I love this time of year, when the days return to shirt sleeve weather, when evenings grow longer and it’s comfy hanging out on a lawn chair, enjoying a beer, some hot sauce and fried catfish and hush puppies slathered in soft butter.
Gnarly old man, a wizened and bent figure that stands beside a rocky hiking path. Nearby stones, remnants of a quarry long unused, peer from the growth of weeds and grass and Sassafrass volunteers, blindingly white flashes of limestone highlighted by a midday sun.
We ended a later than usual Spring Break with nicer than usual weather by trekking south to Ha Ha Tonka State Park for a couple of days of hiking, and to explore the castle ruins around which the park is fashioned. The “castle” – a turn of the century mansion, actually – was built from stone quarried from nearby limestone outcroppings, and built by Scottish stonemasons. It must have been quite something to see, and I wish I’d been able to do so. Unfortunately, as seems to have oddly been the case with so many stone buildings, the castle burnt. And that, as they say, was that.
The view from the grounds is magnificent, overlooking the lake below. There are miles of trails – in fact, as a youth they were the only way up to explore the structure. These days, you can drive right up. But due to the crumbling nature of the walls, visitors are fenced off from entering. One must enjoy the architecture from a safe distance.
I’m constantly torn, it seems. I never, ever want my drawing to become static, so no matter how confident I am with mark-making I’ll often explore other ways of expressing myself in sketches. The sketch above is a case in point. The day I made this impression of some houses a few streets away I had an urge to “add more.” More texture, more value, more lines.
Scratching that itch I wound up later adding a background color and a bunch of textured lines with my Apple Pencil in Procreate. Is this a “better” version? Dunno – frankly, I’m a little torn if I have to decide which one I like better. But then, why do I have to choose at all? They both seem to work, even if it’s for different reasons.
I wrapped up March making small sketches at a nature preserve not far from my house. The past week my curiosity has been piqued by the general shapes of the evergreens, surrounded by still-bare trees, dead wood, and tall, brown grasses.
A few hours south of here, I noticed a day or so later that fresh green buds are dotting the branches of trees. It’s an uplifting realization: green grass, foliage, trees signal rebirth. Spring is here.
I took a short hike through Martha Lafite Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary today. My goal was to wander until I found some trees to sketch, and in that regard my quest was successful. This group of three caught my attention as I trudged up a hill. Rather than the entire tree, I was most interested in the composition the bottom portions created. The pattern hasn’t been in my tool kit for quite some time and just felt right for this study.
We cycled along a section of the KATY Trail neither of us had been on in a couple of years. Our route ran alongside the Big Muddy, close by the gravel path on the west. To the immediate east the trail is flanked by limestone bluffs. There are many caves, some of which are easily accessible; others would require some serious rock scrambling to reach: the bluffs are nearly sheer in places.
I brought along a few sketching tools, stuffed carefully into a lightweight backpack. However, the day was inviting and we seldom stopped for long. When we did pause it was to enjoy a view of the Missouri River, to watch as geese honked as they glided low, skimming the water before coming to a stop.
We rode for more hours than we’d planned. The day had turned cloudy and a heavy head wind was channeled off the river. The bikes loaded on the back of the Subaru and the day turning toward eve, long shadows, contrasting colors, and interesting shapes began to emerge.
This barn struck my fancy for some reason. The abstract shapes intrigued me. Colors that I imagined attached to each shape immediately suggested themselves to me.
Back again, once again, to this stretch of road, intrigued by the contrasts of value, of color, of texture – unsure how to capture my thoughts or do them justice, this place an abstraction more than a place it seems to me, in the gloaming trees are naught but shadows and a last play of sunlight turns a stand of saplings into a dance, or perhaps even a march.