Today is my fourteenth birthday. Sorry, I mean today is the fourteenth birthday I am having since I moved to America. Fourteen birthdays in California. I counted them, and it’s fourteen of them in total. In terms of my life it’s a bit like, was there really football before the Premier League? And of course there was, but we only quote records since the Premier League started these days. It was a good reboot point, a good place for newcomers to jump on board the story without knowing years of character history, like a new issue #1 in Marvel Comics terms (they do that a lot). And I have just realized, the top flight of English football has been called the Premier League for nearly two thirds my life now. You start measuring your life in halves and thirds and quarters, and wow those quarters become thirds pretty quickly. Fourteen birthdays in America is a third of all the birthdays I’ve ever had. I don’t like doing anything for my birthday any more, it’s just one more day of aging, same as yesterday and tomorrow, but with cake. I do get anxious leading up to it though, thinking about all the years, all the different phases of existence, who I was, who I will be, all that stuff. Some people look through photo albums at their old selves, but of course I look through the old sketchbooks. I have an album on my computer (also a Flickr album) of all my Davis sketches and it takes me through a journey of staying in one place. Interesting to see how my drawing has developed, gone one way, back another, but not quick obvious changes. A sketch is a series of decisions based on decisions I’ve made before. Above, yesterday’s lunchtime sketch. It’s the view of the Silo from Rock Hall, UC Davis. Below, the same view from the same spot on the same date February 6, but twelve years earlier (and Rock Hall was the Chemistry lecture hall back then). Above, sketched in a Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook, below sketched in a WH Smith sketchbook. Some things have changed. That grass is gone. The general view is not all that different though, unlike some of the recent sketches I’ve posted with more dramatic changes. Will I sketch this again on February 6th 2031?
The new lecture hall on California Avenue at UC Davis is now finished, except for a few bits outside. Classes are now being held there (hooray!). So, time for me to sketch it, since I have sketched this spot for the past few years.
Below, sketches from the past few years, to show the changes from a nice green spot to a brand new building…
Another quick one from campus, this is the rear/side of Shields Library, a very big library full of academic books. January was very long this year wasn’t it, don’t you think? I know it has the same number of days as every other month with 31 days, and there are even a couple of holidays, but it just really dragged on. Like looking at your watch and seeing that it’s still 2:41. Nope, still 2:41. I’ll check again now, at least ten minutes have pa- still 2:41? What’s going on? January is like waiting for your food at the restaurant only to be told they lost your order. January is like those endless commercial breaks during any primetime American TV show. January is like those but actually it’s election season so the ads are all repetitive and political nonsense (actually no, January is nothing near as bad as that). January is like when you get stuck on a delayed Eurostar and they have to make announcements every ten minutes in English, French and Dutch. January is like a meeting where it feels rude to be the only one getting up to leave at the end but someone always has an extra question to bring up and they take a really long time bringing it up even though it has nothing to do with anyone else but them but you still have to sit there and pretend to listen out of politeness, and then you start piling up your notebook and pens and then they go into an all-new topic and nobody seems to want to wrap it up. January is like being stuck on the freeway in traffic for hours after time spent away from your home and all your stuff but your phone and iPod batteries are dead and the only thing on the radio is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I could go on but January would be like one of my blog posts where I just say whatever comes into my head, like this. January goes on forever. And then February is like, ok now it’s March.
I have kept on sketching Walker Hall, from the outside, because it is near to work and easy to go and draw at lunchtimes. All of these are form this month, January 2019, and I’ll probably take a break for a while now until the building changes a bit more from the outside. This is a fun project though, and as this renovation continues, it’s a reminder that Walker Hall will not be seen like this again. Sketched documentation is showing a moment in time that will pass.
Part of me though is like, yeah but get a move on eh. The changes are subtle – the roof is covered in different material now, in a different colour. Also, I look back at my sketchbooks from exactly a year ago, and it looks like it used to, undisturbed by large machines.
Walker Hall actually dates back to 1927, as one of the first permanent buildings on campus, designed by the architect William Hays. It was renamed in 1959 for Harry B. Walker, former agricultural engineering professor, this being the old Engineering building. In 2011 it finally stopped being used, and sat empty. I remember years ago there used to be a wall, and a load of cacti, and the path along the back of Walker Hall was narrower and didn’t have such a good view of Shields Library. I remember walking past the windows above next to the rows of bikes and seeing people drawing on huge tables, design students most likely, though I never went in for a look around. That side of the building has an unusual pattern on it now. My most recent sketch was the one below. I think that will do, for a while.
As you may know I have been sketching the ongoing reconstruction/renovation of Walker Hall, the big old building in the middle of the UC Davis campus that is being transformed into the Graduate Center. It’s an interesting and exciting project that will provide the university with a dedicated hub for graduate students in a setting that retains the elements of a historical piece of UC Davis architecture with a refreshing modern upgrade. Phew that all sounds like a brochure for a condo complex. Never ever write like that again, Pete. Anyway, there was a nice write-up about my documentation of this on the UC Davis Graduate Studies website, and back in November I was invited to go inside and actually sketch the site. “As long as I can get a photo of me sketching with a hard hat!” was my response. Urban Sketching cred you know. Of course the yellow vest has in the time since taken on slightly different undertones on the other side of the pond but it can be a handy tool. Years ago someone told me that they often wear a yellow vest when they go out filming on the streets for their art projects, so that nobody questions them, they look like they are from the council. Well I’ve never done that, but it was nice to be officially kitted out by the management for sketching a building site, though I could only sketch after the builders were out of the way, and I wasn’t to jump over any big holes. I didn’t have long before the sun went down so I did as much as I could, and coloured in at home. Above, the view from the second floor overlooking two of the wings. Below, the sought-after picture of me in a hard-hat, sketching that very scene.
The front of the building will remain mostly unchanged, though I imagine the tiles will be cleaned up a bit.
Inside was gutted with cables and crevasses and equipment everywhere. I loved this broom though. I
The scene below was mostly drawn afterwards. It was the last thing I attempted to draw and I plotted out the perspective and where the intersecting lines would go, I drew the yellow tape barriers and the crane, and then I had to go. So I came back to it this weekend and finished it off. It’s funny drawing it from the outside so many times and then finally showing the inside.
Finally, a sunset photo from the second floor. I have several more sketches of Walker Hall’s exterior that I have sketched since, but this seems like a good place to stop.
Sketched through the window of the Market Place (UC Davis South Silo) while eating a sandwich. Sketched on the third anniversary of David Bowie’s death. I still can’t believe he has gone. Look at what he has missed on planet earth, these past three years! My sandwich was spicy, jerk chicken with chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese. Maybe I was trying to numb the thoughts of Bowie still being gone. It wasn’t raining but the metal parasols over the tables look like a crowd of umbrellas on the other side of a wall. Maybe it was raining on the other side of that wall? We could be heroes, just for one day. What d’you say.
This is a fraternity house on Russell Boulevard in Davis, on the edge of the UC Davis campus. Kappa Kappa Gamma. Good job they have that Gamma. (If I created a fraternity I’d call it Gamma Gamma Gamma Gamma Gamma Chameleon). I sketched on a late Saturday afternoon, shortly before the sun started dropping low. After the rainy week there was a day of sun (followed by more rain next day). I stood on the grassy field opposite, and mosquitoes, out for a dinnertime feast, swarmed about me, not put off by my occasional clapping of the sketchbook (was I hoping for a dead mosquito squashed all over my sketch, well yes I probably was but in hindsight maybe not, they were very big mosquitoes). I must have done a very good job in stopping them biting me because I had no itchy spots afterwards, but they did fly around me a lot, like drones trying to close an airport. Anyway this is a building, seen from across a street, with a tree in the foreground to one side. If I have three chords those are my three chords. I do like those trees that run alongside Russell though. Not so much the leaves, while are a bit annoying to sketch, but the bark on the trunk, I should spend a whole sketchbook just studying that. Hey there’s a good idea. It’ll be a bit dull but at my time of life I am allowed to be a bit dull. What my excuse was in the earlier part of my life was I don’t know.