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.

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

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

a space full of moments

111316 conversations with the city sm
Here’s another sketch from last month, a sketch of the space in the UC Davis Design Museum on the last day of my sketchbook show “Conversations with the City”. That was a fun show, I really enjoyed that. Now the books are all back home with me!

Opening Weekend at the Manetti Shrem

111216 manetti shrem party sm

And finally, the art museum is open! The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art is a pretty amazing piece of architecture, designed by SO-IL and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and built by Whiting-Turner. As you recall I have been sketching the in-construction progress of the building (let’s do a recap in a different post) and so on Opening Weekend, I was invited to attend the Director’s Debut, a special event on the Saturday night for donors and artists. It was an incredibly cool event, and amazing to finally see all of the artwork inside.

111216 manetti shrem director speech sm

The Director, Rachel Teagle, gave a speech to the gathered attendees, including Jan and Maria Manetti Shrem, thanking them for their support and announcing that because of their patronage, entry to the museum will be free to all. Pretty awesome! I was introduced to Rachel by Prof. Tom Farver, an emeritus faculty member I know (who is one of the donors listed on the big wall, along with his wife), and they also introduced me to the wife of the late Robert Arneson, the ceramicist who made the Eggheads and many of the sculptures in the Manetti Shrem’s collection (lots of toilets!), as well as a few other artistic luminaries. As I sketched the scene above though, a couple came to check out my sketchbook, and introduced themselves to me as the Madonnas (no not that Madonna), Joen and Paul. I was pretty surprised, realizing this was the same Paul Madonna whose books I have, the San Francisco artist who does the All Over Coffee strip, which inspired me to keep drawing in the early days. I’d never met him before though I’d been to one of his exhibits, so it was a nice surprise, and I showed them my sketches from San Francisco the day before. I kept on sketching the evening away, met a few other interesting folks, probably also really well-known artists I’m less familiar with (I didn’t get to meet Wayne Thiebauld though, the local art legend), though I did know quite a few people from the local art world who were there, and one of my artist friends Dori Marshall was there with her art group presenting this colourful cycle-powered sculpture on display outside the main entrance. I drew it below, it was really fun. You could see the colourful circles projected onto the wall behind it when approaching the building, really added to the party.

111216 manetti shrem party outside sm111216 manetti shrem sick spits sm

There were some interesting art performances as well. Above, a spoken word group called Sick Spits performed some of their pieces, very performative, especially when spoken in the pulpits of the sculptures I attempted to draw very loosely (this is “five minute people sketching”, Pete, you wrote a book about it…). I love that sort of thing, having a background in performance (well, my undergrad degree in drama) and spoke with the performers afterwards. I need to sketch more performance artists. The food was great too. Top fancy stuff, stuff I didn’t even completely understand. I did have a lovely ice cream, which was made by pouring liquid onto a slab of nitrogen, it was very swanky stuff. I felt clever just watching them make it.

Here are some photos. The big bunch of flowers, well that was from Prince Charles, who couldn’t make it to the event, but he knows the Manetti Shrems and wanted to send his best wishes. Would have been fun to meet Prince Charles, I’ve sketched his house before. after this, the wine and canapes were put away and replaced with cereal for the big student party, which would go on until 2am. Not being a student I didn’t stick around for a bowl of Cheerios, and headed down to the pub to sketch out some of my buzzing drawing energy with another De Vere’s bar sketch. But next morning I had to get up and go back to the Museum for the Grand Opening…

111316 Manetti Shrem opening sm

There were a lot of people there awaiting the big event. That large colourful chain decorating the museum exterior was to be formally cut signifying the opening of the doors. Rachel Teagle gave another speech joined by many other UC Davis importants, and we sat on the little grassy knoll with all the other families and watched the proceedings. My son was very excited to sketch so he chose the spot he wanted and we both sketched away. My scene is above (pencil and watercolour), and I also drew him getting down to work. He’s really getting into sketching now (we did a bit more together in London the week after)…

111316 Luke Sketching sm

… and he drew the scene below. Great job mate!

111316 Manetti Shrem by Luke sm

And so, we have a new centre for the arts on campus, a place that really puts UC Davis on the art map. (Speaking of art maps, I drew one recently too for the UC Davis magazine! Details soon). I will do a post like I did for the Pitzer showing all of the in-progress sketches of the Manetti Shrem in one go.


the sketchcrawl at vanderhoef quad

111216 Allan sm

More sketches from over a month ago! On Saturday November 12th we held another “Let’s Draw Davis” sketchcrawl on the UC Davis campus, this time at Vanderhoef Quad, named for the late Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, location of the brand new Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, which was opening that weekend (more on that later, many sketches to post…). Several of us met up in the middle of the Quad and started sketching the scenery, the lovely autumnal leaves and bright November sunshine, the modern campus buildings lining the edges. Above is Davis sketchcrawl regular (and person I have probably sketched the most!) Allan Hollander, who I couldn’t resist sketching again.

111216 Mondavi Center sm

Above is the Mondavi Center, an amazing performance space, with the fountains of the Vanderhoef Quad in the foreground. I actually won a t-shirt for this sketch, they sent it to me, it’s nice. Below, also longtime Davis sketcher and fellow British-accenter Alison Kent sketches away, with another sketcher Suzanne sketching beneath a big hat. someone actually asked me once for a good tip on drawing faces when sketching people in public, often a tricky subject, and I said “make sure they are wearing a hat that covers their face, so you can get around that” and clearly I wasn’t really joking!

111216 Sketchers sm

And below is a large panorama of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art itself! I will likely post this sketch again in the next post about the museum, or perhaps in an upcoming post where I display all my sketches of it from first construction onwards, but the building is finally finished and open! On this day, the day before the Grand Opening, they were having special opening events throughout the day – at this time, there was a special event just for faculty. That evening they were to have the ‘Director’s Debut’, an event for donors and artists (including me!! I’ll post about that next, it was fun), then another late-night event for the students. The colourful chains around the edge are there for the opening event, made by local people to be formally cut to open the museum. I had never two-page-spreaded this building before (that’s a new verb, that), given it the old panoramization treatment (another new word), so here it is. Not easy to draw over two pages with its unusual curving roof but I gave it a good old go.

111216 Manetti Shrem Pano v1 sm

We sketchcrawlers met up at the end to check out each others books, and it is always fun to see the range of different styles and points of view. Great fun as always, Davis sketchers! Now I had hoped to run a sketchcrawl here in December, but my weekends suddenly filled up fast and so I never got around to it, but I am working on a set of dates for next year starting January, and will announce those here shortly, and email all those on my email list. I’m hoping to have the Davis sketchcrawls continue monthly, but I am also planning a ‘themed’ crawl in San Francisco at some point (history themed, dates/details to be set…) and possibly another themed crawl in London, though the dates for that are also uncertain (probably going to be Soho themed though, after two Wren crawls, a Ripper crawl and a Fleet Street crawl…). Roll on sketchbookers of 2017! I gotta feeling we’ll all need a bit of sketching…



tercero tops

tercero nov2016 sm

Oh wow, it is nearly Christmas. I’ve been sitting on sketches to post for ages, but I’ve been busy. No, lazy. I’ve had a headache. My desk is messy. I’ve been Christmas shopping. Ah well so, here is one to get on with, and I’ll post the other more exciting sketches later. This is an in-construction sketch of the dorms at Tercero, UC Davis, the latest part of campus to be built. This area has changed so much since I first came here. This sketch was done over a month ago, so it probably looks a bit more done by now. That is not a reindeer in the corner of the sketch by the way. Hey have you seen Rogue One? Good isn’t it!