Déanaimis Tarraingt Dáibhís

Last Sunday – St.Patrick’s Day – was the day of our most recent “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl. It was a shortish sketchcrawl, three hours downtown, ending up with a get-together to look at each other’s sketches. This time I included a ‘scavenger hunt’, which was optional, but I gave it a go. It was Ireland-themed, nine things, specific (“an animal sculpture”) or vague (“snakes!”). The weather was lovely, warm and sunny, and lots of people were out. I drew a group of cyclists (a couple of whom I chatted with), focusing on the one of course wearing green.
Let's Draw Davis March 17, 2019

The animal sculpture was easy, as right there on First Street are two enormous animals, a giant dog made of records and a cat gateway thing, outside the Natsoulas Gallery. It’s not a specifically Irish thing, sculpting animals, but not all the list had to be. The dog is called “Roy” and is a tribute to the artist Roy De Forest, by John Natsoulas and others. Becuase I wanted to show some of the detail, the various coloured vinyl records that make it up, I sketched up close, covering the ‘something musical’ point. I used to have some coloured vinyl records, when I was a kid I would sometimes buy them because I liked the colour, not because the music was any good, and I’m guessing those who donated these probably felt the same. Speaking of not-good music, that awful violin player was downtown again, his screeching echoing down E street. I wasn’t drawing him, no way. Sketching the records was a little bit of a challenge as I don’t like drawing circles (it’s why I hate drawing bikes), but also the sun was beating down, so I added the colour once I got into some shade.
Let's Draw Davis March 17, 2019
Below is fellow Davis sketcher Alison, who has been sketching Davis much longer than me and who I knew from the very earliest sketchcrawls. She found a great display of Irish books in the window of Logos Books on 2nd Street, so I sketched her sketching those (the bookshop was my ‘something to do with literature or poetry’), and then I drew one of the books myself, a children’s Irish legend book about St. Brigid’s Cloak. I don’t know enough of the Irish legends myself, despite my Irish family I never learned any of that stuff as a kid (my mum just played Wolfe Tones, Brendan Shine and Daniel O’Donnell a lot), in fact it was my son who told me the story of the Red Hand of Ulster back when he was a preschooler (gory storytime!), though I did like reading about the Fomorians and the Tuatha De Danann, Balor and the Evil Eye, that stuff.  And I loved hearing the story of the Rock of Cashel and Devil’s Bit Mountain when I went there as a kid (Cashel is full of Scully gravestones actually, that always excited me). And I know about St. Patrick of course. There’s a whole wealth of story and mythology I need to read about.
Let's Draw Davis March 17, 2019
“A green object in the street” for me was a street sign. It could have been anything, a tree, a bin, a bike, a bush. I also asked for something more than a hundred years old, and that required a bit of Davis knowledge. I said not to draw my jokes which are all about a hundred years old (including that one). I drew part of the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer mansion, which dates from the 1870s.
Let's Draw Davis March 17, 2019
Now ‘snakes’ was always going to be interpretative, as I don’t expect to see a lot of snakes slithering around. We do of course have snakes in Davis but they like to hide, and don’t often go downtown, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, for obvious reasons. I knew there was a green metal snake sculpture behind the Pence, however it is no longer there, so I ended up drawing some metal pipes, and calling it “snakes”, and there you go.
Let's Draw Davis March 17, 2019

And the last one “DRINK!” is a reference to Father Jack’s favourite word. I had about twenty minutes before the end, so I popped into De Vere’s Irish pub (which was packed), remarkably found a seat at the bar with a great view of the Guinness toucan that had been perched up above the taps. I drew that and had a (quite marked-up) pint of Smithwicks in a plastic glass. I don’t really like drinking Guinness much myself, it’s alright but not really my tipple. And then it was time for the final meet-up with the rest of the group. we had a very good crowd this time around, and I can’t wait for the next one in April! We’ll announce when exactly that is very soon. I have some soccer game rearrangements that are still being figured out, but I’m really in sketching mode this year – I’m already months ahead of my 2018 sketch-count.
Let's Draw Davis March 17, 2019

I never learned much Irish, except a few choice phrases, so the blog title today is a little bit of Google Translate finagling. I quite like bad translation though, there’s a certain comedic innocence to it. We used to play on that in our multi-lingual theatrical performances back at university. I did have a book when I was a teenager, ‘Teach Yourself Irish’, but it was a ridiculously dry edition and put the language out of reach. I could see how it connected to other European languages, but the orthography-to-pronunciation difference was too great for me to hear it in my head, so I just learned a few words and phrases, mostly ones other people had taught me (so I could say them). None of my family ever knew any Irish phrases other than Erin Go Bragh, Cead Mile Failte and Pogue Mahone, the last one being spelled the way the band did, not the spelling I was taught later by Irish people. None of the Irish people I knew as a kid (who were pretty much my nan’s generation) spoke any Irish words, so even as the historic language of my ancestors I never felt much of a connection to it. If they learned it, it was something they might have had to do at school decades before and forgot instantly, same as I remember very little about Chemistry class except a dislike of Bunsen Burners. I do remember when I was about 12 though being somewhere in rural Kerry, and suddenly everything was in Gaelic, the radio stations, the street signs, actually that was it, the only other things around were sheep and fog. It wasn’t until I was much older that I met someone who spoke it natively, as in at home, and whenever she used it to with us it was usually in song and not to be translated (she was clear about that). So, with the Irish language, it’s another thing that I might get around to learning a bit of now we live in the YouTube era, but might not be that high on the priority list living out in California. Anyway I hope all my Irish friends had a fun St. Patrick’s Day! I certainly did.

Hey, if you want to see other people’s sketches from the day (or post your own from the sketchcrawl, if you came along) you can go to the Let’s Draw Davis group page on the dreaded Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/383785982124525/  

To find out when future sketchcrawls will be, our main FB page will show those: https://www.facebook.com/LetsDrawDavis/

drawing davis, last saturday

sketchers at davis amtrak station
A nice peaceful scene, sketchers sketching in the shade. Last Saturday, several of us Davis sketchers met at the Amtrak station for the latest ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl, which was going to go along 2nd Street. It was a very nice meet up, with several new faces, some of whom I had met at my recent talk at the bookstore, and some highly proficient kids too – much faster and more detailed than me! One boy’s sketches reminded me of how I would draw when I was a kid, just going for it with confidence and speed, and that is something we urban sketchers all need to remember. I always have to remind myself, thinking takes up most of the time it takes to do a drawing, so better to think less and just trust yourself. Nevertheless, I still struggled a bit to get the sort of sketches of this station that I want, as evidenced by my next efforts, which do the job of saying where we are but don’t quite do what I was hoping:

davis amtrak station
I have always struggled sketching the Amtrak station. It’s those arches, they’re really hard to line up. It really is a lovely building, but I’ve never been able to do it justice. One thing I can sketch however are those metal pipe things that come out of the ground, backflow preventers. I love sketching those. However I chose to sketch this one, lodged in between the Hunt Boyer mansion and Mishka’s, right at the end of the day and so ran out of time. It was too hot out to finish (I went home with a headache and went straight to bed), but I like the unfinished look. I did do another sketch, while eating lunch, but I’ll post that separately, as thematically it looks different from all of these.

backflow next to mishkas

Many thanks to all who came, it was great to meet and sketch with you! One fellow sketcher it was particularly nice to see again was Robin Carlson, who I met at the Portland symposium back in 2010 (she coloured in one of my sketches at the first workshop there), nice to catch up.

Now hopefully we will have a July sketchcrawl in Davis though I’ll not be organizing it, but stay tuned. The worldwide sketchcrawl is on July 13, and there is a large gathering of urban sketchers happening in the San Francisco Bay Area that weekend which you may be interested in also. Me, I will be at an even larger gathering of urban sketchers in Barcelona

scheduled for demolition

boiler building
I have drawn this building before, but never knew what to call it. It seemed rude to ask its name by that point. The boiler building, by the music building, has long been a favourite of mine for the rusting boilers and pipes that dot its edges, and its general old but warm feel. A slice of the old campus, a cousn of Hart Hall. Here is my previous drawing (which hung on the walls of the Pence in my show last December; it’s now available in my Etsy store). The one above was done a week or so ago, when I was invited to come and sketch it with Catherine Buscaglia, from UC Davis Design and Construction Management, who had emailed me to let me know that finally this old building will sadly be demolished later this month. I have come back a couple of times to draw it again, and may come back to witness its demise.


Here are some of the rusty boilers I was talking about. I have drawn them before, as part of my ‘pipes and hydrants’ series, and you can see them here. I have looked through the broken window, and inside it looks even more interesting for sketchers of metal pipes, though I may be a little too scared of spiders crawling all over me to sketch inside. Below, one more, done from the front side of the building. The ever changing landscape; I wonder how it will look by the time the new academic year begins?
boiler building (other side)

do backflow preventers dream of electric sheep?

E street backflow preventer

Last Friday after work, I took advantage of the still-daylight-hours of eary October to draw downtown, another larger drawing. I have drawn this scene before a couple of times, but it’s an interesting building on E Street with an even more interesting metal-pipe-thing in front of it. I sat outside the Natsoulas Gallery, and it was a gorgeous evening, with many people out and about. Occasionally people would come up to me and say, “ooh, that’s nice”, which is always nice. One guy loved that I was drawing the pipes. I told him I’ve drawn lots of them. They’re like art sculptures all over the town, he said, and I agree. I’ve always though they kind of look like robotic animals, this perhaps being some sort of camel. “Backflow Preventers,” I told him they are called, as I was told a while back by someone who works with them. Very technical beasts they are too. What do they do, he asked. Prevent backflows, I suppose, whatever that means. I don’t really know. I prefer to be ignorant of what they actually do, it’s like magic, it just has its function in the world. But I do love how they look.

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under the sea

monterey bay aquarium

A few weeks ago we spent the weekend in Monterey, staying near Cannery Row. We like it down there – it’s a nice cool place to escape frm the central valley heat. The place we stayed at was a little noisy though, not just from traffic, but from seagulls, bloody seagulls all hours of the day and night. I love the sea, really really love it, I feel at home beside the big blue, but for the seagulls. Always folloiwng the trawler, thinking that sardines will be thrown into the sea, zut alors. Give me the things that swim below the waves. To see them, we went to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

This was the third time we’ve been. The first time was nice and relaxing, while the second time was less so (it was the addition of a constantly-running one-year-old, you see). This time was nicer; the one-year-old is now three, and a little more interested (but not as interested as he was in the trolley buses outside). I did what sketching I could (fish move pretty fast), and it was not easy in those large rooms with the deep sea tanks, it was dark and like drawing blind (and my green and blue microns were near invisible). That Ocean Sun Fish was an odd fish – absolutely huge, it was shaped more like an enormous chicken nugget than a fish.

hovden cannery pipes

The remnants of the old sardine canning industry can be seen here still, and there were lots of cool pipes and industrial features to draw. I love these sorts of things, they remind me of the game Mouse Trap. Thankfully, no little cage rattling down a pole, just a lot of people crowding in the gift shop.

towering over our heads

nanodrawmo 50

Finally! I reached my goal of fifty drawings in November for NaNoDrawMo 2010, and here are the last four. Actually I drew more than fifty drawings this month, but I’m not counting those not in this set. I filled a whole watercolour sketchbook front to back with drawings of fire hydrants and other metal pipes that come out of the ground. The final sketch is the biggest metal pipe, the larger of UC Davis’s iconic water towers. This was a fun project, and the majority of the drawings were done on site (except for those few from photos taken in LA), as I had really wanted to use this project to explore and take a closer look at the missable stuff around us. I can now spot even subtle differences between the hydrants I see around town, so the observation exercise was successful. Everything is interesting if you take an interest in it.

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And now, no more fire hydrants for a long, long time! Here’s the book they all fit in, and the pen that made it through to the end (others were chewed up like, er, I dunno, chewits).

nanodrawmo sketchbook

See the other great artists who made it to 50 here.

formed a band, we formed a band, look at us, we formed a band

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Ever more NaNoDrawMo pipes… I stood behind the Engineering building at UC Davis to draw the one above. I like pretending that these things are actually something else, like robot spying devices, or a cyberman’s torturing device. In fact it’s rather like a big elaborate pound sign (that’s pound sterling, not the # sign – which we Brits call the hash key, not ‘pound’ as Americans do. Very confusing when using banking menu systems). Below left is an insectoid intruder, poking his head through the concrete like a metal mole. Reminds me of an underwater adventurer.

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Above right is a fire hydrant I attempted to sketch in Santa Rosa. I had to abandon it because I got rained on significantly, so finished it at home from memory (didn’t even have a camera). Well, I can remember what these types look like, surely.

Below, a big white dragon from outside the police station. It has two dragon-cubs beside it but they weren’t drawn in, as I didn’t have time, and couldn’t be bothered.

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Below left, Ringo Starr’s drum kit. Actually could be any drummer, Ringo just popped to mind because he is an ickle fellow. I love Ringo.  

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Numbers 44-46 are drawn from photos taken back in September, when I was down in Los Angeles. These are hydrants from Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey. I was getting sick of local hydrants so added a few different designs. I sketched similar ones to these while down there, but took photos of these in case I had some ridiculous excuse to draw them later on, like NaNoDrawMo. Here they are. #45 is like a big yellow clown, like c-3PO’s insane cousin from the circus. I particularly like #46.

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Just four more to go… today’s the last day…

the red lion

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The quest for the NaNoDrawMo fifty marches on… these three were drawn on the Davis sketchcrawl. I was drawn to those very red pipes outside the cinema on F street. There was something I wanted to say about the colour red and that particular weekend… oh yes! That Team in Red 2, Spurs 3! Great way to start the weekend, that.

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More to come…

ceci n’est pas une pipe

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More old pipes for the NaNoDrawMo project. These incredible old pipes and tanks are outside the music building on campus (or rather, the one next to the music building, called ‘Temporary Building 159’). I think it’s going to be demolished or redeveloped, so I’ve meant to sketch these rusty pipes for a long time.  

Below, a very useful pipe outside Chemistry, and next to it, three rusty pipes which just stick out of the ground doing I’m not sure what. This is a very metal pipe month. These are exercises in observation though.

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