digital sketches from the UCAAC

Here are a few different types of sketches from the recent UCAAC in Santa Barbara. I don’t know if they need to be presented in this odd tiled fashion that WordPress has but I quite like it; click on the images to get a bigger view. I’ve been trying to use my iPad Mini to sketch, using an app called Paper by 53. Digital sketching is a whole new ball game and I am very much learning as I go along. I have a little stylus, nothing fancy, it just has a soft rubbery nib. It’s not an expensive iPencil and this isn’t a top of the range iPad Air or a Surface Pro or any of that. There is a very slight lag in time when making my digital marks and working out what the different tools do, the few there are, is interesting. It’s different from the stuff I do in MS Paint, which is more pixel by pixel football shirts, and quite unusual compared to using actual paper and actual pens but it is relatively quick, coloring in using big blocks of colour is intensely fun, you can go back if you accidentally put a big thick turquoise line through the middle (yeah, touchscreens) and you don’t need to scan them. Hey, you DON’T NEED TO SCAN THEM! That is actually huge. Literally years of my life have been lost crouched over my scanner pressing sketchbooks against glass while a slowly moving light trundles underneath me. But I’m a digital beginner, and still exploring, tentatively. If you need any tips…well, there are more experienced digital sketchers out there, but I hope you like these. I’ll enjoy looking back on these early efforts in years to come. The big one is the keynote speaker of the conference, Lester P. Monts of the University of Michigan, who gave a very interesting talk about being a Global Citizen. I included the pre-coloured-in version of that sketch so you can see what it looked like before the colourful blocks were added. The other sketches, two are very quick ones of breakout sessions I attended, and then there is a quick sketch of a curvilinear grid with a sketch of the room I was in (I won’t say the session but it was less fun than some of the others, I was starting to think about going to the pool). The other sketch is one I did in the observation carriage of the Amtrak Coastal Starlight train I took from Davis to Santa Barbara. Fun times!


Elsies, Santa Barbara
On the last night in Santa Barbara I went to look for a bar that I had heard about called Elsie’s. It looked like the sort of place I could sketch, and I wasn’t wrong – license plates all over the walls, a bike covered in lights above a pool table (alright I couldn’t sketch that, too difficult), good music, chilled out atmosphere, my sort of place. They even serve breakfast cereal, and Pop Tarts. Pop Tarts! And beer! It’s like I made this place up. All they need now is Ramen Noodles. I’m classy I know. Hey, earlier in the evening I ate pan-seared duck breast over a hibiscus flower reduction so don’t tell me I’m no foodie. I tried some interesting beer here too, something by Rincon Brewery, and “Beerito” by Oskar Blues (yes “Beerito”, as I say, I’m totally classy). This place was so much fun to sketch.

state street, that great street

Santa Barbara State Street
More from Santa Barbara, earlier this month. May is going by fast, isn’t it. April did too, and March, and don’t even talk about February. These are my 40s now and time waits for no man. January by comparison was slow and languid, as I was in my leisurely carefree 30s. I’m only joking. So, that Day Of Sketching Stuff (“DOSS”? Hmmm) yielded more results, the sketch above, drawn from the window seat of the Santa Barbara Brewing Co, where I finished the day with a cold beer I can’t really remember much about, it was that unmemorable. These are my 40s etc. I just wanted a seat to look out at State Street and sketch that Santa Barbara daylight once more. My legs were so tired, and for some reason I quite inexplicably took an even longer way back to the hotel than usual. I discovered the short cut on the next day, it was called a “cab”.
El Paseo Santa Barbara
The next day, after a day of Conferencing, I went back up State Street to sketch some more before dinner. And a lovely dinner it was too; the previous night I had eaten with fellow adviser types at a seafood place on the pier, and while the company was great, I couldn’t finish the food, it was a bit much. Some sort of seafood medley. I decided I would eat something fancier the next night, and I found a little place called Le Petit Valentien, where (dining alone; I was the only other person in the restaurant, on a slow Tuesday evening) which made the most delicious food, and I had roast duck, followed by creme brulee. There was a mirror opposite so I didn’t feel too lonely. The staff were very friendly as well. That was my rest after sketching these two scenes, above and below. This is El Paseo, a historic passage just off of State Street. I stood on State sketching the entrance above while people wandered by. I walked through, past a couple of restaurants a little bit fancier than what I was really after, and as the light started fading I sketched this courtyard. That round building is funny isn’t it, it has a goatee. You don’t often see buildings with facial hair but this one thinks it’s the 90s and might be wearing a t-shirt with a serious sounding band on it. And that’s all for now folks, but more Santa Barbara sketches to come. I’d post them all in one go but I just can’t find the narrative that strings them all together. Besides where better to leave this post than on a house that has a massive goatee?
El Paseo Santa Barbara courtyard sm

miles and miles of red roof tiles

Santa Barbara Anapamu St

I was in Santa Barbara for a conference, but arriving the night before meant I had most of the day before check-in to do a bit of urban sketching around town. The tourist office pointed me in the right direction, up State Street towards the Courthouse. Off I went. There were interesting shops up there too though, and I spent a good deal of time mooching around Paper Source before finally hitting the Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook. Yes, I’m rotating books; I just finished Moleskine 14 the day before, so now I’m o a Seawhite (#4) and after that I will crack open the Stillman and Birn Alpha. Gone are the days of consistency but they all still line up on a shelf (I keep them in shoeboxes actually). Hey, want to know what my sketchbooks look like? I’m exhibiting them at the UC Davis Design Museum this Fall! Anyway back to Santa Barbara. Above is Anapamu Street, looking towards the mountains that give this city its backdrop. There are a lot of red tiled rooftops in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Courthouse

The Santa Barbara courthouse (above) is lovely. The current building was completed way back in 1929 just before the stock market crash and has an amazing interior, particularly the Mural Room. The website of the Courthouse is here. It surrounds a pretty garden square, where I sat and sketched the above. One passing couple joked that I can leave out the scaffolding in my sketch, but they can’t in their photos; trues, but I didn’t, I just hid it behind a tree. No leaving out important details in my urban sketchbook! I finished up my juice smoothie (still had the smallest hangover from the previous night at the James Joyce) and explored the building, climbing the tower (taking the elevator, that is) and getting the most amazing views across Santa Barbara. It was windy, and there were a fair few tourists crowding the platform, but I did manage one sketch, below.

View from Santa Barbara Courthouse Tower

I had lunch at a Belgian/Bavarian sausage/beer restaurant called Brat Haus (I do recommend) and watched Spurs implode to a 2-2 draw with Chelsea handing Leicester their deserved title before heading out to sketch more. This below is at the historic Presidio area, a block or so off of State Street. There were lots of wineries around. I considered doing some wine tasting, but then I considered not, and did some sketching instead. Wine tasting is really something to do with others, I feel. You can’t nod appreciatively and make discerning faces at yourself when tasting wine alone. You can’t pretend you have a palette for wine when there’s nobody to show off to. You can just say, “I like this label, where is the bathroom, no I might come back later”, and then go and sketch. I’m sure the wine tastes great. I sketched this as the day got later (that clock was totally wrong by the way, it was only like 3pm), and went and sketched one more which I will save for next time (it’s not anything special, I’m just pacing them out).

Santa Barbara Presidio

the james joyce in santa barbara

James Joyce pub, Santa Barbara
This is the James Joyce pub in Santa Barbara. After my 11 hour train journey, I had dinner at an Indian restaurant (unfortunately it was a little bit bland) and went to a pub on State Street called the James Joyce. As you may or may not know, I like pub sketching – you can practice both perspective and low-light sketching, while having a beer and chatting with locals. This seemed to be a popular pub, and on this night it was karaoke night. There were several regulars belting out their usual numbers, some with more agreeable voices than others, and so I added my own not-exactly-agreeable voice to the mix and sang a few songs. I won’t tell you which songs, but I assure you I did not replace the lyrics of any with Yellow Submarine. Well maybe one. I did convince one older fellow to sing the actual Yellow Submarine though. Nobody left the room while I was singing which was a bonus (that has happened before) (in Antwerp) (those Antwerpers didn’t feel bad about telling me they didn’t like my singing either) (but they did give me sandwiches afterwards) (this is a long tangent so perhaps I had better get back to the Santa Barbara story). I did sketch some of the singers, of course, and here they are. I have no idea what the song about the rooster was (something about a rooster who isn’t going to die, obviously an immortal rooster), it was very serious.
SB Karaoke 1 sm
SB Karaoke 3 sm
SB Karaoke 2 sm
SB Karaoke 4 sm
Once this fun evening was over I walked back to the hotel. It was a long walk, and on the way back I couldn’t help but sketch a fire hydrant. This one, for some reason, had a small shoe rested on top of it. I had noticed this earlier in the day and thought it odd. I was surprised to find it still there. A couple of days later the shoe was sitting a few feet away from the hydrant. I assume it was waiting for its twin to come back, waiting for years like Rey on Jakku.
Hydrant plus Shoe, Santa Barbara

Well, here is my latest hydrant sketch. More Santa Barbara sketches to follow. There are some pretty places there.

rails, whales and tales

Train to Santa Barbara sm.jpg

Recently I went to Santa Barbara for the UCAAC (University of California Academic Advising Conference). I took the train down from Davis, an 11 hour journey on an Amtrak which didn’t have wifi, but did have amazing views. For an eleven hour trip it went by quite quickly. Zipping past the ocean, I even saw some whales, poking their heads and their tails out, an exciting sight. I spent at least half of the trip in the observation train, which was bright and roomy, and so I sat at a table and sketched. What else would I do? Sketching on trains is a good way for you to practice perspective. Also to practice steadying your hand while everything is bumpy. I caught the train at 7am, the first time I had taken one of these Coastal Starlight trains in California. They go right down from Seattle to San Diego, passing by many cities on the way. There were people who were making the long trip, a few interesting characters, and the announcers on the train liked to give the occasional piece of commentary. We crossed the Delta, went down the East Bay, through the Salad Bowl, horseshoed around a massive prison outside San Luis Obispo, paraded down the rocky coast before finally reaching the palm trees and beaches of Santa Barbara. It was a big ol’ train, a goliath on the move. I’d take the trip again. I did another on the less-lengthy train journey between Santa Barbara and Burbank Airport a few days later, sat in a regular seat. I’ll post my Santa Barbara sketches next, as I’ve finally started scanning them. Santa Barbara has a lot of red tiled roofs.

Train to Burbank