the old north

E and 6th Davis
One of the more historically interesting neighbourhoods in Davis is the Bowers Addition, better known as Old North Davis. It’s an area I have to walk home through in the evenings if I have been downtown, when it is dark, subject to the local ordinances that are meant to cut down on ‘light-pollution’ – people want to see the stars, but I’m the sort of person who wants to see the guy hiding in the shadows with the knife, personally.  However if you walk through this are in daytime you can really see the neighbourhood for what it is – pretty, historic, colourful and full of places that would be great to sketch. Recently I have made it my mission to draw as many historic (especially pre-1917) buildings in Davis as possible, and since the Old North is also now over 100 years old, I’ve added a bit more of it to my sketchbook pages. My inspiration has long been an excellent book by local historian John Lofland, “Old North Davis” (amazon link), which I picked up several years ago at the University bookstore. In the book, Lofland details every single block, between B and G, and 5th and 7th, with the history of most of the buildings, along with many photos both historic and taken by the author. It’s quite a spectacular undertaking. But anyway, let’s dive into some of my own sketches of the Old North. The panoramic one at the top was sketched at 6th and E, and was one of those ones where I added only the bright Springtime colors, so that they would stand out a bit more, and left the left-hand details unfinished. Also because I was sneezing uncontrollably and just could not draw any more. The house itself is a dark blue and looks great against those colors (especially the touches of pink) but you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s so floral around here on a Spring day, despite all the sneezes.
the liggett house, old north davis
The “Bowers Addition to the City of Davisville” (as it was called; Davisville wasn’t formally a city, and would be called Davis when it was) was created in 1913 and named after its lead developer, C.W.Bowers. The house above, also sketched in spite of the allergies, was one of those original houses, being built in 1913 in the 600 block of E Street. It is on that list of historic Davis buildings on the City of Davis website, called the Liggett House. It’s on my map of pre-1917 buildings (see the previous post, “Davis before the City of Davis“). It’s a craftsman bungalow and one of the oldest unaltered homes in this area. I sat on a bench across the street in the little spot called the ‘Lyda Williams Memorial Garden’. Lyda Williams was a resident of this street who once had a magnificent flower garden, according to Lofland’s book. It is a very pretty little spot to sit and dream, or in my case, sketch.
b street house, old north davis
This house on B Street has always been one I’ve wanted to sketch (though there are a few around here with the peace symbol on I’ve wanted to draw, because it makes it feel that bit more ‘Davis’). I was out on a Sunday having a little Old North Davis solo-sketchcrawl, before the sneezes start.This is around the part of B Street that is slightly crooked in relation to the other streets in the grid.
7th street house, old north davis
I’ve always liked cycling past this large and unusually shaped house, imagining it some kind of castle, though it is more like the Silo and has a fun weather-vane on the top (I cannot make out the shape, but it looks like a flying pig). I had to give up before I was done with this and finish off at home because the sneezes and itching eyes took over.I went to Lofland’s book to see what I could discover about the history of this magnificent building, but the photo of the house at this address..looked nothing like this one. Well, his book was written in 1999, I came to Davis in 2005 (and north Davis in 2012), so perhaps that older house is now gone (it’s funny, I find I don’t want to suggest ‘demolished’ or ‘torn down’ or even ‘vanished’, I’m trying to find gentler words, as if the house has, well, passed on to the next life). This one is much less aged-looking, and very clean and well-kept, so must just be a lot newer.
G St Tangles Studio
This was was drawn just last week, a colourful little place on G Street which isn’t a residence as far as I know, but a place called ‘Tangles Studio’, which must be something to do with hair. I keep my hair super short so I don’t worry about tangles. In fact I had just got my hair cut downtown, shaved to a very close crop. There is a large mural on the side of the wall that has been there for a long time.

F & 7th, Davis

This is an older sketch from 2014 that I wanted to include here again, because it is so interesting. It’s on the corner of F and 7th, on the edge of the Old North. Years ago F Street used to stop at 7th, but was extended beyond after World War II. This building is known as the Anderson-Hamel House, and this is not its original location. It used to stand on the corner of F and 2nd Street, before being relocated five blocks north in the late 1940s; Lofland provides a nice photo of it in the original location downtown (p100, ‘Old North Davis’). This is a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage built in 1903 by the man who became the first mayor of Davis, John B. Anderson. He also ran the Davisville Cash Store. It was sold to the Hamel family in 1923, and then again to the Quessenbury family, who moved it out here so they could build a drugstore on the original downtown location. This house has a dentist’s surgery now.

I hope you have enjoyed this little Old North history tour. Here are some thumbnails (linking to Flickr) of other Old North Davis sketches I’ve done over the years…

bentley house, old north davisnewman chapel, davisc street house, DavisE and 5th, DavisG & 6th, DavisG St, Davisthe davis co-opD & 6th, davis

Dinosaurs at Knebworth

knebworth house
While in England, I went with my Mum, my sister Lauren and my nephew Sonny to the grounds of Knebworth House, in Hertfordshire. I had never been before. It’s very nice. There is a maze, and some incredible wooden goblins and fairies and things carved into tree stumps. You would like it. We never went into the house itself though.
knebworth sonny
Whcorythosaurusat I liked most though were the dinosaurs. The Dinosaur Trail winds through some of the woodland area, and those dinosaurs and prehistoric beasts are in some cases enormous. There are 70 of them in total, and so my nephew and I started to draw them. Here he is below, sketching a Scolosaurus. He did a lot more drawings than me – the speed of youth, eh! – but I sketched a few of my old favourites. On the left there is a Corythosaurus, which I didn’t colour in. I used to have a model of a Corythosaurus when I was a kid, I remember gluing it all together, and I loved it. I really loved dinosaurs. My son for example thinks they’re ok, but whenever we go to the Natural History Museum he is usually more interested in rocks and geology, that is his passion. When I was little, it was all about those dinos, man. I still have some of my old dinosaur books, with their out-of-date depictions and dramatic paintings. One of them was an Elasmosaurus, which they did have a model of at Knebworth, but I sadly did not draw. Those things were terrifying. Below though, probably my favourite dinosaur, the Styracosaurus. Any animal that can have that many spikes on its head is a friend to me. It looks like Keith from the Prodigy. It’s a total fantasy creature.


Below, the old lovable Triceratops. The original king of the Ceratopsians. My horns face forward, laughing boy, so don’t get cocky or you’ll find yourself turned into a Tyrannosaurus Kebab! They both have those big parrot-like beaks. Hey I tell you who does know a lot (and I mean a lot) about dinosaurs is the fellow who made an appearance in my last post, Paul Heaston. He once even made an amazing model of a feathered Deinonychus (another of my favourite dinosaurs). Here is an interview with him from 2012 on the fantastically-named website “Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs“. Up in Manchester, another dinosaur-loving artist Lapin mentioned to his “Cars in the City” workshop (images posted soon) that all sketchbooks should contain a car…and at least one dinosaur. I agree. DINOSAURS RULE!

Incidentally, today happens to be 20 years to the day that Oasis played their massive enormous gig at Knebworth. I never went to that myself (I never did see Oasis live, though a massive fan – I saw the Sex Pistols at Finsbury Park in ’96 and it was great but totally did me in for big music crowds). Lots of old rock bands played Knebworth over the years, the Rolling Stones, Led Zep, Genesis, and above are some drawings of some other old dinosaurs.

a very fine cat indeed

johnson house and hodge the cat

Look what I got in the mail last week! A couple of years ago, on a cold gloomy December afternoon, I did a drawing in London’s Gough Square off Fleet Street, one of my favourite spots in the city, of the statue of Hodge, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s beloved cat. Johnson’s house, now a musuem, is in the background. For those of you who don’t know, Samuel Johnson wrote the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, he made lots of quotes that he knew would make popular pub quiz questions two hundred years later, and his life was chronicled by his friend James Boswell. The kind folk at Johnson’s House (who also let me do some sketching there last winter) have turned my drawing into a card which you can buy at the Johnson’s House Musuem in London (all proceeds benefit the musuem). This is a great place and offers an interesting and relaxing look at Johnson’s life in mid-eighteenth century London.

So if you are in London and would like to buy one of these cards, please visit Dr. Johnson’s House at 17 Gough Square, and why not have a look around?

Dr. Johnson’s House official site

Previous sketches at Johnson’s House (“For there is in London all that life can afford”)

for there is in london all that life can afford

dr johnson's house, gough square

While back in London I was fortunate enough to sketch at the house of Dr. Samuel Johnson, in Gough Square (off Fleet Street). The doctor himself wasn’t home, having died a couple of centuries ago or so, but the very nice curator Stephanie gave me a cup of tea and a tour of the house. I love this area and all its history and Johnson’s House is a jewel. He was the archetypal Londoner (well, he was from Staffordshire) from whom we get many famous quiz-night quotations, his most well-known being that one about being tired of London (let’s not forget he said it before the invention of the Northern Line). Beyond his famous dictionary and his appearance in Blackadder as Robbie Coltrane, many people don’t actually know much about him. I certainly learned a lot more about Johnson, and he was a very interesting man, and quite ahead of his time. I enjoyed being brought back into the eighteenth century learning the stories behind regular household objects. For example, his very thin chair (sketched above) – Dr Johnson was a pretty portly man, but apparently he would sit on it backwards and lean his arms on the back while watching cock fights down at his local pub (as you did).

gough square

i sketched this - johnson's cat hodges with the house in the background - a couple of years ago

That’s the dictionary up there on the left, first edition print. Not the original manuscript, but still pretty cool to be in the vicinity of this famous (if Scot-mocking) book, so I had to sketch that too.

If you happen to be in London, head down to the Fleet Street area, and visit Dr Johnson’s House in Gough Square. You’ll really like it. and then, go and explore the narrow lanes and old pubs of the area. As Johnson himself said,  “Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts.” And he was right an’ all.

Website of Dr. Johnson’s House