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.
Continuing in nonlinear fashion (until I pluck up the courage to write properly about my summer trip to the Low Countries), let’s stop in at De Vere’s for a pint or two. De Vere’s is my go-to pub for sketching – lots of places to sit, lots of perspective, nice atmosphere, friendly staff. I also really like Sophia’s but it’s smaller, and a bit less light to draw by (but it’s my favourite place for food in Davis). Little Prague used to be my sketchpub years ago when it was there (it closed six years ago), it had a long bar perfect for panoramas, lots of stuff all over the walls, and awesome tall Czech beers. De Vere’s however has Pub Chips, and that is a big win for me. Their Pub Chips have some thick gravy on them, and some melted cheese. Not quite as nice as proper northern Chips in Gravy, and possibly more similar to Canadian Poutine, either way they taste pretty nice. On this one Saturday night in September I found my favourite spot in the corner at the end of the bar and sketched away. I got into a nice conversation with a bloke from Ireland and his American partner. I lay the paint on very thick, and scribbled away with the pen very hard; I had fun with this sketch. This was one to attack the paper. I’ve drawn this place before, and I’ll draw it again, no need to be precious. I was celebrating; that evening I had sold another drawing at the Pence Gallery in the annual Art Auction, which is always a nice feeling. I really like drawing. Sometimes I get down on myself, start questioning if I’m good at anything, and then I remember I can draw fire hydrants pretty well, and while it’s not a useful skill, it’s a starting place. I can draw a bar too, in my own way, and it’s often fun as well.
Anyway, I drew De Vere’s again a couple of months later, when I wanted to try out sketching with the iPad. It was a quicker sketch (one beer, late afternoon, on the Nov 11 Veterans Day holiday), while I played with the new Apple Pencil. A good learning experience, also enjoyed alongside those lovely Pub Chips. Now one of the nice things about Procreate is that you can create nice videos showing every stroke you made, very helpful in showing how you put the sketch together. Here it is…
Previously, I had to show this by just taking photos of my sketchbook when I remember to. For that first sketch, I actually did, and even tweeted out the progress. Here are the photos, which helpfully show the beers too, which I’m sure you will agree is helpful to know. No sign of the Pub Chips though. Everything stops for those. Prost!
Last Sunday – St.Patrick’s Day – was the day of our most recent “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl. It was a shortish sketchcrawl, three hours downtown, ending up with a get-together to look at each other’s sketches. This time I included a ‘scavenger hunt’, which was optional, but I gave it a go. It was Ireland-themed, nine things, specific (“an animal sculpture”) or vague (“snakes!”). The weather was lovely, warm and sunny, and lots of people were out. I drew a group of cyclists (a couple of whom I chatted with), focusing on the one of course wearing green.
The animal sculpture was easy, as right there on First Street are two enormous animals, a giant dog made of records and a cat gateway thing, outside the Natsoulas Gallery. It’s not a specifically Irish thing, sculpting animals, but not all the list had to be. The dog is called “Roy” and is a tribute to the artist Roy De Forest, by John Natsoulas and others. Becuase I wanted to show some of the detail, the various coloured vinyl records that make it up, I sketched up close, covering the ‘something musical’ point. I used to have some coloured vinyl records, when I was a kid I would sometimes buy them because I liked the colour, not because the music was any good, and I’m guessing those who donated these probably felt the same. Speaking of not-good music, that awful violin player was downtown again, his screeching echoing down E street. I wasn’t drawing him, no way. Sketching the records was a little bit of a challenge as I don’t like drawing circles (it’s why I hate drawing bikes), but also the sun was beating down, so I added the colour once I got into some shade.
Below is fellow Davis sketcher Alison, who has been sketching Davis much longer than me and who I knew from the very earliest sketchcrawls. She found a great display of Irish books in the window of Logos Books on 2nd Street, so I sketched her sketching those (the bookshop was my ‘something to do with literature or poetry’), and then I drew one of the books myself, a children’s Irish legend book about St. Brigid’s Cloak. I don’t know enough of the Irish legends myself, despite my Irish family I never learned any of that stuff as a kid (my mum just played Wolfe Tones, Brendan Shine and Daniel O’Donnell a lot), in fact it was my son who told me the story of the Red Hand of Ulster back when he was a preschooler (gory storytime!), though I did like reading about the Fomorians and the Tuatha De Danann, Balor and the Evil Eye, that stuff. And I loved hearing the story of the Rock of Cashel and Devil’s Bit Mountain when I went there as a kid (Cashel is full of Scully gravestones actually, that always excited me). And I know about St. Patrick of course. There’s a whole wealth of story and mythology I need to read about.
“A green object in the street” for me was a street sign. It could have been anything, a tree, a bin, a bike, a bush. I also asked for something more than a hundred years old, and that required a bit of Davis knowledge. I said not to draw my jokes which are all about a hundred years old (including that one). I drew part of the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer mansion, which dates from the 1870s.
Now ‘snakes’ was always going to be interpretative, as I don’t expect to see a lot of snakes slithering around. We do of course have snakes in Davis but they like to hide, and don’t often go downtown, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, for obvious reasons. I knew there was a green metal snake sculpture behind the Pence, however it is no longer there, so I ended up drawing some metal pipes, and calling it “snakes”, and there you go.
And the last one “DRINK!” is a reference to Father Jack’s favourite word. I had about twenty minutes before the end, so I popped into De Vere’s Irish pub (which was packed), remarkably found a seat at the bar with a great view of the Guinness toucan that had been perched up above the taps. I drew that and had a (quite marked-up) pint of Smithwicks in a plastic glass. I don’t really like drinking Guinness much myself, it’s alright but not really my tipple. And then it was time for the final meet-up with the rest of the group. we had a very good crowd this time around, and I can’t wait for the next one in April! We’ll announce when exactly that is very soon. I have some soccer game rearrangements that are still being figured out, but I’m really in sketching mode this year – I’m already months ahead of my 2018 sketch-count.
I never learned much Irish, except a few choice phrases, so the blog title today is a little bit of Google Translate finagling. I quite like bad translation though, there’s a certain comedic innocence to it. We used to play on that in our multi-lingual theatrical performances back at university. I did have a book when I was a teenager, ‘Teach Yourself Irish’, but it was a ridiculously dry edition and put the language out of reach. I could see how it connected to other European languages, but the orthography-to-pronunciation difference was too great for me to hear it in my head, so I just learned a few words and phrases, mostly ones other people had taught me (so I could say them). None of my family ever knew any Irish phrases other than Erin Go Bragh, Cead Mile Failte and Pogue Mahone, the last one being spelled the way the band did, not the spelling I was taught later by Irish people. None of the Irish people I knew as a kid (who were pretty much my nan’s generation) spoke any Irish words, so even as the historic language of my ancestors I never felt much of a connection to it. If they learned it, it was something they might have had to do at school decades before and forgot instantly, same as I remember very little about Chemistry class except a dislike of Bunsen Burners. I do remember when I was about 12 though being somewhere in rural Kerry, and suddenly everything was in Gaelic, the radio stations, the street signs, actually that was it, the only other things around were sheep and fog. It wasn’t until I was much older that I met someone who spoke it natively, as in at home, and whenever she used it to with us it was usually in song and not to be translated (she was clear about that). So, with the Irish language, it’s another thing that I might get around to learning a bit of now we live in the YouTube era, but might not be that high on the priority list living out in California. Anyway I hope all my Irish friends had a fun St. Patrick’s Day! I certainly did.
Hey, if you want to see other people’s sketches from the day (or post your own from the sketchcrawl, if you came along) you can go to the Let’s Draw Davis group page on the dreaded Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/383785982124525/
To find out when future sketchcrawls will be, our main FB page will show those: https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis/
It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.
After I got back from Portugal, I had a hectic week (few weeks really) trying to settle back in. Busy work, busy life, jet lag, waking up at 3am every day, and the insatiable urge to just KEEP ON SKETCHING. It’s hard to explain the urge to draw stuff all the time. It’s probably less hard to explain coming back from a place like Porto where everything is a sketch waiting to happen, to Davis, which as we have seen over the past decade or so is worthy of a few sketches itself, but Porto it ain’t. You can only beat the team you’re playing, as they say, and since coming back I have ramped up my sketching of Davis once more after a relatively uninspired and fallow period. I’ve sketched almost everything I’ve wanted to sketch, so it comes down to sketching some of the old favourites just to keep the pen working, so one evening I popped once more to my local pub De Vere’s, always a nice place to hang out, and flexed the old ink muscles. This sort of drawing is about observing lots of detail, tackling interior perspective, and having a nice cold beer while you’re at it (the weather was so hot this summer). What’s more, I drew the pub from the outside a few days before: see below.
Now, I have a few more London sketches (and accompanying stories) to post, and then a bunch of new Davis panoramas I’ve been doing, but in the meantime I think I’m going to go out on this fine Saturday and do some more. I also need to get on setting the dates for the next few Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawls so stay tuned for those. My recent sketching travels has filled me with a new sketching-energy I want to share.
I needed to draw something in black and white for submission to an upcoming group show, and so I decided to draw something familiarly Davis. And then I abandoned my sketch of the Hunt-Boyer-Dresbach Mansion (always struggle with that one) and popped into De Vere’s Irish Pub on a President’s Day afternoon (back when we had a president I really liked) and sketched that familiar view instead. I finished off all the hatching and shading at home (just the one quick pint for me). there was Africa Cup of Nations football on the TV. Outside it was sunny, a break from the series of big winter storms we’ve been getting. I haven’t sketched in just black and white for a while (even the ones I draw in pen only are usually, well, very very very dark brown) and it was tempting to add just a tiny little bit of colour, maybe just a little bit of red on the Exit sign or a couple of green bottles, but I stuck to the straight monochrome. The show it’ll be in, “Black and White”, is at the Pence Gallery on D Street, Davis, for the whole of next month with a reception for the ArtAbout on Friday February 10th. This pub is a good place to hang out. I think I’ll go back again sometime.
And here once more, De Vere’s Irish Pub in Davis. This was sketched after the party at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. I was so full of electric artistic energy that I just had to come to the pub and sketch away, and I wanted to use colour differently again, this time adding purple and yellow washes to a dark blue pen. Oh plus a white gel pen. I enjoyed sketching this a lot, and had some fun conversations with people, many of whom had also been at the museum that evening. By the way, totally unrelated, but have you seen Rogue One yet? Totally awesome huh.
Actually, before we get back to Manchester, here is a sketch I did last weekend right here in Davis. Click on it for a closer view. This is De Vere’s Irish Pub on E Street, which eagle eyed observers will have noticed I have sketched before. I did some thinking about the old curvilinear perspective recently, and how I need to really get it into the sketches more. I do anyway, of course, but I haven’t been doing many where I get both the left and right vanishing point into the picture, so that’s what I did here. I needed to practice it again somewhere familiar, so it was back to the very middle of the bar, similar to the first time, back in 2011. I coloured the page first in a red and orange wash, for some reason, meaning I ended up with a peach coloured background. This took about two and a half hours, or three pints of Smithwicks. It was strange not to be sketching at a bar where every single other person was also sketching (like the Peveril of the Peak!). I had just been to see Suicide Squad, which was, well it was better than Batman v Superman, for sure. A terrible plotline with a lot of problems, but overall not an unwatchable movie, and both Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn were good. Jay Leno as the Joker was very different from the other Jokers, not awful but the jury is out for many, though I am well impressed at how different Jay Leno looks from his cuddly talk show persona. I do like the post-movie pub-sketch, with all the sketching ideas bubbling around my head from Manchester sometimes you just need to unwind and get them out. The first few days back my sketching was a bit of a choke but with this and others since I have kicked back into gear, and now I’m heading towards my sketchbook show at UC Davis this Fall, “Conversations with the City”. Details to come soon!
“Sudwerk Choco-Taco” is an actual beer that I actually had. It’s quite dark, darker than I usually like, but it was really nice, I would have it again. I like trying the different craft beers that we have out here, and in fact I’ve started recording the ones I have tried by using that ‘Untappd’ app on my iPod. Admittedly there are times when it can be hard to remember, so I make a point of writing them down, or in this case, drawing a picture of it. And of course, why draw the glass when you can draw the rest of the bar as well? This is another bar sketch of De Vere’s (I do one from time to time, last time was January 2015). I’ve been very busy lately, and so one Saturday night I went and watched Deadpool. By the way, Deadpool is awesome. Don’t take your kids!!!! It will make you laugh. After watching Deadpool, I popped by the Avid Reader to buy Star Wars Top Trumps cards, and then into De Vere’s to read Deadpool comics and do some bar-sketching. The bar-sketching thing sometimes comes down to me needing to sit somewhere and draw a complicated but structured scene. I used a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (“say my name!” I hear this pen yelling to me, “say my whole name!”) and also a light grey Tombow marker to mix it up a bit. There’s also some Pigma Graphic pen in there for the thick lines. I had a couple of other beers, a Smithwicks red, which was very nice, and the Aggie Dry Hop lager by Sudwerk, which is alright.
I was also celebrating, from 5000 miles away, my older brother’s birthday; he turned 50 on that day. This is a year for milestone birthdays. Wish I could have been there celebrating with him – happy birthday Perks!
I have some more bar sketches yet to post, ones from New York City. In the meantime if you’d like to see some more, this Flickr set “Pubs, Cafes etc” has loads of mine, from pubs around the world.
On the last day of January (this is how long it’s taking me to find a few minutes to scan sketches in these days…) I decided I needed to add to my bar panorama sketch series, and went down to De Vere’s Irish Pub in downtown Davis to practice from a different angle. I sat in that corner at the end of the bar, nicely tucked out of the way, and sketched the evening away. Andy Murray was on the TV above me, losing in the Australian Open final, and the place was pretty busy. I started on the left with the close angle of behind the bar itself, making sure I sketched the ‘Late Night Eats’ menu before it got moved. It’s good to have something like that if you are sketching a bar, as it places you in both time and space. There’s a little tip. For the budding bar-sketcher, here are some in-progress photos; I used a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 pen size 0.38 (the best), in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook (not the best, but not bad).
Next I sketched the bar itself. I used a few pencil lines to try and figure out the perspective lines, but it’s not scientifically exact, more of an ‘as good as’. The thing about perspective is that your direct moves about a lot and so you usually have several perspectives going at once. I added a couple of the barstaff; whenever I sketch bars I often leave them out because, to be fair, they move around a lot. It helps to include them however, to break up the repetition of a long stretch. Plus it’s always good when sketching people working to show them hard at work. I sketched the behind-bar are and the taps next, and those little black straw things that appear in almost every bar sketch in the history of the world, for some reason. You can see how the bar angles towards me at the far right corner, but I didn’t have room to show my part of the bar.
And here’s the finished sketch. By this point I had had about four pints ($3 pints of Sudwerk Dry Hop Lager if you must know), and had included the throngs of people at the bar. People are generally generic, but look kinda like the real people that were there. There was a man wearing one of those triangular/conical hats, looking as though he worked in a paddy field (no jokes about paddy fields and Irish pubs please), so I drew him twice. Although I left drawing the people to last, this actually opens up into being the focus of the bar, with the elongated triangular space in which they are positioned becoming wider and more interesting as the eye is drawn rightwards. There, see if you can talk about panoramic composition after four pints of beer. To be fair if someone had asked me (and I think they may have done) my answers would have been nonsense; to be fair, they are nonsense even before four pints of beer. I’m happy with the results though, and I decided not to add paint, so you can feel it in all its hastily scratched-in glory. De Vere’s is a good pub to draw panoramas of. Cheers!