all the people, so many people

Farmers Market People

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.

ucd people 042017

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.
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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.

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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.

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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”.
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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?

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the 100th picnic day

picnic day 2014 smA couple of weeks ago, UC Davis celebrated its 100th annual Picnic Day. One hundred! Click on the images to see larger versions (or you could hold your face close to the screen, though I wouldn’t advise it). Picnic Day is a UC Davis institution, the largest university open house in the country, attracting thousands of visitors to such attractions as the Doxie Derby, Battle fo the Bands, the Chemistry Magic Show, and, er kittens. Yes, we waited for half an hour in line to see kittens, only to find out they were now cats (they were probably kittens when we started queuing). Four cats, just sitting there doing nothing, two of which were asleep. Yet massively popular. My six year old wanted to see nothing else. The first thing we watched however was the Parade, the annual march of bands, bikes, floats, the occasional political candidate, which was as fun as ever. We sat down outside Shields Library to watch it, when I started painting, but broke my water jar (as described in a previous episode). I added the rest of the colours at home.

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This second spread was sketched at the Battle of the Bands. I went home with my family, already tired after the excitement of the cats, and had a rest before heading back in to see the famous band battle. I’ve only seen it once, briefly, but I don’t really like crowds. I am getting better at sketching in large numbers now though, but nonetheless it was tricky. I stood at the top of the slope leading down to Lake Spafford, on the banks of which were gathered the bands themselves. Now these aren’t your guitar-hero indie-beard bands, oh no these are the colourful marching bands, and boy is this an event. The bands come from universities around California. The idea is that each band takes turns playing a song, and then by the end of the day (or night), the last band standing, the last one that has not exhausted all its known songs, is the winner (and I’m told it’s always the UC Davis Aggies). It is crazy, and chaotic, but it all works, and those musicians really keep it up for hours and hours. On the left there is a dancing tree from Stanford. I finally left during a long bit in the middle where all the bands came together in groups of the same instrument, and placed themselves around the crowd in a kind of promenade-theatre fashion, playing a continuous jam (I left after 45 minutes and it was still going on) in a variety of poses. Definitely a Davis event to be experienced at some point in your life.

And this was all. In nine years this is the most Picnic Day sketching I have ever done.

if you go down to the campus today

picnic day 2010

Today was the 96th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, the largest university open house event in the United States. That means thousands of people, lots of events like dachshund derbies and cockroach races, food, music, and animals. Admittedly I’m not a massive fan (see the bit in the last sentence about thousands of people) but braved it, because I thought my two-year-old would like the fire trucks and the horses. I wasn’t wrong; he loved it, had a great time, and so did we. I drew one of the shiny old fire trucks (I intended to draw more things, but don’t really like drawing crowds). As I write, the Battle of the Marching Bands is still raging down by the lake.

Year 2, week 82: No Picnic

It’s the big event of the year for Davis, the one local event when everybody says, yes I should get myself down there for that. Picnic Day has been a feature of the UC Davis spring calendar for about ninety years. It is the largest student-organised open house event in the US, when the departments swing open their doors and put on all sorts of fun events, often involving animals (the university began as an agricultural school, and still has many resident cows, some of whom apparently have windows in their stomachs, which must be a pane in the arse). I had to miss last year’s Picnic Day due to working – I still got to see the parade as it marched past the bookstore though – so I was really looking forward to this year’s event. I particularly wanted to see the famous Battle of the Bands event, a band-off between marching bands that is apparently lots of fun. I never got to find out, though, because this year it pissed down, so we just said sod it, and went home.

We did see the parade, though, marching past the bookshop – a surprising number of people took part, either covered up beneath layers of plastic, or braving the elements dressed up in whatever their department represents (the Classics dept, for example, were all robed in skimpy Roman togas). The legendary “California Aggie Marching Band-uh!” led the way (silly name, I know, but highly beloved and very popular – click here for a ridiculously long and detailed history of the organization), followed by all manner of madness, tractors and the like. My favourite paraders (apart from the giant cow) are the quirky wheeled contraptions invented by eccentric Davisites – you often see these guys around town, bobbing up and down on two great tires and the like. I should write a blog entry all about these guys, but other than the wierd spectacle and the odd sight downtown, I know nothing at all about them – they are as mysterious to me as a golf club to a pelican. Don’t ask where that phrase just came from.

We attempted to leave downtown Davis and cross the bollard divide into the land of the UC, where the real fun was to begin. I was interested in seeing the band-off, and the doxy derby (sausage dogs racing each other, I’m told), but the rain got the better of us. We tasted some brand new UC Davis olive oil, got some free vines at the viticulture and enology department (look the word up if you don’t know what it means; I went for an interview with them once, and I thought it was something to do with insects), but couldn’t bear to keep going. Some picnic. Still, I heard that it continued, albeit with most events cancelled. A few days later, I read a letter in the college newspaper from a rain-disgruntled student saying that Picnic Day should be moved to May. Despite the fact we’ve had hardly any rain this year, and that that it is usually very warm and sunny in mid April. Please. I was bummed it rained, but you know, these things sometimes happen. Honestly, this guy should be grateful – in England, if there’s a picnic or a parade or a holiday of any kind, you expect it to rain. Sure, getting drenched was a downer, but it did kind of remind me of home.