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.
Over the last seven or eight days I’ve found myself drawn back to the gravel path that is Bluff Road. It’s segments really, not even connected where MO-291 bisects it, a good half mile separation between the northern two or three miles and the southern mile.
I ride my gravel bike about fifteen miles through town and out into the outer farmlands and river bottoms to reach this spot. I’m only barely interested in the subject matter; the location has this abstract quality to it that catches and holds my attention.
I’ve no idea what this place is, this old iron sign discovered at a bend in the old Bluff Road. Is it a forgotten remnant of a limestone quarry? That is, in fact, not only my best guess but my only guess. The road curves off onto private property and disappears over a hill, swallowed then by thick patches of trees and brambles. The path itself, once well worn, is now overgrown and seems to be seldom trod. I’m tempted to try it myself, but a “No Trespassing” sign is posted further along, so there is that of course.
I didn’t think I would get into gravel riding. However, I love to explore and it turns out a gravel bike is a great way to do that.
The world at fifteen miles per hour can be studied with care, and usually in quiet leisure. The bluff roads near the Missouri River reveal fallen sheds and barns, abandoned houses, and roads that simply come to an end. Rusted cattle gates hang at perilous angles, and as the gravel road hugs closer to the limestone bluffs an occasional lane is revealed, climbing mountain goat-style upwards.
Last week, from a comfortable lawn chair, I sketched walkers as they passed by my house. My vantage point from between a blind side on the left and an equally blind spot created by foliage on the right meant that I had tunnel vision looking down my drive.
I timed it. Each pedestrian was only in view for about four seconds, so I had to scribble their gesture quickly and then rely on memory and some general understanding of anatomy from there.
Late afternoon. School is out. I’m in my driveway, in a lawn chair, enjoying the first wonderful Spring-like weather of 2021. People are walking past and I’m quickly scribbling gestures, a response to the One Week, 100 People sketching challenge.
As I have done every year since this challenge was first issued, I told myself I’d skip the One Week, 100 People drawing event. “I’m too busy. It’s a lot of drawing. I’ve done this before.” Whine, whine, whine.
The thing is, this challenge is fun. I love to see how many people I can get into a single sketch, and with middle school students in abundance there was no problem fitting in 60-ish. In fact, had I not run out of paper it’s likely I could have crammed in all one hundred. Instead, I saved the remaining 40 for another day of the week.
At one point I decided to add a touch of color using my NeoColor II watersoluble pastels. Just a touch – it would have been visually distracting to add color everywhere.