Notre Dame, Resurgam

Notre Dame de Paris
I can’t quite believe it. When I saw the images yesterday that Notre Dame de Paris was on fire, it was an unreal jolt, as it was with many many other people. I watched the French news channel online, watched as the smoke filled the clear sky, as the flames engulfed the roof and threatened the towers, as the tall central spire burned orange and slowly tumbled, hoped desperately that the Parisian pompiers would stop the fire from completely destroying her. For me, Notre Dame is Paris, it is France, the heart of the country where so much national history has taken place; it was simultaneously a picturesque stone flower on an island in a river and an unbreakable gothic powerhouse. My wife was heartbroken to see the news; it was the very first building she ever visited in Europe. It just didn’t seem real that it could be destroyed like this, having survived so much. Instantly urban sketchers from around the world were sharing their sketches of Notre Dame. I went to sleep early last night, and awoke this morning to find that the building ultimately survived – severely damaged, with a distinct lack of roof, but the structure is for the most part intact, and the large rose windows mostly undamaged. She will be rebuilt, it will take a long time, but she’ll be back. I drew the sketch above while standing on the banks of the Seine one golden May evening in 2012, after a long day of walking and sightseeing. My young son had just been playing in the sandpits next to the cathedral, before my wife took him home on the Metro for some pre-dinner sleep, while I sketched. I love sketching cathedrals. I have a number of them framed  on the wall of my staircase at home. Notre Dame is one of the greatest cathedrals I’ve ever been to. I first went there when I was only 13, on a day trip to Paris during a school trip to northern France. I’ll never forget that day trip; we got off the coach near Notre Dame, and couldn’t believe it when we saw a policeman carrying an actual gun! Not something you saw in Britain. Notre Dame was so exciting for me. My big sister had been about a year before, and brought me back a metal Notre Dame keyring, which I treasured. I got her a keyring when I was there. Going inside I remember how dark it seemed compared to the bright sunlight outside. In those days, Notre Dame itself was much darker on the outside too, stone grey and stained from years of smoke and pollution. That was normal to me. The London I grew up in during the 1980s was full of blackened dirty buildings – when Westminster Abbey was finally polished to a gleaming white I didn’t recognize it. Similarly, when I came back to Notre Dame years later, it was still in the process of a deep cleanse, and I was astonished at its brightness. The things I remember the most from that first trip back in 1989 though were the immense rose windows, pouring in colourful light, so big and round that I could not believe that they were over 700 years old, and the coldness of the stone, ancient stone that I just knew could feel everything around it, that if it could speak would tell us tales of its history. I put my ears to the stone to see if I could hear it. I could hear it calling my name, “Scully! Oi, Scully!” but it turned out to be my mate Hooker telling me to stop hugging the cathedral and hurry back outside, everyone’s off to the Eiffel Tower.

I don’t remember if I ever went back inside, though I always made a point to at least go and see the cathedral every other time I went to Paris, which wasn’t actually many times. I went in 96 with this one girl for a couple of days, that wasn’t actually much fun, then again in 98 during the World Cup, but didn’t stay overnight, then again a year later (or maybe it was it a year before) with someone else I was going out with, and then not again for many years until our family trip in 2012 (those photos above are from then). I’m well overdue a visit to Paris. This year, definitely.

I was so shocked to see Notre Dame burn, but if I know one thing about cathedrals, I know they are built to last. She’ll be back. It may be a long time before I can finally go inside again, but when I do, I’ll bet the old stones have another story to tell me.

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Let’s Draw the Arboretum!

LDD April 2019

Join us for another sketchcrawl in Davis California! This time we will head back to the Arboretum, one of the prettiest places on the UC Davis campus in the springtime, and spend a couple of hours sketching the plants and scenery. It’s the day after Picnic Day, so campus should be a lot calmer and quieter.

We will start at Wyatt Deck, which is located on the northeast side of Lake Spafford and just off of Arboretum Drive (near Wyatt Pavilion, the oldest building on campus) at 1:00pm, and I will give a short intro to botanical sketching. We will then go off and sketch solo or in groups, around the Arboretum, and then regroup at 3:30pm back at Wyatt Deck to look at each other’s sketchbooks.

As always this event is FREE and open to anyone who likes to sketch outside. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on. And a small foldout stool might be handy! I will provide little maps of the Arboretum on the day, and everyone will get a ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sticker.

MAP:

I drew a map of the Arboretum (I really like drawing maps) which you can use if you come along. It’s not to scale, but shows whereabouts things are.

Arboretum map drawn by Pete Scully

NOTE: if you are interested in tea, there is an event right before at Wyatt Deck from 11am-1pm called ‘Tea and Conversation’, sponsored by the Global Tea Club: https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/events/tea-and-conversation-041419

It’ll be the nice quiet day after Picnic Day, and what better way than to spend it sketching among the flowers? Hope to see you Sunday!

going down different paths

arboretum bridge uc davis
Another from the last month of 2018, this sketch was down at the Arboretum on the UC Davis campus. It was more colourful than this looks; there was a lot of yellow leafage strewn along the rising bank to the left there, and a greenish hue to the water (though since the creek has been thoroughly redeveloped, there is no longer a pea-soup thick covering of algae).

By the way, I was interviewed by Anjini Venugopal for the California Aggie (UC Davis’s long-running student-managed newspaper), and the article appeared this week: https://theaggie.org/2019/01/11/the-artist-pete-scully-discusses-urban-sketching. Check it out! “I’m just obsessed with drawing,” Scully said. “It’s something I have to do.” I totally said that.

Right now I am (in addition to sketching) actually doing lots of logo design, both for our Select soccer team (the “Dawgs”) and also the Davis World Cup, so I have been drawing lots of ideas, and teaching myself how to use Illustrator, which I have just nor bothered with for years (I typically use Photoshop when doing anything digital).  At some point I might share that stuff, but for now, I’m just teaching myself and messing about. And it has been immense fun!

uncle vito’s

uncle vito's mar 2018 sm

Slowly scanning sketches. This one is from a Davis pizzeria / bar called Uncle Vito’s. I have sketched it a couple of times before (once every couple of years or so) and on one evening in early March I needed to come out and do some bar sketching. The beer is nice here, and not expensive. And tall, as you can see from my drink. I don’t really eat the food here though; I had a pizza once that was not really to my liking (it had Thai flavours, which in this case meant peanut sauce and beansprouts), and I have also had their garlic fries, which are delicious but come in an enormous pile, I think I had it in 2009 or so and am still feeling full up. Just beer it is then. The screens are blank, there might have been sports on them, basketball maybe, too late for American Football, too early for American Baseball, maybe it was American Soccer, or maybe it was like just the news or something. Or a movie. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, stop wondering. The leg lamp-post, it’s from that Christmas movie, anyway the first time I went in there I though they had two of them, before realizing it’s just a mirror. Mirrors behind bars can be deceptive. For years I thought there was a mirror behind the bar at the Good Mixer in Camden Town, I never clocked that that was in fact another side to the bar. I never clocked that I had no reflection, or if I did I must look pretty different, Camden will do that to you. Anyway this most definitely isn’t Camden, it’s Davis.

Barnstaple, Devon

barnstaple museum feb2018 sm
On my brief trip back to England I went to Barnstaple in north Devon, with my mum and sister to see my uncle Billy and his family. It had been a long time since I was in Devon; my 16 year old cousin Jade was still a newborn, which gives you an idea how long ago it was. I did go for a little walk on the Saturday afternoon to do a couple of sketches (also to have some amazing chips in gravy, so tasty). I stood at the busy intersection near the bridge over the wide river Taw and drew the scene above, the Barnstaple Museum, with the clock tower outside. Barnstaple is quite a busy town, and has a pretty bustling town centre on a Saturday afternoon. I have to say, coming from California, and coming from a suburb in north London, it was nice being in a town which has all the shops. Our hotel was right opposite a great toy shop too, they had a lot of Lego, as well as loads of model railways. As I say, it has been a long time since I was in Devon, and one of the things I love about the southwest are the hills in the background. I remember going camping in Devon when I was 16, and the scenery just brings me back. The English countryside really is beautiful. I’ve never really spent a lot of time in the country and the smaller towns and cities, always being in London; I’d love to tour the UK with a sketchbook like that Richard Bell book my cousin Dawn got me a few years ago), but living our here I’ll never get time. You can see the hilly backdrop behind the building below as well, I forget the name of that building (if only there was a way I could instantly look that up on the device I am typing this), but also visible is the Long Bridge over the Taw. I got up very early in the mornings to walk around town and along the river, cold damp February mornings. In those early mornings, you still had a few local lads out from the night before, singing, slurring, bit of scrapping. It was actually raining when I drew the one below, and I had to stop when it started getting heavy. I like the colour of the stone they use for these old buildings down here. Barnstaple itself goes back to Anglo-Saxon times and there is an interesting mosaic near where I drew this, at Queen Anne’s Walk,  showing the whole history of the place, vikings, pirates, traders and raiders.
barnstaple feb2018 sm

among the redbuds

Redbuds Arboretum Mar 2018 sm

And all of a sudden, two months passed and I didn’t post a thing. Perhaps I just really liked that sketch of the Manetti Shrem; whenever I would give out my little Moo card recently, I always thought, oh the past is old now but yeah, great sketch, I liked that one. I have sketched a lot since my last post (which was dated March but in sketching time zone it was still only January). My computer broke, so I took that as an opportunity to be really lazy about scanning my sketches regularly. Now I have a new machine the time has finally come to sketch the backlog. I’m going to break chronological order though, even sketchbook order, and post for my return to the sketchblogosphere this opening illustration of the latest Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, the bright pink redbuds in the UC Davis Arboretum, with the Water Tower behind the tree. Those redbuds are gone now, but that colour is a powerful opening line to this book.

Now, in the middle of May, my seasonal allergies are going haywire at the mere sight of foliage. Seasonal allergies are the most boring thing ever. For me, very little really works, other than staying insulated in my office. However since I do have to coach soccer, and I also have to get out and draw from time to time, and also cycle from home to work, exposure to the outside world is, regrettably, necessary. It is boring though, having allergies. Boring, because everyone has a solution you haven’t tried. “Mm, yes, thanks, yes,” I nod, trying to find the facial emoji for “I am pretty sure I didn’t ask you for a cure”. Boring, because there is so much sneezing and never enough Kleenex. It’s funny how sneezing is automatically asking for a tissue. Sneezing is not however asking for a blessing, so come on world, let’s stop doing that. “Bless you.” says random person after sneez one. “Bless you!” they say again after sneeze two. “Oh, bless you,” they say after sneeze three, the concern creeping into their voice. They no more want to continue the blessing than I want to receive it. They have now locked themselves into a trap of politeness, like someone holding the door open for you when you are that bit too far away, they stand there expecting you to walk faster because they are holding the door for you, and even though you weren’t actually going to go through that door but turn and go another direction you feel you have to go through the door and pretend to be doing something in that building, you stand there looking at your phone like you are trying to remember the place you are pretending to look for, and you have to wait for them to leave the vicinity before creeping back outside the door and going the other way (that’s never happened to you?) “Bless you again!” they say on sneeze four, as if to say look, you’ve had your fun, nobody sneezes this much on purpose, and I’m not made of blessings. “Wow, hahaha!” they say on sneeze five and you want to vanish into a portal as you fumble for the dry half of the tissue in your back pocket. On sneeze six they raise their eyebrows, as if saying an internal prayer for forgiveness because they are refusing to bless this clearly sick individual who cannot stop sneezing. On sneeze seven they are ready to fight you. On sneeze eight you are obviously dangerous and they get their phone out, either to tweet about you or to call the police. On sneeze nine they dial, but this time they dial the Guinness Book of Records. On sneeze ten you’ve gone viral, the world’s media shows up and talk shows are discussing whether you are just a crisis sneezer, sneezing for attention, or whether you are the first victim of a new epidemic that will soon sweep the nation if we don’t vote for tax cuts for pharmaceutical companies (oo-er, little bit of politics, mrs thatch, mrs thatch). On sneeze eleven you’ve sold the advertising rights to the space between sneezes, mostly to those same pharmaceutical companies who offer allergy products with names like Zqxywfyl or Snotadrine. On sneeze twelve you’ve received so many blessings that you can officially be listed as a religion on the Census form. On sneeze thirteen – seriously thirteen sneezes? – you’re already appearing in sponsored ads at the bottom of websites with titles like “whatever happened to sneezing guy”. On sneeze fourteen, nothing happens. Everyone is calm and has just accepted you have allergies and will sneeze a lot. Everything is quiet. And then someone says, “I take local honey, that always works for me.” Which is code for “if you ever sneeze again, I swear I will end you.”

So yeah, no more bless-yous, no more “my sister-takes-this” cures, please just ignore my sneezing. By mid-June I should be ok. At least when I am sneezing, I am not making loads of dad-joke puns (oh right, except for the “a tissue!” one).

over the mountains, in the high desert

Comstock Panorama April 2017 sm

At the end of April, we drove over the Sierra Nevada mountains, still heavily packed with quickly melting snow, across the state line into Nevada. My son played AYSO Select this year at the U10 level, and his team (the Davis “Duh”) were off to play in their third tournament, the Comstock Shootout at Carson City. It was a two-day tournament, playing against other teams from northern California, but the location was utterly spectacular. The backdrop of the snow-peaked Sierras on one side, and rocky high desert hills on the other, this was, let’s say, a little bit different from Davis. The sketch above, a panorama in pencil and watercolour in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, was sketched in roughly 20-25 minutes while our team warmed up elsewhere; this was actually the U14 team, the Davis Dissent, for whom several older brothers of our lads were playing. But I couldn’t resist those mountains! I was trying to channel my French urban sketching friend Vincent Desplanche, who does amazing sketches up in the mountains back in Europe. Davis is too flat for mountains, they are usually too far in the distance.

Comstock Duh practice

The altitude was high, so our players had more sub breaks during the games (our coach was really good at managing that). I was reminded of when South American teams go and play in Bolivia, and struggle with the altitude in La Paz, which the Bolivian players are well used to. This was so problematic that between 2007 and 2008 FIFA actually banned international games from being played at above 8,200 feet. Carson City is at around 4,800 so nowhere near that high, but you do feel it. I was also reminded of when Premier League teams go to West Brom, who have the highest ground in England, and they often struggle with the altitude, which is a whopping 551 feet, so actually it’s more the Tony Pulis tactics they struggle against.

Comstock game sketches

We were actually put to the test though by another team who were much more used to playing at altitude, a team from the town of Bishop, which is in California but on the High Desert side of the Sierras. Bishop is at 4,150 feet, and their players definitely outplayed ours, giving us our only defeat of the competition (and a pretty big one too). Davis, I might add, is only 52 feet above sea level. We may not be mountain-top athletes, but our cakes are baked to perfection. Above, here are some sketches I did during the game.

Minden Holiday Inn, Nevada

We stayed in the nearby town of Minden, at the Holiday Inn. There isn’t a whole lot to do in Minden, so in the evening while my son slept I grabbed a cold drink from the gas station across the street and sketched in the seating area of the hotel. I brought my books about perspective, as I was planning for my workshop in June, and so couldn’t help a nice bit of interior perspective. It was very yellow in there, though.

Minden Nevada

And here are those mountains again, this time sketched from our hotel window in the morning. It’s pretty beautiful there with that backdrop. I’d like to explore that part of Nevada some day, the High Desert, see some of the old abandoned ghost towns. I’d like to go to Virginia City, where they filmed that TV show Bonanza; I remember once joking it would be fun to do a sketchcrawl there, but at the end you would have to burn your sketches and ride off on horses, like in the opening credits. Tell you what though, those mountains look really pretty but that snow was melting fast. As we drove back over it, you could see it all stacked high but weeping in any direction, with waterfalls gushing and creeks rushing. And the rocks…we saw a huge boulder which had fallen into the road and forced a big car to swerve off, and passed the section of highway that had been partially washed away by the heavy rain and snow in the winter. It was a fun trip, definitely a change of scenery, and a cool tournament for the boys to play in.