Boston StrongBoston, MA

Boston sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I wasn’t there at the time of the Marathon bombings last year—I was here, on the opposite coast. But Boston is my home city, and I remember feeling at the time that I had to do something, no matter how small. So I grabbed the first thing I always think of—my sketchbook—and put together this little tribute while I waited anxiously for news with the rest of the country.

A year later, I’m still far from the scene, but you can bet I’ll be cheering for the marathon runners this year, and for my favorite city. Stay strong, Boston.

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Captain’s quartersMendocino, CA

Mendocino water towers sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When it comes to water towers, Mendocino might just be the capital of the world. They serve a very specific purpose there: the town sits on a headland out over the Pacific, and the water table there is extremely low. So for the past 150 years or so, residents have had small wooden water towers on their properties, in case of drought during the summer. A handful are still in use, but many others have been converted into cottages, artist studios, spare rooms or storage sheds.

Mendocino water tower sketch by Chandler O'Leary

And a very few have become guest rooms—and I got to stay in one.

Mendocino water tower sketch by Chandler O'Leary

It was just about the best overnight I’ve ever had on a road trip; it felt like I was eight years old again, and had discovered some sort of secret hideout. I called a friend that night and told her where I was, and she laughed and said, “That’s so you. It’s just about the most ‘Chandler-y’ place you could have found.” Yep.

The downside, though? It’s pretty much ruined regular hotel rooms for me forever.

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Calligraphic cobblestonesRoche Harbor, San Juan Island, WA

San Juan Island bricks sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Roche Harbor is a hidden little pocket on San Juan Island, with impeccably preserved turn-of-the-century buildings, picturesque lime kiln ruins, a pristine saltwater inlet, and wharf buildings that hearken back to some (perhaps slightly revisionist) halcyon era gone by. Yet I had to force myself to even look at those things, let alone sketch them—because I would have been perfectly content to spend all day staring down at my feet.

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Follow the Red Brick RoadBoston, MA

Boston Freedom Trail sketch by Chandler O'Leary

These days there are many places where the Freedom Trail is marked with ugly red paint on concrete. But wherever you can find the path traced in brick, running out from one of the old bronze markers—well, that’s where you can almost feel history pulsing under your feet.

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B.P.O.E.Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Probably the most spectacular thing about Rocky Mountain National Park is the alpine tundra landscape above the treeline. The Tailor and I found a well-marked hiking trail up there and struck out, hoping to catch a glimpse of a pika or two among the glacier-strewn rocks.

Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

What we got instead was a little more than we bargained for: a whole herd of elk caught up with us, stepping right into our path (literally!), just yards from where we stood, lazily blocking our way back. There was nothing for it but to stand still, pinned to a rock (uncomfortably close to the cliff edge, I might add), and wait patiently for them to move on. They were utterly uninterested in us, but still—big, unpredictable, wild animals with pointy weapons sticking out of their heads make me nervous.

 

Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When the path cleared and we got the heck out of there, we found more hanging out near the car. Sigh.

But hey. At least I had plenty of time to get a good look at them—and nowhere to go but into my bag for my sketchbook and pen.

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Basin & rangeNear Brigham City, UT

Wasatch mountains sketch by Chandler O'Leary

There are plenty of places in the West where you don’t reach the mountains until after you cross miles and miles of foothills. Well, not here. There’s something about the sheer scale of this part of Utah—of perfectly flat valleys abruptly cut off by steep mountain slopes, of towering peaks dwarfing farms and towns and cities at their feet—that gets me every time.

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