Happy Christmas to you all. This is the E Street Plaza in Davis California, decked out with the big tree. This came after a long period of not-sketching. I did this after work, after our office closed for the holidays; I just really wanted to capture a bit of Christmas, and followed this up by the evening sketch at De Vere’s. And now it’s Christmas Eve. Well, it just turned Christmas Day (better get to bed, the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t going to haunt itself). I’ve spent today scoffing cheese, mince pies, turkey, hot chocolate, a couple of beers, pumpkin pie, and the second-worst level of Quality Streets (the strawberry / orange cremes, not the rock-hard toffee ones; it wasn’t a big box, in fact it only had two purple ones and one green triangle, but four toffee pennies? Inequality Street more like.) And of course, watching Christmas movies. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourites, though actually most of it doesn’t take place at Christmas, and in the end they sing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve, bizarrely. Abother one I always watch is Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is probably the best version of that story that exists (the other one I love is the 1970 Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which I feel the Muppets drew from quite heavily. That Ghost of Christmas Future gave me nightmares for years!). One of the reasons I love the Muppet’s version is that Michael Caine plays it so straight, so believably, among all the Muppets, he doesn’t just pretend it’s all a larf. Home Alone is another classic Christmas film we love, my son adores it, so I like it a lot now as well. I have a soft spot for Love Actually as well, silly though it is. It reminds me of London in 2003, and seeing the occasional shots of the skyline, when not even the Gherkin was finished, it makes me very nostalgic for that period right before we moved to America; that was the London I left, the London of Hugh Grant being a bachelor Prime Minister telling American President Billy Bob Thornton to go and do one. We always watch some classic Christmas telly as well: The Snowman, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and the Christmas edition of Father Ted (“and now we move on to liars…”). Of course in proper British Christmas TV someone always dies, at least in Eastenders and Downton Abbey anyway. Now it’s also the time of year when people include Die Hard as one of their favourite Christmas movies, because those people are really clever and perceptive and are the first people to figure out Die Hard was set during Christmas; well done you, here is a prize. One thing that is different over here in California is that we don’t get the special Christmas edition of Radio Times (and/or TV Times), when all the TV listings would be set out like great, epic events. Die Hard With A Vengeance is on at 11pm on ITV two days before Christmas? Set the video timer! Get home early from the pub! And the Queen’s Speech, oh I always loved the Queen’s Speech, though I don’t remember ever actually watching it, as we usually had Christmas dinner at that time and it was the one time of the day when the TV was off (the one time of the year in fact, our TV was always on). I like the idea of the Queen’s Speech but the only thing I remember was the Annus Horribilis bit. And that was because I thought it meant Horrible Bum. And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Bum!
The next series of panoramas I did in the first part of August, when the sky was dull and dire and the air was a soupy paste, were outside campus in downtown Davis. The one above includes that white house on First Street, the Dutch-gabled building I have sketched before (I even sold a drawing of this house at the Pence Gallery once).
Above, E Street, looking out at the heavily treed E Street Plaza, with Baskin Robbins on the left. This is a small pedestrianized part of the plaza, with a clock fountain, and a small area at the back where bands will sometimes play (such as the Wealth of Nations, a local band I have sketched there before). It is also popular with homeless people. The rest of it is a parking lot. I have heard there are proposals to do something with E Street Plaza, just early proposals, whereby the whole Plaza would be pedestrianized and become a new town square for Davis, which is something I would definitely support (if we can find alternative parking solutions downtown for those who drive, such as a new parking garage, who knows where though). I think E St Plaza does need a facelift.
And finally, Bistro 33 on Third Street. Third Street itself has seen many changes over the past few years and further along it is undergoing even more, as it becomes a new interesting corridor for Davis between downtown and campus. This building though is part of the old building that was City Hall, as well as the police station and also a firehouse, as you can imagine with those big arched doorways. It’s a restaurant now. I stood outside on a Saturday afternoon and sketched in the heat until I was very tired, and then finished off the paint in the nearby Three Mile Brewing with a cold beer. The sky was a bit bluer this day, as the wind was blowing the smoke in a different direction.
Finally, this one was drawn on 5th Street, the view of Newman Chapel, I have drawn this view several times before. The air was a bad on this day too. So, lots of panoramas this August! I’ve stopped now. Actually there’s one more interior panorama to come.
Another panorama, this one is of E Street in Davis, stood in the shade outside Peet’s Coffee next to Chipotle. Pete doesn’t drink coffee. This was a fun one for perspective. Nothing too complicated, all heading into a single vanishing point at eye level, but made interesting by that Chipotle design going off at a different angle. Yeah some of the brickwork goes askew but that is ok. Again I have used the tree as the middle of the page, to help mask the valley you get in between two pages in these Seawhite of Brighton books, something I don’t get as much in the Moleskines and the Stillman & Birns. Actually in this spread it does open very flat, it’s one of those pages, but nonetheless in these spreads it’s good to have a tree or a pole in the middle so you can fudge it a bit if need be. I didn’t include any people walking by, because I didn’t want to. I have drawn along this street for years, from various angles, never this angle. One time I was drawing, some weird guy said to me “are you pretending to be an artist?” I said “are you pretending to be funny?” He went away. I saw him a couple of weeks later in Newsbeat, and he spoke to me again, “wow Snickers, that is a great thing to buy, you will really enjoy eating that, Snickers, those are great, good choice!” I ignored him, because seriously. Downtown Davis, man. I’ve been in Davis almost thirteen years. This Chipotle was here when I first came, it was one of the first places I ate, I still get the same thing whenever I go, a chicken fajita burrito, no beans, mild salsa and corn, light on cheese. I am a creature of habits. Beyond that, the comics shop Bizarro World (formerly on 5th Street), which is in the former location of Bogey’s Books when I first joined this town, I bought a set of Prisoner Cell Block H dvds there in like 2006 and the guy behind the counter said, “do you miss Australia?” assuming me to be from down under (for many Americans the London accent is easy to confuse with Australian, I’m used to it). I used to love Prisoner though, it was one of my favourite TV shows, old Lizzie Birdsworth and co. Beyond there is De Vere’s Irish pub, which regular listeners will recall is a pub I have sketched many times since it opened in 2011. Really good place for a pint. Across the street (unseen) is Baskin Robbins, from whom I have bought many a massive milkshake over the years. That’s what I get when I need cheering up. Anyway, on with the rest of the weekend.
Last Saturday was the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, when hundreds of sketchers around the world embarked on sketchathons in their cities and towns. It was time for another ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl – it had been a year since I organized the last one – and about seven of us met down at David Commons and sketched about town all day, before meeting up again at the E St Plaza. My first sketch was of the Boy Scout Hut, above, which sits across Richards Boulevard on First St, with the ‘art garage’ in the background there. (It’s called the ‘art garage’ because there’s a load of recently commissioned murals and art in there now by local artists; not me though, my drawings are a little too small!). The Boy Scout Hut is no longer used by the scouts, but is now part of the John Natsoulas Gallery.
I have sketched this stretch of E St before (above; click on the image for a larger view), but wanted to add this stretch of Davis to my collection of two-page full-colour panoramic spreads. Orange Court is an interesting little spot, which includes such local favourite spots as the Hotdogger, Haute Again, the Dumpling House (they still have the London Fish & Chips sign but I don’t know if they still do it; only ever ate there once, back in 2005 or 2006, it was ok but London fish & chips it wasn’t), and of course Sophia’s Thai Kitchen & Bar, whose curries are my total favourite in this town. Further down the street to the right is the Thai Canteen, who also do really nice food, quite different from Sophia’s, I especially like their green curry rice. Further down the road still are Sugar Daddies (they may be called something else now actually but it still says that in the window) who do amazing cupcakes and I love their Nutella Milkshake. Did I just say “Nutella Milkshake”? Yes I did, yes I did. Come to Davis.
The last sketch of the day (because the panorama took two hours, and I only did about two thirds the colour, finishing off the rest afterwards), was this quick sketch of the colourful front of Yeti Restaurant. I left it in black and white, partly because I used a pen which I knew would run with a wash (the previous sketches were in brown uni-ball signo um-151; this was in the black). I’ve never eaten there, but it’s in a good location on the E Street Plaza. The remaining sketchers from the day met up near here to look at each other’s sketchbooks, and that was nice to see how everyone had interpreted the town. It’s taken me a week to post (what a week it’s been, this depressingly busy October can’t end soon enough), but I’ll be putting them on the Sketchcrawl Forum shortly too. Why not check out the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum, and see what everyone else in the world has been sketching? There’s a lot of great urban sketching out there!
By the way, here is the map I drew to give to all participants:
And we had stickers too…
On Sunday, about seventeen sketchers of Davis (and surrounding areas) got together again for another urban sketch crawl, this time downtown at the E St Plaza. I must admit I didn’t do quite so much ‘crawling’ this time, and spent most of the day in the same spot, sketching people in the morning (see below) and spending over a couple of hours in the afternoon stood up drawing the above panorama, a two-page spread in my Moleskine. You can see a larger version on my Flickr site, and below is a detail. This was drawn in uni-ball signo um-151 pen.
I wanted to sketch the sketchers, needing to practise some people drawing. Amazingly I was able to get a quick sketch of my four-year-old son, when he stood still for a few minutes to draw a rocketship (mostly it was all about the sprinting about). On the right is Syd, another of the sketchers.
And here are two more sketchers, Emily and Scott.
Next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be in November, date to be announced soon…
Memorial Day. Got out on the bicycle tonight after a trying day, and rode about enjoying the evening warmth. Stopped for a cold beer in downtown Davis, where I sat outside and drew the scene opposite me. And actually included cars! This is important. A couple of years ago I sat in this very spot and drew this very same scene, and purposely left a big space where the carwas, because I don’t really like drawing cars (unless it’s a really cool car, and that is the main thing I’m drawing). And then I went and spilled my little water jar all over my sketchbook. You’ve never seen my hand move so fast. Thankfully nothing was damaged – all is well. Thankfully I live in a dry part of the planet and so didn’t have soggy book syndrome.
Anyway the previous drawing is below. Note how there’s a big tree whose trunk begins bottom right. That tree is sadly gone now. It was enormous, but they chopped it down because it was threatening to fall over and crush you puny humans.