compassion corner

Compassion Corner 050323 sm

This past week has been a very difficult time for our community in Davis, and this is a difficult local news event to write about here. This is the ‘Compassion Corner’, where 3rd Street meets C Street, so called because of the Compassion Bench, a colourful ceramic bench built about a decade ago at the place where David Breaux, known locally as the ‘Compassion Guy’, would stand and talk to people about compassion, empathy, understanding. He had this idea, to bring awareness about compassion to people, aksing them to write into his notebook what they felt compassion to be. I passed him many times in the street over the years; I never spoke to him myself. On the lunchtime of Thursday April 27, we all got a notification on our phones about police activity in Central Park, and to avoid the area. That was very unusual. I didn’t discover until later that evening that a man had been murdered, and it was David Breaux, found on a bench in the park. He’d been stabbed; we didn’t know when, or any of the circumstances. He was 50. The community was in shock, David was well loved.

Two days after David’s murder, on Saturday evening, our phones went off again, this time there was a ‘disturbance’ in a different park, Sycamore Park. A 20 year old UC Davis student, Karim Abou Najm, was cycling back from an undergrad awards event when he was attacked with a knife, and died at the scene. Witnesses saw the person who did it escape. The city was in shock, people were anxious about being out at night, though it wasn’t clear the cases were related. Then on Monday night our phones went off again at about 1am, another knife attack, this time a woman at a homeless camp near the train tracks; the victim, a woman named Kimberlee, survived; witnesses saw the suspect escape. The police searched everywhere, the FBI were called in, and the community was in a state of alarm at the thought of a serial killer among us. This was a very real situation, nobody knew what would happen next. In an effort to discourage people from being out after dark, UC Davis announced that classes after 6pm would be held remotely, while shops and restaurants downtown all started closing by 8pm.

I went down to the corner of 3rd and C on Wednesday to look at the tributes laid out for David Breaux at the Compassion Bench. There was a news reporter there with a camera, wanting to talk to people who knew David. I said I didn’t really want to say much, not having known him myself, but I’ll be sketching the tributes. I realized I had actually forgotten my pens, left them in my office; none of us have been really sleeping much this week, and my mind was really not 100%. So I went to the Paint Chip and bought a new pencil and pen (a Micron 05 in sepia, not my usual pen these days but still nothing like drawing with a fresh micron pen). As I sketched, people stopped for a while by the bench, some leaving tributes, others just deep in thought.

Compassion Corner 050323 smR

I was going to draw just the bench itself, but decided to draw the whole scene as a panorama. It was important to show the context, show this place in connection to the city around it, a street I have drawn so many times. The same day I was sketching this, it was announced that a person of interest had been taken into custody by police following a report of an individual matching the witness description, right down to the actual clothes worn, who was hanging around at the site of the second murder, where many tributes had been left. The next day, police announced that an arrest had been made, and that the suspect was a 21 year old male who had been expelled from UC Davis the week before, two days before the horrifying murder of David Breaux. The city and campus breathed a collective sigh of relief, but there remain feelings of sadness, exhaustion, shock. It’s difficult for me to fully understand it all. The Davis Enterprise has been doing some amazing reporting on the case, the journalist Lauren Keene always does a great job at keeping us informed: David Breaux spoke to everyone about compassion, and his message is being more widely heard now, at a testing time.

Compassion Bench Empathy

You can learn more about David Breaux’s compassion initiative here: Last Sunday a large group gathered to pay tribute in a vigil

For Karim Abou Najm, hundreds attended a service for him at UC Davis last Friday afternoon. I know faculty who knew him, and he had a bright future, taken from him. However he was a great inspiration as well. A special fund has been set up by UC Davis in his name to raise funds for Undergraduate Student Research Awards. You can learn more and donate to those here: .

now we are forty

40 Selfies part 1 sm40 Selfies part 2 sm

Hello there. What’s the meaning of this? I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks, and in the meantime I have been doing a lot of writing, a lot of sketching, a lot of making evil eyes at my failing computer, oh and a little bit of aging. I turned 40 earlier this month (that’s “forty” as they would clarify on the football vidiprinter). So to celebrate, or whatever the word is, I decided that I would draw forty 5-minute-selfies. That’s forty “five-minute-selfies” not 45 minute selfies, as in 45 selfies that are really really small. Though I would do that. Perhaps when I turn 45. Forty by the way is not the new thirty. Unless there are ten years of my life that I can’t remember, it’s definitely still forty. It’s been a good forty years. I have spent just over ten of them in Davis. A couple were spent in French-speaking countries, and three on leafy Hornsey Lane. The rest were all in Burnt Oak, on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line. So, forty. I ate duck, had a cake very much like my favourite doughnut, and even watched some Super Bowl making every single possible variation of Superb Owl / Brilliant Pigeon / Amazing Falcon joke possible. By the way, I don’t care if I repeat jokes, ever. Now I am officially forty I can do this with some enjoyment. So next year, I think before the Superb Owl I will draw a whole series of different birds with varying qualifying adjectives of superbness. This is my ambition for age 41. So, forty. I went to New York; that was a surprise, I wasn’t expecting that. I will blog about that, because there are sketches of course, though not that many because it was the coldest ever. Like, honestly record cold conditions. And still I sketched, because I’m well ‘ard innit. So, forty selfies. Because I am working on a project involving five-minute people sketches (I’m drawing five tiny sketches of people) (actually I might do that) I figured that for turning forty (did I mention that?) I would draw, well you can see. So! Various different styles, all done very quickly, usually looking in the bathroom mirror (except for the odd obvious one looking at my iPad). And they are all of varying degrees of accuracy from “not much like me” to “pretty much like me”. By the way, the wrong thing to say when looking through an artist’s sketchbook full of quick rapid self-portraits, particularly an artist who primarily draws fire-hydrants, is “that doesn’t look like you, that doesn’t look like you, that doesn’t look like you, that doesn’t look like you…”.  Cheers! But I did keep it up. Self-portraits are weird – they quite often don’t look like you, because most people don’t see you in the same way you do when you look in the mirror. they see you from those different angles you cannot see, and the few times they have the mirror-view it is even then at a different angle from the one you see. When you sketch yourself, you aren’t sketching yourself in action, smiling, chatting, eating, relaxing, but always in staring mode. It’s odd. But I kept it up. Some are single-line sketches, some are in coloured pencil, some are with watercolour wash, some are with thick marker pens. I really like #29, #5 (unlike me physically but looks like me in a weird way), #9, #40, and a few others but here’s the thing. They all count. Even #11. They’re a bit painful to look at, and a bit scary to show. But they all count. When mixed together they pretty much all make up me. I think I learnt a lot from this, a lot about self-observation, a lot about what I can keep in or keep out.

So forty. Life begins at forty. It doesn’t, it begins like way before then, but we’re here now, so cheers folks. My brother, now he turns fifty this weekend. Happy birthday Perks!