2020 poops its last

D St phonebox 123120

This was the last sketch of 2020, outside Cloud Forest Cafe on D Street, Davis. And in the spirit of 2020, a bird pooped on the page while I was sketching, as if to say, you know what, this year is not done with you yet. At least I presume it was a bird. I was standing underneath a tree, and then plop a big black splat across the page. It was really dark black as well, which makes me think maybe it wasn’t a bird but one of those oily things that trees occasionally plop onto the sidewalk, there are trees here that do that, lots of sticky paths. But it was a direct hit, missing my clothing completely, and leaving thick muck across the page. I wiped it off but was also a little delighted. This will be something to talk about! I thought, happy to have a conversation starter. Also, if the sketch didn’t turn out to be all that, I’d have a ready-made get-out-of-hard-drawing card, plus the actual effect of the black poop (which splattered bluish grey poop artistically across the spread) would make it look really interesting. Unfortunately I did such a good job at cleaning it up (I didn’t want to leave too much of it on there, in case it was diseased, if it was from a crow and I got sick it would be ironic after avoiding covid to get ill from a corvid), that it looks like a brownish smudge now. Still, whether it was a crow or a tree that pooped onto the page, I welcomed it as the last hurrah of twenty-twenty. What a year! I don’t know about you, but I thought 2020 was a little bit shit.

And now it is 2021. I saw online that if Back to the Future was made now, Marty McFly would be travelling back to 1991. 1991! There would be loads of references to jokes about the ridiculous idea of Donald Trump being president some day, and Doc Brown would be asking if Bryan Adams was still number 1. There would be payphones and cassette players. When Marty walks into a 1990s cafe wearing his 2021 clothing, someone would say “hey what’s with the face mask?” And when Marty travelled 30 years into the future to the far-off year of 2051 there would be a news report about Tottenham winning the Premier League (as well as all the usual flying cars. Anyway the point I’m making is that we now live in the future and we used to live in the past when it was the present. Wait no the point is, what seemed like ancient prehistory to us in the 80s and 90s is as far away from us then as the 80s and 90s is to us now. And when you think about it, it’s really even further. Is 1991 closer to 1961 than 2021 is to 1991? I mean, it kind of is. The internet, mobile phones (and not the big brick ones carried by yuppies in 1991), plus lots of other things I’m too lazy to think of. (Tottenham won the FA Cup in both of those years too, so maybe 2021 is our year?) Let’s just say that sounds about right, 1961 and 1991 are closer to each other than 1991 and 2021. Or maybe not, I don’t care that much.

But will 2021 be that different from 2020? 2020 was definitely different to 2019 for example. I did approximately half the amount of drawing in the past twelve months as in the previous, but then 2019 was a bumper year for sketching and travelling. I went to London three times in 2019, but zero in 2020. Right now my calendar says it is 2021, but the president is still that same tiresome person for another few weeks, people are still getting sick and dying, businesses are still closing, we’re still working and schooling from home, the pandemic is still raging as bad as ever, though at least there are vaccines now. 2020, the real 2020, won’t actually stop until we are out of This Whole Thing, in the same way that the ‘real 2020’ didn’t start until mid-March, but then again we might not be back to any sort of normal for a long time yet, so we’ll just keep on keeping on. And Happy New Year, all the same. 

red box

phone booth on D St

This phone box is on D Street in Davis. I drew it last year as part of the show I had at the Pence (and it was the first to sell) and also again recently in my sketchbook. This version was done as a commission, so drawn using those sketches and some photos as reference. I thought I would show you how it looked only partially coloured too, since I like that look.
For those of you from previous centuries, a phone box is where people would sometimes go to make phone calls when they didn’t actually want the entire street to hear their loud and dull phone conversation. Such conventions seem very outdated these days. While this doesn’t have an actual telephone in it any more (and of course was imported from Britain), perhaps people should still be made to go inside such phone booths to use their cellphones, I’d be in favour of that by-law.

phone booth on D St

Merry Christmas folks!

space travel’s in my blood

D St mustard seed

Here’s a sketch I did one lunchtime this week, of the old phone box and Mustard seed restaurant in downtown Davis. There’s no phone in the phone box, it’s just a bit of anglophile decoration. They lock the door now, which is a shame, as me and my young son always used to stop by and pretend it was a rocket ship, and we would go inside and fly off to Saturn, and maybe stop off on the asteroid belt, before coming back to Davis again. It’s good to get off the planet, every now and then.

I sketched this in the watercolour Moleskine (#11) with that uniball signo um-151 brown pen I love so much.

dog and bone

G st phonebox
Remember when we used to use public phones? God, we were dumb! Putting our coins in, talking for a bit, putting more coins in, hunting woolly mammoth; it’s so much better now we live in the future with our iPhones and blueteeth and hoverboards. There is a living relic of this ancient past on G Street, complete with a ‘phonebook’ (which doesn’t even have a search box, and people have clearly been writing their names on it to try). I have been meaning to draw this for a while, so I drew it during the sketchcrawl on G Street last Saturday. This being a historic neighbourhood, I can imagine it being used by early farm settlers, gold prospecters, maybe even local Native American tribes (before the invention of the smoke-signal app, obviously). I drew this in the Stillman and Birn gamma sketchbook, with a Micron pen and Cotman watercolours, and it took a little under an hour.

she’s not quite right and she don’t fit in with the small town

british phonebooth D st

This one was a bit of a bugger. This phonebox (and I know I’ve drawn phoneboxes more than once lately) is on D street, it’s the ‘other’ Davis one. Authentically British (no phone, no glass in the windows), the Giles Gilbert Scott masterpiece and distant cousin of Waterloo Bridge adds to Davis’s quirky and vaguely Britophile character (there’s the phoneboxes, the old London double-decker buses, and that handsome red-head guy who draws the fire hydrants). Shes  just decoration, really. My son and I pretend she’s a rocket ship. She’s a space oddity, standing outside the Mustard Seed. Anyway, last week I went downtown, sat down here to draw her, got everything ready and then realized I had left my pencil case in my office. D’oh. So I went and got a couple of new microns at the Paint Chip, and decided to draw something else, but for some unknown reason I couldn’t, I was feeling derailed. So I came back next day, and sat and drew as much as possible, in this very detailed spot. I finished off the remaining details and colours at home, but for some reason I’ll always have an awkward feeling about this one, like I was never comfortable, took too long, maybe irritated by drawing another phone box. But here she is, a little piece of the homeland relocated to Davis. I would say I know how she feels, but I’m not a phonebox, I’m a person.

another day spent sketching uc davis

phonebox at MU, uc davisUCD hydrant at the quad

Another “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl, this time on the UC Davis, an eerily quiet UC Davis, the calm before the very big storm of new students. We were a smaller group this time, but no less determined to sketch, and there was a lot to draw on campus. We met at the Memorial Union bus station, by the red phone box, and fanned out to sketch the campus.north hall UC Davis

Above is North Hall, a building I’ve attempted before, the one with the fun-to-draw staircase. Below, Alan and Alison, long-time Davis sketchers, sketching at the MU bus terminal. sketchcrawl sketchers

The next one will be on October 15th. Stay tuned for details!

brrrrr! drawing uc davis

a little bit of england

After a week of winter storms and immense downpours, the weather calmed down a little (just a little) in time for the latest Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl. It still rained, but the main thing was that it was freezing cold! So not as many people came as on the last one, but a few of us braved the cold and got sketching. We met at the corner of 3rd and A – the rather optimistic plan was to sketch the UC Davis campus all day. I was sketching mostly in my new  59c micro-sketchbook and captured lots of little mini-sketches, some of which are below (I didn’t bother scanning all of them). The final sketch of the day, in a period when there was a little sun, was done at the MU bus station on campus, a little piece of England (the phone box above). That on was in my moleskine.


Allan Hollander, veteran Davis sketcher.
helennewspaper boxes

Helen Peng from China, plus some newspaper boxes sketched from a cafe.


Cynthia Sterling, sketcher from Napa. 
3rd & A, davis

Sketched at the meeting point, 3rd and A. Note the raindrops on my paper! (I was using a water soluble pen for a change).

The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be in March (probably the 19th or 20th) at the Arboretum… details soon! Hopefully, the weather will be a little warmer…

leave me hanging on the iPhone

phonebox at uc davis

I have told you I’m sure that UC Davis has some old things that used to live in London; some old double-decker buses, a couple of red phone booths, and, er, me. I’m not that old, but I do remember when people actually used phone booths, ah yes them were simpler days, 10p a call, with those big heavy phonebooks and the odd, ahem, business card stuck to the window. Phoneboxes. Remember when you had to queue to use one? People just don’t any more, now they carry the latest personal holographic cyber-communication devices from apple or orange or some fruit or other. Me, yes i have a cellphone I hate using, but I haven’t joined the iPhone age yet (never understood that name, wouldn’t an earPhone be more useful?). I can’t quite bring myself to join the Church of Apple, and become a devotee in sleek white and make annual pilgrimages to Macworld and worship the word of Mr Jobs. Then there is the iPad… when I first saw it I thought it was a joke iPhone, like the ‘HELLO?’ guy Dom ‘Triggerhappy’ Joly. ‘YEAH I’M IN THE APPLE STORE IT’S RUBBISH!’ What is the small ‘i-‘ prefix all about anyway? Apparently it makes things cooler. If they got rid of the nuclear deterrent and replaced it with iBomb or iNuke, CND would be finished. Countries would only stockpile them to make other countries jealous (hang on, that’s what the Cold War was all about, wasn’t it?). But that ‘i’… it’s a bit self-centered isn’t it? There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team; ah but there is in ‘iTeam’.   

Ironically enough, this old booth (drawn at the MU bus terminal, in micron 1 pen) has no phone in it. It’s just there to look cool. Which it does.

boring conversation anyway

phonebooth on 3rd st

Do people even use phoneboxes any more? I barely even use my cellphone. I have a pay-as-you-go plan, which is not like the one I have on my still-active English phone (which still has the plan set up years ago on one-2-one, even has that logo on the screen!). No the one I have here means that you spend $25 to top it up fro three months. If you don’t add more money by the end of the three months, not only can you not use the phone but you lose whatever money you have left (and since I never use it, that’s usually most of it). If you renenw, it doesn’t just add three months onto whenever your three months is up, it just goes three months from whenever you topped up, so essentially you lose days, unless you renew right on the last day. Confused? I am. I have never liked mobile phones here. It’s just incredible to me that you get charged for receiving a call. That’s why I never give people my number, because I’ll never pick up if I don’t recognise it (for a while I was getting a lot of marketing calls, especially around the time of the election).

Speaking of cold calls, I hate those ones that have that pre-recorded message, “this is your final notification to renew your car insurance”, or some such, when yesterday and the day before and the day before that were the final norifications, and tomorrow too, all from companies I’ve never done business with. I hate the robots. At least with real people calling I can antagonize them a bit (sometimes I talk reeeeallllyyy reeeeeaaaallllyyyyy slowly), but even then my heart’s not in it, and I feel sorry for them. After all, everyone’s gotta work. I had to do it, once, for about a week and a half, many many years ago. It was not fun, and the guy running the show (I think he was called ‘Boyd’ or something) fancied himself as a bit of a hardnose, so I left to get a job as a male dinner-lady at a posh school. I remember one time, I made the marketing call, and ended up chatting to an old guy on the phone for about half an hour about his work (writing travel brochures), literature, travel, I forget now. Either way I didn’t sell him whatever it was they were selling. It cheered me up though. I sometimes wonder if those cold callers wouldn’t also fancy a nice long chinwag, a chat about the footy, or the state of modern television, just to ease the drudgery of their work. But if they do, I wish they’d stop calling me right in the middle of Jeopardy.

hanging on the telephone


No, this isn’t the magical forest where things from London just pop up between the trees, it’s the MU bus terminal at UC Davis, which has magpied a few British things to make them feel more like Londoners. Also at this terminal – it’s the only place in California where it rains, there are gangs of tabloid hoodies waiting to scowl at you from a distance, and there’s bloody Boris Johnson with his pointless competition for pointless new routemasters. Authentic. Actually no, you can keep those things, we’ll just take the phonebox, the lamp-post and the bus. Cheers.

Hanging on the Telephone… do you remember when Saddam was executed, and there were those guys filming it on their mobiles? I wonder if that song was running through their minds for a soundtrack?

On that note… Happy Thanksgiving!