don’t matter what i do

south silo aug 2017

Long hot summer ain’t passing me by, though I’m trying to pass it by. We went over 40 days of 90 degree weather, many of them being in the 100s. I drew this over the course of three lunchtimes, each one where I ate at one of the food trucks at the newly remodeled Silo area. I drew this from the shade of a tree, and you can see the whole area in front of the Bike Barn has been totally renovated and changed, it looks different from the way it did previously (see this post from 2015 which shows sketches back to 2011). Sketching in the heat is something I should be used to in Davis, but more and more it puts me off. Maybe because I have drawn everything in this town and on this campus (maybe not everything, but it feels like it), maybe I have sketched so much this year already that it feels like a chore sometimes (you go through these lulls), maybe I just don’t want to leave the house (I have discovered the joys of creating stop-motion Lego animations, it’s fun). Maybe I have been spending too much time drawing MS Paint illustrations of this year’s football kits (no, NOT ENOUGH time!). Maybe it’s that whole thing where you go to Italy, and nothing else seems quite as interesting afterwards, and you just yearn for more travel, more places. Maybe, I don’t really know. Maybe you’re the same as me, we’ll see things they’ll never see, you and I are gonna live forev-eeeerrrr…

sorernity now

Pi Beta Phi Sorority, UC Davis
Continuing the intermission from Italy posting, here is one from the edge of UC Davis, a sorernity house on Russell Blvd. One of many; this area is called “Frat Row”. This one is “Pi Beta Phi” which is you all know is short for “Pirates Be-taking Philosophy” which yes I know makes no sense, but I know nothing about the origins of the phrase and don’t want to assume. I assume it is some sort of in-joke, like “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense”, the famous slogan of the Knights of the Garter, which I’m sure they never intended to be their permanent slogan, just a bit of a laugh, like their name, Knights of the Garter. The origins of names and phrases are often lost in the swirling sands of history. Ok before I turn this post into another inevitable meaningless collection of weak jokes and untrue etymologies (“sweetheart, that could be the name of my autobiography”), let’s just get back to the subject matter. There are lots of these houses just off campus, but as someone who didn’t go to college here this whole ‘Greek Life’ is alien to me. When I was at uni I went to the New Globe pub in Mile End with my fellow drama students and got drunk on halves, and that was about it really. Fratorities and Sorernities are not really a thing there at all. The first time I ever met ‘Frat Boys’ was when I spent a year in France teaching after I graduated. There were lots of American students in the city where I lived and I remember going to a party and some lads being described as ‘Frat Boys’. “Frat?” I would ask. “Is that an acronym, like ‘Fourteen Recipes About Thunderbirds’, or ‘Flying Rabbits Are Terrifying’ or something?” (I was not as good at coming up with funny acronyms back then) “No,” they would say. “It doesn’t mean anything. It just means they drink loads, are usually white, and drink loads.” I think that was the description I was given, it was a long time ago and I didn’t really understand it. They might have said more but they definitely said that. I didn’t think they drank more than British binge-students.  I have snippets of very odd conversations with young Americans while living in France, like the person who asked me, upon hearing that I was from London, if I liked “London Broil”. Again I didn’t know what that was (I still don’t by the way). What I got was that “Frat Boy” just means a certain recognizable type. They might not even be in a “Frat” (and I didn’t learn what that was until I after actually moved to America) (and then spent years deliberately saying “Fratority” and “Sorernity” just to see if anyone would correct me, then I would laugh). It’s an expression I hear very often, “They’re just a bunch of Frat Boys,” “This place is full of Frat Boys”, “Get off of my lawn, Frat Boys”. I’m focusing very much on the Frat Boys here but not on the Sorority Girls. You don’t shorten that by the way, you say the whole thing. The rule of thumb is if you can pronounce the whole word ‘sorority’, then you are sober enough to drive home. I don’t know much about these societies other than what I’ve been told, about how they do ‘Rushes’ where you have to wear a different dress every day for a month, and say “ew” a lot. Like I say, it’s all alien to me. My wife did make me watch “Legally Blonde” years ago, but it was because I lost a bet (if I had won she would have had to watch “Young Einstein”, to this day she still hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing that amazing and not ridiculous at all movie). In “Legally Blonde” they make references to some sorority or other and that is pretty much all I know. So, I decided to do a little research on this particular sorority. When I say ‘a little research’ I mean I googled it and looked at the Davis Wiki page. Apparently (and this is cool) Pi Beta Phi was the first “national secret college society of women”, founded in 1867 in Monmouth Illinois (as “I.C. Sorosis”, and we can all agree the Greek letter name sounds a lot better). This means they are 150 years old! Notable Pi Beta Phi people are Jennifer Garner and Faye Dunaway. Not from the Davis chapter of course, but it’s a national organization. So there you have it. It also definitely has nothing to do with Pirates Be-taking Philosophy.

sketches from “let’s draw davis!” july 2017

Let's Draw Davis people july 2017
Just interrupting my Italy posts to bring you some sketches from our recent Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, held on a very hot July morning a week or so ago. Let’s Draw Davis is now monthly again, and now the organization is shared between myself and two fellow local sketchers, Alison Kent and Ann Filmer. This month it was my turn, so I organized a crawl that would explore the courtyards and alleys of downtown, starting in Orange Court and ending up on the patio behind the Pence Gallery. We had around seventeen sketchers in total joining us, and despite the heat a lot of nice sketching was done! I started off by drawing people in pencil and paint.
Let's Draw Davis people july 2017
I then moved up to the walkway overlooking Orange Court, trying to squeeze into whatever shade I could find, and drew the aerial perspective. It was a bit tricky with the sun burning down but I was determined. After this, I had a chicken hotdog at the Hotdogger.
Orange Court, Davis CA
Then I walked through the little side-streets between D and E Streets, which have a few colourful shops and cafes, and I drew two more of my fellow sketchers (there is Marlene Lee on the right, she had a few drawings featured in my last book), sat outside a new art gallery/shop called Couleurs Vives, which deserves a bigger more colourful sketch some time. After that, the remaining sketchers met up and did a show-and-tell with each other’s sketchbooks, which is always my favourite part, seeing how others interpret the same scenes.
Sketchers in Davis
The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl meeting will be on Wednesday August 16th at the Davis Farmer’s Market “Picnic in the Park”; check out the event posting on the Let’s Draw Davis Facebook page!

the downfall of downtown tom

4th and F St, Davis

Just a brief interruption before I start posting my Italy stories, back to Davis again, here is a sketch from last week drawn downtown on the corner of 4th and F. Oh it’s been hot in Davis. There was a heatwave while we were gone, and another after we were back, oh and there’s more heat coming. Davis in summertime! Well one thing we learned this week was the death of one of the true characters of downtown Davis in recent history. I say ‘death’, I should say ‘assassination’, really. I’m talking of course about Downtown Tom. Downtown Tom was a turkey. I don’t mean he was like a turkey, I mean he was an actual turkey called Downtown Tom. There should be a ballad about him. Actually I’d be massively surprised if there isn’t already a ballad about him. “The Downfall of Downtown Tom”.  There has been a Turkey Problem in Davis for a number of years now, (I can just imagine Downtown Tom now, narrowing his eyes, growling, “What Turkey Problem?”) with fairly large flocks of the wild birds wandering the town, digging up mud. jumping on roofs, annoying postmen, I don’t know, whatever turkeys do. We get loads of them in my neighbourhood in north Davis, I would see them outside my house all the time, loads of them. Huge things they are too. I tell people back in London and they don’t believe me, they say things like “why don’t you just catch them and cook it for dinner?” like that is just the easiest thing in the world, just catch and kill a massive turkey with my bare hands, somehow waster half the day trying to skin it and then spend the next week trying to cook it, for what exactly? I’d rather just go to Burger King. Of course people in London go out hunting wild animals for food with their bare hands every day I expect, it’s so easy, no it isn’t, just go to Lidl. Anyway, we have a lot of turkeys. As was reported in the Davis Enterprise recently, the city recently formed a “Wild Turkey Population Management Plan” to move the turkeys to a different part of California where they can’t block Davis traffic or dig up verges or whatever they were doing and a whole bunch were sent off to the country, but Tom…

Downtown Tom was a loner. He didn’t hang with the other turkeys. I don’t know if they banquished him, maybe he lost a trial-by-stone to become the new turkey emperor, or maybe he was just too cool to hang out with those squares in the suburbs, whatever his deal was, Downtown Tom became a local legend. None of us will ever have a name as cool as Downtown Tom. I used to see him wandering about by himself, and I saw in him a kindred spirit, he didn’t mind his own company. The only thing was, he was occasionally a bit aggressive, a bit lary, got on the wrong side of the law one too many times. Misunderstood, was Downtown Tom. Nobody knew nor cared what he had seen, what he had lived through, all those countless Thanksgivings, no, he was just ‘a wild turkey’ and a ‘nuisance’. There was the case where someone called the cops on him because he was ‘surrounding their car’ and they couldn’t get out. Sure, he was a menace, but those streets are mean when you’re a turkey, doing it on your own. But like the Artful Dodger, they couldn’t catch him, they couldn’t bring him in front of the beak, as it were. He outsmarted them every time. When the Animal Control people would come after him they would manage to chase him out of downtown, but turkeys are hard to catch and he would always come back. Oh he was a sly one, old Downtown Tom, a comic book villain. In January, however, the threat of Downtown Tom was finally lifted, his reign of terror come to an ignominious end with a Moe Green Special (probably). It was less the Wild West, more Leon The Professional. A ‘contractor’ was hired by the city to take him out, and execute him they did, at night, in his sleep where he roosted, with a rifle. Not, as my city-dwelling London friends would believe, in broad daylight with bare hands and a boiling pot on the stove. Maybe it went down differently? Maybe it was like Jules Winfield, reading a passage from the Bible before laying down vengeance upon him. (“Say Gobble again! Say Gobble one more goddamn time!”) No, in the end Downtown Tom went quietly, his passing kept a secret from us for six months until now. (“Codswallop I say. Nope, I reckon he’s still out there, too tired to carry on.”) I guess they had to do what they had to do. This town wasn’t big enough for etc and so on. He’s gone to his gravy. Anyway, this was his manor, around 4th and F Streets. Tom may be gone but they say his ghost still lives on (they don’t say that, by the way), and if you listen carefully at night, you may hear a gobbling (no, that’s just people eating late night burgers at Jack-in-the-Box), and you better watch out, or Downtown Tom will get you (he won’t, he is really dead).

Let’s Draw Davis! July 2017

Let's Draw Davis! July 15, 2017
It’s July, so it’s time to sketch. Mind you, it is time to sketch in all the other months too. But “Let’s Draw Davis” is back – and definitely monthly again. It used to be monthly until I got very busy and wasn’t able to organize it so often, but now there are three of us organizing these sketchcrawls, taking turns each month – many thanks to Alison Kent and Ann Filmer. July is my turn, so if you’re in Davis, join us on Saturday July 15!

A new aspect of the sketchcrawls that we are trying is that there will be a short sketching tutorial at the start by the organizer (me in this case), before heading out to sketch. So at 10am I will give a brief urban sketching tutorial, a few basic tips and techniques to try. We will start at Orange Court, the little courtyard off of E Street (between 1st and 2nd), and the theme this time will be to explore the hidden spots of Davis – the alleys and courtyards of downtown. We will finish up at the space behind the Pence Gallery, off of D Street, to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this sketchcrawl is FREE and open to the public. All you need is something to draw on and something to draw with. Oh and maybe a cold drink, because it’s always hot in Davis in July. There are plenty of places nearby to cool off!

For more information and to see the other upcoming dates of the Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl series, please visit the new Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis

three mile

three mile brewing davis
This is Three Mile Brewing in Davis. Everywhere is a brewery these days. This place is fairly new, and brews right here, in the courtyard of Cedar Court behind 3rd and G Streets. I came here one other time and had a ‘Frankenweizen’ which I quite liked. This time I had an Irish stout which was less my thing, followed by a Kolsch, which was nicer. I enjoyed drawing here, having come here one evening after working late (March and April this year had a lot of those long work days!). They have a lot of t-shirts and merchandise which of course all the breweries do these days. The name ‘Three Mile Brewing’ actually comes from an old Davis law, though, that was established in the early 20th century after much lobbying by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that alcohol could not be sold within three miles of campus. This ban went until 1979 you know. Even since I’ve lived in Davis the number of bars has grown by a lot. I should know, I have drawn them all. I enjoyed sketching at the table here, listening to people talk the evening away, and there was a dog that was very contentedly sit next to his family a table away from me. Some of the bars in Davis are quite dog-friendly, with the University of Beer for example having “Puppy Hour” on weekends, most of the day rather than just an hour, where you can get a buck off your beer if you bring your dog. Woof! I don’t have a dog so I pay full price. What if I brought someone dressed up as a dog? What about werewolves? Where do I go from here after talking about werewolves? Let’s get back to the sketch. It took two beers (the aforementioned Stout and Kolsch) to draw including all the colour, and it was another practice test in perspective observation. Knackered, I finished up and went home to my bed, to get up early again next day.

the library years

Davis Library
This is the Mary Stephens Library in Davis, our local public library. I like it here, and am super thankful for the fact that public libraries exist. I spent so many years in the library, looking for the exit. No when I was a kid I would go to Burnt Oak Library after school and read every book I could, mostly the ones about other countries, I always wanted to travel. I never thought I would end up in America; I do remember reading all about Australia, and Germany, and Hong Kong – there was this one book about Hong Kong I used to read over and over, and to this day I still have never been. Nor Australia. I used to read a book about Australia and learn all about exotic things such as Lamingtons, Flying Doctors, Funnel Web Spiders. I loved the library. Sometimes I would go to Hendon Library, a couple of stops away on the tube, but it was much bigger and had a music section. I would check out records there, they had a lot of old BBC Sound Effects records I used to enjoy for some reason, you know the ones with “Door Creaking” or “Thunderstorm”, I remember they would check the record for scratches before giving it to you, marking each imperfection with a yellow crayon, and don’t even think about bringing it back damaged. Hendon Library. I spent so many Saturdays in there, sat in the Languages section, they had a lot of books about Languages. That’s where I did most of my reading about Languages when I was a boy of 13 or 14, amazed that there were so many in the world, I tried to learn different alphabets and was especially enthralled with the Cyrillic alphabet, this being back in the days when the Cold War was about the end and it had such a distant and exotic feel, and I loved how different languages that used Cyrillic did it in their own different way, the special letters in Serbo-Croatian (the Serbian side anyway) that the Russians didn’t have, and then all the others across what was then the Soviet Union. I devoured those language books. History too, I would read whatever I could about anywhere, especially the remote far away places; I read one book about the history of the Falkland Islands once, cover to cover. I didn’t only read about Languages and Countries and History but also a lot of fiction, especially fantasy fiction, though my favourite books were always the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, I still have my collection of them (except a couple which I lent to my nephew many years ago) but I would read many many more at the library. Sometimes I would go to Hendon Library on a Saturday after lunch and get a bunch of books at the library, and then get the bus from The Burroughs, the 183 to Harrow, reading book after book on the way, and then in Harrow I would go to the bookshop near the St.Ann’s shopping centre and read more books, mostly about Languages, before popping by the Games Workshop to buy some colourful dice, getting a bag of chips from the chippy, and getting the 114 back to Burnt Oak. Those really were the days. When I grew into adulthood I still spent ages in the Library, like Crouch End Library when I was jobless in Hornsey, or the Maughan Library when I was studying at King’s, and of course the massive Shields Library at UC Davis, the first place I ever came to spend my time when I first moved here, reading as many books about Old English as I could find on the shelves. Libraries were always my natural home, my quiet retreat, and they still are. I stand up for libraries. This one here in Davis is near my house, and I sketched it one afternoon before picking my son up from school, with grey clouds hanging in the sky. We went in afterwards, and spent some time with the books.