yard days night

old bikes in my back yard

I mentioned gardens in my last post, and this is my ‘garden’. It’s a small back yard that we could do a lot of work in, if I were a garden person, which I’m really not. Although I say that, I have spent a lot more time out working in this yard than any other, pulling up weeds and trimming down branches, but it’s not a space we spend a lot of time in. We did have a lot of unwanted junk out there that we ended up bringing to the dump, which made it much nicer out there, although there are still two old bikes (one of which is not actually old, it was just not ever really ridden, but has been out in the yard for quite a while now so probably needs a good servicing before it can go out on the road). The other is an old bike of my son’s when he was smaller. The tarpaulin has largely perished. Against the fence that is a foldable table, we don’t really use that much. The thing with the orange net is a rebounder, useful for soccer practice, if we ever used it for soccer practice. It’s too big to bring with us, and our yard is too small to use it effectively out there. This is only one corner of our small back yard. Let’s not talk about the black widows. We have an understanding, I pretend they don’t exist, and they don’t get stamped on when they come out. There are a lot of them in Davis, but we aren’t talking about them. So yeah, I’m not a garden person, but I think maybe I should spruce it up a little. I have all these ideas, but I’m not super handy, or practical. But it’s a lot better than it was. A few years ago there was this massive bush, a tree really, sprouting out of the ground there. It grew fast, and had big ugly lemons on it, and its branches had these sharp thorns about an inch or so long that would go straight through your hand, and destroyed a few bike tyres. It grew high, right over the fence, dropping those big lemons with faces like Victorian thugs onto the path below. It took a while and several sharp cuts, but I defeated that bush, with my massive lopper and my sharp garden scissors. It remains one of my greatest victories. I put it on my CV. That lemon bush thing has never returned. There was another tree, an actual tree rather than an upstart bush, growing much closer to the patio door. It was ok at first and provided a bit of shade, but eventually it got a little wild, and started rattling against the windows. Despite lopping off as many limbs as I could, this one required professional help so we got someone out to take care of it. And I mean “Take Care Of”, I don’t mean we got someone to come round and give it a foot massage. That tree’s days of knocking on bedroom windows are over.       

sheltering in place, the first few days

I really hate 2020, a lot. Like, it can honestly just bugger off. Well, this week Davis announced it will Shelter In Place, then this was followed a day later by an Order to Shelter In Place by Yolo County (yes our county is called Yolo), and this was then followed by the whole of California. So I started this week in the office, ready to pack up any moment, and was working from home by the middle of the week. Lots of meetings by Zoom. Because my wife is also working from home, it’s different from other times when I have worked from home like when I’ve been sick or looking after my son when he’s sick, because I can’t just have Revenge of the Sith on in the background or play David Bowie. It’s all an adjustment. I’ve not quite decided to turn on the camera in the Zoom meetings yet, until I can decide what my suitable background will be. I need to get a selection of clever sounding books and put them on a shelf behind me, either side of my head, so people will be like, wow, maybe he is clever. I have a lot of language books, and the Riverside Chaucer, or maybe I should put my own books – speaking of which, my most recent book was published in CHINESE this week! They sent me a copy. Or perhaps I’ll just put up one of my vintage World Cup posters, that would look more like me. Anyway, now that the whole world of urban sketchers it seems are sketching their houses, I thought it about time I did the same, and drew the living room last weekend. This week I drew a few more. Above, the stairs, drawn late at night while watching videos on YouTube about Star Wars (wow, there’s a lot of utter crap out there). The hanging birds and letters on the wall are from a Happy Birthday message I made for my wife, in Hawaiian. She really likes Hawaii. We would not mind being stuck there right now. There’s my son’s bike, he’s new to riding it, but he loves it, it’s just now with social distancing it’s harder to meet up with friends. And of course, despite living in Davis, the bike capital of America, I still can’t really draw a bike. I don’t care; there’s a pandemic on.
Working from home means I can go to different rooms in the house and work. While I do have a nice computer at a desk downstairs, I can also take the laptop upstairs and do exactly the same thing. As it slowed down one afternoon I sat in the bedroom, answering emails and approving this and that, listened to podcasts, and then decided I needed to draw the bedroom. I don;t think I ever have before, the lair of Lego and piles of things, framed pictures and clothes, musical instruments and boxes of records, and all the shoulder bags I no longer use but don’t need to get rid of yet (I just brought one out of retirement that I got in 2007, it fits my new iPad into it so it’s back on the team). That large framed drawing in the middle, that is actually a print of an extreme panoramic drawing from Liège that Gérard Michel gave me way back in 2011. I keep meaning to bring that one into work, it’s too big for that piece of wall so it rests on top of other frames for now. I also have one of a 360 degree drawing from the Montagne de Bueren staircase that he gave me, now I have visited that very place maybe that one should go up here too, I just need to frame it.

This is the kitchen, drawn from the dinner table, late at night while (again) listening to podcasts. One thing about working from home more now is that I snack more, which I had in the past year cut out completely (I lost 30 pounds in the last year, though I’ve put a couple back on now). I miss my walking to work, going to the gym after work, and I need to be a bit more dedicated to not snacking at home, but there’s a pandemic on, and the stress of that makes me feel more hungry I think. In this Shelter in Place order though, we are allowed to go out running, as I did this morning, I went on a 2 mile run (I actually was supposed to do a 5k this morning, but the event was cancelled). Most of north Davis seemed to be out too, walking dogs, walking themselves, running, biking, throwing balls to each other, social-distancing I suppose, not really sheltering in place. In Spain they have been using drones to tell people to go home from the park! So, I will run while I can, and I never liked going near people anyway, but I’m not gonna lie, I’d really like to go and sketch at the pub. I’m going to miss that for a while.

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!!

sketchcrawl sunday scavengers


Last Sunday we held the latest “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl in downtown Davis, starting at the Amtrak Station and finishing up at Mansion Square. This one was, unlike the other ones I’ve organized in Davis, a “scavenger sketch-hunt”. I provided everyone with a list of things at the start, things which could be found in that section of downtown Davis, and they had to draw between 8-12 of them to win a sticker at the end. In truth, just getting to the end meant you got a sticker, but it’s a good fun way to explore and have ideas of things to draw. I think everyone really enjoyed it! I was told it helps some people get over the “what should I draw” conundrum, like Inktober or Every Day Matters – little prompts, totally optional. I’ll do that again.


The list is as follows:

  1. The Amtrak Station (or part of)
  2. A Fire Hydrant
  3. A Bicycle
  4. A Piece of Public Art (sculpture, mural)
  5. A Giraffe
  6. A Public Pay-phone
  7. A Musical Instrument
  8. Another Sketcher
  9. A Barber’s Shop
  10. A Bottle
  11. A Street Sign
  12. The Varsity Theatre (or just the sign)

For the record, I managed eight of them – numbers 1, 2 (obviously, come on), 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Here’s why I didn’t get all 12 – I draw fast, but not that fast. No, not just that. IT RAINED ALL DAY! Unusual for Davis. But I spent some of the summer sketching in Manchester so it felt a little familiar. It wasn’t raining when we started, and we had quite the turnout (around 25 sketchers) despite the threat of rain. A lot of people set up across from the station to sketch it, and I sketched some of them – and then the rain came, and it didn’t stop until, haha, right after the sketchcrawl finished. Like, immediately afterwards, blue skies. Ah well. So, here are my sketches of the sketchers Jesse, Omar and Emily:


As you can see, splotches of rain started slowly splashing onto the page as I sketched Omar and Jesse; I had to duck under cover when adding colour to Emily’s sketch.


Here is my sketch of the Amtrak Station, sketched in a dry spot next to the building opposite. Most sketchers had ducked for cover, but there is one with a brolly (a few others held umbrellas and sketched too but didn’t last as long as that sketcher!).


Yeah it was raining hard when I sketched this bike. I was stood beneath a shopfront awning and the rain was still getting to me, so I just painted it quickly. I had wanted to sketch either the large giraffe statue or the giraffe bench opposite this on F Street, but the rain was too heavy to get a decent vantage-point.


I did have a nice dry spot to sketch the Davis Barber Shop though. I have never sketched this place before, and should really sketch inside some day. I was glad they were open on Sundays. The barber was kind enough to let other sketchers in to sketch, and I think he liked my rendition of the outside. I kept it simple and didn’t add paint, as I wanted to move on.


I have sketched the Varsity a million times before and this day was so rainy and grey that I didn’t need to worry about that blue sky bringing out the white building or the shadows cast beneath it, however the pink and blue of the neon sign was too cool to pass up. I added a blueish grey marker to the foreground tree.


Right, a few items to check off the scavenger hunt list. The street sign, obvious. The bottle, that was at De Vere’s though I had included a bottle on the list just to advertise my show at Putah creek Winery, basically, in case people went by there. And the trumpet, fulfilling the ‘musical instrument’ sketch. Actually it is a coronet, and I sketched it at Watermelon Music on E St, which will be vacating its downtown spot at the end of the year and relocating to West Davis, due to the new landlords downtown forcing all these local businesses to close. Yes, some tough times ahead for downtown. Well, I like Watermelon, and bought some guitar strings as I am inspired now (after seeing Paul McCartney live in Sacramento recently – wow that was awesome! My 12 year old Macca-obsessed past self was smiling down on me that night). Several other sketchers had been in drawing stuff, they didn’t seem to mind too much, and I asked if it was ok if I drew too. I’ll miss them; I probably won’t cycle out to West Davis, see, kinda far for me.


Yeah, the rain was getting a bit much so time for an interior, and where else but De Vere’s. This time I drew the familiar bar but played a bit with the colours and I LOVE it, that blue and yellow. I’ll do more of that. I had a nice stout, good choice on a drizzly day.

And then we all met up at the end, well about a quarter of those who had started, and I gave out more stickers such as those ones below. I hope everyone had fun! The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be on Saturday November 12, at Vanderhoef Quad on the UC Davis campus, starting at 10:30am. I’ll post a poster soon!

call her green, and the winters will not fade her

green bike art, 8th st

I’ve not been feeling well the past few days (I’m home doing nothing but watching telly, drinking tea and listening to the dishwasher right now), but yesterday I managed to get out for some fresh air on my bike, and cycled around Davis in that laborious way you do when your legs are saying, you should be at home on the sofa. The sunshine was good for me though. I stopped on 8th street to do some sketching, after I saw a row of bicycles, each painted tip to toe in a different bright colour, nailed to stakes alongside someone’s garden fence. That’s peculiar, I thought, so I drew the lime green one. It’s so green it reminded me of Fungus the Bogeyman. Interesting public art in a bike-mad town.

think about a new destination


Drew the UC Davis Bike Barn building…again. Well it has one of those looks, cant help but be turned into a drawing. The way one side of the roof is longer than the other, the shadow beneath the eaves, the unsketchable army of bikes in the foreground. I still have that brown paper cut up from envelopes.

I forgot to mention: Davis is now home to the newly opened (last weekend in fact) U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. That’s right, the actual hall of fame for bike-riders. I wonder if they have a special section for those ones who cycle up on the inside of buses as people are trying to get off, those cyclists deserve a medal, yeah. And the ones who go around texting or yapping into their cellphone with their ipod in their other ear.

Hang on, I’m starting to sound like a certain Tory politician on the eve of the election. “Last week I met a 70-year old nurse who told me he couldn’t get on the bus because all the unemployed eastern european immigrant asylum seekers were cycling around with their ipods and their mobile phones taking our jobs and claiming our benefits…” Oh, the UK General Election is only a week away now, and with ‘bigot-gate’ or whatever it’s being called, we’re already having our Joe the Plumber moment, or will if the Murdoch press has its way. I really hope the media leaves that poor pensioner alone, but have a feeling she’ll be used to the fullest extent by The Scum newspaper over the next week.

the bridges of yolo county

arboretum bridge

Putah Creek, running through the long UC Davis Arboretum, has a lot of bridges. Well, it has to, otherwise getting to the other side would be a very long walk. Some bridges ar wooden, like the one in the background, and even covered in foliage like some Monet painting, while others a big and concrete, which might not sound too picturesque but in this case I quite like it. I’ve drawn this bridge before.

It’s April in Davis, California. Tomorrow, the annual Picnic Day takes place, the largest university open house event in the country. It’s Davis’s day to show off. There will be thousands of people there. This year I might even do some drawing.

cyclepathic tendencies

red bike on campus

If you didn’t know, Davis is a cycling capital. There are bikes everywhere, and I mean everywhere – especially just before and after classes on the UC Davis campus. they come from left and right and behind and probably from above and below too. They’ll cut you up, whizz through stop lights, pay no attention to other cyclists turning, and occasionally mash each other up around the roundabouts (which can be entertaining). Just this morning a guy cycling behind me flew off his bike at speed while turning a puddle-riddled corner. I noticed he had headphones in both ears (oooh, that’s against the law). You see a lot of people texting while cycling too. WTF? There is a bike cop on campus who gives cyclists the odd telling-off for riding in no-cycling zones, and occasionally cops will stop cyclists who actually do follow the rules of the road, and give them a reward for their good behaviour. It’s true, I read it in the paper.

Sometimes, with all these bikes, there is just nowhere to park. The owner of this red bike just chained their road-bike to a lamp-post. That was nice of them. It gave me something to draw at lunchtime.

the delta breeze cometh

a cooler evening in davis

After six days of 100-plus weather, it finally felt a bit cooler tonight (though it was mid-90s today). I cycled down to the edge of Davis, to that spot by the levee I sketched a couple of Mondays back (it’s always when the Bachelorette is on TV that I head down here). That sketch is here. The sunset, if you’re wondering, is in the other direction, this mass of colour in the sky is likely from the terrible hazy air we have here in the Valley, it just hangs there above Sacramento, especially in heatwaves. The Delta Breeze is in tonight though, cooling everything down.
There’s my bike again. It’s standing up now, because I had a kickstand added to it. In the distance, West Sacramento. I heard on the news yesterday that a mountain lion had been spotted in West Sac. The mountains are behind that haze in the distance; perhaps it is just lost. I kept my eyes open.

sketchcrawl 23, SF: part 4, the end

end of sketchcrawl 23, at eddie rickenbacker's
Tired after a long day’s sketching? Just go across the city to a cool little place, get a beer, and keep going. I went to Eddie Rickenbacker’s on 2nd St (I have drawn the outside of it before), a place chock full of vintage motorbikes, hanging from the walls and the ceiling. I sat and drew a 1951 Whizzer Sportsman, in pigma micron 05. It was nice to draw sat in a chair, at a table. They have a humungous cat at that place, called Mr. Higgins (perhaps we were related; there are Higgins on my mum’s side). When it was time to catch the Amtrak bus I left, tired legs, I could sketch no more. Still, it was a busy and very productive day. I think on days like this I learn a hell of a lot. I went back to Davis, had a cup of tea, and started scanning my drawings in…

You can see all of my drawings for this day on the Sketchcrawl site’s forum.