23 April 13
More From The Sketchcrawl
I’m quite tardy in posting any sketches from the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, held a week ago Saturday. For some reason I felt very much in the zone on this outing. Several technical details: first, I switched to a different sketchbook. The day beforehand, I looked in the campus bookstore for a 140 lb. watercolor Strathmore Visual Journal; they were out of these, and only had the 90 lb. version in the size I wanted. This slightly thinner paper turns out to behave quite well with a wash. Second, I was drawing solely with a Uni-ball brown Signo pen, which I had never worked with before, and found I really liked it. It’s a very lively fine rollerball pen which doesn’t bleed at all with a wash. Finally, I came up with a trick. It turns out discarded white socks make great rags on which to clean waterbrushes while changing paints, and one can then hang the sock out of one’s pocket for instant access.
At upper left is a sketch of the florist’s next to the cafe where we initially met. Next, at right, is the view south up Sanchez Street, drawn while Pica was sketching in Imagiknit. Finally at lower left, is a sketch of the Castro Theatre. A good day throughout.
13 April 13
Back From Juneau and Still Sketching
I had a great time in Juneau with family and got back a couple of days ago. I wasn’t sure I’d be up for any more running around but today was the 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl and we decided to go to San Francisco on the train.
I switched from purple to brown-black and the Uni-ball Signo pen is almost waterproof, which makes a very different kind of drawing. Not quite as soft as the purple that bled into every wash I laid down, but not as harsh as black. I really like it. I spent some time sketching at Imagiknit.
Traveling down on the train with Pete Scully we talked about how we tend to draw things always facing the same way (in my case, I almost invariably sketch birds facing left; he always draws streets pointing right; Numenius always seems to draw cats facing right). It is a neurological thing and seems worth working on because you can discover new things, like when you draw with your non-dominant hand. At right is a sketch of Pete. It is not a good likeness, but in my defense he moved just as I was drawing his face. We also talked about how there’s a move afoot to get “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” to number 1 in the British charts but everyone’s downloading different versions in a predictably British way.
At our sketchcrawl meetup in the Castro I heard a man with a blonde child on his shoulders singing “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.” I couldn’t pass up the chance to stop him and say we’d just been talking about that on the train. Turns out he’s from Dorchester, and his parents were from Barnsley, which Thatcher pretty much demolished, so he sang with feeling and gusto.
We got home later than we’d planned, having just missed the Amtrak bus from the Ferry Terminal, but the bonus was… more sketching. It’s a fantastic city, it was a beautiful day, and we had an excellent time.
29 March 13
We had the day off today so I took the opportunity to play tourist in my own backyard, and headed to the Aerospace Museum of California, which is in the north Sacramento area next to the former McClellan Air Force Base airfield. I had never been there before. Their collection is strong in U.S. AIr Force planes but they have some other noteworthy planes as well. I sketched three of the planes and one pair of rocket engines. The plane at left is a MiG-17: according to the plaque how the Air Force acquired this particular plane is still classified. At lower right is the pair of rocket engines from the first stage of the Titan IV rocket. This rocket was used mainly to launch large military satellites into orbit but was also used to launch the Cassini space probe which is still orbiting Saturn collecting data.
16 March 13
While Pica was passing through 30-degree weather in Chicago, back in Davis it reached 79 degrees today, fine weather for a sketchcrawl at the east end of the Arboretum. The subject matter was plants plus a couple of egrets.
27 January 13
On Saturday we joined the Let’s Draw Davis crowd for a sketching outing in and around central Davis. There seemed to be a fuchsia flashmob going on, which I failed to draw. (When I asked one of the fuchsia-clad participants, they denied a flashmob; maybe it was just such a beautiful day everyone wanted to dress brightly.
I sketched Pete Scully sketching in the courtyard where the Tea List has a few tables outside, but mostly it was good to feel the sun on my face. I didn’t use any color on the paper, though, just the sepia fountain pen on paper that will not take any kind of wash. Next time I’m going in color.
8 December 12
New University of California Logo: Infantilizing the Academy
In twelve hours there were 5,000 signatures on a petition to withdraw the new logo. Comments have been exasperated, some have been hilarious, almost all of them have been unequivocally negative.
It’s a difficult design task, to come up with a logo (this isn’t a replacement, the university seal has never been a “logo,” but formed part of a mark that included the motto “Fiat Lux”) that encompasses the land-grant mission across ten campuses, that draws on a tradition of academic excellence that includes 59 Nobel laureates. I’m not sure I would have been up to the task. That said…
My issues? The logo looks like one more suited to a children’s book publisher, specializing in under-three-year-old fare. (Not to mention the spiral C swirling down the drain, which at least is honest.) It’s like a radioactive millipede. Call me an old fart, but I still think university branding ought to involve some sense of gravitas, something that reflects the tradition and importance of the academic endeavor. Unless you’re peddling bought degrees to illiterates. This logo mocks the exorbitant fees charged of undergraduates. If I were one of them, I’d be seeking a transfer. Now.
This logo is like one of those sadly ill-advised uniform changes of baseball teams in the 1970s. Is this what we want? People laughing their socks off in forty years over the “ten worst university logos of all time,” which this would surely top? The rotund “c” does harken back to an earlier time, to be sure, but perhaps not one we should be all that enthusiastic about replicating: 1970s mass-culture design, finally breaking free of helvetica’s black-and-white austere totalitarianism of 60s high culture, playfulness much loved by Dunkin Donuts (note the interesting spelling, maybe we should copy that, too) and burger establishments, it’s a shameless dumbing-down.
As a member of the University of California community, a venerable public institution under fire, reeling from years of budget cuts, whose state just mere weeks ago voted to TAX ITSELF in order to save its infrastructure of education from complete devastation, I am disappointed. I’m actually quite angry. I’m signing the petition. Not that I think we have any chance whatsoever of stopping the purveyors of watered-down Ikea-like dreck from completing the task of rendering the university irrelevant; I’m just sad to think they’d do it so blatantly.
December 17, 2012: The University’s Office of the President has withdrawn the logo in the face of the opposition because it’s causing “a distraction.” Defensiveness (and there’s plenty of it) aside, they should be commended for paying attention.
5 July 12
I spent last week up at Calligraphy Northwest held at Reed College in Portland, this year’s edition of the largest calligraphy conference taking place in North America, with 500 participants. Workshops ran 2 1/2 days and 5 days; I took a 5 day course entitled “Developing Meaning” taught by Brody Neuenschwander, which was an exhilarating workshop on improving the textual content of our calligraphy works. Prior to the workshop we had a homework assignment to write three short texts about a significant recent event in our lives, something that shook us to the core. I ended up choosing the pepper spray incident from last November. We used these texts initially for a series of calligraphic riffs and wrote these on good paper to be bound into a book. Towards the end, we started writing out the texts in full into the books. I don’t think anyone completed this task during the class, and I’m still working on writing in the texts. Here are a couple of images from my book in progress.
27 June 12
More Gray Foxes
So the gray fox family is doing well. Five pups, now about 12 weeks old. I was able to catch the male this evening as he was guarding the whole territory. They make a funny kind of bark, like a terrier but much deeper, growling in there somewhere. (Below is a photo of the male barking at me.)
Having wild creatures like this so close to an urban area is thrilling but also worrying — too many cars going way too fast. For now, they seem fine.
14 April 12
A lovely spring day today, though with the ongoing tornado outbreak in the Central Plains I am reminded that lovely weather in one place is always balanced by horrific weather somewhere else. We had our monthly sketchcrawl today in Davis, walking a four-block stretch on G Street downtown. I mostly worked large today, using a 9 × 12” pad of watercolor paper I picked up last time I was in Berkeley. Above at left is a black lab named Eliza who was outside at the Davis Food Coop. And at right is a gentleman with his coffee in Mishka’s.
27 March 12
I’ve been following the blog of James Gurney for a while now. Gurney is the author and illustrator of Dinotopia but like many creative people he is extremely generous about sharing his process. His most recent post is a sketch of some people in a diner with the snippets of conversation overheard jotted around the edges.
I do this a lot, listening to unrelated and hilarious-by-juxtaposition fragments of conversation. They are best done in a crowded place like a city, but usually more interesting if most people are moving, or at least moving on after a short stay in, say, a subway car. (This genre found a perfect outlet in Overheard in New York, but I love the idea of combining the fragments with sketches. Hmm.)
Edited to add: today is the blogday of Feathers of Hope. On March 27, 2003, Numenius posted his first entry in Moveable Type. To those of you who still stop in here occasionally, thank you. Welcome to newcomers too.