This is the UC Davis water tower. I have sketched it before, but I don’t mind rehashing old material. I’ll happily tell the same jokes many times over to the same people, over a period of many years, as anyone who has read any of this sketchblog can attest. You might think that I’m sketching for a new audience, maybe someone hasn’t seen one of my sketches of the water tower before, and here’s a new one, but no, it’s really just that after 13 years in this town there isn’t a lot else to draw, so you draw things again. Different times of year, things look different; different times of my life, I see different. Let’s not think too much about it. Cezanne never worried about that when he was painting Mont St.Victoire over and over. Well he probably did, and if I had stayed in Aix-en-Provence myself beyond 2002 then I too would be on about my hundred-and-fiftieth drawing of it, and the Rotonde, and the Place d’Albertas and all the other corners of town that might lose their charm. I’d be dreaming every day, while wandering among the ochre stone and narrow cobbled streets, stepping over dog poo, cigarette butts and dried-up wine, wishing I was somewhere far away and different, like some American college town where they have fire hydrants and falling leaves, wide streets and bicycles, huge continent-crossing trains in the middle of the night, where smoking is banned pretty much everywhere and fresh milk isn’t hidden away like some unloved cousin. Sorry Aix-en-Provence, I love you but I married Davis. I came to Davis 13 years ago, and this water tower was the first thing I ever saw of the town, sticking out above the flat valley like a giant sputnik. It reminded me a bit of my first memories of France actually, when we would visit northern France on school trips, and the most striking thing about the French countryside were the distinctive water towers. This water tower has always for me been the symbol of Davis, more than the bike or the frog or the eco-conscious beard. It’s worth a few sketches I think. I drew this one at the start of November one sunny lunchtime, stood on the banks of Putah Creek, adding the paint on site because everything was such an attractive colour. The sky was a clear and breathable blue. This was before the horrible wild fires up near Chico, that brought havoc to the area and covered northern California with a hazardous smoke for two weeks, even closing down the UC Davis campus. As of last week the rains have finally come and the fresh air is back, meaning we could go back to work today. I didn’t sketch during that whole time; I went to Portland a couple of weeks ago to teach a workshop (I’ll write more on that later), and have been on a bit of a sketching hiatus since. Everyone needs a break. But I’m getting back into it. It’s end of November, advent-calendar-making season, and I have to get that done first. There’s a sketchcrawl in Davis this Saturday (see Let’s Draw Davis) and I’ve got a bit more Walker Hall to sketch, but the rains are coming back…
Last Saturday was the latest edition of the monthly Davis sketchcrawl “Let’s Draw Davis!”, back after its summer hiatus. The next one will be mid-November sometime. We had a good turn-out, and I started it off by inviting everyone to draw each other in a ‘portrait party’. Sketching sketchers is fun. I wanted them to be five-minute people sketches, quick as possible, and for the most part they were, but there was a lot of conversation. Did a LOT of talking! One person I was delighted to meet was Robert Regis Dvorak, who I had not met before and is a real art inspiration to talk to. It seemed like everybody (no exaggeration!) had been to one of his workshops over the years, he’s a really well known figure and art teacher. I should read his books sometime. He runs workshops and sketching tours all over, not just here in California but around the world. Nice guy as well. It was also a pleasure to meet and speak with Misuk Goltz (I thought she told me her name was Misuka when I was talking to her but others told me it was Misuk Goltz), she is also a well known artist. I was writing down things they told me but forgot to write that she was about to go and spend six months in Mongolia with her husband, which sounds really interesting.
We were in the study lounge of the Memorial Union, which has lots of places to sit and sketch others. I was trying to flit about and speak with different people. Above is Cindy, who I was initially sketching with her head turned to the side (hence the hair outline over the face) but changed when she changed view. Next to her is Alex, who works in video, and we talked a bit about stop motion animation. I’ve been doing some of that again lately. Maybe I’ll show you some, though it’s not showing-in-public-worthy just yet.
Above are Lynn Cohen, who I had actually met a few years ago when she bought one of my drawings at a show, she was very friendly and wore pants decorated with prints of her own sketches which was pretty cool. Then there was Dawn Pedersen, who wore a t-shirt from ‘Sketch-Con’ which is an event happening in Pasadena, I had never heard of it but it’s from Danny Gregory and Sketchbook Skool. I know a lot of the instructors in Sketchbook Skool and I’ve not met Danny in person but corresponded with him when I was in one of his books (An Illustrated Journey), so it sounds like something I’d like to go to, however I am coaching a team at a soccer tournament that weekend so can’t make it. By the way, our team which had started well lost 12-2 last week and 9-1 today, oh well. The last person I sketched there was Jay, who had a pocket full of Micron pens.
Above are AJ Tauber, who is part of the Oahu Urban Sketchers (and has been to the Davis sketchcrawls before), showing us her sketchbook at the final gathering; I sketched this one super-fast. There is also Rick Karban, an entemologist at UC Davis who had recently been in England at a sketching workshop from Roisin Cure. He was interesting to talk to, particularly from the point of view of someone who’s been in Davis a long time now and seen all the changes. And finally, below, Freeborn Hall, which I sketched while chatting to sketchers at the MU. I had to draw at least one building, but I sketch so many UCD buildings (as regular followers will probably have noticed) that there was no rush for me to sketch a few more, sketching and chatting to people was more fun. I always get that feeling though after talking to lots of people, I hope I didn’t talk too much nonsense. Especially as I was encouraging people to write down what the people they were sketching were saying. Be careful what you say, it’ll end up in the sketch!
You can see what some others sketched by visiting the Let’s Draw Davis Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/383785982124525/
This is another scene from UC Davis, showing the side of the huge Shields Library, with the metallic sculpture called “Bum Bum, You’ve Been Here Before”, which is by the artist Tio Gianbruni. I don’t think it’s ever appeared in any of my campus sketches before. There’s a lot of public art on campus, many sculptures. We’re a campus with a rich history of sculpture. ‘Bum Bum’ is found near the Arts Annex. I drew this in dark green pen. I like the dark green. Those red flowers make it feel like Spring, but it’s very much Fall. Mornings are getting cooler, though daytimes are still very much sunny and in the 80s. Shields Library is named after Peter J Shields, son of an Irish emigrant and Gold Rush rancher, who was one of the founders of UC Davis. When I first moved to Davis, before I was working at the university, I would come to the library and read medieval language books, riding on the back of my recent studies in the subject, though I never carried on. Shields is massive. Lots of places to read in peace. I miss spending hours on end in university libraries, doing research as best I could. My undergrad was spent in the large library at Queen Mary in London, which was always busy but had a great video library section (I did a course in German film). My Masters was spent mostly in the quiet corners of the Maughan Library on Chancery Lane, one of the main libraries for King’s College London, and I spent many hours every day there (though my best friend worked on the same street and there was a pub right across the road). I also spent a great deal of time in the medieval literature corners of the huge Senate House library, the central library of the University of London, near Russell Square. That really became a home from home while writing my MA dissertation (about the antagonism between English and French in the middle ages). In addition to Middle English and Old French I studied a fair bit of Old English (particularly the alliterative poetry, much of which I’ve forgotten now), Old Gothic (Wulfila and his bible), Old Saxon (the Heliand), and Old High German (Althochdeutsch; I did read the actual Abrogans, the oldest thing in German, at the beautiful Stiftsbibliothek library at the Abbey of St.Gallen in Switzerland) (I love telling people that) (makes me sound clever). Now, I draw pictures, and remember library time and dictionaries of languages I never learnt properly.
This is the back of the UC Davis Craft Center, in the South Silo building. Well, it’s worth drawing buildings you have drawn plenty of times before from a different angle for once. I like triangles, shapes. I’ll tell you something, I’ve never been into the Craft Center. I should take a class with them sometime, they do some interesting courses. I like a bit of ceramics, not done that since I was, well since Everton were the English champions, that’s rather a long time. I actually won a competition for pottery when I was 11, Borough-of-Barnet-wide, I made this big butterfly and did a bunch of drawings that went with it. I won a book called “The Young Naturalist”, which was presented to me at Goldbeaters School. My older brother and sister used to rip the piss out of me for that book, because they thought it was about Naturism, and I had no idea what that was. (It’s where people go about all nudey). I was always like, you what? Obviously this is about finding caterpillars and identifying plants. Oh you mean bushes and snakes, they’d chuckle. Yeah I suppose so, idiots, I’d say back. I’m still confused about it actually. When people talk about Naturist beaches I imagine it being full of people in green jackets with little magnifying glasses and Thermos flasks. Anyway my only ceramics experience after that was at school with Mr Herring, yes Mr Herring, the pottery teacher who hated me. He was the only teacher who gave me ‘Discredits’. He was my Snape, or would have been my Snape if I’d ever been taught by him after the first term of the first year, which I wasn’t. He used to throw the clay across the classroom onto the pupil’s tables. In class one, I said to him, you shouldn’t do that. I was always told at Goldbeaters that Throwing Clay Was Bad. I lived by the Rules. So I got a Discredit for it! Then a few weeks later Mr Herring gave me another one for not handing in homework on time (drawing homework, which he usually criticized no end anyway, often giving me a C or a D; he was of the opinion I was rubbish at drawing, and wanted me to know that). He really put me off doing ceramics, because ceramics was done through him at our school and if he didn’t like you, then tough tit my friend. This wasn’t really a thing in any of my other classes (especially not Art, which I loved). That Discredit meant I got my one and only Detention. I remember the Detention teacher being surprised to see me, and I noticed her eyes say ‘hmmm’ when she saw who gave me the Discredits. I had to write an essay called “The Day I Nearly Died”, that was the Detention essay at our school. I wrote about when I was hanging off of a cliff at Alum Bay in the Isle of Wight on a school trip, and had to be rescued by Mr. Winston, one of my favourite ever teachers. Anyway I never did ceramics again, so cheers for that Mr. Herring.
It’s time for another ‘Lets Draw Davis’ sketchcrawl! If you’re in the Davis area and like sketching, why not join us?
This time we will draw once more at the UC Davis campus, starting inside the Memorial Union at midday with a quick ‘portrait party’ (*details below), before going off and sketching around campus and meeting up again at 3:30pm outside Hart Hall to look at each others sketchbooks.
As always this is FREE and open to anyone who likes to sketch, all you need is something to draw with and something to draw on. The campus bookstore has great art supplies if you run out though! Sketchcrawls are a fun way to meet other people who like drawing outside, and learning from each other. It’s a great excuse to draw!
START: 12:00pm, UC Davis Memorial Union (in the main Study Lounge inside, 1st floor)
FINISH: 3:30pm, outside the front of Hart Hall (SW Quad)
*”Portrait Party“: To kick off the sketchcrawl, I’ll encourage people to pair off and have ‘portrait duels’, where they draw five minute portraits of each other (they’ll be timed!). This ice-breaker will be a fun (and optional) way to meet each other and exercise those sketching muscles before heading off to sketch bikes and trees and buildings and stuff.
Once you’re done, feel free to share your Davis sketches on the Let’s Draw Davis Facebook group!
Look forward to seeing you there!
The start of the Academic Year at UC Davis always brings busy times. I like it; after the long hot summer it’s nice to have all the people back. A lot of people, a lot of new cyclists, a lot of young drivers. People dress well in those first couple of weeks, dressed to impress new classmates. All the sorority houses along Russell that I cycle past are bursting with outfits and hairstyles. I haven’t been downtown much lately but this is also when people go out to restaurants and bars in huge groups; they’ve all just met each other and don’t know who will be their best buds yet. This is what I’ve seen over the years in this college town. By about November the cycling crashes will slow down, the homework sets in, the leaves become crispier. On this day though in the first week of classes I sat in the shade by the food trucks at the Silo and sketched this temporarily located Peet’s Coffee truck which was busy offering people a free cup. I don’t drink coffee, and I also spell ‘Pete’ properly (this must be another American spelling like ‘color’ and ‘aluminum’). It was nice though to see something new at the Silo, something different to sketch. ‘Cold Brew’, I suppose this is some sort of cold coffee? I don’t know. That large ‘Nitro’ looks like a beer. In fact not knowing that this was Coffee I might assume this was a beer truck, if such a thing were allowed on campus. Brings me back to British universities, those first weeks of the academic year there, now they had a lot of beer on campus. In many UK unis the campus is built around the pub. The student union bar at my old uni, Queen Mary, was the Draper’s, and I remember back to 1997, that place would get messy. None would get so drunk as the rugby team though, going there on a Wednesday night you’d see the players there, large heavy-shouldered public-school types (America: ‘public’ school in England means ‘private’ school, yeah our language makes no sense occasionally), vomiting into buckets while stood on the table and then carrying on drinking. ‘Fresher’s Week’ is what we call the first week of the university year, ‘Freshers’ being like ‘Freshmen’ in the US (just less gender-specific). God I’m glad I’m not back in those days.
More from campus. See, what I do is I work, I go out some lunchtimes and sketch, and then I work, then I go home and eat dinner with my family and look at things online and read and chase cats and sleep. I’ve been in Davis for a quarter of my whole life, so naturally I will draw things again that I have drawn before. Many times. Many, many times. Fecking loads of bleedin’ times. I lived in Aix-en-Provence years ago, before I was drawing as regularly as I am now, and I used to joke about Cezanne getting up every day thinking, right, what shall I paint today then? And he wanders about Cours Mirabeau and Rue des Cordeliers and sits himself down with a poulet-frites and an Orangina and goes, oh ok I’ll paint Mont St Victoire again. I’ve only painted it like 500 times already. And sometimes on weekends he will be like, maybe I’ll pop down to Marseille on the bus and paint the Vieux Port, and then he’s like, nah I can’t be bothered, I hate that walk from the bus station down La Canabiere. This is why we have so many St. Victoire paintings; I know the feeling, Paul, I feel ya. I was pretty much always busy when I lived in Aix, well nowhere near as busy as now and I wish that I had drawn more. I did start drawing again there, my flat-mate Mike from Canada and I started a ‘Wall Of Art’ in our kitchen, silly really but it was a fun place of expression. It started when I bought some oil pastels and sketched him having a drink at a cafe. I should find that and post it here, it might be a bit more interesting than my current crop of Davis sketches. Anyway, this is the Bike Barn. I have drawn this building so many times now (see many of them in this tag: /bikebarn). I suppose it’s my St.Victoire, it’s about the same shape (though I have never climbed on the roof, I have climbed to the top of Mont St.Victoire, twice).
You know what I just realized? I’ve never drawn Mont. St.Victoire from life. Maybe I should go back and do that sometime. But ONLY if Paul Cezanne comes here and paints the Bike Barn. It’s only fair.