Social distancing. Masks. Second wave. Spike. Testing. Contact tracing. We’re entering that odd phase where things are reopening, kind of, but we aren’t all in the same sort of ready yet. I know I’m not particularly ready for the world yet, but I don’t know if I ever was. This next few months will be hard. Still staying in, working full-time from my bedroom, yet occasionally having to be around groups of people for various things (such as youth soccer tryouts), everyone having different levels of social comfort, and different expectations, it’s a bit uncomfortable. But I will get back out with a sketchbook. I’ve already started, but working from home I’m less inclined than when I work at the office, because I can spend lunchtime on the couch watching the restarted fake-crowd-noise Premier League. I’m teaching my son French too, which is fun, as my French is very rusty. I suppose absolute beginners French I can still just about handle, although I told him to learn the French numbers rather than the Belgian ones, even though the Belgian numbering system makes more sense and is easier to remember. Come on, ‘nonante-neuf’ is easier to explain than ‘quatre-vingt-dix-neuf’. This will be a summer without travel to places where we can practice it though, so no real-life ordering pains-au-chocolat for breakfast at the boulangerie. I thought about using Tricolore to teach him, you remember Tricolore, the textbook we all used at school, where we learned our way around La Rochelle. In the end I went with another simple book, and I’m also creating a bunch of handwritten exercises on my iPad using cartoons of cats that I am drawing. A cat called “Ronron”. I think I’m enjoying it the most, but then I loved learning new languages as a kid, this whole idea that other words and ways of thinking existed beyond just the ones I experienced. German is still my favourite foreign language that I learned, and I’m getting back into learning Italian, which I did a GCSE evening course in while we still lived in London. Enough about language. I’m still watching Shakespeare at the Globe on YouTube, the Midsummer Night’s Dream production was funny, as was the Merry Wives of Windsor, one bloke in both was Pearce Quigley, he was very funny and his comedic northerner style of performance worked great in that intimate Globe setting.
But back to Davis. I suppose I should post here my pre-Covid sketches, of which there are plenty. I may be totally slowed down on the sketching front now, and officially months behind the same point last year, but I started fairly furiously. However I will just post one here now – the Old City Hall, Davis, also known currently as the City Hall Tavern. Well I say currently – it was announced recently that this bar, along with the longer standing restaurant Bistro 33 on the other side of the building, will not be reopening. I’m sure the coronavirus is partly to blame, but the building did get new owners recently and the lease for the restaurant and bar was expiring anyway. Still it is always a shame to see local businesses close. I have drawn the building many times, and I’ve drawn inside the bar a few times too, although it’s been years since I ate at the restaurant (I liked their creme brulee). I wonder what it will be next. Knowing Davis, a frozen yogurt shop. Or another bar and restaurant. I do know that it used to be a police station, and a fire station, and this part was used as a gallery space when I first came here. Oh and of course it was the old city hall.
A couple of weeks ago or so it was Davis Bear Week. I was really excited about this as a lover of bears (but not an “ursophile”, that means something else entirely), and was looking forward to it for weeks, months really, working on my bear-costume, eating nothing but honey, stealing picnic-baskets, pedantically telling people that no, a panda isn’t a bear, well ok they are related, fine, but no a koala definitely isn’t a bear, just making sure I knew all about bears ahead of Davis Bear Week. I watched all the different Bear shows – Paddington, Superted, Care Bears, the Sooty Show, the Berenstain Bears (which I don’t even like), re-runs of Children-In-Need (just for Pudsey), Rainbow (just for Bungle), I even watched “We Bare Bears”, even though it is the most boring cartoon in the history of television. Sharks have Shark Week, but down here it’s Bear Time.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I got downtown, dressed in fur with big claws and teeth and whatever else bears look like, and saw everyone else dressed as slightly drunk human beings. Did I get this wrong? I tried looking it up on my phone but my long bear-claws couldn’t work on the touch-screen, and my marmalade sandwiches had made everything in my bag sticky. So after a while I got up on my hind legs again, and popped into Woodstock’s Pizza of all places, humming “If you go down to the woods today” to myself, as I had heard they were having a bear-themed trivia night and special bear-promotions. It turned out to be nothing of the sort, the promotions were just for Anchor Brewing and the quiz was all about AAAAH I get it, “beer”. Not bear then. I got back on all fours, lowered my grizzly snout, and shuffled backwards outside again.
Now obviously, I didn’t really dress up as a bear and shuffle around town. This story is only partly true (you have to guess which bits), and I probably could have shaved about two-thirds of it away before telling it, many of you will have no idea about who Sooty or Bungle or any of them were (look up Superted on Youtube though, Superted was truly brilliant – makers of “We Bare Bears”, take note, take plenty of note) but it was Davis Beer Week, and that turned out to be just as disappointing as going to what you think is a big bear-party but turns out to be a drunk-human-party. Sure, there were some promotions and tastings and free glasses you have to pay for (the Anchor one, you buy a glass and from your second pint the already-quite-expensive beers were a bit cheaper and you get to keep a cheap glass you had no intention of carrying home). On the whole though it was not really any different than any other night in Davis, that’s how it seemed to me. I sat in Woodstock’s and listened to the beer trivia quiz, some very hard questions mixed with some very easy ones, while I read Jonathan Wilson’s book “Inverting the Pyramid” (a history of soccer tactics), not even bothering to draw, and I have never sketched inside of the Woodstocks bar area. I left and pondered where to go next, but everywhere was a little bit packed, so I chose City Hall Tavern ,as it was relatively quiet, and they at least had cheaper prices on local beers. I chose a Berryessa Plastic People Pale Ale, which was nice. I got a big table all to myself (it wasn’t that busy) and finally got to sketch the whole of the bar. If you have seen any of my previous sketches of City Hall Tavern I have usually been closer to the bar, and sketched only in pen, but this historic old building needed a bigger interior sketch. I’ve drawn it so many times from the outside. The problem is, looking around, the decor really is just too dark. Too much black paint, mixed with red curtains. The spinning wheels on the ceiling were a fun idea when it first opened, but the decor really seems to cater to the few hours on the few nights a week when the music goes up and people dance a bit. Most people sat outside. As I say, it wasn’t that busy. Except when I got up from my table to get another drink, when it seemed like about a million people piled into the bar, so I couldn’t see my stuff still on the table while I waited for my pint. When I got my pint, I was given a pitcher as well (charged for two beers), which yeah, not what I asked for (or even the right beer), but I don’t blame the barstaff as they were frantically trying to deal with the sudden rush of thirsty people (none of whom were in bear costumes). I gave the second beer to a guy who had started chatting to me (“you’re fr’m Lond’n? Aw cool, have a nice v’cation!”) and went back to finish my panorama sketch – better add a lot more people now, no problem, I like drawing people now after all. Within five or ten minutes of sitting down the place emptied again, just a few people once more. The Annihilation Wave had probably moved on to wherever the next place that the Davis Young move along to. The lighting changed around a lot, lots of purple, bit of blue, then yellows and reds, going with the music (which was rather eclectic – they played Jive Bunny!?! I recognized it immediately with a shudder, my Mum used to play that all the time at parties in the late 80s). I added all the paint there and then, including some of the old splatter technique, and was happy with the results; I think it reflects the place very well. I finished my second beer and was done, exiting (though not pursued by a bear) taking my sketchbook and my imaginary bear costume back home again. Another Davis Bar Sketch.
It was time for another bar sketch. After a Saturday of AYSO soccer, pirates versus knights battles, Disney Infinity super-hero smash-downs and the occasional lightsabre duel, I headed out in the evening to do some drawing, read some comics and have a few beers. I love being a grown-up. Since I have a new book out (available right now!) in which I talk extensively about drawing bars in low light, I felt I should add to the sketchbook a little more, so I popped into the City Hall Tavern, which I last sketched two years ago, to again attempt their bar area with the bicycle wheels on the ceiling. Ice Hockey was on the TV (they just call it ‘Hockey’ here; similarly they say ‘cubes’ instead of ‘ice cubes’, ‘cream’ instead of ‘ice cream’, and ‘stares’ instead of ‘icy stares’ whenever I make this joke). They get so aggressive and fighty in Ice Hockey. For a game in which you are essentially just skating around trying to hit a small disc that won’t stop moving, players seem to get unusually angry, angrier than in most sports. Perhaps it’s because they dress head to toe in armour and carry huge sticks, it brings out the medieval warrior in people. Maybe the sport needs to change its image a little, and rename itself ‘Nice Hockey’. Ok, from now on I am calling it ‘Nice Hockey’ in the hope that it catches on. And those stares I get when I do will be called ‘Nice Stares’. So, back to the sketch. I sat on the opposite side of the bar to when I last sketched this bar, for a slightly different angle. I follow City Hall Tavern on Twitter, and I notice that they are using one of my sketches of their bar as their header image (I think I said ok to that), but they have removed whatever was on the screen and replaced it with an actual shot from a real basketball game. Hmm, no, not really a fan of that. Replace it with a shot of Harry Kane scoring for Tottenham, maybe, or of Jose Mourinho huffing as Chelsea lose again, perhaps. Anyway, I tried a couple of different beers, one was a Gose Wheat beer (tasted like Strongbow), the other was a Sudwerk Aggie Cruiser, which was nice too. Lots of people were coming in drinking cocktails as part of some local bar crawl event that was happening. By the time I was done with my sketch, all the City Hall bar patrons were standing and chatting and dancing, and so I popped down to De Vere’s for a comfy seat and one more wheat beer to read a couple of comics (“the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” if you’re interested, and it’s great) before walking home.
Here are my previous City Hall Tavern sketches (inside only; I’ve sketched the outside building since way before it was a bar):
And another bar sketch for you, this one from a few weeks ago at the City Hall Tavern, into which I popped after sketching the Wealth of Nations band. Nice beer. Revolving bicycle wheels on the ceiling. Two and a Half Men was on the TV, for some reason (hence the blank TV screen, I simply cannot reproduce such unparalleled artistic genius on paper). Above the bar, a quote Benjamin Franklin once said to help bars sell more beer (“Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy,” he said apparently, but I suspect he said that about a lot of things). Bars like random beer quotes. That one by George Best about spending most of his money on women and beer (and the rest he just squandered) is often decorated proudly on pub walls, unflinching in its sad irony. I had the ‘Hell or High Watermelon’ beer. Halfway through sketching, the bad TV went quiet (hooray!) and the tables were cleared from the centre of the room (booo!) to make way for some sort of space for people to move around to loud thumping music, so I had to relocate to the bar to draw the details there. As the more well-dressed-for-a-night-out people started coming in, I finished up and called it a day. Another bar sketch done.
Incidentally I still have a few first-run copies of my short self-made bar-zine on my Etsy store, “Davis Bar-By-Bar“. I plan to print more and make further volumes, and if I ever get time, put together a book. Ah, time gentlemen, please.
After a very busy week, I went out on Friday evening to the Art About and did some sketching at the Pence Gallery (haven’t scanned them yet), chatted to some very nice folk, and then strolled around downtown before parking at the City Hall Tavern (in the old City Hall building I tend to draw a lot). I wanted to do a bar sketch so I looked at the massive scene of bottledom and said, yeah ok I’ll give it a go. Those revolving bike wheels on the ceiling were a little challenging but there they are. The Giants were winning, beating the Astros, and there on the right are the black straws again that pop up in all of my bar drawings, everywhere in the world. The beer was nice too, Third Shift Amber Ale, and only $4 a pint. It was pretty quiet when I came in, but got busy by the time I left, with the young Friday night crowd. One guy spoke to me while sketching and recognized me as the guy who drew the bar at De Vere’s. Another guy, a younger Aussie bloke, chatted to me about Iggy Pop. I told him I always liked the song The Passenger because I can’t drive either. He said Iggy Pop was a real rocker, not like Justin Bieber or someone. Perhaps, but in thirty years people might be saying, oh these kids now aint real popstars, not like Bieber, yeh he was a proper rocker. You never know. I saw Iggy Pop supporting the Pistols at Finsbury Park in ’96, and just wanted him to put a shirt on to be honest.
This whole sketch took almost two hours, starting from right to left. It was done with a Micron Pigma 02 pen, with a bit of uniball vision micro for some of the thicker lines and shading.