A Street in Fall

A St Davis 102522

A street I like to draw is A Street. I know that sounds like a philosophical statement, but the name of the street is A Street, I’m not just referring to a street. I know that it’s probably been a couple of years since I said that tired old chestnut, but it makes me laugh and that’s what matters. I do love drawing this A Street though, because it’s on the border of downtown and campus, and easy to walk to from work. I have always been drawn to draw that lovely red house on the corner of Rice, especially in the autumn when some of the foliage is turning a similar colour. I’ve drawn it several times over the years. More on this building later, because I’m not done referring to how much I like its lovely rusty red colour, it really makes it stand out among a street of mostly white houses. This was the first page of a new sketchbook.

A St Davis 102722 sm

Further up the street is the Belfry, a building I have drawn several times as well. Maybe the building called the Belfry is actually the yellowish one on the left, a kind of religious place, but this interesting tower behind the fence looks belfry like and I love sketching it. I decided not to bother adding all the colour in this time, the pen drawing being interesting enough. I can see the slanting-to-the-right thing happening again, maybe that’s just the way I hold the sketchbook, though they do say you get more right-leaning as you get older don’t they. Ha ha.

A St Davis 121722 sm

I have drawn this building before, perhaps ten years ago. I seem to remember it was temporarily the home of the International Hillel house, before they moved back into their much larger and newly built building down the street. All those autumnal trees against that bright white, mixed with the terracotta tiles, this is an interesting place to sketch.

A St Davis Dec2022

And then, I saw that the rusty red house I loved sketching looked suddenly blanched. They had painted it white! So this house now appears twice in the same sketchbook, in two different colours. Maybe this is their away kit. I mean, it looks good, but it looked better red, stood out more, felt more rustic. Each to their own I guess. I wish we could change the colour of our house, from its dull taupe, but that’s our local HOA I guess. Still, the stop sign stays its usual red. And that concludes our latest tour of A Street, Davis.

house of red

red house 8th st Davis

I pass a lot of houses in Davis that I think ooh I would love to draw that house some time. And then I walk on and forget about it until the next time I pass by and think, oooh yes I’d love to draw that house, when I have time. And then I carry on walking or riding my bike until the next time I pass it and I go, you know I should really draw that house some time, it’s so nice. and then I walk or ride or jog along, and forget about it. Until the next time, etc and so on. There is one house though in north Davis that is probably my favourite house in town, it looks a bit like a red barn or farmhouse on the corner, almost Scandinavian in its picture postcard cuteness (it even has a mailbox that looks like a small version of itself). There is a whole barn section around the back, and the circular brick chimney with the little brick spiral going up it is probably the cutest cute-house thing I have ever seen. And no, I don’t watch HGTV (though for some reason it reminds me of Jamie and the Magic Torch). I always wonder about its history, when it was built, was it ever moved from somewhere else (as so many other Davis houses were), did any famous Davisites ever live there, does it have a locally know name that I’m unaware of? Is it haunted? (No, a house this lovely can’t be haunted, because there’s no such thing as ghosts). So on one of my many many walks home from work (since my bike’s been acting a bit weird I have gotten back to walking, I’m killing those ten thousand steps a day, totally whooping that goal) I saw that the house had a big ‘For Sale’ sign outside, well in fact it was a ‘Sold’ sign, well in fact it was a ‘Snooze And You Lose’ sign, not that I’d have been able to afford it, but then again I did buy my current house exactly a year ago so I’m now in the homeowner’s club (I’ve heard it’s a cool club, they meet in a treehouse). So, what if the new owners hate red barns and decide to turn it into a modern brick and chrome palazzo? Or paint it taupe? Or rent it out to conspiracy cultists who never mow the lawn? You never know, so I decided right, I should draw this beautiful building. But you know, I was walking somewhere, I didn’t want to stop. I do feel self-conscious drawing houses too, even now; it would be nice if the City of Davis gave me some sort of card that I could show people to say “local urban sketcher, totally normal, just ignore”. So I decided to draw from a photo. I don’t mind drawing from photos, if I have at least drawn the backbone there and then, but straight from the photo I don’t get the sense of personal depth that comes from seeing the space with my own eyes. It’s why I’m always a little hesitant about commissions, unless the reference photos are at least close to what I would see from my own perspective. I’ve done quite a lot of house commissions in Davis by the way, and I do usually like to go and take a quick sketch on site or at least take a couple of photos that would mimic my on-site style. I dunno. It’s not always true, depends on the thing I’m drawing. Also, I find that when I paint at home sometimes I’m doing it in living-room light, and the colours end up a bit darker, unlike when I’m out on the street in the light of the outside. I think that shows sometimes. Anyway with this one, I drew right from the photo I took, but I decided (for some reason) to put some masking tape around the edges of the paper in my sketchbook and draw and paint right over the edge, and then peel the tape off at the end to reveal a perfectly straight-edged rectangular frame. It worked when I did some watercolour studies recently, though in my sketchbook it feels a little too…I don’t know, flat? I’m used to scruffy edges. Years ago I used to draw frames around my sketches, but almost never with a ruler – the straight, straight line is really out of place with my work, give me a slightly wobbly line any day. I used to have items like lap-posts, stop-signs, trees, hydrants that would pop out of the frame, like Deadpool breaking the fourth wall (but much more PG-friendly). If I were to do that here I should have had the chimney break the frame. Still, it’s a lovely house and I’ve drawn it the best I can in a smaller-than-I-usually-draw rectangular frame, even though it has a kind of ‘Drawn-by-Pete-in-2009’ feel to the style.

you’ll never change what’s been and gone

072221 3rd St Davis

I’ve drawn Third Street a lot of times over the years. Some of it has changed, like the stretch between campus and B, some of it hasn’t, like those houses across from the shops between D and E. It was a hot day, I was downtown after leaving work a bit early to get something cold to drink (not easy on campus in the afternoons these days, those vending machines ain’t being stocked). I got a cold drink from Newsbeat and stood outside to drink it. I needed that cold drink, the hot weather has been too much to bear. I wonder sometimes why I moved to such a hot place, but that hot place is just Planet Earth in general these days. That ship has sailed, it has no choice there’s not going to be any land left if the sea levels keep rising. These long hot summers are depressing though, I don’t do well in heat. I mean, sunshine is nice but a day with some clouds feels like it’s taking a quick breather before the next wave. Today for example it was in the high 90s, but with a breeze and a sky of clouds, aaand tomorrow it’ll be 102, then 106 on Thursday, then 104… dudes, seriously, slow down. Chill out. I did chill out a bit the other day, I went to San Francisco, which was about forty degrees cooler, no exaggeration. Naturally that meant I came back with sunburn, despite layers of sunscreen it always gets through that fog. I’ll post my San Francisco sketches separately of course. I stood in the shade beneath a tree on that very hot day to draw this, because I just needed to draw. I can’t really explain the need to constantly draw stuff. I need the creative outlet, otherwise I get very grumpy. There was a period when I was younger when I kinda gave up on drawing. It was what I loved doing most but wasn’t really going anywhere, and I had so many interests pulling me here and there, music, drama, writing; I still drew, but not as much. When I decided, nah I’m not going to try art school, it was because I wasn’t actually that interested in Art. Or I was, but not as much as other things, like languages, history, travelling, reading, football, football shirts, playing the guitar, writing music, writing stories, girls. It took me a while to realize that even though I was so-so about art in general, I did still love drawing. At some point in my 20s I started drawing again and just kept going, like falling uphill, grabbing onto ideas as I did, and it felt like I was going back to the first thing I ever loved, just picking up a pen in that funny way and just drawing stuff. Yet, I’m never satisfied, there’s always more that needs to be drawn, more to see and put down on paper. So I yearn for big complicated drawings that make my fingers hurt, but sometimes I’m ok just drawing very familiar typical bits of Davis. Like this. A house, straight on, with a tree in front, other side of the street. My mind’s too overheated for anything inventive or envelope-pushing. This is my three-chord, no-nonsense fallback song, with the same old lyrics about the weather. But this is what Davis looks like, through my glasses.

of all the words he tried to say

4th st Davis

Day before Independence Day, the Day of England 4-0 vs Ukraine day, I went downtown on a Saturday afternoon to do some drawing and look in a couple of shops. I stopped and drew this building on 4th Street, some Law Offices I think (I need new glasses/eyesight). It was pretty quiet, I wasn’t harassed by any mad people this time (unlike just up the block a couple of months ago), and I wore my 2010 red England shirt, the only England shirt I own. (It’s coming home by the way, I don’t know if you heard, but it totally is). There were leaf blowers behind me blowing the leaves and dust or whatever, but they didn’t last long (maybe the leaves blew back, I had my headphones on). Amazingly I had never drawn this building, to the best of my knowledge. I probably have in the background of another, or maybe I have and forgot. I’ve drawn a lot of Davis drawings and usually remember them all, but I’ve been here a good long while now. Nearly sixteen years, coming up on that. I’ve been drawing it for fifteen of them. One day I’ll do a book of them. I’ll say that again in another fifteen years. I can never seem to get it together to write it, well I suppose a book of drawings doesn’t really need much writing. Be better off without it really (what was that 1 star Amazon review of one of my books that said “by the time he finished what he was saying I had forgotten what he was talking about” or something), the sketches are the words anyway. So, another one of 4th Street, Davis. Happy 4th, America!

drawing old north davis

Old North Davis, G and 7th
Just over a week ago some of us Davis sketchers braved the stormy weather and came out to sketch Old North Davis. This is the neighbourhood north of Fifth Street, laid out just over a century ago, full of leafy streets and cute houses. We met at the Davis Co-Op on G Street, and spread out to sketch. I drew this corner, at G and 7th. It wasn’t yet raining again so I was making the most of what I could get before seeking cover again. Actually I like rainy sketching, I just put my umbrella inside my jacket, it seems to work.

Old North Davis,  F and 7th

I’ve always liked this building, historically called the Anderson-Hamel House. I have sketched it before, and pass by it most weekends when heading downtown. It’s a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage and was originally the home of John B. Anderson, who established the Bank of Davis and was actually the mayor of Davis when Davis first became a city in 1917. One of the interesting things about this house is that it was originally down at 2nd Street, but was moved when later owners the Quessenberry family decided to build their drugstore there, and so the lovely house moved into Old North Davis. Its history is detailed well in John Lofland’s book ‘Old North Davis’, an absolutely invaluable guide to the area, street by street, hosue by house. I recommend it for anyone interested in this part of Davis (I for one would love to do one where I get to sketch all the buildings).

Old North Davis, E and 6th

I then sat in the Lyda Williams memorial garden on E Street and was going to sketch from there, sat on a bench in the hopeful sunshine, but a local cat decided to come and sit on my lap for a while. Ok little cat, that’s fine, just have a nap there, my feet need a break anyway. Thunder started rumbling, getting closer and closer. Eventually the cat got down and went under the bench, and I sketched this house on 6th and E. It’s very peaceful here, people out on their Sunday strolls around the neighbourhood. Someone I’ve met before called out to me “nice day for a sketch!”. The thunder rumbling more loudly above me was making me go a little bit faster. In the end I left it where it was and headed back to the Co-Op, just in time for the rain.

Datsun outside the Davis Co-Op

The car above was parked outside the Co-Op, a Datsun (don’t see many of them nowadays), and I actually sketched it at the start, but only got as far as the headlights, the windscreen and the overall outline, I had to finish the rest afterwards, because the driver came and drove away. Not sure what the funny rat symbol was on the side, but the car was very souped up and personalized, with paint splatter and special features, it was like a Stone Roses record cover.
LDD May19 group photo

And here are the brave sketchers who sketched Old North Davis. We’ve yet to determine the date of the next Davis sketchcrawls but we’ll post them very soon.

Pink and Psychic

Davis Psychic, E St
Well that is a bright bubblegum pink. It gave me an opportunity to use that bright pink pen I always carry. This is the Davis Psychic on E Street, Davis. I like seeing these bold colours as I walk or cycle past and have meant to sketch this building again for ages. The last time was a decade ago, when it was a different (but still bright) colour. I don’t go in for all the psychic stuff myself, but some people enjoy it and get a lot from it. I know people who do tarot cards and what not, not my cup of tea but fair play to them. I’m surprised they don’t have palm trees out the front. this was a Saturday afternoon, I needed to get out of the house for a bit because the weather was lovely, so I cycled downtown. I haven’t drawn the entirety of Davis yet but it’s starting to feel like it. There are a few old buildings (and not so old) on this street that have interesting shapes. I like it when the sun hits wooden walls in certain ways.  

In the spirit of “I’ve drawn this whole town before”, here it is as it looked ten years ago, when I sketched this building in mid 2009. You can see there how it was yellow and purple. They’ve always liked to stand out! I wonder what colour they will be when I draw it again in 2029?
the davis psychic<

ten years later

6th and D Davis Oct 2018
On a corner of Old North Davis is a house I drew at the end of a crisp sunny October day in 2008. I remember I left work early that day, and cycled up beyond 5th Street, still then a fairly unknown country for a South Davis-dweller such as me, to the Old North neighbourhood, looking to capture some of its old America charm with the autumnal leaves. That sketch is below. I then posted that sketch on the brand new website called ‘Urban Sketchers’, on day 1 of the blog, for which I was to be the ‘Davis’ correspondent. The header of Urban Sketchers upon its launch featured one of my sketchbooks with sketches of San Francisco. In those days Urban Sketchers, the brainchild of Seattle-based sketcher Gabi Campanario, online sketching friend back when our online sketching community still seemed pretty small, had a few correspondents from around the world but grew fast, issuing a Manifesto and encouraging communities of sketchers to get together and draw their world, or rather ‘see the world, one drawing at a time’. It launched on November 1st, 2008; a decade later Urban Sketchers (USk) is absolutely huge, with countless regional ‘chapters’ globally, many many workshops and gatherings, and the annual International Urban Sketching Symposium, which started in Portland in 2010 (with around 80 participants) and was most recently in Porto in 2018 (with around 800 participants!). So, to commemorate my first post on that first day, I went back to that corner of Old North Davis, a much more familiar district to me now, being on my way home, and sketched that same old house, above. The tree in front has gone, though another younger tree has sprouted up just behind the fence. Obviously in 2008 the leaves turned orange a little earlier than this year. My son was just a little baby. George W. Bush was still president; Barack Obama would be elected a week later. Spurs had just sacked their manager Juande Ramos (after our worst ever start to a league campaign, 1 point in 10 games; think about that, when we’re complaining now about having only 21 points from 10 games) and replaced him with Harry Redknapp. How times have changed. Me, I’m still drawing the rise and fall of trees.

D & 6th, davis

You can see the post I put on Urban Sketchers today at: http://www.urbansketchers.org/2018/11/a-decade-on.html

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

davis before the city of davis

Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion, Davis

And finally, here are the sketches from last month’s “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl, the centenary tour of old Davis. A group of us met up on a Saturday morning outside the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion at the corner of E and 2nd Streets, and set off exploring and sketching the bits of Davis that were a hundred years old or more. Because Davis, you see, celebrated 100 years of being The City of Davis in that very week – but it’s been around a lot longer than that. In fact I might have called this sketchcrawl “Let’s Draw Davisville!” because that was the name of the place up until around 1907 or so. Davisville was named after Jerome C. Davis and his wife Mary, who owned a lot of the land which eventually became the city, and the man who coined that name was the early postmaster Mr. Dresbach, and this was his house.


I gave everyone a special map that I created, which you can see below. On the reverse side it includes a little bit of local history, but on the map side are listed most (but maybe not all?) of the buildings and spots that are 100 years old or more. I have drawn many of them already (see the pictures around the edge) but this was a nice way to start checking off those extra-centurions from my to-draw list. By the way, I think “F” may be in the wrong place, I couldn’t find it and it’s not signposted. There are also a couple of places at least outside this map which may be a bit older, but if I start going beyond the realms of cartography, well, where does that leave us. Hey if you live in Davis and want to try sketching them all, download the pdf map and let me know how you go!

LDD map March 2017 map page

LDD map March 2017 info page v-ucd

So, after I sketched the Dresbach Hunt Boyer Mansion I went over to G Street, and sketched the Masonic Lodge. Yeah, you didn’t notice that either huh! I never knew this building was a century-old Masonic Lodge, only paying attention to the ground floor shop level. Trees usually block it, but you can see the masonic symbol up there if you look closely. I sketched this from outside the G Street Wunderbar. Those odd shapes in the front are cars, or the ghosts of cars maybe; I decided I couldn’t be bothered doing any details on them. You have to imagine 1917 vehicles.

masonic lodge, G St Davis

This building, which is across the 5th Street border in Old North Davis (the Bowers Addition, which is over a century old; I will write an Old North-centric post soon…), is called the Bentley House. In fact I did not know about it until a few days before, while still putting the map together. Iw as coming baxck from downtown and passed by it, and they actually ahve a big informative plaque outside with its history on it. It celebrated a centenary in 2010, so by that I deduce (my dear Watson) that it must date back to 1910. It’s pretty, in a pretty neighbourhood. Below the sketch is a photo of the plaque, with a century of history.

bentley house, old north davis


My final sketch of the day is another structure from 1917, not a house, but a tunnel. The Richards Underpass (or rather, the Davis Subway as it is properly know) links downtown to the other side of the railroad tracks, toward south Davis, and the I-80 freeway. It was part of the old Lincoln Highway, that connected San Francisco with New York. Yeah, that New York. This tunnel leads to the whole world, baby. Well, it is actually on the National Register of Historic Places. She doesn’t look like much but she got it where it counts. It’s a popular place to sit bottlenecked in traffic too, coming into Davis off of the freeway, and I like to imagine Dr Doom sitting in a metallic grey and green car fuming away beneath his metal mask at “that FOOL Richards” and how “I, Victor Von Doom, would have created a far superior underpass!” Oh you’ve gotta love Dr. Doom.

richards underpass (1917)

And then we met up, those that remained, and looked at each other’s sketches. I have yet to find time to set the next sketchcrawl here in Davis, but I am working on it. This one was fun, but you know, you can sketch old Davis in your own time, just grab that map, grab a pen or pencil, and get sketching!


Well done the Davis sketchers!

Oh and Happy Birthday City of Davis!

it’s easy bein’ sneezy

I and 4th Davis
Now this is one of the old houses in old east downtown Davis. It is opposite the Schmeiser House, which you may recall I sketched on New Year’s Eve (see that here). In fact back when I sketched that I had half intended to sketch the whole panorama, but didn’t. So I went back last month and sketched the other half, but this time with a much more spring-like feeling. Those yellow flowers though! I must say though, the colours in the sketch started to look a bit odd after a while because, to be honest, I was finding it hard to see – my eyes were itching and watering, and I was sneezing, because yes, it’s allergies season, and Davis is notorious for the allergies. Even looking at this sketch makes me want to sneeze! I do like the old east downtown neighbourhood. I don’t like sneezing.