walkin’ back to happiness

walker hall (nearly done)

Regular listeners will recognize this building as Walker Hall, which has been under redevelopment for quite some time now on its way to becoming the new Graduate Center, which was slated to open in 2020 but looks set for 2021 now, unless you subscribe to the opinion that 2020 hasn’t really ended yet. (To be fair, 2016 only just ended yesterday). It’s starting to look quite different now and almost nearly ready, as a lot of the area in front of the building (I mean, the rear of the building, this is actually the rear, but I think it’s the front now) (a bit like Buckingham Palace, you know the part of the building we all see is technically the back? It doesn’t matter, it’s a building not a video game) has been paved and a lot of the construction huts are going, though it’s still all fenced off. The last time I went inside there was November 2018 when I got to draw the insides with a hard hat on (see: https://petescully.com/2019/01/28/inside-walker-hall/), which was very exciting, because your urban sketching street cred goes right up if you wear a hard hat. It has been fun to watch this whole building evolve (by the way I made a handy folder on Flickr to see all the drawings I’ve done of this building, for those who are interested: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157678149480548) but it will be nice to draw it from a different angle once again. 

That said, here are a few sketches of this angle (usually stood on the steps of Shields Library) from over the past couple of years during the rebuild, for comparison. Funny how I usually draw it in January, and twice now on January 15th, which was the traditional Deadline Day for PhD applications when I was a grad coordinator. In fact it was the former Graduate Dean Jeff Gibeling that gave me the idea to draw the redevelopment back when plans for the new Graduate Center was first unveiled years ago, as I had been drawing the developments at the Pitzer and the Manetti Shrem at the time. It’s fun tracking changes in sketchbooks. 

 walker hall uc davis>

Walker Hall UC Davis Walker Hall UC Davis

we rule the school

SSH building 011321

This is the Social Sciences and Humanities Building at the UC Davis campus, also known as the Death Star, despite being incapable of hyperspace travel and having zero giant superlaser weaponry, at least that I am aware of. It’s a complicated structure, and I always get lost on it. I would have been terrible on the real Death Star, I’d never have made it out just by running around. Similarly, if there are meetings in a part of this building I’ve not been to often I will definitely be 10-15 minutes late while I get lost in the Escher-like architecture. Not a problem any more now we are all Creatures of Zoom. I drew this building after working at home all day, and at the end of the day before the sun came down I felt the need to get out of the house, so I went down to campus and drew this quickly. January keeps moving along. 2021 keeps dragging 2020 along with it. I’m writing this post early in the morning after one of those nights where I fell asleep very early (on the couch after dinner, with a headache, having been up very early yesterday morning to watch Tottenham play Sheffield United on TV) (if someone had told the teenaged me that in my mid-forties I would be living in California during a global pandemic and getting up at 6am to watch Spurs play Sheffield United I would have said, yeah that sounds about right. “Oh but Spurs are wearing green shirts.” “WHAT!?!”). It was a sleep last night littered with the mad dreams, all over the place, all sorts of things going on. I’m usually back in London somehow during these dreams, they were the sort of dreams that take me a few hours to get over when I wake up, which I did today at about 4:30am. So I got up, and listened to podcasts about football tactics and X-Men, listened to some Belle and Sebastian, they always fix my mood, and I’ve been trying to draw a picture of Boulogne Sur Mer, which is taking longer than it takes to cross the English Channel. I started a new virtual sketch tour, since there’s no travelling, I’m going to go on a virtual Tour de France. I drew Calais already. I should miss out Boulogne, but it’s impossible, since they go hand in hand from a British day-trip perspective. The sun is coming up now and I should get ready for a morning run but these quiet dark pre-dawn hours I always feel I need to learn stuff, practice a language, work on my drawing, write something interesting, achieve something to start the day with, but that sun keeps on coming up. It’s windy out there today. New week, wonder what fun it will bring.  

gateway

tri co-ops garden UC Davis

This has been a week. The despicable events of Wednesday in DC definitely shocked me, and yeah, I worry what more havoc could be wrought in the next couple of weeks. And beyond, I don’t think this sort of thing is over for a while. I haven’t much energy to gather all my thoughts about it all to be honest, other than angry shouting at a cloud. I never imagined all that was to come at the start of the week, when I sketched this. I went down to campus to get my COVID test, a weekly requirement if we are working on campus (which I will still do once or twice per week, if only for a few hours to take care of some things). These are the gardens at the back of the Tri Co-Ops, not far from the ARC. I stood next to a big puddle, it having rained a lot before this. I have sketched the other side of the Tri-Co-Ops, but not the gardens. This is a gateway of some sort. I feel like we are always passing through gateways of some sort, but this week definitely feels like a gateway of some sort, and a dangerous one. 2020 hasn’t actually stopped yet. Call it 2020 2.0. Jeez, if this is 2021, can it be 2022 yet?

it’s a wonder fall life

wright hall uc davis

Last month the leaves in this town just exploded in all sorts of colours. When I say all sorts I don’t mean blue or white or mauve, but most of the other colours in the spectrum were represented there somewhere. My paint box was jumping up and down for me to get outside and put some of this into my watercolour Moleskine. Happy to do so. It was a short period when I couldn’t wait to get outside. Right now, on the Sunday after Christmas, I don’t want to leave the house, or get dressed, but that’s normal. We’re still working from home, though on vacation this week (officially it’s curtailment), but I still have to go to campus every so often to do stuff at the office, and get to take free weekly COVID tests now too. So coming onto campus I took the time to catch some of the colours there. Above is the view of Celeste Turner Wright Hall (drawn it before) which is one of the most gloriously autumnal spots on campus. You can see Robert Arneson’s Eggheads there still arguing beneath the leaves, like Bert and Ernie. These colours bring me a lot of joy. Without sounding like some sort of uplifting Netflix show host (something I have never been mistaken for), it’s good to focus on things that bring you joy. For me, interesting chord changes in songs, the smell of a French bakery, the sun setting over a city as seen from a train, Tottenham beating Arsenal, but nothing quites matches the joy brought by bright colours of autumnal leaves.

UC Davis Arboretum

I drew the above fairly quickly while stood on a narrow bridge in the Arboretum. There was no way I could really catch all the sensations of the colourful leaves, but also quite a few people were crossing the bridge and stopping to take photos. I stayed as socially distanced and masked up as possible. A lot of people were having photo sessions in the yellow gingko trees nearby, as they were dumping their leaves. I bet that gives the trees a lot of joy, the feeling of dumping their leaves at the end of a busy year. I know how that feels. I wonder if the trees know about our pandemic this year? Actually, no I don’t wonder that. I know scientists have discovered that trees do feel and communicate, in their own tree-like fashion, but they probably don’t check the internet or read the papers (probably a sore subject too, paper), and probably haven’t noticed all the masks or social distancing any more than I’ve noticed what the mayflies did this year. They didn’t have to read retweets of all of Trump’s endless rage tweets. They’ve never used Zoom. They also didn’t have to watch that ‘Imagine’ video. But they do get to that point in the year when they are like, right here goes, here’s all the colours, there’s all the leaves, see you in the spring dudes. I like trees, they do their thing. That said I also like things like wooden chairs and guitars and paper, so the trees probably don’t like me back.

Silo UC davis (sunny)

Above and below, the fiery trees around the Silo. They really blazed a bright reddish orange for a bit, before throwing off the leaves in a tantrum, all at once. When I drew the scene below it was rainy, a rare occasion here, but I stood under a tree and drew what I could, adding the rest in when I got inside. I’m glad for rain, after the year we had. For a lot of trees, the blazes have not been metaphorical. This years fires have been awful, we lost a lot of trees in California and beyond, some very ancient. The trees had their own really bloody rubbish 2020. But when they make it this far, beating the fire season, and bursting into displays of colour as an expression of boundless life, it’s like they are sticking a huge two branches up at the deadly seasonal fires; they made it to the end of the year, long may they make it beyond. Drawing these colours brings me joy, no doubt, and I’ll post the other ones I did in the next post. Just before Christmas the UC Davis Staff Assembly sent out a message to all staff thanking them for their efforts with remote work this past year, and included a link to some of my campus views to have a look at, in case (like me) they might be missing campus. And I am missing campus. I can go whenever I want, it’s only ten minutes bike ride down Oak Street for me, but it’s not the same. So much is closed, so few people are around, the campus atmosphere just isn’t there right now. But it will come back. I can’t see it happening that quickly, and even when it does it will inevitably be gradual for a lot of people, something I’m very sensitive to, but we will come back, things will return. That’s something that will definitely bring some joy.

Silo UC davis (rainy)

memor(i)al union

MU panorama Oct 2020 sm

Another panorama, this time in the Moleskine. Click on the image for a closer view. This is the Memorial Union (or “Memor al Union” if the sign is correct) at UC Davis. I don’t know if I ever drew this whole view before. Campus is much quieter than it is supposed to be, although there are still people about. Jeez I miss everyone. I wish everyone were on campus. I come in a couple of times a week, to get things done in the office, and I’ll get a sandwich from the Silo Market, showing my Symptom Survey each time, but it’s just so quiet. We will be almost fully remote in Winter as well, and probably Spring. It’s hard, but I can’t imagine how isolating it must be feeling for students. I wish this pandemic were over, but it’s not. I wish this awful president we’ve had for the past four years would be over too, but we have to wait a bit longer, and boy is that going to be a headache. We do what we can to make things feel better. I like to draw. I can’t get to all the places I want to go to right now but I can imagine, and travel-dream. I spent my youth doing just that, drawing loads and dreaming of all the places I would travel to when I was old enough. Looking out of the window a lot. Also obsessing about Tottenham, and football in general. Reading books about languages. Eating noodles on toast. I guess I’m not that different from when I was 14. Except when I was fourteen I probably wasn’t reminiscing about youth, “ah remember when I was five, oh that was great”. Actually I do remember being five, I remember Spurs winning the FA Cup with Ricky Villa’s goal, but that is about it. That may also have been the year I decided to put Weetabix in my big sister’s school blazer pocket, “in case she got hungry when she was at school”. Not just the Weetabix biscuits but the milk as well. I actually remember doing it, thinking I was being really helpful. Have you ever tried to get dried Weetabix off of a bowl? Imagine trying to get it out of a blazer pocket. I also put knitting needles up her nose when she was asleep too apparently but I don’t remember that. I remember being four and being on a BBC TV show called A Little Silver Trumpet, I thought it was all real. Nursey out of Blackadder played my mum, Patsy Byrne. Most of it was filmed at White City, in the big round BBC Television Centre, but I remember going to film in Brighton. Spending hours getting my hair and face made up in black grease (it was set in olden times and we were a poor and dirty redheaded family in the slums) and the agony of having it all washed out afterwards at home. Memories are a funny thing, you have snippets of this and that, and even more grown up times can be not that much different. I obviously remember a lot about being at university, but then it’s like, do I? There are people who I know I met and spent time with but have absolutely no recollection of now, name or anything. Same with secondary school. The memories are there but are jumbled up, and appear in dreams, that strange dreamspace which looks like my old school (which no longer exists, it was knocked down), where I get lost wandering around like it is a forbidden zone, and people who are probably dead or at least quite old now appear like ghosts. That’s what I don’t like about Facebook I think (well that and all the St George’s flags), the past can sometimes be better left as a hazy memory. This is why I draw stuff. It’s more reliable than writing a diary. I can see into my head and connect with my past self better when I look at a sketchbook, whereas a diary shows me someone I don’t necessarily recognize any more. So here then is the Memor(i)al Union, on theme, at a time which frankly we ain’t gonna forget. 

any way the wind blows

3rd and A 102320 sm

The last page of this sketchbook, the last of the Seawhite of Brighton books I picked up in London last year, so on to a new book. This one was “Sketchbook 37” under the new numbering system I started last year. I need to actually put the numbers on the spines of the books and put them on a shelf sometime (right now I keep them in a box). This view is at the entrance to the UC Davis campus on 3rd Street, along A Street. The large interestingly shaped building is called the Death Star. Actually it isn’t called that officially but everyone calls it that. It’s the Social Sciences and Humanities Building. Imagine if the Galactic Empire called their Death Star something like that. The ‘Planetary Geological Redistribution Department’. On the right you can see a marquee set up, this is actually an outside classroom, set up to deal with the very few in-person classes during the pandemic. There are a few, but most classes are taught remotely. All of ours are, in our department. It was a windy day, we had some very high and dry winds that week, thankfully no fires were sparked in our area this time. I enjoyed drawing this one, I like how it turned out. I’ve drawn so many scenes in Davis but this is a slightly different angle and I like the noticeboard pillar to the left, those were installed when 3rd Street was completely revamped over the last couple of years. This drawing is another gateway, not just the end of a sketchbook, or the entrance to campus. While drawing this I got the phonecall that our house purchase was finally closed, so I started this drawing as a renter and ended it as a homeowner, which feels like a life milestone for me. I like the neighbourhood I live in up in north Davis, and am glad to stay there (plus I hate moving). So a chapter closes, a new chapter begins, and I’ll keep on drawing the same stuff, watching it slowly evolve as the years pass by. It’s important to remember that, on historic days like today, nothing really stays the same. (Actually some things do stay the same, nice sentiment though). For the record, I hope there is a big change today in the government. I’ve spent too long stressing about this election, but I’m not getting my hopes up. This has been a bloody stressful enough year as it is, time to open a new sketchbook. I’ve drawn this town for fifteen years, and I’ll keep on drawing Davis, and all its small changes.

and it’s never gonna be the same

Walker Hall UC Davis (nearly ready...) Still working from home, but coming to campus a couple of times a week at least to do stuff in the department, although the lack of people on campus really is depressing, the start of Fall quarter is usually about the buzz and energy of everyone being around, but there’s none of that this year, with most people working from home and most students taking their classes remotely. This is the Zoom Generation. What a year. Nobody really knows when this will end, but end it must, and construction goes on for when we are all back. I wonder what impact the pandemic will have on future architecture? I’d be interested to follow developments in the next few years with global pandemics in mind now that is a thing. In the meantime here are some sketches I did in the middle of September on the UC Davis campus of some of the ongoing construction projects. Above, Walker Hall, which is nearly ready. You can see all my other Walker Hall sketches at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157678149480548. This will be the new Graduate Center, and I attended a virtual walkthrough last week which was really exciting. Last time I was in the building was two years ago when I was invited to sketch inside during reconstruction, I was able to explore the space and try not to fall through holes in the floor, and I got my photo of me sketching with the hard-hat which was what I really wanted. It’ll be great to see Walker Hall finally open.chemistry building uc davis (lots of work still) Here is the ongoing construction project at the Chemistry Building, that started at the end of 2019. This part of it anyway, the other parts of the huge building have been undergoing work for a few years already. You can see the sky was sorta blue on these days, the AQI was still high, but the smoky skies were intermittent. Not so on the day I drew the sketch below, when skies were dull and brownish/orange from smoke. I wasn’t outside for long, but I ate a sandwich at the Silo and stood outside to draw the view of the new Teaching and Learning Complex rising over the skyline. Building work keeps on going. silo smoky sky

Some might say we will find a better day

teaching learning complex sept 2020

When was my last post? I don’t remember. I know I can look it up by just looking at my last post, but even as I read the date I forget what it says. Time is an irrelevance. It’s October now, isn’t it? What month is that, eight? Ten? Are months important any more? When you look at months, they do beg the question: what the hell is that about? This one has 30 days, this one has 31, then comes February and it’s like, wait no, just 28 for you, except every now and then it’s 29, I mean what the bloody hell? What is an hour?How many in a day, 24? Right let’s divide the hour into 24, no actually 60, I mean when you actually look at it all, it really does make you wonder WTactualF? Days in a week? 7 FOR SOME REASON. What is a week? I mean we know what a year is. We can understand years. Days too, to an extent, although the actual day bit depends on the time of year and where you are on the planet. But years, we get years, we can’t do anything about years. The French Revolutionaries tried changing all the months to more sensible time frames, with funny names like Breezy, Wheezy and Sneezy (those weren’t the real names, that’s what the British called them mockingly, because our old fashioned months made so much more sense). Years we understand. Except that there are only two thousand and twenty of them apart from all the thousands that went before. Don’t get me started on the boring people that insisted on the millennium not being the millennium because there was no year zero, and I was like well what the hell are we supposed to do with all these fireworks?? Besides I personally count years from 1BC. Years though, I do understand years, and a week ago or so (I think, time is an irrelevance) I celebrated fifteen years living in the U.S.

Fifteen years! Fifteen times around the Sun, and what a bloody hot sun it has been, especially lately, here in California. It’s October, and we’ve still been having 100 degree weather. Fires have still been giving us choking air. As a socially-distanced-soccer coach I constantly check the AQI to see whether the Sky Gods will permit us to kick the ball around for a bit while trying to stay six feet apart, and still be heard trying to explain rules of complicated drills under my mask. The game is the best teacher. Recently we got out of town for the weekend, driving down to Monterey across a California we could barely even see, the smoke was so thick, and even in Monterey the smoke mixed with the fog. I did do some drawing, I will post them another day. The pandemic is going on and on and on, with no normality in sight, I don’t need to tell you that. Cinemas are closing, films aren’t coming out. The things we love are on pause, or going away, and time is hard to measure. But I’ve been living in America for fifteen years, and that’s a thing for me to think about. I’ve generally measured time in sketchbook pages, though this has been much harder this year because I am so far behind all the other years. The sketch at the top of this post shows little relevance to the theme of this thought bubble, but it shows time passing, a new building, the Teaching and Learning Complex, the TLC, which meant something different in a different time. It’s an optimistic building, in these strange and unusual and unprecedented times, when so much teaching is happening through the exhausting little rectangles that give us all headaches. I like drawing buildings on campus in their various stages of transition, it’s real time, really passing. It can’t always be measured but it’s time you can hold on to, and keep, and never get back.

We can never get this time back. People grow, live and stop, things happen and stop happening, we adapt, and it’s hard, it’s bloody hard but it was hard before, now we have an excuse, that’s what I think some days. This week I’ve been seeing videos online celebrating the 25th anniversary of Oasis’s second album, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” which was always one of my favourite records. I remember the day it came out, I had been having the most illustrated year of my life. Illustrated? I suppose that’s the word, I was 19 and felt like I was grabbing the world by the horns a bit. That was the year I took off and went to Denmark to pick strawberries all summer. Listening to music on my crappy tape player, and what music it was, 1995 was a great year, optimistic. By the time October rolled around this album came out and I went and got the CD from Our Price in High Barnet, where I was at college, and I got home and immediately recorded it onto a cassette, so I could listen to it on the tube. I was going down to Stratford if I remember rightly, I was going on a date with a girl from Prague I’d met a few days before. I just remember getting to Stratford tube station, and I was so engrossed in the album I didn’t want to turn it off, so I just walked about Stratford until the very last bits of Champagne Supernova had finished, walking through a subway, volume turned right up on my headphones. Then I met the girl from Prague and apologized for being late, saying there was a delay on the Central Line or something, which sounded plausible. I remember it was a nice autumn evening, we went to a pub and played pool, but I just couldn’t wait to get back on the tube to Burnt Oak and listen to it again. That was all twenty-five years ago? That blows me away. And then again, it doesn’t. The last fifteen years probably surprise me more. The decade between where and who I was in September 2005, moving to America, and October 1995, listening to that album for the first time, makes me really wonder about what years really are – that was definitely longer than the fifteen years that have flown by since. I’ve fit a massive, massive amount in, and I still am, but the thirties and forties are so different from the twenties. Back in the old days, an album was as long as the amount of space on two sides of a 12 inch piece of vinyl. Then it was as long as you could put on a CD without getting bored. Now it’s arbitrary, what is an album? Endless playlists, pick and choose, random selection, the ceremony vanished a long time ago. But each song carries a piece of history with it, some memories that only you can carry, that album carries a lot of mine. Time is irrelevant, but absolutely precious, utterly priceless. We will never forget this year, none of us, a massive shared experience which will be different for everyone, but don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.

what an ashmosphere

view from MSB 08/24/20 The smoke from the nearby fires was bad, very bad. Ash raining everywhere, air quality awful. Then it cleared up a little bit and we even came outside for a bit. And then it got worse again from the many other fires up and down the West Coast, and now it’s pretty universally awful. The Orange Sky Day in San Francisco was a thing. But this sketch, from my office on campus, was from a few weeks ago when it was bad from those first fires. Everything tinged with amber, dense particulates in the air, not great to breathe in. So my quick sketch was just in ashy looking paint. Looked appropriate. I’ve no idea when this current smoke event will clear up (we’re not able to do youth soccer practice right now, which was tricky enough with our COVID protocols), but campus is starting to get ready to welcome some students back, and there are marquees going up for some outdoors instruction, which won’t be able to happen now in this current ashy hellscape. What a year 2020 is, huh.     

Watching the Chancellor’s Colloquium, with Gary Younge

desk at work I was in the office this week, campus is still closed but I had a lot to do there, preparing for the new academic year. At the end of the day, I got to enjoy Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speaker Series, hosted by UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, with special guest presenter Gary Younge. It was titled “Going Viral: Race, Racism and Rebellion in the Midst of a Pandemic”. The talk was presented remotely from England, and so I watched in my office and sketched my desk and the laptop while it was on, using my iPad. I really enjoyed it. The live Q&A afterwards with Chancellor May and Gary Younge was cut short unfortunately due to loss of connection. It has been a long time since I drew my work desk, in fact I don’t think I have drawn it since moving offices. When I’m on campus I usually keep the drawing space and the work space separate, even though I’ve not been working from this desk regularly in several months now due to this damned pandemic. See if you can spot my Baby Yoda hand sanitizer.