Early last month I flew down to Los Angeles with my friend Roshan who was visiting from London, for a boys weekend to celebrate his 40th birthday. I didn’t do much sketching; it was a short trip and we mostly did tourism and, well, the pub. One or two pubs! A good old few pubs. I do find it harder to sketch when travelling with non-sketchers, (not for any fault of their own, I just struggle to concentrate) but I did manage a few sketches, including the in-flight drawing above. We stayed downtown at an awesome hotel with a great view, I only grabbed a couple of quick sketches of it, but we were really close to the LA public library (which I have sketched before, years ago).
And of course, one fire hydrant. It wasn’t a 2am hydrant sketch (like on previous LA trips) but the library is once more in the background!
And I got a few quick people sketches down at Venice Beach, of dancing roller-skaters. I would like to go back there on a sketching trip someday, there is always so much to draw around there. I really like LA.
A new academic year has begun on the UC Davis campus (wow, I have worked here since 2006), and this year we also have a brand new chancellor, Gary May, who joined us during the summer from Georgia Tech, where he was the dean of the College of Engineering. Last week I attended a special presentation (“Future Forward”) to a packed crowd at the Mondavi Center to open the new school year, hosted by Chancellor May and also featuring some excellent spoken-word performances by students. I live-sketched the Chancellor’s speech, peppered with references to some of his favourite personal interests such as Star Trek (lots of “to boldly go” in there) and comics (X-Men!!); he didn’t mention Lego but I read that he is a big Lego fan as well. So yeah, I like this new Chancellor already. I did get a chance to meet him when he first arrived in Davis on sweltering hot August afternoon, along with many other staff, students and faculty, and of course I couldn’t resist a quick sketch!
Just interrupting my Italy posts to bring you some sketches from our recent Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl, held on a very hot July morning a week or so ago. Let’s Draw Davis is now monthly again, and now the organization is shared between myself and two fellow local sketchers, Alison Kent and Ann Filmer. This month it was my turn, so I organized a crawl that would explore the courtyards and alleys of downtown, starting in Orange Court and ending up on the patio behind the Pence Gallery. We had around seventeen sketchers in total joining us, and despite the heat a lot of nice sketching was done! I started off by drawing people in pencil and paint.
I then moved up to the walkway overlooking Orange Court, trying to squeeze into whatever shade I could find, and drew the aerial perspective. It was a bit tricky with the sun burning down but I was determined. After this, I had a chicken hotdog at the Hotdogger.
Then I walked through the little side-streets between D and E Streets, which have a few colourful shops and cafes, and I drew two more of my fellow sketchers (there is Marlene Lee on the right, she had a few drawings featured in my last book), sat outside a new art gallery/shop called Couleurs Vives, which deserves a bigger more colourful sketch some time. After that, the remaining sketchers met up and did a show-and-tell with each other’s sketchbooks, which is always my favourite part, seeing how others interpret the same scenes.
The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl meeting will be on Wednesday August 16th at the Davis Farmer’s Market “Picnic in the Park”; check out the event posting on the Let’s Draw Davis Facebook page!
While I love an early morning when travelling, I also like the night. Depends where though – I’ve never really liked Venice at night, but Rome’s piazzas, lined with warm streetside cafes, are a pleasant place to be. I didn’t go to the Trevi fountain at night, that was crazy enough during the day that I didn’t want to spend too much time there, but Piazza Navona, a short walk from our place, was much more pleasant. Doing as the Romans do is the thing to do, so I went to a cafe and bought a beer and sat on a bench near the fountains. Actually it was mostly French students doing that, but I assume they were doing as the Romans do. Actually what is funny is that since I was there, the Mayor of Rome has brought in a new local law forbidding people from drinking alcohol in those public squares and places after 10pm at night, effective July. So the Romans aren’t doing that now. We also noticed that, during the day, anybody sitting down on steps or by fountains and monuments and eating anything, even a gelato, were being quickly moved on by local wardens. Apparently this was a new law as well, enacted just a week before I got there in June, and you can get big fines for breaking it, a fact completely not signposted anywhere. I sketched the above scene, as best as I could see. Piazza Navona is in the shape of the ancient Stadium of Domitian, which used to stand on this spot in Roman times. Well I suppose these are still Roman times, this city being still called Rome. It is the Eternal City after all.
A bit closer to home now. Right outside the front door of our apartment, which was itself about 120 steps up four steep flights, was a little trattoria/bar in a narrow lane just off the Pantheon. On our last night in Rome, after la famiglia had gone to bed, I walked down the stairs and sat at a table with a beer and my sketchbook, drawing Rome at night. The street is Via della Palombella, and that church, which has a stone head of a stag on top, is called Sant’Eustachio. The little Piazza before it is called, of course, Piazza Sant’Eustachio, and the cafe of the same name just across he street is where I would get my pastries in the morning. There were people strolling about, as they do, tourists and Romans on their nocturnal promenades. I sketched some of them (above), Romans going home. “Romanes eunt domus“.
Hey folks! Another slight pause in posting; I’ve been away on vacation, no spoilers about where I went but it rhymes with “bitterly”, specifically “dome” and “menace”, as I say you will have to wait to find out where from my many many sketches. But in the unforgettable words of Jar-Jar Binks, “meesa back!” I can’t remember where I was with my sketches, oh yes, Pacifica. So a week after my son’s soccer team’s tournament in Nevada we had another one down in the beach town of Pacifica. The waves were high and the air was salty, and our team did excellently, only missing out on qualifying for the final on goal difference. I did of course get a good bit of sketching in, and here it is. Above, a hydrant near the Ocean. Below, two views either side of the same rocky outcrop, from two different beaches. The top one was Rockaway Beach, right outside our hotel, and sketched on a super windy morning. Those waves were incredible, and the beach was covered in fluffy sea-foam blown in from the Pacific.
And don’t forget the beachgoers. With the waves so big there were a lot of extra surfers out. I used to want to be a surfer, when I was young. It was mostly because it was as far away as something people in Burnt Oak would do that I could think of, so therefore it was what I wanted to do. I always imagined I would live in Australia, surfing every week, walking about town in my wetsuit, but that never happened. Instead I live in California (not near the beach) and seriously, I ain’t getting in no wetsuit now. That’s ok, I’m fine with that. I just sketch the surfers now.
Possibly one reason why is my love for delicious milkshakes, and this one was partaken at the local Rockaway Beach diner “Rock’n’Robs”. Cookies and cream flavour. Yeah, no surfing for me now. Another reason may be the found in the image below. “Nick’s” is a 90-year-old bar and lounge in splashing distance of the Pacific waves, and a few steps from our hotel, so I popped by to sketch their bar and try a few beers. That slanted mirror let me sketch the patrons to my right, and on the other side of the bar a band played and local couples danced. It was a fun place to spend the evening.
And here is a sketch of the small town itself, the Rockaway Beach part of Pacifica. Pretty nice down here. It’s really close to San Francisco by the way, surprisingly near, yet it feels a million miles away. I liked it; I think we’ll be back.
As some of you may know, I have a book out called “Five Minute Sketching People”. It came out in the autumn and has been apparently doing well; I don’t really know exactly how well, I’m not told these things, but I often check the ranking on Amazon. And then, to compare, I always check the ranking of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s book, “I Am Zlatan”. I don’t check it against any other book, only that one. And every day I would check, and my book would be above it in the Amazon rankings. I’d be at 26,000, Zlatan would be at 46,000. It was always up and down, but I’d usually be higher than “I Am Zlatan”, so regardless of how high it actually was or what any of it means, as long as I was above “I Am Zlatan”, that was all that mattered, beating Zlatan. I mean it doesn’t mean I’m somehow better than Zlatan, that would be ridiculous, all I’m saying is that the numbers don’t lie, and clearly my next book should just be called “I Am Better Than Zlatan”, obviously. It’s a fun game I play every day.
And then recently I noticed that Zlatan had overtaken me. Is it because he is finishing up his contract at Manchester United, that saw a spike in his book sales? I too do not play for Manchester United. Coincidence? And the worrying thing is, he has stayed there! Today for example he is at #57,515 and I am at #88,844. Now I don’t doubt that Zlatan is a great writer, after all He Is Zlatan, and admittedly he is slightly more globally well-known than I am, him being a Premier League/Serie A/La Liga, Ligue 1/international superstar, and me being a bloke who draws pictures of things in a town nobody has heard of. So, fair play to him.
Oh, these by the way are some of my quick people drawings from the past month or so. These are the sorts of ones I did in the book, simple, quick, passers-by, capturing what you can in a tiny amount of time, most of them being at UC Davis, except the ones at the top which are at the Farmer’s Market. Many were sketched at the Silo, or nearby, sketched on days when my lunchtime wasn’t long enough for a building sketch (or I just had no inspiration to draw more buildings). The ones immediately below were sketched at the UC Davis Picnic Day, Battle of the Bands. Hence the funny costumes. It’s all very silly.
The whole Zlatan thing is just a bit of a joke I have with my son, we find it funny to look up the numbers. I did notice recently though that someone had given my book a “1 star” rating. I mean I don’t mind, that’s fine, but I had to look at it anyway. They wanted to see step-by-step tutorials rather than tips on techniques, you see, which I totally get. They even said I was a good artist, which I do appreciate. But, 1 star? I mean I don’t care obviously, but that 1 star, it stands out, like Sirius glaring at the constellation of Orion. I looked and saw they had given 1 star to the other book in the series, the one Liz Steel wrote about 5-minute Architecture Sketches. In fact they had written exactly the same review word for word, which saves time I suppose, and to be fair they changed the word ‘him’ to ‘her’ for the other review so it’s not a total cut and paste. But it’s totally fine. I had a look at what else they had given 1 star to, just out of interest, and the next 1-star was for a book called “Guns: Weapons Guide for Total Beginners”, because “the only picture was on the cover”. Which is a fair assessment. He gave 5 stars to “Think Like A Winner” though, which sounds like a book I could use, though I must point out that book is even further below “I Am Zlatan” than I am, so.
I looked to see if Zlatan had any “1 star” reviews, and was pleased to discover that unfortunately he had two. And they aren’t really very good reviews either. One said that they were a huge fan of Zlatan as a player but that his book was “full of ego and painful to read”. (Haha, just wait until “I Am Better Than Zlatan” comes out!) But “painful to read”? More painful to read than a 1 star review? The Darkhold is painful to read, or The second one said that “There is a lot of “I” in his book. Its really not that good.” Now to be fair, you need to use the letter “I” a lot in english, otherwse t mght look lke ths. You see? Also, the book is called “I Am Zlatan”, which yes it starts with the letter “I”, but he left out his last name, which has at least three “I”s in it, maybe more. Also there are a lot of lower case “L”s, which could be mistaken for “I”s. If however the reviewer is referring to the fact he talks about himself a lot, well, Zlatan is guilty as charged, but what with it being an autobiography, that is to be expected, unless you think an autobiography is a biography of a car. But if the reviewer really thinks Zlatan is a massive egotist, well he’s wrong, and he proves it by saying that he uses “I” a lot. Truly massive egos don’t do that, they prefer using the third person, like “Zlatan is hungry, Zlatan wants a new contract,” or like Pete does in his profile page on this very website. In fact if he was truly as egotistical as these reviewers think, his book would have been called “Zlatan is Zlatan”.
You’re probably wondering who this “Zlatan” even is, don’t worry about it, he’ll come up again I’m sure. He is a very good footballer, look him up on Youtube, his skills are amazing. Buy his book too, keep it above mine in the charts, I don’t mind honestly. The figure in the second row, second to the left looks a bit Zlatan-like, though he is significantly taller, a very tall bloke. By the way the fellow in the above sketch, bottom row, yes that one, he is not yogic-flying, he is in fact sitting on grass that you cannot see. Invisible grass. And yes, top left bloke is wearing a Liverpool shirt. Anyway, these are my recent quick people sketches, I do hope you like them and if you have five minutes why not do some yourself?
More sketches from over a month ago! On Saturday November 12th we held another “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl on the UC Davis campus, this time at Vanderhoef Quad, named for the late Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, location of the brand new Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, which was opening that weekend (more on that later, many sketches to post…). Several of us met up in the middle of the Quad and started sketching the scenery, the lovely autumnal leaves and bright November sunshine, the modern campus buildings lining the edges. Above is Davis sketchcrawl regular (and person I have probably sketched the most!) Allan Hollander, who I couldn’t resist sketching again.
Above is the Mondavi Center, an amazing performance space, with the fountains of the Vanderhoef Quad in the foreground. I actually won a t-shirt for this sketch, they sent it to me, it’s nice. Below, also longtime Davis sketcher and fellow British-accenter Alison Kent sketches away, with another sketcher Suzanne sketching beneath a big hat. someone actually asked me once for a good tip on drawing faces when sketching people in public, often a tricky subject, and I said “make sure they are wearing a hat that covers their face, so you can get around that” and clearly I wasn’t really joking!
And below is a large panorama of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art itself! I will likely post this sketch again in the next post about the museum, or perhaps in an upcoming post where I display all my sketches of it from first construction onwards, but the building is finally finished and open! On this day, the day before the Grand Opening, they were having special opening events throughout the day – at this time, there was a special event just for faculty. That evening they were to have the ‘Director’s Debut’, an event for donors and artists (including me!! I’ll post about that next, it was fun), then another late-night event for the students. The colourful chains around the edge are there for the opening event, made by local people to be formally cut to open the museum. I had never two-page-spreaded this building before (that’s a new verb, that), given it the old panoramization treatment (another new word), so here it is. Not easy to draw over two pages with its unusual curving roof but I gave it a good old go.
We sketchcrawlers met up at the end to check out each others books, and it is always fun to see the range of different styles and points of view. Great fun as always, Davis sketchers! Now I had hoped to run a sketchcrawl here in December, but my weekends suddenly filled up fast and so I never got around to it, but I am working on a set of dates for next year starting January, and will announce those here shortly, and email all those on my email list. I’m hoping to have the Davis sketchcrawls continue monthly, but I am also planning a ‘themed’ crawl in San Francisco at some point (history themed, dates/details to be set…) and possibly another themed crawl in London, though the dates for that are also uncertain (probably going to be Soho themed though, after two Wren crawls, a Ripper crawl and a Fleet Street crawl…). Roll on sketchbookers of 2017! I gotta feeling we’ll all need a bit of sketching…