It is that time of year again when I draw Hart Hall again. This was sketched last week, stood in the shade of the Shields Library at UC Davis, the weather is getting more Davisesque and roasting my brain away. I was supposed to go to a meeting today in this building, but I was in a different meeting instead so I forgot. The meeting I was in was far more important though, and didn’t require walking through hot heat. I want to go out and draw more at the moment but the heatful weather is giving me reservations. If I were in another hotted up place like Seville or Rome I would have no compunction about sketching the hot city but when it’s over a hundred in Davis my brain says No, Don’t Bother, You’ve Sketched It Before. The initial flurry of sketchtivity this year has tailed off a bit, and my busy weekends have meant a lack of sketchcrawl organizationing. There will be some upcoming monthlies I promise you, though the one I had planned in San Francisco will not take place for a while longer yet, maybe in the late Falling Summer or the early Autumnal Fall. I’ve been planning a themed sketchical history tour in North Beach, I’ve been drawing the map and everything, but alas life finds a way, so I am putting it on the backbencher for now. I’ve also been planning a Sacramento Sketching crawl as well, mostly because I want to sketch there again but also because it is fun to meet other sketchers there. It is always hotter in Sacramento than Davis though, I find. I did go to the new Star Wars land at Disneyland last weekend though, that was fun, I will post the couple of quick sketches I did there at some point. Anyway, this is Hart Hall, which is not despite the name named after my old drama teacher at school, whose name was Mr Hart. I don’t think Mr Hart thought too highly of me, if I’m honest, I don’t think he thought I was altogether serious about the dramatic arts. He may have had a point, given that I wrote and performed two musicals at school with songs like “Don’t F**k with me, I’m Robin Hood” and “Get Lost, Dracula”. To be fair, they were obviously genius. I remember him getting very cross with me and my friend Terry once though for coming up with very serious characters in class, but giving them silly names like Freddy Ready and Todd Cod. I mean, what is wrong with Todd Cod? If I ever meet someone called Todd Cod I am going to be so pleased. I did work with a guy once whose last name was Reddy but I can’t remember his first name and it definitely wasn’t Freddy. I have met people over the years with much sillier names. I won’t name names here, but they definitely existed.
This is D Street, Davis, sketched one lunchtime (and coloured in later). The Wardrobe is a clothing store that used to be somewhere else in downtown Davis, E Street if very recent memory serves (I’m not generally a clothes-shop-goer, except if football shirts are involved) (have I ever mentioned I’m obsessed with football shirts? It may have come up) (if you follow me on Twitter I might have mentioned it in passing). When I think of the Wardrobe though, I automatically think of the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Which then makes me think about football shirts again, the Indomitable Lions (Cameroon), the Witch (um, Norwich? Ipswich? Luka Mod-witch?) and the Wardrobe (my one, full of football shirts). Ok maybe not. But since we are on the subject, let me tell you a bit about my own history with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was always one of my favourite stories. I adored the animated version from about 1979, it is still one of my all-time favourites and I used to watch it religiously as a kid. When I say religiously, I mean I used to watch it a lot, I had no idea that it was meant to be a fairly religious allegory by the very religious CS Lewis, which was why it was always on TV at Easter, but I was (as now) a very atheist kid who loved a good story. Especially if it involved a massive talking lion. It’s also why I love Turkish Delight. Arthur Lowe was Mr Beaver, and as Burnt Oak’s biggest Mr Men fan, his was my favourite voice in the world. The 1980s BBC live-action version was great as well, but I didn’t watch it over and over like the cartoon. Anyway, fast forward years later, to 2002, when I was living in the south of France. The English department at Aix-en-Provence held an annual play, run by the ‘lecteurs’ and the students, and as I was the drama degree person I was chosen to direct it. My job was to come up with a suitable play, one that could include a sizable and inclusive cast, and attract people to come and watch. I don’t know exactly why, but I got it into my head to adapt The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for the stage, writing the script myself from the original novel, using a minimal set in which much of the props and scenery would be played by four neutral characters called “jokers”. At first suggestion the idea was ready to be turned down, and I’d be asked to do something more traditional, Midsummer Night’s Dream maybe, but I won them over, and we started auditioning. Eventually we found our Queen, our Aslan, our Peter Susan Edmond and Lucy, our Tumnus, our Beavers, our Professor, our Wolves, and most importantly, our Jokers. The Professor acted as the narrator, while the Jokers were the lamp-post, the Wardrobe doors, the falling snow, the reindeer, a window, and anything else that needed a little illustration. I made masks out of foam, props out of cardboard, and costumes out of whatever material I could find. The Queen’s Dwarf wore a blue and white bathroom mat as a robe. The large set-piece battle towards the end of the play between the Witch’s baddies and Aslan’s goodies was my favourite part, because the wolves had lightsabres while Peter and co had French baguettes. I had to leave the baguettes in the sun for a few days to get really hard so that they wouldn’t fall apart in the sword-fighting. I thought about throwing in a pun about a ‘pain’-ful ending but thought better of it (though I did include a bit of Pulp Fiction when the Wolves were interrogating Tumnus: “What does the Queen of Narnia look like? Does she look like a WITCH?”. There was a degree of mispronunciation of English phrases by the non-English cast that have always stuck in my mind, even years later: “phone” instead of “faun”, “Sow” instead of “thaw”, and the brilliant “you’ve been a noyty boy!”, spoken by the chief of the Wolves. While I’d spend a lot of time helping with pronunciations, I deliberately left some, like that one, in, as they added something to that character’s voice. Overall it was hard work, very silly, memorable and hopefully fun to watch, but I do know that one of the faculty had an eight-year-old son who absolutely loved it, it really worked on his imagination level, and wanted to talk about it loads whenever we saw him and his mum afterwards. Not sure if the adults enjoyed it as much but as they French say, tant pis. I loved it. So, I’ve always loved that story. I really enjoyed the modern film adaptation, even if Ray Winstone’s very good Beaver was still not quite Arthur Lowe, and Aslan was the Force-reincarnation of Qui-Gon Jinn, I loved it. I would like to go back to that story somehow, perhaps make a Lego animated version of it. If I do, I am keeping in the phrase “you’ve been a noyty boy!”
So yes, when I see the word ‘Wardrobe’, I think of all of this.
Last week was the Davis World Cup, an annual youth soccer tournament organized by AYSO. This year, we were on the organizing committee (I did the website and designed the logo, my wife handled all the t-shirts and medals and pins and everything). I was really happy with this year’s logo (above) and a lot of people really liked it, we got many nice compliments. It was pretty cool seeing loads of people going around with this on their shirts. My son was also playing in the tournament this year, for the Davis Dawgs, 12U-Boys. Each team is assigned a FIFA country in the Davis World Cup – we were the Cayman Islands. I didn’t coach this year, so I was on the parents side, and while I didn’t sketch that much I did capture one of the games below. This was our second game – we had lost the first one to Antelope (7-2), and unfortunately lost this one as well, to Mountain View Tornadoes, 3-2. Both really good teams. My son did score in each game though, but had to wait until the third game for his hat-trick.
Unfortunately we got knocked out in the eliminations so didn’t make it until Monday. So on Monday morning I walked over to the park (it’s handy the games are only a few steps from my house) and watch Antelope play Winters in an epic quarter final, ultimately won by Winters in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. I sketched the game below. Winters ended up winning the final later that day in an even more dramatic game, against San Mateo, once more in a penalty shoot-out.
Hundreds of games, many hundreds of players, the Davis World Cup was another success.
Just over a week ago some of us Davis sketchers braved the stormy weather and came out to sketch Old North Davis. This is the neighbourhood north of Fifth Street, laid out just over a century ago, full of leafy streets and cute houses. We met at the Davis Co-Op on G Street, and spread out to sketch. I drew this corner, at G and 7th. It wasn’t yet raining again so I was making the most of what I could get before seeking cover again. Actually I like rainy sketching, I just put my umbrella inside my jacket, it seems to work.
I’ve always liked this building, historically called the Anderson-Hamel House. I have sketched it before, and pass by it most weekends when heading downtown. It’s a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage and was originally the home of John B. Anderson, who established the Bank of Davis and was actually the mayor of Davis when Davis first became a city in 1917. One of the interesting things about this house is that it was originally down at 2nd Street, but was moved when later owners the Quessenberry family decided to build their drugstore there, and so the lovely house moved into Old North Davis. Its history is detailed well in John Lofland’s book ‘Old North Davis’, an absolutely invaluable guide to the area, street by street, hosue by house. I recommend it for anyone interested in this part of Davis (I for one would love to do one where I get to sketch all the buildings).
I then sat in the Lyda Williams memorial garden on E Street and was going to sketch from there, sat on a bench in the hopeful sunshine, but a local cat decided to come and sit on my lap for a while. Ok little cat, that’s fine, just have a nap there, my feet need a break anyway. Thunder started rumbling, getting closer and closer. Eventually the cat got down and went under the bench, and I sketched this house on 6th and E. It’s very peaceful here, people out on their Sunday strolls around the neighbourhood. Someone I’ve met before called out to me “nice day for a sketch!”. The thunder rumbling more loudly above me was making me go a little bit faster. In the end I left it where it was and headed back to the Co-Op, just in time for the rain.
The car above was parked outside the Co-Op, a Datsun (don’t see many of them nowadays), and I actually sketched it at the start, but only got as far as the headlights, the windscreen and the overall outline, I had to finish the rest afterwards, because the driver came and drove away. Not sure what the funny rat symbol was on the side, but the car was very souped up and personalized, with paint splatter and special features, it was like a Stone Roses record cover.
And here are the brave sketchers who sketched Old North Davis. We’ve yet to determine the date of the next Davis sketchcrawls but we’ll post them very soon.
A month or two ago I drew this corner of 3rd Street, near UC Davis, which has recently undergone a lot of redevelopment. At that point the newest piece of public art had not been unveiled, it’s a large obelisk in the middle of the crossing called the Davis Needle. It’s made from loads of kids’ bike parts, all melded together by artists Ilana Spector and Mark Grieve. Apparently it lights up at night as well, I’m looking forward to checking that out. I nearly didn’t draw the top of it but I couldn’t see the point. Sorry that was a needle joke. Puns often needle me. Some people don’t cotton on to puns about needles, etc and so on. Sorry, it is late after a busy time of it, I know I can do a lot better. Anyway I like it a lot, the Davis Needle, and so I drew this at lunchtime.
Coming home from the ARC gym on Friday evening, I spotted this rusting hydrant poking out of the greenery, saying “sketch me! sketch me!” Well I couldn’t not sketch it. It was starting to get dark, it had been a busy week and a fairly stressful one, the hour in the gym helped massively, it must be said. Nothing beats a sketch though for stress relief. Well one or two other things might but I’m pretty good at sketching. This is the first page of a new sketchbook. Seawhite of Brighton (#10, aka landscape sketchbook #33 in the new numbering system). Every sketchbook needs a fire hydrant. Every sketchbook needs a fire hydrant. Every sketchbook needs a fire hydrant.
The day after arriving in London I joined with the London Urban Sketchers for their latest sketchcrawl, which was at the RAF Museum Hendon (in Colindale), which is very close to my family’s home in Burnt Oak. Despite growing up nearby, I had never actually been inside, not once. It was a lot larger than I expected. There was a very good turnout for the sketchcrawl, and I met a few familiar faces. I actually organized USk London’s first sketchcrawl back in 2012 when that chapter was founded, calling it “Let’s Draw London” after the Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl series I had started, and they have been going ever since, still monthly, in a whole variety of very interesting and diverse locations. There are so many sketchers in London who go out rain or shine. Of course this sketchcrawl was mostly indoors, and I was joined this time by my young sketching apprentice, my 9-year-old nephew Sonny. I had expected him to get bored at some point, as it was a long day of sketching, but not a bit of it – he could have kept drawing for many hours longer than the rest of us. He loved it, and he kept himself very busy, sketching eight planes and chatting away to the other urban sketchers. And he was very proud to get his Urban Sketchers London badge!
The first plane we both sketched was the Curtiss KITTY HAWK III, at the top of this post. With its painted mouth, this was an obvious favourite. We then moved on to draw a couple of others, the small red CHIPMUNK plane which is post-WWII, and had cool black and white striped propellers, which must have created a great effect while spinning. The sketchcrawl co-organizer John told me that he actually used to fly one of these, which was pretty impressive to me (I’m always impressed by pilots). Next to it was the golden yellow HARVARD, which I think was actually American but I didn’t read the label. Always read the label Pete, seriously! Someone did say to me, “well that’s the Harvard, which of course is American, because ‘Harvard’, see” and I kept thinking, well the university is American but John Harvard was from England, he went to school in Southwark, but I didn’t mention that because 17th century emigrants didn’t really have a lot to do with 20th century aviation and I’d sound like a twat. Also, I kept thinking about trying to use the word ‘mans-planing’ at some point that day, the situation where a man explains to a woman what aeroplanes do, but I didn’t have the imagination to seek that scenario out. Also, I have just realized that chipmunks have stripey backs, which totally planesplains the stripey propeller. See, who needs to read the labels?
I liked working on the perspective sketching these, vehicles up close is good practice. Below is the TORNADO, which is one of my absolute favourite planes. When I was in primary school (not far from here, at Goldbeaters), pupils were divided into four houses, which were if memory serves ‘Phantoms’ (green), ‘Jaguars’ (blue), Harriers (red, I think?) and ‘Tornadoes’ (yellow). I was in the Tornadoes. We would get House Points for all sorts of things, sometimes for sporting achievements (we would be split into our houses on sports day), but also good behaviour, good academic work, and other such things. If I recall I got us a few House Points for drawing, but not as many for sporting prowess (I was good at chess though). Anyway, that’s why I like Tornadoes.
Quick five-minute sketch of the enormous Lancaster bomber, which I will definitely attempt again some time, it is an enormous flying fortress. It brought to mind the great flying battleships of Castle In The Sky, one of my favourite Miyazaki films. Also, the first part I drew was the round bit at the front, the one with the strange screaming emoji face on it.
When I was a kid my older sister dated a guy named Neil Frogget for a while, and he worked at British Aerospace, as an engineer I think, he may have made the tea for all I know (I’m not very inquisitive, I never ask questions about what people do, I would have been a terrible journalist). When he came to visit once he brought me all these posters of modern British fighter planes, which I hung on my wall and tried to design new, faster, more weapon-filled versions. I was a little bit into jet fighter planes (yet ironically as a kid I was scared of flying, until I was 10 when I finally took a plane to Spain, and have been flying all over the world ever since). I loved those toy flying plane made out of cheap easily-breakable polystyrene with the little plastic propeller on the front, and they came in all models, the most sought after of course being the Spitfire. Yet I still didn’t visit RAF Hendon. The World War II flying machines were very much part of our local lore – RAF Hendon is at the site of the great Hendon Aerodrome, which spanned the area now covered by (the notorious) Grahame Park Estate, itself named after flying legend Claude Grahame-White. He had established a flying school here in 1911. Of course when we think of the RAF, you can’t help but think of its most famous hour, the Battle of Britain, and when you think of the Battle of Britain you of course think of the Hawker Hurricane, and the forever popular Spitfire. So my last two sketches are of those. By this point I started a new sketchbook, closing the Seawhite and starting another Stillman & Birn (“Sketchbook 32” in the new categorization).
And here are some of the sketches my nephew Sonny did. He was really good at reading the labels and getting all the names right. He also wrote down the names of the sketchers he met so he could remember them when talking to them at the end (smart lad). Newest urban sketcher!
A fun time was had by all. I can’t wait to get back there sketching the planes again. I won’t have time this summer to organize another ‘themed’ London sketchcrawl, so it was really enjoyable to take part in this one.
The next posts of my sketches will be mostly London-themed. I did manage to get quite a lot of drawing done while I was back there, some of which needs finishing off with a bit of colour, some I need to draw little maps for, but I will be posting Davis sketches in the meantime. The trip was tiring, but energizing, and I’m expecting to keep the sketch-momentum going. First though, I have to get over the jet-lag…
Also posted on Urban Sketchers London