I saw a group playing cricket at Stocksdale Park over the weekend. Cricket is a sport I’ve seen only in the briefest moments as I flipped through backwater television channels, there on the screen only long enough for me to identify it as a thing not understood, then gone, replaced by an infomercial or a rerun of Bonanza. Across the road two women are trying to set up decorations for what appears to be a child’s birthday celebration, the wind rendering their attempt to impress with a fusillade of balloons rather futile. I hear the happy bark of dogs as they run around in the illusion of freedom at the pet enclosure, and as I pass a medium sized metal barn there issues forth an occasional metallic ping; this is the meeting place for a horse shoe throwing club. Stretching out before me are fields and woods. A single track path leads from the parking area, past the horse shoe clubhouse, and into a meadow. There, it divides over and over again, a network of mountain bike trails. And co-existing with those trails is a disc golf course, a sport nearly as inscrutable to me as cricket. At the first tee, a couple of men are comfortably seated, leisurely preparing their gear, and in seemingly no particular hurry to begin play.
_____________ Uni-Ball Vision pen in Stillman and Birn sketchbook. Spot color added later digitally.
It’s a blustery day, and for the moment warm. But clouds are predicted to march in on these terrific gusts of wind and the temperature drop quickly this afternoon. The dog and I walk along a mountain bike trail, following a meandering track through dense wood, up hill and down dale. The trees surround us like a loose sweater, providing a shield from the growing squall. Overhead, the boughs are swaying though, and every now and again there is a sharp snap!as a large limb breaks, then tumbles, smashing its noisy way through lesser appendages to the ground.
Stopping to study and admire a particularly mad tree, I pondered how I might go about making a sketch. Like people, every tree has it’s own unique personality. Whereto begin a drawing of a tree is a decision fraught with choice – in fact, the starting point is seldom a random one for me. The process is a lot like a road map, branches tracing a route stretching away from home. And it occurs to me – not for the first time, either – that a tree often looks like an upside-down root system.
This particular tree is wild and uncontrolled, frenzied arms stretch out frenetically. There is nothing symmetrical about the chaos, and yet, after all, there actually is.
_____________ Fude bent nib fountain pen and Uni-Ball Vision pen in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.
“Let’s go to the Fish Market,” she said. “I know it’s only four in the afternoon, but I’m already hungry.”
I was surprised because for over an hour I’d been thinking the very same thing. We seldom agree on places to eat out, and even more infrequently do we sup early. I wondered if I’d somehow telegraphed my thinking, or perhaps I hadn’t noticed my stomach growling.
The Fish Market isn’t a long drive to reach, but it is out in the country. Near the Missouri River, but even closer to a park of softball and baseball fields, the summer crowds are often traveling teams mixed in with local farmers stopping by at the end of a hot day to quench their thirsts. The place itself is something of a dive, with a giant statue of a shark on display in front. Parking, once there are more than a dozen cars out front, is full: Most patrons park directly across Old 210 at the auto salvage yard. The walk over is perfectly safe – this stretch of Old 210 is long orphaned by a newer segment of the highway about a mile to the south.
At the next table sits an aging biker and his woman. Like us, they’re enjoying plates of fried catfish, hush puppies, fries, and beer served in heavy, thick, frosted glasses.
“Coldest beer around,” says a man in an apron to no one in particular, and I pour some more hot sauce on my catfish.
____________ Uni-Ball Vision pen in Stillman and Birn sketchbook, watercolor washes added later.
27 April 2019.As we close in on the end of term, my thoughts have begun to turn towards summer break. I’m excited to be one of three international sketcher correspondents at the 10thInternational Urban Sketchers Symposiumthis year. Held in Amsterdam July 24 – 27, this event hosts sketchers from all around the world, the goal of which is to celebrate and practice the art of on-location sketching. I’ll be reporting on various events, including valuable field-sketching instructional workshops and lectures, and networking with participants.
Are you going to the 2019 Symposium in Amsterdam? What are you most excited about? Let me know!
Following the Urban Sketchers spirit of “sharing the world, one drawing at a time,” our organization aims to bring the Symposium to new cities and countries every year. Portland, Lisbon, Santo Domingo, Barcelona, Paraty, Singapore, Manchester, Chicago, and Porto have hosted previous editions of the Symposium.
Along with Santo Domingo sketcher Orling Dominguez and Amsterdam native Gwen Glotin, I’ll be sketching and writing daily reports of Symposium activities and sharing the fun on several social media platforms.
21 April, 2019. It’s Easter morning, bright and early. I’m out cycling and randomly decide to cut down the spur of Old Withers Road. Stopping along the way to soak in wonderfully welcome Spring weather, I notice the trees behind me are in silhouette against the morning sun; they haphazardly toss long shadows about in sort of willy-nilly fashion.
__________ Caran D’Ache Water-soluble crayons over Uni-Ball Vision pen.
18 April, 2019. I found several relatively flat tins at a recycle center on Friday. These were variously priced at 25 cents and a dollar, so I picked up several with the idea of converting into watercolor and/or gouache travel kits. They are just thick enough to accommodate half pans, and I happen to have a bag of fifty empty replacement pans on hand. I’ve added thin magnetic strips to the bottom of each pan so they can easily be swapped in and out, or rearranged to suit my needs. Plus, my water brush fits into the kit. I sprayed the interior with a flat white etching primer.
17 April, 2019. This is the edge of town, the place where “rural” begins and the city ends. Beyond this point are farms and two lane blacktop roads, cows, corn, lakes and ponds, rolling hills of trees, and lots and lots of gravel lanes. But here, this is where they meet fast food and gas stations, shopping carts and car washes. Here is where there was a field not long ago, unbulldozed. There was a hill, in fact. And there was not an intersection, so complex and so filled with traffic signals that an instruction manual wouldn’t be out of line. This tree is the only reminder – and a faint one at that! – of what once was. It’s gnarly, and not especially beautiful – even had it a full coat of leaves – and one is left to ponder why, even, did those bulldozers leave this forlorn remnant alone?
___________ Pencil and watercolor on Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.
16 April, 2019. I shared the black, gray, and white version of this a couple of days ago. That iteration had a distinctly “comic book” sort of vibe to it, but I missed the vintage colors and beat up paint… those were part of what drew me in to this object in the first place. And to be honest, I’d planned to add spots of color all along. The highlights where what interested me most of all, and that’s where I’d left the drawing originally. However, now that the color has been incorporated it all feels much more complete.
____________ Fude tip fountain pen, Uni-Ball Signo white gel pen, and gouache in Stillman and Birn gray sketchbook.
15 April, 2019. I love working with line, eliminating detail, and trying to keep things as simple as possible. This sketch probably took less than four or five minutes, and it is far from anything resembling photographic accuracy. But I like how a sense of depth is apparent through implied overlaps and implied forms and explicit representation of scale. There’s a zig zag of linear continuity that only became apparent about halfway through the sketch, and I’m happy about that too: it’s an effective device for leading the eye through the composition.
Most of the detail is only implied. Still, it seems to hold together structurally. The architectural forms, simple as they are, convince me that they have dimension and solidity.
14 April, 2019. The Missouri Art Education Spring Conference wrapped up this weekend and I walked away with so many fresh insights and ideas. I’m excited to try out new approaches with my students. The workshops were informative and well presented, and on Friday night one of them gained our group after hours access to the Belger Art Center collection.
It’s an amazing place. Walk through their office space and it’s wall-to-wall Rauschenberg prints. In the employee cafeteria sits a a Duane Hanson sculpture. And in one of the rotating exhibition spaces is this totally creepy, but awesomely cool clown bank.