I’ve been a bit slow with posting this year. My sketching numbers are down too; but then again, 2016 and 2017 were a little hard to beat for sketch volume! I have a fair number of recent sketches still to scan though, but before we get on with those, here are the two I did on the last Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, which was on a lovely sunny-after-the-rain morning at the Farmers Market. The trees were painted in exciting colours. We had a good turn-out, I talked a bit about drawing crowds and perspective (remembering all the things James Richards once taught me). These trees are almost all leafless now, as we hit mid-December. There were a lot of locals out this day, gearing up for the festive season. Below, sketched from almost the same spot but looking in a different direction, across C Street to the rear section of Davis Community Church.
This is the UC Davis water tower. I have sketched it before, but I don’t mind rehashing old material. I’ll happily tell the same jokes many times over to the same people, over a period of many years, as anyone who has read any of this sketchblog can attest. You might think that I’m sketching for a new audience, maybe someone hasn’t seen one of my sketches of the water tower before, and here’s a new one, but no, it’s really just that after 13 years in this town there isn’t a lot else to draw, so you draw things again. Different times of year, things look different; different times of my life, I see different. Let’s not think too much about it. Cezanne never worried about that when he was painting Mont St.Victoire over and over. Well he probably did, and if I had stayed in Aix-en-Provence myself beyond 2002 then I too would be on about my hundred-and-fiftieth drawing of it, and the Rotonde, and the Place d’Albertas and all the other corners of town that might lose their charm. I’d be dreaming every day, while wandering among the ochre stone and narrow cobbled streets, stepping over dog poo, cigarette butts and dried-up wine, wishing I was somewhere far away and different, like some American college town where they have fire hydrants and falling leaves, wide streets and bicycles, huge continent-crossing trains in the middle of the night, where smoking is banned pretty much everywhere and fresh milk isn’t hidden away like some unloved cousin. Sorry Aix-en-Provence, I love you but I married Davis. I came to Davis 13 years ago, and this water tower was the first thing I ever saw of the town, sticking out above the flat valley like a giant sputnik. It reminded me a bit of my first memories of France actually, when we would visit northern France on school trips, and the most striking thing about the French countryside were the distinctive water towers. This water tower has always for me been the symbol of Davis, more than the bike or the frog or the eco-conscious beard. It’s worth a few sketches I think. I drew this one at the start of November one sunny lunchtime, stood on the banks of Putah Creek, adding the paint on site because everything was such an attractive colour. The sky was a clear and breathable blue. This was before the horrible wild fires up near Chico, that brought havoc to the area and covered northern California with a hazardous smoke for two weeks, even closing down the UC Davis campus. As of last week the rains have finally come and the fresh air is back, meaning we could go back to work today. I didn’t sketch during that whole time; I went to Portland a couple of weeks ago to teach a workshop (I’ll write more on that later), and have been on a bit of a sketching hiatus since. Everyone needs a break. But I’m getting back into it. It’s end of November, advent-calendar-making season, and I have to get that done first. There’s a sketchcrawl in Davis this Saturday (see Let’s Draw Davis) and I’ve got a bit more Walker Hall to sketch, but the rains are coming back…
On a corner of Old North Davis is a house I drew at the end of a crisp sunny October day in 2008. I remember I left work early that day, and cycled up beyond 5th Street, still then a fairly unknown country for a South Davis-dweller such as me, to the Old North neighbourhood, looking to capture some of its old America charm with the autumnal leaves. That sketch is below. I then posted that sketch on the brand new website called ‘Urban Sketchers’, on day 1 of the blog, for which I was to be the ‘Davis’ correspondent. The header of Urban Sketchers upon its launch featured one of my sketchbooks with sketches of San Francisco. In those days Urban Sketchers, the brainchild of Seattle-based sketcher Gabi Campanario, online sketching friend back when our online sketching community still seemed pretty small, had a few correspondents from around the world but grew fast, issuing a Manifesto and encouraging communities of sketchers to get together and draw their world, or rather ‘see the world, one drawing at a time’. It launched on November 1st, 2008; a decade later Urban Sketchers (USk) is absolutely huge, with countless regional ‘chapters’ globally, many many workshops and gatherings, and the annual International Urban Sketching Symposium, which started in Portland in 2010 (with around 80 participants) and was most recently in Porto in 2018 (with around 800 participants!). So, to commemorate my first post on that first day, I went back to that corner of Old North Davis, a much more familiar district to me now, being on my way home, and sketched that same old house, above. The tree in front has gone, though another younger tree has sprouted up just behind the fence. Obviously in 2008 the leaves turned orange a little earlier than this year. My son was just a little baby. George W. Bush was still president; Barack Obama would be elected a week later. Spurs had just sacked their manager Juande Ramos (after our worst ever start to a league campaign, 1 point in 10 games; think about that, when we’re complaining now about having only 21 points from 10 games) and replaced him with Harry Redknapp. How times have changed. Me, I’m still drawing the rise and fall of trees.
You can see the post I put on Urban Sketchers today at: http://www.urbansketchers.org/2018/11/a-decade-on.html
This is another view of A Street in Davis. When I say ‘A Street’ I don’t mean ‘a street’, I mean obviously it’s ‘a street’, but this is ‘A’ Street, like when you emphasize ‘The’ and pronounce it as ‘Thee’ like it’s the only one you need to consider. Ok enough of that. I have sketched this scene before over the years but not looking quite like this. That textbook store has been closed for ages, but that ‘Class of 18’ graffiti is new. Unless it’s from 1918 which it isn’t. Bit of roadwork going on here, a few bins. A lunchtime sketch drawn after a meeting. This will look different next time I draw this corner.
Last Saturday was the latest edition of the monthly Davis sketchcrawl “Let’s Draw Davis!”, back after its summer hiatus. The next one will be mid-November sometime. We had a good turn-out, and I started it off by inviting everyone to draw each other in a ‘portrait party’. Sketching sketchers is fun. I wanted them to be five-minute people sketches, quick as possible, and for the most part they were, but there was a lot of conversation. Did a LOT of talking! One person I was delighted to meet was Robert Regis Dvorak, who I had not met before and is a real art inspiration to talk to. It seemed like everybody (no exaggeration!) had been to one of his workshops over the years, he’s a really well known figure and art teacher. I should read his books sometime. He runs workshops and sketching tours all over, not just here in California but around the world. Nice guy as well. It was also a pleasure to meet and speak with Misuk Goltz (I thought she told me her name was Misuka when I was talking to her but others told me it was Misuk Goltz), she is also a well known artist. I was writing down things they told me but forgot to write that she was about to go and spend six months in Mongolia with her husband, which sounds really interesting.
We were in the study lounge of the Memorial Union, which has lots of places to sit and sketch others. I was trying to flit about and speak with different people. Above is Cindy, who I was initially sketching with her head turned to the side (hence the hair outline over the face) but changed when she changed view. Next to her is Alex, who works in video, and we talked a bit about stop motion animation. I’ve been doing some of that again lately. Maybe I’ll show you some, though it’s not showing-in-public-worthy just yet.
Above are Lynn Cohen, who I had actually met a few years ago when she bought one of my drawings at a show, she was very friendly and wore pants decorated with prints of her own sketches which was pretty cool. Then there was Dawn Pedersen, who wore a t-shirt from ‘Sketch-Con’ which is an event happening in Pasadena, I had never heard of it but it’s from Danny Gregory and Sketchbook Skool. I know a lot of the instructors in Sketchbook Skool and I’ve not met Danny in person but corresponded with him when I was in one of his books (An Illustrated Journey), so it sounds like something I’d like to go to, however I am coaching a team at a soccer tournament that weekend so can’t make it. By the way, our team which had started well lost 12-2 last week and 9-1 today, oh well. The last person I sketched there was Jay, who had a pocket full of Micron pens.
Above are AJ Tauber, who is part of the Oahu Urban Sketchers (and has been to the Davis sketchcrawls before), showing us her sketchbook at the final gathering; I sketched this one super-fast. There is also Rick Karban, an entemologist at UC Davis who had recently been in England at a sketching workshop from Roisin Cure. He was interesting to talk to, particularly from the point of view of someone who’s been in Davis a long time now and seen all the changes. And finally, below, Freeborn Hall, which I sketched while chatting to sketchers at the MU. I had to draw at least one building, but I sketch so many UCD buildings (as regular followers will probably have noticed) that there was no rush for me to sketch a few more, sketching and chatting to people was more fun. I always get that feeling though after talking to lots of people, I hope I didn’t talk too much nonsense. Especially as I was encouraging people to write down what the people they were sketching were saying. Be careful what you say, it’ll end up in the sketch!
You can see what some others sketched by visiting the Let’s Draw Davis Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/383785982124525/
This is another scene from UC Davis, showing the side of the huge Shields Library, with the metallic sculpture called “Bum Bum, You’ve Been Here Before”, which is by the artist Tio Gianbruni. I don’t think it’s ever appeared in any of my campus sketches before. There’s a lot of public art on campus, many sculptures. We’re a campus with a rich history of sculpture. ‘Bum Bum’ is found near the Arts Annex. I drew this in dark green pen. I like the dark green. Those red flowers make it feel like Spring, but it’s very much Fall. Mornings are getting cooler, though daytimes are still very much sunny and in the 80s. Shields Library is named after Peter J Shields, son of an Irish emigrant and Gold Rush rancher, who was one of the founders of UC Davis. When I first moved to Davis, before I was working at the university, I would come to the library and read medieval language books, riding on the back of my recent studies in the subject, though I never carried on. Shields is massive. Lots of places to read in peace. I miss spending hours on end in university libraries, doing research as best I could. My undergrad was spent in the large library at Queen Mary in London, which was always busy but had a great video library section (I did a course in German film). My Masters was spent mostly in the quiet corners of the Maughan Library on Chancery Lane, one of the main libraries for King’s College London, and I spent many hours every day there (though my best friend worked on the same street and there was a pub right across the road). I also spent a great deal of time in the medieval literature corners of the huge Senate House library, the central library of the University of London, near Russell Square. That really became a home from home while writing my MA dissertation (about the antagonism between English and French in the middle ages). In addition to Middle English and Old French I studied a fair bit of Old English (particularly the alliterative poetry, much of which I’ve forgotten now), Old Gothic (Wulfila and his bible), Old Saxon (the Heliand), and Old High German (Althochdeutsch; I did read the actual Abrogans, the oldest thing in German, at the beautiful Stiftsbibliothek library at the Abbey of St.Gallen in Switzerland) (I love telling people that) (makes me sound clever). Now, I draw pictures, and remember library time and dictionaries of languages I never learnt properly.