and the seasons they go round and round

south silo on a chinese envelope

Here is another familiar scene, but drawn in a different way, at lunchtime today. My recycling bin is always bursting at the seams at this time of year, so I like to recycle the nicer brown envelopes for some sketching. I used a different pen, a black Y&C Calligraphy pen from Japan (well, from the University Art store in Sacramento), which was really fun to draw with. I have drawn this same view, of the south Silo from the steps of Bainer Hall, every six months since mid-2007, once in Winter, once in Summer, once with leaves and once without. One way to capture the changing Davis seasons. Here are the others…

view from bainer uc davissouth silo uc davisthe view from bainer, againbikebarn from bainer (yet again)bike barn from bainerlunchtime sketch by the hog barnrainy rainy daysmoky and the bikebarnno leaves for youuc davis trees encore

say hello to my little friends

hydrant by eversonhydrant on 2nd & Univ

I’ve been drawing fire hydrants this week, ones I have not drawn before. The taller yellow one below was drawn at the end of last week’s sketchcrawl; the stumpy yellow one above is on the corner of 2nd and University. The other two are drawn on brown envelopes – I work with graduate applications, and recieve mail, transcripts, from all over the world (well, mostly China). I like to recycle the envelopes from time to time for some drawing, and well it’s that time of year. The one above was drawn on an envelope from Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China, and is a hydrant from the UC Davis campus (they are white and blue). The one below is drawn on an envelope from Sri Lanka, and is found in the parking lot of Davis Commons. There are still one or two styles of hydrant in Davis that I’ve not yet drawn, I’m sure!

sketchcrawl 34 hydrantanother davis hydrant

hoe does your gaarden grow


Beer. A great thing to drink on yet another very very hot day, when work has kept you busy (also a very good thing to drink while the season opener of Gray’s Anatomy is on in the same room). I used to like drinking Hoegaarden when I was in Belgium, and in fact was given a set of Hoegaarden glasses and beers, from the various types they make, as a parting gift by some Belgian friends. Wow, that was more than eleven years ago. This is one of those very glasses (though the beer is newer). Drinking it does remind me of Belgium, of Blokker and Inno and Champion (they’re shops, not greyhounds), of squared paper notebooks and crazy drivers, of warm cosy pubs and freezing cold rainy walks home, of phonecards and mitraillettes de dinde, of sitting on trains and trams just for the pleasure of reading a book. You can imagine me at a beer tasting festival. “Ah yes, this one has a fruity aroma, with a hint of waiting half an hour to use a cashpoint and then stepping in dogpoo.” Funny thing is, I didn’t drink Hoegaarden that often, I usually drank Fruit Defendu (made by them, though) or Leffe, perhaps a nice cold a Maes or occasionally my favourite, Charles Quint. I love a Kwak too. Mmm, that one has a nutty palatte, an aroma of that time when my mate Tel came over and downed one too quickly, and the room started to spin and he spent the next hour and a half in the toilet before wandering home in the snow. Happy times!

Sketched in my ‘bottle and glass brown paper sketchbook’. That name has nothing to do with cockney rhyming slang, by the way.

fat tire

fat tire

Illustration Friday this week is ‘bicycle’. Living in Davis, this one’s obvious. We’re the bicycling capital of the US. We have the bicycling Hall of Fame. I just bought a new bike seat. So I decided instead to draw a beer instead – Fat Tire, from the New Belgium Brewing Company, whose symbol is a bike. Sketched in the brown sketchbook, which has a few different bottles and glasses in them now.

Hope you had a good Easter! We did, it was nice. I ate rather a lot.

wir sind die meister, mein freund


Weihenstephaner (literally ‘Holy Steve’) is one of my preferred Bavarian beers. About six years ago my wife and I visited Bavaria and drove around (well, my wife drove, while I spoke German and made old ladies giggle), and I loved all the local Bavarian beers. Every town we visited sold it own local beer, brewed locally, with very few big commercial beers available, for which I was very grateful. I remember I had one particularly nice beer in Schliersee, with one of the nicest roast duck meals I’ve ever had. One brewery we visited was on the outskirts of Munich, calling itself the oldest brewery in the world: Weihenstephaner. It’s at an abbey, and they have been brewing beer since the 8th century, though their brewery founding date is officially in the 11th century. On that day I tried a ‘Kristallweiss’ beer, and that’s what I had last night when I sketched this.

My reasons for wanting to visit the brewery back then were linguistic: I had recently written an essay for my Master’s (one of my courses was in Germanic Philology) based largely around the competing influence of both Anglo-Saxon and Gothic on Old High German, focusing on the words for holy, ‘heilig’ and ‘weih’, the latter being from the Gothic. If you’re interested, the Anglo-Saxon influence won the day for the most part (not surprising as the German patron saint, St.Boniface, was English), but I wanted to go somewhere which still used the Gothic word. I was a big Wulfila reader back then.

Anyway, a new shop opened in Davis recently, the ‘Davis Beer Shoppe’ (quite why it needs the ‘pe’ at the end of ‘shop’ is unclear) and I was pleased to see that they had my favourite Weihenstephaner beer. I still have some Hefe glasses from Bavaria (this one in fact was given to us by a talkative lady called Hildi, the now sadly passed friend of my wife’s German grandmother, in her home town of Ingolstadt. That day, I learnt a lot about the Bavarian language!).

While drinking this beer, I noticed something. The Hefe glass reminded me very much like the World Cup, which probably explains why Germans are so accustomed to lifting it. Interestingly enough, after a few of these, one tends to come over all Klinsmann and start falling over easily…

this is your leffe

leffe blonde

Back to sketching in the brown sketchbook, and this is Leffe blonde. It reminds me of living in Belgium, going to Brussels on the weekend. I do like a Belgian beer. I have many Belgian beer glasses which I got while in Belgium, and now have in the US. My favourite Belgian beers are 1. Charles Quint (Keizer Karel), 2. Fruit Defendu (Verboden Vrucht), 3. Kwak, 4. Leffe Blonde, 5. Westmalle Triple. You know, in case you happen to see me in the pub in Belgium (which admittedly isn’t likely, but if you do, it’ll be the Cuve a Biere in Charleroi).

giant steps

Fear the Beard

There’s a funny old game over here that people quite like, called ‘baseball’. The thing about baseball that I like, apart from the fact that its name doesn’t get confused with that of another more globally popular sport, is the uniforms they wear. They are so classic looking, untroubled by sponsors or the need to change designs every few months. Usually, teams will play in white with their opponents in grey, although soemtimes they will use their other colours – the San Francisco Giants for example sometimes play in black, and even orange, being their colours. Usually (but not always) the home team will wear their nickname (“Giants”, “Yankees”, etc) across their jersey, while the away team would have the name of their city. This classic look reinforces the classic feel of the game – that iconic ballpark design, the apparently simple yet completely complicated (or vice-versa, depending on where you’re from) rule system, the fact that its not about being macho or aggressive, but hitting a ball and running, or catching a ball (with a really big glove). Simple really.

I was never a bat and ball kid. Cricket confused me (it still does) – while they may have light, bright, colourful playing kits now, I never understood growing up why they would play this sport in the middle of summer wearing thick woolly jumpers and long trousers. Rounders? Oh I hated rounders. I couldn’t throw the ball (pitch? bowl?) and was terrible at catching it, and if you missed an easy catch in the playground it was worse than, I don’t know, being Wayne Rooney at the World Cup. And you could get easily bored, with nothing to do but stand there and hope the ball doesn’t get hit in your direction. And then there was ‘softball’, which was just like rounders but with a ball that definitely wasn’t soft. I always wanted them to call it baseball so that we’d sound American and exotic, but I think you had to wear baseball caps if you wanted to call it baseball, and we couldn’t afford them at our school.

Now I live in America, and while I have always liked baseball, I’ve been a little slow in following it. My brother-in-law is a huge Giants fan, and my wife and son too, so naturally I am as well, and have been learning a lot more lately since the Giants won their division, then fought through the play-offs to win the National League, and are now two games into the World Series against the Texas Rangers – two games which they won quite emphatically (11-7 and 9-0 are veritable cricket scores even in baseball). We’ve been glued to the set (cynics can make a sentence out of the following words: “bandwagon, on, jumping, the”), it is pretty exciting. So I had to honour the Giants before they threw it all away (now who’s cynical? hey, that’s my long years as a Tottenham fan, plus a few years as a Giants fan) with a sketch of one of their players, Brian Wilson, “Fear the Beard”. He has this odd and fake-looking black beard, and Giants fans all wear their real-looking fake beards when he comes out to close (he is a ‘closer’, which means he’s a pitcher that pitches at the end of the match – look at me learning all new words!). I was going to draw Tim Lincecum (he looks like a young Severus Snape) but The Beard was too tempting (plus it reminds me a bit of Ricky Villa). 

Go Giants! Fear the Beard! Get me some Garlic Fries!

on the buses

double decker bus

Here in Davis we have a little bit of London. Unitrans has several old vintage London double-deckers which still ride around town, letting passengers hop off the rear deck into the middle of the road, keeping the ‘charming’ London place-names, exotic faraway locales such as Golders Green, Shepherds Bush and Finchley Road. UC Davis brought the buses over in the late 1960s to start a bus service, and these buses are not in fact Routemasters, but the models which came before. Presumably if Boris gets his new modern (ugly, unnecessary, expensive) Routemasters on the streets, Davis will be able to buy some of the bendy-buses.

There are four such buses left in Davis, dating from the late 40s and early 50s. One, the 1950 model, will retire at the end of the year. Maybe they’ll put it out to stud.

Altogether now… “I ‘ate you, Butler!”

bayern some time

bavarian band at little prague, davis

I had to draw this Bavarian band that has been playing occasionally at Little Prague in Davis during this past month or so for Oktoberfest  – I finally went there to sketch them. They played interesting German-style music, sometimes donning a sombrero to add some Mexican into it. I sketched alongside fellow Davis sketcher Steve, and after the band finished our photos were taken by the singer’s wife with our sketches and the band.

The band wasn’t called ‘Bayern’ by the way, I just felt the need to write that up there. I like Bavaria – my wife and I spent a couple of weeks there back in 2005, partly in Munich, partly driving around the Alpenstrasse, to small towns and lakes, popping into Switzerland (where I spent an afternoon studying the Abrogans, a 1200-year-old manuscript and the oldest thing in German language), and then back into Bayern and up the Romantische Strasse. I loved that each town had its own beer, and we ate only local food (I had the most amazaing roast duck in Schliersee), and castles and timber-framed chalets and the odd hilarious name (there was a mountain called ‘Wank’). And it was truly ‘Bavaria’, not just another part of Germany, it felt like its own country, with that blue and white flag everywhere and the Bavarian dialect everywhere. I wouldn’t mind going back some day.

bottle and glass

sudwerk fest-märzen

October is here folks, and October means beer. Even though most Oktoberfests apparently take place in September (giving us Oktoberhangover) – I even drew this while it was still September – it’s culturally important to keep up that association (this is my excuse). One of my favourite beers is in fact the Märzen amber ale of my local micro-brewer, Sudwerk. This year they brought out a special Oktoberfect version, “Fest-Märzen”, and I must say it’s bloody lovely. Perhaps the best beer I’ve had over here. So in the spirit of drawing bottle and glass on brown paper (see the recent champagne bottle), here they are. That glass was empty by the time I finished drawing, let me tell you. We had a heatwave here last week, with weather in the 100s (really! at this time of year), and a nice cold beer was always going to help.