You have probably seen Pete Scully before. Standing at rapt attention, his Moleskine notebook and pen in hand, Scully sketches Davis every day. After years of drawing, Scully has created an archive of local history—a visual diary of everyday life in the city and university. In collaboration with the UC Davis Design Museum, Scully is currently displaying his sketches in an exhibit, “Conversations with the City: Pete Scully, Urban Sketcher.”
Curated by Design Professors James Housefield and Tim McNeil, “Conversations with the City” celebrates the activity of sketching, a central part of the creative process for artists and designers. When Housefield overhauled his department’s introductory course, Design 1, he asked his students to begin carrying a sketchbook around with them. According to Housefield, the act of sketching—of translating from eye to hand—transforms the way designers relate to the world around them.
Seeking to encourage his students to sketch daily, Housefield soon met Scully, a graduate coordinator in the UC Davis Statistics department. Scully first began drawing Davis in 2005, when he attended a local “sketch crawl” that met regularly around the city. Comprising artists, students, and beginners, the group used Davis Wiki to publicize its gatherings online. In the years that followed, the Internet continued to bring local communities together, transforming the solitary practice of sketching into a shared activity with global reach. In 2008, Scully became the Davis correspondent for Urban Sketchers, a website for sketchers to share their drawings online. In its manifesto, Urban Sketchers fosters an inclusive community of artists, regardless of medium, nationality, or language:
- We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
- Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
- Our drawings are a record of time and place.
- We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
- We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
- We support each other and draw together.
- We share our drawings online.
- We show the world, one drawing at a time.
Encountering Scully’s sketches, one can’t help but be impressed by the breadth of his thoughtful observations. Encompassing years of local history, Scully has recorded scenes both momentous (the Occupy Davis Protests of 2011) and quotidian (his son’s collection of shoes). He takes special pleasure in documenting the demolition of old buildings and the construction of new ones.
Recently, Scully traced the construction of the Ann E. Pitzer Center, the Department of Music’s newly opened classroom and recital hall. Through his sketches, shared online, audiences can revisit the building’s construction and remember its opening performances, held in September.
“Conversations with the City: Pete Scully, Urban Sketcher” will be exhibited through November 13 at the UC Davis Design Museum, Cruess Hall, Mon–Fri: noon–4 p.m., Sun: 2-4 p.m., Closed Sat and holiday weekends. Free.
—Michael Accinno, graduate student researcher