weekend in LA

Southwest to LAX sep17 sm
Early last month I flew down to Los Angeles with my friend Roshan who was visiting from London, for a boys weekend to celebrate his 40th birthday. I didn’t do much sketching; it was a short trip and we mostly did tourism and, well, the pub. One or two pubs! A good old few pubs. I do find it harder to sketch when travelling with non-sketchers, (not for any fault of their own, I just struggle to concentrate) but I did manage a few sketches, including the in-flight drawing above. We stayed downtown at an awesome hotel with a great view, I only grabbed a couple of quick sketches of it, but we were really close to the LA public library (which I have sketched before, years ago).
LA hotel view sep17 sm
LA skyline sep17 sm
And of course, one fire hydrant. It wasn’t a 2am hydrant sketch (like on previous LA trips) but the library is once more in the background!
LA hydrant sep17 sm
And I got a few quick people sketches down at Venice Beach, of dancing roller-skaters. I would like to go back there on a sketching trip someday, there is always so much to draw around there. I really like LA.
venice skaters 1 smvenice skaters 2 sm

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on yer bike

US Bicycling Hall of Fame Davis
The US Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis is found on 3rd Street. You know I have never been in there? I guess I’m not really that interested in Cycling. Oh I ride a bike every day, I love actually riding a bike, I’m just not interested in Bikes, or Cyclists. Yet here’s the thing, I am very interested in cars and the history of cars, I love to draw them, but I don’t drive a car myself. I sketched this from across the road on B Street. I remember several years ago when the Tour of California kicked off from Davis, Lance Armstrong (in his pre-ignominious-fall St.Lance days) was participating and had his bike stolen from Sacramento the day before. Someone actually half-inched his bike! Now Davis is a bit of a cycling center you might say, in fact we were the first city in the US to have bike lanes, that’s right, Davis was first, number one, us. We’re pretty good at it too. This time of year though on campus it gets a little chaotic, with all the new students and all the new freshly-minted cyclists going in all sorts of directions, careening across corners and riding round roundabouts. The bike crashes are often spectacular; it’s worth cycling defensively at this time of year, and wear a helmet. Also, new Davis cyclists, don’t go through stop signs downtown (or anywhere) because the local cops do actually hide around the corner catching errant cyclists out, and giving out tickets. I’m glad I live in such a bike-friendly city like Davis though, with all its bike lanes and bike shops. Helps that it’s flat too, because I don’t like riding up hills, or any kind of slight incline. Which is funny because I love hills, I love walking up and down hills, and seeing them from a distance.

picnic in the park

farmers market davis
Hello folks! Sorry about the blogging break! Been very busy lately, settling into the new job, also coaching soccer again, also a little bit of travel (a couple of days in LA helping my friend from England celebrate his 40th birthday), and a slow-down in the sketching (but only a slow-down, not an actual break…never an actual break!) Also I just have had a lot of things piled on top of the scanner and you have to move it to scan things and…excuses, excuses. So I am up super early today watching Tottenham beat Huddersfield (it’s 3-0 at half-time, Harry Kane is giving a masterclass) and it seemed like a good time to start catching up. So, this sketch is of the Davis Farmers Market and I drew it at the August “Let’s Draw Davis” event, which are still going monthly, this one was organized by fellow Davis sketcher Alison Kent. I stood and sketched this among the Wednesday evening ‘Picnic in the Park’ crowd. That’s what the Wednesday evening summer events at the Farmer’s MArket are called, they have music and bounce houses. A few days later I added this sketch to the Pence Gallery’s annual Art Auction, and it sold!! I’m so glad, as I really enjoyed sketching this. The Farmers Market on a Wednesday after work is a nice place to hang out in this town.
band at central park, davisband at central park, davis
I did a couple of other sketches, of the band performing, using one of those multi-coloured pencils for the second sketch.
unity rally davis CA
unity rally, davis CA, john garamendi sm
My final sketches of the evening were at a very important event elsewhere in the park, the Unity Rally, organized in resistance of bigotry and hate, this coming just days after the events in Charlottesville. One of the speakers was US Congressman John Garamendi, who very kindly signed my sketch afterwards! He did look it over to make sure I hadn’t misquoted him; I thanked him for repeating the Nelson Mandela quote a couple of times so I could get it right. The evening ended with a touching candle vigil, of course I’m always nervous about candles all around me (a candle once burned a massive hold in my shirt at a party in east London, leaving me to go all the way across London on the night bus with basically half a shirt on, very embarrassing) so I sidled back with my sketchbook. Another of the speakers was the new UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May, who has now appeared in my sketchbook three times; I’ll post about the other two times soon, but I’m very happy he is our new chancellor (he likes Lego! and Comics! And is obsessed with Star Trek!)Speaking of Lego, one of my latest things is making Lego animations. I’ve made a few this past month, and if ever one gets any good I’ll maybe even post it here…

the song remains the same

4th street davis

This is on 4th Street, Davis, behind that funny shaped building on G Street. A hot August afternoon, a weekend day when I felt I had to leave the house to make it feel like I achieved something with the day, but soon went home after a sketch aching with the hot weather. I sometimes envy the faculty who go away all summer, escaping to cooler climes, then I remember they may be away but they’re all busy all the time, doing research, speaking at conferences, flying vast distances, and I do get tired of flying. If I feel a little preoccupied with the heat, it was 110 degrees here in Davis today, the last weekend of August, and it really needs to just stop now, please. September can be very hot as well. October starts to cool off, and then it is lovely. November gets a bit chillier, but it is still nice. December is cooler still, the rare time when we are cooler than San Francisco (which I swear warms up slightly in the winter-time), and yes despite the fact it has been almost 12 years since I left Britain I STILL GO ON ABOUT THE BLOODY WEATHER! It’s all we Brits talk about. I just had a cup of tea too. And like a Brit, I am never happy with the weather, not really. Except in October. October is nice. The next ‘Let’s draw Davis’ sketchcrawl that I organize will be in October, date TBD. There is supposed to be one next month also which another of our group is organizing, but no dates for that yet either. I’ll announce those on here soon (also on the Let’s draw Davis FB page). I just hope it cools down soon. Please cool down soon.

Of course, despite the heatwave, we have to count ourselves lucky. The people of Texas have been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey this weekend. I really hope the people there will be safe, and that they get all the help needed through this crisis.

A note on the sketch – I’ve always wanted to draw this little covered alleyway, it’s an often forgotten spot in Davis. I was interested in the perspective and also the light, the way it reflected on the ground. Most of all though, the woodwork, there’s nothing quite like drawing woodwork, for some reason I love it. Like beards, I like drawing beards too.

cooling off at baker beach

Baker Beach San Francisco
Summers in Davis, California are ridiculously hot. I know that to you back in Blighty that means little comfort while you have the usual soggy British summertime, but it’s honestly too hot in Davis. Oh it’s a ‘dry heat’ which means you don’t sweat constantly, as we do when it gets hot in London, but still it’s too hot to do anything. You don’t want to leave the cool air-conditioned house, which can then make you go stir-crazy. Davis is too hot. The first summer I had in Davis back in 2006 was so hot that air-conditioning units crashed the local power grids several times; though ours was fine, many people in Davis would escape the hot evenings and go to the bookshop I was working in, just to cool off. Even my nice office was not immune during the day – the power would go down, and the building would gradually heat up, until everyone was just sent home. Davis summers don’t see as many power outages these days (usually they happen during storms now) but the summers are still ridiculous, and our PG&E bills certainly reflect that. However there is one way to beat the heat – get out of town and drive west to the San Francisco Bay Area. That first summer, it was on a Davis day of 115 degrees Fahrenheit that I first realized how different our climates were, the Central Valley and the Bay Area – on that day it was around 65 – 70 degrees in Berkeley. Quite a difference. And so, a few weeks ago, we decided to leave the boredom and heat and drove one Sunday down to Baker Beach in San Francisco, where the air was cool and the sky was blanketed with fog. Yes in California we leave the sunshine and heat and head to the coast to cool off beneath overcast skies and this is normal – I truly have moved across the world, and found my people. There we all were enjoying the foggy skies, in full view of the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge – full view, except for the top, obscured by rolling waves of fog. It was heaven. Of course, those harmful rays can easily get through that fog (I only ever get sunburnt in San Francisco, it’s deceptive) so we were still lathered in sun-screen. We hung out at the beach for a few hours until we got hungry for cheesecake, and then attempted to drive home. That took a very, very long time. First of all, we left the beach at 3:30pm, but did not reach the Golden Gate Bridge until 5pm, and you can see how near it is. Traffic was completely stuck. Over the bridge we stopped for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, hoping the traffic would ease off, but it didn’t – after another long wait in unmoving traffic we abandoned all hope of crossing the Richmond – San Rafael bridge, and headed north to sit in more traffic along Highway 37. We weren’t home until 9pm, five and a half long hours later. And of course, Davis was still hot. So it is worth it to get out of town and cool down, but you might end up in a car for a very long time.

sense and serenissima

Fondamenta del Piovan Venice sm

I wonder what my Venice ‘limit’ is? How long could I be in Venice before I got bored by the bridges, confounded by the canals, tired of the tourists, frustrated by the flooding, and hounded by the humidity? Maybe never, and maybe always? Maybe all of that is the charm of Venice, and maybe it is something I don’t notice when by myself but becomes more prominent when with others? It’s hard to tell. I’ll always love Venice, always be amazed by its very existence and history, that is is an eternally crumbling yet living and breathing beauty? I could spend a long time there wandering and sketching, but even Venice would end up feeling small and familiar. Other cities may not be as pound-for-pound beautiful, but may have a more lasting attraction – Paris, for example. Over the course of three days however Venice is magnificent and divine, and every scene is a potential watercolour. The morning light in Venice beats everywhere I have ever been. The sketch above was done on my second morning in Venice, while wandering about the narrow paths of the sestiere of Cannaregio, looking for a specific spot which I knew to be nearby the place we stayed in 2003. I found it – the shiny marble church known as Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, which I remembered to be surrounded by cats the first time I saw it. There were no cats this time. I sat on the steps of a bridge on the Fondamenta del Piovan and sketched the above scene, painting the colourful reflection in the soft morning light, before wandering back to the apartment, Venetian breakfast pastries in hand.

Grand Canal Venice sm

Later that day, we had a morning and afternoon of slow wandering around the two sestieri on the other side of the Grand Canal, San Polo and Santa Croce. We took a traghetto over, looking for the natural history museum, but spent ages getting lost among the alleys and courtyards. This was a much more residential area than I had expected, and while we were lost (because we were a bit lost, we never found that museum) my son watched local kids playing football in the small squares (though he was a bit shy to join in). I did get one sketch done, looking for a route to the Grand Canal, sketching the magnificently domed Chiesa di San Geremia across the wide turquoise canal. Scenes like this make Venice feel like a made-up city, a pretend place, but it’s very real, and boatmen moored up bringing their goods onto the fondamenta. This was actually my last sketch in Venice and tired feet were not looking forward to the journey back to England, but we were all ready to come back by that point. Venice is beautiful and fun, as is Rome, but there is a lot of walking. Our next vacation will involve a little more beach and pool.  Rio de S Fosca Venice sm

One last sketch though, a quick pencil sketch of the Rio de S. Fosca, in Cannaregio, drawn quickly the evening before, after dinner. I didn’t want to be out sketching after dark so drew this as the sun set and went back to settle into the apartment with thoughts of future Italian trips in my head. Next time, Florence, Tuscany, and maybe the Italian Lakes. I’d like to visit the Ligurian coast, all the way down to the Cinqueterre. Genoa has always sounded interesting to me, and Bologna. Naples scares me a bit, but I had a pen-pal from Naples when I was about 13 (we never met, but she would write to me all about the south of Italy, and I’d write back all about London). Similarly, Sicily always seemed wild and distant, but I would love to explore its villages and coastal towns. I don’t know; I want to go everywhere, I guess. At least we were able to go to Rome and Venice, and that was worth it. Arrivederci Italia. Ciao!