the changing of the guard

Mrak Hall, UC Davis
Well it is the Thanksgiving Holiday, and by this time of year in Davis the autumnal colours have really exploded into bloom. It happens that bit later than in most parts of America, it seems, and the transition between November and December is when it hits its peak. This is Mrak Hall, above, where the main administration for UC Davis sits. I sat on a bench one lunchtime this week (a more pleasant experience now that the campus is smoke-free) to sketch this view, and I remembered that I’ve sketched it in Falls gone by on a couple of other occasion. Below, December 2010, a couple of weeks or so later in the season. You can see how the red-tinged tree has turned more orange, while the yellow tree has started to thin out on top.

mrak hall in december

Let’s go further back in time to 2007. The same date, December 10th, and a similar rate of autumnalisation (not a word people use, but I just did) though with more leaflessness on the top of the trees (I neglected to draw the leaves on the ground, obviously too difficult for me back in 2007).

back in mrak

That top sketch of Mrak was the final sketch in watercolour Moleskine #13, which was the ‘Art-Plus’ version (and slightly inferior to all the other versions, paper-wise). This bottom sketch was from watercolour Moleskine #2, and the middle one from #6. Time for a new sketchbook!

and for once in your life you have nothing to say

silo panorama nov2014 sm

Click on the drawing to see it bigger. Another panorama, this one being from the Silo area of UC Davis, which as you may recall I have sketched once or twice or a million times before. (Aaaargh, I’ve been in Davis for ages!) Still, I’ve not drawn a two-page panorama from this angle. I had intended to colour the whole thing in (hello laziness, my old friend) but those trees are just a dull green with some crunchy brown so you’re not missing any Fall colours. You can see some of them in the rainy drawing below of the view of the Farmer’s Market at the Silo (every Wednesday lunchtime) which I sketched last month from the staircase you can see on the building in the right, above. Happy Thanksgiving folks!

silo farmers market, uc davis

you can’t give me the dreams that are mine anyway

MU and Freeborn, UC Davis
This is the side of the soon-to-be-remodeled Freeborn Hall at UC Davis, with the Memorial Union building in the background. I sketched this one foggy autumnal lunchtime last week. I only wanted to add in a dash of colour, for the Fall season is in full flow here. Actually I wanted to colour in the whole thing but couldn’t be bothered, so before you applaud my effective limited use of colour, remember you are congratulating my laziness. Only kidding (kind of). With this drawing, I was really attracted to the shapes more than anything so I think it does work with just the lines and a splash of autumn. I am amazed I had never noticed this scene before, despite walking through it a million times. I had gotten off the bus one morning, listening to some music or other (I think it was Pimlico by David Devant) when it just framed itself in front of me, ready-made. Whoah, those angles, that composition, that unmistakable UC Davis look. If I hadn’t been in a hurry to get to the office I would have stopped and sketched it right then and there. The image rattled around in my head for a couple of days like an unbelievably good idea that I had to realize before someone else discovered it, or the building got demolished, until I finally found a lunchtime to cycle over and capture it. It took about a half hour to forty minutes to sketch it. I love how it turned out as well, a good example of how I like a line-only sketch to be.

chip shop

the paint chip, davis
The Fall colours are here in Davis in their brief glory, brief because they take so long to arrive (stupid too-long summers) and then a little bit of Central Valley wind comes along and blows them all over the place…I really need to get out and paint some of these leaves while they are still up above me. Hey speaking of paints, this is the Paint Chip, a friendly art and framing store in downtown Davis, on the corner of the 3rd street block of F St (opposite the old City Hall). I had to sketch one lunchtime and I’ve never drawn this spot before. The sketchmapping of Davis continues. I’ve nearly sketched everywhere, nearly. I considered extending this panorama across F street to include the City Hall Tavern, because then I could have used the extremely hilarious pun-tastic title “Chip and Ale”. Unusually for me however, I decided not to keep on drawing a complicated panorama just so I could use a cheap joke. I have a history of going out of my way just so I can somehow have a not-even-that-funny line to use if the need ever arose. When I was 19 I actually went all the way to the Danish city of Århus, took a long train journey and everything, just so that if anyone ever asked me where Århus was, I could say “in the middle of Årstreet”. Hey I was 19 and it’s still funny all these years later, folks, I’m still getting mileage out of that one, sure I live in America and people don’t know Madness or Denmark or understand anything I say but it’s still funny, that long train journey with only twenty-five quid in my pocket was worth it in the long run. Anyway where was I? Oh yes, the Paint Chip, nice shop, you should go there some time.

boards don’t hit back

boards at the quad oct2014 sm

(Click on the image to see a close-up). This time of year sees a noticeable increase in the number of these wooden sandwich boards that you find all over the UC Davis campus. Most of them advertise fraternities, sororities, clubs, groups, chapters, paragraphs, commas, and other things I do not understand. There’s a sign that simply says ‘Join Alpha Sig’, so I thought, ok board, you told me to so I will. It is probably some kind of Canadian mutant super hero team. And then I thought, actually I had better not, Alpha Sig might be the name of some alien robot (it certainly sounds like it) whose mission is to enslave the earth, and I can’t be getting involved in that sort of nonsense. And then I thought, why would Alpha Sig, with his (I am just assuming he’s a he, thought it’s probably not a question I would ask an alien robot, “oh by the way oh evil one, oh actually nothing it’s none of my business, get back to destroying that city”) advanced alien technology, why use such an antiquarian painted-wooden form of communication, in this age of social media and facebooks and hashtags. By the way, young people of Davis, please don’t say the word “hashtag” in front of other actual words at the end of your sentences, seriously, just don’t. Not out loud. Speaking of which, all the while I sketched this I was forced to listen to a group of young people talking in that way they talk, those ‘conversations’ they insist on having, where one person says something and then another person and so on. I had no headphones to listen to football podcasts because they were broken (where was Alpha Sig and his/her advanced alien technology when I needed it? Painting wooden boards probably). There they were talking about young people things like going to class, partying, and how absolutely awful their one other room-mate who-isn’t-there-right-now is. Almost an hour of whiny nonsense. I know people have this idea that overheard conversations are great catalysts for all sorts of creativity but they’re wrong, because they aren’t, they’re just boring and you should avoid them always. And so there’s all these boards, colourful and inviting, wanting you to JOIN IN and be PART of them, and evidently they work because those frat houses dotted around the outskirts of campus don’t just trash themselves you know.

These boards are up on the north side of the Quad, next to the Memorial Union (and the CoHo, where I get my lovely Thai curry pho). I couldn’t be bothered to draw the rest of it.

brimful of davis on the 45

boy scout hut, davis

Last Saturday was the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, when hundreds of sketchers around the world embarked on sketchathons in their cities and towns. It was time for another ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl – it had been a year since I organized the last one – and about seven of us met down at David Commons and sketched about town all day, before meeting up again at the E St Plaza. My first sketch was of the Boy Scout Hut, above, which sits across Richards Boulevard on First St, with the ‘art garage’ in the background there. (It’s called the ‘art garage’ because there’s a load of recently commissioned murals and art in there now by local artists; not me though, my drawings are a little too small!). The Boy Scout Hut is no longer used by the scouts, but is now part of the John Natsoulas Gallery.

E St orange court oct2014 sm

I have sketched this stretch of E St before (above; click on the image for a larger view), but wanted to add this stretch of Davis to my collection of two-page full-colour panoramic spreads. Orange Court is an interesting little spot, which includes such local favourite spots as the Hotdogger, Haute Again, the Dumpling House (they still have the London Fish & Chips sign but I don’t know if they still do it; only ever ate there once, back in 2005 or 2006, it was ok but London fish & chips it wasn’t), and of course Sophia’s Thai Kitchen & Bar, whose curries are my total favourite in this town. Further down the street to the right is the Thai Canteen, who also do really nice food, quite different from Sophia’s, I especially like their green curry rice. Further down the road still are Sugar Daddies (they may be called something else now actually but it still says that in the window) who do amazing cupcakes and I love their Nutella Milkshake. Did I just say “Nutella Milkshake”? Yes I did, yes I did. Come to Davis.
yeti restaurant, davis
The last sketch of the day (because the panorama took two hours, and I only did about two thirds the colour, finishing off the rest afterwards), was this quick sketch of the colourful front of Yeti Restaurant. I left it in black and white, partly because I used a pen which I knew would run with a wash (the previous sketches were in brown uni-ball signo um-151; this was in the black). I’ve never eaten there, but it’s in a good location on the E Street Plaza. The remaining sketchers from the day met up near here to look at each other’s sketchbooks, and that was nice to see how everyone had interpreted the town. It’s taken me a week to post (what a week it’s been, this depressingly busy October can’t end soon enough), but I’ll be putting them on the Sketchcrawl Forum shortly too. Why not check out the 45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl Forum, and see what everyone else in the world has been sketching? There’s a lot of great urban sketching out there!

By the way, here is the map I drew to give to all participants:

Davis map Oct 2014 full

And we had stickers too…

LDD sticker purple LDD sticker yellow LDD sticker blue

for a glance of my sweet molly mogg

molly moggs
Early Saturday evening, mid-August, Charing Cross Road, which I used to call my favourite street in London (there were more bookshops in those days). Also the place of too many Night Buses. This is Molly Moggs, a little pint-sized pub on the corner of Old Compton, which despite walking by a million times I’d never been into before, though I did pop in with my friends Roshan and Big Lee shortly after sketching this. Across the street from here is Macari’s music shop, which is where I bought my current acoustic guitar, back in 1996. London is full of old stories for me. Molly Moggs was named after a lady in a poem by John Gay, “The Ballad of Molly Mogg” (“The Fair Lady of the Inn”), about a real woman who worked at a tavern in the eighteenth century. From the decor inside it seems to be a very popular place for performances by drag artists, cabaret, burlesque type of thing. We didn’t stay long enough to see any, moving on to an old favourite pub of mine, the ever-unchanging Ship on Wardour Street. There was no more sketching that evening, just lots of catching up with good old friends.
charing x road map