’til you drag your feet to slow the circles down

Rock Hall 062722sm

Still catching up with the summer sketching, here are some UC Davis sketches from in between the two Europe trips. I have actually done more drawing this year than last, although I am forever miles behind on scanning and posting. These first couple were done in June – June! A million years ago – and the first one is Peter A. Rock Hall, formerly Chem 194. As I write in the latter half of September, that roundabout is likely a wild mess of cyclists going round and round until they have the courage to veer off without causing a spaghetti bolognese of bike chains.

Latitude UCD 062922 sm

This is Latitude, a food place for students on campus. I like the roof, it looks like statistics, maybe of a pandemic, maybe an opinion poll, maybe the results in a Tottenham season (start well, go up, lose to Burnley or someone, start to dip, sack the manager, get a new manager, win against Man City or someone, start to rise, don’t win anything; as every Spurs fan knows, the real trophies are the managers we sacked along the way).

Silo 070522 Above is The Silo, you’ve seen me draw this before. When I need to draw something with a pointy hat, we don’t have any wizards or wizard-school castles near here, so I draw the Silo. It used to be covered in greenery, but that has been shaved off to reveal a dull concrete torso. Someone sped past on one of those motorized stand-up scooter things. We never got actual hoverboards here in the future, did we. No, we got those electric scooters, that cut silently up the sidewalks and streets. I would fall on my Aristotle if I rode one of those about. I wasn’t even good on a skateboard. I had a skateboard for a bit when I was a teenager. It probably needed better wheels, better bearings, probably a better board, definitely a better person on top of the board. I just couldn’t make the thing go. I’d see other people, they seemed to just stand on their skateboard, tilt their head slightly and they’d be flying off, moving it telepathically. Never mind all the tricks, like the one where you jump off it and it spins around off a railing, and you land on it again like it was no big deal. If I ever did that, I would expect the win Sports Personality of the Year or something. I really wanted to be a skateboarder too; one day me and my friend Kevin, who also had a skateboard interest and a similar set of skills to me, met up in Harrow or Wealdstone or somewhere and skated a bit at some skate park, falling over, sending my board flying into a group of people before deciding, right, we’ve done that and are shit at it, so let’s go to the actual main skateboarding site in London, that area with all the graffiti on the South Bank in London, near Waterloo Bridge. We went that same day, got the tube down, and when we got there and saw all the kids doing tricks and flips, we basically stopped being skateboarders any more, and went back to just talking about football. Less Tony Hawk, more Tony Hawks (or is it the other way round).

Cruess UCD 070822 Finally, this is Cruess Hall, which had those bright pink blooms on the trees outside in early July. Cruess is where the Design Department live, and that’s where I had my 2016 show at the UC Davis Design Museum, ‘Conversations With The City’, a ten-year retrospective of my sketchbooks. That was six years ago this Fall. I have drawn quite a bit since then. If I just look at the past six years, on campus and outside, I’ve probably drawn more than in the previous ten years. I think I was quite happy with my drawings around the years 2014-2016 though, that was a good period of sketching for me. I’m still sketching, trying to get better, hopefully a better sketcher than I was a skateboarder.

back from london, back to the heat

Mrak Hall panorama

So, after my trip to Europe I returned to Davis and we had a heatwave where it was eight days straight of 100°+ weather. That’s been forgotten now, as we just got off a wave of ten days over 100°, of which eight were over 105°, and four were over 110°. The highest was around 116 (definitely hit 117 in Sacramento). It’s been a very very hot summer. Even on our second trip to London the temperatures were up in the records, but here it’s been oppressively hot. Thankfully it is cooling off at last, back down into the (whelp) 90s, although the fire season is on and we have had smoke in the sky from a fire in the foothills, and a soccer tournament in Tahoe cancelled (again). Back at the start of summer, it was a very hot day when I drew this panorama of Mrak Hall, UC Davis. I actually got sick that first week after returning from the UK; I had tested negative for Covid twice before flying (in fact the day I flew home was the first day they removed the testing requirement) and then negative again when I got back to Davis at our famed campus testing center. Then a day or so later I suddenly started getting ill, with a fever, a headache, a sore throat. Kept testing negative though, with various tests, so it wasn’t the Covid, but I still tested positive for ‘feeling like crap’ and stayed in bed. It took me a few days to feel ok again, but that heat was hard to do things in. I stood in the shade next to King Hall, but even then it was too hot, so I coloured it in and did all the scribbles for those trees later on. Mrak Hall is one of the main administrative centers for the campus, and Chancellor May has his offices in the top floor. I used to come to Mrak a lot when I was working with graduate students, when Graduate Studies was based here, but they moved recently to their new home in Walker Hall (you might remember all my drawings of the place). This was June, right at the start of the long hot summer; it’s now nearly mid-September, and the UC Davis Fall quarter is a week away. Our campus summertime is over. Everything gets busier now, a lot busier. Prepared? Haha.

Earth and Physical Sciences

EPS UC Davis

A little pause in the travelogue, somewhere between France and Belgium, to come back to California. I drew this in June, the building across the street from where I work. It’s the Earth and Physical Sciences Building, drawn for a colleague from that department who retired at the end of June. There’s the water tower in the background. We are right now in the midst of a long hot summer, I’m not really a fan of hot weather. I actually drew this from a photo (you can usually tell), though I’ve drawn this view a few times from similar angles. This one was from a photo taken in the middle of the street. The building has big rocks outside, all around the edge, because they study geology here (in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department). I sometimes wish I’d been a geologist. Actually I say that, I don’t really, but it is an interesting profession. We didn’t have geology at my school, at least not when I went there. Some of the older boys at the school talked about having taken geology at some point, but it seemed like something long gone in our school curriculum by 1987, and we just did boring old chemistry, physics and biology. I think we did learn about rocks in geography, come to think about it, but I probably thought that was boring too. My son likes geology, and when he was smaller and had to come to my office during summer breaks in years past we’d sometimes talk a little walk around this building to see the big rocks.

in line at the whole earth festival

whole earth festival 050622 sm Here’s another one from the UC Davis campus, this was sketched at the Whole Earth Festival in early May. The Whole Earth Festival is back in-person, and this is a popular annual event in Davis, with lots of vendors and food and music all around the UC Davis Quad. I went over on the lunchtime with many of the staff from our office to sit and have lunch with each other, I got an absolutely delicious mushroom burger, all vegan, really tasty. I started this sketch while I was in line, and went back after eating to draw some more (I had to keep saying to people “no I’m not in line”). If you like drawing people quickly, lines for food are usually a good spot because they will usually be still for a bit. I might have mentioned that in my book “Five Minute Sketching: People”, but if not, I’m saying it now and you can just write it in there of you have a copy. One thing, people are a little less likely to leave the line to come and see what you are sketching, because they don’t want to lose their spot, and they are hungry. Another tip, this one told to me by my sketching friend Rita Sabler, if sketching people at a bar, look at their drinks and sketch the ones with full glasses, because you know they will be there for a while. It’s a good tip. I was going to add colour to this sketch, but never got around to it, and now I prefer it just like this. But the Whole Earth Festival was pretty colourful, although we didn’t stop for much of the music, as we had to get back to work.

you know the place where nothing is real

UCD Silo 051922 sm

As I play catch-up on my sketch posts, I may as well do one of those where I just post a bunch of the drawings I did on campus in Spring all at once, so here they are. It’s probably a lazy way to do it, but it saves you from reading through all the stories I feel the need to write to go along with them (but you can skip by the stories anyway, I’m not actually very interesting). Above, that’s the Silo, which long term readers will recognize as I have drawn it before, like a million times.

UCD Tri Co Ops

This next one, that was the Tri-Co-Ops, which I have drawn before but not as much as the Silo, so it still feels new. I’ve never drawn it with that spiky arched structure in front of it though. I suppose the structure isn’t actually spiky, it’s the plants behind it that make it look spiky. It’s made of metal and yeah, it looks interesting.

CoHo UCD 042822 sm

This is the UC Davis Coffee House, or CoHo as it’s more commonly known. This was one of those days where I just needed to sketch something but didn’t know what. I get a lot of those on campus. After all these years I’m often a bit uninspired for new things to draw. Sometimes I draw the same things in different ways, but if it’s something that requires a lot of thought like a ridiculous perspective, often I’m like, I need to eat, there’s not much lunchtime left, don’t want to do something that makes me think too hard. I was listening to a football podcast while drawing this.

UCD Calif Ave 041922

Another from April, this is along California Avenue, I cycle along here every day. They were doing some construction work, so I had to draw that because I can’t help myself. It looks different now already. There’s always some construction going on. Be nice if they constructed us a new building, we’re running out of space (us and the rest of this growing campus). I liked the people walking by eyes glued down at phones. The mind needs constant engagement, I get it.

UCD Water Tower 042222 sm

Finally, this is the Water Tower, drawn down by the Earth and Physical Sciences building. I was leading a lunchtime sketchcrawl event for the Sustainability Office (we’ve done that for a few years now, close to Earth Day), and I did have a couple of other quick sketches to go with this but this was the main one. Thanks for joining me on this brief campus outing. More sketches still to come…

love and bridges

Arboretum UC Davis

Another break, I was in Europe again recently, so I have many more sketches to post and stories to tell. But we are about four months behind, so you get those ones first. Here are a couple of bridges over the creek in the UC Davis Arboretum that I drew during the Spring quarter. I like a bridge. The one above is fairly newly renovated, having had a big upgrade in the past few years. The one below is a footbridge only, and people put those little padlocks with hearts and names scratched on onto the railings, which I am not a fan of. There’s that one in Paris isn’t there where so many of those silly padlocks have been attached to the bridge that the bridge starting creaking under the extra weight. “Oh I love you dear, I know, I will leave a stupid little padlock I bought off a guy for twenty quid on this bridge in a place we don’t live so that if we ever come back we can see if it’s still there or if it’s been cut off by council workers due to it being vandalism, just like the thousands of people have done before.” “Oh thank you dear you are so romantic and original.” “Well I try. Do you still have that single rose I bought you for a fiver from some guy bugging us at our restaurant table?” “That must have been someone else.” I put a lot of thought into these imaginary character conversations. In fact last week (late July) I was in Paris and that bridge there doesn’t allow those silly love-locks any more, but that doesn’t mean the stupid love-lock industry is dead, because they put them every bloody where else. Up at Montmartre, it felt like every metal fence was covered in them, you could see the cheap brass glistening in the light, and scrawny men were wandering about with bags of them trying to sell them to people. And they are mostly heart-shaped now as well. Honestly there are so many of them it would become utterly tedious to try and look through them when you return with your partner years later to find it, this unique special thing, yeurch. Anyway don’t do that. Don’t carve your initials onto trees either, nor into rocks, or write hit records for them, or build huge domed palaces for them or travel the universe gathering infinity stones so you can wipe out half of all existence with the snap of a finger for them, or any of that cheesy stuff, just be cool.

Arboretum Bridge 050422 sm

Anyway, I better start scanning the new sketches and coming up with more interesting things to say. I’ve done some travelling in the past few months and my legs hurt, but it’s the height of hot summer now and time to start catching up. Stay tuned.

jungerman and bainer

Jungerman UCD 040722 sm

Before we get to the Grand Canyon, a couple more UC Davis sketches to tide us over, sketched just a few yards from each other (albeit facing in a different direction). Above is Jungerman Hall, which houses the Crocker Nuclear Lab. They do lots of stuff with their Cyclotron. I can’t pretend I know what the Cyclotron does but I imagine it’s what the Autobots would have turned into if they had landed on Earth before cars were invented, and they just transformed into bikes. Still, I bet it would be cool to draw, hint hint. Below, the side of Bainer Hall, which is where lots of Engineering types can be found. From above, it kind of looks like a chunky Y-Wing fighter. Not everything is about Star Wars, of course. That strange rocket shaped tower protruding from the roof looks nothing like anything in Star Wars, because as we know vehicles in Star Wars don’t rely on rocket propulsion to leave their respective atmospheres. I’m not an engineer, nor a science fantasy writer, so don’t quote me on that. “Jungerman and Bainer” sounds a bit like it could be the name of a cop show, neurotic perfectionist Jungerman partnering with brash no-nonsense Bainer, the pair not getting along at all when the chief puts them together to investigate some serious crime, having a hunch they’ll make a good team to crack the case, but they end up getting caught by the main villain and tied up, where they form a bond and use engineering know-how mixed with blunt force to escape and – let’s face it the pilot of this show is totally getting cancelled, isn’t it. Still more interesting than Jurassic World Dominion. Maybe the TV execs are cancelling it because there’s not enough dinosaurs. Anyway, enough of that tangent. I’m done scanning all the sketches from my recent European trip, so hopefully those will all be posted here soon, probably over the course of the next few months at my rate.

UCD Bainer 041522 sm


sheepmowers UCD 042722 sm

I may post the next batch of sketches out of order, which is either bang out of order, or just what the doctor ordered, depending on what cliche you prefer. I wanted to post this now because who doesn’t love drawings of sheep? What’s more I am going to attempt to write a post about sheep without making a single ovine-based pun, even in the title. I’m telling you, it’s really difficult for someone like me, who loves a pun no matter how weak, but I’m trying Ringo, I’m trying real hard. (Pulp Fiction references to shepherds are allowed). Anyway back in Spring quarter we had some sheep in the middle of campus, out on a little enclosed piece of greenery outside Bainer, very close to where I work. These are the UC Davis Sheepmowers (see https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/sheep-mowers), and they are invited to a lawn to graze, to “eat weeds and grass, fertilize and control pests as well as or better than using conventional landscaping methods”. Also, I think people just like seeing sheep, it’s good for them. We are an agricultural school – our nickname is the Aggies, which took me a couple of years to figure out, I used to think it was a reference to that Scottish woman who cleans houses on TV, I never watched that show – so farm animals are not uncommon to us, but mostly they are in fields and stables on the outskirts of campus, rather than right in the middle. Always nice to see the sheep.

sheepmowers UCD 042522 sm

Anyway as part of the Sheepmowers project, they had this great idea of getting UC Davis people down to draw the sheep, providing art materials and watercolours (and shade, very important), and inviting people to sit around the edge and draw the sheep. Well I couldn’t pass that opportunity up, so I enthusiastically drew the little sheep fellows, daydreaming about that episode of Father Ted with the sheep, the one with the ‘Beast of Craggy Island’, and other sheep based TV shows like Larry the Lamb, Shawn the Sheep, er, Roger Ramjet? There are probably more famous TV sheep I’m not thinking of, and I’m still trying so, so hard not to do a sheep-based pun. This is an act of sheer wool-power (aaargh!!!!!!!!! one slipped out. Two technically).

sheepmowers 2 UCD 042522 sm sm

Right, definitely no more sheep puns. Hey do you remember counting sheep when you were a kid, to go to sleep? No, that never worked for me either. I always thought that was really weird, like how is that a thing, counting sheep? So basically you imagine the sheep, and then count them? How many do you imagine? If you imagined them you wouldn’t need to count them. “I imagine 500 sheep”. So you start counting them but your brain says, look you know there are 500, you don’t need to check. I always had a hard time going to sleep when I was a kid, for one thing I kept imagining my room being full of sheep. These days I tend to listen to a history podcast, preferably someone with a boring voice, to get me to sleep. “Hello, and welcome to the history of sheep.” Anyway, I really enjoyed coming down and drawing the sheep. Below you can see the scene in full, with many others drawing and painting all the little sheep.

sheepmowers 3 UCD 042522 sm

To find out where the Sheepmowers will be this Fall check out https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/sheep-mowers.

TLC, all finished

Teaching Learning Complex UC Davis

Sure I’m a couple of months behind, but it’s good to get sketch-blog active again. The sketch-blog is a nice place after all, unlike the popular social media spaces that have dominated our lives and re-shaped global politics since the days when just a bit of regular blogging was the thing. It feels like a little allotment escape, a place to come away from the busy shouty high street tumble-dryer of Twitter, the shopping mall of Instagram, the awkward friends-of-family wedding of Facebook, although I do miss the music-store-noticeboard of MySpace. I prefer it in here, just me and my sketchbook, and some rambly stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense but isn’t setting out to enrage and inflame. Now this drawing is a couple of month’s old already but it is the Teaching and Learning Complex at UC Davis, which I have been drawing as it has been built, and is now complete, save for some work on the top floor. It’s lovely inside and outside, some nice spaces for student learning. The construction people who built it actually gifted me a very nice surprise upon completion of the project, a nice sweater with their logo and  one of my construction drawings stitched into the arm! It looks great. The sweater is quality (Patagonia) but quite warm, so I’ll probably need to wait until after the Davis summer to wear it (or just bring it with me to the London for the British summer). A pretty cool honor though. I’ve enjoyed drawing this building over the past couple of years, and here are some of the other sketches, from various angles and times of day…

Silo and Teaching Learning Complex, UC Davis TLC Feb 2022 sm 052421 TLC UCD Latest at the Teaching Learning Complex, UC Davis TLC UCD teaching learning complex Teaching and Learning Complex UC Davis silo smoky sky teaching learning complex sept 2020 Teaching Learning Complex UCD July 2020 Silo and Teaching Learning Complex (under construction...)

Phew! I drew a lot. I should draw the interior some time. Now on to the next project…

on the wall at walker hall


After several years of redevelopment, the new Graduate Center at Walker Hall had its formal grand opening a few weeks ago. Part of the grand opening included a special exhibition of several of my in-progress sketches, which I’ve shared here over the past few years, of the construction and redevelopment period. They blew them up into large colorful prints and have them displayed right now in the lobby area of the building, along with a touch screen where you can flick through all those sketches, along with a variety of historical photos from the past century. What an honour! I’m gobsmacked at what a nice display it was, and I got a lot of very nice comments from the people touring the building on that day. One of my personal favourites was of the building pre-reconstruction, the big panorama I did in 2014 when it was still in its old Walker Hall form, and that was nice to see big on the wall. There was another one – the ‘sneezy one’ – a sketch I started but abandoned after 10 minutes due to a massive attack of the April sneezing. I wrote “Atchoo!” all over the page and left it. Well they even made a print of that one! And that one is the one people mentioned to me the most. I think we all have those allergy experiences in Davis in the spring… There were several from that time when I was able to go inside and sketch the mid-construction shell, drawing bits of the interior in a hard hat just before dark, but most of the sketches were done peering over the fence or standing on a bench next to the bins. I’m pleased to have documented this project like this.


I did draw some of the ceremony outside that was given by the Chancellor Gary May, Vice Chancellor for Finance Kelly Ratliff (not in the sketch, I arrived during her speech), Graduate Dean JP Delplanque, and several others also not sketched here. I used to be a graduate coordinator for years on campus and always liked working with the Grad Studies team, so I am really pleased to see them get this amazing new space. Especially for the graduate students on campus, as this is the first dedicated Graduate Center of its kind in the UC system, which is great.


You can see all of my Walker Hall sketches in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157678149480548

Now on to the next campus drawing project! It’s a while now since I drew the Manetti Shrem going up, the old Boiler Building going down and replaced with the Pitzer Center; more recently I drew the Teaching and Learning Complex, which just opened recently. I like to draw things as they are being built because  they are moments in time that are not repeated, they will never look like that again, and spaces have meaning to people. Drawing them is a way of connecting with them myself and sharing a personal perspective.


Yep, it’s been over a month since I posted; my home computer has been down, I don’t like typing on the iPad, and I’ve been sitting on a pile of scanning. I need a new computer but have been lagging behind a bit there. I’ve done a bit of drawing, a lot of sneezing, a lot of soccer coaching, and I got a new guitar which has been taking up some of my spare time. Still hopefully I can start posting my sketches and stories more regularly again soon. Summer planning is afoot and there will finally be some travelling across the Atlantic. Check back soon!