My fingers lift and close over the six holes of a Clark Original penny whistle. Occasionally I miss the fingering of a note – often enough, in fact, that it’s clear I haven’t played in a while. My playing is variably confident… until I faulter, at which time I pause and mess up the timing.
Long ago, I played horns. Passably. After a brief flirtation with stringed instruments – I still have my hammered dulcimer, in fact – I embraced a different traditional folk instrument, the penny whistle. Those who master this simple flute make remarkable music. One day, perhaps I will too.
The outer road that roughly parallels the interstate is a route of rolling hills, narrow exits returning to town, and a path passing underneath bridges. There’s a hubcap lying in the brush to my right. It’s been here since the last time I pedaled down this road, perhaps two months ago; I’m confident it will be here months from now. The interstate, normally filled with traffic, with cars and freight bearing trucks that barrel along at high speed, is today quiet. Few are on the road. There’s really nowhere to go: stores and restaurants are closed, and we are all socially distanced, a bit like this outer road is from the highway.
It’s only a few minutes into my ride, actually. I strain to climb the hill that takes me past the cemetery, then pause mid-stride, glancing to my left. The trees, the monuments, even the little narrow lanes that thread through the place are all so calm and peaceful. Slowly, I turnaround and pedal back down the hill and turn onto one of those lanes.
It’s only a few minutes into my ride, but time to stop and just enjoy being outdoors, just being there.
The next stop on our whirlwind virtual tour of the world was close to home. Kansas City was host to the #virtualsketch the past Saturday, and though I’ve “attended” many of the events, I’ve missed more. I could not miss sketching an area that is less than a twenty-five minute drive from my armchair.
I felt an urge to make value studies of these streets and buildings I know so well. Years ago I was an art director for an ad agency at the end of this block. Later, our studio was a two minute walk north of here. My studio partner and I knew all the restaurants, all the night spots. It seems strange to sketch this architecture virtually, but it’s a strange world at the moment.
The next stage of the virtual tour takes me to Pripyat, a fascinatingly eerie, left behind place near Chernobyl. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to forgotten and abandoned structures, footprints from our collective pasts that are disappearing into neglect.
____________ I used this virtual sketching opportunity to experiment stylistically – an interesting experiment, but ultimately a not particularly satisfying experience. I’m heading outdoors today.
I’ve been sketching from photos, from the comfort of a chair indoors for so much of the last month, and the urge – the need! – to be outdoors with a minimal kit, responding to a three dimensional world with smells and sounds and breeze and weather… the need is great. I wander out my front door. My own house is as good a subject as any, I suppose.
I stand in my neighbor’s drive, wearing cargo shorts, t-shirt, and a pair of house slippers, looking across the road to the from of my house. No one drives past on this Easter morning, so I’m not a source of curiosity.
Above and behind me, the sky has turned a dense blue; it’s pregnant with rain. Far off thunder grumbles, and I sense, more than see, lightning on the horizon. As I capture a photographic record of this short event, the first fat droplets of rain begin to fall. Time to run back indoors.
Almost blind contour, the lines are sort of stream of conscious, and I enjoy the curling and swirling and the connection between my head and my hand as I mentally trace the contours of filigree and ornamentation, a split second later my hand and pen transcribing those thoughts onto paper – me, avoiding looking at the page as much as possible, only occasionally checking for location, correcting, then beginning the route of my pen once again.
What day is it? What year? (In fact, I actually type in 2017 above, before correcting myself.) And where am I?
I captioned this in my archive as a virtual sketch of Portugal, but right now I’m absolutely positively not positive if my caption is correct. The virtual sketch challenge is keeping me drawing during these “locked in place” days of pandemic response. But I find that the experience of drawing from an arm chair or a drawing table means I focus almost entirely on the formal qualities of a scene and not the story. And darn it all! Without experiencing the place in person, there really is no story to speak of. No experience, no memory. And now I cannot confirm this location.
But I am drawing.
Stay home, stay safe… one day we’ll all be able to be back out in the world together again.
From Belgium, my virtual trip led me south, down the coast to Portugal. I stopped and “walked around” a castle – or what I presume was a castle – in Sinstra. Rather than making a complex, overall study of the entire structure, I zoomed in on one of the interesting architectural details to make a study of light. The design looks Moorish to me, but I am not well versed in such things so I’ll eventually look it up to see how far off the mark I am. #uskvirtual