three mile

three mile brewing davis
This is Three Mile Brewing in Davis. Everywhere is a brewery these days. This place is fairly new, and brews right here, in the courtyard of Cedar Court behind 3rd and G Streets. I came here one other time and had a ‘Frankenweizen’ which I quite liked. This time I had an Irish stout which was less my thing, followed by a Kolsch, which was nicer. I enjoyed drawing here, having come here one evening after working late (March and April this year had a lot of those long work days!). They have a lot of t-shirts and merchandise which of course all the breweries do these days. The name ‘Three Mile Brewing’ actually comes from an old Davis law, though, that was established in the early 20th century after much lobbying by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that alcohol could not be sold within three miles of campus. This ban went until 1979 you know. Even since I’ve lived in Davis the number of bars has grown by a lot. I should know, I have drawn them all. I enjoyed sketching at the table here, listening to people talk the evening away, and there was a dog that was very contentedly sit next to his family a table away from me. Some of the bars in Davis are quite dog-friendly, with the University of Beer for example having “Puppy Hour” on weekends, most of the day rather than just an hour, where you can get a buck off your beer if you bring your dog. Woof! I don’t have a dog so I pay full price. What if I brought someone dressed up as a dog? What about werewolves? Where do I go from here after talking about werewolves? Let’s get back to the sketch. It took two beers (the aforementioned Stout and Kolsch) to draw including all the colour, and it was another practice test in perspective observation. Knackered, I finished up and went home to my bed, to get up early again next day.

the library years

Davis Library
This is the Mary Stephens Library in Davis, our local public library. I like it here, and am super thankful for the fact that public libraries exist. I spent so many years in the library, looking for the exit. No when I was a kid I would go to Burnt Oak Library after school and read every book I could, mostly the ones about other countries, I always wanted to travel. I never thought I would end up in America; I do remember reading all about Australia, and Germany, and Hong Kong – there was this one book about Hong Kong I used to read over and over, and to this day I still have never been. Nor Australia. I used to read a book about Australia and learn all about exotic things such as Lamingtons, Flying Doctors, Funnel Web Spiders. I loved the library. Sometimes I would go to Hendon Library, a couple of stops away on the tube, but it was much bigger and had a music section. I would check out records there, they had a lot of old BBC Sound Effects records I used to enjoy for some reason, you know the ones with “Door Creaking” or “Thunderstorm”, I remember they would check the record for scratches before giving it to you, marking each imperfection with a yellow crayon, and don’t even think about bringing it back damaged. Hendon Library. I spent so many Saturdays in there, sat in the Languages section, they had a lot of books about Languages. That’s where I did most of my reading about Languages when I was a boy of 13 or 14, amazed that there were so many in the world, I tried to learn different alphabets and was especially enthralled with the Cyrillic alphabet, this being back in the days when the Cold War was about the end and it had such a distant and exotic feel, and I loved how different languages that used Cyrillic did it in their own different way, the special letters in Serbo-Croatian (the Serbian side anyway) that the Russians didn’t have, and then all the others across what was then the Soviet Union. I devoured those language books. History too, I would read whatever I could about anywhere, especially the remote far away places; I read one book about the history of the Falkland Islands once, cover to cover. I didn’t only read about Languages and Countries and History but also a lot of fiction, especially fantasy fiction, though my favourite books were always the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, I still have my collection of them (except a couple which I lent to my nephew many years ago) but I would read many many more at the library. Sometimes I would go to Hendon Library on a Saturday after lunch and get a bunch of books at the library, and then get the bus from The Burroughs, the 183 to Harrow, reading book after book on the way, and then in Harrow I would go to the bookshop near the St.Ann’s shopping centre and read more books, mostly about Languages, before popping by the Games Workshop to buy some colourful dice, getting a bag of chips from the chippy, and getting the 114 back to Burnt Oak. Those really were the days. When I grew into adulthood I still spent ages in the Library, like Crouch End Library when I was jobless in Hornsey, or the Maughan Library when I was studying at King’s, and of course the massive Shields Library at UC Davis, the first place I ever came to spend my time when I first moved here, reading as many books about Old English as I could find on the shelves. Libraries were always my natural home, my quiet retreat, and they still are. I stand up for libraries. This one here in Davis is near my house, and I sketched it one afternoon before picking my son up from school, with grey clouds hanging in the sky. We went in afterwards, and spent some time with the books.

green shields

shields ave uc davis
This was sketched in the middle of UC Davis (not the geographic middle because it doesn’t half stretch out west, “beyond the cows”, but I’m not counting that part of campus) that is to say, between Shields Library and Mrak Hall. It’s on Shields Avenue. That’s officially the UC Davis address, “One Shields Avenue”. I know, “1, Shields Avenue” probably makes more sense but more often than not we write “One Shields Avenue”. (Yes I know “Shields” is plural but only if you mean the thing, the shield) (For all you know “shields” is a verb in the third person) (Well this actually refers to a surname, Peter J Shields) (Look just leave it). Mail doesn’t even go there, it goes to Mail Division out in the far west of campus near the airport. Oh does UC Davis have its own airport? Well yes it does thank you very much. The address does remind me of “Number One, London”, the actual address of Apsley House, by Hyde Park Corner. Yes if you wrote a postcard to “Number 1, London” it would go there. That is the former house of the Duke of Wellington, he of Waterloo fame (the battle not the Eurovision-winning song) (Waterloo did reach Number 1 in the UK though, funny enough, but not in the US) (Hey, Abba were Number 1 in the UK when I was born but I’m not telling you the song) (Because I can’t remember) (Look just leave it). The Duke of Wellington, or Arthur Wellesley as he was known to his mum, was also called “The Iron Duke”. Ah, because he was a famously firm and strong-willed commander. Or perhaps because he kept a whole bunch of special arc-reactor-powered flight and combat suits in his basement. Well neither of those in fact. When he was Prime Minister he was not particularly popular and people often came to Number 1, London to throw things at his windows, so he put iron shutters on them to stop them from breaking, hence “Iron Duke”. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps Iron Man should have done that when those helicopters came knocking on his window in Iron Man 3. Speaking of Marvel and of Shields, I’ve really been enjoying Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lately, that’s been quite a fun show, very comic-book. But anyway back to the sketch, this (as I said) is of Shields Avenue, and I actually sketched it in pencil rather than pen, then adding the paint as usual. This was late April, sketched in the latest Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook (#6 I believe, though I may embark on a complete sketchbook renumbering project, my sketchbook show last Fall has kind of prompted that).

reflections of the way life used to be

king hall from uc davis arboretum sm
This is in the UC Davis Arboretum, that view of King Hall from Putah Creek, with Mrak Hall in the background, that I have sketched before. Look at that Creek! Regular listeners will recall how the Creek has so often at this time of year turned into a pea green soup, but the Arboretum people have been doing an amazing job renovating the Creek (is ‘renovating’ the right word? I’m not a Creek Scientist so I’m not sure how it works). Now the water is clear and reflective, and what a reflection. It was that that drew me to sketch this scene yet again. For years I sketched this every summer, usually around June, to track its changes. King Hall is home to the Law School, named after Martin Luther King Jr, while Mrak is where the University administration resides, named after Emil MRak, the first UC Davis Chancellor. This is the extension to King Hall built within the past decade, but the original King Hall was dedicated to Dr. King in April 1969, a year after his assassination.

Ok, I always do this when I sketch this scene, but here are a bunch of previous years’ sketches.
2015:
mrak & king from the arboretum
2012:
mrak & king halls
2011:
mrak & king halls
2010:
mrak & king halls
2009:
mrak hall... with the law school ruining the view
2008:
mrak hall
2007:
mrak, seen from the creek

I sometimes talk about being a ‘sketchbook historian’, and this is the thing, if you live somewhere, draw it. And then draw it again, and again, and you will have a record of how it changes, a record that goes beyond mere memory, and one that photographs don’t always capture in the same way. On top of that, you can see how your own sketching style evolves, improves, changes, sometimes be design, sometimes naturally and unexpectedly.

almost ready at the south silo

south silo uc davis
This is the latest at the South Silo, UC Davis. Much of the new expanse with the food trucks and covered area is open now, it looks very nice and I’ll sketch it when it’s done. This however is The Market (I think it’s called) and it’s almost ready, so I took the chance to sketch it in its almost-complete state. Those particular triangles are very popular on this campus.

back home on the couch

living room
So the Spurs finale at the Lane was pretty epic. The victory against United, which of course I never doubted for a second would happen, and then all the old legends came out onto the field in pouring rain, and Kenneth Branagh’s video, and the rousing rendition of Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur (“Pride of northern London and the KINGS of WHITE HART LANE…” yeah, I got a bit salty-discharge-eyed) and the clouds broke and sunshine poured in mid-chorus, and That Rainbow which was an unbelievably Hollywood moment of perfect timing (and did you see Glenn Hoddle? Raising his eyebrows and pointing his brolly up to show his fellow 80s legends, who were all thinking, Glenn, don’t get too excited mate, it’s just weather!). Yep, in my living room which we had decorated with Tottenham shirts from through the years (happy mother’s day, by the way), we watched and felt very moment. And all those years that I have been singing “Spurs are on their way to Wembley,” and now I really don’t want them to. And today, the bulldozers are already in digging the old place up.

But enough of all of that. This is a completely unrelated sketch, except that it is of the couch where my exiled-from-north-London bottom was sat watching it all from 5000 miles away. This sketch however is from April, on a day when I was home from work sick, and lying on the sofa. Sofa away, you might say.

a farewell to dippy

Dippy NHM London

Well the New Year is here and I am still posting sketches from November. I know you just can’t get enough of 2016. These are the sketches I did on our brief sojourn back to London over Thanksgiving. It was a week of family fun more than sketching outings (I did most of my UK sketching in the summer) but I managed a few. Above is a sketch from the Natural History Museum. My son really wanted to go there to see the geology exhibits (he loves rocks and minerals) and we wanted to see our beloved Dippy one last time before he is removed from the main hall and replaced with a whale skeleton. Dippy, for those who don’t know, is the giant Diplodocus skeleton in the Hintze Hall. Dippy’s been in the NHM for over a century and has been in that hall since I was a little kid, when I would go there all the time with school or my big sister; I do love the Natural History Museum. Well Dippy is leaving! This very week in fact. They are replacing Dippy with a large blue whale skeleton that will hang from the ceiling. Dippy will go on a tour of the UK (see here for details). My son and I found a seat in an alcove to sketch, but we couldn’t see the whole Dippy so sketched what we could see.

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We also visited the Harry Potter tour at the Warner Bros Studios, at Leavesden, just outside London. We are big Harry Potter fans, and my son read the books and saw the movies this year for the first time so it was an exciting visit to go and see the real sets where they were filmed. We only had time for one sketch (so much to see! We could have been there all day) so I sketched the entrance to Dumbledore’s office while he drew the big pendulum thing. I got a Gryffindor scarf. According to the Pottermore website, my son and I would both be in Gryffindor (my wife got sorted into Slytherin!). We went there with my mum, sister and nephew, and it was a really fun family day, I do recommend it.

Hogwarts Griffin Stairwell, WB Studios, England

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One other place I was eager to visit was the new Switch House at the Tate Modern, the new tall extension to the gallery on the South Bank. It only opened last summer. My son kinda enjoyed the gallery (we saw both my books in the shop! But he was more excited about the tiny Slinky he bought) but was nervous about going to the tenth floor observation deck. When we were up there though he loved it, and again we sat and sketched the view. This is now my favourite spot in London and I will definitely come back with a few hours on hand to do a big detailed panorama. It was amazing there. Here is what I did sketch, of the view across the Thames to St. Paul’s Cathedral:

St Pauls from Tate Modern

The scene below is of drinkers at the very intimate pub off Trafalgar Square, The Harp. I came here with my friend Roshan, as they do good beer; one day I’d like to sketch the whole bar. As it was, I sketched these happydrikers while Roshan popped to the loo. Less-than-five-minute people sketching!

People at Harp pub, London

And here is Burnt Oak tube station, in the area my family live (and I am from. Looking as it has ever done. I was going to finish this, but I wanted to get back and have a cup of tea, and never finished it at home.

Burnt Oak Station

One last sketch, which is of course the in-flight drawing on the Virgin flight coming home. It was one of the newer planes, and unlike in the summer, this time I didn’t get completely squashed up and have a bad back for several weeks afterwards. Which was handy. Farewell again then my London, until next time!

virgin-atlantic-112616-sm