This is the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd Street, drawn on the first day of November while stood outside the Varsity. It’s a great little independent store that has been around since the 80s, and I worked here shortly after I first came to Davis, at first as the book-keeper and in the shop, then just as the book-keeper, part-time. It was my first job in America, though I actually started full-time in my current department at UC Davis only a couple of months after starting here, so I worked two jobs for a couple of years, helpful while I was still paying a student loan in the UK (back then the dollar was so week against the pound, it was about $2.10 to the £ at one point; it’s about $1.30 now, for example). The owner of the store and my first employer in the US was Alzada Knickerbocker, and if you remember my post from about seven or eight months ago, she retired in February and sold the bookstore to a local family, the Arnolds, who’ve done well to keep the store with a very local community flavour, despite the massive hiccup of the pandemic. I do love the Avid Reader. Well I heard that a few weeks ago, Alzada sadly passed away. I was pretty shocked to read that, the last time I’d seen her was on that evening in February when she officially handed over the store. So I came down to the store on this Sunday afternoon, signed the commemorative book for her, and drew the shop. When I first started there Avid Reader also had a children’s bookstore in E St Plaza, but that closed and we moved all the children’s books upstairs in the main store, where they still are. When our favourite independent toyshop Alphabet Moon, a few doors down on 2nd St, closed down in 2013 Alzada took over the space and kept it as a second part of the main branch, keeping some toys in there along with travel books and cards and stuff. It is now called Avid Reader Active, and is still more of a toystore than a bookstore. It was at the Avid Reader that I learned about the Davis community, from speaking to locals and listening to speakers at various events, so I owe it a lot, and am grateful that Alzada gave me my first job over here. Rest in peace Alzada, and thanks for everything! And may the Avid Reader continue to thrive.
And so, it’s time to start catching up with 2020’s sketching posts. This one was done in late February, back in the golden age of being able to crowd together in close proximity to other humans, not knowing any better. This was drawn at the Avid Reader bookstore on a momentous occasion, the moment ownership of this long-time Davis staple passed from Alzada Knickerbocker to the Arnold family, a local family here in Davis. I of course had to go along. This was the first place I worked in America, Alzada was my first boss. I had two jobs here at first, partly working the store, and partly being the shop’s bookkeeper (which was the same job I did for a small independent bookshop in England before I moved out here). It was only part-time but it got me started, and shortly afterwards I started working full-time for the university (in the same department I am still working in), but I remained here on Saturdays and a couple of evenings per week, working at the little desk under the stairs behind a pile of Ingrams invoices. I hadn’t worked there since just before my son was born, so it’s been a long time, but I always popped in to say hello. I have been back in my official capacity as artist a few times to give talks or exhibit sketches. It was nice to go in and see Alzada off after all these years, and welcome in the new owners. I was surprised to see one of my old drawings of the shop in a frame on display at the counter, a piece of the history there. Unfortunately in less than a month the world was hit by the coronavirus and everything closed up, but they have been doing business and recently opened up again to the public, albeit with all the social distancing rules. But look at this, a crowded shop, with wine and sandwiches and people looking over my shoulder; we didn’t know, though we were being warned, but it wasn’t yet real to us. I had already been to hospital that month though – a couple of weeks earlier (on my birthday in fact) I was in the emergency room with a nasal infection that grew rapidly, and thankfully got under control within about a fortnight, but was pretty painful (as well as unsightly). In the hospital, which was pretty busy even pre-Covid 19, everyone was asked to disclose where they had travelled in the past few weeks, and hand sanitizer was doubled up, but this was still the pre-mask time, and since I was not contagious I was free to go to the soccer tournament the next day, full of people in close contact, seems hard to imagine now. I was heavily tanked up on medicine though, and exhausted much of the time, but our under-12 team did well and came third overall (though I think we had a good shot at winning it, we just missed out in the semi-finals in high winds to the team who eventually won it; still, a third place medal was a good finish). Our season was put on hold in mid-March, and eventually cancelled, including the Davis World Cup tournament which I was on the organizing committee for (I had spent a long time designing the logo! I’ll have to reuse it next year). This year has been a shame. But I am glad to see the Avid Reader is still going through all this, and wish the new owners the Arnolds all the very best in keeping this shop at the heart of the community, as well as wishing Alzada the best in a well-deserved retirement.
Last Saturday evening I was fortunate enough to give a talk at my local bookstore The Avid Reader about travel journals, urban sketching, and Danny Gregory’s latest book ‘An Illustrated Journey‘, in which I have a chapter. I gave a talk there last year about ‘The Art of Urban Sketching‘, and I have always liked that store – it was the place I first worked, years ago, when I came to Davis. I had a little office under the stairs.
Saturday was also the hottest day of the year so far, in fact probably the hottest ever recorded on that date in Davis – 109 degrees Fahrenheit at one point we saw, and that sort of heat will drive you bonkers. So big thanks to all who braved the heat and came out to hear me talk!
Ramble on more like. I had a plan, not a script exactly, but you know how it is, once you start talking about this subject you go off in all directions. That’s how I travel, funnily enough. We had a good turn out, I counted about twenty people. Here is store owner (and my old employer) Alzada Knickerbocker introducing me.
I prepared a big board of sketches to show people during the talk, so I wouldn’t have to keep scouring through sketchbooks to find the example of that one bridge I sketched that one time, and so on. I enjoyed making this, but I accidentally put one image on there twice (doh!).
For each of the attendees I also made something special – a micro-sketchbook, only 3″x4″ big and eight pages long. I cut up a load of different paper, mostly Strathmore drawing paper, but also some thinner Canson paper, some watercolour paper, some squared paper, even a few grey tinted sheets. I also cut up a whole bunch of those brown Chinese envelopes I like to draw on, the ones I get at work from all the graduate applications I deal with. I stapled them together, stuck a little ‘Pete’ sketch on the front and voila, micro-sketchbooks. I made a whole bunch, and I will probably give out the rest at the next sketchcrawl, or bring them to Barcelona.
I had a lot of very good questions at the end, most of which I was able to answer without going into too much of a tangent. I hope. I wanted to get across the message that sketching is for everyone, accessible and approachable and doable, and that the important thing is to use sketching as a tool to observe and build a relationship with the place in which you exist. Location sketching, especially when travelling, is much more rewarding as documentation of your travels than drawing from a photo later on. When you sketch on location, you are in effect having a conversation with a place. When you’re not together, it’s not really much of a conversation.
I enjoyed my conversations with everyone who came on Saturday and met some interesting folk! It was nice to have a few familiar faces there too for support (including my very supportive wife, and my young son who sat quietly to the side drawing the whole time, good lad). Thanks also to Alzada and the Avid Reader for inviting me to speak again.
Keep on sketching!
Exciting news! This Saturday, June 8th, I will be giving a talk at the Avid Reader bookstore about keeping travel sketchbooks, and presenting Danny Gregory’s excellent book “An Illustrated Journey”, which as you will recall I contributed a chapter. The book features drawings and writing from forty traveling artists from around the globe and I was honoured to be involved and am constantly inspired by seeing the work of others. Bring your own travel journals and sketchbooks to show!
WHEN: Saturday June 8th, 2013 @7:30pm
WHERE: The Avid Reader, 617 2nd St, Davis CA
Hope to see you there!
Last night’s talk at the Avid Reader went very well, a lot of people came (many thanks to all who came!). I spoke for, I’m not sure, an hour and a half, maybe two hours? It was nigh on half past nine when I left anyway. I introduced the new Urban Sketchers book, ‘The Art of Urban Sketching’, spoke about Urban sketchers as a group, as a philosophy, how it all started, and I think I may have made some sense occasionally, stringing my planned talk together like I string my sketchcrawls together, if you know what I mean. I talked a bit about my own sketching, how and why I do it, and passed around some images of Davis that I’ve drawn. Quite a few familiar faces were there, for which I was very thankful! I even signed some books; nice to see so many people with the Urban Sketchers book, I hope they’ll be as inspired by all the other sketchers as I am! I read from the book, the manifesto, the profiles of certain artists, showed some of my favourite images in the book (several of them were by Luis Ruiz, including his one of Malaga’s now-closed oldest bookstore, Libreria Cervantes, which was very relevant being talked about in an independent bookstore, although the Avid Reader is doing pretty well these days and is in fact expanding into the former space of the recently closed toystore, Alphabet Moon, three doors down the street). I tried to talk a lot about urban sketching to Davis and cities like it, how we as urban sketchers are recording a place’s history in personal ways; I was pleased to meet another artist who had also painted the Davis Lock and Safe building, for example. My throat was getting pretty dry by the end of it.
So after the talk, I popped over to De Vere’s for a cold beer. All of this talk about drawing meant I was just itching to pick up a pen again, so I went straight to the bar and started sketching, and sketching, and sketching. I lay down a wash of browny-yellowy-orange first, to represent the bar’s light, then draw over that in my black uni-ball signo pen. I couldn’t represent the bar’s noise though – where last week’s Little Prague outing was defined by very loud music, this was deifned by very loud talking. It got packed quickly, and you couldn’t hear any music, but quite often people were yelling over each other at the bar. I however kept inside my bubble, and didn’t really mind; I had done all the talking I could that night, and now was my quiet time, in a barful of noise (that’s livin’ alright).
I am really enjoying The Art of Urban Sketching. It’s also fun seeing people from all around the world enjoying it as much as I am, and hopefully being inspired to get out and draw by every page. I like it so much, that I will be at the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd St, Davis this Friday, Feb 24th at 7:30pm, talking about the book, about Urban Sketchers, and about urban sketching in general. If you fancy coming along to hear me yap on and on and maybe pick up a copy of the book (and support one of your local independent stores), pop by the Avid Reader at half seven this Friday evening!
PS: here is an excellent video of Gabi Campanario, the book’s author and founder of Urban Sketchers, talking about the book on local Seattle TV this week along with Gail Wong of the Seattle Urban Sketchers group. Enjoy!
Last Friday I took part in the downtown Davis ArtAbout, exhibiting my sketchbooks and many prints at the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd St. It was an early evening event, and I was at the entrance of the bookstore. I had promised to do some live sketching, and I did a little. My sketchbooks were displayed for members of the public to flick through, and that was a lot of fun, seeing people looking through my moleskines, which is a very different experience to looking at the drawings online. I had several framed prints as well, which are on display for the rest of this month, however they are displayed on top of the very highest shelves, well out of the way of lines of sight, so you may need a periscope.
A lot of people came, and thank you to everyone who stopped by! I talked a LOT, about drawing, about sketchbooks, about pens. I can be quite quiet and shy, especially when sketching, but get me talking about moleskines or micron pens and I can rabbit for England. The setting was pleasant though, with local ukelele player Gary (who I’ve known since I worked at the bookstore years ago) playing very peaceful music in the background. People who came in were very friendly, and my wonderful wife Angela was there as support for me (assisted by my ‘can’t-sit-still’ three-year-old son!), thankfully she knows all my spiel! I’m so glad she was able to be there for the event.
Here I am showing my long Davis Moleskine. Someone asked if I would consider selling it, perhaps for public display, but to be honest I love playing with it. I am going to do another, no really, in a different book with colour and longer scenes, but that is a project for the new year I think.
The event was all done by 7:30, and we all went home exhausted. I was asleep by 9! That was fun; thanks to Alzada and the Avid Reader for arranging this and hosting me! I will of course be taking part in December’s ArtAbout as well, as I will be showing my exhibition of new urban sketches at the Pence Gallery. See you next time!
This is the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd Street in Davis. I used to work here, as the bookkeeper, for a couple of years after I first moved to Davis. It’s a real community anchor, and holds lots of events such as author signings and book clubs, and tonight it will be where I will display my sketchbooks and prints as part of the 2nd Friday ArtAbout. I’ll be there between 5-ish and 7-ish, there will be refreshments, and I will even be drawing stuff as well. I drew this one lunchtime this week, and finished it off this morning (it’s 11-11-11, and I have a day off! Staying in, framing pictures, listening to history and football podcasts and oasis, emptying dishwasher, eating noodles – it’s cold out). Anyway, I hope to see you at the bookstore tonight! My prints will be up until December 6th.
Mark your diaries! It’s eleven-eleven-eleven next week, whichever date system you use. If you’re in Davis, it’s the 2nd Friday Art About, an evening of art events downtown with music, food, activities and of course lots of art. And (for the second time this year!) I will be exhibiting some sketchbooks and prints at the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd St. The prints will be exhibited until Dec 6, while the reception on the 11th will be from about 5:30 to 7:00 (after that there is some author event, not sure what). I will be sketching live (a ‘sketching demo’ I guess – code for, ‘i’ll be sketching anyway!’), and there will be sandwiches and wine. If you can’t make it, the sketchbooks will be at the Davis public library until the end of the month, and the prints will be at the Avid Reader. But there will also be an event at the Pence Gallery in December…
See you there!