Rain has returned for a bit, a surprise at this time of year. More is coming. Not too much I hope. Anyway this week I decided to finish off Sketchbook #32 (my numbering of my panoramic sketchbooks brings us to this number) with a two-page spread of the corner of 3rd Street and B Street. I last sketched this corner over a year ago on a rainy March day, stood as I was this day beneath the entrance of the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. I think it will be a restaurant. Another changing corner of Davis. 3rd Street has had quite an upgrade from this corner down to the University, this week getting a bit of a celebration (that I didn’t go to). Click on the image to get a closer view (or just put your eyes really close to the screen).
A break from the London sketches, to show a Davis sketch. I’ve not sketched as regularly as usual since coming back, which is common after a trip abroad. I get back to Davis and I’m like, yeah I’ve drawn it all before. However I don’t think I ever drew the view from my office. I have been in a new office since summer 2017, having previously been in a windowless office in the same building. In that office, I had to draw on the whiteboard to pretend there was an outside world. Now I can see what the weather is like. Usually it’s sunny. Lately however we have been having ridiculously wet and stormy winter weather, rain that has been flooding some areas. Many of our soccer games (and this week’s tournament) have been cancelled, causing my son to instead kick his ball against the front door (a lot). Good weather for ducks they say. Not all ducks. Apparently one duck got sucked into the embarrassingly-named Lake Berryessa “Glory Hole” (which I see is referred to as the ‘Bell-mouth Spillway’ by some news outlets, which sounds SO MUCH better). I don’t think the duck made it. When I heard the news I immediately thought of Donald Duck going red and getting angry and making those furious steam-eared Donald Duck noises. What do you think of when you see the headline “Duck gets sucked through Glory Hole”? Actually don’t tell me the answer to that, honestly. The rain was bucketing down as I sketched this, stuck inside on my lunchtime, eating a microwave ready-meal of ‘roast’ turkey. Speaking of turkey, there are these two turkeys that live near our building and are a verified Menace to Society. One of them chased me into my building one morning. I wasn’t going to fight it, I’d look pretty silly fighting this big leathery-feathered bird on the way to work. It was pretty aggressive though. I did that thing where you make yourself look big and say “I’m the boss”, but the turkey was having none of it, and came at me with his huge beak and surprisingly long claws, giving it all that. So I went inside the building and made faces at it through the window instead. It stood there looking at me, trying to be all alpha male (which clearly it was), but I won out really, not being drawn into a battle of talons and feathers, I walked away with my dignity still intact, when that turkey went low I went high, and if it chases me again then I will run away and live to run away another day. Bloody thing. You tell people back in London about these turkeys and they’re all like, “just kill it and have it for thanksgiving!” Like yeah ok, I’ll kill a wild turkey with my bare hands and skin it and freeze it until November, or I could just not do that, and go to Safeway instead and buy a frozen turkey. Infinitely easier. Or they’ll say, “if that was over here,” (and this is in London, not the countryside) “someone” (immigrants is what they mean) “would hunt that and eat it! They would! I read about it in the Sport! They do that to all the geese!” Or they could just not do that, and just go to Sainsbury’s instead and buy a frozen goose. I do like telling people back home about the wildlife around here though, the black widows, the massive birds of prey, the coyotes, the mountain lions (bit rarer here but not that far away), rattlesnakes, bats with rabies, cats with the plague, sharks with jetpacks, trans-elemental spectres, werewolves, and those bees that come together and form a massive giant hammer and stomp all over things. And they always have the same response, “oh if we had those over here,” (in the inner-city housing estates, not like on the moors and fens) “if we had trans-elemental spectres then people” (foreigners is what they mean) “would hunt them for dinner and eat them, it’s true, I saw them doing it, I read about it in the local paper, they ate all the elemental spectres from Grahame Park duck pond.” Or maybe they could just not do that, and go to Lidl instead for frozen trans-elemental spectres.
This story is starting to have very little to do with the weather. Time to ‘rain’ it in a bit (I see what you did there). Anyway, it is rainy and continues to be so. I probably could have added some colour to this, to show that it is rainy and grey, but the small person at the bottom with the umbrella should be illustration enough. And because I like looking back to days of Davis past, below is a small sketch I did from the same building (but from a window further along) back on a rainy day in November 2006. I had been in Davis barely a year back then. I don’t think I had even seen a wild turkey back then, let alone any of the other dangerous wildlife.
Post-script: It turns out the bird that fell into the watery glory hole was a cormorant, not a duck. Cormorants make bad headlines though. Good job it wasn’t a rooster.
The weather was lovely while I was in England. Sunny, unseasonably warm for February, nothing like the huge storms I had left behind in California. Only one day was different, when some rain showers came down on the Monday, but that was my designated all-day-sketching-day so I was not letting that stop me. It was President’s Day in the US as well, so an official day off. I had my extendable London Underground umbrella and my AYSO soccer ‘Coach Pete’ raincoat, so I put the umbrella into my jacket firmly, rested the top on my head, and it stayed in place, keeping my sketching-zone dry. Totally worked! I’ll be doing this from now on. I drew a diagram below. It’s a little bit wrong though because the umbrella did not poke out of my jacket, I should have crossed that out or something. Ah well, do what works for you. Anyway, after sketching and exploring Westminster, I popped over to Leicester Square/Covent Garden to do some shopping in my favourite spots, and of course more sketching. Above, the view down St Martin’s Lane, one of my favourite scenes of London. I didn’t get the view which includes St. Martins-in-the-Fields itself, but the globe-topped English National Opera is visible.
I needed to visit my favourite map shop, Stanford’s. I love maps and travel books and I’ve been going there since I was a teenager, and I got there and IT WAS GONE! But not gone for good. It had just moved. I needed to read the map carefully to find the new location (just around the corner, but even to the well-trained Covent Gardener it can be a bit easy to get lost around there), but I found it and spent some good time looking at maps. I went to a few other places, and then at the end of the day I popped into the Nag’s Head opposite Covent Garden Station for a pint and a final sketch. The other way to sketch in the rain, you see, is to just pop into the pub where it is dry and sketch in there. It’s a good tip. The pub was filling up with tourists, tired after a day of London. They do nice McMullen’s beer here, from Hertford. I chickened out of drawing the detailed tile pattern on the floor. When I was done, it was back into the rush hour tube and back to Burnt Oak for dinner.
This week has been very rainy in Davis. We have so much of the year without rain, when it finally comes it can be heavy. I had a pre-lunchtime meeting on the other side of campus, and so was stuck in the MU when a deluge came down. So I sketched Freeborn Hall, because it’s going to be knocked down anyway. Yes, I read recently that they decided to demolish rather than redevelop. They have almost finished with the plaza in front of the MU (that took forever, and I thought it was fine the first time they redeveloped it a couple of years ago), but it is interesting to have sketched this section of campus several times over the years, and to see how it has changed. Well, it’s going to change again. That rain was really bucketing down.
It’s a funny shape, this building. It’s Tercero Dining Commons at UC Davis. Sketched while the rain poured down. This is now the wettest season in these parts since I moved here. The shape of this building reminded me of a ship at first, then I realized it’s actually a giant beached parasaurolophus, not sure if it wants to be rescued. Nothing surprises me any more in 2017.
The rain is back today. Quite heavy as well. It was even rainier a week ago though, when I went out at lunchtime to sketch the rally at the Quad in support of Muslim students, faculty, postdocs and their families affected by the utter chaos of the recent Executive Order; yes, you know the one. The bursting showers had thinned the crowd a bit, but didn’t stop people coming and sharing their stories beneath the safety of their umbrellas, though it was hard to hear their voices over the heavy pounding from above. I stood beneath a large umbrella and captured what I could, adding the paint quickly. I’m very glad I was able to be there.
Alright, 2017, let’s get you started and over with. I can feel you are gonna be one of those years, aren’t you. One of those ones with four numbers in them. 2016 was just a warm-up. Anyway, here in California we have rain, and lots of it – more than we have had in years. We need it after this drought. I remember big storms and floods in this area when I first moved here, and apart from the odd storm here and there they have never been matched, but these come close. We have had it good though; in Natomas, they had a tornado touch ground a couple of days ago. These were drawn in between those days, the top one being of the steady rain on the UC Davis campus. I stood beneath the shelter of Bainer Hall to sketch, a spot I have sketched from too many times to count now. Below, I forget the names of the buildings in the foreground, Sciences Lab and I think that’s the back of Haring, but you can see the observatory on top of, er, is that Hutchison? Am I pretending not to know, that is the question. Of course I do, I’ve been on campus for years. But look at that sky! Look how dark it is, dark and foreboding, like around the castle of the Skeksis at the start of the Dark Crystal. There was no lightning though, just dark, heavy, you might say grumpy clouds, moving toward the east. I’m not superstitious, but oooh, a big storm. I have done a lot of sketching so far in 2017, mostly of Lego Star Wars vehicles, you will see some of those soon. In the meantime, dark brooding malevolent skies. And science, surrounded by lots of good science. Also, the way the wind blows does matter to me, very much.
Big rain storms rolled into California today. Late November can be a very colourful time of year, when the trees are bright yellow, fiery orange, deep reds, and leaves flutter down on every breeze. When the storms come it blows everything around, meaning what would otherwise be a grey and dismal day was in fact a beautiful, I mean really beautiful stormy morning. I walked to a meeting mid-morning, and could have walked on all day in the rain. The ground was covered in bright leaves, like a dusting of golden snow. I don’t have a window in my office so I can’t gaze dreamily out at the rain (I have to draw a picture of it on my whiteboard), but I can hear it on the skylight, tap-tap-tap, and by lunchtime it was pounding. I couldn’t wait to get back out, find a sheltered spot, and draw the colourful storm while it lasted. I listened to a history podcast about England’s medieval conquest of Wales and drew in the Moleskine. It’s funny, whenever it rains here people are often, oh no, rain, I don’t want to get my raincoat slightly wet in the brief dash from my car to Target, whereas I’m like, oh it’s just a bit of rain, grrr. So I scribbled down this cartoon in my notepad this afternoon. Thought you might like it.
When the rain comes, I don’t run and hide my head. I do however stroll about and look for a little bit of cover so I can do some drawing. I love sketching bridges – no trip to Portland is complete without at least one bridge sketch. I like drawing bridges more than fire hydrants. Partly it is because I like being beside the river (as opposed to crouched just off the kerb hoping cars don’t hit me), but also because bridges represent that great connectivity of humankind, our ability to create cities and urban landscapes in tandem with the forces of nature, those big powerful (and very much alive) rivers. London exists because of the Thames, and prospered because it had a bridge (which admittedly kept falling down but that is another story). So when it rains, as it did in Portland (and occasionally in London too, I’m told), surely bridge sketching is a perfect sport?
Not exactly. For one thing to get out of the rain you often have to go beneath the bridge, which makes drawing the thing a bit trickier. Thankfully decent covered vantagepoints do exist for the more intrepid urban sketcher. On Sunday lunchtime, with a modest hangover from the previous night’s PDX craft beer samplings, I made my way down the southeast waterfront to the Hawthorne Bridge (above). The rain was coming down in bouquets (Portland rain is sweeter, as I’ve said before) and there were lots of people milling about the water’s edge. Boating crews lined the river, and were one-by-one taking to the water, cheered on by colourful umbrellas dotted along the bank. The road that comes off the bridge is high and curving, and I found a spot far beneath where the driving rain could not touch me. Joggers and other happy, soggy people jogged and plodded about the path in front of me, so I stood slightly back on a slope of grass and sketched away as best as I could. I think my slightly swaying demeanour comes across in the sketch, and that’s why I like this one at the top so much. After about forty minutes or so it was time to move on, and walk through the rain.
I had another rainy bridge experience the day before, at the end of a Saturday afternoon. I had spent the morning sketchcrawling (well, sketching, not so much crawling) with the fabulous Portland Urban Sketchers in two indoor locations in Old Town (that post is yet to come), and afterwards went to the Saturday Market. I drew Steel Bridge on my previous visit, but it’s a lovely structure and deserves to be sketched many times. This one, below, took a lot less time than the 2010 one, partly because I was sketching in almost direct rain. It wasn’t heavy rain, just a light sprinkling really, but there really wasn’t a good location beneath Burnside Bridge to sketch the view I wanted, so I took my chances. Still, once the pen started to protest at this treatment, I wrapped it up, but I was happy with it.
If I could spend my days drawing bridges by the river I would be one very happy fellow. Incidentally here is a set on my Flickr stream called “Bridges, Riverbanks…”
I must admit I am really happy it is raining in Davis. We need it, for sure, but i just like the feel of the rain. It feels comforting, feels like home. Oh, it can bugger off again soon enough for sure (I didn’t move to California to get rained on, I can do that in north London) but it’s nice while it’s here. I did a qucik rainy sketch from the window of the Silo at lunchtime yesterday.