This week has been very rainy in Davis. We have so much of the year without rain, when it finally comes it can be heavy. I had a pre-lunchtime meeting on the other side of campus, and so was stuck in the MU when a deluge came down. So I sketched Freeborn Hall, because it’s going to be knocked down anyway. Yes, I read recently that they decided to demolish rather than redevelop. They have almost finished with the plaza in front of the MU (that took forever, and I thought it was fine the first time they redeveloped it a couple of years ago), but it is interesting to have sketched this section of campus several times over the years, and to see how it has changed. Well, it’s going to change again. That rain was really bucketing down.
In November I went up to Portland, Oregon, to teach one of the 10×10 Urban Sketchers workshops, on Interior Perspective. I was invited by my friend Rita Sabler (the excellent Portland reportage sketcher), and it was as always an enjoyable visit to one of my favourite cities. I only ever seem to go these days in dark November, but this time it was not rainy at all. It was very colourful in fact, with the autumn leaves out in full force. I tried to capture as much of that as possible in my out-and-about sketches. Above, Portland’s Saturday market, with the Skidmore Fountain in the foreground. I sketched this fountain in 2010 at the first USk Symposium, on a Saturday morning perspective sketching class with Frank Ching. That was the moment I always look back to when I really gave up my inhibitions about drawing in public; rather than find a place to hide and be invisible, better to sketch openly and not worry about being ‘in the way’, become part of the place. On this day, I was able to observe the market as some stalls were still setting up, and as people passed by I got a real feel for the character of this quarter of Portland.
I like the Steel Bridge, another one I drew on that first Portland symposium, that time at a workshop with Lapin, I sat between him and Gerard Michel discussing different approaches. I’ve always wanted to return to this riverbank in the Spring when the blossoms are all pink, but coming back in Fall with golden leaves floating down is almost as nice. I did get a bit cold though, and so streetcarred it back to the hotel for a rest before my workshop.
This one was sketched at the food carts area at Alder Street, after I had spent a good long afternoon wandering about Powell’s. Powell’s is such a great big bookstore, I could spend forever in there. They had my books, too, which is always exciting to see. I have a tradition now of going to Powell’s and then wandering up here for a big hot dish of Thai food, and I was not disappointed. I sketched across the street, the sunlight starting to fade, the urban greys brightened up by the reddish orange of the trees.
Not too far away, a bit earlier in the day, the Star Theater, with yellowy leaves scattered about. A group of homeless people sat nearby talking and laughing, streetcars rattled past, a slight breeze blew leaves and thoughts past as I sketched. My legs were hurting; I had had a night out before, and a good lie-in, but as each year passes I always forget I need a bit more rest. I spent the rest of the afternoon in Powell’s. And below, of course, an orange Portland fire hydrant, weather-worn and pock-marked.
Last Thursday evening, at around dinner-time, a three-car traffic collision on the busy Fifth Street in Davis was attended to by Police Officer Natalie Corona. It was an unusually foggy evening. I had gone back home not too long before then, we ate dinner, watched TV, and then received calls and texts on our phones that came from the Davis PD, telling us to stay inside and shelter in place until further notice, that the police are searching for an active gunman in downtown Davis. Living in America, these are the alerts you fear most. We learned that a police officer had been shot and that the shooter had fled. Police Officer Corona was taken to hospital in Sacramento, where she passed away. She was only 22, and had been a full police officer for only a few weeks. Watching the Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel give a press conference that night when so little was still known was difficult, it was clear he and the whole of Davis PD were in a state of shock. A massive police presence in downtown Davis scoured the area, eventually surrounding a house about a block from the crime scene. Reports were that the shooter was inside. Eventually at around 1am it was reported that the gunman had shot himself, confirmed by more automated phone calls and texts at around 2am. It was a shocking evening in Davis, one that it is hard for me to stop thinking about. I pass that way most days, I know a lot of people who were around that area, this is a small city. The next day I walked up to the area around Fifth and C, but it was all still closed off by police. The name of the shooter was not released until Saturday, one Kevin Limbaugh, 48. It transpired that Limbaugh was not related to the traffic collision, but had cycled up to officer Corona and shot her multiple times, then discharged his weapon around him, hitting the boot of a firefighter, a student’s backpack, and the back of a bus; it’s a miracle nobody else was hurt or killed. Then he circled back and went home to a house he shared on Fifth and E. The details of the evening, what is known of it, has been reported in the Davis Enterprise, whose reporters provided excellent coverage throughout, especially Lauren Keene posting on Twitter.
At the spot where officer Corona was shot, tributes from all over have been left, by police officers and members of the public, thanking her for her service, shocked at this terrible loss. Blue ribbons have been put up around trees for many blocks around, and a candlelit vigil attended by hundreds took place in Central Park. A memorial service for officer Corona is being held this Friday. Our community in Davis has been shocked by this horrible crime, but it’s at difficult times like these when community is most important; I’m glad that we have one.
R.I.P. Natalie Corona.
Also posted at urbansketchers.org
Another from the last month of 2018, this sketch was down at the Arboretum on the UC Davis campus. It was more colourful than this looks; there was a lot of yellow leafage strewn along the rising bank to the left there, and a greenish hue to the water (though since the creek has been thoroughly redeveloped, there is no longer a pea-soup thick covering of algae).
By the way, I was interviewed by Anjini Venugopal for the California Aggie (UC Davis’s long-running student-managed newspaper), and the article appeared this week: https://theaggie.org/2019/01/11/the-artist-pete-scully-discusses-urban-sketching. Check it out! “I’m just obsessed with drawing,” Scully said. “It’s something I have to do.” I totally said that.
Right now I am (in addition to sketching) actually doing lots of logo design, both for our Select soccer team (the “Dawgs”) and also the Davis World Cup, so I have been drawing lots of ideas, and teaching myself how to use Illustrator, which I have just nor bothered with for years (I typically use Photoshop when doing anything digital). At some point I might share that stuff, but for now, I’m just teaching myself and messing about. And it has been immense fun!
It’s New Year’s Eve! Look to the future now, it’s only just begun. I wish it could be New Year’s Eve every day. I don’t really do much for New Year’s Eve, but I do make a point to get out and sketch somewhere, no matter how cold it is. Here are today’s ones. Most sketching I’ve done in a month! My thumb was hurting, so I had to go light on the sketching. Still hurts but wanted to feel productive. I have been trying to teach myself to do digital illustration, the very basics, which has meant a fair bit of tracing as well. Feels very ground-level though so it was nice to get back to sketching, something I feel a bit better at. Bloody windy out today though. It’s 2018 being blown away. I’m not looking forward to 2019 (specifically March, when Britain leaves the EU with no apparent deal in sight), but it’s just numbers on a calendar. I think that it’s just the last year of an unknowable decade. We don’t really have an agreed name for this decade. The last one is sometimes called the ‘noughties’ which is a bit of a rubbish name, and I’ve heard this one called the ‘twenty-tens’ but that just isn’t anything. When we finally hit 2020, and the Twenties, we can get back on track. I’m still not used to being in the ‘twenty-first century’. It’s all just numbers on a calendar. The sketch above, drawn in the wind, C Street Davis. I drew this same building on New Year’s Eve four or five years ago, from a different angle.
This is my back yard. Apart from the above, I’ve not left the house much this week. I did this before going out to sketch, as if to warm up, and listened to a podcast of Edgar Wright speaking to Adam Buxton, which was really interesting. I really liked that long triangular shadow sneaking across the back fence. New Year’s Eve, I don’t party on New Year’s Eve any more. When I was a kid my family always had a party, or if not us then someone else in our street. When I was in my 20s, I’d sometimes go out on New Year’s Eve, but I also remember the ones in my late teens when I’d just stay in watching Jools Holland and Rab C Nesbitt on my little TV in my bedroom, while drawing football kits. I ain’t changed much!
I did one last sketch, a quick one paint-first while the daylight drew to a close, and my son took part in a smaller soccer practice session at Playfields in Davis. It was cold, windy, brisk, but the boys were just happy to get kicking balls about. As I’m not coaching now, I was happy to just watch and sketch, though I did get cold.
I do have some more 2018 sketches to scan, maybe I’ll do those later tonight (party on!!), but I need to finish assembling the 2018 sketches grid. I do it every year. You may remember from last year (you probably won’t, that’s fine) that I have been doing more and more sketches each year. Here’s the post. Well, I can confirm that this year the sketch-rate went down again, and I could not catch up with 2017, not by a long way. Ah well. Happy New Year 2019!
Happy Christmas to you all. This is the E Street Plaza in Davis California, decked out with the big tree. This came after a long period of not-sketching. I did this after work, after our office closed for the holidays; I just really wanted to capture a bit of Christmas, and followed this up by the evening sketch at De Vere’s. And now it’s Christmas Eve. Well, it just turned Christmas Day (better get to bed, the Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t going to haunt itself). I’ve spent today scoffing cheese, mince pies, turkey, hot chocolate, a couple of beers, pumpkin pie, and the second-worst level of Quality Streets (the strawberry / orange cremes, not the rock-hard toffee ones; it wasn’t a big box, in fact it only had two purple ones and one green triangle, but four toffee pennies? Inequality Street more like.) And of course, watching Christmas movies. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favourites, though actually most of it doesn’t take place at Christmas, and in the end they sing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve, bizarrely. Abother one I always watch is Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which is probably the best version of that story that exists (the other one I love is the 1970 Albert Finney version of Scrooge, which I feel the Muppets drew from quite heavily. That Ghost of Christmas Future gave me nightmares for years!). One of the reasons I love the Muppet’s version is that Michael Caine plays it so straight, so believably, among all the Muppets, he doesn’t just pretend it’s all a larf. Home Alone is another classic Christmas film we love, my son adores it, so I like it a lot now as well. I have a soft spot for Love Actually as well, silly though it is. It reminds me of London in 2003, and seeing the occasional shots of the skyline, when not even the Gherkin was finished, it makes me very nostalgic for that period right before we moved to America; that was the London I left, the London of Hugh Grant being a bachelor Prime Minister telling American President Billy Bob Thornton to go and do one. We always watch some classic Christmas telly as well: The Snowman, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and the Christmas edition of Father Ted (“and now we move on to liars…”). Of course in proper British Christmas TV someone always dies, at least in Eastenders and Downton Abbey anyway. Now it’s also the time of year when people include Die Hard as one of their favourite Christmas movies, because those people are really clever and perceptive and are the first people to figure out Die Hard was set during Christmas; well done you, here is a prize. One thing that is different over here in California is that we don’t get the special Christmas edition of Radio Times (and/or TV Times), when all the TV listings would be set out like great, epic events. Die Hard With A Vengeance is on at 11pm on ITV two days before Christmas? Set the video timer! Get home early from the pub! And the Queen’s Speech, oh I always loved the Queen’s Speech, though I don’t remember ever actually watching it, as we usually had Christmas dinner at that time and it was the one time of the day when the TV was off (the one time of the year in fact, our TV was always on). I like the idea of the Queen’s Speech but the only thing I remember was the Annus Horribilis bit. And that was because I thought it meant Horrible Bum. And on that note, Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Bum!
It’s almost Christmas! I haven’t had much energy for sketching lately, but I really needed to get some drawing in. I went to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (by the way, an awesome film, incredibly creative animation) and then popped into De Vere’s (not Into the Spi-De Vere’s), our local Irish Pub, for some Smithwicks and sketching. It was pretty busy with festive end-of-year partygoers. I sketched in dark green pen. It was really nice to get this sketch done, to get anything done. I’ve been finding it hard to be productive lately, everything seems to take me forever. Actually I have made a lot of things out of Perler Beads. This year I made my son’s advent calendar out of 14,000 of those beads; that was a lot of work. Anyway Christmas is almost here, so I wish you all the very best for the festive season, and hope you go and watch Spider-Verse, because it was pretty great.