Let’s go back in time again to January. January was when we were nearly at war with Iran, and Australia was burning, and Trump was in the middle of his impeachment, and we thought wow, the 2020 season is starting strong, lots of big news, maybe the rest of the year will be quiet. Well here we are. When I thought ‘quiet’ I didn’t mean ‘stuck at home for months, no travel, no sports, school from home, working from the bedroom, uncertainty and unhappiness, paranoia and panic, anxiety and antagonism’ but here we are. Oh well. Above is a sketch I did of the Silo at UC Davis, scene of a million sketches of mine, place of having lunch. They were redoing the roof, it’s all done now I think. It was freezing cold that day; a few days before I had been swimming in the middle of the Pacific on Maui, so chilly Davis was a comedown. Fast forward to June, Davis is 100 degrees Fahrenheit now and I’m stuck in my bedroom.
Here are some people, sketching around the Silo in January, along with the following obligatory comment about “ooh they aren’t social distancing, we didn’t even know what that was back then, oh how the world has changed” etc: Ooh, they aren’t social distancing. We didn’t even know what that was back then! Oh how the world has changed. But this is not a drawing of a crowd, each of these people was drawn individually at different moments. I could have drawn them standing on each others’ heads but they weren’t. So don’t worry about it, it’s not a photo of Bournemouth beach or anything. That said, yes it was back in January, and while none of these people have them on, a lot of our students and faculty from China were already wearing masks, having experienced outbreaks of contagious disease before. Fast-forward to now, I like wearing my mask, personally. I can’t use it while exercising, which for me is running, but I wear it when I’m outside even walking the neighbourhood. I rarely go into shops but I wear it there. I did have to run some soccer tryout events this past week, following strict protocols on social distancing, and I had to wear it at almost all times in my capacity as a coach (I took it off to run during the warm-up – it was 100 degrees out! – and to drink my water, but kept it on while attempting to give loud but muffled instructions). The mask means I can do funny voices more, like Bane or Doctor Doom or Brian Clough. (Can you imagine Brian Clough as Doctor Doom? “Oh that FOOL Revie, oh he may have beaten Galactus but it doesn’t count because he did it by CHEATING. If superhero battles were meant to be fought in space God would have put New York city streets in the sky. Now I wouldn’t say I was the best scientific mind/super-villain/supreme god-emperor in the Marvel Universe, but I’d say I was in the Top 1.” Brian Von Doom. They both liked wearing green. I can’t imagine Cloughie wearing a mask though, but I bet Don Revie wished he did.
I drew this, the Academic Surge building next to the one where I work, during a lunchtime in later January. They really like large rectangular arches. There was a sale on at the large rectangular arch shop, and it was buy one get one free at the dark window store, so with the money they saved there they got the biggest massive cylinder they could find at Massive Cylinders R Us.
The day before I went to the gym (remember the gym?) which at UC Davis is the ARC, where I would go regularly while exercising and losing weight. Now the only only exercise I am doing is running – I set myself goals in terms of miles per month that I have been hitting, although now I have to run early in the morning or not at all, to beat this damn heat – and eating doughnuts. Technically that last thing isn’t exercising but there’s a global pandemic on, what you gonna do. But I would love to get back to the routine of going to the gym, going on that elliptical thing (where I watch Netflix Formula One shows or that amazing Dark Crystal series), doing the rowing machine, squashing all my stuff into a small locker. This is the blue Aggie fire truck. It’s not an in-use fire truck any more, but belongs to the UCD Athletics dept. I have drawn it before. They sue it in the big parades and to promote sports at UC Davis. Kids love fire trucks. My son went through the whole fire truck phase, it’s when I started drawing them loads. He loved visiting the fire station, meeting the firefighters who were always happy to meet the local kids, they even had special ‘baseball cards’ with each of the firefighters on which kids could collect. They were fun days, when you could make their day by just walking past the fire station and seeing the doors open so you could see the ladder truck and all the others. Those really were the days. I’ve a lot of respect for firefighters, especially in the past few years where fires have been such a terrible thing in California (and elsewhere), but I do really like to draw a firetruck.
Moving around campus, it was a very rainy day when I stood under a tree and tried to draw this end of Freeborn Hall, home of the legendary local radio station KDVS. I have known several people involved with KDVS over the years, it is a proper institution, and I’ve always wanted to go and sketch their record room, where they keep all their huge supplies of music, it looks amazing. However I must confess, I don’t listen to the radio. I haven’t listened to the radio in years. When I was a kid I would listen to the radio a lot, in fact when I was 10 I wanted to be a radio DJ. In 1986, a radio DJ was approximately the number 1 job in the country, right up there with The Queen or Gary Lineker. I liked Capitol Radio, and used to listen to Steve Wright, and I would record songs from the radio and then with my twin cassette player. You remember those! One of the tape decks would be just play only, the other one had play and record (hold them down together), and don’t forget to put the little tab out of the cassette so you can’t tape over it later. Come to think of it, I only had a single tape player, my mum had the double player, I used to borrow it all the time to copy-record tapes. Remember having to do that, to record a tape or make a playlist you’d be playing the whole thing, listening as you go along, a much more organic way than nowadays with your digital playlists. Look how much we have gained, but what have we lost?! Anyway I would record myself talking like I was on the radio, no idea what I would have said back then. I probably put on that radio voice too, the one where all “t” sounds become “d” sounds, my mum would listen to Capital Gold. Remember Capital Gold? This is one for Londoners. It played all the old songs from the 60s, which to me then as a kid in the 80s seemed like a million years ago. Tony Blackburn was on it, and David Hamilton. One of my favourite radio-themed things though was a board game I had, Mike Read’s Pop Quiz. It may be one of the most 1980s things you ever see. I also wanted to be a football commentator. It’s funny because I really don’t like listening to recordings of myself speak. Fast forward to 2020 (and we all remember how slow fast forward was on those old cassette players) and we have Zoom and so on, and I had to record a presentation where I gave a virtual sketch tour of Davis for new students, and I really say “um” and “er” a lot, even when I’m scripted. I have considered making YouTube videos about my Davis sketches, a tour of the town and a little sketch demo, but I can’t listen to myself talk right now. Maybe I need to do more funny voices. So, no radio DJ career for me, but that’s ok, I haven’t turned on a radio in years. I do listen to a lot of podcasts though.
Ok nearly done with January campus sketches now, this is Roessler Hall, as drawn from next to the Physics building. Always reminds me of the brilliant East German striker Uwe Roessler, who used to play for Man City back when they were heroic and rubbish, but had amazing Umbro and Kappa kits. I think that 97-99 Man City kit is one of the greatest kits of all time. They also had this player from Georgia back when foreign players were still a bit new, and Georgia was a new exotic independent country: Georgi Kinkladze. He was on the City team at the same time as Roessler, and they were exciting to watch, but ultimately terrible, getting relegated in 1996. Roessler and Kinkladze stuck around as they failed to get promoted, but eventually City came back up to the Premier League a few years after they both left, in the year 2000 (this is like talking about the 60s to a kid in the 80s, I feel like Tony Blackburn) (Wait till you hear about Blackburn Rovers!), but then went straight back down again, because City were really bad, like way worse even than Spurs were at the time. Now they have tons of oil cash and Pep Guardiola and Noel Gallagher has a secret portal to their dressing room, but I quite liked them when they were heroically shite.
And finally, a quick sketch of the Student Housing building. I drew a lot in January. Right I’m off to play Mike Read’s Pop Quiz, with my mask on.
This week has been very rainy in Davis. We have so much of the year without rain, when it finally comes it can be heavy. I had a pre-lunchtime meeting on the other side of campus, and so was stuck in the MU when a deluge came down. So I sketched Freeborn Hall, because it’s going to be knocked down anyway. Yes, I read recently that they decided to demolish rather than redevelop. They have almost finished with the plaza in front of the MU (that took forever, and I thought it was fine the first time they redeveloped it a couple of years ago), but it is interesting to have sketched this section of campus several times over the years, and to see how it has changed. Well, it’s going to change again. That rain was really bucketing down.
Last Saturday was the latest edition of the monthly Davis sketchcrawl “Let’s Draw Davis!”, back after its summer hiatus. The next one will be mid-November sometime. We had a good turn-out, and I started it off by inviting everyone to draw each other in a ‘portrait party’. Sketching sketchers is fun. I wanted them to be five-minute people sketches, quick as possible, and for the most part they were, but there was a lot of conversation. Did a LOT of talking! One person I was delighted to meet was Robert Regis Dvorak, who I had not met before and is a real art inspiration to talk to. It seemed like everybody (no exaggeration!) had been to one of his workshops over the years, he’s a really well known figure and art teacher. I should read his books sometime. He runs workshops and sketching tours all over, not just here in California but around the world. Nice guy as well. It was also a pleasure to meet and speak with Misuk Goltz (I thought she told me her name was Misuka when I was talking to her but others told me it was Misuk Goltz), she is also a well known artist. I was writing down things they told me but forgot to write that she was about to go and spend six months in Mongolia with her husband, which sounds really interesting.
We were in the study lounge of the Memorial Union, which has lots of places to sit and sketch others. I was trying to flit about and speak with different people. Above is Cindy, who I was initially sketching with her head turned to the side (hence the hair outline over the face) but changed when she changed view. Next to her is Alex, who works in video, and we talked a bit about stop motion animation. I’ve been doing some of that again lately. Maybe I’ll show you some, though it’s not showing-in-public-worthy just yet.
Above are Lynn Cohen, who I had actually met a few years ago when she bought one of my drawings at a show, she was very friendly and wore pants decorated with prints of her own sketches which was pretty cool. Then there was Dawn Pedersen, who wore a t-shirt from ‘Sketch-Con’ which is an event happening in Pasadena, I had never heard of it but it’s from Danny Gregory and Sketchbook Skool. I know a lot of the instructors in Sketchbook Skool and I’ve not met Danny in person but corresponded with him when I was in one of his books (An Illustrated Journey), so it sounds like something I’d like to go to, however I am coaching a team at a soccer tournament that weekend so can’t make it. By the way, our team which had started well lost 12-2 last week and 9-1 today, oh well. The last person I sketched there was Jay, who had a pocket full of Micron pens.
Above are AJ Tauber, who is part of the Oahu Urban Sketchers (and has been to the Davis sketchcrawls before), showing us her sketchbook at the final gathering; I sketched this one super-fast. There is also Rick Karban, an entemologist at UC Davis who had recently been in England at a sketching workshop from Roisin Cure. He was interesting to talk to, particularly from the point of view of someone who’s been in Davis a long time now and seen all the changes. And finally, below, Freeborn Hall, which I sketched while chatting to sketchers at the MU. I had to draw at least one building, but I sketch so many UCD buildings (as regular followers will probably have noticed) that there was no rush for me to sketch a few more, sketching and chatting to people was more fun. I always get that feeling though after talking to lots of people, I hope I didn’t talk too much nonsense. Especially as I was encouraging people to write down what the people they were sketching were saying. Be careful what you say, it’ll end up in the sketch!
You can see what some others sketched by visiting the Let’s Draw Davis Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/383785982124525/
Construction work continues on campus. Well, this is not so much building anything as improving the courtyard at the MU in front of Freeborn Hall. I don’t really know what needed improving as they had done it all up just last year and it was fine, but they have had this dug up for the whole summer now blocking entrance into the front of the recently refurbished MU.
This is the side of the soon-to-be-remodeled Freeborn Hall at UC Davis, with the Memorial Union building in the background. I sketched this one foggy autumnal lunchtime last week. I only wanted to add in a dash of colour, for the Fall season is in full flow here. Actually I wanted to colour in the whole thing but couldn’t be bothered, so before you applaud my effective limited use of colour, remember you are congratulating my laziness. Only kidding (kind of). With this drawing, I was really attracted to the shapes more than anything so I think it does work with just the lines and a splash of autumn. I am amazed I had never noticed this scene before, despite walking through it a million times. I had gotten off the bus one morning, listening to some music or other (I think it was Pimlico by David Devant) when it just framed itself in front of me, ready-made. Whoah, those angles, that composition, that unmistakable UC Davis look. If I hadn’t been in a hurry to get to the office I would have stopped and sketched it right then and there. The image rattled around in my head for a couple of days like an unbelievably good idea that I had to realize before someone else discovered it, or the building got demolished, until I finally found a lunchtime to cycle over and capture it. It took about a half hour to forty minutes to sketch it. I love how it turned out as well, a good example of how I like a line-only sketch to be.
This is Freeborn Hall, UC Davis. It’s a big building near the Memorial Union, and from what I understand, this will be its last year, at least in its present form. There are many on campus who will mourn its loss, so I thought I’d better add it to the roster of things I have sketched in this town. To be honest I’ve never really liked this building much, and that is partly because it’s a bugger to sketch – those trees in front normally block any decent view when they are leafy, and it’s so long and sloping that you need to do a panorama to catch it all. So I did a panorama, to catch it all. Click on the image for a larger view. This was drawn on location furiously over one extended lunchtime and colored in later on at home.
Yeah, I’ve never been a big Freeborn fan, since I went to see an Art Brut gig here about four years ago or so, late 2009 I think it was. I don’t know why Art Brut, a band I followed back in the early days in London and have seen in San Francisco, chose this particular venue as it was completely the wrong place for a band like them: a cavernous empty arena with about fifty or so fans huddled in front of the long stage for warmth. The band were excellent, playing many of my favourite tracks at full belt, but by their nature they are best in more intimate spaces with more people packed in (that said, first time I saw them was at the Tate playing alongside David Devant in a spatially weird but utterly compelling gig). Getting inside Freeborn was a hassle too, with the slightly paranoid security checking every part of every person coming in, more thorough pat-downs than I’ve had even at an airport, not even allowing things such as coins or dollar bills to remain in pockets (I was told to put my money on a table where it was blowing around in the strong wind while they searched my jacket for illicit objects). I understand they have their security, but it felt well over the top for any gig I have ever been to, especially as it was such a small crowd (put it this way, I’m pretty sure they don’t search the attendees at the Whole Earth Festival like that). Inside, there was nowhere to get a drink; not that I am looking for a full bar, like, but I couldn’t even find a vending machine for a diet Coke, just a small water-fountain. So yes, not a place I’d enjoy going to a gig again, but Art Brut of course were great that night, and the novelty of them being in Davis is still funny to me (hey by the way, Art Brut released their 10-year anniversary album last April, “Top of the Pops”, and if you download the free app that accompanies the album – search on iTunes – you will find an original comic drawn for every single song, and two of them were drawn by me! Part of Classic Rock’n’Roll history, mate.)
I’ve been to other events at Freeborn as part of work, a seminar here, an event there. Freeborn though is well known as the location of beloved Davis radio station KDVS, and you gotta love them. Hopefully I will get to go and sketch their immense record collection sometime before Freeborn is redeveloped.