greenbelt moments

northstar park, davis

Here are a couple of sketches from the North Davis Greenbelt, nearby to where I live. The top one was drawn one lunchtime at Northstar Park, on a day while working from home. It’s of the view towards one of the ponds, hidden by the rushes and the shuffling palm trees. They really do look like they are doing some sort of dance. The one below was drawn close to where I live, it was a Saturday and I needed to get some fresh air, but didn’t want to go too far from the house as I was quite enjoying some being-at-home-on-the-weekend time. I like shadows of bare trees against buildings, something you get a lot of in Davis in January. I like that we have the Greenbelt so close to us; unlike the Green Belt I knew from going to school in Edgware on the top edge of London (the London Green Belt is an area of land surrounding the city and stopping it from growing ever further into a massive sprawl, or that was the idea), our Greenbelt is a long series of park-like paths that connect all over the edge of north Davis. There’s another in south Davis. It’s great to take long walks or runs along them, and we really took advantage during the pandemic.

012222 greenbelt north davis

Though I must say, I’m getting very antsy for some sketching travel now. I don’t mean a regular vacation, I mean a sketching trip, where I go away to somewhere like a city on Europe and sketch for a couple of days solidly, before moving on to the next place. I’m getting the wanderlust again after too long being away from international travel; Davis is nice but I’d like to wander through Europe again. And Japan, we have twice cancelled our trip to Japan due to the pandemic, hopefully we can make it some time in the next couple of years. There’s all sorts of places I want to go. Still, the US is pretty great, and I’m glad we’ve seen a bit more of it over the past year. I really need a sketching trip though.

Palo Alto

Dodge Dart in Palo Alto
We went down to Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, for a soccer tournament (my son’s team the Davis Dawgs got first place after a thrilling and tight final). It was held at Greer Park, just off the freeway, and I had time between games to get some walking in, and some sketching too. This old car was parked near ours, a Dodge Dart, looking very much like it just skidded in from a 1970s cop show, knocking over a pile of boxes, shouting ‘guv!’ and sliding over the bonnet pointing a shooter at some crooks in a Ford Cortina. Even the headlights and the grille seem to be scowling at the DI who is reprimanding them for kicking in the door of a well-known Tory MP accused of taking backhanders from back-door bad guys, before slamming his badge down on the table, shouting ‘guv’ and heading down to the smoky boozer to growl at the barman, where he overhears a tip from a grass and a lightbulb goes off, and the next scene there is a door being kicked in and a scrawny looking crook caught wide-eyed in the headlights, before hauling him into the DI’s office and slinging him across the desk, earning a raised eyebrow, a shouty word, and his badge back, thanks guv. It totally looks like that, doesn’t it!
Palo alto skate park

On my walk around the park (getting my steps in, guv), I saw this skate park, in which the valleys were filled with colourful graffiti. When I went back to sketch, after our fourth game, there were a group of men in their 20s and 30s with bikes having a day out, barbecuing stuff and taking turns going into the valleys and doing big spinning jumps. I also sketched a fire hydrant. After our team won the final, everyone got an ice cream. I got one too, a massive chocolatey nutty thing, and that was my dinner, diet be damned, guv.
Palo alto hydrant

out and about in madrid

Mercado San Miguel Madrid

Not far from where we were staying in Madrid was the Mercado San Miguel. This covered market – well, more like a food hall – was chock full of fresh food and drink to buy and enjoy in a very Madrid atmosphere. We came here a few times for tapas, churros, sangria, but I decided it needed sketching so late one evening when the family went to bed I came across the street, got a sangria and some olives stuffed with mussels, and sketched the bustling gourmet mercado before going home at midnight. The red sangria was delicious. There were lots of tourists there, Americans dragging their sleepy teenaged kids around to experience late-night Spanish culture, some groups of English men on more sensible weekenders than the ones down at the Costa Brava, young ladies sampling Spanish wine and desserts, and occasionally a few locals too, I guess, or maybe visitors from other parts of Spain. I wasn’t really paying much attention to all the people and their conversations, I was looking at the ironwork on the ceiling. I did really enjoy this place, though it is very self-contained and not as large or diverse as the big market in Barcelona that I sketched in 2003. However it was a nice taste of Madrid, literally.

Palacio Cristal

Above is the Palacio Cristal, located in the Parque Dell Buen Retiro, the expansive green space in the heart of the city. We spent an afternoon wandering about here, among the trees and lawns, and we sat for a while by this lovely old building. This might have been my favourite part of Madrid. I sometimes forget in my rush to see big exciting urban wonders that I actually love great urban parks more than anything. I always loved Hyde Park, Regents Park, Central Park in New York of course. Buen Retiro (“Pleasant Retreat”) is exactly that, and dotted with great structures such as this, the Palacio Cristal. This was built in 1887 by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, possibly inspired by Paxton’s great Crystal Palace in London. Unlike that one, this palace was never relocated to a southern suburb to become the name of a football team and then burn down, and it still sits pretty among the greenery today. I sketched it while we took a break from all the walking. There was a pretty steep street to enter the park, Calle Claudio Moyano, lined with second-hand book stalls and the occasional cold drinks spot, so by the time we reached the middle of the park our feet needed a rest. Well my son’s didn’t, he wanted to kick a ball around but had left it at the apartment. So, we drew this.

Atocha Station Madrid

Speaking of greenery, this is the Atocha train station, in Madrid. We went there to catch a train to Toledo, and were then delayed by the fact you need to wait in a long line to buy a ticket to Toledo. More like Delayed-oh. Sorry, that was a bad pun, even for me. So, it gave me time to do a sketch of the incredible botanical garden they have inside the main atrium. This was also one of the stations where the awful terrorist attacks of 2004 took place, killing 193 people. The legacy of that atrocity is still visible in the fact that to board a train in Spain, or at least the ones we boarded, you need to go through security and have bags x-rayed.

Madrid People 071518 sm

Here are some Madrid people, sketched while we lunched on pizza outside the Museo Reina Sofía. We spent all morning in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, yet barely scratched the surface of this large art gallery. I was there first and foremost to see Guernica, Picasso’s huge classic, which paints the horrors of an aerial bombardment of a small Basque city by German planes late in the Spanish Civil War. It’s been one of my favourite paintings since I was at school, so to finally see it for real in all its vast, immersive terror was quite an experience. It was accompanied by lots of Picasso’s preparatory sketches, and other paintings by him and by other artists around the time that led up to and influenced this masterpiece. There was a whole section on the art of the Spanish Civil War. That is one conflict I feel I have never really understood properly. It’s always been talked about, written about, painted about, but its legacy lived on right through the end of Franco and probably beyond. Being in Madrid for the first time, I felt a sense of urgency that I need to educate myself about this civil war and about the people of Spain, which I think is a much more complicated country historically than many non-Spanish people know. So, I need to start doing some reading. If our trip to the Reina Sofía has done anything it has made me resolve to learn more. The other thing I enjoyed about the Reina Sofía was the abundance of works by that other great cubist, Juan Gris. I used to love Juan Gris when I was an A-Level art student, I did a project on him and we all went to see an exhibition of his work at Whitechapel. My favourite thing about him though was all the jokes I could use with his name, all really based on either being Hungry or Angry. As I repeated quite often, “Don’t make me Juan Gris, you won’t like me when I’m Juan Gris.” I bet Picasso and Braques used to say that to him all the time.

picnic in the park

farmers market davis
Hello folks! Sorry about the blogging break! Been very busy lately, settling into the new job, also coaching soccer again, also a little bit of travel (a couple of days in LA helping my friend from England celebrate his 40th birthday), and a slow-down in the sketching (but only a slow-down, not an actual break…never an actual break!) Also I just have had a lot of things piled on top of the scanner and you have to move it to scan things and…excuses, excuses. So I am up super early today watching Tottenham beat Huddersfield (it’s 3-0 at half-time, Harry Kane is giving a masterclass) and it seemed like a good time to start catching up. So, this sketch is of the Davis Farmers Market and I drew it at the August “Let’s Draw Davis” event, which are still going monthly, this one was organized by fellow Davis sketcher Alison Kent. I stood and sketched this among the Wednesday evening ‘Picnic in the Park’ crowd. That’s what the Wednesday evening summer events at the Farmer’s MArket are called, they have music and bounce houses. A few days later I added this sketch to the Pence Gallery’s annual Art Auction, and it sold!! I’m so glad, as I really enjoyed sketching this. The Farmers Market on a Wednesday after work is a nice place to hang out in this town.
band at central park, davisband at central park, davis
I did a couple of other sketches, of the band performing, using one of those multi-coloured pencils for the second sketch.
unity rally davis CA
unity rally, davis CA, john garamendi sm
My final sketches of the evening were at a very important event elsewhere in the park, the Unity Rally, organized in resistance of bigotry and hate, this coming just days after the events in Charlottesville. One of the speakers was US Congressman John Garamendi, who very kindly signed my sketch afterwards! He did look it over to make sure I hadn’t misquoted him; I thanked him for repeating the Nelson Mandela quote a couple of times so I could get it right. The evening ended with a touching candle vigil, of course I’m always nervous about candles all around me (a candle once burned a massive hold in my shirt at a party in east London, leaving me to go all the way across London on the night bus with basically half a shirt on, very embarrassing) so I sidled back with my sketchbook. Another of the speakers was the new UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May, who has now appeared in my sketchbook three times; I’ll post about the other two times soon, but I’m very happy he is our new chancellor (he likes Lego! and Comics! And is obsessed with Star Trek!)Speaking of Lego, one of my latest things is making Lego animations. I’ve made a few this past month, and if ever one gets any good I’ll maybe even post it here…

celebration time

Stats / Biostats Awards ceremony 2016
Here in the world of academia, this week is graduation week. Thousands of students undergrad and graduate receive their hard-earned degrees this week and step out into the world. In our department at UC Davis we held a special awards and graduation ceremony a week before the official commencement, honoring our young statisticians and biostatisticians. I did a couple of sketches at the event, but mostly got award certificates ready and took photos and applauded enthusiastically. Great job, everyone!
Awards ceremony 2016
And a few days later, on by far the hottest day of the year, we held our annual Spring Picnic, and I did this one sketch below. The banner is part of a poster I had made to advertise the event. It was really, really hot, but we had a good turnout, and it was a nice way to round off the year. And so, on towards summer…
2016 spring picnic

all you need is music, sweet music

Jenny Lynn & Her Real Gone Daddies
On Wednesday, after all the various rehearsals, it was time for the Dance Dance Davis flashmob.  It was hot low 90s weather, Picnic in the Park was in full swing, alongside the Farmer’s Market, and Jenny Lynn and her Real gone Daddies were providing upbeat 1950s rockabilly music. I stood to draw them (above) as the crowd of people on the green in front of them grew bigger and bigger… at 6:15pm, Jenny asked if everyone was ready to Dance Dance Davis, and then started their “Bang Bang” song, as a couple of hundred people fell onto their backs and started doing an upside down bike ride dance, before launching into the main routine itself. Over the space of about three minutes I tried to capture the crowd below; not easy!! It was quite the spectacle, and even though I think many of the non-dancers were expecting it, it was fun watching the surprise on the faces of those who were not. 
DanceDanceDavis 5-9-12

Here are a couple of good videos of the event:

I See Davis: “Surprise for Davis”  (see if you can spot me sketching)

Davis Enterprise: “Dance Dance Davis Flash Mob”

Well done to Shelly Gilbride and Public Dance Acts for realizing this event! It was fun to sketch.

tents stand off

occupy davis

This is Occupy Davis. It’s not quite Occupy Wall Street, which of course occupies Wall Street, place of economy crashes, and not exactly Occupy London, no resigning Cathedral heads here, and (thankfully) it’s nothing like Occupy Oakland. This is in Central Park, Davis, a handful of tents huddled not far from the Farmer’s Market (which is a bit different from the Stock Market). There are some signs up, and they’re obviously settled in, with bookshelves and a big tarp to keep the rain off, and no need for portaloos – they’re right by the public toilets. A few of the Occupiers were sat about guarding the ship; I was going to go and speak to them, maybe do some drawing over there, but I didn’t have much lunchtime left, and to be honest I felt a little intimidated, so I kept my distance. Plus there was a dog wearing a scarf. I’m sure there’s a lot of support for them, this being Davis after all, and I’m certainly on the side of the 99% and a supporter of peaceful protests (especially against those being allowed to get away with destroying the economy). Camping down the park in the cold far away from those being protested against probably isn’t going to get the bankers to give back their bonuses. But good luck to them.

they’re changing the guard at buckingham palace

buckingham palace

Perhaps it was the hangover of royal wedding fever that got me wanting to go to and sketch at Buckingham Palace. Maybe it was just that I decided, on this sketching day in London, to get out at Green Park, where I’d not been in such a long time, and walk over to the Mall rather than head down to the River or the City. Either way, I had forgotten about the Changing of the Guard, and arrived at the Palace about half an hour before it started, just as the crowds were gathering. The Queen was home, as the sovereign’s flag was flying, and amazingly the sun was shining. It had rained every day, heavily, since I’d been in London and so perhaps this was to be my lucky day! (Fat chance, it bucketed down later on.) ‘The Mall’ by the way is pronounced as in ‘pal’ not as in ‘small’, a note to American tourists. There are no Sears stores or Gaps or food courts (though I’m sure Victoria has a few secrets). The Queen’s guards know their audience though. Sticking to tradition, as they performed their historic ceremony at the gates of the royal residence, the Scots guards in their bright red jackets and tall bearskin hats belted out the theme tune to ‘Superman’. Or perhaps it was ‘Superma’am’?

st james park

I made hay while the sun shone. That’s St.James’s Park above, one of the smaller but more decorated Royal Parks, looking off towards Big Ben and the London Eye. Below, a statue of the Queen Mum, and behind her a statue of Colin Firth.

queen mum and king george vi

for now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring

black sheep pub, ashland

Ashland in southern Oregon is famous (very famous) for it’s popular (very popular) Shakespeare Festival. This town is Bard friendly, and the British theme pops up here and there, such as in this pub, the Black Sheep. Set up a steep wide staircase off the main drag, this big pub serves fish and chips, beans on toast, and other such grub. They also have an old red phonebox; I think there are more red phoneboxes in American pubs than on English streets these days.

Ashland is a nice place. It was already a hot day and we went for a stroll through Lithia Park. While my son played at the playground, I sat by the heavy gushing creek and drew the sketch below. There were notices all around that on one morning the week before, a cougar had been spotted in that very park. That’s a mountain lion, not the other type of cougar. It gave tips on what to do if you see one – don’t turn around, make yourself look big, try not to make it laugh etc – and it reminded me that there are a lot of wild animals about in America. We’ve had mountain lion sightings in West Sacramento. Last week news reports told of coyotes in north Davis killing a cat. I saw a great big centipede in the bath once. Gotta be careful. Give me British beans on toast any day, much safer… 

lithia park, ashland, oregon

and if you know your history…

hattie weber musuem of davis

The remaining sketches from Saturday’s sketchcrawl in Davis, the last one first: the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis, above. It’s a former library (it’s named after Davis’s first paid librarian), built in 1911 – it’s a hundred years old! But it used to be on F Street – buildings tend to move about in Davis. I was in there a few weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a print of one of my drawings on the wall. The drawing of old City Hall, fromcentral park garden, davis my ArtAbout event in January (it’s one of my favourites). So that’s pretty nice, I’m in a museum!

After sketching sketchers sketching at the market, I had a nice lunch at Crepeville with Napa-based designer Cynthia and her son Nathan. I sketched the interior (see bottom sketch) and had a huge-normous scrambled egg thing.

After lunch, it was back to the park. I was actually a little unsure what to draw next, so I chose to head for the gardens, and sketched the large mosaic-covered urn feature called “Flutter and Hum”.

After sketching the Museum, it was getting a bit cold. Of thirteen who came, only three of us ended up finishing at the end for the show and tell, and having been up very early to watch the FA Cup Final I was knackered! (Speaking of the FA Cup Final, I don’t like it when other matches are played on Cup Final day, it should be about that game alone, and that shoudl be the season closer. I’m no great fan of Man City’s millions, but they won their first trophy in 35 years, only to have their day overshadowed by overacheiving neighbours Man United winning a record 19th league title. But back to sketching…

It was another nice sketchcrawl in Davis though and I look forward to the next one – some time in June, date and place to be decided…


Let’s Draw Davis Flickr Group