Fields of gold (or pink, or orange…)Carlsbad and Lancaster, CA; La Conner, WA

Skagit Valley tulip field sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Obviously I have a thing for standing in a field carpeted with flowers and busting out the ol’ watercolors—because not only does it crop up (no pun intended) again and again on this blog…

Excerpt of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary

…but it’s also a recurring theme in my new book. The fun part, of course, was traveling to all these flowery places and experiencing them in person for research. The tulip fields of the Skagit Valley were well-traveled ground for me, so I was already familiar with the hybrid nature of the place: half working agricultural region, half tourist attraction.

Excerpt of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary

Ranunculus field sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Then there were the Flower Fields of the southern California coast: while this ranunculus haven still sells seeds and starts to gardeners, the place has become a full-on tourist trap, complete with ticketed admission and concession stands (it’s still totally worth it; the fields are stunning).

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve sketch by Chandler O'Leary

My favorite, however, were the wild California poppy fields of the Antelope Valley. Visiting this place took both planning and luck, because no tourist trap could make the valley bloom on schedule. In fact, it took me many attempts, over years’ worth of SoCal road trips, to see the poppies in person, thanks to a seven-year drought that made the delicate desert landscape inhospitable to flower blooms.

Excerpt of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When I finally made it at the right time, under the right conditions, the experience was nothing short of magical. It made every previous, failed attempt worth the time and effort, and had me plotting future trips on the spot. It really drove home (apparently my brain churns out puns involuntarily, sorry) the fact that it’s not enough, for me, to know a place exists before I feel I can write about it. I have to experience it for myself, see it with my own eyes, and use my hands to commit it to paper with pen and paint, if at all possible. It’s an enormous privilege to be able to do this—and sharing that moment and others like it (or at least attempting to) is what creating this book was all about. I can only hope a tiny glimmer of that comes through onto the page—and that it inspires my readers to go to these places, so they can experience the real thing for themselves.

Comments (1) Pin it!

Beachcomber’s sketchbookLincoln City, Oregon

Lincoln City sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Just over a year ago, the Tailor and I met a couple of good friends for a long weekend on the Oregon Coast. Our friends live in San Francisco, so Lincoln City was almost exactly the midpoint between us. And besides, we had an ulterior motive: we wanted to search the beaches for hidden treasure.

Lincoln City sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Well, we didn’t end up finding much on the beach beyond pretty agate pebbles and a few shells, but the time spent catching up with friends, basking in the views, and filling sketchbooks was priceless.

Comments (1) Pin it!

You’re gonna need a bigger boatOcean Shores, WA

Shark selfie sketchbook illustration by Chandler O'Leary

Towards the end of the design process for my new book, the design team at Sasquatch Books and I were putting together all the odds and ends that make up the cover, both inside and out (you’ll find a behind-the-scenes look at the front cover on my studio blog). One of the last elements to fall into place was my author “photo.” Well, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I don’t really do photo selfies—so initially I offered them the standard illustrated self-portrait that I use everywhere, including on my about page.

And then I stopped in my tracks, because I remembered one other selfie I’d done in my sketchbook, and had never shown anyone. I drew it the same day I visited Sharky’s, out on the Pacific Coast. I emailed my editor, and said something to the effect of, “Actually, I do have one other image…but it’s weird. How do you feel about weird?”

Cover flap of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary

Well, I’m happy to report that they thought weird was good, because it made the cut, and it’s pretty much exactly my personality, in a nutshell. So now every time I flip to the end of the book, I’ll have a good chuckle over this—who says author headshots have to be serious?

Comments (2) Pin it!

The Best Coast

"The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary

While I’ve hinted at this several times on social media, and even shown some snippets of my process along the way, mostly I’ve been sitting on my hands lately, trying my best to keep mum while I wait for time to tick by. And now the waiting is almost over, and it’s time for the big reveal of my new book!

At long last, The Best Coast: A Road Trip Atlas is almost here! This book—an entirely illustrated travel guide to the West Coast—has been a labor of love for me, spanning more than two years of work on the book itself and a solid decade of research, road trips and travel sketching. And now we’re just a little over a month away from the publication date on April 9!

I’ll be sharing a lot more here and over at my studio blog (after today, there’ll be different content in each place) in the days and weeks to come: behind-the-scenes process images, stories and sketches behind the locations featured in the book, a social media photo contest (with prizes!), and much more. And if you’re local, we’ll be throwing the official launch party right here in Tacoma:

Best Coast launch party
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
7 pm, free!
King’s Books
218 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma, WA

In the meantime, you can learn more about the book and preorder your copy on my book page! Many thanks to the team at Sasquatch Books for making this book—a dream of mine for years now—a reality! Looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

P.S. Because people always ask me, yes, preordering—as opposed to waiting until the book comes out—makes a huge difference. Books with strong preorder sales get better promotion from both the publisher and retailers, get a better ranking on huge sites like Amazon (and thus better exposure), and reach a wider audience of both customers and press outlets. So every preorder counts, and is like an extra boost of support, both for me and for your favorite retailer.

Comments (2) Pin it!

Rec-ommendedLos Angeles, CA

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

This beauty has stood proud over Sunset Boulevard since 1924, once advertising a bowling alley and billiards parlor. It was one of the very first mixed-use (residential and commercial) spaces in Los Angeles, but like so many other historic landmarks, it fell into disrepair over time.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Fortunately, it was declared a Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monument in 1998, and carefully restored in the intervening years. The building was recently sold again, but thanks to its status, the Jensen’s bowler will continue throwing strike after strike, on into the future.

Comments (1) Pin it!

SODO stumperSeattle, WA

Seattle sketch by Chandler O'Leary

One of my favorite things about Seattle (at least, while they’re still around to love) are the old wooden wharf buildings that still define the SODO neighborhood, among other places. There’s something about all that wooden clapboard and all those clerestory windows that just speak to my soul. This building is particularly intriguing because it has a layer of intrigue to it. Look more closely…

Seattle sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…and you’ll see what adorns the façade. This is definitely a modern neon sign, and not a relic like the rest of the structure, but it’s a real beauty. And it’s a complete mystery—nobody seems to know what Sailor’s Rest is. It’s not a restaurant or bar, not a shop, not a tattoo parlor, not anything that might seem to go with this sign. (My guess would be design firm or something similar, but this is just wild speculation.) I did a little digging, but all I could find was a generic business listing for an LLC. Still, I’m not arguing, because whoever they are, they’ve fixed up an old building beautifully, and they’ve added a real gem to Seattle’s neon collection.

Thumbs up, sailors!

Comments (0) Pin it!

Fox talesSan Juan Island, WA

San Juan Island sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Every time I visit San Juan Island, my collection of fox sketches grows. They’re inescapable there, as much a part of the landscape now as the treeless prairies they prowl at Cattle Point.

San Juan Island sketch by Chandler O'Leary

They’re not native to the island, though. In the 1890s, settlers introduced rabbits here for game, and apparently failed to foresee the obvious consequences. Of course, the rabbits did what rabbits do, and in the following decades island residents introduced red foxes to try to make a dent in the rabbit hordes. What has followed ever since is a population tug-of-war: some years the rabbits get out of control again, and the foxes have plenty to feast upon. Then the rabbits decline and the foxes get overpopulated and start dying off…the cycle repeats every few years or so.

San Juan Island sketch by Chandler O'Leary

For the past five years or so, I’m guessing the island’s been in a fox cycle, because I have yet to see a rabbit on my visits there (though Orcas and Whidbey Islands are both overrun). And unfortunately, tourists tend to feed the foxes, which doesn’t help matters. But whenever I feel like studying fox anatomy, all I have to do is head down to Cattle Point, pull over at a certain overlook, and wait. It never takes long for someone to show up to have their portrait painted.

Save

Save

Comments (0) Pin it!

Seaside splendorSan Juan Island, WA

San Juan Island sketch by Chandler O'Leary

You already know that San Juan Island is perhaps my favorite place on earth, and the California poppies that grow wild at Cattle Point are just one of the many reasons why. I actually started this sketch on an earlier trip, and came back to this spot exactly one year later to finish it. And it’s a good thing I did, because after the super-wet winter we had on the West Coast, I’ve never seen quite this many poppies in bloom before. After I finished the sketch, I just sat there on the hillside for another half hour or so, not wanting to break the spell of such a perfect moment.

Comments (0) Pin it!

Major beefAmarillo, TX

Big Texan sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

The Mother Road has no shortage of good steakhouses, but nothing quite matches the spectacle of the Big Texan in Amarillo.

Big Texan sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I mean, we know that everything is bigger in Texas, but this place aims to prove it (and proclaim it, if you look closely at the signage in the above sketch!).

Big Texan sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Even the swimming pool (yes, a steakhouse with a swimming pool…the place is also a motel) is a reminder of just where you stand.

Big Texan sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The main dining room is done in the grand tradition of Meat Halls of the American West

Big Texan sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…but the Tailor and I found ourselves seated in a cozy, quiet nook. Yet even here, we had that big steer head and hot pink flocked wallpaper to remind us that this is how Texas does quiet nooks.

And that is just fine and dandy with me, thank you very much.

Save

Comments (0) Pin it!
« Older Posts