“You can’t handle the roof!”

Manetti Shrem panorama Jan2018 sm
This is the courtyard of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the UC Davis campus. In January we had our monthly sketchcrawl here in Davis (we missed February; the next one will be on March 17, details to be posted later today at facebook.com/letsdrawdavis), and it was held at the Manetti Shrem. Regular viewers will recall that I drew this building from its first days of construction right through to the grand opening, and I was even invited to the big fancy party for artists and donors on the night before the opening, which was amazingly fun (the ice cream lollipops made on slabs of nitrogen were incredible). It’s a complicated piece of architecture, and I have not drawn it very often since, so I was overdue a sketch. After a morning of coaching a game of under-10 soccer (we lost 9-2 that morning, ouch) I needed to spend some time on a complicated panorama. This is a complicated panorama. Fun though, and it was nice having chats with people passing by, either other sketchers, or local Davis people I knew who happened to be visiting the museum, or students who were interested in art. One young bloke asked me about perspective and how I approach it. Well, get me on that subject! I told him about the multiple vanishing points, both up and down, and the horizon, and the sphere, curvilinear perspective, but said that with a building like this you just have to throw caution to the wind and say, ah just draw it all and see how it comes out. Don’t worry about it. Also another trick, on a two-page spread when the big valley is in the middle of the page, I used the large yellow pole that was in the foreground as a good place for a middle. Saved all those lines getting screwed up in the centre, falling down the gap. On the right, across Vanderhoef Quad, is the Mondavi Center. We’ll be going to see John Cleese there later this month. I’m sure he will be all grumpy

You can click on the sketch for a closer view if you like. Or maybe if you are in Davis, for an even more close view of the museum why not visit? It’s really cool there: https://manettishremmuseum.ucdavis.edu/

Also, try to draw that roof. Honestly, it is fun, like a puzzle. And if drawing that roof gets too much just put on a Jack Nicholson voice and say …


tree’s last stand

The Barn UCD pano Jan18 sm

One damp grey day last month I ate my lunch and went over to The Barn (an old building on the UC Davis campus) to draw, surprise surprise, a panorama. I approached it in the following way. I mapped out the scene with a few light guidelines in pencil, so that I could be sure to fit the whole building in, and then went straight into pen with the drawing itself, drawing the large, heavy leaning tree. I started there. I knew my lunchtime was short (I had eaten at Shah’s Halal food truck by the Silo, spicy chicken over rice, so good) and that this would take more than one lunchtime. Normally I would draw the front of the building first but it’s always easier to draw on the left page when standing, back to the wall, holding a landscape-format sketchbook. For some reason I always struggle a bit more sketching the right page while standing. So I drew the big tree, it was just too interesting. I did the tree, left the rest, went back to work.

I came back two days alter to continue, and THE TREE WAS GONE!!! Totally gone. The place was all cordoned off while the tree-chopper-people finished off chainsawing it up, and I stood there looking at my page like, “but…but…”. I don’t know how old the tree was, but look at it. It was really leaning over. It was an aging ballerina, tumbling in slow motion as time froze around it. I’m sure the tree was older than me. And I had sketched its very last days. This scene no longer looks like it does in this sketch. I carried on drawing the rest of the scene, The Barn itself, the buildings behind, the lines of the bike path. I was going to add paint but, I don’t know, it didn’t seem right. That tree was drawn at the end of its life. I wonder what it was thinking at the time? “I’ll Be Bark”

but to you in your own little dreamworld

2nd G St Pano Feb2018 sm
Well this is part two of the previous post, really.It jumps forward in time from last month to today, but posting that sketch inspired me to get out and complete the circle. The sketch I posted yesterday was done on the other side of the street from this one, directly opposite, here at 2nd and G. Froggies is now on the right, with Sole Desire is on the left (oh I get it, Sole like in a shoe and Sole like, no actually I don’t get it). If I had a shoe shop I would call it Over The Heel, maybe if it were a shoe shop for mature audiences. You can see the train station from here. My barber (Razor’s Edge) is a little way down the street on the right. I got my hair cut today. I am the most boring person when getting a hair cut. I get the same thing every time, for years. And every time he asks, how does it look. And every time I say, I assume it looks fine (my glasses are off, I cannot see a thing). I get an easy hair cut. I basically get it cut so I don’t have to brush it, brushing hair is so tedious. I do have a hairbrush for those times when it gets a bit longer. It is green and the initials ‘PWS’ are carved into it, because I bought it when I was 13 in Spain (my sister got it for me actually), a cheap plastic hairbrush from a souvenir shop, that has lasted me until my 40s because I hate brushing my hair. Why on earth am I telling you this? It is in no way relevant.

I have more sketches to post from the interim period, between the last post and today’s. I can’t guarantee the text will be as riveting as my 1989 hairbrush discussion. I did go to England, briefly and unexpectedly, at the start of this month and have a few sketches from there. I’ve been up a long time today. I woke up early and registered for the 9th International Urban Sketching Symposium in Porto. I am excited, but nervous all the same. It’s changed a lot since the first one, back in Portland in 2010. Portland to Porto. Anyway, if you are going to Porto for the Symposium, do say hello to me. You can if you like mistake me for someone else, that sometimes happens at the symposium. I remember Lisbon in 2011, a woman came up to me and said, in an excited but serious manner, “I know you, stay here, my friend really wants to meet you.” I was talking with Florian Afflerbach at the time. He had to go, and I was stood there like a plum, and a few minutes later the woman’s friend comes up to me, and the woman says “this is Paul” and her friend peers at me over her glasses and says , “no that’s not him, ” and then without another word they just walked off!! I’m standing there like an eejit, obviously they think I’m “Paul” (Heaston probably, another redhead urban sketcher) (or McCartney maybe?) (Weller?) (Pogba?). No what I love about the symposium is meeting all the people whose sketches I have followed online, been inspired by, learned from, it is very educational like that. You make connections, you might meet someone at one symposium just briefly, literally a couple of words, then follow their work on instagram or something, and by the next time the symposium comes around you’re like old buddies. It’s nice. I’m interested in seeing what Porto has to offer, it looks like a really interesting city. Of course, the first thing I think about is FC Porto, and that time Spurs beat them in 1991 in the Cup-Winners Cup (which no longer even exists), with an incredible team goal scored by Lineker. I’m looking forward to seeing the Portugal Urban Sketchers again, I enjoyed meeting them before (and eating a nice dinner with a group of them in Manchester, though I understood barely a word). I guess I had better start brushing up on my Portuguese…

you get from day to day by filling your head

2nd G St Pano Jan2018 sm
Another downtown panorama from January. Remember a few years ago when I did loads of panoramas (panoramae? panorami? panoramodes?) in January 2014 and called it a ‘Panoramarathon‘, or in the spirit of naming months after doing artwork, a ‘januaramarathon’, yeah that one didn’t catch on, not exactly
‘inktober’ is it. Hey maybe there is still time for us to do another movement, okay February is already gone but perhaps this March we can dedicate it to panoramic sketches and call it “Panoramarch”. Seriously we have to do it in March because “Panoramapril” sounds rubbish. “Panoramay” could work though, if you can’t do March. I like drawing panoramas over two pages, in fact I would love to bring out a whole book of my Davis panorama sketches, that would be a fun thing to flick through, maybe include some witty little stories, observations, reminiscences, maybe the odd story with long-term locals about the places they love. If I did that I would probably edit down the nonsensical stuff, the ‘stupid-don’t-make-sense-stories’ as me and my friend Terry used to call them when we were at school. Back then we had a short-lived home-made magazine called “The Silly Goats Gruff” which honestly made zero sense. Like, literally. Like if you read some of my more long-winded go-nowhere blog posts, that is not even close. The ‘Stupid-Don’t-Make-Sense-Stories’ were pretty ridiculous. I should try to find some and post them here. There weren’t very many. Terry’s ones were actually pretty good, I thought, while mine always felt a little forced. Listen to me critiquing my 14 year old self’s writing style. That guy who reviewed my book on amazon (the one who said “the author’s explanations are so boring by the time he gets to the point I’ve forgotten what he was talking about“, that guy) (by the way, that guy, if you have forgotten what I was talking about, just look at the page titles), well he would have hated The Silly Goats Gruff. Definitely would have given it 1 star on amazon, plus a whole bunch of links to better publications about goats. “It doesn’t even tell me how many goats there are!”

Anyway, back to the sketch. I know, I know, you’re thinking “that guy has a point”, well yes, he definitely does. So, this was sketched one Saturday afternoon in mid-January after I got a haircut in downtown Davis, on the corner of G and 2nd. The heart of historic downtown, this. That new signpost is nice. On the left, Froggie’s, a bar that has been there for ages. When Terry came to visit me in 2006 I took him there, he loved it. He doesn’t write Stupid-Don’t-Make-Sense-Stories any more, more’s the pity. Now on the right is a shoe shop called Sole Desire, which again, thinking back to the last post, is another example of a Davis shop using some sort of pun in their name and I just can’t tell what it is. This took me under a couple of hours of drawing, but I added the colours when I got home.

e-street trees and memories

E St Pano Jan2018 sm
This is E Street, Davis. Click on the image to see it in more detail. Actually to see it in even more detail, go to the actual place. You have to stand just by the bins near The Hotdogger, near the rear of Uncle Vito’s, the pizza place. Well not just pizza, they do beer and fries and other things. They show sports. It’s nice, I’ve sketched in there before. When I first moved to Davis it was actually a Chinese restaurant called “Wok’N’Roll”. Wok’n’roll. Wok. ‘N’ Roll. There is another place in south Davis over where I used to live called “Wok of Flame. Not having an American accent I did not get that pun at first. Wok of Flame? IS there a Rock of Flame, is that a thing I need to look up, like Rock of Ages (which is another thing I don’t understand but nevertheless laugh when Iron Man uses it to refer to Loki). Now with Wok of Flame, when I realized, oh that is supposed to be ‘Walk of Flame’ but even then it was like, but I still don’t get it. What is the Walk of Flame? Took me ages to realize it means Walk of Fame. That’s two puns in one. So I started to think maybe all the other shops and restaurants in Davis were punny references to things I didn’t get? At this point I should roll off a load of Davis shops and restaurants and try to make vaguely funny guesses at what they could potentially be puns for, in a completely silly manner, but honestly I feel like I’m above such frippery. No, ha ha ha no no I am totally not above that actually so here goes. The Avid Reader, is that a reference to David Ginola’s Bird Feeder? No, that doesn’t work, not even close. Being a punster in the ‘Wok of Flame’ league is harder than you might think. But Wok’n’Roll…that works too because you have woks, and you have spring rolls. And it’s like Rock’n’Roll. I used to eat there sometimes on Saturday when I worked at the Avid Reader (my first job in Davis was at the David Ginola’s Bird Feeder) and to be honest, Wok’n’Roll wasn’t very good. I didn’t like the food much. I just liked their name.

Anyway, enough wok-ing down memory lane, back to this sketch. This is E Street, like the Band. The building on the left is the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion which was built in 1875, I have sketched it before (remember my Davis centenary sketchcrawl last year?) but not from this side of the street. There is also Mansion Square behind it, with lots of various businesses which may or may not have punny names, like ‘A Better Place to Bead’, I don’t know what it’s referring to.

Actually I have a story from this building on the right, when I first came to Davis, before I had any job (back when I’d spend the day playing scrabble by myself before leaving the apartment at 4pm and go to the library to translate Anglo-Saxon poetry; boy I needed a job) (this was before I started drawing Davis) I interviewed for Kaplan, who did all the SATs and GREs and stuff. I ultimately never got the position, which I think was teaching people how to pass those exams, exams which I had never ever taken myself because I’m from the UK and we don’t require them, but I did get on very well with the people there and had to do a presentation on the subject of my choice. Now you might think, well that’s an obvious one, drawing, or maybe history, or even historical language, no definitely football shirts. Interactive Theatre. You’d be wrong. What I decided to talk about was Black Shuck. You know, Black Shuck the ghostly dog who terrorized East Anglia hundreds of years ago. Black Shuck who had this massive great big eye and breathed fire and burnt church doors with his paws. Black Shuck used to keep me awake at night. Black Shuck scared the living bejeezus out of me. He was huge, like a horse, and would roam the country lanes of Suffolk or wherever, and cars would feel his icy flaming breath (seriously myths and legends, make your mind up). I used to have nightmares about Black Shuck, like he would for some reason seek me out in my terraced house in Burnt Oak, north London, and, what? Roar at me? Burn me with his imaginary paws? Look at me with his massive single eye that looks like a bowl? Black Shuck, ridiculous, silly ghost stories. Like the Beast of Exmoor, or the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor. Yes, the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor, look them up, it’s one of those great local English legends.

That’s not a very interesting story actually. I may even be remembering it wrong, maybe I did talk about Interactive Theatre, leaving the Legend of Black Shuck story in my notebook, deciding last minute not to bother anyone with it. Memory can be a funny thing. Not everyone remembers everything the same way, so what is reality? Speaking of memory, one more thing to add about this sketch. Until about ten years ago there used to be a massive tree which stood right in the middle there, huge thing it was, towering high above the Davis skyline. It was leaning though, to the left (left-leaning like much of Davis), leaning to quite a large extent that if it fell it would have probably meant the end of Mr Dresbach and Mr Hunt and Mr Boyer, so they chopped it down. I still see it, like the ghost of trees past.


Mrak lawn UCD oct2017 sm

Have I posted this one? I don’t think I have. I know, all these UC Davis sketches start blending into one after a while. Trees, blue sky, bikes, building, etc etc. This was sketched over a couple of lunchtimes outside the Chemistry Building, looking towards Mrak Hall. It’s from Fall, and as you can see those leaves haven’t quite turned yellow and red yet. What happened after this is that they changed colour, and then fell off, and now they are leafless. In a couple of months leaves will come back and the whole things starts over again. Repetitive, predictable. Not many people. This seems like ages ago now, yet at the same time it could be any time. I don’t know; I’ve been in Davis for 12 years now. It’s hard to find new things I want to draw. I suppose I could look at the same world in a new way. To be honest, I just dream of travelling. I want to go everywhere. Well not everywhere, there are some places I don’t want to go. But I want to go most places, and mostly to go and sketch them. I have a wishlist going, top of which is Tokyo, I really want to sketch in Japan. Bruges, I’ve been years ago but I wasn’t sketching back then (1999?). Florence, in fact all over Tuscany. Porto (the urban sketching symposium will be there next year), that would be amazing. For countryside, New Zealand. I don’t know, I want to go everywhere. It’s January, time of wanderlust. I’ve been watching travel shows on YouTube, lots of Rick Steves talks. It’s 2018, twenty years since my five-week train-trip around central Europe. I was 22, I went from London to London. Ok, the trip started in London at Victoria Bus Station, then onto Paris, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Trier, Copenhagen, Aarhus, Hamburg, Lubeck, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Lake Balaton, Vienna, Bratislava (barely), Bodensee, Zurich, Geneva, Lyon, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Epernay and back up to Paris and then London. That was fun, but I really wasn’t drawing those places then (I’d have seen less if I were!). Well, now I’m at the other side of the world, still getting in a fair bit of travel, but there are always more places to go. In the meantime, I’ll keep drawing Davis…

don’t matter what i do

south silo aug 2017

Long hot summer ain’t passing me by, though I’m trying to pass it by. We went over 40 days of 90 degree weather, many of them being in the 100s. I drew this over the course of three lunchtimes, each one where I ate at one of the food trucks at the newly remodeled Silo area. I drew this from the shade of a tree, and you can see the whole area in front of the Bike Barn has been totally renovated and changed, it looks different from the way it did previously (see this post from 2015 which shows sketches back to 2011). Sketching in the heat is something I should be used to in Davis, but more and more it puts me off. Maybe because I have drawn everything in this town and on this campus (maybe not everything, but it feels like it), maybe I have sketched so much this year already that it feels like a chore sometimes (you go through these lulls), maybe I just don’t want to leave the house (I have discovered the joys of creating stop-motion Lego animations, it’s fun). Maybe I have been spending too much time drawing MS Paint illustrations of this year’s football kits (no, NOT ENOUGH time!). Maybe it’s that whole thing where you go to Italy, and nothing else seems quite as interesting afterwards, and you just yearn for more travel, more places. Maybe, I don’t really know. Maybe you’re the same as me, we’ll see things they’ll never see, you and I are gonna live forev-eeeerrrr…