Today is my fourteenth birthday. Sorry, I mean today is the fourteenth birthday I am having since I moved to America. Fourteen birthdays in California. I counted them, and it’s fourteen of them in total. In terms of my life it’s a bit like, was there really football before the Premier League? And of course there was, but we only quote records since the Premier League started these days. It was a good reboot point, a good place for newcomers to jump on board the story without knowing years of character history, like a new issue #1 in Marvel Comics terms (they do that a lot). And I have just realized, the top flight of English football has been called the Premier League for nearly two thirds my life now. You start measuring your life in halves and thirds and quarters, and wow those quarters become thirds pretty quickly. Fourteen birthdays in America is a third of all the birthdays I’ve ever had. I don’t like doing anything for my birthday any more, it’s just one more day of aging, same as yesterday and tomorrow, but with cake. I do get anxious leading up to it though, thinking about all the years, all the different phases of existence, who I was, who I will be, all that stuff. Some people look through photo albums at their old selves, but of course I look through the old sketchbooks. I have an album on my computer (also a Flickr album) of all my Davis sketches and it takes me through a journey of staying in one place. Interesting to see how my drawing has developed, gone one way, back another, but not quick obvious changes. A sketch is a series of decisions based on decisions I’ve made before. Above, yesterday’s lunchtime sketch. It’s the view of the Silo from Rock Hall, UC Davis. Below, the same view from the same spot on the same date February 6, but twelve years earlier (and Rock Hall was the Chemistry lecture hall back then). Above, sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, below sketched in a WH Smith sketchbook. Some things have changed. That grass is gone. The general view is not all that different though, unlike some of the recent sketches I’ve posted with more dramatic changes. Will I sketch this again on February 6th 2031?
Sketched through the window of the Market Place (UC Davis South Silo) while eating a sandwich. Sketched on the third anniversary of David Bowie’s death. I still can’t believe he has gone. Look at what he has missed on planet earth, these past three years! My sandwich was spicy, jerk chicken with chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese. Maybe I was trying to numb the thoughts of Bowie still being gone. It wasn’t raining but the metal parasols over the tables look like a crowd of umbrellas on the other side of a wall. Maybe it was raining on the other side of that wall? We could be heroes, just for one day. What d’you say.
This is the back of the UC Davis Craft Center, in the South Silo building. Well, it’s worth drawing buildings you have drawn plenty of times before from a different angle for once. I like triangles, shapes. I’ll tell you something, I’ve never been into the Craft Center. I should take a class with them sometime, they do some interesting courses. I like a bit of ceramics, not done that since I was, well since Everton were the English champions, that’s rather a long time. I actually won a competition for pottery when I was 11, Borough-of-Barnet-wide, I made this big butterfly and did a bunch of drawings that went with it. I won a book called “The Young Naturalist”, which was presented to me at Goldbeaters School. My older brother and sister used to rip the piss out of me for that book, because they thought it was about Naturism, and I had no idea what that was. (It’s where people go about all nudey). I was always like, you what? Obviously this is about finding caterpillars and identifying plants. Oh you mean bushes and snakes, they’d chuckle. Yeah I suppose so, idiots, I’d say back. I’m still confused about it actually. When people talk about Naturist beaches I imagine it being full of people in green jackets with little magnifying glasses and Thermos flasks. Anyway my only ceramics experience after that was at school with Mr Herring, yes Mr Herring, the pottery teacher who hated me. He was the only teacher who gave me ‘Discredits’. He was my Snape, or would have been my Snape if I’d ever been taught by him after the first term of the first year, which I wasn’t. He used to throw the clay across the classroom onto the pupil’s tables. In class one, I said to him, you shouldn’t do that. I was always told at Goldbeaters that Throwing Clay Was Bad. I lived by the Rules. So I got a Discredit for it! Then a few weeks later Mr Herring gave me another one for not handing in homework on time (drawing homework, which he usually criticized no end anyway, often giving me a C or a D; he was of the opinion I was rubbish at drawing, and wanted me to know that). He really put me off doing ceramics, because ceramics was done through him at our school and if he didn’t like you, then tough tit my friend. This wasn’t really a thing in any of my other classes (especially not Art, which I loved). That Discredit meant I got my one and only Detention. I remember the Detention teacher being surprised to see me, and I noticed her eyes say ‘hmmm’ when she saw who gave me the Discredits. I had to write an essay called “The Day I Nearly Died”, that was the Detention essay at our school. I wrote about when I was hanging off of a cliff at Alum Bay in the Isle of Wight on a school trip, and had to be rescued by Mr. Winston, one of my favourite ever teachers. Anyway I never did ceramics again, so cheers for that Mr. Herring.
The start of the Academic Year at UC Davis always brings busy times. I like it; after the long hot summer it’s nice to have all the people back. A lot of people, a lot of new cyclists, a lot of young drivers. People dress well in those first couple of weeks, dressed to impress new classmates. All the sorority houses along Russell that I cycle past are bursting with outfits and hairstyles. I haven’t been downtown much lately but this is also when people go out to restaurants and bars in huge groups; they’ve all just met each other and don’t know who will be their best buds yet. This is what I’ve seen over the years in this college town. By about November the cycling crashes will slow down, the homework sets in, the leaves become crispier. On this day though in the first week of classes I sat in the shade by the food trucks at the Silo and sketched this temporarily located Peet’s Coffee truck which was busy offering people a free cup. I don’t drink coffee, and I also spell ‘Pete’ properly (this must be another American spelling like ‘color’ and ‘aluminum’). It was nice though to see something new at the Silo, something different to sketch. ‘Cold Brew’, I suppose this is some sort of cold coffee? I don’t know. That large ‘Nitro’ looks like a beer. In fact not knowing that this was Coffee I might assume this was a beer truck, if such a thing were allowed on campus. Brings me back to British universities, those first weeks of the academic year there, now they had a lot of beer on campus. In many UK unis the campus is built around the pub. The student union bar at my old uni, Queen Mary, was the Draper’s, and I remember back to 1997, that place would get messy. None would get so drunk as the rugby team though, going there on a Wednesday night you’d see the players there, large heavy-shouldered public-school types (America: ‘public’ school in England means ‘private’ school, yeah our language makes no sense occasionally), vomiting into buckets while stood on the table and then carrying on drinking. ‘Fresher’s Week’ is what we call the first week of the university year, ‘Freshers’ being like ‘Freshmen’ in the US (just less gender-specific). God I’m glad I’m not back in those days.
I eat lunch almost every single day. Sometimes that lunch is eaten at the UC Davis Silo. If you’ve followed this sketchblog foir some time you will alreayd know this and you are probably as bored of the fact as I am, but it is close to the office. The food has changed over the years. Gone is Taco Bell, gone is Carl’s Junior, in are the food trucks, in is the home-brand bicycle-part-themed ‘Spokes’ which serves burgers. The Crepes place is still here but has moved into Taco Bell’s old spot. I never eat there though. Once years ago I got a crepe from their stall at Picnic Day to share with my young son who was about five or six at the time, and I asked for a second plastic fork for him, and they refused, saying I had to buy a whole second crepe to get a second fork. Really dude? They have a Peet’s Coffee in there now instead of the Starbucks, so that people who like standing in long lines for coffee can still do so. There’s a bit more seating now. On these two lunchtimes I was listening to some podcast or other and just needed to sketch away what was left of the lunchtime. These represent a need to sketch more than anything.
At the start of last month I opened a new sketchbook and had a burst of post-symposium “gotta-sketch-it-all”. What I wanted to do were more panoramas, however they take a long time and I wanted to go more quickly. Having been a big fan of Vincent Desplanche‘s work since meeting him at the USk France Rencontre in Strasbourg in 2015, I’ve wanted to try more pencil and watercolour panoramas. I had a bunch of new Palomino pencils my friend Terry sent me from Japan, which I wanted to try out as they are darker and softer than the usual H pencils I use occasionally. So I drew a bunch of panoramas over lunchtimes or after work or weekends, adding the paint on site, and I have to say that it was a quicker than the long pen ones but still felt time-consuming. For one thing, the pencil smudges a bit more, even after being coated with watercolour wash. That said, I really like the pencil and watercolour and it was fun to draw these. Here are three from campus. Above, Hart Hall, one of the more interesting looking buildings on campus. I have drawn it a few times before.
One of the other details about this summer is the terrible air in California, brought about by all the huge wild fires. California is hot and dry and the fires have been really bad the past couple of years. This summer the fires made the air thick and smoky for weeks on end, as you can see with the two sketches above and below. The one above was sketched at the Memorial Union Bus Terminal on campus. I had walked across campus to drop something off at the International Center late one afternoon, and was going to catch the bus to go home, so I sketched this at the bus terminal while waiting. The air made me feel so physically sick that I had a huge headache and a nasty sore throat. This was one of the worst air days I’ve experienced here. One thing that often happens here in summer is on the very hot days we have ‘Spare The Air’ days, when riding on buses are free. I think this year we had eighteen spare-the-air days in a row. In the sketch above there is an ironic sign – we are a smoking-free campus (good), and the sign reminds us we are 100% smoke and tobacco free. Well, not so much on this day.
The one above was sketched on the next day at the Silo. The air was still bad, but felt significantly better. Why go out and sketch in it? I still needed to sketch, and this is where I come to eat. This one was an easier and quicker sketch, not really too much detail, just a fun piece of perspective. The food trucks and the large sloping shade thing were added last year to the redeveloped Silo area. I have a few more of these panoramas to post, sketched in downtown Davis.
Ok I am pretty caught up with the scanning so here are some more lunchtime campus sketches, packed into one post. Above is one of the oldest buildings on the UC Davis campus – North Hall. It’s 110 years old. This is the side of it, facing South Hall.
Here is the Bike Barn, as seen from the South Silo, next to one of the food trucks that frequent the Silo area these days (or during the academic year anyway).
This is a tree outside the Arts Building.
The rear of Heitman (formerly the Hog Barn), with the south Silo behind it. I have taken a lot of staff development classes here in Heitman.
And the view of the Bike Barn from afar, once more. I have sketched this scene so many times over the years, but this time at a slightly different angle. That’s the front of Heitman there, with the South Silo behind it. Right now, at the end of June, the Davis Heat is here again. A hundred degrees and rising, with a hot wind blowing. Onwards with the World Cup knockout stage…