I’ve been drawing outside a lot lately. Trying to make up for lost time, taking advantage of cooler weather and safer air, getting it in before it gets rainy (haha, ok), and despite the fact there’s very little left in Davis I feel I absolutely need to go and draw (boy am I missing travel) it’s nice to be out and sketching. In these trying times, these stressful times, these unprecedented – you get the idea – it’s a good stress reliever. This is another one with the fountain pen and black ink, which lets me have a bit more value to the dark shades. It’s that funny looking building on G St, currently home to Bubble Belly, which I think sells baby clothes. Actually the weather was still warm – in fact up to last week we were still having 90 degree plus temperatures. What an October.
Ahead of the Amsterdam Urban Sketching Symposium, I decided I needed to deal with my paintbox. I rearranged the colours, took some out, added some in, refreshed them all, and this is my paletter this summer. These are all Winsor and Newton watercolour paints, mostly Cotman but with one or two Artist’s ones in there too. I like using this, the deluxe sketchers box, it fits into my hand or attached to the other page of the sketchbook with a rubber band pretty well. I needed to make a guide to the colours in case I forget, so that’s what this is. This could be a new advent calendar, 24 colours, actually that is not a bad idea. I have some new brushes I just bought as well, bigger than I usually use, so that I can paint on bigger paper for some of the workshops I am taking. I got some 11×14 Fabriano paper, which is not I must say really urban sketching material, being really big an not able to fit into a small bag. However I’m keen try something new, and the big pad of paper just about fits into my gym bag (but it only barely fits into my new suitcase, which is small). This paint set however is very small and compact, and fits a lot of stuff in there, the way I like it.
This is Celeste Turner Wright Hall, a colourfully painted building on the UC Davis campus, home to the Main Theatre and to the Department of Theatre and Dance. Yes, that’s spelled “Theatre” not “Theater”. This building was named after Celeste Turner Wright, who was the first tenured female faculty member at UC Davis. She was also the first drama instructor on campus; you can find out more about her long and illustrious career here. This building was built in the 1960s and was famously photographed by Ansel Adams. In front there are a couple of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads called “Yin and Yang”. I sketched it last week at lunchtime, furiously drawing as much as possible. but added most of the colour later. Oh, click on the image if you want to see it larger.
Hey I thought you might like to see this, the first time I ever sketched it, which was back in November 2006. I remember doing this and loving playing with all the paint, still actually one of my favourite Davis sketches, mostly because it’s so different from what I do now, but also it was still that first year here, still discovering everything. Looking back, it really took me a lot of time to settle in, even though I worked both on campus and downtown and explored whenever I could, riding around on my bike in the stupid, ridiculous heat. Well, I’m still here, still exploring.
I went out last night to my local pub Little Prague (I’ve sketched there once or twice before) with fellow Davis sketcher Steve Wright, to draw a German band who were playing (I’ll scan that in later) and do some more bar drawing. I decided to do some more paint-splattering on the paper first, since that effect would look good on a theme such as this. I splattered fairly subtle tones, and this made it feel like I was drawing on craft paper rather than in the moleskine, which was a nice feeling. Steve drew into his regular moleskine, and produced some amazing work using both micron pen and watercolours, both of which I had never been able to use in the regular moley – but he made it work really well! Pleasure to sketch with him. I stuck to a sepia wash, still trying to draw bottles (I seem to have some problem with sketching bottles, hence my recent practising). This is a particularly interesting bar area to sketch though, and the bar staff were very friendly and checked up on our sketching progress from time to time.
That beer in the foreground is a Krusovice dark, a very nice beer. You can spot me in the background there.
On Friday I went to the 2nd Davis Art About. I say ‘went to’, it is in fact a whole collection of evening exhibitions in stores and businesses around downtown Davis, exhibits of local artists, and art events, and it was a lot of fun. I wish I hadn’t eaten so much at dinner though, because they all had snacks and wine. I liked the oil paintings of Davis by Andrew Dorn, which were on show at the USE Credit union, and also the large close-ups of freight trains by Marieke De Waard, displayed at clothing store Riki. I ended up at the Avid Reader on 2nd Street (where I worked, once upon a time), and admired the pastels of Kathryn Esterly. I did a sketch of Gary, local KDVS DJ and a guy I’ve known for years, playing his ukelele as he does every Friday at the bookstore. I used to enjoy those Friday evenings at the boosktore listening to that gentle music.
I decided to stick around for the book talk, which was to be given by Michael Corbett. I’m glad I did, for it was very interesting – Corbett is a famous architect, who designed the groundbreaking Village Homes in west Davis. He is also a former Mayor of Davis, and is responsible for a lot of how the city I draw daily actually looks today. His new book, “The Poetry of Architecture”, is a look at how architecture affects our ability to think, and explores architecture across Europe – it looks like a great read. I sketched him talking; he is very tall.
Look at me drawing people. I hope to draw some more. After this, I went to Little Prague to draw the German band I hoped to sketch, but they were just finishing up; I’ll have to go back in two weeks.
I like symmetrical pages in my sketchbooks, and this one is opposite the G Street pub (not geographically, don’t go looking it up on Street View, it’s in the moleskine). Appropriately, it’s the UC Davis Shields Library, possibly the opposite of the aforementioned pub. Here you borrow books; there you buy beer. There you can listen to, well, not very good experimental bands, here you can read Ibsen. But, you can’t drink your beer in the library (not that I’ve ever wanted to), while you can read library books in the pub (now that I have done), but only if you sit near a neon lamp.
I love libraries, especially academic ones. When we first moved to Davis I spent a lot of time in here, browsing the medieval language section. It’s very peaceful.
“A great library contains the diary of the human race.” – George Mercer Dawson
“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.” – Jo Godwin
I sketched at the Davis Farmer’s Market today (I’ll post that later; all my sketches are being posted in nonlinear fashion these days while I catch up with my backlog). I missed my bus home by mere seconds, so had to wait an hour for the next one. The bus stop is by the railroad, and I noticed a cool looking engine parked about a block away, near 6th Street. I sat by the lumber yard and sketched away. It’s from the California Northern Co; if I’d had more time I would have sketched the whole thing, from side view. If it’s there again I will do so. I was pretty pleased with this drawing, so I couldn’t wait to post it.
Back in Davis… Actually these were drawn straight after Portland, but just before Monterey, but I’m getting round to scanning my drawings. Quite the backlog built up…
You may have noticed, I have a thing for fire hydrants. I may even put together a special compendium (now don’t be silly). Most people ignore them. But as a Brit kid who read Richard Scarry and other such American picture-books, fire hydrants have always seemed exciting and exotic. Well, ‘exciting’ makes me sound like a trainspotter (I prefer drainspotting), but I still love seeing them dotted about towns and cities. Did you know (and I’m not talking to Americans, who obviously do know) that you can’t park your car in front of one? The fire department could have it removed. I like their shape too – some appear to be wearing hard-hats, some (like the one below, at UC Davis) look like those stocks they used to put crooks in back in ‘the old days’ to have tomatoes and abuse hurled at them. Now they just get parts on celebrity reality shows.
The other sketch above is of gas pipes, sticking out the back of a building on 2nd Street. It was in Portland where we (the European sketchers) were talking about how cool they looked, and Gerard Michel drew an excellent picture of some. I was eager to sketch them in Davis (having done so before, a good while ago). I think this all falls into ‘everyday objects we take for granted’, but if you’re illustrating your city, you can’t miss them out.
The final afternoon of the Urban Sketching Symposium… I for one was utterly exhausted, but still excited, and eager to keep sketching. I didn’t join the field sketching session I’d signed up for (mostly because I was messing about having fun taking photos of Gerard’s sketchbook laid out in the street), and stayed relatively close to the PNCA. I popped into Oblation Papers & Press, and bought myself an extremely nice sketchbook/notebook (because I needed yet another one), bound with a cover making it look like a French paperback. They are all produced on site, with top quality paper. And so, back to the sketching. I passed this one building, an old former warehouse, many times, and so decided to capture it in three drawings, vignette style, but without the borders I usually use. Because I was sat across the street, with trees in my way, I used those as my border. Ah, it was an experiment, sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. It was a lot of fun drawing the building itself though, with its faded paintwork and old empty water tower stand. There is a lot of character in buildings like these.
Right outside it, an object I know my two-year-old son would love. I presume it to be some sort of bike rack, or street art, or something I don’t know, but it is shaped like a car and has a steering wheel at two-year-old height. It was similar to the ones shaped like the Fremont Bridge that are also dotted about. I was told by some of the Portland sketchers that it’s city law for any new development to have part of their budget dedicated to placing public art around any new building. That, my friends, is immeasurably cool.
The clock was ticking. This was, in fact, Worldwide Sketchcrawl Day #28, so hundreds of people (probably more) around the world were also out drawing their cities. The Symposiums sketchers, however, were being magnetically drawn back to the source, the PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art), where the Symposium was being held. I think everybody was capturing the building as their last sketch of this experience. I joked to Mike Daikabura that this was like the red-light district of sketching, urban sketchers on every corner (and you had to get in early for the best spot!). My last drawing, of the PNCA, is the one at the top of this post.
Okay, time’s up, pen’s down! On to the closing reception, to have a look at everybody’s sketchbooks. In fact, you can see photos and drawings from the Symposium in the “Urban Sketchers PDX 2010” Flickr group.
Symposium blog: http://pdx2010.urbansketchers.org/
And so, the 1st International Urban Sketching symposium officially began. I liked staying at the Mark Spencer hotel, because most of the non-Portland sketchers were staying there too, and it was nice to meet new people at breakfast. At the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), Gabi Campanario opened proceedings and we set off on our field sketching sessions. You could taste the level of excitement!
My first session was Urban Colour with Jason Das. Our group walked a couple of blocks, and I drew the fire hydrant above (I love fire hydrants, and here they are orange). I was surprised to find that Suzanne Cabrera was sketching with us; I hadn’t realised she’d be at the Symposium! I’ve followed her work for years so it was a pleasure to meet her in person. Jason’s session was quite interactive, which I liked, and made us focus on colour in different ways. It was a particularly grey morning though. While I was sketching, a lady came out of the store in front of which I was positioned and asked if I’d like some work. She wanted to know if I would be interested in painting the big rock she uses to kep the shop door open, in the style of a ladybird (and she said ‘ladybird’, not ladybug, becasue she was British, though she didn’t know I was). Paint a rock like a ladybird? In watercolours with a tiny brush? Not for any money, like, just in case I wanted something to do she said (because I didn’t look busy). I politely declined.
After the first quick sketch, we all did a drawing using a lighter coloured pen than we’d normally use – I used a fairly light blue – and then coloured it. I wasn’t much pleased with my results (partly because I didn’t finish the colour), but it’s all about trying stuff out. I do like drawing street corners though. There it is on the right.
The next exercise was to draw the same scene twice, once with normal colour, and the second with different colour. I liked the idea of this one, and it certainly allowed you to break out of the bounds a little, but I think it worked a little better for others than for me.
The final exercise was a winner, and one which made some people understandably nervous. We were to draw a picture in our own sketchbooks of any scene, and then hand the sketchbook to a partner, who would then colour it in themselves. This was very interesting. First of all, the person I was partnered with, Robin Carlson, originally came from, of all places, Davis! Drawing the linework was a little nervy for me, as I knew it would then be scrutinised by someone else, but once the sketchbooks were swapped it was very liberating! I loved colouring in a different book, it was so liberating. Several people said the same – the hard work was already done! But I was so pleased with how robin had coloured my book – see below. The colours are so vibrant, and really leap out (mine are usually a little muted), and complement each other so well. I particularly like the values on the tree. Thanks Robin! This could be a fun exercise, like an online art exchange, you draw something and hand it over to other online sketchers to add their own colour or tints; this is something worth exploring.
Thus ended session one. There wasn’t a massive amount of time for lunch, before the lectures began…
Symposium blog: http://pdx2010.urbansketchers.org/