whiskey in the jar-jar

little prague, davis (envelope from peking university)

Last night, I partied like it was 1999. That is to say, I went to see the Phantom Menace. In 3D. I know I always say that 3D is shite, and that Phantom Menace is, largely, also shite, but I couldn’t wait – this would be awesome man! Well, the chance to see Star Wars, any Star Wars, on the big screen again couldn’t be passed up. Phantom Menace has its faults (I am looking squarely at you, Jar-Jar Binks – time has not made it easier to forgive the Gungan for his hapless existence) but in many places it is quite great – Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon is someone everyone would want to know, a favourite uncle, Obi-Wan’s lightsabre skills are still world class, and I think Jake Lloyd was superb as young Anakin. They made some improvements, fixing Yoda from that terrible puppet to a digital one that more closely resembles the original puppet, and switching all of Amidala’s lines with ones that made sense (actually they didn’t do that, sadly).  I was reminded of how excited everyone was when the trailer first aired,  when double-bladed lightsabre wielding face-painting experiment Darth Maul told us he would be revealed to the Jedi. But was it 3D? Nope.

It’s hard to just switch a regular movie into a 3D movie, I guess. I remember seeing Jaws 3D at the pictures when I was a kid and jumping out of my seat when a harpoon flew out of the screen – now that was 3D (actually, Edgware cinema it may have been a real harpoon, looking back). There were trailers for new 3D movies last night which did look quite spectacular, but they were made with 3D in mind. Phantom Menace just wasn’t. Not even the podraces, exciting though they were, particularly flew out of screen. The most 3D bit, seriously, was when Watto was speaking Huttese and the subtitles came up. I was like, “oooh floating letters!” After a while, the 3D glasses (“3D – Real D” it says, whatever the heck that is supposed to be) were bugging me. I expected those light cardboard ones you used to get, red on one side, blue on the other, but these were proper plastic sunglasses. They’re great, if you don’t already have glasses on. They fit over your glasses, but wearing two sets of specs is a real pain on the nose.

Still, after Darth Maul went to pieces, after Qui-Gon Jinn was set on fire and after the Gungans paraded their vuvuzelas in the streets of Naboo  (with Palpatine looking on saying to himself, seriously what part of “wipe them out” did they not understand??), it was fun to come out of the movie theatre feeling like I had relived the olden days. I then fancied a beer and a sketch. One other thing I did in 1999 was spend a couple of weeks in Prague, so I went to local pub Little Prague for some Czech beer. I’ve drawn this place several times before, and this time I drew on a brown envelope (from Peking University), using a uniball vision micro, a superb Y&G Calligraphy pen, and a white gel pen. Oh and a bit of warm grey Pitt brush pen. Took me about an hour and a half, while people milled about dancing and drinking. I like Little Prague, but the music on Friday nights can be a bit loud and, well, not my thing. Lots of others seemed to enjoy it though, but I concentrated on drawing all those bottles. I considered extending the envelope to draw the rest of the bar (I would love to do a curving panoramic of this bar sometime, perhaps on a less busy evening). I would like some time to organize a Drink and Draw type group here in Davis, something that seems to be popular in other cities. In the meantime, here’s wondering how the other Star Wars films will look in 3D. I think I can guess!


and the seasons they go round and round

south silo on a chinese envelope

Here is another familiar scene, but drawn in a different way, at lunchtime today. My recycling bin is always bursting at the seams at this time of year, so I like to recycle the nicer brown envelopes for some sketching. I used a different pen, a black Y&C Calligraphy pen from Japan (well, from the University Art store in Sacramento), which was really fun to draw with. I have drawn this same view, of the south Silo from the steps of Bainer Hall, every six months since mid-2007, once in Winter, once in Summer, once with leaves and once without. One way to capture the changing Davis seasons. Here are the others…

view from bainer uc davissouth silo uc davisthe view from bainer, againbikebarn from bainer (yet again)bike barn from bainerlunchtime sketch by the hog barnrainy rainy daysmoky and the bikebarnno leaves for youuc davis trees encore

say hello to my little friends

hydrant by eversonhydrant on 2nd & Univ

I’ve been drawing fire hydrants this week, ones I have not drawn before. The taller yellow one below was drawn at the end of last week’s sketchcrawl; the stumpy yellow one above is on the corner of 2nd and University. The other two are drawn on brown envelopes – I work with graduate applications, and recieve mail, transcripts, from all over the world (well, mostly China). I like to recycle the envelopes from time to time for some drawing, and well it’s that time of year. The one above was drawn on an envelope from Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China, and is a hydrant from the UC Davis campus (they are white and blue). The one below is drawn on an envelope from Sri Lanka, and is found in the parking lot of Davis Commons. There are still one or two styles of hydrant in Davis that I’ve not yet drawn, I’m sure!

sketchcrawl 34 hydrantanother davis hydrant


taco truck in the missionWe went to the Mission district of San Francisco. For those who don’t know, the Mission is historically a large Mexican and Central American area of theharrison & 25th city, full of colourful houses and even more colourful murals. It is one of the oldest parts of thSan Francisco, one with a slightly sketchy reputation, but which is becoming increasingly gentrified and artist-oriented, especially on its western fringes. It’s also where the world famous burrito was invented. I was eager to find a good taco truck, and there was one down at Garfield Square, on the corner of 25th and Harrison, and we both sat and drew it;  ‘Goza Goza Goza’ it was called; no relation to Gozer the Gozerian. That’s my friend Simon above, sketched by me on some airmail envelope paper I had in my bag. I badly wanted to show my guest from England a real Mission burrito. I think he was impressed. I think he was more impressed by the fact 24th street, outside philz coffeethe spanish-speaking taco truck guy called him ‘Ese’ (a reference that went over my head, but don’t tell him).  I think he was possibly most impressed by Philz Coffee on 24th; he was in there for a good long while, while they carefully constructed his perfect coffee, so I grabbed a sketch while waiting outside. I don’t drink coffee, as I have mentioned in these pages before, so the whole coffee seeking experience is lost on me. Give me a mission burrito and a pint of Anchor Steam any day! That day, in fact; we had much of it that evening. I love San Francisco.


mail on friday

my desk on an airmail envelope

Another rainy lunchtime, another envelope sketch, this time of my busy busy desk. I had been outside in the rain to find food, so only had fifteen minutes or so to get a drawing in. These are some big big storms California is getting.

long to rain over us

rainy rainy

The massive rainstorms this week have confined me to the inside world. I feel like a hermit. But you’re from London, they protest, you must be used to the rain. Yeah, it got me just as wet there too. So anyway, I’m still using bits of cut up enelopes to make my drawing look a little different. I had a few minutes over lunch to draw out of rain-soaked window, in poor visibility, in brown micron on an envelope that came from London, funny enough.

lunchtime bells

lunchtime bells

My envelope-filled recycling bin overfloweth; I know how Jimmy Saville must feel now. Well not quite. Anyway the drawing continues, this manila envelope piece, cut out and glued into the moleskine, had three bells on it (pull the other one), the so-called US ‘forever stamps’ (in England they’re all called that, ‘cos it takes forever for your letters to get there). This is of course the Silo at UC Davis, today at lunchtime. It is still gloomy and damp here in California.