complicated canopy

manetti shrem museum of art, uc davis

At the start of this month we held the latest ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl at Vanderhoef Quad on the UC Davis, meeting outside the Manetti Shrem Museum. Long-time readers might recall that I drew the construction of this building and it’s complicated canopy back in 2015-16, and was invited to the grand opening where I was able to sketch the artists mingling in this great space. I didn’t sketch inside on this sketchcrawl, but I did attempt that canopy again on this sketchcrawl. There’s a lot to take in. I didn’t quite get the gradient from red to purple right on the big sign, I need to play with mixing watercolor gradients a bit. We had a good turnout, it is always fun to see other people sketching. 

 manetti shrem , uc davis

I drew a quicker sketch from across the street, using a purple pen. It was a pretty hot day, and there wasn’t anywhere to get a cold drink, it’s not a busy part of Davis on a weekend. I had been coaching soccer that morning at a game in Woodland (we drew 5-5; we had been 4-0 down, but came back to lead 5-4, but with about three minutes of stoppage time our opponents scored an equalizer in the last second. Exciting game!)  

buehler alumni center, uc davis

The last sketch I did was of the Buehler Alumni Center. I’ve only drawn this once as far as I recall, and that was a curvilinear sketch from about a decade or so ago. There it is below. I drew that in 2010, the years have flown. Anyway, we gathered again to look at each others’ sketchbooks and it was fun.

buehler alumni center

the same story as ever, just a little different

view from bainer, uc davis

I took a little break in posting there; I’ve been busy, lot going on, plus my computer was making a noise like a tractor, so I wasn’t scanning any sketches, and I can’t write a blog post without a sketch, it’s like a crutch. I like writing though, it’s an important thing to do. I don’t do enough of it these days. November is coming up; I remember trying to do NaNoWriMo a couple of times, that didn’t last long. I don’t know if I have a novel in me. I just like to draw fire hydrants, I’m not that interesting. If I were a novelist, basically I would write the same story with the same characters over and over, but in each one you would see one or two small changes from the last time I wrote the novel, until eventually the thirtieth novel is completely different from the first. Wow, when you pitch it like that it sounds like a good novelist career plan. This view is a bit like that though. I have been drawing this view, from the steps of Bainer Hall looking towards the Silo and the Bike Barn (the most sketchable places within short walking/eating distance from my office) since 2007 and it has changed a bit each time, as has my style of drawing. This was drawn nearly a month ago, about a week into the new quarter of the academic year at UC Davis. Things are going well though, all these big classes in-person, everyone doing their bit to stay healthy, fully vaccinated and masked, no new spikes, at least not yet. Many staff still work at least partially remote. Students and bikes are everywhere, as they were in years past, though still feels a little quieter in other places. I like going in every day, though in addition to computer issues I’ve been having bike issue, so I’ve not been riding as much. I’ve been walking a lot though, totally smashing the ten thousand steps a day challenge. I’ve been coaching soccer in what spare time I have, that has been very battery-draining; our team has been winning though so that’s good, and we have a Halloween themed tournament next weekend which will be fun (our team costume is Spider-Man, and I love Spidey and the Marvel stuff as you know). I have been wanting to find some time to make another animation with the various Marvel Legos I’ve been collecting over the years, the last one I did was a couple of Halloweens ago, Dr Strange themed. I’ve been reading a lot of old comics on Marvel Unlimited – I love all the old X-Men stuff in particular – but I still love that old Fraction/Aja Hawkeye series, so I’m well excited about the new Hawkeye series coming on Disney+, seriously bro. I have been breaking out the guitar again for the first time in years, I’m still not any good at it but I don’t care, I like playing chords and remembering songs. I started getting back to the ukulele when we were in Hawaii in August, I forget how much playing music to myself is soothing on the soul, even if not on other peoples’ ears. But I have been drawing, still drawing, when I can. It’s never enough; I would like to be out drawing today, though I’ve decided to stay home and rest while rain finally starts to come down outside; after all these long months, we are at last getting some rain. I walked to work in the rain the other day, and it felt like home, felt like being back in London. By which I mean I was all romantically gazing at the grey sodden skies and taking in the breeze for the first ten minutes, and by the time I got to my office I was wet despite the umbrella, sweaty and grumpy, and wishing London was California. I am missing London right now though. It’s nearly two years since I was last home; this pandemic has kept me away too long. All I hear in the news and from friends is how depressing it is there right now, but I miss it, still. I am nervous about travelling international right now, in case I get a positive test and can’t fly back on time; things are just too busy. But do I want to stand on the embankments of the Thames and get depressing grey London rain down my face? Yeah, I do. Do I want to get on a packed tube train? Not really, no. Isn’t that the same London story as ever for me, just a few details changing over the years? Pretty much. So for now I draw Davis, and I’ve finally caught up on the scanning so I’ll post my newer drawings here soon, maybe with more interesting stories. Or maybe just the same stories again.

crepeville lunchtime

outside crepeville, davis

I drew this quick one while waiting for my lunch outside Crepeville, downtown Davis, on one of those very very hot days we have. Crepeville always makes me think of that Radiohead song, Crepe, you know the one, the one that goes “I’m a crepe, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here, I don’t have long hair.” Of course in America they substitute the word ‘hell’ with ‘heck’. They don’t like the word ‘hell’ as much as we do. Mind you they don’t say “flippin’eck” as much as we do, so it all evens out. My crepe was good. Of course if I in my London accent tell people that for lunch I had a crepe, they assume I spent my lunch hour in the toilet (or the bathroom, as they prefer to say here). Many people have assumed I am Australian. I learned years ago that it’s sometimes difficult for some Americans to tell the difference between a Cockney and an Aussie, but in my case it’s the tinnie of Fosters, the boomerang and the hat with all the corks in that I wear, they just assume I’m Australian. Seriously though, the last time it happened, this one guy in another department at work called me up and was asking me l these questions about Australia. His daughter was going to be spending some time there. I had to break it to him, I know you’ve known me for years, but I’m from London, never been Down Under. Furthest Down Under I’ve been is the Walkabout bar in Shepherds Bush. Another time in a shop that sold books and DVDs that isn’t here any more, the guy at the counter asked if I missed Australia much now I’m in California, and I was like, I’ve barely spoken how did he make that assumption? I nearly called him a “flamin’ galah”, whatever that is (Alf Stewart on Home and Away used to say that a lot). I was buying a DVD of “Prisoner: Cell Block H” at the time, that may have been why. Incidentally that is one of my favourite shows of all time, I bloody loved that programme. Bea Smith, Vera Bennett, Lizzie Berdworth, Joan “the Freak” Ferguson, Marie Winter, Franky Doyle, Meg Morris, Fletch the Letch, all of them. Anyway. I didn’t have time for a big sketch. I didn’t stay long while eating to draw too much more either, because the sun was starting to get to me through the gaps in the trees. The heat makes me uncomfortable. I can’t take the heat. That bench in the background, behind the stop sign, I’ve never drawn it before but I realize it looks a bit like Jabba the Hutt from this angle. This is on Third Street, Davis, corner of C Street.  

welcome to the real world

2nd and C Davis 090221

Here’s a building I have drawn before, more than once I think too. It’s an easy one to draw, on 2nd Street on that route back to campus, easy to see without too many trees in front, and a big load of white wood that often gets a nice shadow across it. And it’s triangular. And there’s a flag. And a small car. I think it’s a real estate business. I always wondered why it’s called ‘real’ estate, presumably there are theoretical estate agents as well. “Hello sir, can we interest you in buying some land on Pluto?” Enough of that. This was the second day of September, and September is over half done already. The students have arrived en masse, thousands and thousands of them being toured around campus today, with thousands more being show the downtown on Monday. There are way more cars on the streets than usual, and by next week when classes begin the bikes will be everywhere again. For the first time in a year and a half Davis is filling up with students, as we jump back into in-person teaching, like a real college town again. But on the second day of September, all was still calm.

bloody sky

D St Davis

The sky was bad in this one. We’ve had smoke events again this year, not anything quite like last year thankfully, but enough to cancel one of our soccer games and also a tournament up in the Tahoe area. They have had terrible fires up there. Thankfully the air here in Davis right now is pretty good, let’s hope it stays that way. This is on D Street, I think this place is called Pomegranate. By the look of it they look like stylists, or something, I don’t know. Have I drawn this building before in a previous iteration? Probably. I’m starting to forget what I’ve drawn, hard to believe though that is. I go to my Flickr album “Davis CA” and see there are 1,281 items there, and it seems like, wow that’s a lot but I thought there’d be more. That includes UC Davis; in that separate folder there are 599 items. Again, thought there’d be more, given how much time I’ve spent drawing there over the past decade and a half. What am I saying, I’m not drawing enough? I probably am not. But I am busy, and I don’t always have time to get a drawing that I want. Davis isn’t actually that big. I say to myself, if I lived in a bigger city, in London or San Francisco or New York, I’d draw even more. Truth is, I probably wouldn’t. I’d spend so much time on the bus, or the subway or tube, and I’d get bored drawing all the taller buildings. Then again, when I want to go to a different area with a completely different look or feel, it is easier in a big city. But you make the big small, don’t you; in London I loved how massive it was but it also felt like I could fit it in the palm of my hand. Mentally you fit it all into a small box, and you sometimes don’t go too far outside of the village if you know what I mean. There are parts of London I have never been to. I’ve never been to Richmond; watching Ted Lasso reminded me of that. (Kind of bit bored with that show to be honest. We don’t swear like that in London! We swear a lot, but in a different way than that, more in a ‘filler’ kind of way; you have to hear it to know. Not just blaring it out at anyone. Also we say “wanker” but it sounds more like “wangkah”) (That reminds me, when I was pretty new to Davis a woman at the checkout in the grocery store asked if I was from England, I said yes London, and then she asked me to say “bloody”. “You what?” I replied. “Ohmygod I love it when British people say “bloody” can you say “bloody”?” I was like , eh? “Nah bollocks, buggeroff I ain’t f*ckin’ sayin’ bloody, flippin’ avin’ a larf? Bleedin’ cheek, f*ckin’.” I think that made her day.) (I do say “bloody” a lot though.) Anyway enough of the swearing. So yes, just like you make the big small, at the same time you make the small bit. You look more closely at the small place at all the details, tracking all the changes over the years, and that’s why the sketchbook (and the sketchblog, come to that) is a great tool for recording that. But did I draw this before? I had a look, it looks like I drew it in the background of the building next door (see here) but that’s not really the same thing. No, I haven’t drawn it before, I’d remember. I always remember, I think. 

getting back to business

MSB UC Davis

And so, September started and wow, it’s already dragged us into the middle of the month like an angry bouncer, knocking over all the drinks and startling the cats in the alley. The times move quickly. Right now at the UC Davis campus we are preparing for the Big Return of All The Students. We are going back in In-Person Teaching next week – next week! – after being totally remote since March 2020. The staff are returning – partially working from home for the most part – as are the faculty, although there have been people working on campus the whole time (including myself, going in a couple of days a week or so) but now the campus is about to start Getting Busy again. The bikes will be back everywhere, and yeah, it’ll be different. Not sure what to expect. Not sure how everyone will feel being around lots of people again. For many, it will be fine, for many it will be uncomfortable. We’ll see what happens. This is the building where I work, the Mathematical Sciences Building, I have drawn it a few times before. One Saturday morning I had left my iPod in my office the day before, so I cycled down to get it and decided to take advantage of the direction of the light and start drawing the building again. And then it got a bit hot and I thought, actually let’s do the rest later. So I drew as much of the middle bit, and outlined the rest, and added colour to the sign, and went home, where I added in all the foliage and the colours. There’s not a lot of shade on the other side of the street so when that hot sun comes out it gets pretty uncomfy. I like it inside though, nice and cool in my office. I have been spending a lot of time this summer trying to rearrange office spaces getting them ready for new people, an ongoing task this week even. I’ve been trying to personalize my office a bit more, added in a couple of colourful classic World Cup posters, nice for a bit of Zoom background (we will still have many remote meetings), getting rid of some bulky storage, and shredding a whole bunch of old papers. I could probably use a new chair, I’ve had my current one for over 15 years now, but not a priority until the wheels fall off of it. This week is the last one to get all those things done I wanted out of the way before Summer ended, but Fall is already crashing into us and it will be Christmas before we know it. Lots to do! I’ve been putting up all the signage reminding people to wear the masks inside, getting the hand sanitizer and wipes in the offices. But here is the building, before all the people come back, nice and peaceful. The big Turkeys are still coming by in the mornings, pooing all over the benches, digging up the plants and menacing those who dare pass by. They’ve ruled this part of campus for a while, but the Humans and their Bikes are coming back. 

you’ll never change what’s been and gone

072221 3rd St Davis

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.

“how are things in your little world”

D St Davis

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. 

life in the heat dome

071021 hot day north davis

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.   

summertime lose

2nd and E, Davis

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.