what’s the story autumn glory

Autumnal Colours Hutchison UCD sm

Tonight (January 3rd) it is raining here in Davis. It’s the first proper rain in ages, it feels like. Of course all I’m worried about is whether the city fields will get closed for our soccer practice this weekend (I hope not). It’s been a pretty dry spell. But that is now. My lack of posting sketches lately means I am still going back in time, this time back to mid-November, when the trees outside Hutchison at UC Davis were ablaze with oranges and reds. A lot has happened in the world since then. The Last Jedi came out, for example. I’ve seen it twice, and need a third time to really get my feel for it, but I will delay discussing it here until that third viewing, but not because I want to approach it like a conscientious and objective critic, but because I want to wait until I have some Last Jedi Lego sketches to go with it (and yes, I have some Last Jedi Lego, the old Luke and Rey training set (with a Porg) is sat on top of the scanner right now). So sorry, it’s going to have to wait. It doesn’t feel right to post about it under a picture of some trees from a month and a half ago. But what can I talk about instead? Foliage? I could talk technique I guess. For this sketch, I actually added the paint first, and then added pen lines over the top. Whoah there Scully, what the fuh? Since when was that a thing you do? Well you know what sometimes I like to mix it up a bit, live a little, not just do exactly the same thing over and over like a scratched record. I’ve not done it since (I’m not that adventurous you know) but I did take a couple of pics at the time wile sketching that I thought you might like to see, below. It’s not exactly a ‘step-by-step’ but it’s to the point. Maybe some day I will do more ‘step-by-step’ type posts, even a video or two, but those usually slow me down a lot, which is why I never think to do them. Now at the October ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl (have I posted about that yet? I’m so behind!) I did do a little sketching demo for the gathered group of sketchers before the ‘crawl began, demonstrating how to sketch a fire hydrant. When I say ‘demo’ I mean like an example of how I do it, not like a protest march with banners and stuff, though I would do that too.

Speaking of ‘how-to’, I was looking at the reviews of my 2nd book, “Five-Minute Sketching People” on the Amazon, most of them are very nice (thank you!) and I mentioned before that 1-star review (yeah cheers for that), well I noticed a newer 2-star review, that contained the following sentence:

The author’s explanations are so boring, by the time he gets to the point you already forgot what he was talking about“.

Wow! It’s like they know me! That is totally what I am like in real life. Not on my blog of course (sarcasm emoji). The irony is that this is a review of my writing when edited down into very short, bite-size chunks. For example, “Contour means outline, so start by simply sketching someone as a basic silhouette“, as seen on page 82 in the US printed version. Now in the full unexpurgated Pete at 2am* version you would get “Contour, your basic contour, means outline, like a line that is outside the thing, not the Thing like Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four (the super hero team not the German hip-hop group Die Fantastischen Vier) (in case you were wondering), so start simply sketching someone slowly as a subtle simplified smart silhouette structure**. When I say contour, I don’t mean like the big bird thing that lives in the Andes…” etc etc. (* I did actually write a lot of that book at 2am) (** Did you spot all the alliteration in the final sentence of the original version? That’s all that Anglo-Saxon poetry I used to read, clearly).

But that’s a brilliant line isn’t it, “The author’s explanations are so boring, by the time he gets to the point you already forgot what he was talking about“. Honestly, geezer has no idea; he should listen to me talk about Germanic Philology. Or read any of my more nonsensical going-on-about-nothing blog posts (like this one, or this one, or any post where I talk about “A Street”, or this very blog post you’ve just read) (hello if you are still here!) (hello again if you are that person!). My mate from London said yeah, he should try going out for a drink with me; mm cheers for that, cheeky beggar. Admittedly many of our conversations in Camden Town’s establishments have tended to go in all sorts of directions. The Good Mixer. The Elephant’s Head. Doing impressions of Michael Caine playing Han Solo. What was I talking about again? Damn, I’ve forgotten…



Mrak lawn UCD oct2017 sm

Have I posted this one? I don’t think I have. I know, all these UC Davis sketches start blending into one after a while. Trees, blue sky, bikes, building, etc etc. This was sketched over a couple of lunchtimes outside the Chemistry Building, looking towards Mrak Hall. It’s from Fall, and as you can see those leaves haven’t quite turned yellow and red yet. What happened after this is that they changed colour, and then fell off, and now they are leafless. In a couple of months leaves will come back and the whole things starts over again. Repetitive, predictable. Not many people. This seems like ages ago now, yet at the same time it could be any time. I don’t know; I’ve been in Davis for 12 years now. It’s hard to find new things I want to draw. I suppose I could look at the same world in a new way. To be honest, I just dream of travelling. I want to go everywhere. Well not everywhere, there are some places I don’t want to go. But I want to go most places, and mostly to go and sketch them. I have a wishlist going, top of which is Tokyo, I really want to sketch in Japan. Bruges, I’ve been years ago but I wasn’t sketching back then (1999?). Florence, in fact all over Tuscany. Porto (the urban sketching symposium will be there next year), that would be amazing. For countryside, New Zealand. I don’t know, I want to go everywhere. It’s January, time of wanderlust. I’ve been watching travel shows on YouTube, lots of Rick Steves talks. It’s 2018, twenty years since my five-week train-trip around central Europe. I was 22, I went from London to London. Ok, the trip started in London at Victoria Bus Station, then onto Paris, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Trier, Copenhagen, Aarhus, Hamburg, Lubeck, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Lake Balaton, Vienna, Bratislava (barely), Bodensee, Zurich, Geneva, Lyon, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Epernay and back up to Paris and then London. That was fun, but I really wasn’t drawing those places then (I’d have seen less if I were!). Well, now I’m at the other side of the world, still getting in a fair bit of travel, but there are always more places to go. In the meantime, I’ll keep drawing Davis…

Let’s Draw Davis! October 21, 2017

Let's draw Davis! Oct 21, 2017
Join us for a Let’s Draw Davis sketchcrawl on the UC Davis campus! Free and open to everyone of all ages/skill levels, it’s just an afternoon of sketching on location around campus with other people who like to draw.

DATE: Saturday October 21,
START: 12:30pm, Memorial Union North Courtyard
FINISH: 4:30pm, Memorial Union North Courtyard

We’ll start outside the M.U., where the I will do a quick demo of how I sketch my favourite subject – fire hydrants – and then we will sketch about campus in groups or alone, as you prefer, before meeting up again at 4:30pm to have a look at each other’s sketchbooks.

This will also be a SCAVENGER HUNT – I will give out a list of things to look for and sketch. You don’t have to follow it, but if you do, you’ll get a sticker…

As always, this sketchcrawl is FREE and OPEN TO ALL. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on! (And if you run out of those, the campus bookstore has great art supplies!)

I’ve been organizing ‘Let’s Draw Davis’ sketchcrawls here since October 2010, originally monthly, then less frequently, but now they are back to being monthly again, and co-organizes by a couple of other local sketchers; October is back to my turn, and what a great month to be sketching in, when the leaves are turning and the weather is cooling.

I hope to meet you there!

Facebook event page
“Let’s Draw Davis!” Facebook Group

to boldly arrive

future forward sept 2017 sm
A new academic year has begun on the UC Davis campus (wow, I have worked here since 2006), and this year we also have a brand new chancellor, Gary May, who joined us during the summer from Georgia Tech, where he was the dean of the College of Engineering. Last week I attended a special presentation (“Future Forward”) to a packed crowd at the Mondavi Center to open the new school year, hosted by Chancellor May and also featuring some excellent spoken-word performances by students. I live-sketched the Chancellor’s speech, peppered with references to some of his favourite personal interests such as Star Trek (lots of “to boldly go” in there) and comics (X-Men!!); he didn’t mention Lego but I read that he is a big Lego fan as well. So yeah, I like this new Chancellor already. I did get a chance to meet him when he first arrived in Davis on sweltering hot August afternoon, along with many other staff, students and faculty, and of course I couldn’t resist a quick sketch!
new uc davis chancellor gary may

don’t matter what i do

south silo aug 2017

Long hot summer ain’t passing me by, though I’m trying to pass it by. We went over 40 days of 90 degree weather, many of them being in the 100s. I drew this over the course of three lunchtimes, each one where I ate at one of the food trucks at the newly remodeled Silo area. I drew this from the shade of a tree, and you can see the whole area in front of the Bike Barn has been totally renovated and changed, it looks different from the way it did previously (see this post from 2015 which shows sketches back to 2011). Sketching in the heat is something I should be used to in Davis, but more and more it puts me off. Maybe because I have drawn everything in this town and on this campus (maybe not everything, but it feels like it), maybe I have sketched so much this year already that it feels like a chore sometimes (you go through these lulls), maybe I just don’t want to leave the house (I have discovered the joys of creating stop-motion Lego animations, it’s fun). Maybe I have been spending too much time drawing MS Paint illustrations of this year’s football kits (no, NOT ENOUGH time!). Maybe it’s that whole thing where you go to Italy, and nothing else seems quite as interesting afterwards, and you just yearn for more travel, more places. Maybe, I don’t really know. Maybe you’re the same as me, we’ll see things they’ll never see, you and I are gonna live forev-eeeerrrr…

my hart will go on

Hart Hall, UC Davis
Felt it was time for a new sketch of Hart Hall. It’s one of the more sketchable buildings on campus. The weather has been very hot lately, hitting at least 90 every day (and well over 100 for many of them), a little unbearable. These long hot Davis summers don’t seem to be getting any shorter or cooler.

Here are a few of my older sketches of this building. This one is from 2008, also sketched in a long hot summer. I was still getting used to the long hot summers then. 2008, feels a lifetime ago now.
hart hall

This one is from March 2014, with a still fairly leafless tree in the foreground.

hart hall, uc davis

And this one is six years old, May 2011, not officially summer yet but still bloody hot, I’ll bet.
hart hall, ucd