Yosemite Slam

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It takes a long time to get into Yosemite, but what a beautiful place that valley is. You do have to take some lengthy twisty roads with terrifying drops down into deep gorges just one swerve away, and then when you finally reach the environs of the park and the rocks start changing from a dusty ochre to a stern granite grey you see the line of cars going in at geological speed and start wondering about Fast Passes like at theme parks, and then you realize the drop to the valley floor, that is the Fast Pass. We arrived in the afternoon on a holiday weekend, therefore specifically requesting trouble on the form. You need a reservation to get into Yosemite these days to, ahem, stem the crowds. We had one, as we were staying at the Lodge in the middle of the park. You could see cars going the other direction and you just know they had shown up without one. It took the best part of two hours to get in, and it was hot. When we got in, we had planned to do the Mist Trail hike first and then go to the Lodge, but you couldn’t park anywhere near the Mist Trail. We found a spot about two miles or so away and then walked in, backpacks with hydration packs on, stopping to take photos of the amazing views, admire the immense rock walls of the valley, and also to question What The Hell. It was packed. It was hot. By the time we finally reached the start of the trail we were hiked out. The trail itself was fairly steep and a bit narrow, but mostly just jam-packed with people. I know why they call it the Mist Trail, it’s not the spray from the waterfalls but the clouds of other peoples’ sweat you have to walk through. I made it as far as the first bridge by a waterfall and we headed back. Massive headache. On the way back though, we saw a bear cub! I’ve never seen a bear in the wild. Not that I wanted to get too close to one, it was on the other side of the road, just minding its own business, I think it was in the collecting food business. Then I heard a very loud whistle. It wasn’t mama bear because they can’t whistle. It was some tall American dude in shorts and a big stupid hat, getting out of his big stupid car and approaching the bear like it owed him money, or honey, whatever. He was whistling to get its attention, while also exclaiming “do you see the bear!” to passers by. “Yeah leave it be, mate” I said. The bear disappeared into the bushes. The man looked like he was going to follow it in to try to get a photo on his phone up close. I mean, I don’t wish anyone’s face to be eaten by a bear for being stupid, but seriously, you don’t follow a bear into the bushes. Big Stupid Man in Hat then turned round and went back to his big stupid car still exclaiming “did you see the bear” to everyone who had been distracted by his ridiculous whistling. I’m pretty sure you can be fined a lot of honey for approaching the wild animals in Yosemite like that, at the very least his picnic basket should have been confiscated. Anyway now I had something to write about on my postcards, we got back to the Lodge. Our room smelled as if someone had been smoking in it, which was pretty unbearable (I see what you did there), so we opened up the windows and ran all the fans. I did insist we close the windows at night though Because Bears. They love to sniff out the food, they famously break into cars, I saw a documentary about it, Gone In 60 Seconds I think it was. Or maybe the Fast and the Furriest. Anyway, well fed and showered, and well rested, and safe from bears, I got up very early next day and headed out into the park before the heat, while the family still slept, and sketched the magnificent Yosemite Falls, above. It was not super busy yet, and this was the start of the trails leading up to the Lower Falls. Stunning sight though, and the absolute drama of the scenery is hard to describe, and not easy to draw either.


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This was our third National Park this year (after Arches and Canyonlands). The colour scheme was quite different; before the Utah trip I did actually do lots of practice sketching so that I knew how I would like to draw once I got there, what colour palette I would use, even what style of sketching would work best for quickest effect. I didn’t do that this time; I wish I had in a way, but then the greens and blues are always tricky bedfellows in my paint set. The Yosemite light is overwhelming, like I felt there was no way to capture the sheer epic-ness of it, but even on the hot day I stopped and gave it a go. The one above was very quick and done with pencil and watercolour, and I was pleased with it. As we walked through Yosemite Village I happened upon a familiar face, Robert Dvorak, a Sacramento artist and art teacher who has joined us many times on our sketchcrawls in Davis. I hadn’t seen him since a sketchcrawl just before  the pandemic, but I recognized his distinctive hat, he was teaching a small workshop on sketching. He was surprised to see me, and showed his students my sketchbook. I left and got the Yosemite National Park stamps in my sketchbook, and we continued exploring. The sketch below was drawn while standing on the Swinging Bridge (it didn’t swing, but I guess there were lots of 1960s British hip fashion-followers there at some point. I wanted to catch the colour of the Merced River and the silent giants behind it; I did the paint first and then pen over the top, which I never really like doing, and I can tell as it feels a bit awkward from about the riverbanks up. My green paints feel a bit dry as well. Still as a quick sketch drawn while balanced on a bridge with people passing by behind me, hoping not to accidentally drop my sketchbook and paints into the river, I still like it. It was a hot day, we explored the non-uphill parts of the valley, took a lot of photos, and headed back to the car for a drive up to Glacier Point. 

Yosemite Valley 053121

Glacier Point (where I did the sketch below) is about an hour’s drive uphill from the Yosemite Valley floor. It is an overlook with a phenomenal view of the whole valley. The way up was a little depressing, as much of the landscape had been affected by big fires in recent years. In anticipation of this unusually hot holiday weekend there had been a controlled burn on the valley floor, we had passed the smouldering logs on the way in, but this was more of a sad beaten wasteland. Still, despite the fact that the past few years have been worse than anyone here has ever known, exacerbated by the rise in global temperatures, in the California wilderness fire is the way of things, nature’s way of renewing the forests. Still, it’s hard to see. It was another twisting rollercoaster of a road up. We have been to Glacier Point before; when we married in 2004 we came to Yosemite for our honeymoon, and we have photos of us looking much younger looking out at the view which is dominated by the otherworldly Half Dome, which resembles the cowl of a massive stone ghost. We could just about make out people on the top, tiny atoms in colourful hiking gear. It’s a dizzying view. There were a good number of people up there, but not as packed as the Mist Trail. I took a little time to do a quick sketch of the scene, but this one I did not fill in the gaps later at home, I just left it as it was. At this time of year the waterfalls are gushing and plentiful; in the western US we are in the midst of a potentially catastrophic drought though, so I expect that by the middle of the summer those will be trickles, if even that. When we were here in September 2004 Bridalveil Falls was not even running; this time that bride was running like she had just discovered her new in-laws were all death eaters or Hannity fans or something. It would be nice to come back slightly earlier in the year when it’s not already so hot, and the rivers are still booming, but even just a fortnight before there had been snow around here so it’s hard to predict. Maybe just when there are fewer people, not on a holiday weekend, it might be more fun to hike the trails. It just takes so long to get here. It’s worth it though, this Yosemite scenery is some of the best on the planet. We took a lot of photos of amazing backdrops, and the light always seemed to be just perfect.  

Glacier Point panorama I didn’t draw El Capitan, and it’s not in this panorama, but that was another geological marvel we passed by in awe. El Capitan is really massive. When we got home we watched the documentary film Free Solo, about the bloke who likes to climb up rocks with no ropes or harnesses or anything. They call that “free soloing”. “Freeing Solo” is when you dress up as a masked bounty hunter with a thermal detonator and sneak around Jabba’s palace at night looking for your carbonite-imprisoned boyfriend, just so you can ask him “what do you mean “I know”?” (Seriously Leia, when Han asked “Who are you” you should have said “Someone who knows you” and slapped him one.). So the Free Solo guy (Alex Honnold) was pretty bloody amazing. The movie was so good, and it detailed his journey to becoming the first – and so far only – person to scale the sheer face of El Capitan free solo, bottom to top, no ropes or nothing. Incredible film I recommend you watch it. (I also recommend the Return of the Jedi “Leia Says I Know First” special edition cut). It made me think, we all have goals, some people’s goals might be something huge like climbing a gigantic cliff with your bare hands, others it might be just drawing a picture of those cliffs and it turning out alright, but it’s an inspiration to see someone work on their goal, have setbacks here and there, but not give up, to really do it. No matter how big or small your goal, go for it. The only thing I didn’t like about the movie was the song that played over the end credits, which had a chorus that went ‘Gravity’s a Fragile Thing”. I mean, it’s literally not. Gravity is definitely the thing you can rely on not breaking. It will break you. Those lyrics were a pretty fragile thing. Still, the film reminded me of when I went rock climbing when I was 17, I went about 25 or 30 feet maybe, with ropes, and was absolutely terrified. I felt that Gravity pulling me down, and I was myself a very fragile thing at the time weighing about half a stone dripping wet, so it juts blows my mind to see someone achieve a feat like that. Mind Blown. 

And that was Yosemite. It was a long and winding drive back to Davis, and when we got home we decided against long road journeys for a while. We had 17 years between visits to Yosemite, and this was the first time since we moved to America. It’s a pretty long way, but it’s worth it.

Davis Arts Center

Davis Arts Center

This is Davis Arts Center, which is really close to where I live in north Davis. I popped over to the park at lunchtime and drew it from a high grassy verge, underneath a tree, while listening to a podcast about the car industry in Coventry. I’ve drawn a two-page panorama of the Davis Arts Center before, quite a long time ago, when the leaves were different colours and the building was painted differently too. I need a sketching vacation, one like where I’d go to a city for a few days by myself and just wander about drawing everything. It’s been too long. This is also the longest period I have ever had without going home to London. That is tough, I miss London. It’s still not easy to go there from the US, with quarantine and expensive testing when you get there, plus long waits to get through Heathrow. I’m feeling very unrelaxed right now. Drawing helps, though even drawing feels a little stressful at times, if I’m short on time or if I’m running out of things I want to draw; sorry Davis, I need to draw somewhere else for a bit. I finished this at home after drawing all the penwork, I can’t see it from my house but it’s close enough.

d street, mid-april, davis

D St Davis

The thing about using the watercolour Moleskine sketchbooks again, I just love how the pages open flat making me think, I really need to draw a two-page panorama on this one, I just have to. But of what? I wander Davis sometimes not sure what I want to spend time drawing over two pages that I haven’t already drawn. Not everything works. The time of day makes a difference. How long I have to draw is fairly essential. How interested in the shape of the buildings I am. I mean the buildings aren’t going to be too unusually shaped, this isn’t the world of the Dark Crystal or something. With this one, on D Street at the corner of 3rd, I’d not drawn these two buildings before (at least from this angle, I’ve drawn the other side) and I had never realized what a pair they make. So I stood in between them and drew. I didn’t finish it all there though, I coloured in later. Style Lounge, and Myland Nails and Spa. Until very recently Style Lounge had these large ornate mirrors parked outside, which is where they would have their outdoors work with clients (I’m sorry my vocabulary for style stuff is limited, me having no style at all). I never did draw one but they looked really cool from the street. The other side of the building is painted all different colours, it adds a bit of life. Myland Nails and Spa, again not really aimed at me, unless they are actually a hardware store that sells nails and spanners, but part of the sign has fallen off. But they only sell nails and spanners, nothing else. Maybe I should go in there like Ronnie Corbett, asking for nails. No, I won’t do that. I bet that happens all the time though. No, I don’t bet that. This is what happens when I just write without really thinking, I can’t be bothered coming up with any actual jokes or interesting things to say. I can’t even come up with a good blog title. My last post was actually fairly well written I thought, little bit of history, bit of emotion, bit of metaphor linking the theme of the drawing to the wider world and my longing to get back to see London, while this one is more “I’m sure I have a lot to say, but this ain’t the time”. Sometimes my blog posts veer off dramatically from the theme of the drawing, like I’ll post a drawing of a bookshop and use that to launch into a story about when I got chased by a dog in Namur. (There was not such post by the way, and anyway it was two dogs). Sometimes like this one they are literally about nothing. I’m always a little worried when I write a post like this that someone who knows me will read it and think, oh that guy hasn’t got a clue, what’s this? What is all this? Like, they may have Googled me because I coached their kids soccer and found all my drawings of Davis, which are nice, and then read some of the stories, which are funny, and then read a blog post like this where it’s not really saying anything. “‘Nails and Spanners’? Is this guy nuts?” Or perhaps they were forwarded a link to my sketchblog after my drawings were shared across the university or in a newspaper somewhere and they read the words bit and go, ok nice drawing but do we need the words, what are these words and do they even go together? Years ago, when I had my old ’20six’ blog, I would often write blog posts with just words and no drawings – what a concept! – and act like I knew how to write things and have ideas. And then when I would post drawings, I would include some text but in a much smaller font, in italic, and it would typically be nonsensical gibberish that I felt it necessary to include but didn’t want to distract from the drawing. These days I just ramble. I don’t re-read them. And now WordPress can also convert your blog posts into audio podcasts through Anchor. It is possible to have the posts converted into a generated voice. Now for me this doesn’t make a lot of sense as I am posting drawings, but I suppose if someone was listening to me talk about the drawing in more details and the experience and all of that, it might be interesting. But probably not. So I decided to test out the service and converted one of my long posts about Dublin, if you remember I did that virtual Dublin sketchbook last year. The generated voice is Male American, and my words said in Male American auto-voice sound absolutely hilarious, to me alone. Now, this has been posted just as a test, ok, and I will very likely delete it if I actually want to publish any of these stories on that platform in the future, in my own proper voice. But hearing my words in auto-generated non-ironic Male American is quite a thing: https://anchor.fm/petescully/episodes/Dublin-Part-2-literally-littered-with-literature-eqslqo. Especially the bit where the Male American voice keeps pronouncing BERNard as BerNARD specifically in a bit about pronouncing BERNard in that way. Twelve minutes of fun.

another panorama on third street

3rd street ali baba

Another panorama from downtown Davis, this is Ali Baba, near the UC campus, on 3rd Street. I was doing that thing where I go out to draw, cycle about, not sure what I want to draw and then stop and see a building that I’ve not really draw, and the light is right. So here it is. While I drew, a man cycled up and parked his bike and his bike cart (full of random junk) right behind me and went off to eat at one of the tables across the street, not paying me any notice, so why mention it, well he parked his bike right behind me, and turned on his radio or music player very loud, so I had to try to listen to my podcasts while also hearing this very loud pop music from behind me. He wasn’t even nearby, he went off to eat. It was a bit odd, but well, I wasn’t going to say anything, and the music wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t like he was playing the Cheeky Girls. Remember them? The music was actually alright. I felt a bit uncomfortable drawing this though, because being April, that means sneezy season. And being Covid times, that means wearing a mask. Now I can’t wear the mask outside at all time – when I’m running for example, and that exemption is covered by our rules, and even when cycling – but if I’m sketching in the street I do my best to wear one, if I can’t be six feet away like on the sidewalk. However I find that my glasses steam up a lot more because I’m looking up and down from my sketchbook and the mask moves it around. Some masks work better than others, and the temperature makes a difference. So sketching masked up can be uncomfortable. I normally like wearing the mask because it hides my expression. But in sneezy season…well, it can be uncomfortable, even if I’m not sneezing as much, my eyes are itching. So there was that, making me uncomfortable. I had to concentrate harder on the perspective. Thankfully other than Music Man there weren’t many people around. Saturday afternoon, near the university, in a global pandemic, not a super busy time. Nevertheless some guy commented on this picture on Instagram saying, “Are you thinking that your drawings would be better if they had people in them?” which of course didn’t annoy me in the slightest, having published an actual book about drawing people. I had to point out “there ARE people in this drawing”. They might be small but they are there. But look, other than the Cycling DJ there weren’t many people around, and I like my drawings to reflect that. I do put people in my drawings, especially in scenes where they help to break up the repetitive scenery or provide context for perspective, but if I choose to leave people out or not include those that weren’t there, that is my prerogative, my choice. All drawings are a series of choices. People. I remember once about seven or eight years ago I was drawing on a street in downtown Davis, when this violin-player came and plonked himself into the view. He had his back to me, and again I was trying to listen to a podcast about I don’t know, the history of the alphabet or something, while his strings screeched and scratched, making me turn the sound up on my headphones. I’d already drawn the thing he was in front of, but I decided he made an interesting shape, and quickly added him in. There’s no way he could know that of course, and I was in the middle of drawing some brickwork a few minutes later when he appeared in front of me like a tall skinny praying mantis; I couldn’t tell what he was saying. I popped out my earphone, the history of the alphabet would have to wait, and was met with accusations of “why are you drawing me, you are not allowed to draw me, show me what you are drawing!” I showed him my page, though I didn’t have to. He went into a rage that I was not allowed to draw him and that his identity is protected, and I’m like whoah whoah, I was here drawing before you got here, and I’m not here drawing you. The bit where I had included him did not even show his face, and frankly looked nothing like him (I may have written a book about drawing people, I didn’t say I was any good at it). To say it even looked like someone playing a violin would have been generous. He was apoplectic, yelling at me in the street to the point where people stopped to watch, and would not accept it, claiming loudly for anyone that would hear that he was in the witness protection scheme, that gangs from LA were after him, that if his face is seen they would come after him, despite the fact he regularly goes out and performs music in public. I said that if it makes him feel happy I will draw a face with a beard on the figure to show it was not him, and so I did, but he would not calm down, yelling that he would be discovered, they know he plays the violin, because of course he is the only person who does. And then he gets out his phone! He was threatening to call the police, though I was on a public street and not breaking the law, so he said he was going to call his lawyer and take me to court “my lawyer knows more about law than you!” he said. Ok, well you do that. So he stood there having a ‘conversation’ on his phone trying to get his ‘lawyer’ to call the ‘police’ on me, when I could tell there was nobody on the other end of the phone. Seriously, I think he was making a pretend phone call. Eventually my lunchtime was up and I had to get back to work so I just left, annoyed, and never finished the sketch. This was years ago. So, why do I sometimes not want to add people into my sketches if I don’t have to? Because People.

Anyway, once I was done drawing this, generally undisturbed except by some loud pop music, I cycled home for dinner. I realized I have not eaten at this place in well over ten years, it’s not on my usual way from campus to downtown so I never stop in. I remember eating something with falafel here once. Anyway, another panorama from downtown Davis. I have it in my head that I would compile my Davis panoramas into a book that would be nice to look through and think of Davis and all its people, but I am too busy. 

phonecall of the wild

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I mean, the Super League? It lasted less time than it’s taken me to watch Zach Snyder’s Justice League. Which I’m only half way through, because there’s only so much slow-motion darkness I can take. I have a lot of thoughts about the Super League (for a start with, the name “Super League” is really the best they could come up with) but the moment has passed and everything has been said, so I’ll wait until next time it rolls around. Call it the “Bat League”. Maybe that would be a good rebranding for Major League Baseball. The whole thing is comic book anyway so they may as well take it further. If Arsene Wenger started his own breakaway league he could call it “A.Wenger’s Initiative”. If I thought long and hard about this I would come up with a lot more comics/football crossovers, but it has been a very tiring and draining few days for one reason or another and I don’t have the energy. So I am posting this panorama I did earlier this month, on a Friday afternoon once I was done with work. It’s at the corner of 4th and D Streets, Davis, near Community Church. It was a pleasant sketch and I decided not to colour it in.

I’ll tell you though, a couple of weeks after this I had a less fun experience on this corner, when a man came up and started shouting loads of abuse at me while I was taking a phonecall. It was just after lunch, I’d gone downtown to eat because our fridge was broken, and was about to cycle back when one of our instructors called me up to say they had locked themselves out of their office, and their online class was going to start in 20 minutes. I was on the phone for less than half a minute trying to help explain what to do, and I am not a loud speaker on the phone, when a presumably-homeless man with long hair and dirty clothes approached me and started saying stuff to me. His eyes were a bit wild. I was on the phone so I told him “mate, I’m busy” and he went into one, kept on yelling at me, I couldn’t tell exactly what. I told him “Mate will you go away, I’m not interested” but he just got angry and started calling me all sorts of abusive names, all of which could be heard on the other end of the phone. I gathered that he was nearby and objected to me using the phone as he kept mimicking my voice and saying “I don’t want to hear you talking” and to “get away” and a whole host of rude names I won’t repeat here but, well, they weren’t as imaginative as you’d hear in London or Glasgow. They use very imaginative language. He was physically threatening me though, I had to keep my guard to make sure he didn’t launch himself into me, but I needed to resolve the phonecall, so I came up with a solution – I would cycle home, get my department key, and cycle back in time for the class to begin, which would involve some fast cycling and short cuts but first I had to get through this issue. I put the phone down, and still he kept yelling abuse; when I’d said “mate will you please leave me alone” he was all “I’m not your “mate” I’m your ENEMY” and then he spat at me!! Obviously he wasn’t wearing a mask otherwise the spitting would have been funnier but in this age of Covid this random shouty weirdo actually spat at me on the streets of Davis. I half expected all the traffic to slam to a halt and birds to stop singing and hear the narrator’s voice go, ” He? Did? WHAT?” But that didn’t happen. In fact he missed by a mile, it was a very social-distanced spit. I told him where he could go, colouring in a few of the words, and he went back to where he was lurking before. I got back on my bike and did the mad dash across town, but not setting off so quick that it looked like I was running away, I made that clear. But that run-in gave me a bit of mad kinetic energy because I zoomed up to north Davis, grabbed my keys, and zoomed down to campus making it just a couple of minutes late for the instructor’s online class to begin. I was focused, man. I felt like Lewis Hamilton.

So anyway, now I have to be on the lookout for random hairy shouter social distance spitters if I’m out and about, especially when sketching when I’m concentrating on other things. And then if I do get a phonecall, I’ll be like that bloke on Trigger Happy TV with the massive mobile.

duel of the freights

030121 train tracks sm

We get long freight trains rolling through Davis. Those really long ones like you see in movies set in America, that roll across the country, miles long, maybe with a hobo in one of the cars warming his socks on a fire and ripping yarns and tall tales. In fact you might say Davis exists because of the railroad; the Union Pacific railroad build a railway triangle here after getting hold of the land from the farmers Jerome C. and Mary Davis. They are who Davis is named after actually; originally it was ‘Davisville’, but the town’s first postmaster, William Dresbach, decided ‘Davisville’ was too long for the very small envelopes they had back then, and shortened it to ‘Davis’. That was over a hundred years ago; presumably it will be shortened again someday to just ‘Dave’. It’s ironic then that old Billy Dresbach’s house, which is still standing downtown, now has the ridiculously long name of ‘Hunt-Boyer-Dresbach House’, which was ok because they developed the technology to make larger envelopes by then. This particular stretch of railroad is near my house in north Davis, where the big metal rail cars are parked for a while so that graffiti artists can finish what they were doing last time. I sometimes run along this way in the mornings. The trains aren’t always here; I came back a couple of days later to draw another section but it had gone. It’s been a while since I drew the trains, but I was just so into all the colourful graffiti I couldn’t decide which cars to draw, so I did a panorama. Workmen clanged about by a rail car further to my right, welding this and that, while I listened to an Adam Buxton podcast, an interview with Torvill and Dean. If I had interviewed Torvill and dean I would not have been able to stop myself from doing the music, pa-paa-pa-paa-pa-paa-papapa, the one they did for the cinemas. And then there would have been an awkward silence, and Torvill and Dean would have said, um, yeah, this is awkward, um, that wasn’t us. And then I would realize that I was thinking of Pearl and Dean. Which would be embarrassing, but at the same time would make a funny story to tell people later. Especially if it was true. I would have asked Dean if he still heard from Pearl, and for balance I would have asked Torvill if she still saw Keith Harris. Look I was a kid when they were famous, yeah. There were lots of double acts when I was a kid, it was hard to tell them all apart. I was always drawing, I was too busy to lift my head up to actually pay attention to anything, unless it was Tottenham, or Formula 1. Oh how times have changed. But there were a lot of double acts, you had Rod Hull and Emu, you had Rod Jane and Freddy, you had Little and Large, you had Cannon and Ball, you had Hoddle and Waddle, you had Dempsey and Makepeace, basically everyone was a double act. At this point in my pretend interview with Torvill and Dean they are getting ready to walk out, but I convince them to stay, that I would take it seriously. And as soon as they do I’d say, I’m skating on thin ice now eh. I have personally only ice-skated once in my life, when I was 15 years old, in Austria while I was on a school exchange trip. I couldn’t do it. It was cold, I fell over a lot, I had absolutely no idea how people actually moved. People would get on the ice and suddenly off they went. I actually took my skates back and said the batteries need changing. I also had Gluhwein for the first and last time then too, I think it was more glue than wine. 

The graffiti looks good on the side of these trains though, adds a lot of colour and turns them into a moving art gallery. I don’t live so close to the railroads that I hear them at night any more, but when I lived in south Davis I was a little closer to the main line that runs east-west and at 1am when the big long mile-long cargo train would roll through it would make my apartment rumble slightly. Even here though we do feel the vibrations of the earth moving slightly, it’s not earthquakes, it’s those long trains. Or maybe it’s bears or something. I liked drawing this panorama though. Click on the image for a closer view. 

the corner of 3rd and e

3rd and E Davis Feb 2021 sm

Been a little while since I wrote a post, though I have been drawing. It’s March again now, so we’ve come a year since last March. I suppose we always do, except last March hasn’t ended yet. That’s what we all say. So on this one day last month, the day before my birthday, I was downtown with the family getting new football boots for my son, and I decided to stay down there and draw a panorama. This is the corner of 3rd and E Streets, and I stood off to the side out of the way, six feet from any passer-by, and drew as much as I could. I finished it off later. I’m quite pleased with it. Click on it to see it in close-up. I last drew the house on that corner about a decade ago, when I had that show at the Pence. There it is below. It’s one of the cutest houses in downtown Davis. I draw 3rd Street quite a bit. 

nice house on 3rd and E eee

walker hall, nearly there

020321 Walker Hall Graduate Center sm

This is the almost-ready Graduate Center in the almost-refurbished historic Walker Hall, on the UC Davis campus. If you have been reading this site for a while you might have seen this building once or twice; see all the previous posts at petescully.com/tag/walker-hall. Well the little huts where all the construction workers go have been moved away, and so I had a pretty good view from across Hutchison, though the fence is still up. I did this fairly quick panorama while I was on campus earlier this month. Click on the image to see a close-up.  

And this is what it looked like back in January 2014! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, as Bowie would say. If he were still alive. I wish Bowie were still alive.

panoramarathon: walker hall

the answer, my friend…

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This as you may know from previous posts is one of the new buildings that have been popping up on campus the past few years that I can’t help but draw as they grow. This is the Teaching and Learning Complex, or TLC, next to the Silo which is away to the left there. Behind that tree. On the day I drew this, the wind was blowing hard, blowing off some of the coverings on the building. It was also the last day of the Trump presidency, speaking of wind blowing hard. I’ve been waiting to use that one, I thought of it when I was drawing. I drew most of this fairly quickly for a panorama, it was the afternoon and I was working on campus, and had to drop something off at the international department, which these days of hardly anyone being on campus means some coordination and passing off of a brown inter-office envelope at an outside location. It makes me feel like a secret agent or something. Anyway I got that out of the way earlier than expected so I had a bit of time before my weekly COVID test, a requirement for those who do come to work on campus (and I come in once or twice a week) (I am bored of working from home and miss the office, which has fewer snack distractions or cats begging me to turn on the taps at the sink). I coloured it in later, the blowing hard wind not really the place for the watercolour set. We have had much harder blowing wind since, there was a big storm that rumbled across northern California last week taking down so many trees here in Davis, it was a scary, noisy night.

Changing the subject completely, a few months ago the legendary presenter of the game-show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, passed away and his final show was broadcast recently. The show is now continuing with a new host, Ken Jennings, a well-known former Jeopardy champion who for all the will in the world is not a game-show host. I think technically he is a ‘guest host’, but it got me thinking about all the game shows I used to like years ago in Britain, and so my wife and I discussed those game shows we had when we were kids, her ones being over here in the US and mine being very much anything with Bruce Forsyth. There were many that crossed the Atlantic (the most recent one being British game show The Chase which we had seen on previous visits back home, but just started here, also with Ken Jennings and two other Jeopardy champs as the ‘chasers’, including my son’s favourite James Holzhauer). At this point in the story I should start listing all of them, your Price Is Rights, your Generation Games, but I can’t really remember them all (I’d have been useless on the Generation Game), and then this becomes another blog post about ‘member this? ‘Member that? ‘Member when we had TV and everyone watched TV, etc. I’m not sure why I’m bringing it up in fact, and I think this is a topic for a longer post that I already would advise against reading. But game shows do add a lot to the language, in certain catchphrases and sayings that filter in to the common consciousness, a bit like how sporting terms crop up in conversation without you knowing the origins. For example we all say things like “that came out of left field”, which is a baseball term (nothing to do with the musician who did that track with John Lydon in the 90s). Or we will say “they had a good innings” when someone dies, more from cricket than baseball. Or we might say someone is “out for the count” which is from either boxing or vampire slaying, both popular sports you don’t see on regular TV any more (I think vampire slaying is still available on “pray per view” channels). I do often find myself using phrases from old games shows that I realize might not have been as popular over here. For example I was at the supermarket buying fruit, and I says to the fruitmonger, “you don’t get nothing for a pear…” and they didn’t respond “…not in this game!” In meetings at work, if someone says I have made good points, I always respond with “and what do points make? Prizes!” while rubbing my chin, while everyone stares and blinks. I was at the card shop, and I was buying some birthday cards and I said “dollies, do your dealing” and the look I got, well, let’s just say it wasn’t “nice to see you, to see you nice”. Basically growing up my whole vocabulary was shaped by Bruce Forsyth. I want to point out that I never say any of those things in public in America because I’m not insane, but it does remind me that I grew up with tv game show hosts being proper tv game show hosts. So farewell Alex Trebek, I hope that a worthy full-time successor comes along at some point (although not necessarily with lots of outdated eighties-era catchphrases).

just visitin’

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I’ve been trying to draw every day in January, and except for one I think I have done. Ok two, including today, unless I get a sketch in before bedtime. However there is currently a huge storm rolling through northern California and I’m sure the power will go down any moment. Lights are flickerin’, rain is pourin’, wind is howlin’. Trees are takin’ a rollickin’. The gusts are so strong, they have blown the ‘g’ away from the end of all these verbs. We’ve not had much weather this winter, such as on this particular Saturday when I drew this, when it was bright, sunny, a typically fresh January afternoon in Davis. I got out of the house, mask on, and cycled down B Street to the corner of 5th, and decided to draw the view across this school parking lot, looking over at Newman Chapel. Click on it to see a bigger view, if you need to.

Saturday afternoons, sometimes I will stick on a movie, preferably something I have seen a lot of times so I can do something else while it’s on, such as build some Lego, get on with some drawing, do the laundry, cycle downtown and sketch a panorama, that sort of thing. Most recently I rewatched one of my favourite films that I’ve not seen in ages, Les Visiteurs. Les Visiteurs was a French film I first watched in about 1993 or 1994, starring Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, utterly silly in a French humour kind of way. It’s about this knight (Godefroy le Hardi) and his vassal (Jacquouille la Fripouille) who get accidentally transported into the present day (that is, 1993; god knows what they’d make of 2021). Despite the silliness, Reno plays it with such a sincere seriousness, and every single other character is well fleshed out in their own way, I just love it. I was learning French at the time and I would watch it all the time, and funniest of all are the terrible subtitles (“toil toil never recoil”). The soundtrack too is epic, as you would expect from the best French flicks, rivalling Jean de Florette (another of my favourites, along with Manon des Sources). I did watch the sequel Les Visiteurs 2: Les Couloirs du Temps, on VHS when I lived in France, without the subtitles and with a different actor playing Dame Frenegonde, and it wasn’t anywhere near as good. I didn’t have high hopes, whenever I asked French friends about it they shrugged indifferently; but the again they tended to do that a lot in France. Also I once went to a nightclub outside Charleroi in Belgium called Les Couloirs du Temps and it wasn’t all that. See, I shrug indifferently too. I never saw the English language remake Just Visiting that came out about 20 years ago, starring the same two main actors, but with Christina Applegate and set in Chicago for some reason. I shrugged highly differently at that, taking it as an abomination unto a classic of French cinema at the time, but Les Visiteurs isn’t exactly Le Chateau de ma Mère or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg or one of those other ones I haven’t actually watched (though I did a course in French cinema at university), and now I think I’d actually like it in a funny retro sort of way. And then there was a more recent one, back in French, following on from Les Couloirs du Temps, called Les Visiteurs: La Révolution, set during revolutionary France (and called ‘Les Visiteurs: Bastille Day’ in English, for some reason). I’ve not seen that one yet. But nothing can take away from the original Les Visiteurs, one of my favourite films of all time.