sketching by the train tracks

H St & 2nd St Last week we braved the elements (it was a bit cooler than usual) and held a socially-distanced Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl. We started out at the Amtrak station and went down 2nd Street. It was kinda sorta a scavenger hunt, but my list wasn’t very good, putting two of the items/prompts twice, and I didn’t follow any of them. I only did two drawings, at pretty much the same place (just from opposite sides of the train track). In the second one (the panorama of the Amtrak station, below) I stood leaning against the wall and my fingers got chilly. It was only a few weeks ago we were hitting temperatures in the big 90s! I mean it’s not cold cold, but it was noticeably more autumnal. I drew the above sketch with a Lamy safari fountain pen in black ink, and below the uniball signo um-151 in brown-black ink (click on it to see it bigger on the Flickr site).

amtrak station panorama

though nothing, nothing will keep us together

G St 111120 On Veteran’s Day I went downtown to get a sketch done, and ended up on G Street, where I drew the outdoor seating areas outside Woodstock’s Pizza and the Davis Beer Shoppe. Much of downtown Davis is now an outdoor food court, with streets blocked off on certain evenings so restaurants can expand further outside. I’m glad there is life, I don’t want these places to go out of business. I still only get take-out though, which we do quite a bit, and while it would be nice to pop down for a beer, I still don’t like being too close to others. Cases are spiking, but I think Davis businesses are doing their best. I’ve noticed a few new outside toilets have been installed downtown too, nice permanent ones rather than dirty portapotties. I drew this in the watercolour Moleskine. Weather is turning cooler, we even had rain on Friday, with more to come.


Davis Co-Op 11-07-20 On the day the winner of the election was announced and made clear to anyone who understands elections I popped out to do some drawing and catch the last bit of sunlight on a pretty well sunlit day, before heading back with some beer and cheese to watch the speeches. The Davis Co-Op on G Street has been here for decades, they have a great selection of food and drinks, especially their beers and wines. I stood across the street and made sure I included the sculpture of the big orange carrot. Maybe the Co-Op made me think of the new administration-elect’s calls for co-operation. It also made me think of the incumbent wotsitsface who may or may not be attempting a Co-Up. Drawing calms me down from thinking about politics and the sheer 2020-ness of 2020. I don’t draw the Co-Op very often, for some reason I find it a tricky subject, maybe it’s all the trees in the way, maybe I need to stand or sit closer. Wow, is it mid-November already? The hardest thing I’ve found about this year is the impossibility of planning for anything. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up, and thinking about the family gatherings with all the distancing is tough. And it’s nearly make-the-advent-calendar time of year! I’ve no idea what this year’s theme will be. Maybe a huge drawing of the house since we’ve spent so much time there this year, and we now officially own it. Off to the drawing board…

dominoes are fallin’

dominoes in north davis They are, aren’t they. I drew this one warm autumnal lunchtime last week during the Endless Agonizing Election (the Endless and Agonizing bit is still nowhere near over, the rest of 2020 is not going away with dignity is it). Even as I drew we were not yet close to an outcome but the dominoes were falling alright. Like Domino Rally, remember that game? I always wanted that as a kid, those adverts for it looked so brilliant, little plastic rectangles racing against each other falling over. I never had it, but I finally got one for my son for Christmas several years ago, I think we played it once on Christmas morning and was like, right that’s not as much fun as I thought it might be. It’s sat in the hall cupboard ever since, I think it will be heading to the Goodwill at some point, if future archaeologists can ever excavate our hall cupboard. This domino sculpture is actually on the North Davis Greenbelt, it was something that eluded me for years, I managed never to come across it. This year since I have been walking and running so much, exploring all the pathways on this side of town, I’ve gone past it many times and now finally gone to draw it. It was installed in 1994, the work of artist Eddy Martinez Hood, and it is called Domino Effect II. I assume there was a Domino Effect I, but if this is a sequel it’s a superb sequel. Like Street Fighter II, I don’t know the original at all. Or maybe Domino Effect I was done afterwards like a prequel? I don’t know, if only there were some form of global information  network where I could look this up, but as with lyrics that you can’t completely make sense of, the not-knowing is more fun. We live in an age when being able to know things is so immediate that I think maybe this is why so many have turned to the world of not-knowing, of alternative facts, of disbelieving the evidence in favour of the made-up, and let’s face it that’s why we are where we are. Wow that took a turn didn’t it.

I really enjoyed drawing this. It was a break from the endless red and blue TV maps and breaking news from Gondor and the fall colours were really exciting my senses. We have a lot of public art in Davis, it’s an artists town. (Speaking of which, we have a sketchcrawl this Saturday afternoon, 1:00pm starting at the Amtrak Station. Let’s Draw Davis!) I like how this sketch turned out, I was pleased with the colours and the dark values, and right now I feel like I am enjoying my sketching again. My number of sketches this year is way, way down on previous years, but I feel like I’m pushing myself out to draw a lot again, like I was when the pandemic first started.

the avid reader

avid reader bookstore, davis This is the Avid Reader bookstore on 2nd Street, drawn on the first day of November while stood outside the Varsity. It’s a great little independent store that has been around since the 80s, and I worked here shortly after I first came to Davis, at first as the book-keeper and in the shop, then just as the book-keeper, part-time. It was my first job in America, though I actually started full-time in my current department at UC Davis only a couple of months after starting here, so I worked two jobs for a couple of years, helpful while I was still paying a student loan in the UK (back then the dollar was so week against the pound, it was about $2.10 to the £ at one point; it’s about $1.30 now, for example). The owner of the store and my first employer in the US was Alzada Knickerbocker, and if you remember my post from about seven or eight months ago, she retired in February and sold the bookstore to a local family, the Arnolds, who’ve done well to keep the store with a very local community flavour, despite the massive hiccup of the pandemic. I do love the Avid Reader. Well I heard that a few weeks ago, Alzada sadly passed away. I was pretty shocked to read that, the last time I’d seen her was on that evening in February when she officially handed over the store. So I came down to the store on this Sunday afternoon, signed the commemorative book for her, and drew the shop. When I first started there Avid Reader also had a children’s bookstore in E St Plaza, but that closed and we moved all the children’s books upstairs in the main store, where they still are. When our favourite independent toyshop Alphabet Moon, a few doors down on 2nd St, closed down in 2013 Alzada took over the space and kept it as a second part of the main branch, keeping some toys in there along with travel books and cards and stuff. It is now called Avid Reader Active, and is still more of a toystore than a bookstore. It was at the Avid Reader that I learned about the Davis community, from speaking to locals and listening to speakers at various events, so I owe it a lot, and am grateful that Alzada gave me my first job over here. Rest in peace Alzada, and thanks for everything! And may the Avid Reader continue to thrive. 

memor(i)al union

MU panorama Oct 2020 sm

Another panorama, this time in the Moleskine. Click on the image for a closer view. This is the Memorial Union (or “Memor al Union” if the sign is correct) at UC Davis. I don’t know if I ever drew this whole view before. Campus is much quieter than it is supposed to be, although there are still people about. Jeez I miss everyone. I wish everyone were on campus. I come in a couple of times a week, to get things done in the office, and I’ll get a sandwich from the Silo Market, showing my Symptom Survey each time, but it’s just so quiet. We will be almost fully remote in Winter as well, and probably Spring. It’s hard, but I can’t imagine how isolating it must be feeling for students. I wish this pandemic were over, but it’s not. I wish this awful president we’ve had for the past four years would be over too, but we have to wait a bit longer, and boy is that going to be a headache. We do what we can to make things feel better. I like to draw. I can’t get to all the places I want to go to right now but I can imagine, and travel-dream. I spent my youth doing just that, drawing loads and dreaming of all the places I would travel to when I was old enough. Looking out of the window a lot. Also obsessing about Tottenham, and football in general. Reading books about languages. Eating noodles on toast. I guess I’m not that different from when I was 14. Except when I was fourteen I probably wasn’t reminiscing about youth, “ah remember when I was five, oh that was great”. Actually I do remember being five, I remember Spurs winning the FA Cup with Ricky Villa’s goal, but that is about it. That may also have been the year I decided to put Weetabix in my big sister’s school blazer pocket, “in case she got hungry when she was at school”. Not just the Weetabix biscuits but the milk as well. I actually remember doing it, thinking I was being really helpful. Have you ever tried to get dried Weetabix off of a bowl? Imagine trying to get it out of a blazer pocket. I also put knitting needles up her nose when she was asleep too apparently but I don’t remember that. I remember being four and being on a BBC TV show called A Little Silver Trumpet, I thought it was all real. Nursey out of Blackadder played my mum, Patsy Byrne. Most of it was filmed at White City, in the big round BBC Television Centre, but I remember going to film in Brighton. Spending hours getting my hair and face made up in black grease (it was set in olden times and we were a poor and dirty redheaded family in the slums) and the agony of having it all washed out afterwards at home. Memories are a funny thing, you have snippets of this and that, and even more grown up times can be not that much different. I obviously remember a lot about being at university, but then it’s like, do I? There are people who I know I met and spent time with but have absolutely no recollection of now, name or anything. Same with secondary school. The memories are there but are jumbled up, and appear in dreams, that strange dreamspace which looks like my old school (which no longer exists, it was knocked down), where I get lost wandering around like it is a forbidden zone, and people who are probably dead or at least quite old now appear like ghosts. That’s what I don’t like about Facebook I think (well that and all the St George’s flags), the past can sometimes be better left as a hazy memory. This is why I draw stuff. It’s more reliable than writing a diary. I can see into my head and connect with my past self better when I look at a sketchbook, whereas a diary shows me someone I don’t necessarily recognize any more. So here then is the Memor(i)al Union, on theme, at a time which frankly we ain’t gonna forget. 

all we need is music, sweet music

kamala harris 11-07-20 And so, it finally ended. Woo – and I cannot stress this enough – hoo! Though of course it will keep going on for a while. Almost worth it being most of a week to get the results on a Saturday morning, and celebrate the rest of the day (or in my case, go for a run, coach soccer, draw a lot, and have some beer). As if there weren’t quite enough words filling this week, the three sketches I did of the TV (one above, of Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, first female VP as well as first black VP and first VP of Indian background, gave a great speech introducing President-Elect Biden. I wrote down as much as I could while drawing. Same below, though my sketch of Biden doesn’t look too much like him, more like Alan Pardew. Personally I am just really looking forward to having leaders where we don’t have to worry about what nonsense all-caps words they have rage-tweeted. But I try not to think about those too much, I don’t follow it, nor engage in it; as much as I use Twitter (mostly I tweet about Tottenham or football shirts) there are so many bots and trolls sweeping it looking for fights about politics, it’s like Camden Town at 2 in the morning but with Warhammer and Robot Wars thrown in. Actually it’s nothing like that at all, because that sounds awesome. (Who hasn’t witnessed Sir Kill-A-Lot glass a Giant Orc outside the Mixer before getting a bag of chips and jumping on the Night Bus?) Apologies to my American friends, this reference is possibly niche. Joe Biden 11-07-20 Still it was nice to hear a calming voice, a voice of reason, rather than one moaning about how unfair everyone is to him and how tremendous he is. I get enough of that watching Jose Mourinho. By the way, this morning Tottenham actually went Top of the Premier League for a few brief moments, before Leicester retook the lead in the next match, which was a fake match and actually Tottenham have in fact won the league with a big 1-0 win, and I’m claiming victory in all remaining games. (Literally the entire world has done a variation of this joke already, better than I could). By the way, the actual funniest thing yesterday is far and away the press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Straight Outta The Thick Of It. Earlier in the day while still watching the Newsathon, I drew various announcements on my iPad (below), as people celebrated and danced on the streets of Washington DC, and cities everywhere. My cat looked out of the window, unaware that there has been a change in the human leadership, only concerning himself with whether he will be allowed to play in the yard or get dinner a bit earlier. The cat agenda is never taken into consideration by human politicians. I’m glad the new President will have pets though, the only pets the last President (whoever that was – still is, I guess) had were peeves. Of our two cats, they disagree on a number of issues and call each other all sorts of uncivil names but they cross the aisle when it comes to Being let outside to play in the yard, or Opening the window a bit, or Getting fed now right now. Biden wins 11-07-20 It’s been quite a week, exhausting and exhilarating, and sure the fun isn’t over yet (not by a long shot; just give it up, man!), but I probably won’t be glued to the TV waiting for Breaking News Updates about there maybe being a few extra votes counted in Wherever County or whether the Losing campaign claims there were votes from time-travelers from the future or something. I’m glad I drew some of it though, historical record and all. 2020 is really the story that keeps on storying. I got a new great-nephew on Friday when my eldest niece gave birth (welcome baby Che!), and a new President and Vice-President on Saturday. Take the good moments when they come!

almost nearly there

1st St Davis We’re nearly there, aren’t we! The longest week since that week in March that went on until June. I’ve not watched this much news since, I don’t know, 9/11, the death of Diana, JFK, Battle of Hastings, Vesuvius. IF I EVER go to Allegheny County or Maricopa County I will kiss the ground and hug the trees and sing like meeting an old friend. I actually do none of those things when I meet my actual old friends, that would be weird. But last night when I saw the update from Georgia I immediately had a vision of Lucas Moura celebrating after THAT goal in Amsterdam for Spurs vs Ajax. To be fair though the real heroes are the people on the news channels next to the big screens trying to calculate maths in their head, drawing numbers with digital pens onto red and blue maps of this county or that to tot up what the new score is, trying to beat the clock before the number actually calculates on the screen, like Carol Vorderman on Countdown figuring out the Numbers game when the two contestants have only managed to get two away, getting praise from the news anchors, all the while never letting a single second of broadcast go without a moment of audible speech. It’s like those productions of Shakespeare where they don’t want to cut out any text but want the audience to get at least half an hour in the pub afterwards so go at breakneck speed through the Merry Wives of Windsor… I’ve always said that Shakespeare and Scissors should be friends, and I love overly long and uncomfortable pauses in theatre. Which reminds me of my second favourite joke, A polar bear walks into a bar and says “I’d like a………pint of beer please,” the bartender replies “why the long paws?” There are various versions of that joke, sometimes it’s a grizzly bear, sometimes the pause is between the beer and the packet of crisps, sometimes he doesn’t drink beer at all but prefers lager so not to confuse the words bear and beer, but either way the long pause is funnier when longer. Once I told the joke and I actually went away and came back before finishing it. I actually left the country one time. Sometimes you have to do the right thing to get the joke right. And then if the other person doesn’t get it you have to say it again. My third favourite joke is similar, A polar bear (or a grizzly bear) walks into a bar and orders a beer (or a lager) and another for his lawyer who insists on the barman signing a contract to provide indemnity against any damage caused by the polar bear (or grizzly bear) as a result of drinking said beer (or lager). The bartender says “why the long clause”. Right that one probably isn’t my third favourite joke and I’m remembering it wrong, which is pretty impressive considering I only just thought of it, but after this week of endless election coverage I think all of our brains have melted. But we are nearly there folks, we are nearly there! We are nearly there. Nearly there. 

I drew this as the second sketch in my new Moleskine and it’s a lunchtime drawing of a familiar building on 1st street. NOT on “A Street” as I have incorrectly written on the sketch. Fifteen years in Davis, drawing A Street loads of times and 1st Street quite a few times, and I make this rookie error. I’ll need to cross that out and write “1st” next to it. I have drawn this building at least three times before. It has a Dutch Colonial style, I think someone told me in a comment on one of the previous posts years ago, now I tell people like I’m an expert in reading American architectural styles or something. I just like the shapes, and the shadows on the walls.   

I just remembered, it’s “why the big paws” not “why the long paws”, that’s why it didn’t seem as funny earlier. Oh well, next time I’ll get it right. 

side 1, track 1 of sketchbook 38

E St davis 102520 I started a new sketchbook. It’s a watercolour Moleskine, and I’ve used quite a few of those in the past, but looking at my list of sketchbooks it is actually the first one in almost five years. Five years? Wow. These were my go-to books, but then I started using more of the Seawhite of Brighton books (pretty cheap, picked up at Cass Arts in London) and the Stillman & Birn Alpha landscape books (really nice, I usually save those for when I’m making big trips to Europe). The watercolor Moley is thicker watercolour paper, less smooth, and slightly smaller, but I think I forgot just how much I love drawing in them. The first one I ever used was back in 2007, and  even though I had a couple of other ones before that here in the US that I used a lot, I call this one “Sketchbook #1“. That one in 2007 was the first landscape book and that has generally been my format since, so under my new numbering scheme, the latest one is “Sketchbook #38“, and my fifteenth watercolour Moleskine. I know, it feels like there should be more, but I do draw a lot. The last watercolour Moleskine (the fourteenth) was in fact “Sketchbook #19“. One reason I go through the Seawhites more quickly is that I usually don’t draw on both sides of the paper, as it’s a good bit thinner and I really lay on that paint (it’s not really meant for that), whereas in the Moley I’ll usually draw on both sides, no problem. Except that with the Micron Pigma pens I used to use all the time, the ink would rub off on the other side and make the other picture dirty, so I try to avoid that. I use the brown-black Uni-ball Signo UM-151 now and that does it a little less. 

Ok, that is a lot of words. Sorry, I’ve been listening to the election coverage pretty much 24/7 over the past 48 hours. I know that makes no sense, 24/2 makes more sense, but there are so many words flying around, people on TV really like to talk a lot and leave absolutely no gaps while they go over all sorts of numbers and counties and ohmygodwillthiseverfinish… in a way I’m almost glad it’s taking a long time, it’s a little bit funny, like a really long Stewart Lee joke. You know the ones, you’ve seen them, the Stewart Lee jokes we have these days, they go on for ages and repeat themselves a lot, the Stewart Lee jokes, you’ve seen them, the Stewart Lee jokes. Etc and so on. It still feels like watching Jose’s Tottenham, but at least there the crowd noises are fake. It’s like that one Wimbledon final that one time which never wanted to end, but at least there nobody’s allowed to speak or they get shushed by the umpire. I wish a certain orange rage-tweeting rich prat would shush, no chance of that though, whatever happens. Let’s wrap this post up. 

This sketch is of a building downtown on E Street that I have drawn before. This time I stood on the stairwell of a building opposite, socially distanced from any people going up the stairs. It was nice having a slightly elevated view, to see over the vehicles parked on this side of the road. It was a Sunday afternoon, and there were quite a few people out and about downtown. 

a long, long tuesday night

election night 2020 Election night 2020, it’s been a long year, it’s been a long night, I think it could be a long week. Been a long few years to be honest. The TV has words spewing out of it, the “Road to 270” is still very tight. It feels like watching a Spurs match where we’re holding on to a narrow lead but we keep giving away free kicks on the edge of the box. What a year this has been, and it ain’t over yet. Here’s another living room sketch, done in the new watercolour Moleskine (“sketchbook #38”). Fingers still crossed, but I’m not the optimist in the room.