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:

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!

towering over our heads

UC Davis arboretum Here’s another sketch of the UC Davis Water Tower (one of them anyway) in the Arboretum, this time with a very spring-like feel with the redbuds glowing. The first day of March 2022, which means we are nearly two years on from that day in March 2020 when we all stopped, and then carried on in a different way.

a complex world

TLC Feb 2022 sm

The world is a mess, but we keep on keeping on. This is the new Teaching Learning Complex, a building that has been under construction this past couple of years and is now open (I went and walked around inside last week, it’s nice) but there’s still work going on at the exterior and I think the upper floors are nearly ready as well. I drew at lunchtime, but added in details on a different lunchtime, and then decided not to colour it, but then decided to put colour on it, and splashed on a bit of paint so that it dripped down. It’s nice to have this new building around, I can even see it from my office. But, as I am sure will be said many times over the years by clever people giving talks here, “teaching and learning doesn’t need to be complex.”  I don’t know where you go next from that phrase but it sounds like the sort of thing that you might say when speaking to a group of, I don’t know, undergrads learning to be teachers maybe. I might use it some day myself. In fact I just did, just then. Oh, the world is a mess. I wish the war would stop in Ukraine and Russia would leave them alone, that isn’t going to happen, what an awful situation. I’ve not felt this much dread at a world event since, I don’t know, the cold war? Or maybe since Covid started. I wish Covid would go away, though on that front campus is relaxing things soon, and masks will no longer be required after March 18, though I’ll still wear mine because I like to feel like a ninja. At least I have plans ahead, I finally booked a flight to London this summer, the first time back in two and a half years, and I’ll believe it when I see it. We just keep on keeping on.

ickle bit of pink

UC Davis arboretum

The Redbuds are out. This is in the Arboretum at UC Davis, the section closest to where I work is the Warren G. Roberts Redbud Collection, which blasts into life at this time of year. Here’s a little bit of info about it: The Redbud is a native Californian plant, which grows in the foothills. I sketched quickly. A lot of people in the Arboretum that day, seemed to see many people I know, or who knew me without me knowing (or recognizing) them. I do sometimes get a “hello!” from people who I’ve obviously met before but don’t recognize (either due to the masks, my legendarily bad eyesight, or just that I never recognize anyone), so I always just say “y’alright, how ya doin’?” back, and let my slow mind catch up with who it might have been afterwards. This happened just last night on the way out to the soccer practice field, I got a “hey Pete, been a while!” from someone but for the life of me I don’t know who it was, I just waved a “yeah man, good to see you!” although I couldn’t actually see them. My phenomenal lack of being able to recognize people goes back a long way. Back in the 90s, I was up in Yorkshire visiting a friend who happened to work in a nightclub, so after arriving on the late bus from London I went by there to wait for them to finish and I spotted one of their friends, who I had met the previous time I’d been up there, Bertie I think he was called, drinking with a couple of other lads. So I went up and started chatting, “how’s it going, good to see you, yeah I had a long journey up here, six and a half hours on the bus, not very comfy, bit cream-crackered now,” the music was loud so it wasn’t easy to hear each other, I anyway after about ten minutes he says to me, “who are you though? I don’t actually know you.” Because it wasn’t Bertie, he had no idea who Bertie was, or who I was, or why I was talking to him about the state of the seats on the National Express. I just went, “oh, you’re not Bertie, sorry!” and went off to hide forever. I might have done that thing where I take off my glasses and rubbed my eyes like in a cartoon. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have known Bertie if he’d jumped out of a big cake. I don’t even remember if he was really called Bertie, he was probably called Bobby or Barry. Anyway, I’m not great at recognizing faces, so if you do see me and I look a bit nonplussed and give the random “hey, how’s it goin” response, that’s just my terrible eyesight and memory, nothing to worry about. I’m too busy focusing on the pink trees anyway.

UC Davis arboretum

you see UCUC, you see


Every two weeks I get my Covid test at the ARC, on the UC Davis campus, which all employees have to do. It’s a bit of a long walk back to the office on those days when I don’t bring my bike (my back wheel is acting a bit odd these days and I need to fix it, I just haven’t gotten around to it). On this day I took the long walk past the old ARC Pavilion on LaRue, now the University Credit Union Center (UCUC, which sounds like someone emphatically making a point) (maybe it should be called the UCUCUCD). I was listening to an audiobook about the Beatles (“Tune In” by Mark Lewisohn, chapter one of a planned three part epic called “All These Years”, detailing their entire childhood and early adulthood right up to their last Hamburg trip at the end of 1962 – it was a 45 hour audiobook, which seemed like a lot for an audiobook until I remembered I’ve probably listened to over 100 hours of Beatles podcasts in the past couple of months since the Get Back inspired return to Fab Four obsessiveness. Honestly I’m like Murray the K. Anyway, I was listening to stories of young Ritchie Starkey playing Butlins with Rory Storm, I realized I’d never drawn this building before. It makes interesting shapes when the sun casts its shadows. It put me in mind of the Southbank Center and Royal Festival Hall (where Macca gave a talk about his book The Lyrics not too long ago), and that made me miss London, which is my default setting these days, missing London and obsessing about the Beatles. I used to like going down to the South Bank when I was in my teens, when I was doing A-Levels I would go to art exhibits there on the weekends, back before the South Bank was as busy as it is now, before the London Eye, before the Tate Modern, before the nicely paved walkways down to City Hall which also wasn’t there; I’d say ‘before the South Bank was cool’ but in the early 90s the South Bank was as cool as it was ever going to be, though I do love all the new things. I also had this thought, UCD standing for “UC in the sky with Davis” which I think would be a good name for a book, or maybe just a zine. Or maybe just a blog post, and not even this one, save it for a better one.

all the science words

physical sci library UC Davis

This was drawn while campus was still quiet, before people returned from the month-long remote period in January. That said, here on campus in early February, a lot of people are still working remotely, and there aren’t many coming into our department in-person just yet. This is the old Physical Sciences Library building, which has been undergoing a remodeling for the past few years. Beyond it is the Chemistry building, itself still undergoing a massive reshape. I drew this from the shade of the Physics building. When I was at school, science consisted of three parts – physics, chemistry, biology. You took all three, and then at GCSE level you did ‘integrated science’, which was divided among the three. As a rule, I enjoyed physics but was crap at it, I didn’t like biology but was good at it, and I was so-so about chemistry and was so-so at it. Maybe a bit more on the crap side. I was scared of Bunsen Burners (I mean who isn’t, really?). I like Van Der Graaf generators, mostly for the name (and the band). Biology though, I found it dull, and it was always a surprise to get some of the better grades in the class. My biology teachers were nice. I liked my physics teacher (Mr Vilis) a lot, even though he was always grumpy (he would go ballistic if anyone opened the window), and never gave me good grades or seemed to know I existed, but I still liked him, he could be funny. I really enjoyed reading about physics at home, but it was a difficult subject at school. Chemistry was sometimes interesting, especially when a test tube full of poisonous purple gas would break and everyone had to leave the room. Learning all the molecules and formulas was hard. I remember we learned ‘KMnO4’, Potassium Permanganate, and I thought that was the best possible band name ever, but I never used it. Now I think it sounds like a radio station in the US. Even if I had been better at school science classes, I would probably never have made it as a scientist because I would just make silly jokes from all the science words. And I am still afraid of Bunsen Burners.

with kaleidoscope eyes

LaRue, UC Davis

One evening after work, I was coming out of the ARC, which acts as the large Covid testing center for campus, and the sky was just blazing all sorts of colours. We get tested at least once a fortnight on campus, and it’s pretty handy, in and out. The building across the street there is the Student Health and Wellness Center. The sky was creating a psychedelic drama reflected in the windows, and so I grabbed my paints and a pen and tried as best as I could to draw what I could see. I couldn’t see the sketchbook too well in retreating light but I love the result. You can’t beat a good sunset. The colours are probably not that accurate and my paint makes a mess but that is the fun of capturing something like that, and my eyes are different from the next person. I got the general spirit of the sunset. There was a lot going on. We do get amazing wild sunsets here in January.

walker hall in the end

walker hall panorama Jan 2022

walker hall - graduate center, uc davis

Walker Hall…is finished. Finally! The Graduate Center at UC Davis is the new home of Graduate Studies on campus and is located in the newly renovated historic Walker Hall. I have been drawing the whole process since before the renovation (see the whole album here) and so this month I drew a couple of close-up panoramas of the two courtyards between the three wings of this large E-shaped building. They were at slightly different times of day and different weathers but that makes it nice to see the two together. There is going to be a formal proper opening of the building in April (hopefully), and it will be nice to have the whole set to look back on. In fact here is how it looked back in 2014 before any of the redevelopment started…

panoramarathon: walker hall

Right, next project! It’s fun capturing a building being born / reborn.  

you say you want an evolution

Robbins Hall UC Davis

This is Robbins Hall, UC Davis, drawn a few weeks ago. I like the way the tree spreads out into all those branches. Like branches of evolution (linking the picture thematically to the fact the word ‘evolution’ appears on the building), if evolution meant all evolving into the same thing, which is not generally how evolution works. I’m not sure a tree is the best model for describing the process of evolution of species, just as it’s not that great at describing the evolution of languages),  Campus was still quieter with most people working remotely; that changes today, as our temporary from-home status comes back to our (temporary?) not-from-home status. I’m here anyway, but I think the fluidity between home/not-home are here to stay. We will see what the rest of this year brings. As January closes and February begins, the longest month replaced by the shortest month, things are busy. I had been considering a trip back to England to see the family during this period, but I decided against it when the new Covid strain hit the charts, the Omicron, that difficult third album. It’s so exhausting just thinking about everything, so I’m putting that trip off. I am sure I’d be on edge. As it turns out this week will probably be the busiest week of the year work-wise and the thought of trying to interview people remotely from my mum’s kitchen in London late at night didn’t appeal, so the trip back to London is delayed a bit longer. This is the longest time I’ve not visited London. I’ve been drawing Davis a lot this month, taking a break from the soccer, and re-obsessing over the Beatles since the release of Get Back, and Paul McCartney’s book ‘The Lyrics’, which I got for Christmas. I’ve re-watched Get Back so many times now, and spent hours poring over that book, I want to write a proper post with my thoughts about it all (and some Beatles-related drawings?), but that may take a while. I’ve even dug my old electric guitar out from its stasis pod under my bed to try and get back to playing a little, it’s time to branch out again musically. I might even buy a bass, if I can figure out where I would put the thing.