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Our Urban Sketcher, Pete Scully, at Design Museum

By Dateline Staff on September 13, 2016 in Society, Arts & Culture

An avid urban sketcher, Pete Scully draws the everyday world around him — buildings old and new, streets, people, fire hydrants — in ink line drawing and watercolor wash, using his sketchbook to have a conversation with his environment. This coming quarter, the Design Museum showcases the artist’s work in Conversations with the City: Pete Scully, Urban Sketcher.

The exhibition comprises 30 drawings captured in sites as varied as Davis (his home since 2005) and his native London.

Scully, graduate coordinator in the UC Davis Department of Statistics, has organized sketch-crawls in Davis and London, and his work has appeared in several publications globally.

 Pete Scully with sketch in hand.

“I sketch on location almost daily, primarily using a hardbound book roughly 9-by-6-inches in size,” Scully said. “I usually start with a light pencil just to mark out basic perspective lines, and then switch to my preferred medium of pen, dark brown or black ink to do the sketch.

“I finish my drawings by adding a watercolor wash, preferably on site but later if I run out of time. I carry a small set of paints as well as a mini jar of water, but I occasionally use a water brush. I like to sketch whole scenes, in the street or in a pub, but I also like capturing street furniture like fire hydrants.

“I usually sketch standing up, to give me a better view.”

“His sketchbooks are a record of his pen-and-ink conversations with the people, places and objects he encounters." — James Housefield

James Housefield, associate professor of  UC Davis water towerdesign, and Tim McNeil, professor of design and Design Museum director, curated the exhibition. Said Housefield: “Design and art depend upon drawing to achieve many purposes and connect with diverse groups. Pete Scully’s sketches remind us that drawing can also be an effective way of interacting with the world.

“His sketchbooks are a record of his pen-and-ink conversations with the people, places and objects he encounters. Through this exhibition, Pete’s work gives us an opportunity to launch new conversations about the creative potential of drawing as a daily practice.”

Scully is an original correspondent for the website and nonprofit Urban Sketchers, dedicated to promoting the art of location drawing. In 2011 he had his first solo exhibit of Davis sketches at the Pence Gallery in Davis.
His first book, Creative Sketching Workshop, was published in 2015, and his second book, Five-Minute Sketching People, will be published this fall.

Michael French, arts marketing specialist, contributed to this report.

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or