any way the wind blows

3rd and A 102320 sm

The last page of this sketchbook, the last of the Seawhite of Brighton books I picked up in London last year, so on to a new book. This one was “Sketchbook 37” under the new numbering system I started last year. I need to actually put the numbers on the spines of the books and put them on a shelf sometime (right now I keep them in a box). This view is at the entrance to the UC Davis campus on 3rd Street, along A Street. The large interestingly shaped building is called the Death Star. Actually it isn’t called that officially but everyone calls it that. It’s the Social Sciences and Humanities Building. Imagine if the Galactic Empire called their Death Star something like that. The ‘Planetary Geological Redistribution Department’. On the right you can see a marquee set up, this is actually an outside classroom, set up to deal with the very few in-person classes during the pandemic. There are a few, but most classes are taught remotely. All of ours are, in our department. It was a windy day, we had some very high and dry winds that week, thankfully no fires were sparked in our area this time. I enjoyed drawing this one, I like how it turned out. I’ve drawn so many scenes in Davis but this is a slightly different angle and I like the noticeboard pillar to the left, those were installed when 3rd Street was completely revamped over the last couple of years. This drawing is another gateway, not just the end of a sketchbook, or the entrance to campus. While drawing this I got the phonecall that our house purchase was finally closed, so I started this drawing as a renter and ended it as a homeowner, which feels like a life milestone for me. I like the neighbourhood I live in up in north Davis, and am glad to stay there (plus I hate moving). So a chapter closes, a new chapter begins, and I’ll keep on drawing the same stuff, watching it slowly evolve as the years pass by. It’s important to remember that, on historic days like today, nothing really stays the same. (Actually some things do stay the same, nice sentiment though). For the record, I hope there is a big change today in the government. I’ve spent too long stressing about this election, but I’m not getting my hopes up. This has been a bloody stressful enough year as it is, time to open a new sketchbook. I’ve drawn this town for fifteen years, and I’ll keep on drawing Davis, and all its small changes.

stop dreaming of the quiet life

A St Panorama Oct2020 sm

This is A Street, which is a street in between the university and the downtown. I needed to draw a panorama, so I drew this over the course of two days. Things are starting to feel autumnal. This should be an interesting week. Interesting as in “may you live in interesting times” interesting. I can’t even think about it. So drawing is the release. They take time, but I really like a two-page panorama. I want to publish a whole book just of Davis panoramas, I think that would be a good read. I mean, you wouldn’t be reading the pictures, just looking at them. By the way, you should be able to see this one in more details by either (a) clicking on it, or (b) moving closer to the screen. If I were to publish a book just of Davis panoramas – and when I say panoramas I just mean two-page landscapes, not the long panoramic sketches – there would be no text to accompany the drawing, which would be a good thing. It wouldn’t be like this blog where the text is there but completely optional and not very enlightening. In fact in my last published book, in which I was extra concise (and took out most of the jokes about fire hydrants), one hard-to-please one-star reviewer on Amazon said that my explanations are “so long-winded that by the time he has finished explaining it, you’ve forgotten what he was talking about.” To which I would reply, (a) so you’ve met me then, and (b) if you think that’s bad you should read my blog posts, but also (c) what was your long-winded review about again, I’ve forgotten. They also said I should have talked about ‘gesture’ when talking about drawing people, to which I would reply I know lots of gestures actually and I’m making them at the screen right now while reading this review. So a book of drawings with no explanation might be right up their alley. Or it might be right in their dustbin, I don’t know. But as you can see, in this socially distant age there are no people in my drawings these days.

If you do want to see more of my panoramas, without accompanying text, there’s a whole album of them on Flickr: Or wait for the book, but it’s probably going to be a long wait.

The Flying Carousel of the Delta Breeze

carousel central park 101820 sm At the end of the last sketchcrawl we met up at the Carousel in the middle of Central Park, Davis, to look at each others’ sketchbooks. Some people drew the carousel, but I revealed that I had chickened out, because it’s pretty complicated. Of course whenever I say that it’s a sure-fire sign that I will be back to try and draw it as soon as I can, so I cycled down to Central Park the next day and stood there drawing as much as I could. The carousel is called “The Flying Carousel of the Delta Breeze”, which is a bit of a mouthful, and I’ve never heard anyone actually call it that. Honestly I thought that was an album by a psychedelic late-sixties California hippy band that still play local events across the region at farmer’s markets and brewfests (I am making that up but it might be true, sounds like it would be true). It’s not in use at the moment clearly, because of COVID-19, but when it was it was a fun thing for the local little kids to ride on, and helps fund the Davis Schools Foundation. It is human-powered, that is, there’ll be a high-school kid who sits and cycles to make it go. Kids can ride on the hand-carved animals such as the Frederick frog, Seymour the seal, Pickles the pig, and Terri the Tomato. I know a tomato isn’t an animal, and don’t get started on the fruit/vegetable debate. The tomato fruit/vegetable debate is so contentious now that they have to mute the microphones when the other is speaking, and the vegetable side just refuses to take part and goes off and has a big rally with lots of other vegetables so they can chant about locking up the apples. Anyway back to the carousel. It was opened in 1995. That was the same year I went strawberry picking in Denmark; strawberries are definitely a fruit, but I don’t eat them any more after that summer (yet I still love strawberry flavour things, like milkshakes). I’ve never been on it (it’s not really meant for me) but I think my son rode it when he was very small. It’s a nice thing to have in the middle of Davis.

A Decade of Let’s Draw Davis!

LDD Oct2020 Central Park sm In October 2010 I organized the first in a monthly series of sketchcrawls called “Let’s Draw Davis!”. We met in Central Park in the morning, drew all day, had lunch together, and met up again in the mid afternoon to look at each others’ sketchbooks. I had been on sketchcrawls in Davis before, advertised on the workdwide sketchcrawl forum, but after going to the Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland in the summer of 2010 (up to which point I had really not been getting ‘out there’ as an artist, except for being one of the original urban sketchers when that website launched) I scribbled thoughts and ideas into a notebook on the plane, one of which was that I needed to connect more with the local art community, meet other artists, encourage people to get out sketching, like Art Brut telling everyone to form a band. I wrote the words “Let’s Draw Davis” into my notebook and was struck with all sorts of ideas, the main one being that we needed a monthly gathering for people who wanted to draw, that would be free and organized with a start and end point, that would not be a ‘club’ or ‘group’ you had to join but an event anyone could feel part of, regardless of ability or experience. I had been on too many sketchcrawls where if you arrived late you wouldn’t know where the final meeting would be, or if you missed the middle point and they changed the final meeting you would be standing around wondering where everyone was (I’m looking at you, sketchcrawls in Berkeley years ago). It needed to be accessible, somewhere you could cycle to if need be, and IN DAVIS – this isn’t “Let’s Draw Davis And Sometimes Woodland Or Vacaville”, though they can definitely be things that should happen. I would put up posters in shop windows, make a website, put fliers in the local galleries, add things to social medias. I did all of that. I still make the posters, but someone else handles the Facebook group, and I’m not printing posters and putting them in Newsbeat like I used to. I am still making stickers, and recently I even tried to make badges. On that very first sketchcrawl I even made a few mini-sketchbooks, and brought extra pencils, so that if people asked what we were doing I could give them a book and a pencil and say, why not give it a go? I know of at least one person that actually worked for, and they went off and started drawing. The sketchcrawls haven’t always been monthly – been a few hiatus periods, such as this year with the pandemic, and also other years when I kinda stopped wanting to draw in groups (we all get like that; even now on sketchcrawls I still prefer wandering off on my own), but I have met so many great people, great artists, prolific sketchers that it’s been so totally worth it. It even kicked off a series of sketchcrawls when I organized a big sketchcrawl down the Fleet Street area in 2012 called “Let’s Draw London”, to celebrate the start of the new London Urban Sketchers chapter. They are still holding them monthly like clockwork there, big events with crowds of artists in all sorts of locations, called “Let’s Draw Trafalgar Square” or similar. I’ve had several other sketchcrawl ideas in California that haven’t been able to happen, such as my Sacramento Sketch Saturdays plan, or my big San Francisco Sketching and History Tour. But we still keep finding things to draw in Davis, even if it’s the same stuff in a different year.

davis sketchcrawl oct 16 2010

So after a year of pandemic and shelter-in-place and wildfires and election stress, I was determined to celebrate ten years of Let’s Draw Davis with a sketchcrawl in the same place, a decade and a day later.

LDD Oct 2020 simple

This was the poster, incorporating many of the posters I have designed (thrown together) over the years. Many fun ones; my favourite sketchcrawl might have been the 2017 City of Davis Centenary one, with the map of all the places that were there in 1917 and earlier (now go and draw them). So on this Saturday, we met at Central Park after most of the Farmers Market was packing up to go, and drew around the surprisingly busy park. It was a nice group of sketchers from around the region, a few new faces and several familiar friends. I drew the panorama at the top of this post. It was a hot day, with temperatures hitting 90 yet again, but pleasant. I stuck to the shade. I drew the compost heap area in the Central Park Gardens, an interesting little spot. 


LDD Oct2020 Compost sm I was going to draw the Carousel, but it looked a bit too complicated, so I chickened out and drew the statue of Gandhi instead. then we all met up and shared our sketching stories. Being a special sketchcrawl I had some prizes at the end, for the ‘sketch of the day’ (William Lum got this), for the ‘most sketches’ (Misuk Goltz won this), and a long-time sketcher award for Marlene Lee who’s been coming on these since Jan 2011 and has come to almost every one since. (I did have a couple of long-time-sketcher prizes for a couple of others but they had left early, so next time!) LDD Oct2020 Gandhi Statue sm And that was that! The next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be a scavenger hunt on Saturday November 14, I’ll update the Facebook page  soon. In the meantime, here’s to more drawing Davis!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

but i know that i will be back, right back here with you

4th & E Davis Another downtown lunchtime sketch, or late lunch, I don’t remember now. Lunchtime is just an arbitrary time slot in the day  a lot of the time nowadays. This is a bright yellow building, but I don’t really like drawing yellow buildings much, so you just get the monochrome version, except for the sign. Drawn with the Uniball Signo UM-151 brown-black pen. Making the most of drawing outside. Before we’re all locked down again. I hear back in Britain that is where it’s headed. Here in California, we aren’t ‘locked down’ (in fact we never called it that, it’s always been ‘shelter-in-place’) but hardly anyone’s on campus. Lots of places are still open downtown though, restaurants (for take-out or eating outside on the new patios, where parking spots used to be), shops, but not movie theaters, not bars, not the places where in the past I would have gone on a Friday evening after a busy week, to watch one of the movies I like, with a Snickers ice cream bar, and then go to De Vere’s for a few pints and to draw an intense panorama of the bar and all the people. De Vere’s Irish Pub is closed now. In hibernation, rather. The Sacramento pub is still open, but Davis is shuttered for now. I miss it there, a friendly place you’d bump into locals. Some other bars are open, University of Beer has an expanded patio, and I think Sophia’s does too, though we just order a bi-weekly curry from there, the best. Ah, I miss the pubs, I miss sitting at the bar and drawing in my sketchbook over a pint. But at least I’m out sketching now, not just drawing my living room over and over. Sometimes when you feel like you’re just falling off the planet, getting a sketchbook out and committing to a drawing with a lot of penwork and shapes and observation can really help bring you back.   

outside the bubble

bubble belly davis I’ve been drawing outside a lot lately. Trying to make up for lost time, taking advantage of cooler weather and safer air, getting it in before it gets rainy (haha, ok), and despite the fact there’s very little left in Davis I feel I absolutely need to go and draw (boy am I missing travel) it’s nice to be out and sketching. In these trying times, these stressful times, these unprecedented – you get the idea – it’s a good stress reliever. This is another one with the fountain pen and black ink, which lets me have a bit more value to the dark shades. It’s that funny looking building on G St, currently home to Bubble Belly, which I think sells baby clothes. Actually the weather was still warm – in fact up to last week we were still having 90 degree plus temperatures. What an October.

wait a minute mister postman

3rd St Oct 2020 I’ve had this Lamy Safari fountain pen for about a year or more I think, I don’t use it very often. I wanted to draw with a fountain pen, but I might need an extra-fine nib to do what I’m used to with the Uni-ball Signo, but the other day I decided to brush it off and take it downtown for a quick late-lunch sketch. I had decided it was time for me to draw outside again more. this year I am so many sketches behind my usual haul, for fairly obvious reasons, even with sketching at home and virtual sketch-trips. Working from home I’m not getting myself out to draw during lunch like I do when I’m working on campus, like a routine. I’m eating at home rather than popping down to the Silo or downtown. The things I want to draw are further away as well, I haven’t really been inclined to draw my own neighbourhood much. There’s a lot of park scenery, trees and grass, it doesn’t leap out to me as much. It’s where I run. I haven’t run much this past couple of months due to the unbreathable air, although yesterday I did manage a couple of miles on the Green Belt. But on this one Monday I cycled down to 3rd St downtown and stood outside the little post office, to draw the buildings across the road. I have drawn these before of course but it’s a colourful scene. As I sketched, mask on and off to the side, people tried to get into the post office, but it was closed. I think it was for Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples’ Day, that’s what I overheard anyway. People kept on coming up and trying to open the door, and then looking through the window, then leaving, wave after wave. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit entertaining, I felt like I was watching a prank show. One couple pulled up in their car and dragged out five or six big parcels. I had to say something, but I don’t think they heard me through my mask, and by the time they were desperately pulling the handle with a pile of boxes around them it seemed a bit pointless telling them again it was closed. Another young guy looked forlornly through the window with his packet in his hand, and an older man in an SUV offered to take the young guy’s packet to the bigger post office for him, and the young guy agreed and handed over his item to the complete stranger. At this point I really did have to say something, and pointed out that if this one is closed for a holiday then the big one probably is too, so maybe you should call ahead first. They both made ‘oh, I guess you might be right’ faces, and the young guy got his packet back from the old guy, who said he would go there anyway and offered to drive the younger guy there, like there’s no global pandemic going on. I mean sure, kind samaritan and all, but maybe check if it’s open before driving a complete stranger out there in your SUV. Through my mask I made a ‘yeah, not a great idea guys’ face, and they shrugged and went on their separate ways. I presume. Maybe they went around the corner and met each other again and made “screw that red-headed sketcher bloke” faces and drove out to every post office in the county together high-fiving and singing Shania Twain songs to each other, that’s what I imagined anyway; it’s been a long year.

Saturday Afternoon at 3rd & B

B and 3rd panorama Davis Oct2020 sm

This is the corner of 3rd and B in Davis. B goes in one direction, 3rd goes in another. On the corner there on the right is “Pizzas and Pints” and I’ve not eaten a pizza or drunk a pint there. It’s pretty new, and I don’t eat downtown all that much these days obviously. Plus drinking pints of milk and eating pizza? It’s related I think to the place a block down the road, “Burgers and Brew”. Now I like a cup of tea with a burger as much as anyone. Actually I don’t eat burgers, as I don’t eat beef. I eat chicken burgers though, and those new Beyond Burgers are nice as well. More than that though I really love alliteration, which as an Anglo-Saxon poetry non-expert I can appreciate. I did write a little bit about the Alliterative Revival in my Master’s dissertation though. There might be more of these places, like “Fajitas and Flagons” or “Sausages and Sodas” or “Tacos and Teacups”, I don’t know, this is why I’m not a restaurateur. On the other side of the street is the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. The actual Hall of Fame. I wish they would have the names of famous cyclists on stars all around it like Hollywood, it wouldn’t have to take up too much room because you could remove them when they are disgraced. It’s easy to be disgraced these days. I’ve never actually been into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame, except to use the toilet. To think of the famous cyclists who have used those toilets! Wait, I’m not suggesting they did anything other than have a wee or a poo, blimey no. I do ride a bike though, and I recently got it serviced at the Bike Barn, a long overdue tune-up. Wasn’t cheap but they replaced a bunch of parts. I did ask them specifically to fix the kickstand, but for some reason they couldn’t do that so they instead loosened it and made it worse, not it can barely stand up by itself, it’s like me on my stag night. My stag night, that was a long time ago, and some great memories, if only I could remember them myself. I still lived in London then, we went out around Chalk Farm. Those were the days my friend, you never get those back. Now, beyond that building is Central Park, no not that one, this is the one in Davis. It’s significantly smaller with significantly fewer appearances in Law and Order. That’s where we held the tenth anniversary Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl last Saturday. The first one was there in October 2010, ten years later we held another one there and I’ll post the sketches from that soon. Time flies… 

and it’s never gonna be the same

Walker Hall UC Davis (nearly ready...) Still working from home, but coming to campus a couple of times a week at least to do stuff in the department, although the lack of people on campus really is depressing, the start of Fall quarter is usually about the buzz and energy of everyone being around, but there’s none of that this year, with most people working from home and most students taking their classes remotely. This is the Zoom Generation. What a year. Nobody really knows when this will end, but end it must, and construction goes on for when we are all back. I wonder what impact the pandemic will have on future architecture? I’d be interested to follow developments in the next few years with global pandemics in mind now that is a thing. In the meantime here are some sketches I did in the middle of September on the UC Davis campus of some of the ongoing construction projects. Above, Walker Hall, which is nearly ready. You can see all my other Walker Hall sketches at: This will be the new Graduate Center, and I attended a virtual walkthrough last week which was really exciting. Last time I was in the building was two years ago when I was invited to sketch inside during reconstruction, I was able to explore the space and try not to fall through holes in the floor, and I got my photo of me sketching with the hard-hat which was what I really wanted. It’ll be great to see Walker Hall finally open.chemistry building uc davis (lots of work still) Here is the ongoing construction project at the Chemistry Building, that started at the end of 2019. This part of it anyway, the other parts of the huge building have been undergoing work for a few years already. You can see the sky was sorta blue on these days, the AQI was still high, but the smoky skies were intermittent. Not so on the day I drew the sketch below, when skies were dull and brownish/orange from smoke. I wasn’t outside for long, but I ate a sandwich at the Silo and stood outside to draw the view of the new Teaching and Learning Complex rising over the skyline. Building work keeps on going. silo smoky sky


Sonoma Mission Sept 2020 A few weeks ago we went to the town of Sonoma for the afternoon, to have an outdoors lunch with my wife’s mother. It was nice to get out of Davis and I took the opportunity to go and do a sketch of the Mission, above. If you don’t know about the Missions of California, here is a good site for you to find out about them: The one in Sonoma, called San Francisco Solano, is the most northerly one, the end of a trail that leads all the way down to San Diego. This little adobe building dates back to 1823 as the culmination of three hundred years of Spanish-Mexican settlement in California, going back to 1523. It was actually badly destroyed in the 1906 earthquake but was rebuilt and restored. I have drawn it twice before, but it turns out it was a really long time ago: 2007 and 2006!sonoma mission

the sonoma mission

The very first time I came to California, in 2002, we spent a couple of days in Sonoma housesitting at my (future) wife’s friend’s place. I really liked Sonoma best out of all the places I went to on that trip, and I remember the delicious wine and the great cheeses from that cheese shop. Now during the pandemic there are still people out and about but the cheese shop was closed, and seating at restaurants and cafes was all outside. We had an early dinner in one of our favourite spots, Hopmonk Tavern, and I sketched my son on his device while the ladies talked. This is one of only a few occasions we have eaten out since the whole pandemic started. This was a brief respite form the terrible smoky air in California, but that soon came back. That very night there were enormous fires that erupted near here in Napa Valley, destroying some historic wineries and lots of homes, raining large flakes of ash down on all the towns around. I hate this awful year, and I really hate fire season. It’s never been so bad, and it’s terrible on all the industries around this way.

Son in Sonoma on his device