the tree of everything

School of Education Tree
This tree is in the courtyard of the School of Education at UC Davis. Trees are very useful as symbols for education, epitomising how we learn, with branches and bark and roots, and how they have leaves, then they don’t, and then they do again, and also birds and insects. Trees are also very useful for how we think about life in general, not knowing where the branches will come out, how many extra branches they will sprout, how they sometimes grow more on one side because of wind, plus the leaves fall and provide nutrients for the soil so that the tree can grow bigger, plus birds’ nests, that whole life metaphor. I like to think about trees when writing stories, how you can write and write, taking you off into branches unthought of, which don’t have to intertwine and reconnect, instead you step back and see the whole tree and realise that is the story, right there, with all the leaves falling and growing and the birds’s nests and the insects, and how the little creatures that live on the tree play the part of characters moving around from plot line to plot line. I also think trees make a good analogy for language, the way it evolves and branches off, yet each branch has a symbiotic relationship with nearby branches, especially with birds that make nests in there eating certain insects but leaving the insects on other branches alone, so they grow into different types of insects which in turn affect the branches themselves, and then you add squirrels into the mix and you have a perfect metaphor for both prescriptive and historical linguistics right there. Trees are awesome, we need them, not only for breathing (something about carbon dioxide) and furniture, but also as symbols of whatever it is we are trying to say. And the great thing is, there are so many types of trees – Oak, Palm, Acorn, there are loads of tree types – you can fit whatever it is you are trying to describe into any type of tree. Try it out, next time you are in a meeting, “So, can you explain to me how this new marketing plan will strengthen our growth in emerging markets?” “Well sir, I like to think of it as being like a Beech tree. Here are the roots, then you have the bark, and you don’t know exactly where each branch will come out of the trunk but they will come, and the tree will still end up as a tree shape, and birds will build nests, and squirrels will move about symbolising our customer base. Leaves will grow and fall and grow, and if it all starts getting out of hand we can chop it down and build a nice beach hut or a deck-chair.”

I sketched this tree because I liked the bark. It reminded me of something a dog said once.

to everything, turn, turn, turn

chemistry building uc davis
And so, the fourth season. If you are ever interested in how the same scene changes over the course of four seasons, here is sketched evidence. Not that you need evidence, you can just look outside with your own eyes, but if you are a season-sceptic, if you think the seasons are all just a big con then hopefully this should paint the picture clearly. The view of the Chemistry building at UC Davis, sketched from almost exactly the same spot (except the most recent; it was a bit muddy so I stood on the driest patch of grass, in the shade of a tree-truck so as to stop glare on my book). The leafless scene. Note that I wrote “1-6-16” as the date because I am clearly a new-year-sceptic, it’s all a big con by the calendar lobby. Below, you can see the Spring blossom scene, the fiery red autumnal scene, and the leafy green summer scene.

chemistry building uc davis
chemistry buildings, uc davis
Leap Day 2016 UC Davis

i’m only leaping

Leap Day 2016 UC Davis
This is a Leap Year. For those of you on other planets, a Leap Year is one where everybody makes rubbish jokes about those who have birthdays on February 29th technically being far younger than they really are. It happens once every four years and apparently we have them to correct our imprecise calendars; if we didn’t then we’d have a situation eventually where the sun would be getting up at lunchtime and something to do with aliens. So we call this extra day ‘Leap Day’ and act as if it is somehow ‘extra’. To make it really ‘extra’, another day in the weekend would have been nice. Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th, Leap Day 29th, Monday 1st, etc. Apparently though we can’t do that because, again, aliens. Anyway I sketched more spring blossom on Leap Day lunchtime, revisiting a scene that I sketched in November when those same trees were flaming with red and orange. That autumnal scene is below. I didn’t sketch them while leafless, you will have to just imagine them naked. Now they are clothed in brilliant white blossom, tinged with pale green. The Chemistry Building looms behind, unchanged and like a rock. I mean literally like a Rock, because the adjoining Rock Hall lecture building is away to the left, off-screen. The trees’ positions look slightly different, due to my slightly different standing location (you go where the shade is on a sunny day). It’s a test of observation. Two seasons in Davis.
chemistry buildings, uc davis

more fall you

fall in the arboretum
It’s Fall. Autumn. So the leaves are all changing. You expect that sort of thing. Hey, you might remember I sketched this scene (from a different angle) only a week or two ago when it was all still green (actually I left the trees white I think, so that doesn’t work), I didn’t even compeltely colour this one in, but it was so peaceful and colourful. The scene below, sketched last week in the Arboretum, was also colourful, but there’s only so much time to colour everything in. It wasn’t that colourful I suppose.
arboretum greenhouse

when it’s raining, it’s raining

rainy november day
Big rain storms rolled into California today. Late November can be a very colourful time of year, when the trees are bright yellow, fiery orange, deep reds, and leaves flutter down on every breeze. When the storms come it blows everything around, meaning what would otherwise be a grey and dismal day was in fact a beautiful, I mean really beautiful stormy morning. I walked to a meeting mid-morning, and could have walked on all day in the rain. The ground was covered in bright leaves, like a dusting of golden snow. I don’t have a window in my office so I can’t gaze dreamily out at the rain (I have to draw a picture of it on my whiteboard), but I can hear it on the skylight, tap-tap-tap, and by lunchtime it was pounding. I couldn’t wait to get back out, find a sheltered spot, and draw the colourful storm while it lasted. I listened to a history podcast about England’s medieval conquest of Wales and drew in the Moleskine. It’s funny, whenever it rains here people are often, oh no, rain, I don’t want to get my raincoat slightly wet in the brief dash from my car to Target, whereas I’m like, oh it’s just a bit of rain, grrr. So I scribbled down this cartoon in my notepad this afternoon. Thought you might like it.
rainy day

if you go down to the woods today

arboretum redwoods

The final sketches of the Arboretum sketchcrawl, this is the Redwood Grove. These redwoods are only about fifty years old, tiny little things really, I barely noticed them. It’s quite a peaceful place, the redwood grove,, running along the creek. Redwoods grow naturally in the coastal ranges, not in the Central Valley. Ewoks are nowhere to be seen. You may notice, hidden somewhere in the above picture, that there was a photoshoot going on, with a young woman dressed like Alice (of Wonderland fame).  

arboretum log

It was nice to see the Arboretum with so many sketchers dotted around, people stopping and watching us, seeing what we were drawing. Personally, when I see others out drawing, I want to draw things myself, so hopefully it had that same effect on people. Hopefully, someone saw us and decided, I like drawing, I’m going to get a sketchbook and go and draw some of my town myself, maybe even go on the next sketchcrawl? Well, the next Worldwide Sketchcrawl is in just over a week – April 16th. I’ll not be organizing a Davis one on that day (I’ll be joining the San Francisco crawl, in the Mission) but that day is also Picnic Day, so a great excuse for you to bring a sketchbook and sketch Davis’s big annual celebration.

Below, the sketchers who remained till the end: Dick, Tom, Jenny and Marlene. They all produced some great work! We had about thirteen sketchers in total that day, and it was a really nice afternoon. thanks to all those who came along – the next Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl will be in May (likely the 14th), at the Farmers Market. See you next time! 

the end of the sketchcrawl

Let’s Draw Davis! Flickr group

february blossom

february blossom

Though this was technically done last month (it was last week; February is a short month) this is how Davis looks right now. There is pink blossom appearing on many trees, and Spring in the air. I love it when the blossom arrives, it reminds me of Springs when I was a kid. Burnt Oak may be known for graffiti, litter and the odd burnt-out car, but there are lots of trees that blossom in the Springtime, making the world look nice and pretty, if only for a short while. Davis has such trees too. This was outside the bike barn, over at the Silo, during lunchtime when the sun was out.