academic surge

academic surge, uc davis
We have had loads and loads of rain, honestly. Not on the day I sketched this, though. It is the Academic Surge Building at UC Davis, right next to the building where I spend every day working. I did sketch from the inside stairwell of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Building opposite. It is home to, among other things, the Bohart Museum of Entomology (, an awesome museum dedicated to insects. Yes, I know you knew already what Entomology was. I did too, though back when I first came to UC Davis I had an interview with the Enology Department, and I got it wrong, because Enology is wine science. So remember: Entomology = insects, Enology = wine. Drawn in the Stillman and Birn Beta Landscape book, which has a soft blue cover. It’s very nice.

any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me

rainy uc davis!
Alright, 2017, let’s get you started and over with. I can feel you are gonna be one of those years, aren’t you. One of those ones with four numbers in them. 2016 was just a warm-up. Anyway, here in California we have rain, and lots of it – more than we have had in years. We need it after this drought. I remember big storms and floods in this area when I first moved here, and apart from the odd storm here and there they have never been matched, but these come close. We have had it good though; in Natomas, they had a tornado touch ground a couple of days ago. These were drawn in between those days, the top one being of the steady rain on the UC Davis campus. I stood beneath the shelter of Bainer Hall to sketch, a spot I have sketched from too many times to count now. Below, I forget the names of the buildings in the foreground, Sciences Lab and I think that’s the back of Haring, but you can see the observatory on top of, er, is that Hutchison? Am I pretending not to know, that is the question. Of course I do, I’ve been on campus for years. But look at that sky! Look how dark it is, dark and foreboding, like around the castle of the Skeksis at the start of the Dark Crystal. There was no lightning though, just dark, heavy, you might say grumpy clouds, moving toward the east. I’m not superstitious, but oooh, a big storm. I have done a lot of sketching so far in 2017, mostly of Lego Star Wars vehicles, you will see some of those soon. In the meantime, dark brooding malevolent skies. And science, surrounded by lots of good science. Also, the way the wind blows does matter to me, very much.
dark skies, uc davis

old east davis on new year’s eve

4th & I on new years eve
The last sketch of 2016. What a year that was. 2017 will be a year too. On New Year’s Eve we don’t really do all the partying. When I was a kid though, my family and neighbours always had big New Years parties, either at ours or another house in the street, lots of fun memories. We had quite a few families in our street with kids of similar age so we’d all play while the grown-ups drank and danced, then Big Ben would be on the telly going “BONG BONG…” and then all singing the Auld Lang Syne song and the next morning, a lot of mess to clean up. Bit quieter these days. I do like to get out before the sun sets and get a last sketch of the year in, and so on New Year’s Eve I cycled downtown on my new bike (my other bike went the way of so many celebrities in 2016, just before Christmas), before settling on the corner of 4th and I Streets in old east downtown Davis.”I Street” is not like “I, Claudius” by the way, nor is it like the Roman for 1st Street. I thought about drawing a panorama, but I got cold. Ended up adding most of the colour once I got back indoors as well. This building is historic, it is known as the Schmeiser House, and was built in 1911 by a man called Theodore Schmeiser, who ran a company that manufactured almond hullers and brought the first water supply to Davis. Here is a page with some history about it. Apparently the chimney has a swastika built into the brickwork, added as a “good-luck charm” by the Schmeisers whose family had come from Germany, obviously in the pre-Nazi era when that symbol didn’t mean what it later meant. Still, hmm. People apparently call this the “Swastika House”. If it wasn’t mentioned in every single article about this building, it might not be noticed (I didn’t, but I will now). Interestingly, I have learnt that Davis actually had a football team until 1909 called the “Davis Swastikas”, which had big swastikas on their chest; they disbanded after a player died of a broken neck. Here is some info on Davis wiki – that uniform looks very shocking in modern context, but again, this was well before it meant what it now means. Ugh. Well, a bit of sketching and a bit of history as one year changes into another, and this is still a lovely old building I’ve wanted to sketch in ages. There’s a whole list of historic Davis buildings and monuments listed on the City of Davis website as the “Historic Pedestrian and Bike Tour” on which the Schmeiser Building is included. I should really make my way through the list, sketching each one. I have sketched 23 of the 47 (remarkably few!), so I know what my new year’s resolution will be…

AT-AT walker, step by step

ATAT build 1
Look what I got for Christmas! I know, more Star Wars and Lego, but I have wanted this for ages. It’s probably my favourite vehicle in Star Wars (and, um, therefore anywhere), though the Millennium Falcon is also up there (with the Snowspeeder not far behind, I love that little thing). The AT-AT, which I do pronounce attatt (not spelling out the letters), also know as Imperial Walker, the big armoured behemoths from The Empire Strikes Back. I remember getting the toy one as a kid at Christmas, I must have been about six or seven, and I remember the big box, it was the pride of my collection. This Lego version took significantly longer to put together, and well, I love it. I sketched the steps of building it. Above, it looks more like the skeleton of a small ship that the snowtroopers have cobbled together. Below, the armour is starting to take shape, the feet are built and the neck has been screwed on.
ATAT build 2<
Then, I added the legs. I lay it on its side. It’s quite tall, and surprisingly sturdy. Lego is very technical these days.
ATAT build 3
And then it was done! Took me a few days to complete, but I took my time, enjoyed it. Now battle commences. General Veers, prepare your men.


Disneyland Castle Dec2016

Before Christmas we took a family trip to Disneyland, down in southern California. I managed to get a couple of sketches in, namely the Fantasyland castle, and Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land, over in the California Adventure park. Christmastime in Disneyland is fun. Hey what is your favourite Disney movie? I’m not including all the ones owned by Disney like Star Wars and Marvel movies, but the cartoons, and some of the live-action ones like Mary Poppins and stuff. I suppose Pixar counts as well. Mine is probably Jungle Book, or maybe Aladdin.

Disneyland Cars Land Dec 2016

These were the first sketches in my new Stillman and Birn (Beta) softbound landscape sketchbook. That’s a mouthful, so we’ll just call it the Sm&B(B)SbLsSb for short.

we’ve come a long long way together…


Another panorama! It’s like, one page is soearlier in 2016″. Haha, you think this is a panorama? You wait until my next post. No kidding, it’s the longest panorama I have ever done. Stay tuned. This one though has a nice bit more details and a good bit more colour. It is the Mathematical Sciences Building at UC Davis, which is where I work by the way. The many faces I have seen pass through here, the many memories. I drew this last week, almost exactly a year since my last panorama of this building (I have used it so many times for various graphics, I really needed a full-colour one). This took two lunchtimes plus a bit of time at home colouring in those trees. I might have to sketch it again when all the trees lose their leaves. I drew it from the best angle I could find, in the shade; everywhere else was too sunny. The weather has been consistently in the low 90s (except those days when it’s in the upper 80s, so not consistently then). More colours of this lovely old campus (well this building opened at the end of 2005, not that old…it’s been in Davis exactly as long as I have!).

old sac o’mally’s

O'Mallys, old Sacramento
One more pub panorama for you, the last one of the summer – this is O’Mally’s in Old Sacramento, a pub I last went into about ten years ago with my friend Terry visiting from England, who beat me at pool. On this day, I had just been sketching cars until I could stand no longer over at the California Automobile Museum (see two blog posts back), and wanted to get a nice interior sketch done before going home. It was too crowded outside to do a panorama of the street, full of people touristing by, getting their saltwater taffy and taking olde-time-photos or whatever they do in old Sac. I grabbed some fries from one little place which had a fairly gross cheesy sauce on them – it sounded good, but really wasn’t. Maybe it was the heat and dehydration. I decided a cool bar interior was what I needed now, and so popped down to O’Mally’s, because I had never sketched this one before. It’s pretty old inside, and I sat with a cold beer and drew the bar area. It took almost two hours. A group of people to the right of me were trying out the breathalyzer machine which is stuck to the wall. Some more people came in and hung their skateboards from the back of their seats. I originally wrote the name as O’Malley’s, but corrected it to O’Mally’s. I used the usual brown-black pen, with watercolour paint, but also some brown Pitt marker for the darker areas – when using those, do it after the watercolour – it definitely runs a bit and muddies up the colours! In this case, it added to theĀ  overall tone, and worked well. Another pub sketched!

You can see my bar/pub/cafe sketches in one Flickr album: “Pubs, Cafes, Bars etc“. Or hey, if you want a print of one of my bar sketches, there are several available to order on my Society6 page: