I mean, this is my main view a lot, looking over the top of my iPad, on the couch, a can of Pepsi Max (sorry, Pepsi Zero Sugar), my knees. We saw all the drawings of my house a year ago (see petescully.com/tag/uskathome/ for some of them). I was having a bit of a tough week, touch couple of weeks, I think we’ve all been getting a bit like that, but there are days when you just want to focus and get the head straight. I wasn’t sleeping too well, and on this day I got up super early and started doing some work. By lunchtime I was already exhausted again, so I sat on the couch while Paris St. Germain played Manchester City in the Champions League. That was the first leg, when PSG had a great first half but fell apart in the second. I liked James Richardson’s description of the game, that “Parisians were losing their heads like it was A Tale of Two Cities, which in a way it was, the worst of the halves and the best of halves”. I wish I could have thought of that. I think of funny things sometimes but I forget them, and other people do too. Sketching often helps, it’s where I go when I need to go somewhere. That was the case at every age. I like drawing on the iPad to just mess about. I use Procreate to draw, but I use Notability a lot to write notes with, and doodle like I would on a notepad in a meeting. Constantly doodling. Ahhh, I need a sketching trip, a proper trip where all I do is go around by myself drawing everything, but right now even the thought of it exhausts me.
This here is the Tri-Co-Ops at UC Davis. I have drawn it before (haven’t I drawn everything in Davis before?) but this one was done on the iPad using Procreate, drawn so that I could show the step-by-step as a demonstration video on the UC Davis Sustainability Sketchcrawl on Earth Day, not a real sketchcrawl because it was virtual, done over Zoom, but a sketching event anyway. The people who took part, I am not sure how many there were (nor did the organizers show their drawings after), they were then invited to draw along while I did a live sketch of a wheelbarrow (also from the Tri-Co-Ops), talking about the process as I went.
I drew that on the iPad too so that I could share screen. I recently did my staff evaluation at work, and one thing I did not put down as a skill I have learned is proficiency with Zoom, because even though I’m much more of a master at it than I was a year ago, join the bleedin’ club mate, what d’you want a medal? I have done the thing where I set m phone up as a camera to share that over Zoom, angling it down above the desk so people can see me draw (I did a workshop last year where I did that) but the connection kept freezing, my wifi wasn’t too strong in the bedroom desk where I was giving the workshop. I had considered doing a live sketch on site, setting up a tripod and Zooming direct from the UC Davis campus like a proper old-school live roving reporter, like Danny Baker, but with hopefully fewer train-station arguments. (Danny Baker fans will probably remember that clip, “Don’t you DARE talk to me like that!”). The campus wifi wasn’t strong enough though to Zoom outside for an hour where I wanted to sketch, so I didn’t do that. So, I sat at the relative comfort of my desk at home, with the cats and a cup of tea.
Here’s the video. Now I’m not sure if you can actually view the video in this blog post, but if you click on that image it will take you to my Flickr page which hosts it, and you should see the video there. I tried to approach drawing it digitally as if I were drawing it in my sketchbook, blocking with a bit of pencil then diving into the ink, finishing off by colouring it in. It’s not exactly Bob Ross, or even Tony Hart, and it’s just the drawing coming into shape, no words by me. I have thought about doing a step-by-step video, narrating as a I go, but I think it wouldn’t turn out as well as I would like, and you’d probably hear me saying “oh bugger!” and “oh bollocks!” a lot. Or maybe just saying “err…” a lot.
As it happens, when I did the virtual sketchcrawl last year, they recorded it and put the video on YouTube. So, here’s the video of me sketching a bike in 2020, early in the Zoom era. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MKklfPxnU4 . Not exactly my best drawing, but it’s always harder when people are watching! And I managed to avoid saying “bugger” or other popular British vocabulary, but I do say “err” and “umm” a lot. And very few silly jokes!
Here’s a digital sketch from a recent UC Davis Staff Assembly meeting, with the Chancellor Gary May speaking on screen there. This is my at-home desk still. There’s a lot going on here. I try to keep it clear but things just keep showing up there. I would like a new desk, to be honest. Maybe one of those fancy ones that goes up and down so I can stand. One of our lecturers at work has one that I really like. Drew this on the iPad, took the odd note here and there, did half of it over lunch once the meeting was over while Barcelona played PSG in the background, a Champions League match on a Spanish language channel. This working from home thing is so done now. I do go into the office once a week to take care of something or other, I much prefer it. At home I am too close to the snacks in the kitchen. Part of this meeting was the discussion about our plan to return to campus this Fall, all in-person again. It’s still early doors yet, but I’m optimistic. But it’s going to be a long transition, for everyone. Let’s face it, we’re not going back to normal normal any time soon, this will all take a long time to get over.
On the day of the Inauguration of the new President of the United States, Joe Biden, I watched and made notes on the iPad. I kinda don’t know where to stop when note-taking a speech as it’s going on, I feel like I have to inscribe every word, but you don’t know before going in what the most important bits will be. For example, I might write down a bit about coat-hangers or something, and then forget to write down the bit about a groundbreaking theory on dark matter or something. Not the topics of this speech but on a historic day you don’t want to be the person at FDR’s inauguration that wrote down the bits about locusts and profits but left out “The only thing we have to fear is Fear Itself”. So I just wrote words as they happened. I didn’t sketch during the incredible inaugural poem by Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”, I was just enthralled by that, it was a beautiful moment. I will probably sketch Ms Gorman’s performance some other time, I’ve rewatched it a few times already. I really enjoyed Kamala Harris’s speech too. But Biden’s inauguration gave me a great deal of happiness. I just wish I hadn’t drawn him looking more like Robert Kilroy-Silk. He totally does! In my drawing anyway, the real Joe looks nothing like Kilroy. Oh, Kilroy. Remember him? Americans won’t, he used to be on TV in the 90s, in the mornings, he had a kind of Jerry Springer-lite show called “Kilroy”. I remember actually watching it each morning on TV in the common room in the place where I lived in Belgium while eating a tuna panini for breakfast, so I always get the memory of the taste of tuna whenever I think of Kilroy. In fact it wasn’t like Jerry Springer at all thinking back; it was one of those daytime chat shows that was on at around 9:30 or 10am, right after BBC Breakfast Time or whatever was over, but the audience group was all sat facing the camera and there would be a topic they would talk about, I don’t know, whatever middle-England busybodies would talk about, holes in the road or immigrants or something, and Kilroy would bound about from person to person with his mike and his perma-tanned face and his kilroy-silky voice, and then he would tell you all to “take care of yourselves…and each other” in a totally non-creepy way, before his got show cancelled after he wrote controversial things about Arabs, then he was an early UKIPer, bounding about being all anti-EU, and I don’t think I ever thought of Kilroy once since leaving Britain in 2005 until now, when I accidentally drew him accepting the Presidency of the United States. The last thing we’d need is a perma-tanned TV personality with a history of having a go at muslims and banging on about immigrants in charge of things, eh kids. In fact I had to check my notes to make sure I didn’t mis-hear Biden saying “Take care of yourselves…and each other”; thankfully he didn’t. But anyway, welcome President Joe! And I had no idea his middle name was ‘Robinette’, you learn something new every day.
I was in the office this week, campus is still closed but I had a lot to do there, preparing for the new academic year. At the end of the day, I got to enjoy Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speaker Series, hosted by UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, with special guest presenter Gary Younge. It was titled “Going Viral: Race, Racism and Rebellion in the Midst of a Pandemic”. The talk was presented remotely from England, and so I watched in my office and sketched my desk and the laptop while it was on, using my iPad. I really enjoyed it. The live Q&A afterwards with Chancellor May and Gary Younge was cut short unfortunately due to loss of connection. It has been a long time since I drew my work desk, in fact I don’t think I have drawn it since moving offices. When I’m on campus I usually keep the drawing space and the work space separate, even though I’ve not been working from this desk regularly in several months now due to this damned pandemic. See if you can spot my Baby Yoda hand sanitizer.
They are nearly done with Walker Hall, the new Graduate Center at UC Davis being built inside the completely renovated and changed older building in the middle of the UC Davis campus. I’ve been drawing it for a few years, though obviously not much in the past few months. I will get down there again soon. In 2020 I only managed these two sketches, one on the iPad and one in the sketchbook. There are only so many angles I can draw and draw again, looking in from the outside, but you can really see the changes now. The glass is being added to the windows, signs being put up around it to let everyone know what this will be, it will really make a difference to this part of campus, just as the impressive Student Community Center next door has done.
I get really obsessed with construction projects sometimes, especially if they are just a couple of minutes from my work (and easy to draw at lunchtime). It’s also that thing where you’ve drawn so much of campus and city that anything new, any changes happening, are worth tracking in a sketchbook. Before and after are fine, but during a construction you get to see things in a very temporary state. When I draw the Manetti Shrem being built, I captured views that I would never have another chance to sketch even later the same day. When using a sketchbook to record them, you are seeing them how your mind sees them, focusing on what you can. This is then also a record of how you saw the construction, what you thought was important enough to put on paper; same with every sketch.
You can see all the other Walker Hall sketches in this tag: https://petescully.com/tag/walker-hall/
And so, it’s time to start catching up with 2020’s sketching posts. This one was done in late February, back in the golden age of being able to crowd together in close proximity to other humans, not knowing any better. This was drawn at the Avid Reader bookstore on a momentous occasion, the moment ownership of this long-time Davis staple passed from Alzada Knickerbocker to the Arnold family, a local family here in Davis. I of course had to go along. This was the first place I worked in America, Alzada was my first boss. I had two jobs here at first, partly working the store, and partly being the shop’s bookkeeper (which was the same job I did for a small independent bookshop in England before I moved out here). It was only part-time but it got me started, and shortly afterwards I started working full-time for the university (in the same department I am still working in), but I remained here on Saturdays and a couple of evenings per week, working at the little desk under the stairs behind a pile of Ingrams invoices. I hadn’t worked there since just before my son was born, so it’s been a long time, but I always popped in to say hello. I have been back in my official capacity as artist a few times to give talks or exhibit sketches. It was nice to go in and see Alzada off after all these years, and welcome in the new owners. I was surprised to see one of my old drawings of the shop in a frame on display at the counter, a piece of the history there. Unfortunately in less than a month the world was hit by the coronavirus and everything closed up, but they have been doing business and recently opened up again to the public, albeit with all the social distancing rules. But look at this, a crowded shop, with wine and sandwiches and people looking over my shoulder; we didn’t know, though we were being warned, but it wasn’t yet real to us. I had already been to hospital that month though – a couple of weeks earlier (on my birthday in fact) I was in the emergency room with a nasal infection that grew rapidly, and thankfully got under control within about a fortnight, but was pretty painful (as well as unsightly). In the hospital, which was pretty busy even pre-Covid 19, everyone was asked to disclose where they had travelled in the past few weeks, and hand sanitizer was doubled up, but this was still the pre-mask time, and since I was not contagious I was free to go to the soccer tournament the next day, full of people in close contact, seems hard to imagine now. I was heavily tanked up on medicine though, and exhausted much of the time, but our under-12 team did well and came third overall (though I think we had a good shot at winning it, we just missed out in the semi-finals in high winds to the team who eventually won it; still, a third place medal was a good finish). Our season was put on hold in mid-March, and eventually cancelled, including the Davis World Cup tournament which I was on the organizing committee for (I had spent a long time designing the logo! I’ll have to reuse it next year). This year has been a shame. But I am glad to see the Avid Reader is still going through all this, and wish the new owners the Arnolds all the very best in keeping this shop at the heart of the community, as well as wishing Alzada the best in a well-deserved retirement.
2020 has been a big pile of farts wrapped inside a cake of poo mixed into a giant bowl of wee. And just when you think it can’t hold any more beer, every day just keeps asking it to hold its beer. Why will no day this year hold its own beer? Is it too much to ask to maybe just put your beer on a table or maybe don’t do the thing you were going to do that requires you to not hold a beer? Go home 2020, you are drunk. But you’ll have to walk because there are no cabs, and you better be in before the curfew starts.
2019 ended so well, at least for me. We spent the final days of the year in Hawai’i, in a tropical paradise sipping cocktails in the pool and playing the ukulele in the ocean. It seems like an extravagant piece of fantasy fiction now; if you try to visit Hawai’i these days you have to quarantine for two weeks, and your hotel gives you a one-time-only key that lets you into your room but not back again if you deign to leave it. Cheers 2020 you utter *!#*%!. Happily I did start the year with my feet in the ocean. It was only ever going downhill from there.
So, finally I’ll post some of the sketches I did while there. I didn’t do too many, as I was pretty busy sipping cocktails and playing the ukulele in the ocean, but of course I draw whenever I can so here are a few. Above, sketched on the flight to Kahului in Maui, where we would change before flying to Kona on the west side of Hawai’i, the Big Island. We were spending Christmas there – you can see I have spelled “Mele Kalikimaka” wrong – that’s Hawaiian for Merry Christmas – with my wife’s family also flying in from California, and from there we were going to spend New Year’s back in Maui, just the three of us. Hawai’i is pretty great, but I might occasionally leave the apostrophe behind and just say Hawaii if that’s ok.
An attempt at drawing digitally, which I was still getting the hang of, waiting to change planes at Maui airport. We took so many flights last year, going all over the place, that it’s probably for the best that in 2020 we’ll be taking so few. I’m not a fan of airports, at least they are small in Hawaii and have lots of those lovely chocolate covered macadamia nuts to eat, expensive though they are.
I’ll tell you what else they have a lot of in Hawaii – Spam. They love it there! Loads of different varieties in the stores. Also, custard pies, proper big custard pies, like the ones clowns or the phantom from Tiswas would throw. (Actually I’m not sure the phantom had actual custard in his pies, come to think of it he threw flans of foam, which I always remembered as custard pies) (Why is this a thing? Well in the supermarket I was texting back and forth with my big sister about having found actual custard pies and we were talking about that). Anyway Spam. I don’t actually eat most of it (not being a pork/beef/that sort of meat eater) but they did have some delicious turkey spam so I cooked that up for breakfast.
Christmas Eve sat on a tropical beach is pretty alright though, huh. I’ll say that is quite a nice way to do it. With delicious shave ice and cocktails at the little beach club at Mauna Lani, this was perfect. The ocean was warm, the waves not very strong, and my brother-in-law went snorkeling further out (I didn’t, but maybe next time I’ll give the snorkeling a go). I loved just spending time in the water. My sketch does no justice at all to the scene, but it’s fun to unwind on the sand as well.
But the Christmas traditions are important in our family, and one of the most important is sitting watching Muppet’s Christmas Carol on DVD on Christmas Eve. The best Christmas film. Michael Caine’s best film. The best version of this story (and I love the Albert Finney version). I drew it on the iPad with a nice cold beer. We also watch Blackadder’s Christmas Carol every year as well, another tradition, and The Snowman, but admittedly we’re not paying as much attention to The Snowman by that point. I also like watching It’s A Wonderful Life, but since 2020 feels like the Pottersville timeline it’s a bit on the nose. We were staying in a house near Waikoloa, with great views of lava tubes, about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. Not a bad place! The Big Island is very different from the previous island we had visited, Oahu. At least, our side of it was. It’s much bigger, and much rockier, being part of an active volcano. The lava field landscapes were incredible, immense plains of sharp lava rock stretching down to the ocean from the enormous peaks. And you drive what feels like a short way and suddenly it feels like the jungle, everything is green and wet. We went on a kayak trip down the old flumes of the sugar plantation in Kohala, that was very interesting, something I will remember for years. We didn’t explore the Hilo side of the island this time, nor did we have time to go up to the volcano (plus it rained), but I want to go back on a future trip.
But maybe not in 2020. I’ll post some more of my Hawai’i sketches in the next posts.
A couple more on the iPad drawn in the bedroom, or the Bedroom Office as it now is. Both drawn before we got our living room back (which was over the weekend, hooray!) so this was also the dining room and watching tv room. It’s also where I draw and write (haha, I hardly ever write at the moment), and it would be where I do my Lego animations but I’ve not done those in a while either. I felt like installing a running track around the bed and using it as a gym too. With all stuff from downstairs shelves all over the floor it would have been more like a hurdle track. Ah well, it’s where we are right now. I notice from some of my fellow sketchers in Europe that things are slowly beginning to open up there, and I think that they will here too soon, but extremely cautiously. Well most of us, some aren’t. I also can’t wait for the shelter-in-place to be over, because then the walking and running paths around here might not be so busy, people might stay in more. I don’t know, I want to go places, get on a train and wander about the City, but I don’t know how we’ll all feel. I have a nice mask. Lately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of going on week-long hikes along the national trails of England, as if that should ever happen. I used to think about that sort of thing when I was young but never got around to it, except my time in Cumbria when I was 17 doing the Outward Bound thing. In the meantime, stay at home, it’s very hot outside again in California. These two sketches were done on the iPad, sat on the bed, the one below while watching Revenge of the Sith (I do love ‘Sith’, one of my favourite films), the one above while monitoring an online seminar/workshop for our department. The bookshelf was moved from downstairs during the flood but I am going to keep it there as I like having books close by my bed. I have already moved the dvd shelf downstairs and replaced it with my old collection of Fighting Fantasy books. And right now, I’m watching the Bundesliga, as football has returned to Germany, albeit in empty stadiums. Unlike the quiet first round of games, the Dortmund-Bayern game has crowd noise pumped in, and the tv cameras are angled to show as little of the empty stands as possible. I’ve watched so many old World Cup games lately it is nice to watch some actual real new games. I feel like a teenager again, when I would rarely leave my room, just stay in there drawing and watching football or Star Wars or reading. Still on top of the recent flood which left us without a living room for a month, one of the cats got sick and was in hospital a couple of times, he’s recovering now the poor thing, but he did wee all over my side of the bed one night. Go home 2020 you are drunk! One thing all of this disruption and time at home has given me is time to go through things and organize stuff, get rid of what I don’t need, and one day I might get started on that.
In the meantime I’ll draw round the house. Tomorrow our local sketching thing Let’s Draw Davis will have a virtual get-together, less of a sketchcrawl and more just the show and tell bit, showing what we have drawn while stuck at home during this whole thing. I had an idea over the weekend that I might put a video together of my stay-home sketches, and the I thought I could do a series of YouTube videos giving a tour of Davis through my sketches, focusing on a different area or theme each time, make about 8-10 of them. Summer project.
Different times, before the Shelter-in-Place, before the downstairs flood, before a lot of things, last Christmas in the living room. Our little fake plastic Christmas tree. Drawn on the iPad which is the first time I can draw the tree and not have to leave little spaces for the lights and ornaments, I just draw them on top digitally. One of my cats looks on. The cats aren’t talking at the moment; one of them got sick last week (he actually had to go to hospital overnight, poor thing), and now the other one won’t go near him without hissing. Hopefully once the house is back in shape they can all get along nicely again. Cats eh, it’s almost like they’re a whole different species. On the wall in the background you can make out the various advent calendars I have made over the years for my son. I made another one last Christmas, this year it was Hawaii themed, because we were going to spend Christmas in Hawaii. Those sketches will be posted soon. Seems like a million years ago. Anyway, the Hawaii advent calendar is below. I drew it on the iPad while flying back from England at the start of December (so it was a couple of days late), trying to grapple with Procreate while squeezed into a narrow seat in the dark with a large man with big elbows sat to my right, while also suffering with a stinging nose. I was looking forward to Hawaii! Be nice to be there now, with a Mai Tai and my ukulele.
I wish I had an advent calendar counting down the days until the Shelter-In-Place is over. Actually I now call it the “Global Coronavirus Shared Experience”, or “GCSE”.