playing catch up

Hart Hall UC Davis
And so it is April. I pity the Fools. No seriously this year is not the year for that, read the room folks, read the planet-sized room. Well I’m still at home and sat at the desk, so let’s plod through the rest of 2019’s many many sketches. It was my most sketchingest year yet. 2020 is pretty sketchful as well, though I’ve barely started scanning. I have decided that I bunch the rest of the 2019 sketches together thematically, such as those on campus, those from downtown, those from sketchcrawls, those from trips I took (Portland, London, Hawaii), iPad sketches (I only started iPad sketching in the autumn, I’ve posted some already). So to get us going,¬† here are the sketches I did on the UC Davis campus (or just around it) in the second half of last year. These encompass a lot of lunchtime sketches, in the usual places I have sketched before. Above is Hart Hall, which is not (as I have pointed out to you before) names after Tony Hart. Not everything is named after Tony Hart! Hartbeat was, but Heartbeat (with “Every Loser Wins” singer Nick Berry) is not. Take Hart was named after him, but Hart To Hart (with Bobby Wagner and Steffi Powers) was not. Similarly the body parts called the “toe”, the “knee” and the “heart” were not named after him, nor was he named after them. Same goes for RC Willey. Ok so now that completely necessary explanation is out of the way, this is one of my favourite buildings on campus to sketch, but it does I admit always make me think of Tony Hart. I wonder what he did with all those pictures that kids would submit to The Gallery? It’s why I never sent anything in to him. I used to imagine that maybe he ate them in some sort of ritual to steal their essence, though I can’t connect that theory to why Mr Bennett kept getting his foot stuck in a bucket. Look I used to watch that show a lot when I was a kid alright.
Bikebarn UC Davis
The UC Davis Bike Barn, drawn many times by my hand. Oh by the way the Bike Barn is NOT named after that other British TV show for teens, Byker Grove. It’s not even spelled the same. However if you should look it up on YouTubem you;ll get the Byker Grove theme tune stuck in your head, and every time you walk past the Bike Barn you will start singing it to yourself. I do anyway. Don’t tell anyone.
MU & Freeborn UCD 110119
Here is Freeborn Hall (on the right), which is actually scheduled to be torn down at some point, if they ever get round to it. It’s pretty historic. Bob Marley played there. I was saw one of my favourite bands Art Brut play there, but this was not a good venue. That’s ART Brut, not HART Brut. Though they might be named after Tony ‘Art, I’ll have to check. They are nor named after Brut after shave, nor are they named after British kids TV show Art Attack, hosted by youthful Mersey matey Neil Buchanan. Neily B was the younger brighter more “1990” Tony Hart, though Neily was really really small (like Morph) and would present his shows among normal sized paintbrushes and felt-tip-pens which looked gigantic. It was probably just a trick of perspective thinking back on it. Anyway this is Freeborn Hall and it’s scheduled for destruction. I mean demolition.
Robbins Hall UC Davis
This is Robbins Hall, not far from Hart Hall, just on the other side. It is not named after Robin Hood, though I can see why you might have thought that. Speaking of Robin Hood do you remember that old British kids TV show from the early 90s “Maid Marian And Her Merry Men”? That was a fun show, it had Cat from Red Dwarf in it, and Baldrick from Black Adder as the Sheriff of Nottingham, several other people. Maid Marian was the brassy main character while the Robin Hood character was some wimpy yuppie. Elmo from Brush Strokes was in it too. It was much beloved. I liked all that sort of Robin Hood stuff back then, especially the more silly stuff with music. I even liked the really silly Kevin Costner version with Alan Rickman playing Baldrick’s character from Maid Marian, even though it came packaged with that Adam Bryans song that was number 1 for fifteen years, “Everything I Do (But I Won’t Do That)”. I liked that stuff so much that for a school drama project I wrote and performed a short four-song musical called, imaginatively, “Robin Hood” (I didn’t believe in silly humourous subtitles, I wanted it to be taken seriously ok), with the highlight song being called “Don’t Fuck With Me I’m Robin Hood” (which was actually based on a dream my friend Terry had, although later he told me that he had made that up). Anyway, Robbins Hall is the sketch above.
Silo UC Davis
Ok above is the Silo which has been under a lot of refurbishment for a very long time now. Outside they usually have a truck for Peet’s Coffee. Peet’s is a chain of coffee shops here in the US, and I made them change their name to Peet’s because Pete doesn’t drink coffee, he drinks Tea. Speaking of Tea, did you ever watch that show T-Bag? It was another British kids TV show from the late 80s or so. All of these references are like 30 years old. That particular show was a bit mental, I never really liked it much. There was one kid called T-Shirt, he used to creep me out a bit, a bit too “TV kid”. The witch was funny. I liked the shows with witches in it. Grotbags (from Rod, Hull and Emu); Rentaghost, they had a witch in it I think; erm, Wizbit, Paul Daniels is in that and he did magic; yep, all the witches, I liked witches. Anyway folks, this is the Silo. Sometimes I come here for a sand-witch.

BBQ Food Truck UC Davis

This is also at the Silo, one of many food trucks that park here. This is one of the food trucks they decided was a good idea to park right in the way making it conveniently harder for people top walk past. It does BBQ which stands for Beef, Bacon and Queues. I don’t eat meat like that so I don’t know if it’s any good by it does smell nice so I sketched it and breathed in the meaty aroma. Hey speaking of food, do you remember the old British TV cartoon called the Poddington Peas? It’s another one that had an incredible catchy theme tune. “Down at the Bottom of the Garden, with all the Birds and the Beas, a Little Lotta Little People, they’re called the Poddington Peas…” You remember that surely. I must admit I didn’t really watch it, I just liked the theme tune. The great thing about living in the 21st century now though is that rather than simply remembering all these theme tunes to impress people with later (and I know Americans who have never heard of any of these things are genuinely impressed, or at least an impression was genuinely made), you can just YouTube them to find them. I didn’t watch shows like ‘Raggy Dolls’ or ‘Rosie and Jim’ but I remember their theme tunes vividly, so I think either my sister or my nephew watched them.

Tri Co Ops UC Davis
This here is the Tri-Co-Ops building on the UC Davis campus. I especially like the blue piano sat outside. I always think to myself, if Yoda were here he would name this the “Do-Co-Ops”. That blue piano reminds me of, for some reason, Rod Jane and Freddy. They were the musical trio from Rainbow, popular 1980s kids TV show, the one with Zippy and Geoffrey and co. It’s actually Rod, Jane and Freddy, not ‘Rod Jane’ and his friend ‘Freddy’, though if I ever become a country and western singer I would take ‘Rod Jane’ as my stage name. Commas are important. I wonder how many other acts have been betrayed by their lack of comma? ‘Son, Knee and Cher’ for example, or ‘Bat, Man and Robin’, or the other Byker Grove musical three-piece, ‘P, J and Duncan’, who mysteriously killed off one of their members when they transitioned to ‘Ant and Dec’ I’m thinking that maybe Ant ate J, or maybe J is buried under Dec’s deck. Anyway this is the Tri-Co-Ops house, or the Tri, Co and Ops House if you will.
Theta Xi Davis, Sept 2019

And finally just on the edge of campus is the frat house of Theta Xi. No not ‘The Taxi’. Although it does look like it just says “OX”. Which naturally reminds me…ok this show wasn’t British I don’t think but it was on kids TV in England during that same time period, “Ox Tales”, starring Ollie the Ox. It was Dutch/Japanese I think. Ox Tales was a hilarious show I genuinely used to watch and love, and the theme tune is truly one of the greatest of all time. They should have called him Ollie the GOAT. Anyway, not including the Walker Hall series, these are my sketches from campus (or campus-adjacent) in the second half of 2019, plus a whole bunch of silly half-baked memories of 30-year-old British kids TV shows I didn’t even watch that much. I blame social distancing.

hart warming

hart hall uc davis
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.

panoramas and poor air

hart hall panorama UC Davis
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.

UC Davis MU terminal

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.

UC Davis Silo food trucks

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.

my hart will go on

Hart Hall, UC 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.

Here are a few of my older sketches of this building. This one is from 2008, also sketched in a long hot summer. I was still getting used to the long hot summers then. 2008, feels a lifetime ago now.
hart hall

This one is from March 2014, with a still fairly leafless tree in the foreground.

hart hall, uc davis

And this one is six years old, May 2011, not officially summer yet but still bloody hot, I’ll bet.
hart hall, ucd

hart now hear

hart hall, uc davis

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.

don’t go breaking my hart

hart hall, uc davis
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.

historia est vitae magistra

hart hall, uc davis

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.