a whisker away

1st and E Davis

I popped downtown for lunch one Friday, and it was sunny, and people were out and about, and I decided to stand on the corner of 1st and E Streets and draw the outside if the John Natsoulas Center for the Arts, where they have the big cat over the doorway, and the big colourful dog made out of vinyl records. There was some sort of art event going on, people were coming and going in groups. I remember when they were building the big cat, as I was drawing a panorama of 1st St at the time, about five years ago or so. You’ve gotta love a big cat. It’s called the Cat Patio, by ‘The Mosaic Boys’ according to the Natsoulas website which calls it the ‘largest mosaic in northern California’. By a whisker, I suppose.

I’ve always been fascinated by the dog with all the vinyl records on it though. Young me would have probably been horrified at the waste of coloured vinyl which to me was the height of rarity, like picture discs or 12″ singles, until I discovered they aren’t that rare at all. I remember once actually going to Loppylugs Records in Edgware as a teenager getting into music and buying a red vinyl single from some band thinking wow, you don’t see many of these, if this band’s any good this will be a great addition to my Record Collection. Record Collection, hah. I gave up on an actual Record Collection at a young age. It seemed so important once didn’t it, to have a Record Collection, but in the end it turned out to be a bit pointless. I did enjoy going from second hand store to car boot sale looking for old original press Beatles records though, when I was 13, and I still have those along with the ones that my uncle Billy gave me. Those few important ones I got as a teenager, those were all I really needed. Anyway I got this one red vinyl single, by some duo with long hair whose name I can’t remember, and well, it was total pants. Utter pony. I was embarrassed even listening to it. I couldn’t even look at the photo of the duo on the back sleeve. The best thing to do with this red vinyl would have been to add it to another pile of shite coloured vinyl records and turn it into a massive sculpture of a dog that lights up at night, and evidently that’s what’s happened here. I have no doubt that the records on that dog were just as unlistenable as that one I got, so bad the only thing you can do is turn them into art. I really like the big colourful dog, even though you can only see a bit of it.

at the 2018 pence art auction

pence art auction 2018
This year I had two pieces in the Pence Gallery Art Auction, a drawing of St.James Church, Davis, and another of the Turtle House on 2nd St. They didn’t sell this time, but I did get to attend the Gala event. They always have nice food and drink there, and you get to talk to local art people you may or may not have met before, so I went along for  an hour and a half and looked at all the nice artwork, and then did a sketch. It had been a busy day. In the morning our under-12 AYSO team, playing with fewer players than our opponents (who were a really good team), came from behind three times to win, which was exciting and especially nice after I had woken up at 4:30am to watch Tottenham lose to Liverpool. Then I spent the afternoon watching other AYSO games, scouting teams and watching players I used to coach, before we headed to Sacramento for a party thrown by my father-in-law. After that I went to the Pence (see above) and then back home for some rest. I was totally exhausted by this point.

constructing the manetti shrem, part eight

Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, UC Davis

Now look at this. Another UC Davis construction project I have been following since last year, now almost finished. The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art formally opens on November 13, but look! It’s got a much more finished look about it than before, with that landscaping around it. You will recall that the last time I sketched it was actually from the inside – it was almost finished, the first day in fact that wearing a hard hat was not required. It won’t be long before this place is filled with art, and then with visitors. UC Davis really needs this space, and the Vanderhoef Quad is squared off nicely. I drew this while standing in the shade of the huge Mondavi Center across the street.

Check out my other sketches made during this construction by going to the tag manetti-shrem-museum… Bound to be one more post by the time it opens?

constructing the manetti shrem, part seven

Manetti Shrem Interior
I last posted construction pictures of the forthcoming Manetti Shrem museum of Art on the UC Davis campus back in April. A lot has been done since then – the canopy is now finished, the landscaping is ongoing, and (something I’d not thought much about) the interior is already pretty much complete! So, I was invited along for a special viewing of the inside (many thanks to Prof. Tim McNeil of the Design Dept for the opportunity!), and it was one of the first days that hard hats were not required inside, meaning I didn’t get my photo-op of sketching in hard-hat and fluorescent jacket (I only wanted that for the urban sketching street cred), but I got the full inside experience of how a brand-new museum is designed and completed. Every corner of it was so modern and cool, and the most amazing aspects were the sudden views outside, looking at how this building interacts with its environment but from an interior perspective. This really is going to be the most spectacular new building on campus, not simply functional but enlightening too, I think. After having a good look around at the future gallery spaces and imagining what artwork will grace its walls (I know that Wayne Thiebald made a big donation of art recently), I was able to do some art myself, sketching the above view of the main entrance area looking out toward the Mondavi Centre.

A few days later I came back to sketch outside at lunchtime, and rather than the wide-angle view I focused in on the same entrance area, but from the street looking in. You can see how it is all coming together now. Opens in November…
Manetti Shrem Museum of Art (under construction)

Here are the previous posts documenting the construction in my sketchbook…


if there was a sequel would you love me as an equal

1st street Davis
On the second day of the Long Weekend, in the morning while my son went to a birthday party, I cycled downtown for some pre-lunchtime sketching. Another panoramic two-page spread, as you do. I decided to return to First Street, which is a block away from the similarly named Second Street (I know, makes no sense). Here, outside the Natsoulas Gallery, a huge cat is being erected, covered in mosaic tiles, next to the already installed colourful dog on the corner. While sketching, a guy working on the structure came over and chatted with me about art (he draws stuff as well) (hello by the way if you’re reading this). This is turning into a most colourful corner. On the other page, the fraternity house of Theta Xi (no, sorry, no jokes about taxis today). This is a bit like a sequel (or a prequel, technically, being First Street) to the sketch from the day before. I should do a panorama of Third Street to keep it up, like. Maybe I will wait 30 years and then sell my sketchbook for billions to Disney and they can get J J Abrams to sketch it, but as much in the style of the Second Street sketch as possible, with a fire hydrant and a bit of lens flare, forgetting that First Street with its giant cats and midichlorians even exists. Or maybe not. It’s getting hotter, hotter, hotter. This weekend is going to be a scorcher. Time to get out of Davis…

on a street where a tall man poses

1st st, davis
This panorama is from a week or so ago, drawn while sitting down on 1st Street on Martin Luther King Jr Day. I sat there sketching for nearly three hours, and still had to finish off the rest of the colour when I got home! It’s those trees, I am trying to look at all the branches, it’s maddening. But great fun, huh! I listened to some podcasts (history, football) and some music (spot the David Devant reference in this post’s title). This scene, latest in my ‘panoramarathon’, shows a row of fraternity houses (all part of Theta Xi, which as I’ve said before is probably the frat house for trainee cab drivers), ending up on the right with the John Natsoulas gallery. This is a whole block between D and E Streets. If you have never been to davis before, well looking through my sketchbook these days is getting to be a hand-drawn Streetview. On the far right (geographically not politically) you can see a large sculpture of a colourful looking figure, a tall man posing, with a head that looks like an old diving suit helmet. It glows up at night like a sentry guarding the entrance to downtown. I don’t know what aliens arriving here would think, but to be fair they would probably not be coming in off of I-80, they’d probably land their saucers in the Quad or beam into Central Park or something. I can’t speak for aliens (although in American terminology I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in Davis, though I suppose I prefer ‘Briton’ or ‘Londoner’) (ok fine I’m a Martian I admit it).

Here is a closer view, for those without built-in Martian zoom-vision. There were a lot of red vehicles parked out on the street that day, I didn’t just paint them that way to break up the beige and white monotony.
Frat House plus Gallery
And this dry weather continues. Some trees are already starting to blossom. Temperatures have been in the high 70s all week.
Frat houses

More panoramas to come, but boy they eat up your time (or my time rather). I’ll have this book finished by the end of the month.

2013 art auction at the pence

pence art auction 2013 patio
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Pence Gallery‘s annual Art Auction as one of the contributing artists. It was the third year in a row that I have been invited to take part, in the auction; this year I submitted my panoramic sketch of the Davis Art Center (and it sold – many thanks Erie!!). I also went along (after a busy and late day at work; lots of those lately, hence lack of energy to post my sketches on time) with my sketching materials, and drew what I could. Last year I had sketched the patio from down below, this year I took the opportunity to sketch from above. The band was playing as the September evening got darker, and on the far wall is a huge mural currently being painted by artist Anthony Padillo, whom I had the fortune to meet while I was actually sketching this very scene.
pence art auction 2013

Soon it was time for the Auction itself, and this year I brought some bigger paper to sketch on. It is a real education in art, going to an art auction. I know that sounds obvious, well it is really, but there were some amazing artists on display, local and otherwise, including work by the celebrated late local ceramicist (and UCD art professor) Bob Arneson, and even an original print by the father of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha. I sketched in a large Canson pad, and had some nice conversations afterwards. Always fun sketching events at the Pence!

art farm 2012

Gallery 625: ArtFarm 2012
Last Friday I was invited to sketch at a special event in Woodland, just north of Davis, called ‘Art Farm’. It is an event organized by Yolo Arts, held at Gallery 625, right by the courthouse in downtown Woodland (do you know, in seven years exactly of living in Davis I have never once been to downtown Woodland?). The main exhibit and auction (or Art Harvest) was made up of exceptional works of art by local artists, many of which were painted on location at farms around yolo county. These are organized monthly plein-air meetings called the Art & Ag Project – I’d been told about them before, but haven’t participated msyelf. Anyway, I was kindly invited to come and record the event in my particular sketching way, and for three solid hours I got to work.
ArtFarm2012: Good Humus
I was asked specifically to draw the table above, Good Humus, and it was such a colourful and friendly thing to draw. However, I did have to use every single one of my urban sketching skills to get this drawing. I had only a tiny spot of space, and I was sketching in a larger watercolour pad, surrounded by art-loving people carrying wine-glasses and plates and queuing up for arugula salad. I used x-ray vision to see through people for the stall, drawing it piece by piece as best as I could. I had to do the colours afterwards, there being no way I could stand in that crowd with my paints, but that meant taking some serious notes and mental images. All the while, I hummed David Devant songs to myself, and chatted amiably with people from the Yolo art world; “here’s my card”. I’m quite ecstatic about the results. I hope they are too!
Art Farm 2012 : welcomeArtFarm2012 Cache Creek stall
The remaining sketches were much less hectically achieved, but I bolted through them without stopping for a sip of wine or a nibble of cheese. I had been very nervous about this – my stomach was jumping about like a bag of kittens – after all it was a sketching job among some incredible artists, but as someone tweeted to me that day, “you have trained for this.” I kept thinking that phrase, of course I have, I do this stuff all the time. I stayed focused and relaxed, smiled, spoke freely where needed but didn’t get sidetracked. I missed a lot of the live auction – it was just too crowded, but at least I’d drawn the gallery exhibit before the people came – and I sat on the floor to draw the autumnal display at the entrance with the beloved brown pen. I managed a couple more people sketches too, one of Fred Manas, who tried to tempt me back into red-meat with his sausages (I declined, but I’m sure they are very nice), and the band’s very soulful singer Tessie, pink-haired and with Day-of-the-Dead make-up, who I captured very quickly halfway through their last number. The wine glass wasn’t mine, i was drawing someone else’s dregs, but thought it a nice way to close it out. On the whole this was a fun evening, I saw some familiar faces, and I am really glad to have been invited to be involved.
ArtFarm2012: Fred ManasArtFarm 2012Tessie @ ArtFarm 2012

And then I had to get home, and that is a whole ‘nother story. I might even write a comic about it, called “Running Frantically in the Dark”. Not to worry, it ends with me finally getting home and having some noodles for a midnight dinner, but I think next time I do something like this out of town I will have them call me a cab…

a look at the gallery

pence gallery, davis

This is the Pence Gallery where I had my show last month. I had wanted to go and draw the building properly for a while, as it’s a very interesting design, but usually the foliage hides it a bit (but I love January!). I started this on Tuesday lunchtime, and then finished it off last night at home. Canson watercolour paper with uniball vision micro pen and cotman watercolours.

Incidentally, if you missed the show, you can see all the drawings that were on display on this new page here: Pence Gallery Show December 2011. Hope you like it!