chemistry latest

chemistry building (uc davis) latest

Here’s my latest sketch of the Chemistry Building’s redevelopment, with this bright green covering going over that newly built wing, ahead of the final cladding going on top. In fact the whole thing is covered in green now, I should do an update. The green on my page is unusually bright. I used that very strong Daniel Smith Phthalo Yellow Green paint, which glows like something out of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Well it is the Chemistry building. I showed this to someone and they were shocked, thinking that this would somehow be the final colour of the building. I mean, I wish more fairly conservatively designed buildings had an out of place massive neon green wing attached to them, but it’s pretty unlikely we’d do that. It is Chemisty though so it would get a, haha, reaction, geddit. I can’t wait to see the end product though, I expect it will fit seamlessly with the rest of the building.

stats and sprinkles

Hall Conference Xiongtao 042923 sm

At the end of April our department held its annual conference, this year titled “Advances in Statistical Data Science”. Our conferences are named in honour of Peter Hall, our former distinguished professor who very sadly passed away in 2016, at a time when he was one of the top statisticians in the world, especially in terms of number of and quality of publications. More than that, Peter was a lovely guy, I always enjoyed our chats. This conference went well (I must interject to say that while I’ve been working with statisticians for my whole career in the US, I know next to nothing about statistics and it all goes over my head), and one of my favourite parts of the weekend was when several of our alumni, who I’d not seen in a few years, came back to give talks. It was great to see them again, each of them being people I had brought into the department as new PhD students and who are now out there in the world making a difference. This was a talk given by Xiongtao Dai, and while I didn’t really understand it, I enjoyed the analogy of the sprinkle-covered donut, so I drew that. I don’t understand statistics, but I do understand donuts. (Not that I could make one; I leave that to the expert donut makers). In fact looking closely, I obviously don’t understand donuts either, because this was clearly a chocolate ball, and I even wrote that part down. This is why I wouldn’t make a good statistician, I can’t distinguish donuts from chocolate balls. This was the only sketch I did at the conference, as I was back and forth a bit to the office, or helping out there or walking the participants over to lunch, but I really enjoyed seeing everyone.

i feel as though, you ought to know

Hart Hall UC Davis

And a few more from the UC Davis campus. It will be nice when I get back to the sketch-scan-post all in the same day (or at least same couple of days) routine like I used to have years ago, but I always let the scanning build up, especially when I have had some trips. We were in Chicago during Spring Break, and then I was in Berkeley for a conference, but I finally got around to scanning and editing all of my recent sketches this past weekend, no mean feat. Yet I’ve not been sketching every day, perhaps because I didn’t want the to-be-scanned pile to get bigger. Also, not been too inspired by Davis, although I still find things to draw on campus during those lunchtimes. Above, the final page of Sketchbook #45, a place I have drawn many times but it never gets old, Hart Hall. Hart Hall never seems to change. This was about when the allergies were starting to kick up again, as the blooms starting blooming-well blooming.

TLC UCD 022123

This was a windy lunchtime in February. What do draw? Well I stood outside the Teaching Learning Complex (which you’ll remember I drew a lot as it was being built) and drew the view towards the Silo area, I like all the triangles of that building. I like this sort of view, I can do different shapes, values and textures, though I always have to make sure I have enough elastic bands to keep my pages down when it’s windy.

Walker Hall and Shields Library UC Davis

Finally, another building I have drawn a lot is Walker Hall, which I sketched throughout its whole reconstruction into the Graduate Center. So many times over the past several years did I stand on this spot looking across toward Shields Library in the background, and this would be a building site, I would be poking my head over a fence with some bins in the foreground and some trucks scattered around. Not any more! Except on this day, as I sketched a Facilities truck came along and decided to park right in front of me, blocking the specific view I was drawing. I couldn’t really see over it, so I just though ah well, and came back the next day to draw the rest. This is a really great part of campus now. I think on our graduate open house it poured down with rain making a tour very difficult, if not impossible, but if I were touring graduate students now I would make sure they came to this place, to see this amazing new facility we have for them. And then there is the great Shields Library, which was the first place I spent much time on this campus, before I was working here (my wife was already an employee) I would come here to read books on medieval language, spend time in the computer lab writing and updating my blog (before it was a sketchblog, when it was just a here-I-am-living-in-America-now blog, the old 20Six one before I switched to this WordPress one). I don’t suppose I thought much in those days that I would still be here now, and sketching these same places, watching them and recording them as they changed. It’s not my actual job, but I feel like it kind of is my job. One day, these places will look different again. Though maybe not Hart Hall, that never seems to change.

another view of the MSB

MSB UC Davis

This is the Mathematical Sciences Building (MSB) at UC Davis, the building that has been my work home since I joined the campus along time ago. I wanted to draw a new view of it, this time slightly set back from the street (California Avenue; it was called Crocker Way when I first started), stood outside the entrance to the Earth and Physical Sciences Building (unseen to my left), which was not even there when I first started. Also missing are some trees, the largest and most recent to leave this earthy realm fell in the massive new years eve storms, along with hundreds of others trees. It’s left quite a gap, it provided some good shade in the summer for those sitting outside, although we still have the big wide spread tree you can see there that will keep us cool. I have drawn the building in panorama a few times over the years, we use those on our mugs and stickers and Stats department website, though each new drawing there is another tree missing. Be nice if this building were just a little bit bigger though, so we could have more office space. The perennial problem. The winter storms and rain look like they are finally over now, here in late April, and suddenly BAM it’s summer. It will be 90 degrees most days this week. The allergies have kicked into full gear, as always happens when the heat cranks up, but with everything being watered so much this year there has been a lot more growth, so the pollen is through the roof, as it were. I had to stay home today, the allergies were so bad that I didn’t actually sleep at all last night. At 5am or so I messaged work to say I wouldn’t be in and then worked from my bed until I eventually fell asleep around 7am, though not for long. Stupid allergies. I also saw that Spurs sacked their interim manager today, Stellini, the Tottenham merry-go-round continues, not so merry after losing 6-1 to Newcastle. But back to the MSB.

Below is another panorama sketch I did last month, inside the MSB Colloquium Room, at a mini-conference we held in honour of our emeriti faculty. It was really great having our eminent retired professors back, I’d not seen some of them since before the pandemic, and we had several presentations by our younger faculty, such as this one by Asst Prof. Mina Karzand. I’ve been with the Stats department a long time myself now so I gave a little speech as well with my memories and moments with each of them, and thanking them for establishing a welcoming culture in our department that we’ve tried to maintain. It was a nice event, and so I had to sketch it.

stats mini-conference 3-1-23

another view of university house

University House 020123 sm

Another building I have drawn before. University House, UC Davis, first day of February 2023. I’ve drawn it a few times over the years, from slightly different angles, but usually, curiously, in the winter, February or March. Below, sketches from 2017 and 2013. The first time I drew it, this was where SISS was housed (they handle the international scholars, visas and so on, for the university), but they have since moved over to the big International Center that was built a few years back.

University House, UC Davis

University House was built in 1907/1908 as the house of the farm director when the campus first opened as University Farm, an agricultural research offshoot of UC Berkeley. It’s one of the oldest buildings on campus.

university house


Mrak tree stump 012523 sm

Did I post this one already? With time moving along so quickly I cannot remember. January seemed to go on forever, and now suddenly it’s April. This is the stump of one of the trees that blew down in the massive storms that opened 2023. I sketched it, needing to sketch at lunchtime as I do, listening to a podcast about the Beatles as I do, documenting. The very next day, even the stump was gone. Goodbye big old tree. Gone to the great big forest in the sky, as they say. This was on Mrak Lawn, that green are in front of Mrak Hall, shaded with trees (well, fewer than before) and a nice place to walk through. As I sketched a couple of people said “hello Pete” and I replied although I don’t think I actually recognized them. When I’m in sketching world it takes a minute for me to remember people. This was a nice sunny day, not rainy and windy as so many days have been. This is a very unusual year for Davis, it’s never this wet. We were inviting in faculty candidates from all over the country, and I always use the pleasant weather compared to say Michigan or Washington at this time of year as a pulling point as to why Davis is a great place to live. It was a bit harder this year with so much fun weather. One thing I like about January on campus, you can always tell if someone is there for a job interview, because they are the ones walking around in pristine suits with well brushed hair, unlike the rest of us who are casual Californians. Anyway, it is now April, we’re still getting rain, but the sunshine is coming. It always does.

chemistry building, latest update

chemistry nov 2022 sm

I like drawing construction as you know. This particular project, the redevelopment of this side of the UC Davis Chemistry building, feels like it has been going on for hundreds of years. They started building the new wing itself fairly recently though, and the steel framework was being put in place in December, a good three years after I sketched the old walkway being demolished. Above, one of the steel beams being moved into place. It reminds me of playing Donkey Kong years ago, with little Mario running up the girders and jumping over barrels. My brother used to sit on the end of my bed and play that all night.

chemistry dec 2022 sm

I drew the Chemistry building from a slightly different angle to get the last burst of that fire-red blossom in the view.

Chem UC Davis

And the most recent attempt was earlier in February, when I drew from by those standing stones next to the Silo, but pretty much got bored with drawing so left it like this.

a mind can blow those clouds away

view from MSB 110922 sm

This here is the view from my office. Well I say that, but this sketch is a little bit unreliable, because I have missed out a bunch of windows in the building opposite. I could have drawn them, but for some reason I didn’t, I was so excited about drawing the different autumnal colours. November moves fast. It’s going to be March tomorrow. There are moments when the speed of time just scares me. I have this constant urge to fill it with drawings, as if the time didn’t happen unless I’ve got some sort of drawing to go with it. I think it’s something that I wrestle with, not having the time to draw, versus needing the time to enjoy other things, balanced with the fact I need to draw because it does relax me. If I go somewhere and get what I consider to be a good drawing in, I’m in a pretty good mood afterwards, usually, like I’ve achieved something.

TLC, the grand opening

TLC opening 100422 sm

Back in October, the brand new Teaching and Learning Complex (“TLC”; not “talc”) had its formal opening ceremony, which I of course went along to and sketched. I sketched the current Provost Mary Croughan above, describing the TLC as an “absolutely beautiful building”, and it really is. The Chancellor Gary May said that the TLC “marks a new era for learning at UC Davis”, while former Provost Ralph Hexter (who was executive vice-chancellor during the original planning for this building) said “TLC – I’m surprised no-one made this obvious – is Tender Loving Care”. (This by the way is why acronyms are important, and why I probably won’t be allowed to come up any acronyms on campus, because I’d probably make them silly). After this, there were tours of the building, and I was particularly impressed with the top floor’s tutoring center with it’s little sound-proofed pods. I really liked the views as well, and so I came back over the next couple of days to draw them.

TLC view 100522 sm

This was the view from the stairwell, looking northwards. I’ve always been interested in that observatory dome on the top of that one building, I think it is Storer Hall, as I can see that from my office. Lot of windows in this one, but that little bit of pink foliage was quite striking, especially as it was October.

TLC view 100622 sm

And this is the view from the top of South Steps, where the first sketch was drawn, this time looking southwards at the new wing of the Engineering Building that is pretty much being completed as I type, but was still wrapped in orange back in October. Another building project completed. Speaking of building projects, you can see all of my sketches of the Teaching and Learning Complex at the following link: And by the way, the team behind the construction of the building gifted me a very special present last summer for all my sketched documentation of the project, a Patagonia sweater with their logo on, and an embroidered version of one of my sketches on the sleeve! That’s a pretty cool honour. It’s also a pretty lovely sweater, though I had to wait about eight months to wear it, because it wasn’t cold enough until about December.


How cool is that! Here is the sketch it is based off of, drawn a couple of years and a couple of months before this grand opening, in the bleak midst of the pre-vaccine Pandemic Time:

Teaching Learning Complex UCD July 2020

You can read a good article about the TLC’s opening ceremony at UC Davis Dateline: (my tweet about it even got a shoutout…)

some time at UC Davis (summer 2022)

UCD construction panorama 081122 sm

As we catch up from last summer, here are some of the things I drew on campus. There was a lot of work done on the roundabout junction between the Silo, Chemistry and Bainer, so I stood behind the wire and drew the construction machines and the workers putting the street together. The standing stones in the foreground on the right have been there for ages, I’ve drawn them before, I’ve drawn everywhere before. It’s interesting to draw the in-between moments of these places, as they go from looking one way to another.

UCD Bainer pano Aug2022 sm

The next view is very close by, from a different angle, where there’s no work going on, and it hasn’t changed in years. I drew this one pretty fast; it was the difference in the high-summer greens that made me want to put it to paper.

TB UCD 082622 sm

Another one drawn on a super hot day while stood in the shade, this is an old campus building called TB-9, which sounds like the name of a protocol droid in the Star Wars universe, but TB stands for ‘temporary building’. I mean, astronomically or geologically it is temporary, as are well all and all our thoughts and fears and politics, but in this case, the building was born in 1958 and is now on the actual National Register of Historic Places, no less. So it’s probably not going anywhere, but it might tempt fate to call it ‘Permanent Building 9’. If you want to know more about this building, check out this article:

UCD 082222 sm

This next one is primarily about the cacti in front of the Student Community Center, looking out at the Silo area. Another hot day, they all blend into one now. What even happened last August? It feels so long ago already.

UCD SSS lobby 090122sm

A week or so later, while it was a sizzling 102 degrees outside (in the weeks that would follow, 102 would feel like a bit of an ice age), I sat inside the Student Community Center and ate lunch, and drew the lobby area. Among other things this building is home to the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center, and there are colourful murals inside. We hold our annual department holiday party here too.

silo 092722 sm

And finally, the end of September, summer was over and the new Fall quarter had begun. So everyone was back, and we all got busy again, and the Silo area had new blue and yellow sun-shades over the tables. The academic year started. I still have a bunch more sketches from summer to post, from Davis and a few other places, and some from Fall too, but this was the summer on campus. Most of the staff in our department worked remotely except for one day a week, so I was there by myself for a lot of the time, but it’s nice when there are more people about again giving the campus its life, with all the students rushing about and bikes everywhere.