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.
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.
8 April, 2019. OK, so I jumped ahead a day – but my week is going to be busy and I get to define my own sketching time as I see fit. 🙂
Not to mention, that rather than one week, I actually did these sketches in one day.
The simple goal is: Draw 100 people in one week… but the real goal is PRACTICE. Not perfection. Every artist needs to sketch as much as possible, but we want to have fun and just stretch a little. Each of mine have somewhere between 20 and 90 seconds invested in sketching time. Thus, there’s perhaps ninety minutes of sketching investment here – and hey! No excuses: any of you can fit 90 minutes into your week. So go for it!
4 April, 2019. Everyone was impatient and wanted to eat the stuff. I understood: I hadn’t made it to be the subject of a sketch. Nevertheless, the fresh colors of green and salmon and rose and violet were captivating, and as always, I had a pen and sketchbook close at hand.
Yet still, everyone was impatient to eat. And thus, I only had a very limited time to sketch. I suppose enough extra should be prepared and then set aside to allow for both nibbling and sketching…
_______________ Uni-Ball Vision pen and splashes of watercolor in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.
31 March, 2019. I was at the state capital for a couple of days earlier this week to meet with other fine arts directors and curriculum coordinators. Meetings involve sitting – usually lots and lots of sitting. And sitting is something I’m ill suited for, quite frankly. I tend to be in motion most of the time.
So to offset the hours of inactivity I arrived in Jefferson City early enough to wander the streets and take in some of the buildings. One thing I’d never noticed before was the number of pointed roof tops. Although East High Street is clearly a typical Midwestern street, if you look around some of the architectural features take on a decidedly central-European flair.
This surprising discovery in the midst of that which is otherwise quite familiar made me ridiculously happy for some reason. Maybe it’s because I may not have noticed these little details had I not been killing a little time, enjoying the quiet of an early morning street.
______________ Uni-Ball Vision pen and Caran D’Ache crayon wash in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.
29 March, 2019. Gumbo for dinner! I understood that Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar made great stuff, and wasn’t disappointed. The roux was chocolate in color – way beyond “peanut butter” roux. The aromatic and richly colored concoction was hypnotic in a way: what would be revealed under the inky pool? Well, chunks of chicken and andouille sausage, of course, along with okra. But no corn bread side, sadly. Sigh.
Our server was hip and cool and patient and just a little bit wacky. And everyone at the counter was called “babe.” I felt right at home.
The “Pleasure Pier” – what, I wondered, could this place be with a name like that? Having passed dozens of adult stores along the Interstate on the long drive south, it occurred to me that there would be a red light at the entrance. Happily, it turned out to be an amusement park.
Closer to my hotel, people staked out a warm spot on the beach, sheltering from the wind in huddled groups.
________________ Uni-ball Vision pen and watercolor wash in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.
26 March, 2019. I’ve made up my mind that this visit will not be punctuated by tours or anything at all resembling a need to meet anything at all resembling a schedule. Indeed, I will simply wander, my only purpose: explore at a slow pace, and stop where I may.
I enjoy looking at the beach houses. They look like the kind of place one can cozy up next to a fire or laze about on a porch overlooking the water. I enjoy the variety of silhouettes each outline creates, and the oddness of a complete house resting upon stilts. I enjoy the many windows and imagine the light bathing each interior.
Diagonals contrast with horizontals: the horizontal nature of an island, of the ocean; the diagonals of roof lines and the wonky shadows created by the early morning sun.
Grays permeate the landscape, but are themselves polluted with a bath of pink, a wash of cerulean blue, violets, periwinkles, Terre verte.
In the afternoon, as the day warms, I head out on two wheels to enjoy a few hours of bike sketching: rolling along until something strikes my fancy, then stopping to sketch for a bit before once again rolling down the road.
_________________ Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor wash on Stillman and Birn sketchbook.
I visited Galveston Island over Spring Break, cringing at the thought of sharing Paradise with drunken college students, only to discover that Texas had scheduled their break for a week earlier. Yes, the Spring Break madness ended a week ago, and on my visit the beaches are empty. Only a handful of hungover frat rat stragglers crawl from their rooms in the afternoon to clog the hot tubs.
The timing of my visit is pure dumb luck.
But I’ll take it.
________________ Uni-Ball Vision in a Stillman and Birn sketchbook.
24 March, 2019. We’d arrived in Galveston the night before. Our first morning dawned cool and breezy. Stepping out of the hotel and down a wood plank walkway, I was immediately surrounded by sand and dunes and ocean. Just past sunrise, the beach was mine entirely and I was able to walk and sketch for miles in either direction.
The houses along my stretch of sand are charming, some appearing to be under repair, while towels dangling from railings reveal the presence of habitants in other structures. In spite of brightly colored facades, the overwhelming sense is of grays and neutral colors on this day. The cloud cover is thick; the water and even the sand a reflection of those overcast hues.
There are warning signs to stay off the dunes. I assume this is to keep the fragile ecosystems from being trampled by picnickers and drunks, and then I’m startled to read that the warning pertains to the presence of rattlesnakes! I make note to stay far away from those places.
As morning wanes, I continue to wander and sketch as the moment takes me. People begin to emerge and populate the beach – not hordes, but a few here and there. Some, like me, are wearing a hoodie or a jacket. But others are enticed into shorts by the lure of the sea, and thus also the brisk ocean waters.
________________ Uni-Ball Vision and watercolor wash in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.