February moves fast doesn’t it, it’s like the speediest month. Blink and you miss it. January and March on the other hand, well we all know how long a March can be (the 2020 edition went on for years), but that zippy little February, you try to catch it but “meep meep!” and it’s off. It’ll be back. Anyway the pink blossoms are out (they will pop up a few times in sketches yet to come) and I drew this one on Super Bowl Sunday while out and about in old north Davis. Speaking of fast, I did another 5k race in February, the Davis Stampede. Not that I’m saying I was all that fast, I was about a minute slower than the Turkey Trot (I blame the massive amounts of food and drink consumed over the Christmas and beyond period, still getting through it all to be fair), but still a couple of minutes faster than I was two years ago (and I got 6th place in my age bracket). I like running, though I have been a bit lazy in my preparations lately. I have another 5k later this month, the ‘Lucky Run’, I’ll be lucky if I get a good time in that one. We’ll see. I like to listen to music while I run, for the tempo. Every time I do a run though, I’m like “I can’t wait for the next one! Let’s look up all the races in northern California and sign up for them! Run across the Golden Gate Bridge!” And then the next morning that I should be out training, my legs are like, “ooh not today, you went to bed late last night, you need more sleep. Plus you ate some Weetabix at 11pm last night so you’re too full still to go running.” And I listen and am like, yeah I guess I’ll run tomorrow. Or maybe the day after. Roadrunner never has that problem.
First drawing of 2022, a usual north Davis scene, a big old house I’ve admired for years while cycling past, one of many historic buildings. It’s on D Street; I wrote it down as D street, and then for some reason I thought it was on C Street and kept saying as such, joking that I’m out of key by one note, maybe I had a capo on my sketchbook, etc. I thought that was a pretty good joke as well, but it turns out it really is on D Street, so I will have to draw something else and get the street wrong so I can use that gag again. I did write 2021 in the corner and changed it to 2022, but then put 2021 into the wordmark. Start of a new year, I’m all over the gaff.
It’s nice to fall into a trusty subject for me though, drawing houses. One of my favourite local books is John Lofland’s “Old North Davis: Guide to Walking a Traditional Neighborhood”, which details each house street by street in the Old North Davis neighbourhood, generally between 5th and 8th, B and F. I looked up the building in that book – it’s called the “Warner Home” after its original inhabitants, William and Fern Warner, and was built in 1929 as a gift for their wedding; that’s a very nice wedding gift, nicer than a toaster. The style of the house is ‘Colonial Revival’. I particularly like the differently angled slants of the roof, like two houses have somehow merged into the same spot. I love the lamp-post, and the arched gateway into the yard. That chimneystack is so prominent at the front like it holds it all together like an orchestra’s conductor, with the antenna on the roof (something you don’t see as often these days) looking like the baton. This is a very musical looking building – the metal ‘S’ shape on the chimneystack looks like the shape you’d see on a cello. I can hear my voice sounding like the guy from Through The Keyhole, Lloyd Grossman: “the arched gateway, the lamp-post, the cello symbol on the chimneystack – who lives in a house like this? David, it’s over to you.” I used to love that show, always makes me think of the guests they used to have, people like Willie Rushton, Kenneth Williams, Clare Rayner, the usual late 80s/early 90s crowd.
I met Clare Rayner once, she was giving out the prizes at our school’s annual Prizegiving ceremony. I won the German Prize , and she presented me with the book I requested as a prize, which was ‘Teach Yourself Italian’. I won the German Prize twice at school (or it may have been three times; I think it was because I was the only person in the school who got excited about the subject), I recall one year I got the Terry Pratchett book ‘Lords and Ladies’ as my prize, still one of my favourite of his books. I still have that copy, with the little thing stuck in the front saying I won the German Prize. It sounds like it should be a prize for something more distinguished rather than something my school gave me when I was 15, maybe I should start describing myself as a ‘multiple German-Prize winning artist’, in a kind of ‘Arnold Rimmer’ way. I don’t win many prizes. I don’t enter any competitions.
This old car has been parked in old north Davis for years, I’ve passed it many times thinking, I must draw that some day. That is definitely a thing to sketch. And then days pass into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, years back into months, and then months gives weeks a miss and jumps right back into days. So finally, on the day I ran the Turkey Trot, I took the afternoon to sketch around town. I decided to finally draw this old thing. It’s nice with the autumnal leaves all about. I saw fellow sketchers Allan and Alison while drawing this, they live nearby now. It was a nice afternoon, it had been a nice morning. I had a good race, I shaved 2.5 minutes off my previous 5k race time which I’m still well pleased about. For the first race back since early 2020, I didn’t feel rusty at all. I felt pretty good afterwards too, runnin’ makes you feel good. I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts. I do want to draw some more old vehicles. There are at least a couple I’ve had my eye on sketching for a while, one near my house which never moves and has a lot of cobwebs on it, I’ve just never sat outside drawing it. I like the ones that just sit there getting rusty. I like rusty.
First page of a new Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, and this was an afternoon get-out-of-the-house bike ride down into Old North Davis, the edge of it anyway. I like the old historic houses in this part of the world, so many stories. At least I assume they have so many stories, to be honest none of them are any of our business. I do really like John Lofland’s book about Old North Davis, in which he goes street by street, building by building, and tells us when they were built, original owners, whether the house was located somewhere else before (around here, moving house sometimes means just that). This one is just outside the Old North Davis zone covered in his book but it’s still lovely. I’ve been running more in this area, south of my house. I like to run earlier in the morning, and listen to podcasts as I go. I’ve realized a few things about podcasts. I am very picky, like with a lot of things in life. I will almost never listen to a podcast recommended to me by anyone. If the voices of the people presenting it are too similar, I can’t listen. Similarly, if they are too different in terms of their pace or volume (particularly true in the current world where podcast guests are all over the place, zooming in on different microphone set-ups) I struggle to listen. If there is too much production – too much incidental music, I can’t listen. If there are ads, well if they’re about 30 seconds long I can skip them easily on my iPod, but if it’s one where the host actually stops mid-interview and starts reading out the ad themselves (and not in an obviously pre-recorded, different sound kind of way), which is far far more common on American radio than on British radio I note (as someone who can’t bare to listen to the radio), I can’t listen. If one of the hosts or guests has a tendency to pause before responding often, making it seem to the podcast listener that maybe their iPod has gone on the blink, and those pauses aren’t edited out, I can’t listen. If one of the hosts has a very whiny voice, I can’t listen. If a guest changes subject mid-sentence in a kind of – and I know I do this all the time, like right now for example – just like that fashion, I can’t listen. If the hosts swear, well if they are British I can get it, there’s a rhythm and context to it, but if it’s an American swearing it sounds all wrong, like they’re trying to be hard, and I can’t listen. If one of the speakers has the sort of voice that when you are in bed and listening to fall asleep to is totally fine, but when you are running and there is traffic but you can’t turn it up because the next speaker has a booming or whiny voice, well I can’t listen. If the guests on the show talk for too long before the next question by the presenter, I can’t listen. If the guest is speaking down an obviously tinny phone line like some Eurosport commentator in the CupWinners Cup in the early 90s, I can’t listen. If the speaker just spends ages listing things they don’t like, pet peeves, in a repetitive and predictable and self-aware way, even if they are being ironic, which let’s face it is worse, I can’t listen. If the speaker goes on about Arsenal too much, I can’t listen. If they always mispronounce French place names, I can’t listen. If they think Snickers is a better name than Marathon, I can’t listen. Etc and so on. I’m very picky. However I have discovered that if you listen to any podcast, any podcast at all , in 0.5x speed, it sounds infinitely better because suddenly you are listening to a bunch of people drunk in the pub slurring about medieval history or decreasing rates of XG in the Bundesliga, and who wouldn’t enjoy that? Alternatively listen at 1.5x speed, and you get them talking really fast, which then makes me run fast and I’m zippingaboutallovertheplacelikeMr.Rush, which helps my pace-per-mile. But never listen to anything on 2x speed, because that will hurt your head.
Post #2 about all the autumnal colours that painted Davis streets in late November to early December. It was like a fall extravaganza. Above is the corner of B and Ovejas in north Davis, the streets over here were looking ridiculously autumnal, like you get in an American rom-com set in the suburbs. A lot of Davis looks a bit like that, I guess. I don’t really watch American suburban rom-coms. I’m not even sure what rom-com stands for, probably some futuristic tech from the 80s.
This was downtown, corner of 3rd and D, when the trees on 3rd turned red with rage. Things were still a bit open here, with Cafe Bernardos and other places having their outside seating for the COVID age, but I don;t know what it’s like since we went into a stricter purple tier, they told all the restaurants to be take-out only for the time being. At this time though there were a lot of people still about, enjoying the Fall colours, just before Thanskgiving. We had a Zoom Thanksgiving with family, played Scattergories. Same with Christmas, except for the Scattergories, we just opened presents.
Above is International House, corner of Russell and College Park. It was a warm day when I sketched this, with the sun on the back of my head (kept my hood up). International House does lots of things for the international community here in Davis, including organizing the International Festival every year to promote cultural awareness and global appreciation. I’m well into that. It looked lovely on this day. The adjoining street College Park looked gorgeous too. This is one of the most stunning streets in Davis in my opinion (it’s more of a big ring than one street) with amazing houses, including the UCD Chancellor’s residence. I’d love to draw most of these houses, I do feel a bit self-conscious sitting outside one though, so have never sketched them. I did do the drawing below though, but this was mostly done at home. I did a very quick sketch outline from a spot in the road next to a pile of leaves, but then drew the rest from a photo with the fountain pen and the watercolours. Caught the feel of the street I think.
The one below I drew and painted standing right there, a street near my house right on the north Davis Green Belt. The houses here are nice too, if not quite as grand as College Park, still very pretty. I love living near the Green Belt, but in November it was more the orange red yellow and brown belt. This one didn’t take too long, just under an hour, a lunch break while working from home.
And the one below was down on D Street, in Old North Davis in the block off of 5th, near downtown. The trees were mostly brownish orange, I didn’t draw or colour everything because I was getting a bit stiff from standing, the light was starting to go, I thought I might finish later but I never did, this was enough. This was pretty much the last of my autumn sketches for 2020, a little period of excited energy that has now faded away with the leaves. I’ve not sketched much in December at all, in the run up to Christmas, as the stay-at-home orders got tighter and the days got much shorter, and I just didn’t want to leave the house at lunchtime. Maybe I will today. I still have a bunch of different coloured autumn leaves I collected while cycling around town which I intended on drawing, like some sort of botanical artist (I am in awe of botanical artists and really should try more of that myself), but they might all be too crunchy and dry now. I took a lot of photos of colourful autumn Davis too, but it’s the sketches that make me really feel the season. Now it’s winter, which in Davis means, well not exactly American rom-com suburbia, which would be snow. No, for us it’s just colder than Fall, with fewer leaves on the trees so you can see the buildings clearly (great for sketching shadows!), with more bright skies than overcast ones, a bit of rain but not like back in England, just enough to close the soccer fields. I should like to do a book about Davis (ha, been saying that for ten years), but maybe one where I go through the months of Davis, and show what the town looks like in different seasons. “The Year in Davis”. I don’t know. I also want to do one just of panoramic drawings of Davis streets. I have ideas but then never finish them off, I just like to keep drawing. Better get back to it then.
Just over a week ago some of us Davis sketchers braved the stormy weather and came out to sketch Old North Davis. This is the neighbourhood north of Fifth Street, laid out just over a century ago, full of leafy streets and cute houses. We met at the Davis Co-Op on G Street, and spread out to sketch. I drew this corner, at G and 7th. It wasn’t yet raining again so I was making the most of what I could get before seeking cover again. Actually I like rainy sketching, I just put my umbrella inside my jacket, it seems to work.
I’ve always liked this building, historically called the Anderson-Hamel House. I have sketched it before, and pass by it most weekends when heading downtown. It’s a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage and was originally the home of John B. Anderson, who established the Bank of Davis and was actually the mayor of Davis when Davis first became a city in 1917. One of the interesting things about this house is that it was originally down at 2nd Street, but was moved when later owners the Quessenberry family decided to build their drugstore there, and so the lovely house moved into Old North Davis. Its history is detailed well in John Lofland’s book ‘Old North Davis’, an absolutely invaluable guide to the area, street by street, hosue by house. I recommend it for anyone interested in this part of Davis (I for one would love to do one where I get to sketch all the buildings).
I then sat in the Lyda Williams memorial garden on E Street and was going to sketch from there, sat on a bench in the hopeful sunshine, but a local cat decided to come and sit on my lap for a while. Ok little cat, that’s fine, just have a nap there, my feet need a break anyway. Thunder started rumbling, getting closer and closer. Eventually the cat got down and went under the bench, and I sketched this house on 6th and E. It’s very peaceful here, people out on their Sunday strolls around the neighbourhood. Someone I’ve met before called out to me “nice day for a sketch!”. The thunder rumbling more loudly above me was making me go a little bit faster. In the end I left it where it was and headed back to the Co-Op, just in time for the rain.
The car above was parked outside the Co-Op, a Datsun (don’t see many of them nowadays), and I actually sketched it at the start, but only got as far as the headlights, the windscreen and the overall outline, I had to finish the rest afterwards, because the driver came and drove away. Not sure what the funny rat symbol was on the side, but the car was very souped up and personalized, with paint splatter and special features, it was like a Stone Roses record cover.
And here are the brave sketchers who sketched Old North Davis. We’ve yet to determine the date of the next Davis sketchcrawls but we’ll post them very soon.
On a corner of Old North Davis is a house I drew at the end of a crisp sunny October day in 2008. I remember I left work early that day, and cycled up beyond 5th Street, still then a fairly unknown country for a South Davis-dweller such as me, to the Old North neighbourhood, looking to capture some of its old America charm with the autumnal leaves. That sketch is below. I then posted that sketch on the brand new website called ‘Urban Sketchers’, on day 1 of the blog, for which I was to be the ‘Davis’ correspondent. The header of Urban Sketchers upon its launch featured one of my sketchbooks with sketches of San Francisco. In those days Urban Sketchers, the brainchild of Seattle-based sketcher Gabi Campanario, online sketching friend back when our online sketching community still seemed pretty small, had a few correspondents from around the world but grew fast, issuing a Manifesto and encouraging communities of sketchers to get together and draw their world, or rather ‘see the world, one drawing at a time’. It launched on November 1st, 2008; a decade later Urban Sketchers (USk) is absolutely huge, with countless regional ‘chapters’ globally, many many workshops and gatherings, and the annual International Urban Sketching Symposium, which started in Portland in 2010 (with around 80 participants) and was most recently in Porto in 2018 (with around 800 participants!). So, to commemorate my first post on that first day, I went back to that corner of Old North Davis, a much more familiar district to me now, being on my way home, and sketched that same old house, above. The tree in front has gone, though another younger tree has sprouted up just behind the fence. Obviously in 2008 the leaves turned orange a little earlier than this year. My son was just a little baby. George W. Bush was still president; Barack Obama would be elected a week later. Spurs had just sacked their manager Juande Ramos (after our worst ever start to a league campaign, 1 point in 10 games; think about that, when we’re complaining now about having only 21 points from 10 games) and replaced him with Harry Redknapp. How times have changed. Me, I’m still drawing the rise and fall of trees.
You can see the post I put on Urban Sketchers today at: http://www.urbansketchers.org/2018/11/a-decade-on.html
One of the more historically interesting neighbourhoods in Davis is the Bowers Addition, better known as Old North Davis. It’s an area I have to walk home through in the evenings if I have been downtown, when it is dark, subject to the local ordinances that are meant to cut down on ‘light-pollution’ – people want to see the stars, but I’m the sort of person who wants to see the guy hiding in the shadows with the knife, personally. However if you walk through this are in daytime you can really see the neighbourhood for what it is – pretty, historic, colourful and full of places that would be great to sketch. Recently I have made it my mission to draw as many historic (especially pre-1917) buildings in Davis as possible, and since the Old North is also now over 100 years old, I’ve added a bit more of it to my sketchbook pages. My inspiration has long been an excellent book by local historian John Lofland, “Old North Davis” (amazon link), which I picked up several years ago at the University bookstore. In the book, Lofland details every single block, between B and G, and 5th and 7th, with the history of most of the buildings, along with many photos both historic and taken by the author. It’s quite a spectacular undertaking. But anyway, let’s dive into some of my own sketches of the Old North. The panoramic one at the top was sketched at 6th and E, and was one of those ones where I added only the bright Springtime colors, so that they would stand out a bit more, and left the left-hand details unfinished. Also because I was sneezing uncontrollably and just could not draw any more. The house itself is a dark blue and looks great against those colors (especially the touches of pink) but you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s so floral around here on a Spring day, despite all the sneezes.
The “Bowers Addition to the City of Davisville” (as it was called; Davisville wasn’t formally a city, and would be called Davis when it was) was created in 1913 and named after its lead developer, C.W.Bowers. The house above, also sketched in spite of the allergies, was one of those original houses, being built in 1913 in the 600 block of E Street. It is on that list of historic Davis buildings on the City of Davis website, called the Liggett House. It’s on my map of pre-1917 buildings (see the previous post, “Davis before the City of Davis“). It’s a craftsman bungalow and one of the oldest unaltered homes in this area. I sat on a bench across the street in the little spot called the ‘Lyda Williams Memorial Garden’. Lyda Williams was a resident of this street who once had a magnificent flower garden, according to Lofland’s book. It is a very pretty little spot to sit and dream, or in my case, sketch.
This house on B Street has always been one I’ve wanted to sketch (though there are a few around here with the peace symbol on I’ve wanted to draw, because it makes it feel that bit more ‘Davis’). I was out on a Sunday having a little Old North Davis solo-sketchcrawl, before the sneezes start.This is around the part of B Street that is slightly crooked in relation to the other streets in the grid.
I’ve always liked cycling past this large and unusually shaped house, imagining it some kind of castle, though it is more like the Silo and has a fun weather-vane on the top (I cannot make out the shape, but it looks like a flying pig). I had to give up before I was done with this and finish off at home because the sneezes and itching eyes took over.I went to Lofland’s book to see what I could discover about the history of this magnificent building, but the photo of the house at this address..looked nothing like this one. Well, his book was written in 1999, I came to Davis in 2005 (and north Davis in 2012), so perhaps that older house is now gone (it’s funny, I find I don’t want to suggest ‘demolished’ or ‘torn down’ or even ‘vanished’, I’m trying to find gentler words, as if the house has, well, passed on to the next life). This one is much less aged-looking, and very clean and well-kept, so must just be a lot newer.
This was was drawn just last week, a colourful little place on G Street which isn’t a residence as far as I know, but a place called ‘Tangles Studio’, which must be something to do with hair. I keep my hair super short so I don’t worry about tangles. In fact I had just got my hair cut downtown, shaved to a very close crop. There is a large mural on the side of the wall that has been there for a long time.
This is an older sketch from 2014 that I wanted to include here again, because it is so interesting. It’s on the corner of F and 7th, on the edge of the Old North. Years ago F Street used to stop at 7th, but was extended beyond after World War II. This building is known as the Anderson-Hamel House, and this is not its original location. It used to stand on the corner of F and 2nd Street, before being relocated five blocks north in the late 1940s; Lofland provides a nice photo of it in the original location downtown (p100, ‘Old North Davis’). This is a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage built in 1903 by the man who became the first mayor of Davis, John B. Anderson. He also ran the Davisville Cash Store. It was sold to the Hamel family in 1923, and then again to the Quessenbury family, who moved it out here so they could build a drugstore on the original downtown location. This house has a dentist’s surgery now.
I hope you have enjoyed this little Old North history tour. Here are some thumbnails (linking to Flickr) of other Old North Davis sketches I’ve done over the years…
And finally, here are the sketches from last month’s “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl, the centenary tour of old Davis. A group of us met up on a Saturday morning outside the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion at the corner of E and 2nd Streets, and set off exploring and sketching the bits of Davis that were a hundred years old or more. Because Davis, you see, celebrated 100 years of being The City of Davis in that very week – but it’s been around a lot longer than that. In fact I might have called this sketchcrawl “Let’s Draw Davisville!” because that was the name of the place up until around 1907 or so. Davisville was named after Jerome C. Davis and his wife Mary, who owned a lot of the land which eventually became the city, and the man who coined that name was the early postmaster Mr. Dresbach, and this was his house.
I gave everyone a special map that I created, which you can see below. On the reverse side it includes a little bit of local history, but on the map side are listed most (but maybe not all?) of the buildings and spots that are 100 years old or more. I have drawn many of them already (see the pictures around the edge) but this was a nice way to start checking off those extra-centurions from my to-draw list. By the way, I think “F” may be in the wrong place, I couldn’t find it and it’s not signposted. There are also a couple of places at least outside this map which may be a bit older, but if I start going beyond the realms of cartography, well, where does that leave us. Hey if you live in Davis and want to try sketching them all, download the pdf map and let me know how you go!
So, after I sketched the Dresbach Hunt Boyer Mansion I went over to G Street, and sketched the Masonic Lodge. Yeah, you didn’t notice that either huh! I never knew this building was a century-old Masonic Lodge, only paying attention to the ground floor shop level. Trees usually block it, but you can see the masonic symbol up there if you look closely. I sketched this from outside the G Street Wunderbar. Those odd shapes in the front are cars, or the ghosts of cars maybe; I decided I couldn’t be bothered doing any details on them. You have to imagine 1917 vehicles.
This building, which is across the 5th Street border in Old North Davis (the Bowers Addition, which is over a century old; I will write an Old North-centric post soon…), is called the Bentley House. In fact I did not know about it until a few days before, while still putting the map together. Iw as coming baxck from downtown and passed by it, and they actually ahve a big informative plaque outside with its history on it. It celebrated a centenary in 2010, so by that I deduce (my dear Watson) that it must date back to 1910. It’s pretty, in a pretty neighbourhood. Below the sketch is a photo of the plaque, with a century of history.
My final sketch of the day is another structure from 1917, not a house, but a tunnel. The Richards Underpass (or rather, the Davis Subway as it is properly know) links downtown to the other side of the railroad tracks, toward south Davis, and the I-80 freeway. It was part of the old Lincoln Highway, that connected San Francisco with New York. Yeah, that New York. This tunnel leads to the whole world, baby. Well, it is actually on the National Register of Historic Places. She doesn’t look like much but she got it where it counts. It’s a popular place to sit bottlenecked in traffic too, coming into Davis off of the freeway, and I like to imagine Dr Doom sitting in a metallic grey and green car fuming away beneath his metal mask at “that FOOL Richards” and how “I, Victor Von Doom, would have created a far superior underpass!” Oh you’ve gotta love Dr. Doom.
And then we met up, those that remained, and looked at each other’s sketches. I have yet to find time to set the next sketchcrawl here in Davis, but I am working on it. This one was fun, but you know, you can sketch old Davis in your own time, just grab that map, grab a pen or pencil, and get sketching!
Oh and Happy Birthday City of Davis!
I cycle up F Street a lot, on the way home from downtown, and have passed this historic Old North Davis building for years. “Must sketch that someday,” I always said to myself. I believe it’s a dentist’s office, but it’s a lovely period house in a neighbourhood of nice old wooden houses from a century ago, two blocks from the Co-Op. If I could draw the entire area all in one book, I would (hint hint, there’s a commission idea, City of Davis). Actually there is already an impressive book about the area, written in 1999 by John Lofland (the pdf of which is online at oldnorthdavishistory.org). This building is the Anderson-Hamel home, built in 1903 by the man who would become the first mayor of the newly incorporated City of Davis, John B. Anderson…but it was not built here. It used to be downtown, but in the 1940s the house was moved five blocks north to make way for a new drugstore. Old houses move around in Davis, it’s not particularly uncommon. Some have even moved since I have been here. It can be disconcerting but I dare say the houses themselves don’t mind all that much.
Here is the map. As I sketched this building, I listened to a history of Captain America. Kind of appropriate, in a way.