28 October, 2017. We’d been cyclo-touring through Northwest Arkansas and the weather turned to crap during the night – winds, rain, thunder. Arriving the next day at a very large art and craft festival in War Eagle, we discovered the grounds had turned to swamp. Meanwhile, the rain returned and everyone and everything was wet and cold.
Inside the mill there is a restaurant on one of the upper floors and a sort of mercantile operation on the lower level. A small kitchen to one side was baking a cake using the mill’s flour, and near the back a group of five or six men were plucking various stringed instruments. I gravitated toward them as they interested me the most on this miserable day. Jockeying for a good view, I was stymied by the fact that they were circled up – no matter how I positioned myself I found I would have been drawing a whole lot of backs if I tried to draw the group in its entirety. I considered this for a moment, the idea of using two backs as a framing device with the main subject smaller, due to foreshortening. It’s still an idea that appeals to me so I may eventually do just that. But it was more than music that pulled me over to the group in the first place: I’ve always been fascinated by banjo picking. The fellow on the chair was nonchalantly plucking away on his, with little extraneous movement. And thus, he became my subject of the moment.
Outside, the rain waned, diminishing briefly and then coming down again, seemingly unabated. The exhibitors west of the mill bridge were fortunate to have covered tents and a long wooden barn for protection from the elements. Those on the mill side of the bridge had only the exhibition tents they’d brought with them for the show, and in many cases that was barely adequate. In any event, most structures and canopies were surrounded by slimy mud and large pools of water. Outside the barn, one exhibitor stood close to the doors, sheltered by the overhang of the roof, smoking a cigarette and bracing himself for a cold, wet day of hawking his product.
This type of event and this type of weather reminds me why my choice of kit works well for me. A moderately sized sketchbook fits comfortably into the waist of my trousers and my two pens into a shirt pocket, or even the front pocket of my jeans. I am reminded – not for the first time! – that I really need to check my brush pen for adequate ink before wandering outdoors. Once again, I only discovered that I was virtually empty after starting to do the black fill (above). Unable to continue much beyond a sort of scumbled gray to the mid-ground, I gave up and filled those areas with a brush and India ink after returning home a few days later. (Uni-Ball Deluxe, Pentel Pocket brush pen, Crayola brush, India ink in Canton 180 sketchbook; page size is approximately 5 x 7 inches.)