quick sketches from the lunar new year

Lion Dance for Lunar New Year
Last month our department held its annual Lunar New Year party. We have a lot of Asian students, predominantly from China, and so this has been a popular event each year. This time around I brought my sketchbook. Above is a very quick sketch of a “lion dance” by the Golden Turtle Lion Dance Association. This was set to music and was a really fun performance, though I had to be quick to capture it at all! The person at the rear of the lion is one of our co-employees Michael, and it was a great show.
Here are a couple of people I’ve known for years now, Kevin (one of our PhD students) and Irina (formerly one of our PhD students, now an alumna who teaches on campus). I am practicing my five-minute people sketches , so did a lot of that on this day, mostly in my little Fabriano sketchbook. Below, a group of students eating (actually they muts have already eaten because those plates look empty). This was a single-line sketch, no taking the pen off the paper, drawn in the Moleskine.
Lunar New Year people sm
There was even karaoke. Above, one of our faculty, Professor Sharpnack, singing the Bowie song Golden Years; Professor Paul looks on. And yes I did in the end sing a song on the karaoke, after most people had already gone of course. And it was Bowie, and I did that thing where, have I ever mentioned this before? You take any song, any song at all, and replace the words of that song with the words from Yellow Submarine. And it works! So I proved it with ‘Modern Love’. “In the town where I was born, lived a man who sailed to sea, and he told us of his life, in the land of submarines…” You see? Totally works. I overheard one lady say, when it was announced I’d be singing Modern Love, “Ooh that’s my favourite song!” Ok, I thought, this version won’t be. Now I did something I’ve never done before, I sketched while singing on karaoke. Not particularly well, but I was multitasking and singing Yellow Submarine to the tune of Modern Love while someone else held the microphone up to my mouth. Now at last I can finally say that in my life, if I’ve done anything, I have at least done that. I haven’t scanned the result. I’m not showing all the sketches I did that day, they didn’t all turn out great…

I did draw a monkey though. Being the Year of the Monkey, we gave out special certificates to those who were born in a previous Year of the Monkey which said “Certificate of Most Excellent Monkey”, and here is our little monkey:

Monkey Logo crop

I hope you all had an enjoyable new lunar year, and have a most excellent year of the monkey.

walker hall and shields library

Walker and Shields March2016 sm

Another two-page panorama; click on the image for a closer view. This is the view of Walker Hall on the left and Shields Library on the right. We’ve had some wetter weather here lately, hence the overcast sky. I managed to avoid the big wind and rain storms while sketching. I had to do this over the course of a few lunchtimes (the second and third sessions were shorter otherwise just two). This area is scheduled for redevelopment over the next couple of years when Walker Hall becomes the new Graduate and Professional Student Center (or similar name). I saw the plans, it looks very interesting, so I will of course chart its development via the medium of sketchbook, gives me something else to do over the next couple of years. Shields Library will stay the same of course, but the promenade leading up to it will be a little more open. The front of Walker Hall will not change but the back will be quite different.Those trees are expected to have leaves on them as well which will look great once they are done. Also, the sky will be blue by then which should look quite nice.

frat’s all folks

D and 1st Feb2016
That’s a lot of cars. There are like, eight cars at least.This is the corner of 1st and D Streets (or the corner of “Free Speech” and “Design”) which is where you will find the fraternity/sorority houses of Theta Xi. Which probably explains all the cars, you know, “the taxi”. Look I’m 40 ok, I can make these jokes all day long. I was just getting away with it at 39 but at 40 I literally have a license for them. So Theta Xi is not the trainee-cab-drivers fraternity, though to be honest they have really missed out on a trick there. Like Kappa Chi Nu, the fraternity for future baristas at Starbucks, or Rho Rho Rho for the future professional canoeing instructors. That last one was a version of a similar joke told by Terry Pratchett, who is on my mind today because this day, March 12, is one year since he passed away. Damn, I loved Terry Pratchett. I grew up reading his books, absorbing his sideways worldview, I even used to draw characters from his books over all of my school notes, well Death mostly, ‘Mort’ being one of my favourite of his books. I even read the book in French (it is called ‘Mortimer’, and the title character ‘Morty’, since the name ‘Mort’ was taken by Death himself). I did have the German version too somewhere, ‘Gevatter Tod’, and I still have the graphic novel. At one point I tried making a comic adaptation in French myself but only got so far before shrugging my shoulders and giving up. I enjoyed the small-screen adaptations, the animated ones were a bit poorly made but the Sky TV shows were well chosen (Color of Magic maybe less so). I went to see one stage adaptation of Carpe Jugulum, which was actually staged before the book came out so that the um-actually crowd could not point out all minor deviations from the original (there were none anyway). It was at the beloved Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and Mr. Pratchett himself was there with his big black hat, along with a crowd of Granny Weatherwaxes, Deaths, Rincewinds and Cut-me-own-throat-Dibblers. I didn’t dress up, I didn’t do that sort of thing (though if I had, I’d have definitely been Vetinari). I remember one other thing from that night, I stood next to Stephen Fry in the toilets. He actually makes the Lord Melchett noise (“meeeeehhhhh”) while doing his business. Well no he doesn’t, but I imagined that he did. I definitely didn’t make it myself, at least thinking back I really hope I didn’t.

So, one year on, you are still much missed Mr Pratchett. I wish I hadn’t left all of my old Discworld books in England, because I don’t actually know where they are now.

the day after turning 40

A and 5th Feb2016
Another sketch from A Street (that’s “A” Street not “a street”), perhaps rather than point that out every time I should just link to a glossary of terms (that’s “a glossary” not “A” Glossary), or I could refer to A Street by one of the all-new all-different improved names I have come up with. So here goes. Another sketch from Archaeology Street, this building is on the corner of Right-to-remain-silent Street and I am guessing from the insignia that this is some sort of frat house or sorority house, either that or they are saying they like multiplying things by horseshoes. Or perhaps they really liked X-Men 3 and this stands for “X-Men” and “Brotherhood”. I don’t know. I could look it up but that wouldn’t be as much fun. I love it when that happens though. You say something to be funny, like “what’s the deal with iPhones, you don’t put them up to your eyes,” and someone Googles it and tells you why they are called iPhones and it doesn’t mean Eye-Phones, and here’s the link to Wikipedia, I hate it when that happens. I’m not explaining this very well, am I, so I suggest just experiencing the feeling and then Google what you felt and that will explain it better than I can. This was a lunchtime sketch made on the day after I turned 40. The Day After. The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Day After the Day After. Remember that one? That was one of those nuclear bomb things back in the 80s. I remember the scariest one was a TV film called “Threads”, set in Sheffield, and it scared the living daylights out of me, in fact it scared all the Bond films out of me, Goldfinger, Octopussy, From Russia with Love, all of them. When I was nine I used to have a lot of ‘Cold War’ dreams, it was 1985, there was a lot of that about. I used to dream that my brother and I would sleep through a nuclear attack (we were both heavy sleepers), like we’d wake up and Tesco’s would have been destroyed along with everything else, it was odd. I remember those leaflets they used to give us, telling us to paint our windows white and hide under a door that you take off its hinges, all these things you have time to do in a three minute warning. I’m not sure why I’m thinking of all this now, perhaps it’s turning 40 and reminiscing of my youth in 1980s Thatcher Cold War Britain. But I’m here now, in California, drawing pictures. Have a good weekend everyone.

post-deadpool choco-taco

DeVeres Davis
“Sudwerk Choco-Taco” is an actual beer that I actually had. It’s quite dark, darker than I usually like, but it was really nice, I would have it again. I like trying the different craft beers that we have out here, and in fact I’ve started recording the ones I have tried by using that ‘Untappd’ app on my iPod. Admittedly there are times when it can be hard to remember, so I make a point of writing them down, or in this case, drawing a picture of it. And of course, why draw the glass when you can draw the rest of the bar as well? This is another bar sketch of De Vere’s (I do one from time to time, last time was January 2015). I’ve been very busy lately, and so one Saturday night I went and watched Deadpool. By the way, Deadpool is awesome. Don’t take your kids!!!! It will make you laugh. After watching Deadpool, I popped by the Avid Reader to buy Star Wars Top Trumps cards, and then into De Vere’s to read Deadpool comics and do some bar-sketching. The bar-sketching thing sometimes comes down to me needing to sit somewhere and draw a complicated but structured scene. I used a brown-black uni-ball signo um-151 (“say my name!” I hear this pen yelling to me, “say my whole name!”) and also a light grey Tombow marker to mix it up a bit. There’s also some Pigma Graphic pen in there for the thick lines. I had a couple of other beers, a Smithwicks red, which was very nice, and the Aggie Dry Hop lager by Sudwerk, which is alright.

I was also celebrating, from 5000 miles away, my older brother’s birthday; he turned 50 on that day. This is a year for milestone birthdays. Wish I could have been there celebrating with him – happy birthday Perks!

I have some more bar sketches yet to post, ones from New York City. In the meantime if you’d like to see some more, this Flickr set “Pubs, Cafes etc” has loads of mine, from pubs around the world.

i’m only leaping

Leap Day 2016 UC Davis
This is a Leap Year. For those of you on other planets, a Leap Year is one where everybody makes rubbish jokes about those who have birthdays on February 29th technically being far younger than they really are. It happens once every four years and apparently we have them to correct our imprecise calendars; if we didn’t then we’d have a situation eventually where the sun would be getting up at lunchtime and something to do with aliens. So we call this extra day ‘Leap Day’ and act as if it is somehow ‘extra’. To make it really ‘extra’, another day in the weekend would have been nice. Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th, Leap Day 29th, Monday 1st, etc. Apparently though we can’t do that because, again, aliens. Anyway I sketched more spring blossom on Leap Day lunchtime, revisiting a scene that I sketched in November when those same trees were flaming with red and orange. That autumnal scene is below. I didn’t sketch them while leafless, you will have to just imagine them naked. Now they are clothed in brilliant white blossom, tinged with pale green. The Chemistry Building looms behind, unchanged and like a rock. I mean literally like a Rock, because the adjoining Rock Hall lecture building is away to the left, off-screen. The trees’ positions look slightly different, due to my slightly different standing location (you go where the shade is on a sunny day). It’s a test of observation. Two seasons in Davis.
chemistry buildings, uc davis

i love parrots in the springtime

cruess hall
This is Cruess Hall, UC Davis. It’s the home of the UC Davis Design Department. I’ve given a couple of guest talks in classes here before to design students about keeping sketchbooks. I wanted to sketch it while the blossom was so pink; even now, a week or so later, it has already desaturated. By that I mean it is still pink, but less so, it has lost some of its saturation. That reminds me of a joke, “What do you call a grey parrot? Polyunsaturated.” Actually that isn’t an old joke, I literally just made that one up a few moments ago. It does remind me of another joke, which goes “What is a polygon? A dead parrot.” Now that one is old, I read it in a joke book when I was 7 or 8 years old. I remember it now, I remember it was one of those “5001 jokes for kids” books. That book has had more influence over my life than any book ever, and yet that joke is the only one I remember now. I remember laughing so much when I read it, I was in hysterics. I couldn’t even tell the joke, it made me laugh so much. I stopped trying in the end, because I’m sure nobody else would have the same reaction as me, so the joke became my own, if I ever needed cheering up I was just ask myself, “what’s a polygon?” and laugh away for hours. Now I know that there is another very famous comedic episode about a ceased-to-be parrot, but I maintain to this day that the Python sketch is only the second funniest parrot-based piece of humour in existence (maybe the third now, if ‘Polyunsaturated’ ever takes off). Now I don’t want to give the impression that we Brits have some obsession with parrots expired or otherwise, we don’t go to school and take the pledge of allegiance to the dead-parrot-sketch (though we probably should). That said, a couple of years ago I dressed as a pirate for Halloween and went trick-or-treating with a parrot on my shoulder (well my son was trick-or-treating, not me, I just had to go with him). One person made a dead-parrot-sketch reference to me, and I pretended not to get it. So they explained it to me, they actually explained the dead-parrot-sketch to me, like, in full detail. As they said in Casablanca, “we’ll always have parrots.” (And that joke was taken from Red Dwarf).

So, this is Cruess Hall. It is also the home of the UC Davis Design Museum. Hey guess what, I will be having an exhibition of my sketchbooks there this Fall, tentatively scheduled from September to November. More details as they become settled, and I’m scheduled for a talk as well, but it will be fun. And hopefully 100% parrot free (except if anyone mentions polygons).

line up in line

Starbucks People 1 sm
And now for something completely different. These are very quick sketches of people standing in line at Starbucks. Before you all go “hang on you hate Starbucks and don’t even drink coffee” let me explain. I don’t hate Starbucks, I just don’t drink coffee. Starbucks does occasionally have nice pastries but I don’t like their tea or other drinks so I never go there. However there is one inside the Silo building at UC Davis, and I sit near there when I am eating my lunch or reading comics on my iPad. I never actually get anything from there, not even the aforementioned nice pastries, because the queue (or ‘line’ as they prefer to say here) is always so long and slow. “Slowbucks” they should call it. However this slow line is good for something – practicing people drawing. Now I could have drawn individual people with all their details and faces and stuff, but I was practicing one particular thing. I was doing that thing where you draw a whole load of people or things without taking the pen off of the paper. you place the pen down, and just let it go. This type of ‘single-line’ sketch can produce some very interesting results. Because you can’t pick the pen up and stop for a second, you have to back up or cross spaces until you are less concerned with smooth details and more with the overall shape itself – it is a very liberating experience.
Starbucks People 2 sm
People look at their devices while waiting in line for their cup of Joe. by the way as a non-coffee-drinker is it only a cup of Joe if it’s in the morning, as in ‘Morning Joe’? Or is it called something else after 12, like ‘Afternoon Dave’ or ‘Suppertime Barbara’? Who was Joe anyway, was he a famous coffee-drinker? Is it rhyming slang, like ‘Joseph’s Toffee’ or something? I suppose I could have asked the people in line but I didn’t want to break the fourth wall. This was another single-line sketch (or ‘single-queue’ sketch perhaps).
Silo People 2 sm
I wasn’t done sketching quick people. Sticking with the single-line theme I went outside and sketched passers-by, each in that same fast and loose fashion. As this was outside the UC Davis Silo, near the Silo Bus Terminal, people moved about fairly rapidly, giving me just a few seconds to capture them. Not easy. It was a cooler day, overcast, I was still in my 30s and I tried to get different walking poses wherever I could. This being a university, there are many people with backpacks. Why not give it a go, this quick people sketching?
Silo People 1 sm

there’s something different about you

3rd and University Davis
I don’t like posting sketches out of chronological order, but I was done with this one from yesterday lunchtime with the pink blossom blossoming and I wanted to show it to you now. Not out of an urgency to show spring in all its glory while it is still here, but to show you that we actually have spring in Davis in February because frankly, it’ll never stop being weird. Really though, I sketched this because the last time I drew this building (and I’ve drawn it a few times) it was painted white, with a greenish trim. Now it has a new paint job, is no longer the Davis Copy Shop, and I am guessing from the thing outside the door (what are they actually called?) that it is now some sort of clothes shop. This corner has changed; the two telegraph poles are now gone, as is the wire hanging overhead that was a repository for random pairs of shoes (legend has it that a group of geriatric shoe-makers lived her but I think that’s a load of old cobblers) (I’M 40 EVERYONE). I noticed that the shoes are now being thrown into nearby trees because you know, that makes sense. Ok so because I’m showing you the building as it looks now, you will also get the way it used to look. Cue sketch-history…
3rd and University, Davis

Two years ago in February 2014, the blossom is there, the shoes are there, telegraph poles, white paint with green trim.

3rd and University

October 2011 (when it still felt like summer). No blossom.

davis copy shop

The first time I sketched this building, from the side, back in June 2007. Man I’ve been in Davis a long time…

all these things into position

020416 international center sm
More campus construction…this is the International Center, on the north end of campus, and it is almost ready. I have sketched it once before (in this post), but I have been cycling past this spot for years. By the way, click on the image to see it embiggened slightly. This was sketched in the watercolour Moleskine (#14 of those sketchbooks I have used). I like this view, as the perspective points us all the way to Russell. It was breezy, but the weather is getting pretty mild now. The last few days of my thirties are winding down.