TLC, all finished

Teaching Learning Complex UC Davis

Sure I’m a couple of months behind, but it’s good to get sketch-blog active again. The sketch-blog is a nice place after all, unlike the popular social media spaces that have dominated our lives and re-shaped global politics since the days when just a bit of regular blogging was the thing. It feels like a little allotment escape, a place to come away from the busy shouty high street tumble-dryer of Twitter, the shopping mall of Instagram, the awkward friends-of-family wedding of Facebook, although I do miss the music-store-noticeboard of MySpace. I prefer it in here, just me and my sketchbook, and some rambly stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense but isn’t setting out to enrage and inflame. Now this drawing is a couple of month’s old already but it is the Teaching and Learning Complex at UC Davis, which I have been drawing as it has been built, and is now complete, save for some work on the top floor. It’s lovely inside and outside, some nice spaces for student learning. The construction people who built it actually gifted me a very nice surprise upon completion of the project, a nice sweater with their logo and  one of my construction drawings stitched into the arm! It looks great. The sweater is quality (Patagonia) but quite warm, so I’ll probably need to wait until after the Davis summer to wear it (or just bring it with me to the London for the British summer). A pretty cool honor though. I’ve enjoyed drawing this building over the past couple of years, and here are some of the other sketches, from various angles and times of day…

Silo and Teaching Learning Complex, UC Davis TLC Feb 2022 sm 052421 TLC UCD Latest at the Teaching Learning Complex, UC Davis TLC UCD teaching learning complex Teaching and Learning Complex UC Davis silo smoky sky teaching learning complex sept 2020 Teaching Learning Complex UCD July 2020 Silo and Teaching Learning Complex (under construction...)

Phew! I drew a lot. I should draw the interior some time. Now on to the next project…

towering over our heads

UC Davis arboretum Here’s another sketch of the UC Davis Water Tower (one of them anyway) in the Arboretum, this time with a very spring-like feel with the redbuds glowing. The first day of March 2022, which means we are nearly two years on from that day in March 2020 when we all stopped, and then carried on in a different way.

a complex world

TLC Feb 2022 sm

The world is a mess, but we keep on keeping on. This is the new Teaching Learning Complex, a building that has been under construction this past couple of years and is now open (I went and walked around inside last week, it’s nice) but there’s still work going on at the exterior and I think the upper floors are nearly ready as well. I drew at lunchtime, but added in details on a different lunchtime, and then decided not to colour it, but then decided to put colour on it, and splashed on a bit of paint so that it dripped down. It’s nice to have this new building around, I can even see it from my office. But, as I am sure will be said many times over the years by clever people giving talks here, “teaching and learning doesn’t need to be complex.”  I don’t know where you go next from that phrase but it sounds like the sort of thing that you might say when speaking to a group of, I don’t know, undergrads learning to be teachers maybe. I might use it some day myself. In fact I just did, just then. Oh, the world is a mess. I wish the war would stop in Ukraine and Russia would leave them alone, that isn’t going to happen, what an awful situation. I’ve not felt this much dread at a world event since, I don’t know, the cold war? Or maybe since Covid started. I wish Covid would go away, though on that front campus is relaxing things soon, and masks will no longer be required after March 18, though I’ll still wear mine because I like to feel like a ninja. At least I have plans ahead, I finally booked a flight to London this summer, the first time back in two and a half years, and I’ll believe it when I see it. We just keep on keeping on.

ickle bit of pink

UC Davis arboretum

The Redbuds are out. This is in the Arboretum at UC Davis, the section closest to where I work is the Warren G. Roberts Redbud Collection, which blasts into life at this time of year. Here’s a little bit of info about it: The Redbud is a native Californian plant, which grows in the foothills. I sketched quickly. A lot of people in the Arboretum that day, seemed to see many people I know, or who knew me without me knowing (or recognizing) them. I do sometimes get a “hello!” from people who I’ve obviously met before but don’t recognize (either due to the masks, my legendarily bad eyesight, or just that I never recognize anyone), so I always just say “y’alright, how ya doin’?” back, and let my slow mind catch up with who it might have been afterwards. This happened just last night on the way out to the soccer practice field, I got a “hey Pete, been a while!” from someone but for the life of me I don’t know who it was, I just waved a “yeah man, good to see you!” although I couldn’t actually see them. My phenomenal lack of being able to recognize people goes back a long way. Back in the 90s, I was up in Yorkshire visiting a friend who happened to work in a nightclub, so after arriving on the late bus from London I went by there to wait for them to finish and I spotted one of their friends, who I had met the previous time I’d been up there, Bertie I think he was called, drinking with a couple of other lads. So I went up and started chatting, “how’s it going, good to see you, yeah I had a long journey up here, six and a half hours on the bus, not very comfy, bit cream-crackered now,” the music was loud so it wasn’t easy to hear each other, I anyway after about ten minutes he says to me, “who are you though? I don’t actually know you.” Because it wasn’t Bertie, he had no idea who Bertie was, or who I was, or why I was talking to him about the state of the seats on the National Express. I just went, “oh, you’re not Bertie, sorry!” and went off to hide forever. I might have done that thing where I take off my glasses and rubbed my eyes like in a cartoon. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have known Bertie if he’d jumped out of a big cake. I don’t even remember if he was really called Bertie, he was probably called Bobby or Barry. Anyway, I’m not great at recognizing faces, so if you do see me and I look a bit nonplussed and give the random “hey, how’s it goin” response, that’s just my terrible eyesight and memory, nothing to worry about. I’m too busy focusing on the pink trees anyway.

UC Davis arboretum

Auf wiedersehen, Konditorei

konditorei, davis

This is – was – Konditorei, an Austrian bakery on 5th Street in Davis. Konditorei closed a week or so ago after 32 years in business following the retirement of the owners Albert and Gloria Kutternig. Wow, 32 years…exactly twice as long as I have been in Davis. I cycled over to draw it, although it wasn’t open. I used to pass by here on my way home from work or downtown when I lived on the other side of Davis, and it would usually be closed by the time I came by, being typically open earlier in the day, so I didn’t get a chance to come in here often. But I really loved their birthday cakes. I would always ask for a Konditorei cake for my birthday, and I had my final one a few weeks before they closed up, a delicious and elaborate white chocolate cake whose name I can’t remember. It didn’t last long. I was first introduced to Konditorei’s cakes about twelve or thirteen years ago when our department chair (who was from Germany) brought one in to share with the staff on the occasion of his birthday. I loved it so much I asked for the same one for my birthday a week or so later, it was a work of art. I’ve enjoyed them ever since. It will be sad not to have one next year! I wish the Kutternigs a very well deserved retirement.

I do love a pastry, and enjoy Austrian food. When I was 15, I went to Austria for the first time as part of a school exchange trip. Our German class wasn’t very big so it was combined with one of the younger years from our school. Our teacher Mrs Kellock was from Austria, so it made sense we would come there. We went to a little town called Lauterach, in the Vorarlberg region which is squeezed in the gap between Switzerland and Germany on the shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), with high mountains all around, and little Liechtenstein not far down the road. While I did spend time at the local school, my main reason for being there was for work experience, or “Schnupperlehre” as it was known. German was my favourite subject at school and I think I imagined that I might live in a German-speaking country when I grew up. In my early teens had a pen-pal in Vienna, Michaela, though we never met in person. The work experience I did was at a tiny advertising agency (with only two employees, the owner and a woman who was never there) in a small building near the top of a mountain on the edge of a town called Dornbirn. The family I stayed with in Lauterach were nice, and what I remember most is that I enjoyed the Austrian breakfast, especially the big slices of bread and all that Nutella, along with some of the freshets and tastiest milk I’d ever had. I should like to visit Austria again some day. Grüß Gott!

you see UCUC, you see


Every two weeks I get my Covid test at the ARC, on the UC Davis campus, which all employees have to do. It’s a bit of a long walk back to the office on those days when I don’t bring my bike (my back wheel is acting a bit odd these days and I need to fix it, I just haven’t gotten around to it). On this day I took the long walk past the old ARC Pavilion on LaRue, now the University Credit Union Center (UCUC, which sounds like someone emphatically making a point) (maybe it should be called the UCUCUCD). I was listening to an audiobook about the Beatles (“Tune In” by Mark Lewisohn, chapter one of a planned three part epic called “All These Years”, detailing their entire childhood and early adulthood right up to their last Hamburg trip at the end of 1962 – it was a 45 hour audiobook, which seemed like a lot for an audiobook until I remembered I’ve probably listened to over 100 hours of Beatles podcasts in the past couple of months since the Get Back inspired return to Fab Four obsessiveness. Honestly I’m like Murray the K. Anyway, I was listening to stories of young Ritchie Starkey playing Butlins with Rory Storm, I realized I’d never drawn this building before. It makes interesting shapes when the sun casts its shadows. It put me in mind of the Southbank Center and Royal Festival Hall (where Macca gave a talk about his book The Lyrics not too long ago), and that made me miss London, which is my default setting these days, missing London and obsessing about the Beatles. I used to like going down to the South Bank when I was in my teens, when I was doing A-Levels I would go to art exhibits there on the weekends, back before the South Bank was as busy as it is now, before the London Eye, before the Tate Modern, before the nicely paved walkways down to City Hall which also wasn’t there; I’d say ‘before the South Bank was cool’ but in the early 90s the South Bank was as cool as it was ever going to be, though I do love all the new things. I also had this thought, UCD standing for “UC in the sky with Davis” which I think would be a good name for a book, or maybe just a zine. Or maybe just a blog post, and not even this one, save it for a better one.

saturday shadows

3rd & G Street, Davis CA

Another from downtown Davis. Done on the same day as the one in the previous post. Shadows against the building. This is on the corner of 3rd and G, and behind me G Street was closed off to traffic so the restaurants and bars could have people all seated out in the street. This building was (or still is, I don’t remember) a Thai restaurant, of which Davis has many. In decades past it was a bank, and it is a very ‘bank’ looking building. I was listening to a podcast about Neil Innes while drawing this. Along with the rekindled Beatles obsession I’ve started listening to the Rutles again, as they are a big part of the Beatles lunchtime legend. I went home and started playing a load of those Rutles songs on my guitar, and have been humming them ever since. I have been playing music more lately. I got a keyboard a week or so ago, and even though I’m a beginner I still remember the chords I learned when I was 13, and it’s fun to just play about with a few tunes. Like, a song will be in my head when I wake up, so I roll over to the keyboard and figure out how to play it from memory. I always liked doing that. This morning I had ‘Lonesome Town’ in my head, so I got up and worked that one out, mostly, before going to work. Reminds me of the 90s. What was that on, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack? Maybe it was the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. Two CDs I used to listen to a lot in the day.

right up your alley

Tim Spencer Alley (off 2nd), Davis CA

This is Tim Spencer Alley, just off of 2nd Street. It’s funny how the streets have to be “1st, 2nd, 5th, B, F etc” but an alley gets named after a person. Tim Spencer was a UPS driver, according to Davis Wiki, and was by all accounts very friendly and beloved. I don’t have any more information than that. I quite like when streets and places are named for people I don’t know anything about. I’m probably never going to get a street named after me. If I do though, I think I’d like 2nd Street. I had my first job in America on 2nd, at the Avid Reader, and I’ve drawn it loads of times. Not saying that I want a street named after me, I mean it’d be nice, but you probably have to be, you know, in history as it were, before they start naming things after you. That’s probably for the best, it would be confusing. It was confusing enough having the same name as my dad when I was growing up, imagine having a whole street named after you. I’d be well offended if I saw a dog doing a poo on the street me. No, I don’t want a street. Or a lane, or an avenue. Maybe a road. ANYWAY. I was cycling back from the DMV, a building that will never be named after me in a million years, having gone to update my ID card. I was out of there much earlier than I had planned for, having basically expected to go on leave just to wait in line at the DMV. I was in and out very quickly. So I stopped off downtown on my way back to the office to grab a snack for breakfast. The light on this part of 2nd Street was great, so I whipped out my sketchbook and just started drawing the outline, and that lamp-post and street sign, and then decided to go and grab my pastry and get some work done. I would come back on the weekend to do it properly. Saturday morning came, I cycled downtown and stood in the sunlight on that corner, with a hat to keep me shaded, and drew fast and furiously. Early on in the process someone asked me how long I have been drawing, so I said “sixteen inches”. They meant how long in my life. “Oh right, um five foot ten.” I didn’t say that last bit but I really should have. I mean it is kind of a Time Bandits reference and I try to get Time Bandits references in wherever I can, although nobody here seems to get them.

I looked up Tim Spencer Alley to see if I could find out more beyond what Davis Wiki didn’t say. I’m always a bit nervous looking up places named after people in case the story behind the naming is a bit sad, but actually Tim Spencer is very much alive and well and still lives in Davis. There was an article in the Enterprise last year in fact, a conversation with him. He retired from UPS back in the year 2000 and was so well-known around downtown that there was a move to have the alley named after him – he even said in the article “I thought that only dead people had streets named after them. I guess not.” He does sound like a friendly bloke and it’s one of those day-making things to learn that our town honors people such as him. I’m glad I finally drew his alley!

all the science words

physical sci library UC Davis

This was drawn while campus was still quiet, before people returned from the month-long remote period in January. That said, here on campus in early February, a lot of people are still working remotely, and there aren’t many coming into our department in-person just yet. This is the old Physical Sciences Library building, which has been undergoing a remodeling for the past few years. Beyond it is the Chemistry building, itself still undergoing a massive reshape. I drew this from the shade of the Physics building. When I was at school, science consisted of three parts – physics, chemistry, biology. You took all three, and then at GCSE level you did ‘integrated science’, which was divided among the three. As a rule, I enjoyed physics but was crap at it, I didn’t like biology but was good at it, and I was so-so about chemistry and was so-so at it. Maybe a bit more on the crap side. I was scared of Bunsen Burners (I mean who isn’t, really?). I like Van Der Graaf generators, mostly for the name (and the band). Biology though, I found it dull, and it was always a surprise to get some of the better grades in the class. My biology teachers were nice. I liked my physics teacher (Mr Vilis) a lot, even though he was always grumpy (he would go ballistic if anyone opened the window), and never gave me good grades or seemed to know I existed, but I still liked him, he could be funny. I really enjoyed reading about physics at home, but it was a difficult subject at school. Chemistry was sometimes interesting, especially when a test tube full of poisonous purple gas would break and everyone had to leave the room. Learning all the molecules and formulas was hard. I remember we learned ‘KMnO4’, Potassium Permanganate, and I thought that was the best possible band name ever, but I never used it. Now I think it sounds like a radio station in the US. Even if I had been better at school science classes, I would probably never have made it as a scientist because I would just make silly jokes from all the science words. And I am still afraid of Bunsen Burners.

back to the old city hall on F

F St panorama Davis CA<

From one city hall to another. This is the old City Hall building on F Street, downtown Davis. Again, I have drawn this many times. It has a lot of history. You reel off the things it has been like the words of a song, it’s been a fire station, a police station, a restaurant, a bar, a gallery, and even a city hall. And now it’s empty, the restaurant Bistro 33 and its adjoining bar closing not long before the pandemic started. Recently it suffered damage by fire as well, and you can still see a great big hole in the roof (hidden a bit behind that flag pole in this sketch). I wonder what this building will be next? Maybe this building is the David Bowie of Davis buildings, always reinventing itself. Then again it doesn’t usually look too different externally so it’s not really David Bowie. It will probably be yet another restaurant, or maybe a frozen yogurt shop, because we don’t have nearly enough of them in Davis. Maybe it will be a Starbucks, because the one that opened down the street taking up the space of not one but two former independent shops isn’t enough. Who knows. Maybe it should be turned into a Star Wars themed cantina, it’s about the right size and layout. I love that one they have in Hollywood, the Scum and Villainy Cantina. I went to the one at Disneyland too, though it was a little bit packed and not a place to spend an evening. Speaking of Star Wars – the ‘Book of Boba Fett’. Oh dear. That show was a mess. He didn’t even have a book. At least we got to see a live action Cad Bane. I have a lot to say about that show, but I’ll save that for a different post. Perhaps instead of whatever it was they did, they should have gone the Beatles route and just made like a documentary with Boba and his old bounty hunter mates planning one last job. “Fett Back”. Yeah I’ll save this all for another post.

Back to F Street. For a little time comparison, here we are going back thirteen years to January 2009 when I first drew this building…

old city hall