It is that time of year again when I draw Hart Hall again. This was sketched last week, stood in the shade of the Shields Library at UC Davis, the weather is getting more Davisesque and roasting my brain away. I was supposed to go to a meeting today in this building, but I was in a different meeting instead so I forgot. The meeting I was in was far more important though, and didn’t require walking through hot heat. I want to go out and draw more at the moment but the heatful weather is giving me reservations. If I were in another hotted up place like Seville or Rome I would have no compunction about sketching the hot city but when it’s over a hundred in Davis my brain says No, Don’t Bother, You’ve Sketched It Before. The initial flurry of sketchtivity this year has tailed off a bit, and my busy weekends have meant a lack of sketchcrawl organizationing. There will be some upcoming monthlies I promise you, though the one I had planned in San Francisco will not take place for a while longer yet, maybe in the late Falling Summer or the early Autumnal Fall. I’ve been planning a themed sketchical history tour in North Beach, I’ve been drawing the map and everything, but alas life finds a way, so I am putting it on the backbencher for now. I’ve also been planning a Sacramento Sketching crawl as well, mostly because I want to sketch there again but also because it is fun to meet other sketchers there. It is always hotter in Sacramento than Davis though, I find. I did go to the new Star Wars land at Disneyland last weekend though, that was fun, I will post the couple of quick sketches I did there at some point. Anyway, this is Hart Hall, which is not despite the name named after my old drama teacher at school, whose name was Mr Hart. I don’t think Mr Hart thought too highly of me, if I’m honest, I don’t think he thought I was altogether serious about the dramatic arts. He may have had a point, given that I wrote and performed two musicals at school with songs like “Don’t F**k with me, I’m Robin Hood” and “Get Lost, Dracula”. To be fair, they were obviously genius. I remember him getting very cross with me and my friend Terry once though for coming up with very serious characters in class, but giving them silly names like Freddy Ready and Todd Cod. I mean, what is wrong with Todd Cod? If I ever meet someone called Todd Cod I am going to be so pleased. I did work with a guy once whose last name was Reddy but I can’t remember his first name and it definitely wasn’t Freddy. I have met people over the years with much sillier names. I won’t name names here, but they definitely existed.
At the start of last month I opened a new sketchbook and had a burst of post-symposium “gotta-sketch-it-all”. What I wanted to do were more panoramas, however they take a long time and I wanted to go more quickly. Having been a big fan of Vincent Desplanche‘s work since meeting him at the USk France Rencontre in Strasbourg in 2015, I’ve wanted to try more pencil and watercolour panoramas. I had a bunch of new Palomino pencils my friend Terry sent me from Japan, which I wanted to try out as they are darker and softer than the usual H pencils I use occasionally. So I drew a bunch of panoramas over lunchtimes or after work or weekends, adding the paint on site, and I have to say that it was a quicker than the long pen ones but still felt time-consuming. For one thing, the pencil smudges a bit more, even after being coated with watercolour wash. That said, I really like the pencil and watercolour and it was fun to draw these. Here are three from campus. Above, Hart Hall, one of the more interesting looking buildings on campus. I have drawn it a few times before.
One of the other details about this summer is the terrible air in California, brought about by all the huge wild fires. California is hot and dry and the fires have been really bad the past couple of years. This summer the fires made the air thick and smoky for weeks on end, as you can see with the two sketches above and below. The one above was sketched at the Memorial Union Bus Terminal on campus. I had walked across campus to drop something off at the International Center late one afternoon, and was going to catch the bus to go home, so I sketched this at the bus terminal while waiting. The air made me feel so physically sick that I had a huge headache and a nasty sore throat. This was one of the worst air days I’ve experienced here. One thing that often happens here in summer is on the very hot days we have ‘Spare The Air’ days, when riding on buses are free. I think this year we had eighteen spare-the-air days in a row. In the sketch above there is an ironic sign – we are a smoking-free campus (good), and the sign reminds us we are 100% smoke and tobacco free. Well, not so much on this day.
The one above was sketched on the next day at the Silo. The air was still bad, but felt significantly better. Why go out and sketch in it? I still needed to sketch, and this is where I come to eat. This one was an easier and quicker sketch, not really too much detail, just a fun piece of perspective. The food trucks and the large sloping shade thing were added last year to the redeveloped Silo area. I have a few more of these panoramas to post, sketched in downtown Davis.
Felt it was time for a new sketch of Hart Hall. It’s one of the more sketchable buildings on campus. The weather has been very hot lately, hitting at least 90 every day (and well over 100 for many of them), a little unbearable. These long hot Davis summers don’t seem to be getting any shorter or cooler.
This one is from March 2014, with a still fairly leafless tree in the foreground.
Hart Hall has a new sign. I have sketched this building many times, so this is a bit like telling an older joke that I have told before but with a slightly new twist. I’m all for that as you know. Maybe new people heard that joke for the first time and laughed. Maybe the same people heard it again and laughed again. Maybe nobody laughed at all, either because it wasn’t funny or because they just didn’t get it? Maybe I need to tell it again and again until people do get it. Well it’s the same with drawing Hart Hall (sort of), but this time there is an added detail, the new sign, coloured in to show it off. I like these new signs on campus. It took more than three years to get our new sign and it looks nice, nicer than the old plain orange one. Hart Hall. I used to have a drama teacher called Mr. Hart, he was not a fan of my jokes let me tell you. Once he angrily stopped a performance I was doing in class, in which I played a pretty spot-on and (I felt) serious performance as a down-and-out, just because when another character asked me my name I had said it was “Freddy Reddy”. I know people called Reddy! And Treddy! Ok maybe not Freddy Reddy but it’s not an entirely inconceivable name for a real person. It’s not like “Fredo Play-doh” or something, that would be ridiculous. Honestly, he just shut the whole thing down because I said my name was Freddy Reddy, because he assumed I wasn’t being serious. Not my fault everyone laughed inappropriately, including me. Poor old Freddy Reddy. I wonder what would have happened to Freddy Reddy if his character had been allowed to grow and develop, he might have made something of himself, picked himself out of the gutter, turned the laughter into nods of respect, but alas his life was cut short by an angry drama teacher in a purple top. So when I see Hart Hall, among the many many other things I think of (I have known much better Harts since then), I do think of Mr. Hart, and of good ol’ Freddy Reddy.
Hart Hall, UC Davis. That is George Hart, not the guy who invented Morph, was named after three different body parts and who regularly asked kids all over Britain to send him drawings they would never get back for a gallery they would see only briefly. I suppose there are a lot of Harts. Miranda Hart, Joe Hart, White Hart Lane, and my old drama teacher at Edgware School, Mr Hart. Actually I used to work for a Hart called Mike who owned a bookstore, a top bloke by the way. But this is Hart Hall, a nationally recognized historic building no less. Many years ago it was called ‘Animal Sciences’ (which would be a good name for a bad 80s film) and glows a nice colour in the sunshine, though you’ll have to take my word for it, as I didn’t really fancy painting it that day. Sketched in brown uni-ball signo um-151 pen in a stillman & birn alpha book.
Here is another lunchtime sketch with my lovely brown pen. This is Hart Hall, UC Davis, one of the more historic buildings on campus. Many years ago it was the Animal Sciences Building. To me, it looks very Mediterranean, and with its cypress trees lining the entrance it reminds me of Rome, which was appropriate as I listened to an episode of the History of Rome podcast while sketching it (this sketch took about 20-25 minutes). I am getting very close to the end of that podcast series now, and I can heartily recommend it. Which one did I listen to while sketching this? The one about the Sack of Rome by Alaric and his Visigoths. There is a name for a classic album and a long-haired metal band if ever I heard one. Learning about Rome this past month or so has been very enlightening. When I first started working at UC Davis my former department chair told me that the organization of UC was modeled on the Roman Empire, and I can certainly understand what he meant. Now though, my desire to see Rome is greater than ever. You see, like Barcelona, it’s one city in Europe I have always yearned for but never actually went to, and now we live in the US it is, you know, quite a bit further away. Now though I would certainly sketch Rome a lot more than in the past, and when I think of sketching Rome I think of fellow Urban Sketcher Matthew Brehm, who travels to Rome each summer to teach location drawing to his students, check out his excellent work. As for the Rome podcast, at the time of writing Alaric is long dead, Rome has been sacked again, Attila and his Huns have come and gone, but Rome’s Western Empire still limps on, like a massive rock band (Augustus and his Caesars) that has long had its day but still plays in the odd pub and makes embarrassing appearances on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”, while the guitarist who left on creative differences (Constantinople and his Byzantines) continues to sell album after hit album for another thousand years. Rome, the city itself long irrelevant to the Empire, is nearly done with. Sure, one day the Pope will hold an audition for a new tribute band, eventually crowning Charlemagne (of ‘Charlemagne and his Franks’ fame) as lead singer. For me though, there are just a few podcasts left until the end, and I’ll miss it. So check out the History of Rome podcast, by Mike Duncan, available for free download on iTunes.