i’ll settle down with some old story

F Street Davis. Sunday afternoon. Click to see bigger.

F Street Davis. Sunday afternoon. Click to see bigger.

My son was having friends over for a playdate, so that was my cue to get a few hours of quiet sketch-time downtown last Sunday afternoon. After filling my stomach with a large burrito, I stood out on F St to draw a panorama which includes the Old City Hall (now City Hall Tavern) and the little package delivery shop. I stood next to the bins near the Paint Chip art shop. I listened to podcasts about (a) History and (b) the X-Men. After two hours of drawing all the ink (I coloured it in at home)  I stopped, and went for a pint at de Vere’s, where I read (a) a magazine about history and (b) an X-Men comic. They both make perfect sense now.


where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing

little prague panoramarathon
And so on to the very last spread of the Panoramarathon, and of the Seawhite sketchbook. The Year of the Horse had just begun, so time to saddle up and gallop the last furlong. So, cue the joke about the horse and the bar and “why the long sketchbook?”. I never got that joke anyway. The barman shouldn’t be asking why a horse has a long face, but what exactly a horse expects to be served in a bar. Unless bars are serving sugar-lumps and brewing hay-beer (and they probably are, these days) I would say, “oi, Tonto, never mind your long face, you drink from the trough outside mate, or you can git the hell outta this town, and the man who rode in on you”, or words to that effect. This is technically the old wild west after all, or Back to the Future III country at least. Anyway, back to the drawing… I have sketched the Little Prague bar on several occasions over the past seven years or so, but not quite from this angle, so I decided that I would take up that challenge to finish out the project. After a very busy week I popped by on a quiet Friday evening and sketched away. After a while, a large crowd of people came in en masse (there they all are in the sketch, mingling away with their pitchers and their nametags). That chef bloke with the bleached hair and the goatee, Guy Fieri I think he is called, was on the telly. I didn’t really pay attention to anything much except finishing the sketch. This panoramarathon was going to be done by the end of January, dammit! February is just not long enough to keep saying such a complicated word. After a while, the DJs came in and the loud dance music started, and so after one quickly-sketched panorama and three slowly-drunk dark beers, I finished up and went home to bed.

Here are the close-ups, for you to marvel at the intricate details.
little prague bar, davis
little prague bar, davis

So that was the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, started in August, finished in January. You can see all the images form that book in this handy set on my Flickr site.

stand and deliver

2nd & G panorama
Penultimate entry of “Panoramarathon”, and second to last spread of the sketchbook. It’s funny, this was only a couple of weeks ago now but Davis already looks quite different. Spring came; bright blossoms covering the so-inclined trees all over town before the end of January, and then finally last week we got the rain we have been waiting for. It has been a long dry spell. I took advantage of the bright clear January while I could though, and this panorama shows a building I have only drawn from the G St side before, one of the historic blocks of 2nd St. This took a long time to complete. I originally went down on a late Saturday afternoon and sketched until I ached all over. Standing there by the side of the road clutching my panoramic sketchbook got very uncomfortable after a while. It was so enjoyable, stood there in an awkward position cramping up, that I went back a couple of days later to add more details and do some of the colouring-in (adding the rest of the paint later at home). I could have sat on my stool, bu I hardly ever bring it with me any more. You get a better view standing.  I like the outcome though, I captured a segment of downtown that I’ve not covered before. I think I, ahem, stood and delivered. At this point I should probably write something about the history of this big old building, but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about it. I do know that to the left of the building is an alleyway called Tim Spencer Alley, which was named after a UPS deliverer, the “nicest UPS delivery person who ever lived” according to Davis Wiki.
2nd & G, Davis
2nd St Davis

as free as the wind blows

Freeborn HallThis is Freeborn Hall, UC Davis. It’s a big building near the Memorial Union, and from what I understand, this will be its last year, at least in its present form. There are many on campus who will mourn its loss, so I thought I’d better add it to the roster of things I have sketched in this town. To be honest I’ve never really liked this building much, and that is partly because it’s a bugger to sketch – those trees in front normally block any decent view when they are leafy, and it’s so long and sloping that you need to do a panorama to catch it all. So I did a panorama, to catch it all. Click on the image for a larger view. This was drawn on location furiously over one extended lunchtime and colored in later on at home.

Yeah, I’ve never been a big Freeborn fan, since I went to see an Art Brut gig here about four years ago or so, late 2009 I think it was. I don’t know why Art Brut, a band I followed back in the early days in London and have seen in San Francisco, chose this particular venue as it was completely the wrong place for a band like them: a cavernous empty arena with about fifty or so fans huddled in front of the long stage for warmth. The band were excellent, playing many of my favourite tracks at full belt, but by their nature they are best in more intimate spaces with more people packed in (that said, first time I saw them was at the Tate playing alongside David Devant in a spatially weird but utterly compelling gig). Getting inside Freeborn was a hassle too, with the slightly paranoid security checking every part of every person coming in, more thorough pat-downs than I’ve had even at an airport, not even allowing things such as coins or dollar bills to remain in pockets (I was told to put my money on a table where it was blowing around in the strong wind while they searched my jacket for illicit objects). I understand they have their security, but it felt well over the top for any gig I have ever been to, especially as it was such a small crowd (put it this way, I’m pretty sure they don’t search the attendees at the Whole Earth Festival like that). Inside, there was nowhere to get a drink; not that I am looking for a full bar, like, but I couldn’t even find a vending machine for a diet Coke, just a small water-fountain. So yes, not a place I’d enjoy going to a gig again, but Art Brut of course were great that night, and the novelty of them being in Davis is still funny to me (hey by the way, Art Brut released their 10-year anniversary album last April, “Top of the Pops”, and if you download the free app that accompanies the album – search on iTunes – you will find an original comic drawn for every single song, and two of them were drawn by me! Part of Classic Rock’n’Roll history, mate.)

I’ve been to other events at Freeborn as part of work, a seminar here, an event there. Freeborn though is well known as the location of beloved Davis radio station KDVS, and you gotta love them. Hopefully I will get to go and sketch their immense record collection sometime before Freeborn is redeveloped.

on a street where a tall man poses

1st st, davis
This panorama is from a week or so ago, drawn while sitting down on 1st Street on Martin Luther King Jr Day. I sat there sketching for nearly three hours, and still had to finish off the rest of the colour when I got home! It’s those trees, I am trying to look at all the branches, it’s maddening. But great fun, huh! I listened to some podcasts (history, football) and some music (spot the David Devant reference in this post’s title). This scene, latest in my ‘panoramarathon’, shows a row of fraternity houses (all part of Theta Xi, which as I’ve said before is probably the frat house for trainee cab drivers), ending up on the right with the John Natsoulas gallery. This is a whole block between D and E Streets. If you have never been to davis before, well looking through my sketchbook these days is getting to be a hand-drawn Streetview. On the far right (geographically not politically) you can see a large sculpture of a colourful looking figure, a tall man posing, with a head that looks like an old diving suit helmet. It glows up at night like a sentry guarding the entrance to downtown. I don’t know what aliens arriving here would think, but to be fair they would probably not be coming in off of I-80, they’d probably land their saucers in the Quad or beam into Central Park or something. I can’t speak for aliens (although in American terminology I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in Davis, though I suppose I prefer ‘Briton’ or ‘Londoner’) (ok fine I’m a Martian I admit it).

Here is a closer view, for those without built-in Martian zoom-vision. There were a lot of red vehicles parked out on the street that day, I didn’t just paint them that way to break up the beige and white monotony.
Frat House plus Gallery
And this dry weather continues. Some trees are already starting to blossom. Temperatures have been in the high 70s all week.
Frat houses

More panoramas to come, but boy they eat up your time (or my time rather). I’ll have this book finished by the end of the month.

sketching to music

hafter birthday party sm(Click on the image for a bigger view) Saturday evening last week I was invited to a double-birthday party for a local musician, David Hafter, and his son Noah, also a musician. It was at a place called Third Space, on Olive Drive in Davis, and I sketched the above panorama because panoramas are what I’m sketching! But I also did a couple more; below left, a sketch of Noah  playing his set (I gave the sketch to him), and one of Neon Lights (bottom right), many of the members of whom also play in David Hafter’s band Wealth of Nations (above). Regular visitors may remember that I sketched this band before on a couple of occasions in the Fall. The music was very nice, and I always sketch more quickly when listening to music – it’s the rhythm I think! Anyway, it was a nice evening, and many thanks to David for the invite.

hafter party noahneon lights

all these places have their moments

panoramarathon 2014 walker hall sm
This is a scene found at UC Davis, the rear of Walker Hall. It is a view that has changed considerably over the years since I’ve worked there, well I say considerably, there used to be a wall and more cactus where the brown earthy space is now. A lot has been done to improve this whole corridor, make it more open and accessible, especially with the shiny Student Community Center next door (which I sketched last year). It is interesting to see how the campus changes over the years. This building however appears not to have changed itself, and I like that old-school look it still has. Its near-neighbour Hart Hall is still a beloved campus icon, but the similarly-coloured and tiled Boiler Building is now gone. During a very busy week I have struggled to keep it all together, but I found that I would have more focus if I got out to sketch furiously at lunchtime. I have had a mild cold too, so stepping out into the warm weather with that bit of sunshine made me feel pretty good. I did all of the ink in one lunchtime for this one (it’s not that detailed) but coloured it in later. See the lamp-post banner to the right, these have popped up across campus lately showcasing the hardworking people who make UCD what it is (I doubt I would get one though!) Been extremely busy lately though; busy is good. So it’s important to balance busy with creative, and the Panoramarathon continues. Click on the image for a larger view.

By the way, thought you might like to know I just read “The Fifth Beatle: the Brian Epstein Story“, an absolutely excellent graphic novel by Vivek Tiwary, with art by Andrew C. Robinson. Best thing I have read in ages, an astonishing piece of work, and an excellent example of how well a story is best told in graphic novel format. Some things only drawn images can really convey. It’s utterly beautiful, and Brian himself is encapsulating in his enthusiasm, but most beguiling of all was his assistant Moxie, from start to finish. By the end of the story I was almost tearful (yes you read that right). I’ll be re-reading this one for a long time.