rails, whales and tales

Train to Santa Barbara sm.jpg

Recently I went to Santa Barbara for the UCAAC (University of California Academic Advising Conference). I took the train down from Davis, an 11 hour journey on an Amtrak which didn’t have wifi, but did have amazing views. For an eleven hour trip it went by quite quickly. Zipping past the ocean, I even saw some whales, poking their heads and their tails out, an exciting sight. I spent at least half of the trip in the observation train, which was bright and roomy, and so I sat at a table and sketched. What else would I do? Sketching on trains is a good way for you to practice perspective. Also to practice steadying your hand while everything is bumpy. I caught the train at 7am, the first time I had taken one of these Coastal Starlight trains in California. They go right down from Seattle to San Diego, passing by many cities on the way. There were people who were making the long trip, a few interesting characters, and the announcers on the train liked to give the occasional piece of commentary. We crossed the Delta, went down the East Bay, through the Salad Bowl, horseshoed around a massive prison outside San Luis Obispo, paraded down the rocky coast before finally reaching the palm trees and beaches of Santa Barbara. It was a big ol’ train, a goliath on the move. I’d take the trip again. I did another on the less-lengthy train journey between Santa Barbara and Burbank Airport a few days later, sat in a regular seat. I’ll post my Santa Barbara sketches next, as I’ve finally started scanning them. Santa Barbara has a lot of red tiled roofs.

Train to Burbank

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another changing corner

3rd and G streets, Davis CA
A couple of years ago I sketched the corner of 3rd and G when it was home to a much older, shorter building, which housed both my barber Razor’s Edge and the little shop called Tibet Nepal. See this post for example. Then the building was demolished, and replaced with this. It’s a bi taller, has more modern fittings, is pretty brown, and hoses a cafe which spills onto the street (with orange chairs) and I think another eatery of some sort. I sketched it one lunchtime last week and added another image to the endless list of Davis sketches. I think it’s about time I came out with some sort of Guide to Davis, but one entirely sketched, and written from a definitely Pete point of view. I know, I’ve had these ideas before, and I still intend to do a full on guide to the bars of Davis (“Davis Bar By Bar” the limited run mini zine had one volume and I never had time to print volumes 2 and 3). “A Davis Sketchbook” is something I have also long considered, I have enough material but time passes by so fast. Perhaps this will be a summer project. Or you can just look at all the posts on my blog that say “Davis“. It’s been quite the week for UC Davis. The Chancellor has been placed on administrative leave for a number of reasons I won’t go into right now (read the news…). I’ll just talk about this sketch. So this new building came in replacing an older building, and all those trees around make this spot very shady. Speaking of shady, it’s been quite the week for UC Davis, the Chancellor has been placed on administrative leave for a number of reasons I won’t go into right now (read the news…). Back to the drawing, I was in a hurry and so I kept certain elements pretty sketchy. Speaking of sketchy, it’s been quite the week for UC Davis…

bus stop inspiration

3rd st bus stop, Davis CA
I stood at the bus stop on Third Street in downtown Davis. I hit the point recently where I have drawn all of Davis, literally the entire town. No that isn’t true, really, it can never be true, but sometimes it feels like it. I have drawn the building to the right before (actually that was a commission for the lovely couple who own it). I do wander about trying to get inspiration for a new sketch though and a lot of the time, nothing comes. That happens. You get uninspired. Everything looks so “common” and “everyday” and unworthy of recording again. I’m sure Paul Cezanne used to have days like that, “Oh not Mont St Victoire again, mon dieu” but he lived in Aix-en-Provence and unless there are Moleskine sketchbooks filled with his sketches of the Cours Mirabeau and the Dog People then I’m afraid he wasn’t really trying. Pull your finger out Cezanne! Mont St Victoire was like a comfort blanket for him, he’d get down, have a poulet-frites and paint the mountain again. It’s ok, I lived in Aix once, it’s a funny sort of town. More to sketch there than in Davis though. I have actually climbed Mont St Victoire you know, twice. I tell people this all the time like I discovered it or something, like I’m some big rugged mountaineer, Sherpa Tensing or someone. I walked up it, on the easy side, I didn’t freescale the steep side. Well, there are no mountains in Davis, but we do have this bus stop on Third Street. I wasn’t even waiting for a bus. I could tell you a great story about how I had twenty minutes to wait for the bus and I just whipped out the sketchbook and freescaled the Cezanne out of that blank page. The truth is I cycled there, and this wasn’t even my destination. I had no destination. It was lunchtime, I really needed to sketch, the final few pages of Watercolour Moleskine #14 had been blank for long enough and I had been putting off filling them until I had something amazing to fill them with. All I could find however was this bus-stop. It is a nice bus-stop, you have to admit.The incline on at least one of those metal poles is reminiscent of the incline on Mont St Victoire, if looking at it backwards. The moral of the story is if you have nothing left to draw, draw a bus-stop. YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE IT MIGHT TAKE YOU…

(Oh groan groan, and anyway yes you do, just look at the bus map. This line is on a loop anyway so if you want a rubbish bus metaphor it should be “drawing Davis is like the E line, you just always end up going back to all the places you’ve just been” or something)

the last pink blossom

lecture hall ucd march 2016
I’ve had computer issues for a while, and ended up with a dead hard drive which I was able to replace myself, like a tech expert or something. Then I couldn’t scan until I had gotten the absolute right driver for the printer. I went through a lot of drivers that just didn’t work, one chauffeur after another, none of which knew where they were going, no sat-nav or even an A to Z could get my computer to find my scanner (I mean, it’s right next to the computer, duh, even a complete wally can see where it is, yet my computer can’t find it, idiot). Anyway, all resolved now, so I am starting to catch up on some of the sketching from the past month or so that got missed, including this. Actually I have done a lot less sketching this past month anyhow, due to a massively busy schedule, but I’m getting back on track. This sketch was made over a month ago on the UC Davis campus when blossom was still bright pink. It is the site of the future (unnamed) Large Lecture Hall, to be built at a cost of $22 million (or about the price of Gareth Bale’s left thigh). It’s over near Kleiber, and Storer, and I believe it will cover all this lovely grass up so take a good look while you can.

drawing UCDAAC 2016

UCDAAC2016-keynote-sm
Last month I attended the annual UC Davis Academic Advising Conference here on campus. It is part of my day-job, but on this occasion I was invited to be the official sketcher of the event as well. Two birds, one Pete. I would be drawing everything anyway, but now I get an official excuse and it saves my department some money in registration. It’s also an opportunity to draw people. Five-minute sketches of people in fact – a good thing to practice. Hey if you are interested in five-minute people sketching there is a book coming out all about that later this year (hint, it’s why I have been so busy the past few months). Back to the UCDAAC though, it was a day long event, a series of workshops and talks, tent-poled around the keynote speech of David Spight, president of NACADA (the National Academic Advising Association). It was St.Patrick’s Day so a lot of people wore green.
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Here is David, above, and below are two of the organizing forces, Brett McFarlane of UC Davis and Elizabeth Dudley, also of UC Davis, also a former co-worker in my office. Below them there, Sharon Knox of UC Davis, and Alejandra Garibay, also a former co-worker in my office.

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UCDAAC2016-sharon-knox-smUCDAAC2016-alejandra-garibay-sm
The thing with five-minute people sketches is that they don’t have to be entirely accurate, but it’s a good idea to try and get the sense of people. However, thinking about it, talking about it, and then actually doing it are different things – I always feel a little hesitant when sketching people, not wanting to take too many risks, probably for fear of that “you’ve drawn me as a massive scribble” “it looks nothing like me” “can you make me look younger” reaction. But my favourite ones are the much looser, less inhibited sketches. It can take you a few people sketches to get into your groove, so keep them quick and keep them coming. I enjoyed myself sketching people on this day, so here are a few more.

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Here are a couple where I kept the linework in these workshop presenters fairly basic, but it looked like them so it still served its purpose. In the second I had to look over my shoulder to sketch the attendees, and loosened up the lines a lot more. The session was called “What color is your cape?” and had a superhero theme. We each had to say who our favourite superhero was (quite a lot of “Batman”, “Wonder Woman”, “My Mom”). One woman beat me to the one I was going to say, Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan) who I think is absolutely awesome. I gave her a mention too but also went with Captain America because I happened to be wearing Captain America socks (as you do). I wanted to say Magneto of course but he might not have been the model of a good adviser they were looking for, what with his whole “Master of Magnetism, Homo Superior” stuff. It was a fun session though.

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This was an interesting session, about Cultural Capital, there was some good discussion and I learned a lot. I enjoyed it most though because I had an opportunity to sketch the lady with bright blue hair, and I had a nice shade of W&N watercolor to use, I think it was the Antwerp Blue. I like sketching that large ovular table as well, a challenge in perspective sketching.

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Here is David Spight again, giving a Q&A after his keynote.

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And the final session of the day before the closing speakers, this was a session devoted to “wellness through art” (above), whereby people cut pictures out of magazines and made big collages. They were mostly full of the typical “peace”, “love”, beach”, “growth” type phrases and images, all trying to convey a certain wellness and spiritual mindset – except for that made by Alejandra, who made a collage of people in the magazines she found attractive, which was in my opinion easily the most fun one. It was a pretty calming session, they played classical music (the instructor explained why, something to do with increasing brainpower, and I understand that, I listen to certain bands sometimes to make me feel clever). One of the pieces they played I recognized straight away as the theme song to the BBC TV show “The Little Silver Trumpet” from the early 1980s, a TV show which I was actually a cast member of, at the tender age of four. If ever you should come across it, I am pretty instantly recognizable as a scruffy red-head kid in the main family of red-heads (my “mum” was Patsy Byrne, aka Nursie from Blackadder, and my “Dad” was the brilliant but scary Ron Pember), and in one scene I actually remember filming I was drawing, showing the other kids how to draw stuff, and holding my pen in that distinct way, all those years ago. That’s what I was thinking of when that music came on. I enjoyed this sketch most of all, the composition of the scene and the different directions people were sat in. It probably reminded everyone of kindergarten.

Check out information about the day at the UCDAAC Website.

constructing the manetti shrem, part six

Manetti Shrem under construction 030216 sm
The continuing construction of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis has reached a new phase, with the large metal canopy now finally coming together. Early last month I sketched the scene above, the framework for the canopy undergoing its paint job, while the large metal slats that would make up the design were beginning to be inserted. It’s like a massive Airfix model but without the smell of superglue.This was particularly fun to sketch, figuring out the complicated lines and curves, but also because this scene is so brief – already it looks totally different.
Manetti Shrem under construction March 2016
Here you see, just a few weeks later, the canopy is already complete, or as good as. I sketched this on a day when the sky was lovely, with deep blues and fluffy white clouds, not a very common sky for Davis. Reminded me of Britain.I sketched this from beneath the shade of the UC Davis Welcome Center. The buildings around Vanderhoef Quad are modern and bright. This is a really exciting part of campus now. Below, I sketched another view of the Manetti Shrem from a little further back, beyond the Mondavi Center. You can see the interesting shape of the canopy as it curves around the entrance. This will be a really photogenic spot. I stood beneath a tree to sketch. As i did, I got several odd looks from people as they passed by. Nothing bad, just, I don’t know, frowns. Shifty looks, suspicious glances. I must look odd standing there with a sketchbook under a tree, it’s fair enough. People on this edge of campus are usually a bit better dressed. No, they are, I don’t know why. They are walking to their cars parked at the Mondavi or on their way to an important meeting at the Founders room at the Buehler or the Graduate School of Management or doing something in the Conference Center, I don’t know, they dress better than the people hanging out at the Quad or at the MU Bus Terminal. Maybe that is why they gave me shifty looks, “who is this odd freakish weirdo beneath a tree with a small creepy black book staring at the distance like a fool?” I put it down to turning 40. This didn’t happen so much when I was 39, no back then it was all, “who’s this cool character coolly hanging in the shade making fantastic cool urban art which is so cool?” But now I’m 40 it’s all changed, it’s all downhill from here. Or it would be, if Davis had any hills.
Manetti Shrem and Mondavi Center

I’m enjoying sketching this construction though, and the Manetti Shrem will officially open its doors in the Fall with a Grand Opening on November 13, 2016. Check out their website at: http://manettishremmuseum.ucdavis.edu/.

Here are the previous posts charting the construction in sketches…

PART FIVEPART FOURPART THREEPART TWOPART ONE

’tis grand to be in new york

NYC Grand Central
Did I mention how cold New York was? It was so cold, even brass monkeys wore gloves. I don’t even get that. It was so cold, I had to open the fridge to warm my hands, no I said that one last time. It was so cold, I lost the ability to think of anything ever. There, that works.

But it wasn’t too cold to sketch.

I tell a lie, it definitely 100% was too cold to sketch, but for the sake of it, for the sake of urban sketching as a thing, I jolly well did it, because, well I’m not in New York every day. Sadly.

This was done on the Saturday afternoon, the second coldest day of the trip (oh wow, the 14th was even colder, it was so cold that it made Frosty the Snowman look like the Human Torch, see I’m just not very good at these analogies and things, I don’t know if that’s really what I do. I would be terrible in one of those schoolyard “yo mama is so fat…” contests you always hear about, I would be like, “yeah, shuttup, you mug, stop being sizeist” or something. Anyway back to the sketch. Yes, I stood in the sub-sub-freezing-cold weather and sketched the scene above. In the goshdarned cold. Oh I was wrapped up warm, unbelievably warm. Multiple layers of clothing, two jackets, gloves, thick hat, thermal longjohns, two pairs of socks, look I’m not going to describe my whole wardrobe here (stripey underpants, ok?) but I was pretty warm. But that cold, man. Amazingly my uni-ball signo um-151 pen held up pretty well and did not let me down. I did all the inkwork except for about half the windows on the skyscraper (it’s the Chrysler Building for those of you who have not heard of New York before) and some of the windows on that other building in the background (I believe the phrase that I uttered when I got to that part was ‘sod that’), and then added the paint once I got inside somewhere warm (I went to an igloo on Pluto). This is Grand Central Station.

Sorry, sorry, I meant Grand Central Terminus. What? ‘Terminal’? Right ok, it’s Grand Central Terminal. Only an out of town bumpkin like me would call it ‘Station’. In fact I think it’s one of those things whereby they go around telling people it’s ‘Station’ just so that when people repeat it to New Yorkers they can get laughed at. Actually I think none of this isĀ  true at all, this is in fact entirely a conversation I had in my head while sketching, in fact the imaginary conversation turned a bit ugly at one point and I had to break up the imaginary out-of-towner who was all, “you think you’re better than me, huh” and the imaginary New Yorker who had dropped his imaginary banter and moved straight into an imaginary aggressive “huh, wiseguy, huh, well things are gonna get real ‘terminal’ for you soon buddy”, and well I just left them to it frankly, this completely imaginary conversation that didn’t happen. I went indoors, and sketched in there instead.
NYC Grand Central Terminal

I did wonder where Avengers Tower was, since my New York is so bound to the imaginary. Being inside the immensely impressive Grand Central reminded me of that scene in Avengers when Thor and Hulk take out those Chitauri, and then Hulk punches Thor sideways. It also reminded me a lot of the Lego Marvel video game, the bit where you have to fight Sandman. I liked standing in here sketching, and I had intended on adding colour as well, but the day was moving along fast and I wanted to get back and go for dinner. I was told afterwards that there is an amazing place in the downstairs food court for beer and oysters, and I wish I had tried it, but that just gives me an excuse to go back to New York. Hey, do we even need an excuse to go back to New York? It’s an amazing city, with more sketching to be done there than I can possibly imagine (and yeah, punchline coming, I can imagine quite a bit).

(Except when talking about the cold)