before, and a good lie-in, but as each year passes I always forget I need a bit more rest. I spent the rest of the afternoon in Powell’s. And below, of course, an orange Portland fire hydrant, weather-worn and pock-marked.

pdx hydrant

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

blame it on the changing of the seasons

5th St Davis
Ah, another big gap in posting. I promise I am busy as well as lazy. I’ve also not sketched as much, though I have been doing ‘Inktober’, that thing where you draw a picture in ink every day of October (interestingly enough I discovered that ‘October’ is originally the month where for 31 days people would use a different southern French word for “yes”, before that it was just called “Tober”, similarly this is how ‘November’ got its name, although it was Nonvember until scribes dropped the nasal almost silent ‘n’, before that it was just ‘Vember’, and no I don’t know where this is all going, I’m running myself into nonsense again, or is that no-sense? Forget all of this, I made it up). Inktober though, you get a list of 31 words and they are prompts to get you drawing every day. Good idea for inspiration. Despite it being October, one of the greatest months ever invented (cheers Rome! I guess), I didn’t do as much outside sketching, and all my Inktober efforts are actually just of Lego minifigures (you’ll have seen these if you’ve followed me on Instagram – where I’m called ‘pwscully’ because someone else is ‘petescully’, someone who has no posts and 1 follower). I’m going to post those up soon, I only scanned them in a couple of days ago. In the meantime, here is a sketch I managed to do on Saturday afternoon after a very long day of AYSO duties. I’d cycled downtown to get a haircut and came away empty-handed (or rather full-headed), as the barbers were packed. Must be haircut-tober or something. So I got a milkshake and sat on the sidewalk at the edge of Fifth Street to at least get a sketch in this overly warm late October weather. I have drawn this scene a few times before, and the leaves are all crisping up into their proper autumnal colours. Mood lately has been tired, stressed, a bit deflated, uninspired. Sketching helps with that.

So does getting a haircut. I finally did a couple of days ago, and Tottenham beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the Champions League on the same day, so those two things have improved my mood massively. Roll on November!

 

fall or nothing

chemistry buildings, uc davis

When this time of year hits, we get that big explosion of colour before the weather finally comes and washes it all away. Sometimes the weather doesn’t come, and it’s been a hot year, but now the rain has started (well, it’s misty) and the winds are blowing away these bright leaves (well, they’re falling off in a slight breeze) so I’m posting these autumnal scenes from a couple of weeks ago at UC Davis. Above, the view of the Chemistry Buildings, surrounded by red and gold. A very UC Davis scene. Below is the view directly opposite, of Bainer Hall, home of Engineering. Slightly less bright colour but still glowing with the themes of Fall. But in each of these as you will no doubt have seen, two different types of UC Davis fire hydrant, in the signature white and blue. November is gone now, and we’re almost reaching mid-December, and have I done all my Christmas shopping? No, still more to do. What does everyone want?!? I know what I want – for the world to look like this forever! Well maybe not forever, but at least for a bit longer.

bainer hall, uc davis

the changing of the guard

Mrak Hall, UC Davis
Well it is the Thanksgiving Holiday, and by this time of year in Davis the autumnal colours have really exploded into bloom. It happens that bit later than in most parts of America, it seems, and the transition between November and December is when it hits its peak. This is Mrak Hall, above, where the main administration for UC Davis sits. I sat on a bench one lunchtime this week (a more pleasant experience now that the campus is smoke-free) to sketch this view, and I remembered that I’ve sketched it in Falls gone by on a couple of other occasion. Below, December 2010, a couple of weeks or so later in the season. You can see how the red-tinged tree has turned more orange, while the yellow tree has started to thin out on top.

mrak hall in december

Let’s go further back in time to 2007. The same date, December 10th, and a similar rate of autumnalisation (not a word people use, but I just did) though with more leaflessness on the top of the trees (I neglected to draw the leaves on the ground, obviously too difficult for me back in 2007).

back in mrak

That top sketch of Mrak was the final sketch in watercolour Moleskine #13, which was the ‘Art-Plus’ version (and slightly inferior to all the other versions, paper-wise). This bottom sketch was from watercolour Moleskine #2, and the middle one from #6. Time for a new sketchbook!

when it’s raining, it’s raining

rainy november day
Big rain storms rolled into California today. Late November can be a very colourful time of year, when the trees are bright yellow, fiery orange, deep reds, and leaves flutter down on every breeze. When the storms come it blows everything around, meaning what would otherwise be a grey and dismal day was in fact a beautiful, I mean really beautiful stormy morning. I walked to a meeting mid-morning, and could have walked on all day in the rain. The ground was covered in bright leaves, like a dusting of golden snow. I don’t have a window in my office so I can’t gaze dreamily out at the rain (I have to draw a picture of it on my whiteboard), but I can hear it on the skylight, tap-tap-tap, and by lunchtime it was pounding. I couldn’t wait to get back out, find a sheltered spot, and draw the colourful storm while it lasted. I listened to a history podcast about England’s medieval conquest of Wales and drew in the Moleskine. It’s funny, whenever it rains here people are often, oh no, rain, I don’t want to get my raincoat slightly wet in the brief dash from my car to Target, whereas I’m like, oh it’s just a bit of rain, grrr. So I scribbled down this cartoon in my notepad this afternoon. Thought you might like it.
rainy day

autumn at the art center

Davis Art Center
(click on the image for a larger version)

Last Sunday was the November “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl, in the conveniently-located-across-the-street-from-me Community Park. Since it had been prophesied to be a cold day, only a few of us showed up, greeted by crisp autumn sunshine and blazing fall colours. after a very quick ‘people’ sketch or two I set to work on a panorama. The previous Friday evening I had attended a fun event at the Davis Art Center called the ‘Arty Party’, in which there was lots of drawing, some drinking and eating, and I even won a game of Pictionary, a game I’ve not played in a couple of decades, surprisingly. It was nice to get out and be social and talk to people about art, and in fact they will be selling some cards of my drawings in their annual Holiday Sale (Nov 30-Dec 2), including a recent one of the Art Center. I was talking about how I’d never drawn the building before, because it wasn’t an easy one to draw – trees in the way, lots of angles, it had always seemed very difficult. And then almost as soon as I had said it, I said to myself, difficult, huh? Really?  So I determined to give it another go. I liked my first version – it says ‘Davis Art Center’ on it – but really wanted the panoramic version in my Moleskine sketchbook. I stood in the sunshine for just over two hours (my wife even came by and brought me a sandwich!) and sketched away. I started in the middle and worked my way outwards.
Drawing the Davis Art Center

I didn’t end up doing any more sketches on the sketchcrawl (I popped back home to call my Mum in England and have a cup of tea), but met with the group at the library afterwards, where we all showed off our sketches. In the end I think about eight people came, which was pretty good for a cold day (though it wasn’t cold, really California, really..). Next one will be in mid-December, when it might really be cold…let’s keep drawing Davis!

Finally, here is the drawing of Davis Art Center I started on location before I went to Portland (and finished when I got back), showing the main entrance and part of a sculpture in the foreground. I love this place, they do a lot of good for our artistic community in Davis, and long may they do so.

davis art center