Rain has returned for a bit, a surprise at this time of year. More is coming. Not too much I hope. Anyway this week I decided to finish off Sketchbook #32 (my numbering of my panoramic sketchbooks brings us to this number) with a two-page spread of the corner of 3rd Street and B Street. I last sketched this corner over a year ago on a rainy March day, stood as I was this day beneath the entrance of the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. I think it will be a restaurant. Another changing corner of Davis. 3rd Street has had quite an upgrade from this corner down to the University, this week getting a bit of a celebration (that I didn’t go to). Click on the image to get a closer view (or just put your eyes really close to the screen).
Third Street in Davis has been undergoing a facelift. The section between B and A (crossing University Ave) has been closed off for a while so that the whole street can have a big facelift. It just reopened a week or two ago, and while all the details are not quite ready, it’s looking pretty good. The newly paved street is bright, providing a much nicer look than old grey tarmac (they call that ‘blacktop’ over here). There are also more benchs, so I sat down to draw this. It took me a couple of lunchtimes, and I still had to do a lot of the colour when I got home in the evening. You can click on the one above to see more detail, or look at the one below for the middle bit. Now here’s an interesting thing – there should be another window next to that red front door, but my faraway spot and not great eyesight, also the tree being in the way, meant I missed it. I shouldn’t have, I’ve drawn this house before. That’s ok though, just imagine it there yourself.
As I said, I have drawn this building, and this stretch of street, several times over the years and so we go to a regular feature of this show, the “flashback corner”. Follow me on a journey back through memory lane…
2016… A front on view of that building, and you can see that the railings downstairs are wooden and white. Street looks different but that little tree is still blossoming pinkly. More ground foliage, less sidewalk. And oh look, correct number of windows.
2014… See how the bollards are still there, plus shoes all along the telegraph line. Pink blossom still there but that building is now white with a green trim. The telegraph poles are still there, they have now gone. I liked drawing them, for perspective’s sake but also I liked the details of the wood and the ripped paper fliers. That house next door is a sort of yellow (it’s blueish now). See how the bottom front windows are hard to see behind the tree from out here.
2011… I drew the one below because I really wanted to draw that pole up close. I actually sold this sketch at the Pence Gallery in my 2011 show. This was a summertime sketch. Just one pair of shoes up high. Again, window hidden.
That’s as far back as my sketchbook goes. If I draw it again, I’ll be sure to get the number of windows right…
And so to the last night in England. It was an emotional trip, quick and busy, spent time with family, and friends, and places that I love. The last night there was just mine, all mine. I got back to Burnt Oak and watched old Alan Partridge shows on Netflix while packing my bag, never an easy task after even a short trip, what with all the various books (so many books) and new football shirts (more than one) and Cadbury’s cake bars and packs of Bisto gravy and Topic bars and whatever else I had to get. there was a lot I didn’t pick up. I didn’t get any Daddy’s Sauce, which I adore and am currently out of. For those who don’t know, Daddy’s is a brown sauce very similar to HP but less spicy and just tastes like home. I ate a Pot Noodle for dinner. I have not had a Pot Noodle for quite a long time. They seem a little less satisfying than I remember. I loved them when I was 14. I didn’t intend on ti being for dinner this time, but I left it a bit late to get much else when I finally finished packing my bag and venture back out into London one last time. I had a very early start the next morning and didn’t want to do any last-minute packing. So, I was along in London. I thought I might get some food and sketch an old pub. I wasn’t sure where I would go. London is vast and full of possibilities. I got off the train at Camden Town thinking, I could grab a curry at Masala Zone and then go up to sketch the Steele’s at Chalk Farm. But then at the last second I decided to jump back on the same tube because my head said, “you always go to Camden! Do that another time. London is yours!” So in the spirit of revisiting my youth, I got out at Tottenham Court Road instead. That was always my destination station whenever I would go into London as a teenager. It was right next to the Virgin Megastore – now long gone. It was also right next to the Hellfire Club, where as a 19-20 year old I would jump up and down to loud music with a group of international friends – also now long gone. In fact the station is completely different to the one from the 90s, having undergone a total transformation and rebuild in the past few years. All the old shortcuts are gone, and it’s a large, modern and open station now, not the cramped yellowing ticket hall of the past. I ended up not eating dinner, because I could not find somewhere that I fancied, and I wandered about Soho remembering all the old shortcuts that are thankfully still there. I passed by the Old Coffee House, a pub I have enjoyed a few fun evenings in with friends, one that I have tried to sketch before but at a time without pub-sketching confidence, and I saw through the window that there was a nice seat at the corner of the bar with a perfect panorama sketching view. That seat was mine. I would eat Dry Roasted Peanuts for dinner, hunger be damned.
You’ll need to click on the sketch at the top of this post to see it in closer detail (it’ll take you to the Flickr site). As I sketched, I tried a couple of different beers, supplied by a local brewer, Brodies. The first was the Piccadilly Pale Ale, the second and third were the Old Street Pale Ale. I did all the ink at the bar, but added the watercolour paint on the plane next morning (my Stillman & Birn ‘Alpha’ sketchbook being exactly the same width as my Virgin Atlantic economy seat). The bar staff were friendly, and the pub was chilled out. Oh except for the bar fight which broke out behind me. I have discovered that I can apparently sketch undisturbed while a bar fight happens around me, looking up occasionally before getting back to work. Now don’t imagine a long Wild-West style mass brawl, it was more of a few seconds of pushing before a quick “break it up, boys”. There was a group of lads out on a jolly, very drunk and celebrating some birthday or other. I say ‘very drunk’ but it was varying degrees of drunkenness, ranging from ‘friendly and convivial’ to ‘barely able to speak or stand’, with a range of performative drunkenness in between. Two of them for example were enacting a bullfight in the bar, another was sat down loudly singing to a couple of ladies (he was one of the louder ones, but actually he had a very good singing voice), and then one lad who would drunkenly go and sit with random people who would grin and nod a lot back before he sat down with the wrong group of people, one of whom got angry at something or other and they started scuffling, a glass broke, the drunken guy was whisked away and I turned to see one offended young man displaying the classic pose of “hold me back, hold me back”. I didn’t see much more because I was zen-posed with my sketchbook, working to a tight schedule, I had a plane to catch in the morning. The kerfuffles were quickly dealt with by the, I must say, very capable and calming pub staff, who’ve seen it all before I am sure. There was none of that macho make-it-all-worse strutting. The large partying group departed, the broken glass cleaned up, the “hold me back” guy went calmly back to his fresh pint, and the evening went on. I’ve always quite enjoyed this pub, in a little corner of Soho near Carnaby Street, and have been here many times with friends, going back to the 1990s, so I was glad to finally get a sketch of the place. Drawing a pub with lots of details inevitably means you get some wrong, and in this case I drew one too many frames on the wall above the main bar area. You won’t notice, of course. I also drew one person twice. He was standing at the bar waiting for a drink, and then afterwards he had his jacket off and was sat with a woman enjoying conversation. His hair somehow went from black to brown as well but I blame the lighting, not my urban sketching skills. The world is as you see it at that moment (and that of course can change by the third pint).
As it turns out it, I witnessed two bar fights that night. Typical London, you don’t see one for years and years and then two show up at once. On my way back to the station I popped into another old favourite, The Ship, for a quick pint of London Pride. As I was leaving, it seemed a ruck had broken out just outside between two people who had been in the pub, which was being broken apart by excited pub staff, and people were being directed away from it (so that they could stop and watch, as of course you would do). One rutting stag showed us the true meaning of “hold me back, hold me back”, and did some of the best “hold me back” moves I have ever seen, getting absolutely no fighting done whatsoever, while the main belligerent was drunkenly trying to pick up those metal poles that hold up barriers and swing it around like a broadsword. Maybe someone had asked if he wanted to go clubbing and his Google Translate had mis-google-translated. Security staff did that thing where they multiply, and both men were held back, and the audience started ambling off, as did I, because I had a plane to catch. An entertaining last night in London.
Saturday afternoon and I needed to sketch more. Yes yes I have drawn everything in town and want a new perspective on the same things, I am not feeling super creative right now though, and finding little comfort in the usual sketching, i suppose I am just in need of another long journey somewhere far away with lots of interesting streets and angles, somewhere like Porto for example (but maybe without the tired legs). There are still views to discover here though. I have drawn the Amtrak station before, of course I have but never while stood behind that circular fountain feature outside of Tres Hermanas on 2nd St. So that is what I stood and drew, while listening to a History podcast (two guys talking about the extraordinary history of ordinary things, such as the ‘history of the lean’, or the ‘history of clouds’, a really fresh perspective not only on history but on observing the world and universe itself – the sort of thing I should really be thinking about more, in fact you might say it has inspired me to think more like that, or rather, it’s inspired me to do that tomorrow. Next week). I needed a panorama. I must say I am using the softcover Stillman and Birn ‘Alpha’ landscape sketchbook and, while I do love the paper, I can’t wait to be done with this book. The softcover is starting to bug me. I need the hardback again. My next cued-up book is another Seawhite of Brighton book, then I’ll likely use the hardcover Alpha again. The softcover is fine if I’m sat at a table, and its slightly smaller scale means I can draw a panorama more quickly than in the slightly bigger hardcover. The way I stand though, it becomes awkward keeping it open, especially as I get further into the book. So, I’m looking forward to finishing it, which means I need to draw a lot more.
I’d really like to publish a book of Davis panoramas, that’s my intention. I’ve not worked that out yet, but I do have quite a few already. To see this one more closely, either move your face really close to the screen, or click on it and a larger version will pop up.
This is another view of the University of Beer in Davis, California. I was there at the end of August, as I needed to go downtown to spend some time in the Avid Reader bookshop. I haven’t been in there in a while, and was in the mood where I just wanted to look through all the literature on the shelves. I bought a copy of ‘War of the Worlds‘; I’ve never read ‘War of the Worlds’, and when I opened the book the first word I saw was ‘Edgware’ so it was a sign I needed to read it. I actually worked in the Avid Reader years ago, when I first came to Davis. I still love the smell of the books. I thought about sketching in there, I haven’t done that in a very long time, but it was getting late so I went and sketched this bar a block away. I had wanted to add more colour, but was taking so long drawing. I had a couple of very nice beers there though. This was a test of perspective, with vanishing points at 45 degrees, and some curvilinear lines. Wonky in places (nothing to do with the tasty beverage, more to do with the tedium of drawing long lines. There seemed to be a fair bit of 1990s music being played. Including that utterly tedious Two Princes song that was on the radio constantly in 1993. This bar is pretty typical of Davis – busy at some points, almost empty at others, then a bit busy again, then very few again, so I drew whoever was standing or sitting when I looked in that particular part of the space; I suppose I drew the average number of players. University of Beer; see also the ‘College of Cider’, the ‘School of Shandy’, the ‘Polytechnic of Porter’, the ‘Institute of Inebriation’, the ‘Academy of Ale’, etc and so on.
The next series of panoramas I did in the first part of August, when the sky was dull and dire and the air was a soupy paste, were outside campus in downtown Davis. The one above includes that white house on First Street, the Dutch-gabled building I have sketched before (I even sold a drawing of this house at the Pence Gallery once).
Above, E Street, looking out at the heavily treed E Street Plaza, with Baskin Robbins on the left. This is a small pedestrianized part of the plaza, with a clock fountain, and a small area at the back where bands will sometimes play (such as the Wealth of Nations, a local band I have sketched there before). It is also popular with homeless people. The rest of it is a parking lot. I have heard there are proposals to do something with E Street Plaza, just early proposals, whereby the whole Plaza would be pedestrianized and become a new town square for Davis, which is something I would definitely support (if we can find alternative parking solutions downtown for those who drive, such as a new parking garage, who knows where though). I think E St Plaza does need a facelift.
And finally, Bistro 33 on Third Street. Third Street itself has seen many changes over the past few years and further along it is undergoing even more, as it becomes a new interesting corridor for Davis between downtown and campus. This building though is part of the old building that was City Hall, as well as the police station and also a firehouse, as you can imagine with those big arched doorways. It’s a restaurant now. I stood outside on a Saturday afternoon and sketched in the heat until I was very tired, and then finished off the paint in the nearby Three Mile Brewing with a cold beer. The sky was a bit bluer this day, as the wind was blowing the smoke in a different direction.
Finally, this one was drawn on 5th Street, the view of Newman Chapel, I have drawn this view several times before. The air was a bad on this day too. So, lots of panoramas this August! I’ve stopped now. Actually there’s one more interior panorama to come.
At the start of last month I opened a new sketchbook and had a burst of post-symposium “gotta-sketch-it-all”. What I wanted to do were more panoramas, however they take a long time and I wanted to go more quickly. Having been a big fan of Vincent Desplanche‘s work since meeting him at the USk France Rencontre in Strasbourg in 2015, I’ve wanted to try more pencil and watercolour panoramas. I had a bunch of new Palomino pencils my friend Terry sent me from Japan, which I wanted to try out as they are darker and softer than the usual H pencils I use occasionally. So I drew a bunch of panoramas over lunchtimes or after work or weekends, adding the paint on site, and I have to say that it was a quicker than the long pen ones but still felt time-consuming. For one thing, the pencil smudges a bit more, even after being coated with watercolour wash. That said, I really like the pencil and watercolour and it was fun to draw these. Here are three from campus. Above, Hart Hall, one of the more interesting looking buildings on campus. I have drawn it a few times before.
One of the other details about this summer is the terrible air in California, brought about by all the huge wild fires. California is hot and dry and the fires have been really bad the past couple of years. This summer the fires made the air thick and smoky for weeks on end, as you can see with the two sketches above and below. The one above was sketched at the Memorial Union Bus Terminal on campus. I had walked across campus to drop something off at the International Center late one afternoon, and was going to catch the bus to go home, so I sketched this at the bus terminal while waiting. The air made me feel so physically sick that I had a huge headache and a nasty sore throat. This was one of the worst air days I’ve experienced here. One thing that often happens here in summer is on the very hot days we have ‘Spare The Air’ days, when riding on buses are free. I think this year we had eighteen spare-the-air days in a row. In the sketch above there is an ironic sign – we are a smoking-free campus (good), and the sign reminds us we are 100% smoke and tobacco free. Well, not so much on this day.
The one above was sketched on the next day at the Silo. The air was still bad, but felt significantly better. Why go out and sketch in it? I still needed to sketch, and this is where I come to eat. This one was an easier and quicker sketch, not really too much detail, just a fun piece of perspective. The food trucks and the large sloping shade thing were added last year to the redeveloped Silo area. I have a few more of these panoramas to post, sketched in downtown Davis.