On Saturday morning we held our first “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl since the pandemic sent us all home, our most recent one being on February 29th. It was a socially distanced crawl, masked up and stood out of the way, down at the UC Davis Arboretum. It’s been a while. I felt uncomfortable being out sketching, but when I arrived our group was not too big so it was nice to see people. However seconds after parking up my bike I got stung by a wasp! Right behind my ear. That has never happened to me before, not even on those hot June days in the garden back in England, but they finally got me now. So I was in a bit of pain as I introduced the sketchcrawl from behind the veil of my face mask. I was wearing a mask with one of my sketches on it, from Porto. Above is the view from the path of the Redwood Grove.
Above is the richly decorated underpass that goes beneath the train tracks. When I lived in South Davis I would take this route every day on my bike, but it has been years. it was not so colourfully painted back then, but it looks very nice now. It was hot while I sketched, and my head was hurting a bit, probably due to the wasp sting that was still throbbing a bit.
Above, a few grapes hanging down from the Gateway gardens. Below, there were some turkeys passing through with a bunch of young poults, so I quickly sketched some. The bird on the right is a Green Heron, though I thought it was a Kingfisher due to the colouring, which reminded me of Kingfishers back in England, which to be fair I’ve also never seen. I was told it was a Green Heron so I am glad I waited to write that down. It was incredible – it would extend its neck to double its body length like Mister Fantastic or something. I expected another bird that looked like Doctor Doom to come along and fight it and call it “that fool Richards”, or a movie studio to come along and reboot it unsuccessfully. Still it was a fascinating creature.
Speaking of fascinating creatures, here is that wasp. I didn’t know exactly what had stung me because I didn’t see it, but when I went back to get my bike, one of the other sketchers Bill Lum came with me to identify it, to see if it were a wasp, a yellowjacket, a bee or maybe even a murder hornet, at least that is what I was thinking. He noticed that there were plenty of them over some of the bike racks, and they had built nests inside – putting my bike on one had disturbed it, so it had stung me. As he got close, one of the little bleeders came out and stung him too! So, we had to be careful. I held my sketchbook up as a swatter, and carefully extracted my bike from the wasp danger zone. Gently does it. I managed to do so without getting stung again. The sting was not particularly bad, and went down by the afternoon. I’d never been stung before so it was a first experience, nature’s way of telling me it’s not time to go sketching outside yet.
Bill took a photo of it, and identified it to be a ‘paper wasp’. So naturally I have spent the past few days trying to come up with paper wasp jokes, none of them any good, at least not on paper. So not a yellowjacket, not a murder hornet. Very interesting to draw though!
It’s been a funny week. State of the Union address, Rebuttal by thirsty Republican, flaming Meteors crashing into Russia, the Pope resigns, North Korea detonating a nuclear weapon underground and causing an earthquake, Oscar Pistorius shooting his girlfriend, a big fight on top of a moving train in Turkey between a spy and – no hang on, that last one was the James Bond movie I saw last night, Skymall or something. It’s been a busy week for me as well. Lovely weather, but my lunchtimes have been disorganized, so little sketching. Yesterday I did pop into the building next door to where I work, for some reason, and saw their display of stuffed birds in glass cabinets. The Bohart Entomology Museum is in there, not that entomology has anything to do with birds. I was interested in the bird skeletons. This was all I had time to draw, a pigeon. Look! I am drawing birds! Not so much a rat with wings (and pigeons are certainly not rats with wings, they’re not even mammals), more the leftovers of late-night fried chicken left in a greasy box on the N5.
When I think of pigeons, sure I think of Trafalgar Square in the olden days, and do you (in the UK) remember those short TV kids movies that would sometimes be on the BBC at about 5pm on a Friday, terrible old movies they were, but they would always open with a shot of a deeply grey Trafalgar Square with deeply grey pigeons suddenly taking off? Yes you do. But when I think of pigeons I really think of Pigeon Street. Remember that? (again, thinking more of UK folks of a certain age) Pigeon Street was great. Well when I say great, it wasn’t as good as Rainbow or Emu or any of those shows, even Tickle on the Tum was better, even Michael Bentine’s Potty Time, but Pigeon Street had its charms. Fortunately I cannot remember what they were, or I would have to tell you. But I’ll bet one thing it never had was a skeleton pigeon.
Last Sunday, I took part in the Pence Gallery’s annual ‘Garden Tour’, as one of the artists placed into one of the artistic gardens to make art while people looked at all the interesting garden features. The garden I was in was a particularly interesting garden – many very interesting plants (including an actual banana tree!), but also lots of architectural features that begged to be sketched. This one was my favourite, however, the wooden birdhouse. I actually sketched it twice (and will probably draw it a third time for good measure!).
I hope this terrace of bird houses is well used by our local feathered friends. I have noticed since moving to north Davis that there are different birds up here than in our neck of south Davis (which by the way was the only place in Davis where I’ve seen pigeons, hiding away). I’m not a bird watcher; I can tell a magpie from a pelican, but that’s about it. I know someone in Davis who is though, Pica over at Bird by Bird, check out her excellent (and mighty quick) bird sketches. I do like bird houses; when I was a kid we had one on a big pole in our garden that my grandad had made, but it had long been overtaken by wasps. Bloody wasps. Speaking of bird houses, you may be interested in seeing/buying one of these lovely hand-made unique wooden bird houses designed and built by my cousin Dawn. I was reminded of her when I was drawing this. Check out her other delicious work available on her Etsy store, ‘London Clay Birds’.
This was my last drawing of the day, I’ll post the rest of my drawings soon. It took about half an hour, and I drew it in uniball signo um-151 brown-black pen on the Stillman & Birn ‘delta’ paper. That is nice paper, very thick, sturdy.
Quiet on campus these days. Not the birds though. They are out in force, probably back from wintering in central america, twittering and tweeting and facebooking. I wonder if birds really do have an internet? Like, one of their very own that we don’t know about? (perhaps it’s called the internest) There’s a lot about birds we don’t know. We never ask.
I don’t think I want to know. Probably all means, in bird language, “hey babe, fancy comin’ over to my nest for some early worms?” “i can’t, i’m washing my feathers..” You see, sort of thing that would put me off my lunch. Can’t imagine a bird’s blog would be much fun to read either. “I just ate a worm! And it’s not even early! (45 comments)” They probably film little videos of themselves pooing on cars and post them on PooTube. It’s a growing problem. ‘Happy Crapping’ I think it’s called.
Okay, enough of the ‘cheep’ gags. Next week the students will be back, cycling about, going to classes, and the birds will probably fly off to Oregon or Canada or Vacaville or somewhere.