I’ve drawn Third Street a lot of times over the years. Some of it has changed, like the stretch between campus and B, some of it hasn’t, like those houses across from the shops between D and E. It was a hot day, I was downtown after leaving work a bit early to get something cold to drink (not easy on campus in the afternoons these days, those vending machines ain’t being stocked). I got a cold drink from Newsbeat and stood outside to drink it. I needed that cold drink, the hot weather has been too much to bear. I wonder sometimes why I moved to such a hot place, but that hot place is just Planet Earth in general these days. That ship has sailed, it has no choice there’s not going to be any land left if the sea levels keep rising. These long hot summers are depressing though, I don’t do well in heat. I mean, sunshine is nice but a day with some clouds feels like it’s taking a quick breather before the next wave. Today for example it was in the high 90s, but with a breeze and a sky of clouds, aaand tomorrow it’ll be 102, then 106 on Thursday, then 104… dudes, seriously, slow down. Chill out. I did chill out a bit the other day, I went to San Francisco, which was about forty degrees cooler, no exaggeration. Naturally that meant I came back with sunburn, despite layers of sunscreen it always gets through that fog. I’ll post my San Francisco sketches separately of course. I stood in the shade beneath a tree on that very hot day to draw this, because I just needed to draw. I can’t really explain the need to constantly draw stuff. I need the creative outlet, otherwise I get very grumpy. There was a period when I was younger when I kinda gave up on drawing. It was what I loved doing most but wasn’t really going anywhere, and I had so many interests pulling me here and there, music, drama, writing; I still drew, but not as much. When I decided, nah I’m not going to try art school, it was because I wasn’t actually that interested in Art. Or I was, but not as much as other things, like languages, history, travelling, reading, football, football shirts, playing the guitar, writing music, writing stories, girls. It took me a while to realize that even though I was so-so about art in general, I did still love drawing. At some point in my 20s I started drawing again and just kept going, like falling uphill, grabbing onto ideas as I did, and it felt like I was going back to the first thing I ever loved, just picking up a pen in that funny way and just drawing stuff. Yet, I’m never satisfied, there’s always more that needs to be drawn, more to see and put down on paper. So I yearn for big complicated drawings that make my fingers hurt, but sometimes I’m ok just drawing very familiar typical bits of Davis. Like this. A house, straight on, with a tree in front, other side of the street. My mind’s too overheated for anything inventive or envelope-pushing. This is my three-chord, no-nonsense fallback song, with the same old lyrics about the weather. But this is what Davis looks like, through my glasses.
And it’s back to Davis. We’ll continue the Virtual Tour De France soon. The weather turned slightly cooler this week – high 80s and low 90s, feels like Spring, but the hot weather’s coming back. I was downtown a couple of times this week, and on both occasions I stopped on D Street and drew this view. I finished it on the second outing. I was downtown to get my eyes tested. They still work fine. The glasses I got last year mean that my close-up vision is not as good, like for reading and so on, they said it was “fortyitis”, which I thought was a real name for a disease, but turns out it’s just what happens in your forties. Bloody forties. How did that happen, getting to the forties? I mean I know how, but like, how? I was 29 when I moved to Davis. I remember celebrating my 30th birthday like I was some ancient celestial being. Actually we went to Chevy’s in Dixon on my 30th, where they made me wear a sombrero while the staff sang Happy Birthday to me (though not the Happy Birthday song, which Chevy’s probably didn’t have the rights to). We also went to San Francisco and ate at a fancy fish restaurant a few days before my 30th, when my wife surprised me by bringing my best mate Roshan over from England without telling me. That was a big surprise! I didn’t even notice him at the table at first (early fortyitis fifteen years early, unable to see things right in front of you). I was saying hello to the other people who were there at my surprise 30th, basically friends of my mother-in-law, and then saw him and was pretty gobsmacked, like stunned to silence. He brought me over a big bottle of Pepsi Max too, because at the time you couldn’t get that here, and I really missed my Pepsi Max. I’m a simple man really. Anyway I was downtown getting my eyes tested, what they do now is take a big 3D image of your eye, and you have to sign something saying they are allowed to do that. I’m like, hell yeah I wanna see a big 3D image of my eyes, that’s cool! It was too. It was a bit like looking at a nebula, a little world, and they showed me all the bits in the right places, and noting unusual. People say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but dudes, come on. They can’t take a 3D image of my soul, can they. Can they? Um, I hope not. What did I sign, did I sign that they could take an image of my soul? Dammit, if my eyesight wasn’t so bad, I’d have been able to read the fine print. Anyway, I’m getting new sunglasses, so that’s nice. So, this eyesight thing, it generally means when I am drawing I have to hold the sketchbook a little further away than I used to. Usually I hold it right up to my face like I’m holding a violin (I had no idea I did this until people starting drawing me sketching), now I have to hold it a bit further away. It’s not that big a deal but when I’m looking far away then close up a lot, it takes a bit longer for my eyes to adjust. I decided against varifocals just yet, but anyway, fortyitis. This is D Street near Fifth Street. The building in the middle has an interesting metal gate, made in the pattern of penny farthing bikes, which of course is the symbol of the City of Davis. This is a very Davis gate. This is a very Davis scene. When I first started drawing these very Davis scenes it was to show people back home in north London what the place I live in now looks like. Well, it looks like this. Another panorama for the book of Davis panoramas that’s never coming.
Never mind ‘It’s Coming Home’, I’m staying home. This heat is too much. Two days where it went up to 111 degrees in Davis (possibly 113 the day before). Today will be just as bad. The ‘Heat Dome’ they call it, it is blazing across the western US, hottest July anyone’s seen it will be. It’s so oppressive. We have Flex Alerts telling us to conserve electricity during certain hours, and we are already in a drought, this heat is going to make things so much worse. A long, long, long summer ahead of us. I drew again in red pen looking out of the window at the houses opposite, while it was a cool 102 degrees at lunchtime. I hate this weather. This weather can bugger right off.
It’s July now; the second half of the year. I started this on the last day of June, stood downtown under the lunchtime shade of a tree, but finished it off today in July. It’s hot again, and getting hotter, and the world is basically just going to be hot forever now. The Pacific Northwest, that should not be that hot. Davis always gets hot, but this year feels worse. Sometimes though I hate the idea of the heat more; I will choose not to go out because I know it’ll be really hot, when in fact even in the heat it can still be alright in the shade, or with the air in your face as you cycle down a long tree-lined avenue. The over-100 heat, not so much. I don’t know, I’m grateful for air-conditioning. I dread the coming of summertime now, so much. Last year with the wild fires starting so early and raging so badly, the air being so unbreathable for the best part of two months, the fires have been progressively awful each year for about four or five years. So far though, no smoky skies. I dread the summer. “Hope you are enjoying your summer!” people say, in all sincerity. Not really, the anxiety of three digit numbers lining up on my weather app is depressing. Summer is a bummer. I’m coaching soccer again; this evening out in the heat and bright sun I found it difficult to cope, let alone think clearly. The heat affects my brain I think, slows it all down. I do find myself getting dumber in the summer. Remember that terrible heat in Amsterdam in 2019, how it felt like my mind stopped working, when I even forgot my paints when going out sketching? Well no I suppose you wouldn’t remember, that happened to me. But summer does make me dumber. As it cools down I feel like my wits get sharper. But not too cold; I remember in New York in 2016 when it was so cold that even thoughts froze as they moved about your head. Me and my mate walked across Central Park in some hugely sub-zero temperatures, and by the time we reached an Subway station our minds just went completely blank, like we couldn’t quite understand the Subway map. I mean it’s hard to understand anyway but we definitely felt affected by the cold; I made a massive pan of noodles when we got in to warm us up. So the heat makes me dumb, the cold makes me dumb, maybe I am just, look I know what you’re thinking, “maybe you are just thick, Pete”. Yeah maybe. Maybe I always have been, how would I really know? Or maybe there is just an increasingly small window of temperature that I can mentally operate in. Either way, the next few days are scheduled to be 97, 102, 108, 109, 108, 102, 97 in a nice palindromic way, that’s what we want isn’t it, palindromic weather. What goes up, comes down for a couple of days then goes right up again. (By the way San Francisco, which is an hour and a half away, has temperatures of 70, 68, 68, 68, 66, 66, 66 on those same days. That’s right, it will be 42 degrees cooler in San Francisco than in Davis this weekend. Just, seriously. But I’m not going there, because if England win in the Euro 2020 semi-final that takes place in twelve hours from now, I’ll be watching that on my TV in my living room and I won’t care. I always said that if Spurs won the Premier League or Champions League or something, I would put on all my Spurs shirts and run around Davis, singing “Ossie’s Dream” and “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur”; I own a lot of Spurs shirts, so that would be very hot. If England win it, I promise to run around Davis singing “It’s Coming Home”, “World In Motion”, and I dunno, “Cinnamon Stick”. (It won’t matter that it’s hot because I only own one England shirt.) It’s coming home; I’m staying home with the a/c on.
Day before Independence Day, the Day of England 4-0 vs Ukraine day, I went downtown on a Saturday afternoon to do some drawing and look in a couple of shops. I stopped and drew this building on 4th Street, some Law Offices I think (I need new glasses/eyesight). It was pretty quiet, I wasn’t harassed by any mad people this time (unlike just up the block a couple of months ago), and I wore my 2010 red England shirt, the only England shirt I own. (It’s coming home by the way, I don’t know if you heard, but it totally is). There were leaf blowers behind me blowing the leaves and dust or whatever, but they didn’t last long (maybe the leaves blew back, I had my headphones on). Amazingly I had never drawn this building, to the best of my knowledge. I probably have in the background of another, or maybe I have and forgot. I’ve drawn a lot of Davis drawings and usually remember them all, but I’ve been here a good long while now. Nearly sixteen years, coming up on that. I’ve been drawing it for fifteen of them. One day I’ll do a book of them. I’ll say that again in another fifteen years. I can never seem to get it together to write it, well I suppose a book of drawings doesn’t really need much writing. Be better off without it really (what was that 1 star Amazon review of one of my books that said “by the time he finished what he was saying I had forgotten what he was talking about” or something), the sketches are the words anyway. So, another one of 4th Street, Davis. Happy 4th, America!
This is a building on F Street in downtown Davis. I drew it in May. This was like, a month ago now. It was a hot day, but these days we are in a really bad heatwave – a ‘heat dome’ I heard it called – so May seems like a balmy long-gone era. Who am I kidding, all the days and months roll into one. I have some sketches from Oakland and San Francisco to post, but I’ve not actually done that much Davis sketching lately. Yes it’s too hot, but also I’ve just not been inspired much to draw Davis, it’s so hot and I’m at home anyway. F Street… “F” is for “Father’s Day”, and today is Father’s Day. My dad always said lots of words beginning with “F”, well one “F” word, a lot. Well we Londoners tend to use that word a lot. I used the “F” word quite a lot this morning when we discovered a fairly sizeable black widow making good use of our backyard chair. The hot weather has made them bold. I had to move into executioner mode. I even went and changed costume (from shorts to long sleeve pants) and got the spray and swatter. Well, we can sit safely again on the chair. I know there are more, in Davis there are always more. The heat is on. It’s going to be a long, long summer.
Last Year when the pandemic hit, De Vere’s Irish Pub in Davis took the difficult decision to shutter up, focusing on its Sacramento site, temporarily until the pandemic eased. Well, in California at least we are at that point now where more and more people are getting vaccinated, and we are preparing to All Go Back To Normal*. Last weekend we were in Yosemite (sketches to come) where they are allowing people in with reservations only to stem the crowds, and after waiting nearly two hours in line to get in after a two hour plus drive from nearby Sonora, we parked several miles away from where our first hiking trail began due to lack of spaces, and waded through throngs of people on a steep narrow trail to look at a bit of a waterfall among large groups of people all trying to take photos of each other (and it’s fine for strangers to touch each others’ devices now). The Mist Trail is so-called because of the mists of sweat from the hundreds of other hikers, not from the waterfalls. It was a hot, hot day, we were tired, and we gave up and hiked back to the car. But more on that story next time. This was the first day of June, I was working on campus in the morning for a bit, the weather was ridiculously hot. I had to cycle downtown to pick up a drawing from the Pence (the Covent Garden drawing I had done for their ‘garden-themed’ show, it hadn’t sold). Anyway, as I pulled into D Street I noticed my bike tyre was getting low. When I came back out, it was completely flat, so I wheeled it over to Freewheeler on 2nd Street, and grabbed some lunch on E Street. I then noticed that De Vere’s across the street looked a little bit different. They were busy finishing off the shiny new paint job, going from black to red, a new look for the reopening which I was told would be happening this week. If you have followed my sketchblog over the past decade you will know how much I like this pub, I’ve drawn it many times. I really like their pub chips, served in gravy. So I did a drawing of it. I stood in the heat waiting for my bike to be fixed up, and when that was done I cycled home to work the rest of the day, finishing off the pen and colours later on. I’m well pleased for them to be reopening, I hope business is good, and can’t wait until I get back for some pub chips, a paint or two, and an actual interior sketch of a pub for the first time since before This Whole Thing. Last weekend in Sonora we did eat inside for the first time, at a pasta restaurant that was not busy (and going by the food wasn’t much of a pasta restaurant either), and yeah I’m still a bit anxious to go inside a pub, it’s been so long, but something about seeing these guys repainting and reopening made me feel pretty optimistic. It’s been, well not an easy week, news of other people I know losing family members in other countries to Covid, plus just being so far away from my family in England, my dad’s birthday was this week, it would have been nice to be over there but it’s still very hard travelling (on top of the restrictions and the quarantines and the expensive required non-NHS tests, I’m still not comfortable about being stuck in a plane with lots of people for eleven hours and then stuck in line at Heathrow for more hours). I’ve been generally feeling exhausted. But signs of optimism make me feel good, and when I’m up for it, knowing I can get some pub chips and a pint or two is pretty nice, maybe with a comic from Bizarro World next door, like I used to. I hope the reopening goes well.
Another one of Walker Hall at UC Davis; this one was going to be a panorama, full colour, but I stopped and never finished. This is the brand new Graduate Center, which if you’ve been following this blog you’ll know has been built into the newly renovated historic Walker Hall. It’s all finished now, except for some bits in front of the building, and there are even staff working inside now, albeit at the limited no-more-than-25% capacity. I was even given a special personal tour of the building a few weeks ago, which was really exciting; the last time I’d been in there it was a demolition site, I wore a hard hat and was told to be careful I didn’t fall into big holes in the floor. It’s lovely in there now, I can’t wait until it’s properly opened up for the graduate students. I will do a proper ‘final’ sketch of the whole building though they have planted these trees in front, which will make it a bit harder to see until all the leaves fall off; might look nice in the Fall actually.
This is Davis Arts Center, which is really close to where I live in north Davis. I popped over to the park at lunchtime and drew it from a high grassy verge, underneath a tree, while listening to a podcast about the car industry in Coventry. I’ve drawn a two-page panorama of the Davis Arts Center before, quite a long time ago, when the leaves were different colours and the building was painted differently too. I need a sketching vacation, one like where I’d go to a city for a few days by myself and just wander about drawing everything. It’s been too long. This is also the longest period I have ever had without going home to London. That is tough, I miss London. It’s still not easy to go there from the US, with quarantine and expensive testing when you get there, plus long waits to get through Heathrow. I’m feeling very unrelaxed right now. Drawing helps, though even drawing feels a little stressful at times, if I’m short on time or if I’m running out of things I want to draw; sorry Davis, I need to draw somewhere else for a bit. I finished this at home after drawing all the penwork, I can’t see it from my house but it’s close enough.
UC Davis is a huge campus. You look at the map and you see all the buildings clustered around the bit that hangs off the edge of downtown Davis and you think, yeah that’s a decently sized campus that, yeah you need a bike to get about, but it’s not massive. And then it’s pointed out that what you see on the map is like looking at a camel and only seeing the humps. Or going to a Barcelona game and only watching Messi. Or eating a 99 ice cream but not eating the wafer cone. Actually it’s not really like that, I just really want a 99 ice cream cone. A 99 is a soft-serve vanilla ice cream in a cone but with a chocolate flake in it, popular in Britain. It’s very hot in Davis this week and one of those would be nice. But it’s not like a map of UC Davis, unless the cone part is really far away from the flake part. The point is, UC Davis is much bigger than you think. We are an agricultural school, and to do that you need lots of fields, and space. Cycling around campus this week I have compared it to a game of Carcassonne, do you know that game? I’m a little obsessed with it. Several roads on the main part of campus are currently blocked off due to ongoing construction work, which makes cycling around quite a journey of discovery, but I do always think, “my opponent put that there to stop me from completing my city! Where will my meeples go?” So, campus is actually huge. In fact it’s so huge, we have our own airport. We are the only UC with its own airport. Useful for the crop-dusters, you see, and there are plenty of those. Side-note, until I moved here I did not know what a crop duster was. I’m from London, not really a thing, not really a big farming city. So when Han Solo says that travelling through hyperspace is “not like dusting crops, boy” I honestly had no idea what he was on about. I had images in my head of someone going through fields of maize with a little cloth wiping down everything. Similarly when I was a little kid I used to think skyscrapers were called that because they had people on the upper levels poking brooms and rakes out of the window to, I don’t know, get rid of clouds? I still have actual drawings from when I was six showing this obviously wrong and stupid misconception. With crop dusters I was 29 when I moved to America so it’s entirely conceivable that if I’d stayed in London, I’d still assume farmers would go out into the fields with little feather dusters and cans of Pledge. Also, what crops did Han Solo think Luke was dusting anyway? He was a moisture farmer in a desert. It’s literally all dust. Han is from Correllia, not really a big farming planet.
Anyway, during this pandemic our offices have been closed and we’ve been working from home, but mail still has to come in and be picked up, and our campus Mail Division is located right on the outer rim of the university. If there’s a bright centre to the campus, it’s on the road that it’s farthest from. I needed to collect some checks for an urgent visa application for a new scholar so I cycled all the way over to the Mail Division building, while big tractors rumbled past me on the road, and loaded up my bike with several weeks’ worth of mail and packages, all strapped with elastic onto the rear basket. Opposite Mail division, near the entrance to the UC Davis Airport on Hopkins, there are a bunch of old farming machines, iron skeletons of ploughs, old small tractors, all plonked by the road among the long yellow grass. I’ve always wanted to draw them, so while I was on this long round-trip I thought, well why not now. I didn’t draw the whole thing there as I was busy and had things to do, and I could waste time with my pens when my chores were done. So I finished it off at home later. This is some sort of farming instrument, but I don’t know what it’s called because as I say, I’m from London and the only farms I ever knew were Chalk and Broadwater. I like the the words “On Your Left” were written on the side, it reminded me of Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson. Like I said I finished this off at home, and while I drew I watched “The Crystal Calls”, which is about the making of the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance show, one of my favourite things ever. This seemed appropriate, as much of the program was about how the puppets and props were put together and used, and this looked like the framework of the Skeksis carriage. I want to go and draw the other old metal farm things, but it’s a very long way to ride out to. Maybe next time I get the mail.