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.

to rest my eyes in shades of green

arboretum bridge

It may be the second half of October, but summer isn’t done. It’s been the mid-80s for the past few days, so on Friday I took a lunchtime walk through the shady arboretum, not intending to stop and sketch, but of course I couldn’t resist when I came across this bridge. I don’t come down this end very often, so had forgotten about this spot. I stood to sketch, and listened to a BBC History podcast. They were talking to Peter Ackroyd, who has started a multi-volume History of England because, he says, nobody gets taught the history of England any more (though he admitted having no knowledge about what schools do teach these days), and this first book is all about the Foundation of England. Wow, then this being an all-purpose tell-it-all history, it must really cover and shed light on the beginnings of England, Anglo-Saxon England, real in-depth, maybe up to the Norman conquest or even earlier, the Battle of Brunanburh or something. No – it stops at Henry VII. The whole ‘foundation’ volume must then cover about eight hundred years, which sounds a bit disappointing, as were his reasons. When asked why he’s stopping at Henry VII (and not, say, about six Henrys earlier), his answer was “well I dunno, I just did”, and that was pretty much his response for most other questions on his choices for this book. Hey, Ackroyd sells books and he knows his business, and I know he’s not taken that seriously as a historian by academic historians, I just find it a shame when popular writers of history effectively skim over the entire medieval period of England, when the country was truly founded (and reborn several times), not thinking it important enough to give at least two volumes in what’s meant to be a definitive history over six volumes (I’m sure the Tudor period alone will get a single volume), but then that’s the medievalist in me, and I’m probably being unfair, basing it on this interview. Anyway, lunchtime was up, the podcast finished, the drawing was done. Maybe on another lunchtime I’ll read the book.