roll up for the chemistry tour

Chemistry Building UCD 122019
The Chemistry Building at UC Davis is big, and I have drawn bits of it before a few times. This is the building that I have most often seen fire trucks outside of, unsurprisingly. I did notice last December just before Christmas that some new work was starting on this side of the building, and that the large concrete double-decker connecting walkway between two wings was about to be toast. So I stood on the little hillock opposite (no rhyming jokes please) and drew as the machines started tearing into it. This was page one of my sketchbook, which in the new numbering system is #36, a Stillman and Birn Alpha book.
chemistry UCD 011020 sm
There is work going on around the other side of the building too. So in early January I stopped and drew that one lunchtime. Chemistry, I was not a fan of that subject when I was at school. I didn’t like Bunsen Burners. Our teacher was ok, a bit grumpy though, used to say things like “I don’t care if you pass your exams, I’ve already passed mine,” and I was pretty so-so with the subject. I like Physics a lot more, I just wasn’t very good at it. Whereas I didn’t like Biology much, and yet I used to get really good grades in it. They all used to even each other out like some sort of science equation with chemistry being in the middle, Bi + Ch – Ph = PS. That looks really unsciencey. One thing we used to enjoy (and so did most of you) was coming up with molecules using the letters in the periodic table to make rude words. Science can be fun. Fluoro-uranium-carbo-potassium for example, or Polonium-Oxide, etc and so on. Surprisingly I ended up getting C overall in GCSE integrated science, and that was my non-starter science career done with. You can’t go on to be a scientist after that. I loved Michael Faraday, read lots of books about astronomy and the solar system, and watched Young Einstein a bunch of times, but I guess when it came to chemistry all I brought away was remembering the formula for Potassium Permanganate, KmNO4. Oh well. Now I listen to science podcasts and watch science TV shows and feel like I know loads about science but chemistry was always a bit beyond me. Honestly it was the Bunsen Burners.
drill ucd feb 2020
I drew this drill using the iPad. It was there with all the other machines by the Chemistry Building. Brings me back to school too, back to CDT class. Craft Design Technology. What Americans would call “shop class”. Drills, sanding machines, moulding plastic, building cogs, circuits and conductors, and all sorts of things I have forgotten. Again I was not super good at it except in the bits where I could draw. We did do one project in the third year though where we had to design a moving vehicle with a rubber band and some wooden sticks, and I made this triangular designed race car (obsessed with race cars, Formula One is back this weekend!), using a kinder-egg plastic shell as the front wheel. We had to race them. Guess who won! Yes amazingly I did. No idea how, total fluke, but I hung up my engineering boots that day.
chemistry building jan 2020
Here is another with the iPad, back round the side where the walkway used to be. I like using the iPad for those skies. You put them on a different layer. Working in layers in ProCreate is really handy.
Chemistry Building UCD 060520 sm

And then finally, the same view as in the first picture, and this happened to be the final page of Sketchbook #36, rounding off the book with a view from the same small hillock (oi, watch it) as on the first. And this was also my first outside sketch in three months, after the shelter-in-place was lifted. As things start to get worse, it looks like the little bit of reopening that we have seen will now be scaled back. I’m not going out much to draw these days anyway, spending my lunchtimes at home and not really going out on the weekends, so I have started looking online again and drawing London tube stations, because why not. 2020 is totally Ruthenium-Boron-Bismuth-Sulphur-Hydrogen. See no wonder I got a C in Chemistry.

big mechanical monster on campus

weird chainsaw machine at UC Davis
If you had to come back as a monster machine, this one is about as badass as you can get. I can’t believe I just used the word ‘badass’ because I’m not twelve, but really there aren’t many other available words in our lexicon that can describe this thing quite as well (and it’s anatomically accurate too, the big chainsaw thing being at the rear). I saw this machine near Shields Library on the UC Davis campus, I believe its purpose is to open up the Earth’s core and tear out its soul; either way when you show up for work in the morning this is the machine you want to be playing with. Give this one a parking ticket, I dare you, I double-dare you. When you absolutely positively got to rip up every piece of sidewalk on the street, accept no substitute. It looks like something out of Robot Wars. I sketched this in the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, with a micro pen that has seen better days.

bring it on down

boiler building, coming down

Back to the old Boiler Building, and the machines are really tearing it down now. The whole east side has been turned to rubble, leaving a sad, draughty, haunted shell. A small crowd of people with young, construction-machine-loving-aged children (you know the age, parents!) to see the mighty mechanical dinosaurs at work, and to wave goodbye to a historic part of UC Davis. Back at work, I spoke about this sad demise of a much-loved campus sight to some of the professors who have taught there for the past few decades. “Where’s this, then?” they said. “Boiler Building? Is that downtown somewhere? Don’t know that one.” Well, I’ll miss it. Even if I too had no idea what it was for until recently.

september sketchcrawl at the silo

silo uc davis
Yesterday we the sketchers of Davis met at the UC Davis Silo, my usual everyday sketching spot, for the latest ‘Let’s Draw Davis!’ sketchcrawl. There were about thirteen of us all in all, familiar faces and new sketchers also. I love meeting new fellow urban sketchers, but it is especially fun seeing people draw the same things that I sketch on my everyday lunchtimes, in new and different ways. I started by spending a long time drawing this wing of the Silo in brown pen. My son was there sketching with me in the morning; he’s a sketchcrawl veteran now. It was another warm day, so it was nice to sit in the shade. UC Davis is quiet this weekend, but this week thousands of students will return or start their new journeys in Davis, and the craziness begins. I can’t wait of course, being a busy and exciting period of work for me, but at the same time it’s nice to savour the quiet moments when I can.
work machine at uc davis
There’s also a lot of last-minute construction work going on on campus too, it seems. This work machine was parked near the Silo and just begged to be sketched. I drew this in micron pen and  coloured it in watercolour. I don’t know what ‘MF’ stands for but I can hazard a guess (it reminded me of “TFU” in the robot wars episode of Spaced).
hart hall (back), uc davis

My last one of the day was a fairly quick one of the back of Hart Hall, and I decided to make it a bit livelier by splattering paint all over the page for a bit of texture. After this we all met in the shade outside Shields Library and looked at each other’s sketchbooks, and talked about pens and paper and methods, which is always fun. The next one will be in October, on the date of the worldwide sketchcrawl; details to come at some point soon!

having a dig

digger at uc davis
Another lunchtime sketch; taking a risk with my allergies flaring up like 70’s trousers, so kept it quick, a drawing of a digger outside work. I used the hi-tec c in the stillman & birn gamma book. The workmen came along as I was getting near the end, and were kind enough to let me finish before driving the digger away.

will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls

pierce hall (being demolished)
These student housing halls over by Tercero on the UC Davis campus, Pierce Halls, are currently being demolished. I was kindly informed about this last week so raced over this week to capture them before they vanished. I found a quiet spot up a stairwell outside the demolition zone, and listened to the “football weekly extra” podcast (who seemed convinced that Spurs season was also under demolition). I’m glad the big digger stayed still for me, parked like a big mechanical yellow dinosaur awaiting its prey. I can imagine all the student tales from all the years that students lived here. When I was at university I didn’t live in the halls, and while one part of me felt I was missing out, I’m glad I didn’t. I did spend a year living in the student halls while teaching in Charleroi (la Vigie), which was noisy to say the least. I have no idea about American halls though, other than in the movies. Anyway, whatever the hidden histories, they’re all being knocked down now and buried in the rubble.

they call me the roller


Beautiful day out today. I mean, freezing this morning, but very sunny by lunchtime, although a bit nippy. I just had to get out and sketch. Despite being ridiculously busy in January, I always enjoy sketching in this month. We often have mild, bright Januarys here. But I didn’t draw a street scene or campus view with the sun shining through bare, leafless trees, because I saw this, a little mini steamroller, sat on Shields Avenue on the UC Davis campus. What a beauty! I’ll draw sunny skies tomorrow. Today was all about steamrollers.

i’ll be digging lumps of gold

big digger on campus

Another one for the boy. This Big Digger was parked on the UC davis campus on Thursday lunchtime, and I sat in the sunshine, lathered in sunscreen, beneath my big black shady hat and sketched it. The fields are the usual end of June brown, despite Tuesday’s shock out-of-character deluge (end of June Brown? she plays Dot Cotton doesn’t she?). We say brown, but it’s yellow ochre, more like gold. California is the golden state after all. I was going to sketch the Robert Mondavi Institute from beyond its vinyards (next week) but this industrial brontosaurus just roared out to be sketched. How could I resist? Drawn with micron pigma 05, coloured with watercolour, on the last day in June. Wow, already June has become July…not long until a certain international symposium..!

dig it


Construction Machines are an eye-turner for me these days. That’s because I tend to like drawing things I know my son will like. I was speaking to other parent-artists at the Sketching Symposium and they said even though their kids are grown up they still do the same. These machines have been outside my work doing some sort of building work for some time now, so I perched beneath the shade one lunchtime last week and sketched them, from the best angle I could find.