UC-AMP 2023 (“not the urban sketching symposium”)

UCAMP23-Dania Matos

The 2023 Urban Sketching Symposium took place in mid-April in Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand; when I was a kid I bought a little pocket Berlitz guidebook for New Zealand, I used to read about Milford Sound and learned a couple of Maori words (admittedly it was just ‘Kia Ora’ which was easy to remember because of those juice adverts, “It’s too orangey for crows, it’s just for me and my dog” “I’ll be your dog! Woof woof woof woof…” You remember the one). So when the first international USk Symposium after the pandemic was announced, I was excited to go. Except, it was in April, and in New Zealand, and that was a tricky time with work, so I decided, ok, I won’t go. I’ll get to Auckland another time, I guess. So I got to watch all my other fellow sketchers’ posts from down in Auckland, but I didn’t have time to be jealous because instead, I went to a different conference. This was for work was the UC-AMP conference at UC Berkeley. Despite not being at the USk Symposium, I still acted as if I was, and kept my sketchbook out at all times. I drew pretty much all of the speakers whose talks I attended, as I usually do as I am taking notes at the same time. I was very impressed with all the talks, this being my first UC-AMP I was not sure what to really expect, but I’ve not been as engaged at a work conference as with this one, and I learned a lot that I will bring back to my own job. The networking was good too, and I met some interesting people and got some different perspectives. See, even though I’m not urban sketching, I’m still obsessed with perspective.

UCAMP23-Austin, Matos sm

Many of the talks focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in a pretty broad number of ways. The keynote speaker was Dania Matos, Vice-Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion at UC Berkeley, and I really enjoyed her talk. “Data drives decisions, but story telling drives commitment.” I liked that phrase. As I say, I drew most of the other speakers too, though I’ll not go into all their talsk or names here, but here are the sketches I did.

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I mostly drew in the small Stillman & Birn Alpha pocket sketchbook I use for people sketches (and occasional travel sketches), and mostly used that purple Pigma Brush pen that I like for these quick people sketches (though I did use the black Zebra pen for one of Eugene Whitlock, above).

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UCAMP23-Alcocer sm

I will say though, the guy above, David Alcocer, gave a really excellent and engaging presentation on the UC Budget. I thought, as did others, that this would be the one very dry talk, but it was the opposite, and I felt like I knew a lot more about the bigger picture, plus he was just a great presenter too.

UCAMP23-Chang,Anderson sm

With these last two, I did write a lot more o what they were saying down, as it was worth noting. The colours by the way are just my usual watercolour, with a waterbrush pen.I’m very much looking forward to the 2024 UC-AMP conference, whcih will be in Riverside, and hopefully won’t clash with the Urban Sketching Symposium. Although actually it probably will, because once again the next one will be in the souther hemisphere, in April, in Buenos Aires, in Argentina. Another place I’d love to go, another place I probably won’t make it to. We shall see. I do miss seeing all of my global urban sketching community, but it was nice to be part of another community for a few days, and come away just as full of ideas.

UCAMP23-Kray,Pinterits sm

my name is Sue, how do you do

Chicago Sue T-Rex sm

A great sketcher once said (and it was Lapin, by the way) that every sketchbook needs two things – a dinosaur, and an old car. Sketchbook #45 has those things now, after we visited the Field Museum in Chicago, an incredible collection which is chock full of dinosaurs. (I already drew an old car at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento) I missed out on going to the Urban Sketching Symposium in Chicago in 2017 (I had just been promoted, and felt it would be a good idea to stick around and learn stuff in that first month on the job), so I missed Lapin’s workshop “Groarrr!” which took place at the Field Museum, drawing Sue, the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that is the highlight of the collection, as well as being pretty much the most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world. Plus it’s called Sue, so I had Johnny Cash in my head the whole time. “My name is Sue! How do you do! Now you gonn’ die!” I also briefly had the theme tune to The Sooty Show in my head, thinking of the silent cheekiness of Sooty, the mischievous squeak of Sweep, and the bossy voice of Soo, the only one who could use real words, if you don’t count Matthew who was a real human and now a hand puppet, or at least so we are led to believe (did you ever see his legs?). People who didn’t grow up in Britain will have no idea what I’m talking about, but I did imagine Sue the T-Rex talking in that voice, saying “izzy wizzy let’s get busy”. Never mind all of these pop culture ramblings, it has been a busy week. If you want to learn some actual stuff about Sue the T-Rex, you can visit the Field Museum website: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/blog/sue-t-rex. We don’t know if Sue was a boy dinosaur or a girl dinosaur (insert an Ian Malcolm quote from Jurassic Park here) but they were named after Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur in 1990 in South Dakota. The light in there kept going dark, for mood and storytelling, which made sketching a little tricky.

Chicago Triceratops sm

The first dinosaur I drew though was the nemesis of the T-Rex, the heroic Triceratops. I always imagine Triceratops as a Captain America type figure, fighting the big meat-eaters for hours, looking up and saying “I can do this all day”. In the books Triceratops would always be locked in battle with the Tyrannosaur, its large parrot beak, rock solid neck shield, and the horns of both a rhino and a yak, like who designed this creature, a four year old? Triceratops is nevertheless a design classic, really hard to beat. Parasaurolophus and Styracosaurus have pretty amazing heads, but Triceratops is beautiful. I sat on a bench with my son and drew the whole thing, a good spot to rest the legs after looking at so many dinosaurs already.

Chicago Field Museum 033123 sm

I did this sketch above while they were resting again a bit later, watching a school orchestra play some music from the movies (not Jurassic Park) in the main hall of the museum. Hanging above in the foreground is a model of the enormous flying prehistoric beast Quetzalcoatlus, which I’m not going to say is an ugly dinosaur, but is no Triceratops. It’s no Pteranodon either. It was gigantic though, you would not want this thing pecking away at your plane’s cockpit (spoiler alert for one of the Jurassic World movies, which was not very good). I should point out, Jurassic Park is one of my favourite films of all time, and I adored the book as well. It is for me nothing short of a perfect film. I quite liked the follow ups, the Lost World and Jurassic Park 3, though now I think about it Jurassic Park 3 was not actually very good. Jurassic World…well, I’ll say it was enjoyable, I guess. A nice idea, but not a re-watcher, and the characters were completely irritating. The follow up, Jurassic World Volcano Wars I think it was called, was utterly diabolical, and there was nothing whatsoever of interest, but I did watch it on a small airplane screen so no huge loss. The last one, Jurassic World Dumpster Divers or something, we actually went to a movie theatre and paid actual dollars to see, and the universe is never giving me back that five and a half hours or however long it was. It was advertised as having the original three back in it, and back in it they indeed were, and Jurassic Park it was not. Jurassic World Dominion made Jurassic Park 3 look like The Godfather Part 2. I’m not going to say it was the worst film I have ever seen (because I have watched The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Hour Long Sequels) but you know when you like apples and you eat all the different apples, but you eat one apple that tastes so disgusting and makes you want to vomit, that while it doesn’t put you off eating apples completely, it does make you much less likely to want to eat an apple afterwards, to the point where you just give up eating apples and eat cereal instead. Well that was the last Jurassic World film and movies in general for me. But you know, you should watch it, don’t take my word for it.

Chicago Michigan and Wacker sm

I could have spent all day in the Field Museum, learning and sketching, but we moved along, and headed for the Nutella Cafe. We decided to skip the Art Institute, due to Museum Fatigue, though my wife did go there on our final morning in Chicago and the pictures she took of all the very famous artworks made me wish I had actually gone. Next time! Instead, on our last morning I stayed at the hotel with my son, before heading out to do one last sketch, down at Michigan and Wacker. It’s a bit of an unfinished sketch, but I decided this time not to bother going in later and drawing all those windows, because you know, you get the idea. Tribune Tower (on the right) is an architectural masterpiece, containing stones from famous buildings from all over the world, which is actually a bit weird but ok.

Right, Top Five things I would like to do next time I’m in Chicago:

  1. Listen to The Blues. I never got to go to any of Chicago’s famous Blues clubs, like Kingston Mines, or one of the other ones. I will admit, I’m not exactly a massive Blues afficionado. I like it, but not as much as I want to like it. But Blues in Chicago? That I want to see. I want to be somewhere in Chicago watching some old Blues player carve riffs out of a big Gretsch, taking in the whole atmosphere, so that all I want to do is get home and play Blues riffs until my fingers hurt.
  2. Art Institute. As mentioned, I decided to sketch in the street instead of actually see some great art. That might have been a mistake, or maybe I was just saying to myself, no I’ll do that next time. They have Van Goghs, Picassos, they have that American Gothic painting, and Nighthawks by Hopper! My mate Roshan had that as a poster.
  3. Watch some Improv. I never got to to go any of Chicago’s famous Improv clubs, like The Second City, or one of the other ones. I will admit, I’m not exactly a massive Improv afficionado. I like it, but not as much as I want to like it. But Improv in Chicago? That I want to see. I want to be somewhere in Chicago watching some old Improv actor carve witty lines out of a big Suggestion, taking in the whole atmosphere, so that all I want to do is get home and improvise until my fingers hurt.
  4. Have a different Deep Dish Pizza. I really liked the one at Pizzeria Uno, as described in a previous post, but I would like to try some other places, maybe get some local suggestions.
  5. Wrigley Field. I never got to to go any of Chicago’s famous baseball parks, like Wrigley Field, or one of the other ones. I will admit, I’m not exactly a massive baseball afficionado. (Okay, I’m not doing that again.) I do like a ballpark, but even I know Wrigley Field is pretty special and historic, and there’s nothing more American than going to an ancient baseball stadium,, taking in the whole atmosphere, so that all I want to do is get home and swing a baseball bat until my fingers hurt (I literally never want to do that after watching baseball).

There is one other thing I’d do next time, that’s get in touch with some of the Chicago Urban Sketchers I know, such as Don Colley, who is pretty amazing. I thought about contacting some to see if they wanted to go and sketch an old bar some night, but this was a family trip and I knew I’d be cream-crackered too. I am tempted by the Chicago Sketch Seminar this July, although it’s very soon after another trip I’m taking, and I’m sure I’d be too tired. But it does look really fun.

Chicago MDW people 1 sm Chicago MDW people 2 sm Chicago MDW people 3 sm

Ok, so we then went to the airport, where we waited for hours and hours for our plane to deign to take off. We spent so long at that damned airport, and I hate airports at the best of times. So I sketched people again, in my little red sketchbook. That was pretty boring. We played a lot of Super Mario Kart 8 on the Switch, I had bought a new Switch Lite before the trip as the battery in the old one was utterly dead. We were exhausted, and it was going to be a long flight if we ever got on a plane. I don’t know why Southwest was delayed so much, but it wasn’t Tornadoes, they all happened the night before. Anyway, get on a plane we eventually did, so I had to do one last in-flight sketch. Until next time Chicago! I always fantasized about doing that thing where you take the Amtrak train for several days across the country, watching America on ground level as it gradually changes, waking up in far-flung cities or small-town America, but after spending four hours in Midway airport and getting bored out of my head, I think spending three days in a train seat might be enough to make me just get a plane back. But Chicago was damn cool, and I’ll be back.

MDW - SMF 040123 sm

Chicago high and low

Chicago Skyline from Hancock

I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t finished. And you’re right, this was all I could sketch at the time. I might have finished it later, but I didn’t. It’s the sort of view I might do a drawing of, on a bigger piece of paper, to test my drawing patience, but this one was drawn pretty quickly from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building (sorry, it’s not called that any more), which might not be the tallest of Chicago’s big skyscrapers, but it was still pretty damn high up. The view made my knees go all trembly. That slightly wobbly line, that be the horizon, that be the eye level. So you can see that the two taller buildings in this view are the Sears Tower (sorry, the Willis Tower) and the Trump tower (yep, still called that). Our hotel room on the 16th floor was low down and quaintly street level by comparison. It was down there somewhere, we could see it. On the same observation deck there was this ‘ride’ where the windows would move outward from the building so that you appear to be hanging suspended over the city. Needless to say, I didn’t do that. The view didn’t look quite real. Buildings that had towered so far above us at street level as to be hard to grasp, were now some way below us. It was a bit like when I’d play Spider-Man on the PS4, except nothing like it. That is a great game by the way, as is the Miles Morales follow-up. When I’d sketched just about enough, we got the elevator down.

Chicago Kinzie St Bridge

We did spend some time up at Lincoln Park, going to the Zoo, eating the most incredible corn dogs, wandering about a bit looking for a record store my guide book had told me was amazing (only to discover it had closed a while ago; well of course it had, a record store, in 2023? Why it’s next to the penny farthing store, just past the monocle repair shop). So we got the ‘L’ (the Elevated train) back downtown, feeling very much like we were in the Chicago from the films. One of our favourite films set in Chicago is High Fidelity, the one with John Cusack from about 2000. For me and my wife, that film may well be responsible for our whole relationship (to paraphrase the film). Well sort of; we both talked about it a lot when we first met, so I lent her the Nick Hornby book (set in north London of course) which was one of my favourites, and then we started going out. So it kinda is, actually. We were therefore excited to see sights we had seen in the film, such as the Kinzie Street Bridge, sketched above. It was about a 15 minute walk or so from our hotel, and I remember it in the film when Cusack’s character Rob was giving some monologue to the camera, although I think there were fewer big glassy buildings behind it then. When my wife and son went back to the hotel, I stayed to draw the bridge. I was listening to a fascinating Chicago history podcast, several episodes about how things in Chicago have often changed their names, and despite said things only being named something for a relatively short time, locals would refuse to call it by its new name for many decades longer than it had the original name. A bit like people who keep saying ‘Baby Yoda’ instead of ‘Grogu’. I did learn a lot about Chicago’s history and places though, and wished I had a lot more time to explore, but I would probably get tired, and like that record store, the places I’d be looking for might already be gone. Story of my life. Still I was very happy to have some mild weather for a moment to spend time drawing a bridge.

Chicago Theatre sign sm

These next few are from the afternoon of the next day. I have some others from the morning of the next day, but those involve dinosaurs and I’ll post those next time. We found the big Chicago Theater with its bright red sign, and I stuck around to sketch it. Eventually it started raining, so I stood under some shelter and sketched Chicago people in my little book, using a brush pen. As I sketdched, one lad came up to me and asked if I had a disability. I laughed, strange question, no I just like to draw in the street. It turns out he was asking about the way I hold my pen. Ah. No, always done that, but thanks for asking, I guess. I mostly drew people coming out of the Metra station (yes that’s ‘Metra’, not ‘Metro’, that’s basically the Subway).

Chicago people 1 sm Chicago people 4 sm Chicago People 3 sm Chicago people 2 sm

I also drew this fire hydrant, a few blocks away beneath the L. Standing under the ironwork of the L, with the train rumbling above me and the traffic rushing by beneath, I really felt like I was in Chicago like you’d imagine it. Not far from here there are those busy roads that are just underground, beneath the other roads, that make me think of the Fugitive, which we had watched not long before our trip.

Chicago Hydrant 3 sm

Before heading home, and to get out of the rain for a bit, I found a very cool pub with a bit of a Belgian beer theme. Monk’s Pub was the perfect stopping off point, and good to sketch. I had one pint, and drew fast. I listened to a couple of older lads next to me talking with some passion about baseball. Monk’s was warm and welcoming, but I had to get back to the hotel to rest before dinner, so I waited for the rain to ease off and walked back.

Chicago Monks Pub sm

quick people

032623 People Poses 2 sm

And now for something completely different. I went to a small gathering of sketchers (there were two of them) who had posted on the Let’s Draw Davis page (it is still going! But I’ve not organized one for ages, due to busy weekends) that there would be a quick people-sketching session at the NAtsouals Gallery in Davis that sketchers could go to. Each person would take five minutes exactly to hold a pose while the other sketchers drew them. Well, I did write a book called Five Minute People Sketching, mostly because I find it hard to spend more than five minutes sketching a person, so this was good practice for me. Stuff like this allows me to play around a bit more than I usually would. I pulled out an old pocket-sized Stillman & Birn Alpha book that I’d not actually drawn in since 2017, and sketched in both my usual brown pen and those black Nero pencils that I got from the Symposium a few years ago, both the soft and hard versions. I used a bit of watercolour to add in some tones.

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sketches from the sidelines, 2022

ayso united stanford cup 1 2022 sm

Let’s travel once more back to last summer. Since I stepped down from coaching youth soccer, I had been able to spend more time on the sidelines as a parent, and that means I can sketch more rather than take note. I still take notes, force of habit, but it’s nice to try and capture the games in a way that the photos taken a long-distance on our not-zoomed-in camera phones do not. Did I just use the term ‘camera phone’? Ok grandad. I know you are supposed to just say ‘phone’ instead of ‘camera phone’ now, and nobody has cameras now unless they are a photographer, so we say ‘phone’ to talk about the thing we primarily use for taking photos, and occasionally use to make calls on. One day I might invent the sketchbook-phone. My poor eyes cannot zoom in, but I tried to draw the action as best I could. Here are some sketches form various tournaments our team AYSO United Davis went to. Above, and the next couple below, are sketches from the Stanford Cup, which was held in various locations around Silicon Valley. It was bloody hot, and I stood in what shade I could find. In the end the team did not advance to the final, though it was close, but they played well and didn’t give much away.

ayso united stanford cup 2 2022 sm  ayso united stanford cup 3 2022 sm

The third match was at a big high school football stadium. I only drew half the field, but the other half looks like that so you can imagine it. When playing soccer on these American football fields it is always difficult to know where the lines are, as the soccer field is wider, and will often use less-distinct yellow lines. So you get people taking throw-ins from the wrong place, about a metre or so inside the bounds, and as for the penalty area, there’s a lot going on on these fields. Still with all the extra lines it’s easier to spot an offside (or ‘offsides’ as they say here). We were quite high up and had a good view of proceedings.

ayso united wolves cup 4 aug2022 sm

These ones, drawn in one of those pencils I got at one of the Urban Sketching Symposiums, were form the Wolves Cup tournament down in one of those places in the East Bay, I forget now. Diablo Valley, Antioch, that’s it. The local Diablo Valley teams had badges like Wolverhampton Wanderers, I think they might be connected. I know Tottenham had an ‘East Bay Spurs’ youth club, though I don’t think they are still connected. Last season we played one team in San Francisco that had a historical connection to Celtic, they knocked us out of the State Cup (1-0 with a last-minute goal, that was gutting). It’s quite common over here, though when a club has a name like Juventus or Ajax I don’t know if they are actually connected or just named after them. I liked meeting the people from all the youth soccer teams over the years, and had some good sideline banter with some of the nicer coaches; though you get a few who are a bit much, most were very friendly. Parents can be a thing, oh yes. We always had a good parent culture on our teams and strived to keep everybody positive, though we played some teams were parents would be sent off the sidelines for their behaviour. Those refs have a tough job; respect the referees. This was a good little tournament though, everyone was nice. My son scored the first goal, in our opening 4-0 win.

ayso united wolves cup 2 aug2022 sm

The sketch below was against a team who I can’t completely remember, but played in neon yellow, so I did a few sketches. This may have been the team where the opposing players were really quite unfriendly, and the parents were saying pretty unpleasant things too, and our coaches actually stopped the game and took the players off. Fair play to them for that. This might have been a different game though. It’s not always clear what’s being said out on the field, and I was off in the shade sketching. It was not long after my skin operation so I was sticking to myself and avoiding people in general, getting what shade I could. One thing I learned was that if you use a neon highlighter to colour in the neon shirts, that won’t really come out in the scan, so I had to add the neon yellow scribble back in with Photoshop afterwards.

ayso united v elk grove sm

This final one was done digitally on my iPad, so no scanning issues there. It was from a Halloween themed tournament in which our team dressed up as Minions, and ended up winning the whole thing, their first medal as a team. They won the final on penalties, with my son’s best friend scoring the winning spot-kick. The game sketched below was a group game against the team they ended up beating in the final, and they lost this one 2-1 in a tight contest. I like drawing these on the iPad because I can use layers and get the background drawn quickly, adding in players over the top. Still had to be quick.

san ramon oct 2022

At the Corner of St. Germain, Paris

Paris Le Corner St Germain cafe

We took the train from Normandy to Paris, where we would spend a few days of Parisian touristing, museums, walking, people watching, and dodging people zipping along the road in the wrong direction on those hoverboard platform things. I like Paris, I really like Paris; I don’t know if I love Paris, but I really enjoy spending time there and it’s a place I love to wander about in. Actually I think I do love Paris. I don’t know; these days if say you don’t love a place it means you hate it, and wow no, I definitely don’t. Give me a chance to spend time in Paris, I’m there man, especially with my sketchbooks. So yeah, I love Paris. It’s just I still feel I don’t know it well enough. I’ve been quite a few times now, but most of my time in France has usually been in other places. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner; Paris is our sister city. It’s pretty great though. We stayed in an apartment just off the Boulevard St.Germain in the Quartier Latin, on the corner of a pedestrianized street and next to a pretty nice brasserie called Le Corner. That is where I would stop off of an evening and sit outside with a nice big cold beer, with the sketchbook, looking out at the Parisians, and if my wife or son were up in the apartment they could just call down out of the window. The apartment was nice, and more often than not we’d get food out and bring it back there, or cook up what we got from the supermarché. As always I would get up early to wander and sketch, and bring back pastries (I think my wife was getting a bit sick of all the pastries). I drew Le Corner, stood outside on the busy street after a day of exploring with the family, while they rested upstairs. That’s the Paris I love, busy not not too busy, vibrant and close by to stuff, and with a little table and a cold beer (or a wine, or an Orangina) always very close by. The sketch below was done on the first evening here, just sat down and drawing the world going by.

Paris Blvd St Germain people sm

We last visited Paris altogether back in 2012, when my son was only four, and we also stayed in the Latin Quarter, though a bit further south, near Rue Mouffetard. We loved that short trip. I was last in Paris in 2019 when I flew in for the day before heading to Brussels, and wandered about Montmartre; we all went to Disneyland Paris at the end of that trip, but not into the big city itself. I went a couple of times in the 90s on short trips, plus of course I went at the start and end of my 1998 European rail journey, and saw some of the World Cup there. I guess I have been quite a few times now, but perhaps because there is always more, I’m always left feeling like I barely saw it. Well, on this trip we checked off quite a few boxes and really saw a lot of the city, so it was a good trip. I’m glad we had this spot to come back to and relax though. While it was a family touristy trip, I still did a lot of sketching, in those moments when we needed a rest.

Paris people rue boutebrie

her majesty was a pretty nice girl

You probably heard the news: the Queen is dead. She died today in Balmoral, peacefully and with her family. We all knew it was going to happen some day, but it was a surprise, nonetheless. 96 years old, that’s quite the innings. I did always hope she would make it to 100, not least so she could write a letter to herself. There will be a lot of things said over the next few days and weeks by a lot of people, but it is undoubtedly the passing of an era, a real historic moment for Britain. Whatever any of us think about the whole monarchy thing, Elizabeth II was a good person, a very likeable person, quite a funny person and a very popular Queen, even if people didn’t like many of the rest of them. She was The Queen for 70 years, all my life, almost all my mum’s life, one of her earliest memories is the coronation. I was in London with my mum during the Platinum Jubilee. In her time the Queen had 15 Prime Ministers, with the newest one coming in just this week. She did manage to get quite a few Prime Ministers in her last few years. She saw England win the World Cup and Spurs win the Double, both of which were a really long time ago now. She saw the rise and break-up of the Beatles, and was still around when Get Back finally came out. Ironically, last night I learned the ukulele chords to ‘Her Majesty’, not knowing that the next day she would die. I drew this tonight, it has been a long time since I drew on one of those brown envelopes, I still have a big stack of those. I’ll probably give it to my mum. Sh really loved the Queen. I expect the Funeral will be fairly massive. And then I saw that Charles was ill too, and I thought wow that’s all they need, but I misread, it actually said ‘King Charles III’. So Prince Charles is now King Charles the Third. I always thought he would take on a different name when crowned, such as George or Henry, but that might have been too confusing for all those people who get confused when someone changes their name. It actually happens a lot. Many monarchs were called something different, Popes do it all the time, Anakin Skywalker changed his named to Darth Vader. I like the sound of “Charles III”. We need a new national anthem now – I know we just keep the same one and change “Queen” to “King” but maybe now is the time to choose an all-new anthem, one that’s a bit livelier at the big sporting occasions. I do have to get an updated ruler now – I have one of those ones with the names of all the English kings and queens on it – but that’s what happens when a monarch dies, you get a new ruler.

So rest in peace your majesty, you longest-serving British monarch, it’s going to be a long time before anyone breaks that record, and will Britain ever have another Queen? Probably not in my lifetime.

in line at the whole earth festival

whole earth festival 050622 sm Here’s another one from the UC Davis campus, this was sketched at the Whole Earth Festival in early May. The Whole Earth Festival is back in-person, and this is a popular annual event in Davis, with lots of vendors and food and music all around the UC Davis Quad. I went over on the lunchtime with many of the staff from our office to sit and have lunch with each other, I got an absolutely delicious mushroom burger, all vegan, really tasty. I started this sketch while I was in line, and went back after eating to draw some more (I had to keep saying to people “no I’m not in line”). If you like drawing people quickly, lines for food are usually a good spot because they will usually be still for a bit. I might have mentioned that in my book “Five Minute Sketching: People”, but if not, I’m saying it now and you can just write it in there of you have a copy. One thing, people are a little less likely to leave the line to come and see what you are sketching, because they don’t want to lose their spot, and they are hungry. Another tip, this one told to me by my sketching friend Rita Sabler, if sketching people at a bar, look at their drinks and sketch the ones with full glasses, because you know they will be there for a while. It’s a good tip. I was going to add colour to this sketch, but never got around to it, and now I prefer it just like this. But the Whole Earth Festival was pretty colourful, although we didn’t stop for much of the music, as we had to get back to work.


the castro, san francisco

A few weeks ago I took the train down to San Francisco for a day of wandering and sketching. It was just before my birthday, and I needed a day out with the sketchbook. You can only draw so much Davis. I didn’t have a plan as to where I would go, but I thought I would like to try climbing one of the big hills for a big vantagepoint view over the city. I knew the weather was supposed to be nice, though it started off foggy as you’d expect with the city. I took the super early train down from Davis, walked over to the Ferry Building to get the little bombolini from the lady that sells them there, I have my habits. This is what I do, I don’t mind being predictable. When I am long gone what will be remembered is that I would get the early train into the city for a sketching day and start off eating little bombolini, one filled with nutella, the other with lemon cream. In the book of my life that will be one of the scenes they film, over a soundtrack of a nice song I like, something by Belle and Sebastian. I decided to go sketching up in the Castro. It’s been quite a few years since I was sketching up there, and I wanted to draw something colourful. The last panorama I did in the Castro, back in 2013 before a sketchcrawl, I’d left uncoloured apart from the red sign of the Castro Theatre. The panorama above, which I sketched in the shade on the corner of 18th and Castro, was a lot of detail. So, I drew as much as possible in the almost-hour I stood there, added in a few spots of red and a few rainbows, and coloured in the rest later, which itself took ages.

Castro and Market, SF

I actually drew this one first, while the morning fog still lingered, on the corner of 17th and Castro looking up towards Sutro Tower. I added in the watercolor while standing there, the sky had a strange pearlescence, and people lined up at the cafe across the little street form where the F car stops to get their brunch (it may have been a late breakfast / brunch, which is sometimes shortened to ‘lunch’). There was a guy camped at the bus stop, and there was a fair bit of odor wafting up, so I just remember a farty smell now when remembering sketching this, so I wanted to be done and run. I had decided I would go exploring up Corona Heights, but would draw around the Castro first, maybe eat lunch myself down there. I had a burrito at a place near 18th, and it was not very good. I didn’t even finish it. I had some Turkish Delight that I had bought at the Ferry building though, and that gave me some energy when climbing up the steep hills later that day.

Market St, SF

Above, this is a very quick sketch of the Ferry Building I did while waiting for the F streetcar to arrive on Market. I splashed a bit of watercolour on there for effect. I did the same on the other half of the page when I got on the F, and as it dried I added some lines in while we trundled uphill towards the Castro. This is a fun way to draw while on public transport. I haven’t spent a lot of time on any public transport for quite a while, save for the Amtrak occasionally, so i was glad that it wasn’t too busy and that they have a number of single seats still. These old streetcars are well known – they aren’t the famous San Francisco cable cars, but these historic vehicles originate form all over the world and have found a new home here in the city. You can learn more about them at: https://www.streetcar.org/streetcars/. The one I was on was a classic San Francisco original from the 1950s, but many others come from Milan, Philadelphia, Zurich, Kansas City, Melbourne, even Japan. I do love the streetcars. When I spent a year in Belgium, some Saturdays I would go wandering in Brussels and would get on the streetcars there until the end of the line, and just read my book while the streets of Ixelles, Etterbeek, Laeken passed by outside.

on the F streetcar, SF

Below are a couple more sketches I attempted on the Castro before climbing big hills. The first, two big old houses where I just drew the outline and the alley, and ended up juts not bothering with the rest. The page is a bit dirty because as you can see from the sketches below, I decided to use coloured pencil to do some brass rubbing (well, masonry really), I saw the word ‘Castro’ on a stone plaque on the street and thought ‘that would look good in my sketchbook’, having seen someone else do that a couple of days before. Maybe it would have worked better not on the fairly thick Moleskine paper, because you can barely read it. So i drew some people instead with pencil. I didn’t get any interesting characters (such as the naked guy who I’d usually see passing by every other time I come here) but sketched a few passers-by and went off up the hill. I’ll post that next time.

castro st houses

castro people

sunday morning drawing davis

Craft Fair at Central Park, Davis

Last Sunday morning, on the first day of August, we held our first Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl of the year. It has been a while; I paused organizing them due to the pandemic and I’ve been busy on weekends this year, but one of my fellow Davis sketchers Marlene Lee suggested holding one at Central Park that day during the craft Fair that was going on. It was a good idea. There were lots of vendors selling interesting art items, and there was a band called ‘New Harmony Jazz Band’ playing old numbers. It was nice to see other sketchers again, I’ve been hiding away for a long time and seeing others out and about doing their stuff is always good to see. Plus one guy (Alex) was wearing a Wolverhampton Wanderers shirt! I was delighted, I love football shirts but I’d never seen someone in Davis wear a Wolves shirt before. I’m showing you the sketches I did in reverse, so I can put my final drawing – this big panorama of the Craft Fair in the Farmer’s Market area – first. There were quite a few people around but it wasn’t crowded. Many people were masked up but most weren’t. Many of the sketchers were (including me for about half the time, usually when I might be interacting with people). It makes me feel more like a ninja, plus the mask I was wearing has my drawings on it (you can get masks with my drawings on here! https://society6.com/petescully/masks). I drew the scene above in about 1.5 hours, including about two thirds of the colour, but I coloured in the background when I got home. It was already getting hot, and I stopped for a shaved ice (which needed a few more flavours). Below is the band, they played nice music to sketch to. I drew that, and my other people sketches, with the Zebra brush pen that I was using a couple of years ago. It’s nice to use something like that again, it makes for rapid sketching. 


And below are most of the sketchers, as you see I drew Alex in his Wolves shirt twice. If I had drawn more detailed sketches I would have done all of the shirt detailing on the front of that particular shirt. I myself was wearing my France football shirt that day, a favourite of mine, but mostly in honor of Esteban Ocon, who had won his first Grand Prix that morning at the Hungaroring in Budapest, a crazy race that saw a lot of carnage at the first corner. Ocon was also the first French driver to win a Grand Prix in a French car (Alpine, formerly Renault) since Alain Prost in the Renault in 1983. To see the podium with just one anthem played and for it to be the Marseillaise, well I’d never seen that before so I wore my French shirt in Ocon’s honor. I am about as obsessed with Formula 1 as I am with football shirts, as you can tell! I get up very early to watch it.  080221 LDD C IG

Below are Ann Privateer and William Lum, also drawn in the Zebra pen…

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…and here are Ann Filmer and Marlene Lee, sketching in the shade. We’re hoping to have the Davis sketchcrawls go monthly again; I just got my soccer coaching schedule (so many Saturdays to the end of the year, and beyond) so others will organize but since campus is all coming back in-person this Fall it will be good for people to get outside and draw with each other again.   

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The Let’s Draw Davis FB Page (where events will be posted) is here: https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis

There’s also a Let’s Draw Davis FB group, where people who attended can post their sketches and photos afterwards: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LetsDrawDavis/