porto performative

Amber Sausen, USk President
The reason we were all there in Porto was for the 9th Urban Sketching Symposium. “USk Porto 2018” as it is known (see the hashtag #USkPorto2018 on the various platforms) was the largest one yet – 800 registrants, with a similar number descending on Porto just for the ride. Urban Sketchers is quite big now. The first Symposium back in Portland in 2010 (check out my Flickr album, or look at my Portland 2010 blog posts) had less than 80 people, many of whom had only ever met each other online and never in person, and yet we all seemed to get to know each other. The ‘Woodstock of Sketching’ Matthew Brehm called it. With 800 people it was hard enough to find the people you knew! Yet I still managed to meet new people, though for sure, it was a really big crowd. Above, the current Urban Sketchers President, Amber Sausen, sings to the gathered Thursday morning crowd before they set off for their workshops. Below, Amber introduces the Symposium at the Wednesday evening reception. There was a show of hands; over 50% were first-time symposium participants!
USk Porto opening ceremony
One aspect of the symposium this year were the demos. There have been demos before, but this year we had to sign up upon registration and choose whose demo we wanted to attend. Most were held outside on the streets, in the urban setting, our little groups shepherded by friendly volunteers. I went to the demo of Gabi Campanario, Seattle-based journalist and the founder of Urban Sketchers. I’ve not seen Gabi in person since Lisbon 2011 so it was nice to see him again. He was the one who invited me to be a correspondent on the new blog ‘Urban Sketchers’ when it was first launched, back when it was tiny, so it is great to see a decade later just how big and popular it has become. Gabi’s style of sketching is very particular, he works fast but gets in a lot of information; he sketches for a newspaper after all. I’ve always been in particular impressed with his approach to perspective, and it was this that he helped to demonstrate first. He usually draws fairly small, but sketched on a large pad for the demo so that everyone could see. I drew the group watching and learning.
Gabi demo
We were on the Alfandega, which has a lot of very interesting vistas to sketch, so Gabi continued his demo by showing us a bit about how to go about composing such a sketch. I like the poses he gives. The demo is very much a performance, a piece of street theatre that is both instructive and interactive.
Gabi demo
Finally, here is another sketcher, called Paula. I will post more pictures of the other sketchers I drew, though to be honest I don’t feel like I drew enough of the other sketchers this time. There were 800 other participants after all, plus about that many who just joined in the crowds in Porto. I don’t think she minded me sketching her; it’s expected at the symposium, you will be sketched. I’m including this though because she was very much in the act of sketching (actually by this point I think she was checking her phone). I have always wondered about the line between sketching and performance.
USk Porto Paula

On one hand we are working in our private journals, they are our business and not really anybody else’s. You aren’t under any obligation to show anybody anything you have drawn. On the other hand, there is an unwitting performative element to the urban sketcher. I think it’s one that fascinates the public. This is something that I would love to explore further; years ago I used to do interactive theatre, and so many of the workshops and skills and ideas I picked up in those days have informed my attitude to urban sketching. I really want to explore this somehow. When we as sketchers are out in public, creating art, we are in fact engaging in two kinds of performance art. There is the result, the sketch that we share online (and we usually do, as part of Urban Sketchers). Then there is the act of sketching itself. Once I stopped finding a place to hide when I sketch, I started to lose my fear of being watched while I sketch. Why do people watch? They are fascinated that you are creating something. So many times people will come up and say, oh wow that is beautiful, and I have literally drawn five pencil lines and spent ten minutes squinting up at a building. Is that really the thing that is beautiful, or is it the act of going out and actually trying to draw something that is beautiful? I think it’s more often than not the latter. “Wow, did you draw that?” I know artists who get very upset with that statement; in the early days, I would often imagine sarcastic responses too, and mumble them under my breath, but that’s not what the person is asking. They aren’t asking if you drew that. They are making an exclamation of wonder, often not even of the drawing but of the act of drawing, of the bravery that it takes to attempt the drawing in public, the performance. Honestly I could write a long article on this, and go back to my old drama degree theory stuff, Eric Bentley (A plays B watched by C). It is worth thinking about though, when you are next out sketching, how much of it is personal and how much is public performance, albeit of a quiet kind. If that is the case, USk Porto 2018 was one of the largest pieces of public theatre I’ve been to in ages.

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.

Saturday nights down at FC Davis

FC Davis game 032418 sm

There is a new team in town. Well, a new football club. Soccer, that is. They are FC Davis, and have been playing for the last few months at Aggie Stadium, on the UC Davis campus. We have been to a few games already, starting with the 1-1 draw against the East Bay Stompers (yes, Stompers), who had one tall player that had a big bush of hair and scored a penalty (you can see him below). Many fans were making reference to him being the Lion King because of his mane, which I think he seemed to enjoy, especially when he scored; he was definitely their main player. Lots of the people attending I recognized from AYSO, being a soccer coach myself, and while it wasn’t a big crowd it was a fun, local atmosphere. The kids of course just loved rolling down the grass verges behind the goals, that’s what you do when you are 9 and 10. It was a bit confusing having the field play on an American Football gridiron – the soccer field was laid out in barely visible yellow marking, much wider than the football lines, and on one occasion at least a player took a throw-in from the wrong place. I was expecting a Mexican wave to start on the other side of the stadium, one bloke to stand up, then another person thirty seats away, and another even further, but it didn’t happen. The sun went down, and it got quite chilly, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw (or ‘tie’ as they prefer to say here).

FC Davis players 032418-b sm

The club have an interesting colour scheme of black, gold and white, though we only saw them play in white (with gold numbers on the back; the FIFA kit police would not like that). Their badge is a lion; I’m not sure the connection of the lion with Davis California but a lion it is. I’m sure the same can be said for other teams with lions in their badges too, such as Chelsea (no, that is from the lion in the arms of the local Borough of Chelsea), England (no, those are Richard III’s coat of arms), and Aston Villa (ah now that one has a lion for no reason other than lions are cool). Still it’s a more interesting symbol than, I don’t know, a bike or a cow (with apologies to Oxford United fans, and I know it’s a bull). The FC Davis lion is quite stylized though; my son thought it was supposed to be a monkey, so we now call them the Golden Monkey Lion Kings, and I am sure this nickname will not catch on. I also don’t think my new fan song “One Lion” will catch on either, a reworking of the famous 1996 Lightning Seeds / Baddiel and Skinner classic. It goes “One Lion on the shirt, Water-Tower still gleaming, Three months of hurt, Never stopped me dreaming.”

The next time I went they totally went and won for the first time at home. They played Napa 1839 (who very sensibly have a wine bottle as their badge; I wonder if their nicknames is The Bottlers? I don’t know but I already have a slew of potential headlines about them, if ever I have to sub-edit their match reports for a tabloid paper: ‘Napa Caught Napping’, etc and so on, I’m sure there are lots of good wine and bottle ones, ‘Napa bottle their opener’ if they lose their first game for example) (many apologies to Napa for this by the way, got nothing against you, it’s just these headlines would work really well in the British gutter press). So FC Davis won this one (there’s no way they’d get me to write match reports, I go off on more tangents than the Argentine midfield), and Napa sported a two-tone green outfit. It was a close contest, but when FC Davis scored the winner the goalscorer took his shirt off to celebrate with the roaring crowd.

FC Davis match April 14

The third and most recent game we went to was against FC Academica. I kept saying it didn’t matter what the score was, “it was academic”, but nobody seemed to hear me. This was a good game. Academica were pretty tough, and took a commanding 3-0 lead. But as it turns out, FC Davis have a a lot of lion’s courage in them, because they came in the last 20 minutes back to tie it up to 3-3, and really should have won 4-3 but had a free kick disallowed (I think VAR would have probably rectified it). It was a very exciting end to the game. I sketched as much of the match as possible (click on the image below to see in more detail). I haven’t had a chance to come to any more games but it was fun sketching them, hanging out with the family and friends and the players on our team, having pizza and beer, and it only cost five bucks to get in. Go Golden Monkey Lion Kings!!

 

FC Davis 042818 sm

Sorry, ‘Golden Lions’, that is the real nickname. If you’re local and interested, you can visit the FC Davis club website: https://www.footballclubdavis.com/ 

our world cup…

Davis World Cup 2018 sketch sm

So the Davis World Cup took place last weekend. Our team (Serbia / Davis Spurs) didn’t make it to Monday, we won one but lost three, but it was good for at least a couple of the other Davis teams; New Zealand / Davis Hurricane Raptors (10U Girls) won their competition, Namibia / Davis Frostbite (10U Girls) came runners-up in the other 12U competition; China / Davis (U16) won their competition; Germany / Davis Sivad (U14 Boys) lost their final 4-3, while in the U19 category, Austria / Davis Hotspur (U19 Men) won their world cup final 2-1, and France / Davis (U19 Women) won their final 7-0; for many of those players this will probably be their last, as it stops at U19. Very emotional! There were a LOT of games over the weekend. And as mentioned in the last post we had a sketchcrawl. I was only able to sketch one game, another 10U Girls game (Faroe Islands / Davis Riverhawks vs Cayman Islands / Menlo Park). I’ve coached some of the kids on the Davis team before so was pleased to see them win. Now before the sketchcrawl I held a little demo, well less of a demo and more of a talk, well I read from the book I wrote about five-minute-sketching people, and gave out schedules and maps for all the games in the park that day. That was fun.

There are more sketches posted by other sketchers from this sketchcrawl on the brand new ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ Facebook group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/383785982124525/

I know, Facebook is Facebook, and to be honest I rarely use it now except for Let’s Draw Davis, but it’s a handy way for people tom post their sketches from the monthly events. We do of course have a page (maintained by a couple of other local sketchers): https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis/

And  if you are interested in learning more about the Davis World Cup, visit: https://www.davisworldcup.org/

Now, we look forward to the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer… I can’t wait to do another post about all the kits. This year they are incredible!

weekend in LA

Southwest to LAX sep17 sm
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).
LA hotel view sep17 sm
LA skyline sep17 sm
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!
LA hydrant sep17 sm
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.
venice skaters 1 smvenice skaters 2 sm

to boldly arrive

future forward sept 2017 sm
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!
new uc davis chancellor gary may

sketches from “let’s draw davis!” july 2017

Let's Draw Davis people july 2017
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.
Let's Draw Davis people july 2017
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.
Orange Court, Davis CA
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.
Sketchers in Davis
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!