compassion corner

Compassion Corner 050323 sm

This past week has been a very difficult time for our community in Davis, and this is a difficult local news event to write about here. This is the ‘Compassion Corner’, where 3rd Street meets C Street, so called because of the Compassion Bench, a colourful ceramic bench built about a decade ago at the place where David Breaux, known locally as the ‘Compassion Guy’, would stand and talk to people about compassion, empathy, understanding. He had this idea, to bring awareness about compassion to people, aksing them to write into his notebook what they felt compassion to be. I passed him many times in the street over the years; I never spoke to him myself. On the lunchtime of Thursday April 27, we all got a notification on our phones about police activity in Central Park, and to avoid the area. That was very unusual. I didn’t discover until later that evening that a man had been murdered, and it was David Breaux, found on a bench in the park. He’d been stabbed; we didn’t know when, or any of the circumstances. He was 50. The community was in shock, David was well loved.

Two days after David’s murder, on Saturday evening, our phones went off again, this time there was a ‘disturbance’ in a different park, Sycamore Park. A 20 year old UC Davis student, Karim Abou Najm, was cycling back from an undergrad awards event when he was attacked with a knife, and died at the scene. Witnesses saw the person who did it escape. The city was in shock, people were anxious about being out at night, though it wasn’t clear the cases were related. Then on Monday night our phones went off again at about 1am, another knife attack, this time a woman at a homeless camp near the train tracks; the victim, a woman named Kimberlee, survived; witnesses saw the suspect escape. The police searched everywhere, the FBI were called in, and the community was in a state of alarm at the thought of a serial killer among us. This was a very real situation, nobody knew what would happen next. In an effort to discourage people from being out after dark, UC Davis announced that classes after 6pm would be held remotely, while shops and restaurants downtown all started closing by 8pm.

I went down to the corner of 3rd and C on Wednesday to look at the tributes laid out for David Breaux at the Compassion Bench. There was a news reporter there with a camera, wanting to talk to people who knew David. I said I didn’t really want to say much, not having known him myself, but I’ll be sketching the tributes. I realized I had actually forgotten my pens, left them in my office; none of us have been really sleeping much this week, and my mind was really not 100%. So I went to the Paint Chip and bought a new pencil and pen (a Micron 05 in sepia, not my usual pen these days but still nothing like drawing with a fresh micron pen). As I sketched, people stopped for a while by the bench, some leaving tributes, others just deep in thought.

Compassion Corner 050323 smR

I was going to draw just the bench itself, but decided to draw the whole scene as a panorama. It was important to show the context, show this place in connection to the city around it, a street I have drawn so many times. The same day I was sketching this, it was announced that a person of interest had been taken into custody by police following a report of an individual matching the witness description, right down to the actual clothes worn, who was hanging around at the site of the second murder, where many tributes had been left. The next day, police announced that an arrest had been made, and that the suspect was a 21 year old male who had been expelled from UC Davis the week before, two days before the horrifying murder of David Breaux. The city and campus breathed a collective sigh of relief, but there remain feelings of sadness, exhaustion, shock. It’s difficult for me to fully understand it all. The Davis Enterprise has been doing some amazing reporting on the case, the journalist Lauren Keene always does a great job at keeping us informed: https://www.davisenterprise.com/news/local/breaking-suspect-21-arrested-in-davis-serial-stabbings/. David Breaux spoke to everyone about compassion, and his message is being more widely heard now, at a testing time.

Compassion Bench Empathy

You can learn more about David Breaux’s compassion initiative here: https://charterforcompassion.org/11eleven-project/david-h-breaux-compassion-initiative. Last Sunday a large group gathered to pay tribute in a vigil

For Karim Abou Najm, hundreds attended a service for him at UC Davis last Friday afternoon. I know faculty who knew him, and he had a bright future, taken from him. However he was a great inspiration as well. A special fund has been set up by UC Davis in his name to raise funds for Undergraduate Student Research Awards. You can learn more and donate to those here:  https://give.ucdavis.edu/VCSA/125342 .

another view of the MSB

MSB UC Davis

This is the Mathematical Sciences Building (MSB) at UC Davis, the building that has been my work home since I joined the campus along time ago. I wanted to draw a new view of it, this time slightly set back from the street (California Avenue; it was called Crocker Way when I first started), stood outside the entrance to the Earth and Physical Sciences Building (unseen to my left), which was not even there when I first started. Also missing are some trees, the largest and most recent to leave this earthy realm fell in the massive new years eve storms, along with hundreds of others trees. It’s left quite a gap, it provided some good shade in the summer for those sitting outside, although we still have the big wide spread tree you can see there that will keep us cool. I have drawn the building in panorama a few times over the years, we use those on our mugs and stickers and Stats department website, though each new drawing there is another tree missing. Be nice if this building were just a little bit bigger though, so we could have more office space. The perennial problem. The winter storms and rain look like they are finally over now, here in late April, and suddenly BAM it’s summer. It will be 90 degrees most days this week. The allergies have kicked into full gear, as always happens when the heat cranks up, but with everything being watered so much this year there has been a lot more growth, so the pollen is through the roof, as it were. I had to stay home today, the allergies were so bad that I didn’t actually sleep at all last night. At 5am or so I messaged work to say I wouldn’t be in and then worked from my bed until I eventually fell asleep around 7am, though not for long. Stupid allergies. I also saw that Spurs sacked their interim manager today, Stellini, the Tottenham merry-go-round continues, not so merry after losing 6-1 to Newcastle. But back to the MSB.

Below is another panorama sketch I did last month, inside the MSB Colloquium Room, at a mini-conference we held in honour of our emeriti faculty. It was really great having our eminent retired professors back, I’d not seen some of them since before the pandemic, and we had several presentations by our younger faculty, such as this one by Asst Prof. Mina Karzand. I’ve been with the Stats department a long time myself now so I gave a little speech as well with my memories and moments with each of them, and thanking them for establishing a welcoming culture in our department that we’ve tried to maintain. It was a nice event, and so I had to sketch it.

stats mini-conference 3-1-23

the mustard seed and the cloud forest

D St pano Feb 2022

This is D Street, Davis. There is a big gap of nothing to the left where I couldn’t quite be bothered to draw the car that was there. It moved and became a different car, and well, I just didn’t want to include it. I drew it over a couple of visits, fully intending to draw it in full colour because the colours were quite nice, but ended up only keeping the red because that’s what stood out most. Your mind will fill the rest in. If that sounds like a Jedi mind-trick, it is. The British phone box outside the Mustard Seed (a fancy and not cheap restaurant which I last went to with my wife for our anniversary in September, and was pleasantly surprised to find they had one of my drawings of that very phone box on the wall) was also one of the first things I drew in Davis, if I remember rightly. That summer of 2006 when I started really filling my sketchbooks, I painted it, no ink drawing, and it made me happy. A little piece of home, like the big red buses, here in my new home. When my son was very little we would come by here and pretend that the phone box was a rocket ship taking us to the moons of Saturn. Then it got chained up so people couldn’t use for interplanetary space travel any more. This being a panorama you will need to click on the link (takes you to my Flickr site) to see it in more detail. That’s the Cloud Forest Cafe on the left, another popular place that I’ve drawn before. I like the little narrow alleyway directly in the center, there are some cute little places in there, and then it leads you through a (slightly smelly) back alley which leads through to E Street, or if you turn right you get to the rear of the Pence Gallery. This is a nice spot in Davis, it’s no surprise that when important visitors or prospective faculty come to campus they are often taken here.

take a seat on G Street

G St Davis 101522 sm

The catch-up on my 2022 sketches goes into October; this panorama of G Street was drawn on a Saturday afternoon in mid-October on a hot Fall day, sat on the kerb (that’s ‘curb’ to Americans) until my body hurt. I used to be ok sitting on the kerb, but these days I’m so used to standing while sketching that I don’t like sitting right on the street as much, so I ‘curb’ that activity. I don’t even bring along the little fold-up stool like I used to, though I still have one that’s nice and light to carry. I have this idea, not so much in Davis but in other places (London for example) where you might get hassled by a busy-body who thinks you shouldn’t be there on the street near their place, their office or their shop, and try to move you along. It’s rarely happened, though I’ve heard of it and it did happen once in London to my friends who were sketching in the city of London with me on a Sunday, they sat down to draw a church, and a security guy inside the office building next to us came right out and tried to move them along for, I’m not sure what, blocking the view from the window? It was as far as they were concerned their sidewalk (not actually true, they were on the public right of way), and it didn’t matter that they were obviously just drawing the church, this guy wanted them to move. I was standing; he didn’t talk to me. I have heard of other sketchers and artists being moved about by busybody street security guards who like to overreach, even when standing. So maybe that’s one reason I don’t like to sit when sketching? Not really; I usually know my rights. The main reason is I get a better view when standing, and usually if I sit, the worst thing that will happen is a car will park in the way and block my view. Well on this occasion, I did feel like sitting down on the kerb. This section of G Street has been informally pedestrianized since the pandemic, when the restaurants along here were forced to take their businesses out onto the streets – go to the kerbs, or curb your business, I guess. It’s pretty much stayed that way, so on these balmy summery afternoons (in October) it’s usually full of people, drinking outside the University of Beer or eating outside Woodstocks. On this day it was not super busy, but still pretty vibrant. I sat on the kerb (with some subconscious trepidation, obviously) and drew the view of the Kathmandu Kitchen, the G Street Wunderbar, and the sushi place in between whose name I forget. I went to that sushi place once, back in (wow) 2006, when my friend Terry visited (he likes Japanese food; he lives in Yokohama now). My only memories are that you had to go into the G Street Pub (as it was called then) to use the toilet, and also Terry asking if I’d heard of ‘Teriyaki’ before and me pretending I hadn’t so he could explain it. I think I’ve only been to Kathmandu Kitchen once too, maybe in 2006 or 2007? I remember we weren’t that impressed, comparing with the similar foods we would get back home in London, and so we never ate there again, though I keep thinking we’ll try it again some time. Finally, the G Street Wunderbar. I’ve not been there in years; I always associate it more with live music, or loud music, and young people, or loud people, just a different vibe from the regular pub feel of De Vere’s (may gawd rest its soul). I’ve sketched it a few times, first when it was the old G Street Pub, and one time about ten years ago, during a particularly busy Spring Break week, when I really needed to draw a complicated curvilinear panorama, I came here and sat in the middle of the bar and drew all those bottles, while the bar light around me changed colours and people filed in taking shots of whatever and talking. That sketch is below. I really loved a bit of curvilinear then; I need to do more of those, I enjoyed looking at rooms in that style. That’s why I’d sit in the middle of the bar, to get as central a view as I could. You have to be a little bold to do that, when your instinct is to hide away and be unnoticed. Perhaps I could have approached the sketch above in this way; if I had, I might have to have sat right in the middle of the road, to get a more close-up view, and let my vision of the buildings curve naturally. Which is a thing I can do, since G Street is closed up. Actually I always let things curve, even if only slightly, although in the above panorama my awkward seating contributed to the curviness having a little bit of wonkiness (more ‘curbilinear’ than ‘curvilinear’) (or ‘kerbilinear’). Right, new new year’s resolution (my birthday was last week so it’s a new year for me anyway), draw more curvilinear interiors and exteriors again, like I used to a decade ago.

g street wunderbar

summertime in davis, 2022

Paint Chip F St 083022 sm

Still playing catch-up from last summer, here are the rest of the sketches from downtown Davis in summer 2022, including September, which very much is still summer when it’s a hundred million degrees outside. The panorama above though is from the end of August, and is one of our favourite Davis shops, The Paint Chip. They have art supplies and do framing, and when I was doing the sketchcrawls (it has been a while…) they would always put up the flyer in their window. The people outside are actually a painted mural on the side of the building; except for the redhead in front of the window, she was real. The dog behind was not real, that is a painting. Next door, Tibet Nepal, not in the location that I drew it last, it moved from the corner of G Street when they redeveloped that whole quarter. I stood outside the Old City Hall building (now empty) in the shade to draw this.

Speaking of chips, odd incident yesterday evening in Habit Burger in Folsom. It wasn’t busy, but there were four staff members behind the counter, one guy was talking very loudly about British food, not exactly sure why. He kept saying how someone called fries ‘chips’ and he was ‘offended’ at that, and then started going on about fish and chips and other foods, and the other staff were joining in going on about bangers and mash and shepherds pie and spotted dick (basically the Jeopardy category, “What Americans Think We All Eat”), and then – criminally – stating loudly “and they eat beans with tomato sauce, that’s gross!” Knowing how important Baked Beans are to me culturally, my wife raised her eyebrow to me as if to say, “them’s fighting words!”.  I said it sounds like he has a fry on his shoulder. The staff were talking a bit unnecessarily loudly about all this stuff and then it became clear they were actually having a go at a previous customer, who had said ‘chips’ (this guy would not let it go) and then when they overheard them making disparaging remarks about it, had told them to ‘shut up’ before leaving. They were saying all sorts of stuff about this customer too, like “she’s probably having a bad day because her husband’s cheating on her!” and “she’s just angry because we say fries”, like pretty immature comments. One of them was making these impressions by saying “shut up!”, and because it was in the direction of the customer seating, my wife actually thought they were saying it to us, so she said, “Excuse me? I haven’t said anything to you.” The eldest of them (manager maybe? Hard to tell) just said oh no, we were talking about someone who said that to us. I mean, it’s a bit rude to be talking so loudly about another customer like that in front of your customers, but mocking British stuff? So we probably won’t be eating at Habit Burger in Folsom again (we go to the one in Woodland anyway). Though if we do got back to Folsom, I will be asking for CHIPS, chips on toast, bangers and chips, spotted chips, chips in the hole, chips tikka masala, baked beans on chips (actually that’s delicious), diet chips with no ice, chips sandwich on a chip bun, etc and so on.

black bear diner davis 080122

Next up: Black Bear Diner on B St in Davis (and much better customer service). Actually I remember one server we used to talk to there, she always seemed very all-American to me, turns out she was British but had moved over here as a young kid, never became a citizen (neither have I, yet). Black Bear Diner is a fun rustic-style diner place we first discovered in Medford Oregon years ago. We love going there for pancakes. Well, I don’t eat the pancakes, my son does, I usually get the cinnamon roll French toast (or even the bear claw French toast, when they have it). I love their country potatoes and egg scrambles and chicken sausages too. Black Bear is a chain all along the Western US now, but it’s good grub and the sort of thing I’d really crave going to if we ever lived in England again, this is what I’d miss. Even though these days we go like maybe twice a year. It’s always the place I like to go to refill after running the Turkey Trot 5k. This year however I could only manage the 2 mile (foot injury plus increasing lack of fitness and non-existent gym attendance), but I still deserved the cinnamon roll French toast.

3rd st Davis 082522 sm

This sketch is from 3rd Street, on the way towards campus, Tim’s Hawaiian BBQ. Or “Tim’s Hawaiian” I think it’s just called. Or are they saying Tim’s Hawaiian, that is, Tim is from Hawaii? I don’t know, but I’ve never actually eaten here. I don’t know why I never think of it, because I really like Hawaiian food now. There is this Hawaiian food truck that comes on campus called Jojo’s that I love, although their portions are so massive I often skip dinner if I’ve had that for lunch. In fact I feel so full afterwards that ‘skipping dinner’ is literally the only exercise I can do for at least 24 hours. I should try out Tim’s though, I pass it on my bike enough but always forget about it at lunchtime. You’ll notice I mis-spelled my own name on this as well. That’s because I either cannot type, or because the laptop I was using to edit the scan of this drawing is a little slow on the uptake whenever I have to type words with double letters. To mis-spell my own name though; then again Shakespeare apparently spelled his name sixteen different ways (he was probably trying to rhyme it with something). One funny thing about this sketch, on the right-hand side it feels like it slants off to the right. I feel like I’m standing with my head cocked. Maybe it’s the way it’s scanned, but I don’t think so; the sketch below does it too. I think it’s a consequence of how I hold my sketchbook, and when I get the right side I don’t necessarily draw as straight as on the left. I don’t know; either way, I quite like it. It’s one of those things that makes it more real, less mechanical and more human. You need to put yourself in these sketches, even in subconscious ways.

D St Davis 081722 sm

Next up, what’s this one, oh right this is that house on D Street I have drawn quite a few times, the one in between the Pence Gallery and the Mustard Seed restaurant. In fact I once exhibited some artwork and sketchbooks in there at an event called ‘Scene in Davis’ with some other local artists, back when this was an artist’s center and studio. Before that it was an antiques shop. Then later it became, I can’t remember, a realtors I think. I’ve exhibited in the Pence Gallery too, on several occasions, most recently in the 2022 Art Auction (I sold the drawing of that London pub, the Lamb and Flag). What I didn’t know though is that one of my drawings is on the wall of the Mustard Seed restaurant too. It’s a pretty fancy restaurant, so my wife and I went there for our 18th wedding anniversary, we hadn’t been there in, well it must be about a decade? It’s a nice treat. When we walked in though we had a pleasant surprise, my drawing of the Mustard Seed from 2011 was there on the wall. It was just a print they had bought (I presume; the original is slightly smaller and sold in my solo exhibition at the Pence in 2011) (which by the way, ELEVEN YEARS AGO now, doesn’t seem that long!). Still it was exciting to see it in this fancy place. I remembered too that when it was exhibited back in 2011 I was at the gallery talking to a local woman who had lived in Davis for many years, and she said back in the 60s she used to go to the house which is now the Mustard Seed, her friends lived there and they would stay up late playing cards. The hidden stories in all these places. I have a few of my own now.

3rd st davis 091722 sm

A hot mid-September day, after a short period of not-sketching-enough and being-tired-all-the-time, I just had to get out and draw something. I cycled over to the Candy House (that place that sells the delicious little chocolate pyramids/cones I can’t resist), and bought myself a box of those little choccies, because they are the best and I was hungry. I stood outside and drew the second-hand store across the street. Well, as best as I could manage. I was feeling tired. I only got so far. I needed to go home.

hattie weber museum 092422 sm

A week later, the 24th of September, with the new academic year in swing, I must have had a bit more energy, judging by the colourful picture above. Saturday morning, I cycled down to the Davis Farmer’s Market (voted the Best Farmer’s Market in America) (“by the people of Davis” as I used to add in my Virtual Tour of Davis) to sketch something, walk about, not be inside. I settled on the side of the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis. This building has a history too – it was the first Davis library (it still says ‘Library’ above the door) and was actually in a different place entirely. Ok, not ‘entirely’, it wasn’t on the Wirral or Mount Everest or somewhere, it was still in Davis, but three streets away on F Street. (I had to count in my head there, C, E, D, F; oh actually that’s four streets away) (actually at 117 F Street so probably a few more, if you count going down blocks) (look it was somewhere else and it moved, ok, don’t worry about it). It was named for the first librarian of Davis, Hattie Weber. “Known as Miss Hattie by young and old alike,” the HWMD website says. I love that place too. And yep, they too have some of my drawings on the wall, including another from that 2011 exhibit (a printed copy, the original was sold) of the Museum itself. I remember going in here many years ago with my son when he was about four or five, to do the Easter Egg hunt, and was surprised when he suddenly said “daddy this is what you drawed!” pointing out my sketch of Old City Hall. I was amazed he remembered, I think he was about one when I drew it. I drew this one however while sat in the little Hattie Weber Rose Garden, looking north. The Farmers Market raged behind me. This end of the Market is where you get the people who get to set up their stalls and I don’t know, say any old bollocks. The Flat Earth lot, basically. They seem to be there a lot, with their “Nasa’s lying to you man!” signs and literature about how, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, how apparently the Earth is flat and not a globe, despite the fact it is demonstrably a globe, because “it’s a conspiracy man!”. Whatever mate, not a rabbit hole I want to go down. There were a lot of people standing around them though (probably new students trying to find out what they are on and where to get it); right next to them were the local Republicans, and nobody was talking to them. So the Flat Earth lot were back there, maybe I’ll sketch them some day, or probably not. It did remind me of when I was at school though, and my friend Terry got in trouble for submitting a one-line history homework, responding to some reference in the homework about the explorers sailing to all four corners of the globe, and he just wrote “globes don’t have corners”. Needless to say, the teacher was not impressed, and I think gave him an F for that. Didn’t matter, we both thought it was funny, and I suppose that’s what is important. Humour makes the world go round.

Still more 2022 sketch catch-up posts to come… Better start catching up with 2023 sketching too.

some time at UC Davis (summer 2022)

UCD construction panorama 081122 sm

As we catch up from last summer, here are some of the things I drew on campus. There was a lot of work done on the roundabout junction between the Silo, Chemistry and Bainer, so I stood behind the wire and drew the construction machines and the workers putting the street together. The standing stones in the foreground on the right have been there for ages, I’ve drawn them before, I’ve drawn everywhere before. It’s interesting to draw the in-between moments of these places, as they go from looking one way to another.

UCD Bainer pano Aug2022 sm

The next view is very close by, from a different angle, where there’s no work going on, and it hasn’t changed in years. I drew this one pretty fast; it was the difference in the high-summer greens that made me want to put it to paper.

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Another one drawn on a super hot day while stood in the shade, this is an old campus building called TB-9, which sounds like the name of a protocol droid in the Star Wars universe, but TB stands for ‘temporary building’. I mean, astronomically or geologically it is temporary, as are well all and all our thoughts and fears and politics, but in this case, the building was born in 1958 and is now on the actual National Register of Historic Places, no less. So it’s probably not going anywhere, but it might tempt fate to call it ‘Permanent Building 9’. If you want to know more about this building, check out this article: https://www.ucdavis.edu/curiosity/news/historical-highlights-uc-davis-department-art-and-tb-9-1958-1976

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This next one is primarily about the cacti in front of the Student Community Center, looking out at the Silo area. Another hot day, they all blend into one now. What even happened last August? It feels so long ago already.

UCD SSS lobby 090122sm

A week or so later, while it was a sizzling 102 degrees outside (in the weeks that would follow, 102 would feel like a bit of an ice age), I sat inside the Student Community Center and ate lunch, and drew the lobby area. Among other things this building is home to the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center, and there are colourful murals inside. We hold our annual department holiday party here too.

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And finally, the end of September, summer was over and the new Fall quarter had begun. So everyone was back, and we all got busy again, and the Silo area had new blue and yellow sun-shades over the tables. The academic year started. I still have a bunch more sketches from summer to post, from Davis and a few other places, and some from Fall too, but this was the summer on campus. Most of the staff in our department worked remotely except for one day a week, so I was there by myself for a lot of the time, but it’s nice when there are more people about again giving the campus its life, with all the students rushing about and bikes everywhere.

saturday last summer

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Still with Summer 2022. Right now it is a sunny but cold January Saturday, right after lunch (which I’ve not eaten yet; it’s not that long after my late fried-egg sandwich breakfast, after a late start this morning), at the end of a pretty busy but also pretty unsatisfying week. I’ve done a bit of sketching this week, not much but more than I’ve been doing. The tip of my middle finger has a band-aid on it, I picked up a cut somehow this morning, and so typing is a bit messier. I just took out the trash. I’m listening to the Boo Radleys for a bit of mid-90s-ness while my wife is packing up some of my son’s old things to take to the Goodwill. The cats are doing whatever the cats do, chasing each other around the house. I keep thinking, it is a nice day, I should be outside sketching, but well, Saturday in Davis and like, what do I want to sketch? Not that much. Our little backyard is getting a bit overgrown after the massive storms, but I’m not feeling up to going out there with gardening tools, I’m not up for the black widow fights today. It’s too late to go down to the Farmer’s Market, and I don’t really fancy being there anyway. I did draw this panorama there in the summer though, underneath the big metal shading, as many people went by (I was counting the different football shirts; there was a guy in a Tottenham shirt, big respect, but with ‘Ndombele 28’ on the back, which was a bit hopeful of him). I wanted to draw the perspective, but also the people, and then mix it up with some paint washed over it. It was a very, very hot day. There’s always a lot going on in a Farmer’s Market sketch. Well, not that much, I suppose, just people walking in that slow Farmer’s Market way. It’s good observation practice though. I’m not always that much of an observer, despite being an urban sketcher for all these years. My eyesight’s not great, and I daydream, so if someone I know walked past, I probably wouldn’t recognize them. Many of the people I draw tend to be a mash-up of different people – I’ll draw their face and they are gone, so I add the next person’s shirt, and so on, like one of those books you had when you were a kid. I don’t make things up though, I try to draw the people I’ve actually seen, so it’s representative of who was actually there (otherwise everyone would be in a Spurs shirt of different eras, all looking a bit like Glenn Hoddle). That guy with the ‘tache on the left though looks a bit familiar, like maybe he has the face of an old teacher from school. The posting of last summer’s sketches continues, but I should get on with some new sketches; I should eat lunch first. Saturdays don’t grow on trees you know.

sacramento station

Sacramento Amtrak Aug2022 sm

In August I took the morning off work and went to Sacramento for a small medical thing, my wife drove me there. It took a little longer than expected so I had to get the train back to Davis, but there was quite a long wait for the train (so I ended up taking most of the afternoon off too), so I sat outside the station in the shade of a big tree and tried to draw the old Sacramento Valley Station, which I’d never drawn before. It’s a grand old structure dating from 1926, and is the end of the line for the Capitol Corridor route which goes down to the Bay Area. I had quite a long wait (there were two hours between the train that I had missed and the next one) although it’s a bit of a schlepp to the platform, takes a decent ten minutes to walk. Ok maybe a couple of minutes less but you have to hurry. I did add the paint and some of the window shading later though. I like to draw train station exteriors, I’m building up a collection of those as well now. One thing I love to do is travel by rail. I often dream of taking one of those really long train trips across the country, the ones that take several days, but who has the time for that now. The closest I did was the long train ride down from Davis to Santa Barbara, which was on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train, the epic journey from Seattle to Los Angeles. That was a fun experience, though I wasn’t an overnighter unlike many others. You can see the post from that trip here: https://petescully.com/2016/05/19/rails-whales-and-tales/. There are many train journeys in Europe I still want to take as well, like that steam train in Scotland through the Highlands, and I’d really love to take that bullet train across Japan. I just like trains.

painting the room in a colourful way

UoB Davis pano Aug2022 sm

Here’s something you don’t see much from me any more – a sketch from a Davis bar. Back before the pandemic I enjoyed going to an interesting bar in Davis and sketching a complicated scene with a slow beer, and I have a good backlog of those. In the past few years, much less so. One of my favourite places to go to randomly sketch with a beer, De Vere’s, closed down last year. University of Beer, which I have drawn numerous times since it opened in, what 2014? The year before? They focused a lot on its outdoor seating during the pandemic times, as did many places. I did go there one evening last summer though, not long after we got back from our summer trip. I was thinking of this thing where I draw a scene and then splash lots of colourful watercolor over the top, a bit like with that sketch of the Black Heart in Camden, maybe with some areas masked over with the paint masking pen, and I wanted to try it out on an interior. University of Beer is usually interesting to sketch so I went there. It was pretty quiet in there. Those few people at the bar were not there too long, there were some other people at one point, but mostly it was empty, with the few people there staying in the outside seating. There were more staff than customers, but the staff were friendly and said they liked the sketch. It had been a while since I drew a bar interior in Davis, and I don’t think I’ve drawn one since (although I did sketch a couple in San Francisco one day in September when it was really hot). I went with using a rainbow of colours, although it really was pretty colourful, though still reasonably dark for a bar. You never want it too bright, a bit atmospheric but able to see the page. Still with so few people it felt a bit cold, despite being very hot outside.

4th and F Davis pano Aug2022 sm

Earlier that evening in fact I did do a sketch outside, stood on the corner of 4th and F, looking out at that Chinese restaurant (Silver Dragon? I’ve only been there once and can’t remember if that is still the name, but it’s usually quite busy) and the Wells Fargo bank. This one I left uncoloured, it felt better like that. My foot was hurting a bit as I stood and sketched, so I was looking forward to stopping off somewhere and sitting down with a cold drink and my sketchbook. I think I was most excited though about doing that paint thing, and this wasn’t the right drawing for that.

Evening Strolls in Paris

shakespeare and co paris sm I like my early morning wandering and sketching when we have family trips away, out by myself when the others are still sleeping. But I also enjoy the evening stroll as well, a good way to work off a long day’s walking and sightseeing. I’m just so keen to explore and to look, and of course to sketch. So much life was within walking distance of our apartment. I ambled over to Shakespeare and Company, the famous English bookstore by the Seine that everyone has heard of. We came by earlier, but didn’t go in because the line to enter was ridiculous. I’ve seen long lines to get into bookstores before; the Livraria Lello in Porto, for example, where you actually had to buy a ticket to go in, it’s that famous; bookstores everywhere on the night the last Harry Potter book came out; and of course, Faculty Books on the Middlesex University campus, where I used to work twenty years ago, there was always a line on the first day of term so people could get their massively overpriced Pearsons textbooks for their Econometrics class. the line for Shakespeare and Company, while moving, was too long for us to consider. It’s not like Shakespeare himself was in there signing copies of Much Ado About Nothing. No, it’s just a really famous bookshop. Loads of famous writers have been involved with this place. Loads of them. Loads. It’s not the same Shakespeare and Company that Hemingway and Joyce are associated with, but it’s named after it, and it’s really famous in its own right. I went back in the evening, knowing it would still be open, which it was, but there was still a long line outside. Well, I thought, perfect time for a sketch. I drew the panorama pretty quickly, and drew people even more quickly. The great thing about sketching people in line is that they will be there for a while, but because they don’t want to lose their spot you never get them coming up to you to see why you are sketching. Not that anyone would, this is Paris, it’s full of artists. I never got to go inside the store, as it closed up while I was finishing up the drawing, but I’ve been in before. I think it was in about 1999, one evening down by the river, came across this shop, there was no line outside in those days. It was interesting, in an old bookshop kind of way. I’m glad I got my sketch this time. I am a sucker for old bookshops, and for new bookshops too. I like the smell of certain French bookshops, very clean and tidy, with so many of those particular books with the white spines, and always with a huge BD (bande dessinee) section.

Paris St Severin sm

We were located very close to the church of Saint Séverin, and having passed by earlier in the day I earmarked that one for a sketch on my evening walk. I drew the rear (the apse) from the busy intersection where Rue Saint-Jacques joins up with the Rue du Petit Pont. The setting sky was cinematic. Restaurants buzzed with life. Nearby at a cafe a lady was belting out Edith Piaf tunes. One of those motorcycle delivery drivers nearly knocked someone over shortcutting up the pavement. It was like being in a movie, and just like being at a movie, I really needed the toilet so I went back to the apartment.

I loved our apartment for hanging out in. My son and I had our ukuleles on this trip, so I would sit by the window strumming to all the noise of the traffic. It was just like being in a Netflix show. Just like when I’m watching a Netflix show, eventually I left the room and did something else. I walked a bit further afield on this night, crossing the Seine twice and heading for the wonderful Hotel de Ville. I’m drawing the Hotel de Ville alright, I said to myself. I love the Hotel de Ville. I’ve always been impressed with it, but I especially love how the summer evening light hits it and appears to turn it different colours as the sun sets. Or at least I did before I tried to sketch it. Conscious of time, I decided to zoom my poor ageing eyes in to some details on part of the roof (it’s a really big building), and draw backwards as it were. I always add the colour last, this time I was like no, I am laying down this golden colour now. A lot of sketchers work this way and they love it, they say it’s the best and you should do it, but here’s the thing – no it’s not. At least not for me. I suppose the technique just doesn’t fit how I draw, or maybe my paints are often a bit dry so don’t always produce the most vibrant colours (I usually prefer the more toned down colours), or maybe I just tried to get the colour I saw and then it bloody changed into something else. The sunlight was slowly slowly oh wait now quickly fading, so I had to draw quickly. I still like it though, it’s a story in itself. It was nice out, people passed by and said “très jolie!” and “bellissimo!” and “das ist so cool!” and “hmm yeah that’s quite nice”.

Paris Hotel de Ville

The Hotel de Ville holds one of my favourite memories of Paris though. In 1998, on the first night of my five-week twelve-country train-trip, after a day walking about Paris I went to the Place de l’Hotel de Ville to watch the World Cup Semi-Final on a big screen in a penned-off area with thousands of dancing Brazilians and chanting Dutch. Ronaldo’s Brazil up against Bergkamp’s Netherlands, being beamed up from the Velodrome in Marseille. I camped in with the Brazilians, of course they would be the most fun to spend this warm evening with. And the the game kicked off, and they were all very quiet, a bit nervous, none of the singing and samba I’d expected. I looked across to the Dutch fans, as you would expect it was a sea of orange, and they would not stop singing. They were having a great old time. The game was a bit tense, not a lot happening, so at half time I decided to switch sides and join the Dutch. The grass is always more orange I guess; a minute into the second half, Ronaldo scored for Brazil. Yet the Dutch kept on singing and having a great time, so I stuck with them. It was a long old second half too. It looked like a Brazil win; ok so, I had a night train to catch anyway from Gare de L’Est, heading to Strasbourg, I didn’t want to miss it. And then, shortly before full-time, Kluivert equalized for the Netherlands. The Place de l’Hotel de Ville erupted in a volcano or orange facepaint. We were going to extra time; I still had time to catch my train, yeah? The Dutch camp was the place to be, momentum was with them, and maybe this would not be Ronaldo’s World Cup after all? Looking anxiously at my watch, it went to penalties. For the Netherlands, it was not to be, as the Brazilian goalie Taffarel pulled off a couple of great saves. As soon as Brazil won, I immediately switched sides again and went back to the dancing samba party, a carnival of yellow wigs and plastic whistles. Everyone was hugging and dancing and cheering (well, not the Dutch I guess) but I didn’t have long to party, I dashed to the nearest Metro and just about made it to that last train to Alsace. This was 1998, Brazil were in the Final, this really was Ronaldo’s World Cup. (Narrator’s voice: it wasn’t). The next day I watched France beat Croatia, at my friend Roland’s house in Strasbourg, and Zidane and Company went on to beat Brazil 3-0 at the Stade de France.

Anyway with those memories in mind, I walked back to the apartment. A couple of nights before on the TV we had watched England women beat Sweden 4-0 in the semi-final of the Euros (they went on to win it of course!) and the night after, France were beaten by Germany. On this evening though we were just packing for our flight back to the US the next morning. this isn’t all my Paris sketching though, there’s one more post to come…