And so, September started and wow, it’s already dragged us into the middle of the month like an angry bouncer, knocking over all the drinks and startling the cats in the alley. The times move quickly. Right now at the UC Davis campus we are preparing for the Big Return of All The Students. We are going back in In-Person Teaching next week – next week! – after being totally remote since March 2020. The staff are returning – partially working from home for the most part – as are the faculty, although there have been people working on campus the whole time (including myself, going in a couple of days a week or so) but now the campus is about to start Getting Busy again. The bikes will be back everywhere, and yeah, it’ll be different. Not sure what to expect. Not sure how everyone will feel being around lots of people again. For many, it will be fine, for many it will be uncomfortable. We’ll see what happens. This is the building where I work, the Mathematical Sciences Building, I have drawn it a few times before. One Saturday morning I had left my iPod in my office the day before, so I cycled down to get it and decided to take advantage of the direction of the light and start drawing the building again. And then it got a bit hot and I thought, actually let’s do the rest later. So I drew as much of the middle bit, and outlined the rest, and added colour to the sign, and went home, where I added in all the foliage and the colours. There’s not a lot of shade on the other side of the street so when that hot sun comes out it gets pretty uncomfy. I like it inside though, nice and cool in my office. I have been spending a lot of time this summer trying to rearrange office spaces getting them ready for new people, an ongoing task this week even. I’ve been trying to personalize my office a bit more, added in a couple of colourful classic World Cup posters, nice for a bit of Zoom background (we will still have many remote meetings), getting rid of some bulky storage, and shredding a whole bunch of old papers. I could probably use a new chair, I’ve had my current one for over 15 years now, but not a priority until the wheels fall off of it. This week is the last one to get all those things done I wanted out of the way before Summer ended, but Fall is already crashing into us and it will be Christmas before we know it. Lots to do! I’ve been putting up all the signage reminding people to wear the masks inside, getting the hand sanitizer and wipes in the offices. But here is the building, before all the people come back, nice and peaceful. The big Turkeys are still coming by in the mornings, pooing all over the benches, digging up the plants and menacing those who dare pass by. They’ve ruled this part of campus for a while, but the Humans and their Bikes are coming back.
A couple more from our trip to Oahu. On this one morning we drove across the island to the Byodo-In Temple, in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It is a buddhist temple that is a replica of the centuries-old one in Kyoto, Japan. It was a peaceful place, despite the tourists, with the only sound being the heavy ‘bonnnggg’ of the big Peace Bell that people can ring. We walked about a little, and then I got to do a sketch of the building and all its details. I coloured it in later. We had to go to the beach again. This was another of the locations we recognized from the show Lost, when it stood in for a place in South Korea where Sun and Jin were married. It’s very pretty there.
The next day we drove up the Windward side of the island again, stopping at the botanical gardens first (didn’t sketch there, just walked about a bit) before more beach time (didn’t sketch there, just splashed about a bit) before driving up to the Polynesian Cultural Center, to eat some lunch at the Hokilau Market Place. There were some great food and drinks there. I fancied some garlic shrimp, so I got some of that from the food truck on the left, and opted for the spicy version, which was very very spicy. Like, I was in a bit of pain for a couple of days, maybe it was too spicy. I washed it down with some interesting and refreshing soda from ‘Soda Bomb’, on the right of the panorama above. One of the girls who served me noticed my UC Davis facemask, and told me her grandpa lived in Davis. We sat there for a while and I drew what I could, outlines and some details, but we wanted to get some more important beach time in so I did the rest later. I love that big mural on the side, “Hawaii is my Happy Place”. Totally is. Anyway we decided that rather than spend some time on the beach we would sit in the car in miles of traffic instead, that was fun. We had wanted to get off at Waimea and hang out at the beach there, but so did a lot of other people, and they just wanted it more, I guess. We had been to the Waimea Valley last time we were here, swam beneath the waterfall, but this time we just looked at the ocean from the car. Eventually though we did stop at one beach that we heard was popular with sea turtles, and parked along the busy road to go and see for ourselves. Wow, there were so many, and not just lying about, they were swimming over the waves, every big wave that crashed in you could see their huge silhouettes, and the giants would come into shore and lay on the flat wet rocks. Sea turtles here are called ‘honu’, and we have seen them before, but not quite like this, it was some amazing honu action. There were people at the beach helping protect them by giving out information about them, and stopping curious travellers from getting too close to them or bothering them, which I was glad to see. When we waved ‘aloha’ to the honu, we got back in the car and drove back to Waikiki. We only spent a short while in Oahu and loved it, and can’t wait to go back some day.
Last Sunday morning, on the first day of August, we held our first Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl of the year. It has been a while; I paused organizing them due to the pandemic and I’ve been busy on weekends this year, but one of my fellow Davis sketchers Marlene Lee suggested holding one at Central Park that day during the craft Fair that was going on. It was a good idea. There were lots of vendors selling interesting art items, and there was a band called ‘New Harmony Jazz Band’ playing old numbers. It was nice to see other sketchers again, I’ve been hiding away for a long time and seeing others out and about doing their stuff is always good to see. Plus one guy (Alex) was wearing a Wolverhampton Wanderers shirt! I was delighted, I love football shirts but I’d never seen someone in Davis wear a Wolves shirt before. I’m showing you the sketches I did in reverse, so I can put my final drawing – this big panorama of the Craft Fair in the Farmer’s Market area – first. There were quite a few people around but it wasn’t crowded. Many people were masked up but most weren’t. Many of the sketchers were (including me for about half the time, usually when I might be interacting with people). It makes me feel more like a ninja, plus the mask I was wearing has my drawings on it (you can get masks with my drawings on here! https://society6.com/petescully/masks). I drew the scene above in about 1.5 hours, including about two thirds of the colour, but I coloured in the background when I got home. It was already getting hot, and I stopped for a shaved ice (which needed a few more flavours). Below is the band, they played nice music to sketch to. I drew that, and my other people sketches, with the Zebra brush pen that I was using a couple of years ago. It’s nice to use something like that again, it makes for rapid sketching.
And below are most of the sketchers, as you see I drew Alex in his Wolves shirt twice. If I had drawn more detailed sketches I would have done all of the shirt detailing on the front of that particular shirt. I myself was wearing my France football shirt that day, a favourite of mine, but mostly in honor of Esteban Ocon, who had won his first Grand Prix that morning at the Hungaroring in Budapest, a crazy race that saw a lot of carnage at the first corner. Ocon was also the first French driver to win a Grand Prix in a French car (Alpine, formerly Renault) since Alain Prost in the Renault in 1983. To see the podium with just one anthem played and for it to be the Marseillaise, well I’d never seen that before so I wore my French shirt in Ocon’s honor. I am about as obsessed with Formula 1 as I am with football shirts, as you can tell! I get up very early to watch it.
Below are Ann Privateer and William Lum, also drawn in the Zebra pen…
…and here are Ann Filmer and Marlene Lee, sketching in the shade. We’re hoping to have the Davis sketchcrawls go monthly again; I just got my soccer coaching schedule (so many Saturdays to the end of the year, and beyond) so others will organize but since campus is all coming back in-person this Fall it will be good for people to get outside and draw with each other again.
The Let’s Draw Davis FB Page (where events will be posted) is here: https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis
There’s also a Let’s Draw Davis FB group, where people who attended can post their sketches and photos afterwards: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LetsDrawDavis/
And it’s back to Davis. We’ll continue the Virtual Tour De France soon. The weather turned slightly cooler this week – high 80s and low 90s, feels like Spring, but the hot weather’s coming back. I was downtown a couple of times this week, and on both occasions I stopped on D Street and drew this view. I finished it on the second outing. I was downtown to get my eyes tested. They still work fine. The glasses I got last year mean that my close-up vision is not as good, like for reading and so on, they said it was “fortyitis”, which I thought was a real name for a disease, but turns out it’s just what happens in your forties. Bloody forties. How did that happen, getting to the forties? I mean I know how, but like, how? I was 29 when I moved to Davis. I remember celebrating my 30th birthday like I was some ancient celestial being. Actually we went to Chevy’s in Dixon on my 30th, where they made me wear a sombrero while the staff sang Happy Birthday to me (though not the Happy Birthday song, which Chevy’s probably didn’t have the rights to). We also went to San Francisco and ate at a fancy fish restaurant a few days before my 30th, when my wife surprised me by bringing my best mate Roshan over from England without telling me. That was a big surprise! I didn’t even notice him at the table at first (early fortyitis fifteen years early, unable to see things right in front of you). I was saying hello to the other people who were there at my surprise 30th, basically friends of my mother-in-law, and then saw him and was pretty gobsmacked, like stunned to silence. He brought me over a big bottle of Pepsi Max too, because at the time you couldn’t get that here, and I really missed my Pepsi Max. I’m a simple man really. Anyway I was downtown getting my eyes tested, what they do now is take a big 3D image of your eye, and you have to sign something saying they are allowed to do that. I’m like, hell yeah I wanna see a big 3D image of my eyes, that’s cool! It was too. It was a bit like looking at a nebula, a little world, and they showed me all the bits in the right places, and noting unusual. People say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but dudes, come on. They can’t take a 3D image of my soul, can they. Can they? Um, I hope not. What did I sign, did I sign that they could take an image of my soul? Dammit, if my eyesight wasn’t so bad, I’d have been able to read the fine print. Anyway, I’m getting new sunglasses, so that’s nice. So, this eyesight thing, it generally means when I am drawing I have to hold the sketchbook a little further away than I used to. Usually I hold it right up to my face like I’m holding a violin (I had no idea I did this until people starting drawing me sketching), now I have to hold it a bit further away. It’s not that big a deal but when I’m looking far away then close up a lot, it takes a bit longer for my eyes to adjust. I decided against varifocals just yet, but anyway, fortyitis. This is D Street near Fifth Street. The building in the middle has an interesting metal gate, made in the pattern of penny farthing bikes, which of course is the symbol of the City of Davis. This is a very Davis gate. This is a very Davis scene. When I first started drawing these very Davis scenes it was to show people back home in north London what the place I live in now looks like. Well, it looks like this. Another panorama for the book of Davis panoramas that’s never coming.
It’s July now; the second half of the year. I started this on the last day of June, stood downtown under the lunchtime shade of a tree, but finished it off today in July. It’s hot again, and getting hotter, and the world is basically just going to be hot forever now. The Pacific Northwest, that should not be that hot. Davis always gets hot, but this year feels worse. Sometimes though I hate the idea of the heat more; I will choose not to go out because I know it’ll be really hot, when in fact even in the heat it can still be alright in the shade, or with the air in your face as you cycle down a long tree-lined avenue. The over-100 heat, not so much. I don’t know, I’m grateful for air-conditioning. I dread the coming of summertime now, so much. Last year with the wild fires starting so early and raging so badly, the air being so unbreathable for the best part of two months, the fires have been progressively awful each year for about four or five years. So far though, no smoky skies. I dread the summer. “Hope you are enjoying your summer!” people say, in all sincerity. Not really, the anxiety of three digit numbers lining up on my weather app is depressing. Summer is a bummer. I’m coaching soccer again; this evening out in the heat and bright sun I found it difficult to cope, let alone think clearly. The heat affects my brain I think, slows it all down. I do find myself getting dumber in the summer. Remember that terrible heat in Amsterdam in 2019, how it felt like my mind stopped working, when I even forgot my paints when going out sketching? Well no I suppose you wouldn’t remember, that happened to me. But summer does make me dumber. As it cools down I feel like my wits get sharper. But not too cold; I remember in New York in 2016 when it was so cold that even thoughts froze as they moved about your head. Me and my mate walked across Central Park in some hugely sub-zero temperatures, and by the time we reached an Subway station our minds just went completely blank, like we couldn’t quite understand the Subway map. I mean it’s hard to understand anyway but we definitely felt affected by the cold; I made a massive pan of noodles when we got in to warm us up. So the heat makes me dumb, the cold makes me dumb, maybe I am just, look I know what you’re thinking, “maybe you are just thick, Pete”. Yeah maybe. Maybe I always have been, how would I really know? Or maybe there is just an increasingly small window of temperature that I can mentally operate in. Either way, the next few days are scheduled to be 97, 102, 108, 109, 108, 102, 97 in a nice palindromic way, that’s what we want isn’t it, palindromic weather. What goes up, comes down for a couple of days then goes right up again. (By the way San Francisco, which is an hour and a half away, has temperatures of 70, 68, 68, 68, 66, 66, 66 on those same days. That’s right, it will be 42 degrees cooler in San Francisco than in Davis this weekend. Just, seriously. But I’m not going there, because if England win in the Euro 2020 semi-final that takes place in twelve hours from now, I’ll be watching that on my TV in my living room and I won’t care. I always said that if Spurs won the Premier League or Champions League or something, I would put on all my Spurs shirts and run around Davis, singing “Ossie’s Dream” and “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur”; I own a lot of Spurs shirts, so that would be very hot. If England win it, I promise to run around Davis singing “It’s Coming Home”, “World In Motion”, and I dunno, “Cinnamon Stick”. (It won’t matter that it’s hot because I only own one England shirt.) It’s coming home; I’m staying home with the a/c on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.