drawing old north davis

Old North Davis, G and 7th
Just over a week ago some of us Davis sketchers braved the stormy weather and came out to sketch Old North Davis. This is the neighbourhood north of Fifth Street, laid out just over a century ago, full of leafy streets and cute houses. We met at the Davis Co-Op on G Street, and spread out to sketch. I drew this corner, at G and 7th. It wasn’t yet raining again so I was making the most of what I could get before seeking cover again. Actually I like rainy sketching, I just put my umbrella inside my jacket, it seems to work.

Old North Davis,  F and 7th

I’ve always liked this building, historically called the Anderson-Hamel House. I have sketched it before, and pass by it most weekends when heading downtown. It’s a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage and was originally the home of John B. Anderson, who established the Bank of Davis and was actually the mayor of Davis when Davis first became a city in 1917. One of the interesting things about this house is that it was originally down at 2nd Street, but was moved when later owners the Quessenberry family decided to build their drugstore there, and so the lovely house moved into Old North Davis. Its history is detailed well in John Lofland’s book ‘Old North Davis’, an absolutely invaluable guide to the area, street by street, hosue by house. I recommend it for anyone interested in this part of Davis (I for one would love to do one where I get to sketch all the buildings).

Old North Davis, E and 6th

I then sat in the Lyda Williams memorial garden on E Street and was going to sketch from there, sat on a bench in the hopeful sunshine, but a local cat decided to come and sit on my lap for a while. Ok little cat, that’s fine, just have a nap there, my feet need a break anyway. Thunder started rumbling, getting closer and closer. Eventually the cat got down and went under the bench, and I sketched this house on 6th and E. It’s very peaceful here, people out on their Sunday strolls around the neighbourhood. Someone I’ve met before called out to me “nice day for a sketch!”. The thunder rumbling more loudly above me was making me go a little bit faster. In the end I left it where it was and headed back to the Co-Op, just in time for the rain.

Datsun outside the Davis Co-Op

The car above was parked outside the Co-Op, a Datsun (don’t see many of them nowadays), and I actually sketched it at the start, but only got as far as the headlights, the windscreen and the overall outline, I had to finish the rest afterwards, because the driver came and drove away. Not sure what the funny rat symbol was on the side, but the car was very souped up and personalized, with paint splatter and special features, it was like a Stone Roses record cover.
LDD May19 group photo

And here are the brave sketchers who sketched Old North Davis. We’ve yet to determine the date of the next Davis sketchcrawls but we’ll post them very soon.

Advertisements

Palo Alto

Dodge Dart in Palo Alto
We went down to Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for a soccer tournament (my son’s team the Davis Dawgs got first place after a thrilling and tight final). It was held at Greer Park, just off the freeway, and I had time between games to get some walking in, and some sketching too. This old car was parked near ours, a Dodge Dart, looking very much like it just skidded in from a 1970s cop show, knocking over a pile of boxes, shouting ‘guv!’ and sliding over the bonnet pointing a shooter at some crooks in a Ford Cortina. Even the headlights and the grille seem to be scowling at the DI who is reprimanding them for kicking in the door of a well-known Tory MP accused of taking backhanders from back-door bad guys, before slamming his badge down on the table, shouting ‘guv’ and heading down to the smoky boozer to growl at the barman, where he overhears a tip from a grass and a lightbulb goes off, and the next scene there is a door being kicked in and a scrawny looking crook caught wide-eyed in the headlights, before hauling him into the DI’s office and slinging him across the desk, earning a raised eyebrow, a shouty word, and his badge back, thanks guv. It totally looks like that, doesn’t it!
Palo alto skate park

On my walk around the park (getting my steps in, guv), I saw this skate park, in which the valleys were filled with colourful graffiti. When I went back to sketch, after our fourth game, there were a group of men in their 20s and 30s with bikes having a day out, barbecuing stuff and taking turns going into the valleys and doing big spinning jumps. I also sketched a fire hydrant. After our team won the final, everyone got an ice cream. I got one too, a massive chocolatey nutty thing, and that was my dinner, diet be damned, guv.
Palo alto hydrant

DeLorean in Davis

DeLorean in Downtown Davis
It’s not every day you see one of these! This is a DeLorean, in case you weren’t aware, a car from the early 1980s, made in Northern Ireland, but immortalized in some movie about time travel, you might know it. There is a DeLorean association in this area and on Picnic Day in Davis they are often part of the parade. After my son’s soccer game in the morning, we came downtown after the parade had already happened, and got ice cream. Well I didn’t get any because I am officially on a self-imposed diet. So, when we saw there were three DeLoreans parked along the sidewalk of E Street, I couldn’t resist stopping and sketching. Three DeLoreans! Well I assume there were three DeLoreans, it might have been one DeLorean visiting itself from the future (or the past). As I sketched, the owner of this one came by and we chatted, it was very interesting to hear about how the various DeLorean owners help each other out – owning a car like this you kind of have to become an engineer, and parts aren’t exactly easy to come by (the plutonium alone is tricky enough). As you can see I drew the wing mirror in on the other side before the car door was open; when they opened the door, well I just had to draw that. I’ve sketched a DeLorean once before, in the Automobile Museum in Sacramento. While I sketched, several young lads would come up and ask the owner to take their photos with it, even though they were born many years after 1985. My family came back, having eaten their ice-creams, and it was time to either go to campus for Picnic Day fun or go home for a nap. We chose the second.

all the young dudes

automuseum 1958 edsel pacer
Time to draw some classic cars. I went to the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento last week (can I just point out, I cycled, then took the bus, then walked for a long time to get there, ironically). It’s only the second time I have been, but they have a lot of very interesting historic vehicles there, I’d recommend a visit. After sketching cars with Lapin and Gerard at the Manchester Symposium I was eager to draw some really old classics. I didn’t sit super close to them for that distorted perspective, but close enough, and closer than usual in one case anyway. So, above is a 1958 Ford Edsel Pacer, shining black with cool orange trim. If it kind of looks like the old Batmobile from the 60s, it’s because that car, designed from a Ford Lincoln Futura, was designed by the same person who made the Edsel, Roy Brown. No, not Roy Chubby Brown, a different Roy Brown. The fire exhaust and red batphone were probably not standard issue. Apparently this car did have its problems though, I was told, what with most of the controls being just a bunch of buttons – it was easy to press the wrong one. You might think you are indicating to turn left, when in fact you are releasing anti-Joker spray.
automuseum 1987 lamborghini countach
When I was a kid (playing Top Trumps, also watching Transformers), you knew that the coolest car in the world was not a Ferrari, not even the Porsche Carrera (which was pretty bloody cool), not even Face’s Corvette from the A-Team, but it was the Lamborghini Countach. I had a toy one, the doors went upwards. That was even cooler than the DeLorean (without time-travel or flight, neither of which most DeLoreans could do anyway). This is a 1987 Countach, and I sat as close as I could get (there was a sign saying “no touching”), and there were only 2,042 of these ever made, between 1973 and 1990. Yeah if I was ever super rich, I’d want one of these. Plus some guards.
automuseum 1929 american race car
This was a race car from 1929, American. I loved those old race cars, makes me think of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, reminds me I haven’t seen that film in ages, which reminds me of Dick Van Dyke’s odd American accent (both his father and kids are British in the film) but as a Transatlantico myself now, I don’t care. I just love that opening sequence with the old grand prix races. I actually started a new Seawhite sketchbook to draw this, having run out of room in the Stillman & Birn one (except for a double-page spread I was saving for a panorama).
automuseum 1943 military jeep
I had to sketch this old American Military Jeep. The Jeeps, made by Ford, are those classic army vehicles, Jeep probably standing for ‘G.P.’, general purpose. One thing I was told, and I notice this now looking at all the modern Jeeps out there (of which there are loads), is that military Jeeps have nine openings in their front grilles, while civilian Jeeps only have seven. It’s their thing. I never knew that. I do hope it’s true.
automuseum 1914 stanley steam car

Finally, exhaustion set in and I could not finish this one, the 1914 Stanley Steam Car. I drew it because of Stanley, the founder of Radiator Springs in the Cars movie. Apparently its nickname was “the flying teapot”. Also, I was told that the Stanley Steamer is completely unrelated to the Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaner, who, I was told at the museum, totally stole the name, allegedly. Anyway, these were all the cars I could sketch, and so I trundled off on the hot Sunday afternoon back to Old Sac for a cold drink.

Cars in the City (with Lapin and Gerard Michel)

rainy Manchester

 

USk Symposium Morning 1
The 7th International Urban Sketching Symposium kicked off on the Wednesday evening with a big gathering at Manchester Town Hall in a huge, wonderful room that was not unlike the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but more ornate and elaborate. I didn’t however take any photos or do any sketching, busy as I was meeting with old friends and chatting away. I did got for dinner afterwards and sketched there but I will post all the ‘dinnertime’ sketches separately I think. I’d like now to dive into the Symposium itself – above is a quick sketch I did of the first morning introduction session, with Simone Ridyard, Elizabeth Alley and Omar Jaramillo there. It was time to go and sketch, and my first workshop was one I was really looking forward to: “Cars in the City“, with Lapin and Gerard Michel.

Lapin and Gerard
Yes indeed. I’ve known Lapin and Gerard since the first Symposium (though have followed their work since the start of Urban Sketchers), both have very different approaches but have a big love of drawing cars, especially classic vehicles. This workshop of course was originally to be co-taught with Florian Afflerbach, the great sketcher of cars who sadly passed away earlier this year. I took a workshop Gerard and Florian co-taught in Lisbon, teaching me a lot about perspective. While this workshop was not necessarily about large scenes and mastering vanishing points, the workshop did focus very much on how the eye perceives the world based on our distance from what we are sketching, and Lapin and Gerard did a good job of showing us what they mean.

Cars in the city A

Our first assignment was to sketch a car from a distance of about a metre or so, maybe a little more. The view of the car would be more typical, and they gave us an example of how to work out the shape using simple boxes. My first car happened to be a Mercedes, and I drew in pencil (thinking again of Florian), keeping a little way back from the car, crouched, as it looked very much like it might rain. Oh and by the way it certainly did rain.

Cars in the city B

So we found a car-park not too far away which was sheltered beneath an overpass, and sketched in there. Lapin asked us to sit very close to the car we wanted to sketch – the closer you sit, the more warped the perspective would start to look. This is a good rule for perspective – you position matters enormously, and even slight changes to your position can alter the perspective of what you are drawing immensely. I found a blue Ford Focus – hardly a beautiful car but still attractive for the sketch’s purpose. I drew my reflection in it and also changed the number plate to something more fitting the Symposium. Lapin came and said, sit even closer! I was pretty close, but still two feet or so out – he suggested going right up to the car, and seeing what happened. His suggestion to the class was that we don’t think about perspective rules, rather, just see what is in front of you as a series of shapes, and draw the shapes, letting the picture unfold itself. For my next car then I chose a Rover 400 (below), a more classic British brand, and sat right up to the headlight.

Cars in the city C

Well I think you can see the difference! Immediately everything bends that bit more, yet the sketch really starts to pop out. This is something I would like to try a bit more. We ran out of time before I could add colour, and we had a little gathering to discuss what we had learned, but the parking attendant in charge of the car-park came along and booted us out; I guess the car park is private property, but it was good shelter from the rain. We moved along to a spot around the corner for the final part of the workshop, drawing cars with the city around them. This was very much Gerard’s part of the class and he showed us some examples; including the cars in the foreground of the sketches helped to add depth but also some foreground anchor to help understand the perspective of the scene. there was a nice spot away from the rain next to an office block, showing a clear view of Manchester’s skyline (thanks to a building having been demolished, I believe it was something to do with the BBC). We did go into the building and ask permission to sit beneath it and sketch, and they were fine with it. It was a very interesting view, with the Palace Hotel there, but oh so rainy.

Cars in the city

Key points I took away:

  • Your perspective of an object curves dramatically as you get closer to it
  • Use box shapes often helps figure out the car’s overall shape
  • Draw the scene as the shapes you see and the perspective often figures itself out
  • Manchester really is quite rainy

LapinGerard Michel

Many thanks to Lapin and to Gerard! Awesome instructors!

a red BMW for Florian

Red BMW for Florian 071716

I walked around downtown in Davis yesterday looking for a car to sketch in tribute to Florian Afflerbach – Flaf – who passed away recently, far too young, far too soon. I could have drawn any of the scores of beige Toyotas or silver Hondas parked along the street – it was Florian who taught me to see the beauty in the form of a car, or a modern building – but I saw this red BMW parked along 2nd Street, and immediately I thought of the BMWs Florian, himself from southern Germany, had drawn. I sketched in pencil and watercolour, with Florian in mind. I felt pretty sad though, remembering Florian; in the spread about drawing cars in my book Creative Sketching Workshop, I mentioned Florian as one of my main inspirations. I think it’s hard to sketch cars and not think about him.That’s a feeling that will be shared by many at this year’s Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester. The participants in this year’s symposium were asked to draw a car as a tribute to Florian, and this one is mine.

I sketched this on Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ paper, in pencil and watercolour rather than my usual pen; I think Florian would have been proud of me. Still can’t believe he is gone.