and the stinking streets of summer are washed away by rain

2nd st alley
I’ve been away, out of the state, up in Portland Oregon if you must know. I wanted to walk about in the rain. Well of course we get rain here in Davis now, and some of it came the same week I left. So one wet lunchtime I got out during a lull in the weather and filled in the last remaining space in Watercolour Moleskine 10. I only sketched a bit before the rain started again, but as Alan Partridge might say, you get the general idea. The long long summer is finally gone, autumn is here, a new stage in the year begins.
Anyway, that ends Moleskine #10. Watercolour Moleskine that is, which are generally my ‘alpha’ sketchbooks. I have other Moleys, and other sketchbooks besides, but I’m already well into Moleskine 11 now and will have to do a 12th to keep some symmetry (I remember when I was ‘stopping at 9’). I’m used to them now, and they look good on the shelf (which is odd, because I keep them in a box).
If you want to see the rest of the sketches from this book, which cover London, Paris, San Francisco, Oregon, Davis Santa Cruz and some other places, please visit my Flickr set “MOLESKINE 10“…

whole in the market

whole foods davis, harvest hullabaloo
When failing book behemoth Borders closed last year, there was a large empty space in downtown Davis where something should really go. Now finally something is in there: Whole Foods Market, a chain of grocers that specializes in fresh organic food. The grand opening and bread-baking ceremony was today, but on Sunday they held a ‘Harvest Hullabaloo’ over at Davis Commons, with stalls and tents offering free samples of their organic foods and drinks. I tried some very nice chocolate, followed by some air-cooled roast chicken, which I must say was quite lovely. There were other stalls with other predictably ‘Davis’ oriented stuff (such as ‘decorate your vegan bike with corn-fed soy glow-sticks’ or something) but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It was the end of our monthly sketchcrawl, so I preferred to sit down and draw. Interestingly enough the first time I ever sketched in Davis I drew this view, back when it was Borders.

I’m sure Whole Foods will be a hit, at first, though I know it can be quite expensive. It will be competing with our much beloved Davis Co-Op (to which Davisites are very loyal) and the very popular local chain Nugget (my personal local favourite, though Nugget too can be not so cheap). Another issue is that it’s not an obvious location for a grocery store – finding a spot in the small parking lot at the back is already a challenge, though of course you don’t always need a car to shop (hello, public transport / baskets on your bike / spare the air, like?). (in fact they are offering free 24-hour bike trailer rentals… really trying hard to get the Davis vote!) Still, I hope it doesn’t hurt the Co-Op. I always worry about national chains moving into towns and driving custom away from locally owned business (eg, a branch of national sandwich/bread chain Panera just opened right opposite local independent deli Zia’s), and then after closing the small local store the chain potentially decides further down the road to close thus leaving a gap… but I don’t know if I should be too worried for Davis. Borders came and went and the local bookstore Avid Reader lived through it, same as record store Armadillo Music outlived Tower Records right across the street. Whole Foods will probably be a success, and appears to be interested in the community, and I don’t think Davis is going to lose sleep about having yet another place to buy fresh healthy organic food. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

widescreen e-street

E st panorama
On Sunday, about seventeen sketchers of Davis (and surrounding areas) got together again for another urban sketch crawl, this time downtown at the E St Plaza. I must admit I didn’t do quite so much ‘crawling’ this time, and spent most of the day in the same spot, sketching people in the morning (see below) and spending over a couple of hours in the afternoon stood up drawing the above panorama, a two-page spread in my Moleskine. You can see a larger version on my Flickr site, and below is a detail. This was drawn in uni-ball signo um-151 pen.

I wanted to sketch the sketchers, needing to practise some people drawing. Amazingly I was able to get a quick sketch of my four-year-old son, when he stood still for a few minutes to draw a rocketship (mostly it was all about the sprinting about). On the right is Syd, another of the sketchers.
And here are two more sketchers, Emily and Scott.
Next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be in November, date to be announced soon…
let's draw davis october 2012

what’s it all about, alpha?

uc davis boards
It’s the time of year when the Frat Boards are out in force. Not just for Fraternities, but Sororities and other organizations too. I have lived in Davis for seven years and they are all still a mystery to me. Obviously not all these societies are ‘Greek’ (or maybe they are), or rather they don’t all have mystical Greek acronyms, but many of them have big frat houses and spend a lot of October pursuing recruitment activities and initiations (such as ‘hazing’). Fraternities are national, with chapters at many big American schools, and some societies are very old indeed. Some are specialist organizations, such as the ones for Pre-Med students or Latino students, or that fraternity for those really into boating (Rho Rho Rho) and another one for dairy farmers (Mu Mu). (There is probably one for really crap old jokes too, Tee Hee Hee).

Speaking of the Greek alphabet, I was listening to an excellent podcast today, the History of English Podcast by Kevin Stroud. As an avid and excitable enthusiast of language history I was giddy to discover this recently, and listened to all the podcasts so far almost every day on iTunes. It is a history of the English language alright, but is starting from the very beginning, in a super comprehensive way that you do not get in standard English language histories. It does not start from the usual “Angles, Saxons and Jutes crossing the North Sea” angle (excuse the pun, just this once), but from the roots of Proto-Indo-European. As the series has progressed, Kevin Stroud has neither skipped a connection nor simply narrowed the focus into proto-Germanic, but includes anything that is relevant to the development English and shows us why. There was one episode devoted solely to the letter ‘c’. Now I understand that this may not excite you in quite the same way it excites me, but I have listened to that one quite a few times and have already started doing some reading again. I studied Germanic philology as part of my MA in Medieval English and so the episodes on sound shifts and Grimm’s Law made my heart race, as all those hours spent pondering dusty books and dictionaries in Senate House and the Maughan Library came flooding back to me. This was my passion, more so even than drawing, and one I have not had time for these past few years (though I was interviewed on ABC radio in Australia about the topic of my MA thesis last year). Today’s eagerly anticipated episode was about the alphabet, and its origins in Phoenician and subsequently Greek. The move from a syllabic-based script to an alphabetic script was huge, as it made learning to read and write a lot easier, there being far fewer phonemes or letters in a language than syllables. Imagine if we’d stayed with Cuneiform or hieroglyphs, and that show Countdown would have been very different (“a scarab please Carol, and a bird, and a river…”). As I say, Stroud always ties it to English, as that is the podcast’s name, and since we use that alphabet every single day the origins of it are of immense importance to the history of English. If you have an interest in such stuff, I strongly recommend this podcast. More than anything, it is good to listen to while out and about sketching, especially when you sketch Greek letters and can say, ‘Alpha’, ah yes, that used to be a consonant, not a vowel.

impossible acres

impossible acres, davis
Every October, we head out to the north-western edge of Davis to a farm called Impossible Acres. There we try to take a photo of our son as he easily navigates the hay maze, spend a couple of minutes holding a baby duck and stroking a kitten before leaving the animal petting zone to rush back to the corn maze (cost me seven bucks, but holding the baby duckling was worth it), ride around in a circle on the back of a tractor to see, well, fields, and then pick some pumpkins and get home before the young one has a meltdown. Yup, that pretty much sums it up. It’s great out there though, and I always try to grab a very quick sketch if humanly possible. While my son and my wife were lost in the corn maze, I sketched the big barn. You can make out one of the heavily pregnant goats in the picture; there were tiny baby goats, kids rather, wandering about in the enclosure, one was only a day old. Before very long my son came back from the maze and wanted to do some sketching himself. I forget this, now he’s at the age where he needs to draw if I’m drawing, and I always forget to pack his sketching stuff as well. This whole thing took me less than fifteen minutes so I’m happy with the result. We picked our pumpkins (I got a white one, I am thinking ‘stormtrooper’ this year) and went home. Our annual tradition in Davis.

the 42nd president of the united states of america…

bill clinton rally, uc davis quad
The 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, was at the UC Davis campus yesterday for a rally organized by Davis Campus Democrats. I love Bill Clinton, so I wasn’t going to miss this. I took an early lunch, and sketched the crowd waiting around before the main man arrived. Pres. Clinton was giving support to local Democrats running for Congress, as well as to President Obama (apparently there is an election next month? I wouldn’t know as I have avoided all contact with TV ads, every time the TV goes to commercial I go for a walk). I can’t vote, of course. It was a large crowd, and an excited one. It was also very sunny, and facing the sun was getting a bit hot after a while, so I went to the shade and sketched one of the news vans (KCRA3, which I’ve sketched before, I like them better than News10). When Bill came up to his podium the atmosphere was electric, ie everyone raised their smartphones and cameraphones into the air to capture some footage. The funniest was seeing people simultaneously want to clap and take photos at the same time, so lots of one handed slapping of own thighs. I returned to my main sketch, adding in Bill and writing down some snippets of his speech (he loves UC Davis, he said, every time he comes to the campus). It was pretty special to see and listen to him  in person. It’s one of my ambitions to have a beer with Bill Clinton.

kcra3 van at clinton rally

…and his spirit truck

aggie firetruck
Campus is extremely an busy place these days. At lunchtime today I cycled over to the Memorial Union, where all the fraternities, activity groups, leaflet hander-outers, placard-holders (like the bloke holding up a sign saying ‘stop the left lean of campus’; I was going to suggest he gets one shoe slightly bigger than the other, that should fix it for him). There was music, of course, and there was the blue Aggie Pack Firetruck. Oh, all this Charing-Cross of life, what to draw? Silly question!

I’ve wanted to sketch this for ages. It’s a 1973 Crown Pumper Truck which was serving in the UC Davis fire service for three decades before it was retired, and bought by the UCD Athletics Dept, painted blue and reborn as the Aggie Pack Spirit Engine. You can read more about it on the Aggie Pack website. I sat on the ground with my sketchbook. The DJs playing the music were nearby and quite loud so I put my headphones on and listened to my iPod.

a hundred degrees on october the first?

orange court, davis

What’s that I always say about being always busy but always finding time to sketch? I have been so busy this past week I have had zero time to sketch. Ironically my sketches were all over the local paper (and I’ll find time to post about that some time soon too), but what with work, the sketchbook has been getting a little antsy. It’s a new academic year, loads of new students, high piles of work, . Davis is a maelstrom of bikes coming from all angles and all cycling-proficiency-levels. So on Monday I made a point of sketching, even though it was just a quick 25 minutes. I was downtown and popped into the little courtyard on E St known as Orange Court, a place which really merits a much bigger, more detailed and full colour drawing. I’ve drawn it from outside in colour, and from inside in sepia, but it’s an interesting place to sketch (right by Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, my favourite place to eat in Davis) (after one full on no-lunch-and several hours-overtime daylast week the only thing I could think of was to eat their Boss’s Curry, perfect antidote to a busy week).

Don’t be fooled by the almost wintery look of this sketch. It might have been October 1st but it was a hundred degrees (maybe more), and today was no better. Come on Davis, it’s October for heaven’s sake! When can I wear a jumper and a scarf? I need a couple of days somewhere slightly cooler. Portland maybe?

Sketched in the watercolour Moleskine in brown uni-ball signo um-151, with watercolour wash. More regular sketching to come I promise you. I need it!

little and large

little prague, davis
On Saturday night after the Pence Auction, I popped by Little Prague for a couple of beers and the essential detailed bar sketch. Little Prague is probably my favourite Davis pub. It’s the one I’ve known the longest, and they do nice beer (though the Krusovice I used to enjoy is now no longer available). It’s also the pub I have sketched the most. I don’t go very often, and when I do it’s usually on one of those nights where the music is quite dancey and loud. There is however a lot to draw, especially behind the bar, and the lighting is good bar-light. On this night not only did I sell two pieces at the Pence (hooray!) but the San Francisco Giants won the NL West (as mentioned on the TV screen; the Giants tend to be on the TV in my bar sketches). This is great news in our house. This means the Giants will be in the post-season play-offs. Who knows, maybe even with a shot at the World Series? Baseball is a long season with about seventeen thousand million games, so it surprised me that the NL West division only has six teams in it. Even the Scottish Premier League has more teams than that (well, two really, Celtic and Rang- ah, er…). It doesn’t make it any easier though. They play every single day for hours on end, against teams from all over the country and just have to finish with more wins than their divisional rivals (imagine Celtic and Ra-, er, Aberdeen playing against, say, Ajax, in order to get points to win the Scottish title). You see, it all makes sense, especially after a Czech beer.

Hey if you’re interested in seeing some of my previous Little Prague sketches here are a few… spot the difference!

little prague againlittle prague
little prague, october 2010lil' prague
little prague tonightlittle prague lampslittle prague beer-pumplosing my superpowers


sketches from the auction

pence art auction 2012
Saturday night I had the pleasure to attend the Pence Gallery’s 2012 Art Auction. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had two drawings in the auction (and I’m pleased to announce they both sold!) and so I spent the evening looking at some amazing art work by local artists. I am always particularly impressed with the incredible ceramic work on show, Davis is known as a ceramicist’s town and several luminary ceramic sculptors were there. The food was nice too! So for the live auction itself I sketched on the program. The auctioneer was entertaining, the bidding exciting (from where I was standing), and I sketched away. Local artist Marie-Therese Brown, who has an amazing show at the Artery right now, was there and sketched me sketching, so I sketched her sketchbook (see bottom left of the drawing above) when she sat down. Art just carries on!

I also sketched outside on the back patio area, where a really nice new sculpture of a woman now stands. A band was playing, people were chattering and eating and drinking, it was a warm late Summer night. The Pence is a great local resource, a true local art hub.
pence art auction 2012, on the  patio