over the mountains, in the high desert

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At the end of April, we drove over the Sierra Nevada mountains, still heavily packed with quickly melting snow, across the state line into Nevada. My son played AYSO Select this year at the U10 level, and his team (the Davis “Duh”) were off to play in their third tournament, the Comstock Shootout at Carson City. It was a two-day tournament, playing against other teams from northern California, but the location was utterly spectacular. The backdrop of the snow-peaked Sierras on one side, and rocky high desert hills on the other, this was, let’s say, a little bit different from Davis. The sketch above, a panorama in pencil and watercolour in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, was sketched in roughly 20-25 minutes while our team warmed up elsewhere; this was actually the U14 team, the Davis Dissent, for whom several older brothers of our lads were playing. But I couldn’t resist those mountains! I was trying to channel my French urban sketching friend Vincent Desplanche, who does amazing sketches up in the mountains back in Europe. Davis is too flat for mountains, they are usually too far in the distance.

Comstock Duh practice

The altitude was high, so our players had more sub breaks during the games (our coach was really good at managing that). I was reminded of when South American teams go and play in Bolivia, and struggle with the altitude in La Paz, which the Bolivian players are well used to. This was so problematic that between 2007 and 2008 FIFA actually banned international games from being played at above 8,200 feet. Carson City is at around 4,800 so nowhere near that high, but you do feel it. I was also reminded of when Premier League teams go to West Brom, who have the highest ground in England, and they often struggle with the altitude, which is a whopping 551 feet, so actually it’s more the Tony Pulis tactics they struggle against.

Comstock game sketches

We were actually put to the test though by another team who were much more used to playing at altitude, a team from the town of Bishop, which is in California but on the High Desert side of the Sierras. Bishop is at 4,150 feet, and their players definitely outplayed ours, giving us our only defeat of the competition (and a pretty big one too). Davis, I might add, is only 52 feet above sea level. We may not be mountain-top athletes, but our cakes are baked to perfection. Above, here are some sketches I did during the game.

Minden Holiday Inn, Nevada

We stayed in the nearby town of Minden, at the Holiday Inn. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Minden, so in the evening while my son slept I grabbed a cold drink from the gas station across the street and sketched in the seating area of the hotel. I brought my books about perspective, as I was planning for my workshop in June, and so couldn’t help a nice bit of interior perspective. It was very yellow in there, though.

Minden Nevada

And here are those mountains again, this time sketched from our hotel window in the morning. It’s pretty beautiful there with that backdrop. I’d like to explore that part of Nevada some day, the High Desert, see some of the old abandoned ghost towns. I’d like to go to Virginia City, where they filmed that TV show Bonanza; I remember once joking it would be fun to do a sketchcrawl there, but at the end you would have to burn your sketches and ride off on horses, like in the opening credits. Tell you what though, those mountains look really pretty but that snow was melting fast. As we drove back over it, you could see it all stacked high but weeping in any direction, with waterfalls gushing and creeks rushing. And the rocks…we saw a huge boulder which had fallen into the road and forced a big car to swerve off, and passed the section of highway that had been partially washed away by the heavy rain and snow in the winter. It was a fun trip, definitely a change of scenery, and a cool tournament for the boys to play in.

time may change me but i can’t trace time

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Here is another two-page panorama of UC Davis, a scene I have sketched many times but has been undergoing a lot of changes lately. As you can see in the distance there they are building a whole new covered area between the Silo and the Bike Barn which will be for eating and stuff, and as you can see there’s a cement mixer on the side there. In the foreground though by the sign is a small sustainable garden that was planted there last year, it’s quite a nice addition to this area. Click on the image for a closer view.

the bees are buzzin’ in the trees

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Here is another one from just along the street to the Turtle House and the Barovetto House. Click on the image for a closer view.  I’m slowly making my way along 2nd Street. Here is the Black Bear Diner, where you may occasionally find me on a Sunday morning, getting fat. My son loves it here, and when he was a toddler we would come here for breakfast at just about the time that the local firemen would come in; he was a big fan. Black Bear Diner is a thing in the western U.S. They don’t actually get to dine on anything with real black bear in it, it’s just the general theme. Nor is it, as people often think, a restaurant themed about a pirate who is in the Emergency Room, that’s a common misconception I’m sure the waiting staff are tired of having to point out. I first went to one up in southern Oregon, where I had “cinnamon roll French toast”, and I basically haven’t lost weight since. Nah I’m kidding, it’s the Cadbury’s Creme Eggs wot did it, guv. To be fair I come here like once every couple of months at most. That is often enough though. It’s like when I draw a pub, you might get the impression, oh he’s a regular. Well I may be, but those two sketches were the two times I went there that year. Similarly I don’t draw everywhere I have been or everything I have seen. I’ve not drawn a fire hydrant in ages, but I still look at them and say, “Oh, cool hydrant. Hi. I’m Pete. Sorry, no I’m not talking to a fire hydrant, I’m er, on the phone.” No, If I drew what I did the most this blog would be full of Lego drawings, hah! Oh right, it is. By the way, spoiler alert, there are WAY more Lego drawings yet to post. You ain’t seen nuffink yet. Speaking of volume of sketches, you know I do those things every year where I show all the drawings from that year in one post, well this year I’m already in the same row I was in last year by May. 2017 for me is strangely prolific, like I’m sketching to avoid the daily news or something.  Last year if you recall I was drawing loads of people, for my book  “Five-Minute-Sketching People”. That’s Five-Minute as in period of time, not a quintet of sketching-people who happen to be really, really small. Or maybe not… Here is an idea, at the next event I do I will talk about that book and I will pronounce it as “Five Minute…” with minute being pronounced like the word meaning really really small, and people will be confused and I’ll say, no honestly, that’s how I meant it to be pronounced, and they will think about it for a while, then get the joke and they’ll laugh and say, haha you’re so funny. Or maybe not… Yeah, maybe not. I’ll still do it. This time last year I was writing that book, it was a really fun experience, I really enjoy the process of writing. Though, it did include many late nights. I discovered that a lot of writing involves just staring out of the window for hours, and then at 2am writing 500 words. I thought to myself that if someone ever asked me to sign a copy, I would promise to sign it in the manner of how I wrote it, that is staring at it for hours and hours and then finally at 2:30 in the morning signing my name and saying, phew I’m beat, I need a cup of tea. Of course, I wouldn’t really do that. Or maybe not?

I don’t mean to ramble, but I always do. I’m actually a really quiet person, I don’t usually say anything. So anyway… the sketch. This was done in a Stillman and Birn Beta softcover landscape book, one of the last ones in that book. I have since started a second such sketchbook, and I can heartily and artily recommend them. The soft cover means I can bend the page around making it easy to hold, but it also produces great panoramic sketches, like this one. This took me a couple of lunchtimes to draw, and I had to finish off the colour back home.

history on fourth street

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This is the stretch of 4th Street, Davis, between E and F. These grids seem like a game of Battleship sometimes. You could probably play Battleship on a US city map. “A-2nd!” “Aw, you sunk my SUV.” Actually a Davis version of Battleship would have bikes and double-decker buses. And skateboards too, we have lots of those. It’s like Hill Valley. I saw someone on one of those motorized skateboards the other day. No, not those rubbish hoverboards with the glow beneath it, I mean an actual skateboard, but with the wheels moving by motor. Now, the white house on the far right (dammit, I hope this won’t come up in internet searches of ‘far right’ and ‘white house’, I’m sure there are many) is Cooper House, I have drawn it a few times before. The large yellow building on the left, hiding behind the tree, I don’t know if that is anything special but it houses an electronics company now, I think, I don’t know. I promise I’m not fake news, and I’m certainly not fake sketches.Anyway the small house in the middle, now that one is the historic building known as the “First Presbyterian Manse”, at 619 4th St, and this was built in 1884. 1884! That is a pretty old building for Davis. It is in the ‘Classical Revival’ style, and looks goshdarn good for its age. The first person to live there was Rev. J.E. Anderson. Remember I mentioned Hill Valley from Back to the Future, well when Marty and Doc were sent into the Old West, that was 1885. If Davis were Hill Valley, and Hill Valley is meant to be in the general part of California, then this house would have been there. This is from cowboy times. “Cowboy Times”, haha, that sounds like the sort of newspaper that would be allowed into WH press briefings. Well, this is the latest in my two-page panorama sketches. You can click on it to see it embiggened. If you’d like to see more such sketches, go to my Flickr album ‘panoramas’: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157647926718773

froggies of an evening

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More two-page-spread bar-sketching. I popped into Froggies in downtown Davis one evening, had a couple of beers, and behind me people sang karaoke. I didn’t. I might have if they had the Frog Song by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus, “We All Stand Together”. I saw Macca in Sacramento recently but he didn’t sing that one. I was a big fan of Rupert the Bear when I was a kid. I planned to make this full colour, watercolour-shaded, surround-sound (well maybe not surround-sound, not with the karaoke and all), but I was tired so left it at this. Another in the many illustrations of Davis.

along hutchison drive

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In July I started a new sketchbook, a long panoramic accordion Moleskine sketchbook, with the intention of doing some very long drawings on the UC Davis campus. As it turned out I managed three scenes, all on the same street (Hutchison Drive), though only in pen with a dab of colour here and there. If you click on the image above, you will see the whole thing in closer detail. Below, I’ve cut the three scenes down – still too long to see, so click on them for a closer view.

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First of all, the new Pitzer Center, still under construction in this sketch, on the left. A good place to start! Then, the Music Building, followed by Wright Hall and the Art Building. Good place to stop.

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Next up, the Silo complex, also under reconstruction. First of all you see Rock Hall, the Chemistry Building’s lecture hall. Next up, the back of the Bike Barn building, this side has been various things since I have been here, and I’ve sketched it many times. This whole area is being rebuilt and improved at present. Next up is the Silo itself, where I often eat lunch. I stopped once the sketch got across the street, where the Silo Bus Terminal is, and drew a tree as a dividing line to the next part.

Hutchison Panorama part3.jpg

Finally, on the other side of the street, Walker Hall, which is currently empty but will eventually be completely renovated and this side rebuilt, when it becomes the Graduate and Professional Students’ Building. I think that is the name. IT’s going to be pretty cool, but I do like this building, and will probably draw it again…

This sketchbook will actually be on display along with many more sketchbooks in my upcoming exhibition, “Conversations with the City“, at the UC Davis Design Museum in Cruess Hall from Sept 19 to Nov 12. If you’re in town, do come by to see it!

we’ve come a long long way together…

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Another panorama! It’s like, one page is soearlier in 2016″. Haha, you think this is a panorama? You wait until my next post. No kidding, it’s the longest panorama I have ever done. Stay tuned. This one though has a nice bit more details and a good bit more colour. It is the Mathematical Sciences Building at UC Davis, which is where I work by the way. The many faces I have seen pass through here, the many memories. I drew this last week, almost exactly a year since my last panorama of this building (I have used it so many times for various graphics, I really needed a full-colour one). This took two lunchtimes plus a bit of time at home colouring in those trees. I might have to sketch it again when all the trees lose their leaves. I drew it from the best angle I could find, in the shade; everywhere else was too sunny. The weather has been consistently in the low 90s (except those days when it’s in the upper 80s, so not consistently then). More colours of this lovely old campus (well this building opened at the end of 2005, not that old…it’s been in Davis exactly as long as I have!).