45 degrees at the university of beer

univ of beer, davis

This is another view of the University of Beer in Davis, California. I was there at the end of August, as I needed to go downtown to spend some time in the Avid Reader bookshop. I haven’t been in there in a while, and was in the mood where I just wanted to look through all the literature on the shelves. I bought a copy of ‘War of the Worlds‘; I’ve never read ‘War of the Worlds’, and when I opened the book the first word I saw was ‘Edgware’ so it was a sign I needed to read it. I actually worked in the Avid Reader years ago, when I first came to Davis. I still love the smell of the books. I thought about sketching in there, I haven’t done that in a very long time, but it was getting late so I went and sketched this bar a block away. I had wanted to add more colour, but was taking so long drawing. I had a couple of very nice beers there though. This was a test of perspective, with vanishing points at 45 degrees, and some curvilinear lines. Wonky in places (nothing to do with the tasty beverage, more to do with the tedium of drawing long lines. There seemed to be a fair bit of 1990s music being played. Including that utterly tedious Two Princes song that was on the radio constantly in 1993. This bar is pretty typical of Davis – busy at some points, almost empty at others, then a bit busy again, then very few again, so I drew whoever was standing or sitting when I looked in that particular part of the space; I suppose I drew the average number of players.  University of Beer; see also the ‘College of Cider’, the ‘School of Shandy’, the ‘Polytechnic of Porter’, the ‘Institute of Inebriation’, the ‘Academy of Ale’, etc and so on.

back from outer space

De Veres July 2018
After I got back from Portugal, I had a hectic week (few weeks really) trying to settle back in. Busy work, busy life, jet lag, waking up at 3am every day, and the insatiable urge to just KEEP ON SKETCHING. It’s hard to explain the urge to draw stuff all the time. It’s probably less hard to explain coming back from a place like Porto where everything is a sketch waiting to happen, to Davis, which as we have seen over the past decade or so is worthy of a few sketches itself, but Porto it ain’t. You can only beat the team you’re playing, as they say, and since coming back I have ramped up my sketching of Davis once more after a relatively uninspired and fallow period. I’ve sketched almost everything I’ve wanted to sketch, so it comes down to sketching some of the old favourites just to keep the pen working, so one evening I popped once more to my local pub De Vere’s, always a nice place to hang out, and flexed the old ink muscles. This sort of drawing is about observing lots of detail, tackling interior perspective, and having a nice cold beer while you’re at it (the weather was so hot this summer). What’s more, I drew the pub from the outside a few days before: see below.
De Veres July 2018

And as you can see, I also drew a Davis fire hydrant. These finished off my Seawhite sketchbook so that it was completed in July.
hydrant E & 3rd

Now, I have a few more London sketches (and accompanying stories) to post, and then a bunch of new Davis panoramas I’ve been doing, but in the meantime I think I’m going to go out on this fine Saturday and do some more. I also need to get on setting the dates for the next few Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawls so stay tuned for those. My recent sketching travels has filled me with a new sketching-energy I want to share.

The Big Picture (with Paul Heaston)

The Big Picture - Mount St

The final #UskManchester2016 sketching workshop I attended was on the Saturday morning: “The Big Picture“, taught by Paul Heaston. Paul is an absolute master at the curving wide-angle perspective, and that approach to composition and getting everything into the area of your drawing was the focus of this workshop. Paul has a great way at explaining this often difficult concept, and gave out very useful and informative handouts that explained his concept well. This is a look at the five-point perspective – straight ahead, left, right, up above, down below, you’re too slow. Sorry, couldn’t resist. My own sketch is above; while this isn’t something I am unfamiliar with, I do wish I had expanded the scene a bit more, and shown the left-right vanishing points in the frame itself. Still, I had a lot of fun, and while we did stop for some mid-workshop tips, we did have time to flesh out the details. In his handout, Paul gave some great tips on how to draw details in a large sketch like this, noting that the human eye is vastly more capable of perceiving detail than any drawing instrument that we possess, so some economization and simplification is useful. Paul talked a lot about relative scale, and asked us to try to include ourselves in the sketch – within our frame of view of course, meaning our hands and sketchbook. Spatial relationships are also important in determining relative scale. I thought about Father Ted and the cows: “Small…far away…”.

Paul Heaston

Here is the show-and-tell at the end, with the sketchbooks all over the floor; thankfully this workshop was not rainy! I sketched Paul below, adding some notes from what he told us.

Paul Heaston

While we sketched, by the way, we were treated to scores of people dressed up as super heroes – Manchester Comic Con was happening nearby at the same time. We saw Deadpools, Pikachus, Winter Soldiers, Flashes, Reys, Scarlet Witches and one absolutely amazing Squirrel-Girl I totally wish I had time to sketch. Oh, and there was one incredibly realistic Captain America, look (hey, Cap was a sketcher too)…

Pete Cap

Pete Cap! photo by Marina Regina Tuazon

Key points I took away:

  • Understand spatial relationships; even if the perspective isn’t quite right you can still describe the space between objects
  • Don’t be afraid to draw those huge buildings small, if that’s how they are in the overall sketch, as it shows their distance relative to the objects in the foreground
  • Draw loads of details! Why not? But simplify where you can, and note that the further back things are, the simpler the details
  • It doesn’t rain every single day in Manchester! It really doesn’t! (Spoiler alert, it rained that evening on the way home)

I very much had fun on this workshop, the last structured part of the Symposium for me (plenty more sketches and posts to come though…). Massive thanks to Paul Heaston – do check out his Flickr and his Facebook pages.

de vere’s from left to right

De Veres Aug 2016 sm
Actually, before we get back to Manchester, here is a sketch I did last weekend right here in Davis. Click on it for a closer view. This is De Vere’s Irish Pub on E Street, which eagle eyed observers will have noticed I have sketched before. I did some thinking about the old curvilinear perspective recently, and how I need to really get it into the sketches more. I do anyway, of course, but I haven’t been doing many where I get both the left and right vanishing point into the picture, so that’s what I did here. I needed to practice it again somewhere familiar, so it was back to the very middle of the bar, similar to the first time, back in 2011. I coloured the page first in a red and orange wash, for some reason, meaning I ended up with a peach coloured background. This took about two and a half hours, or three pints of Smithwicks. It was strange not to be sketching at a bar where every single other person was also sketching (like the Peveril of the Peak!). I had just been to see Suicide Squad, which was, well it was better than Batman v Superman, for sure. A terrible plotline with a lot of problems, but overall not an unwatchable movie, and both Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn were good. Jay Leno as the Joker was very different from the other Jokers, not awful but the jury is out for many, though I am well impressed at how different Jay Leno looks from his cuddly talk show persona. I do like the post-movie pub-sketch, with all the sketching ideas bubbling around my head from Manchester sometimes you just need to unwind and get them out. The first few days back my sketching was a bit of a choke but with this and others since I have kicked back into gear, and now I’m heading towards my sketchbook show at UC Davis this Fall, “Conversations with the City”. Details to come soon!

hang around a ink well

little prague panoramaA break from the London posting, here is a bar panorama I did at the weekend. This is Little Prague, a bar attached to a Czech restaurant on G Street in Davis which as regular listeners may recall I have sketched many times, though not for quite a while now. On Saturday, after a lazy day of not leaving the house, I lazily left the house and ambled downtown to the comic shop, Bizarro World (I bought “Infinity Gauntlet”, in which an all powerful but rather barmy Thanos takes on like every superhero in the universe – which is a lot of fun, if a little light on actual plot). Then time for a beer and some sketching. I chose Little Prague, because despite my many sketches of that bar I have never done the big two-pager, with the lamps on either side of the bar. The beer’s different from the last time, nicer, and I had the Staropramen Granat. It wasn’t busy – this is summer in Davis, the quiet months in a college town. This took me around three hours; three beers to be precise. Drink slow, sketch really fast – there is a ton of detail! Click on the image to see a larger version. And see if you can spot the ‘pete’.

So that is the 180 degree panorama done! I have to move onto the 360 degree ones soon, right? That may take a few more beers…

i look at the world and i notice it’s turning

de vere's davisDe Vere’s Irish Pub, Davis. Click on the image to see it larger and in more detail. It was the end of the week (the weekend usually is), and an evening out at the comic shop followed by some beer and sketching was in order. This is a nice pub. I like drawing pub panoramas in my Moleskine, and this one took only two and a half beers (it’s always something-and-a-half; I like to spend that last half pint looking at the sketch, pencil case away). I have drawn curvilinearly in here before, but now it is time to pull back and see more of the room. I didn’t speak to anyone, just got on with the sketching. It wasn’t very busy on this particular Saturday evening, and it was warm outside. This is an exceptionally warm Spring. We have had some terrible winds, but warm winds, and the weather has been pushing the 90s (actually this week it’s been pushing the mid-90s, it’s like Britpop).


If you’re interested, this is how it looks in the sketchbook.

the sun bends light

And so we continue, post 1001, another curvilinear sketch of a UC Davis building: the Walter Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. It’s right opposite this building, which I drew a couple of weeks ago.

buehler alumni center

I am an alumni,” is a phrase I hear all too often here. “No you aren’t,” I reply, “you’re an alumnus.” It is incredible how many highly educated people don’t actually know this, or think it matters. Maybe it doesn’t, maybe the language is changing and we should let it change, even stop using all latin-based singular words. But if you’re tring to get across that you actually are one, “I am an alumni” makes you sound like you aren’t. You wouldn’t say, that is a mice, I am a men, I just ate a bananas.

Anyway that’s quite enough prescriptive grammar for a Sunday morning. Besides, I’ve always been far more David Crystal than Lynne Truss. I’ve just had to suffer Spurs losing an FA Cup semi-final in extra-time, which isn’t fun. I want to point out that I drew this with a uniball vision micro pen, I’ve used them for years but almost always draw with my pigma microns or copics, because of better ink and finer lines. However, the nibs on those always run down quickly in my watercolour moleskines, which is frustrating, but the nibs on these pens last for way longer, an the ink is pretty black and does not bleed; just something to consider in future pen choices.

a learning curve

shields library

I had a pen in my bag I’d bought in London, a uni-pin fineliner I got in the big Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road, and wanted to run it down. I have wanted to draw the Shields Library on campus for a while but never found myself a good angle. I have also wanted to mess about with curvilinear perspectives for quite some time but have not done so. Until now; I sat at lunchtime in the shade among the bicycles opposite the library and started drawing. I’ve made it look like a baseball stadium or something. It is a very big library, and very well stocked. It was my destination of choice when I first moved here, way before I started working on campus, when I was just coming off from my Master’s back in the UK, where I had gotten quite used to spending hours locked away in the polished silence of the Maughan Library on Chancery Lane, or the high-up dustiness of Senate House. As a medievalist and germanic philologist I enjoyed the privelige of being in those quiet parts of the library that nobody went to, because usually nobody else was studying what I was studying (similarly I had little problem with borrowing books). I’ve not dusted off those books in some time.

I showed this to my two-year-old, and he was immediately impressed that I’d drawn a picture of a bicycle. He’s one for the small details (bit like me).