A Bushel and a PeckMinnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Every year that I lived in Minneapolis I told myself I’d do a piece of crop art someday and enter it into the State Fair. Well, I never got around to the real thing, but I did draft an idea in my sketchbook!

It really doesn’t matter, though—I’m just glad I got to spend so much time perusing the ag displays every year. Growing up, I was too much of a city kid to do anything like 4-H, so I guess the fair is my chance to live vicariously through a bunch of farm kids and their charges.

Minnesota State Fair sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Oh, that—and die and go to heaven every time I saw the vintage seed sacks.

Minnesota State Fair sketch by Chandler O'Leary

By the time I’d get to the other end of the ag pavilion, I’d have forgotten all about the rides and cheese curds—I guess I was mesmerized by all those blue ribbons.

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Fair weatherMinnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Even though it’s been years since I lived in the Twin Cities, and the Great Minnesota Get-Together was a part of my summer tradition, I can’t bring myself to switch allegiance. No matter how much time goes by, to me there is no other state fair than the Minnesota State Fair.

Minnesota State Fair sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This year’s Fair is already in full swing. I can’t be there in person, so instead I’ll be devoting this week’s posts to my favorite Fair traditions and highlights. Let’s just say…there will be butter.

Minnesota State Fair sketch by Chandler O'Leary

To all my Minnesota friends: have fun this year, and eat some cheese curds for me!

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Island havenCoupeville, Whidbey Island, WA

Whidbey Island sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I did this sketch on a Friday afternoon last year, having escaped after an insane week of deadlines and project-juggling. Here I am on a similar Friday, and the thought of spending the afternoon in the sun, on an island, staring out over pristine blue water with just the breeze and the sparrows for company—well, it sounds pretty darn perfect to me.

Now where’s that ferry schedule…

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Travel companionSummerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Portrait sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Usually when I travel, I’m hurrying around everywhere, frantically sketching as many things as humanly possible (since I often travel alone, I can get away with this!). But when I travel with a friend, sometimes it’s nice to just sit for a spell and capture the moment. Because for me, that’s the best thing about having a travel companion: having the experience together.

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Quiet on set"Mork & Mindy House," Boulder, CO

"Mork & Mindy" house sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I loved Mork & Mindy as a kid—not simply because it was funny, but because it’s the first show I watched that had a strong sense of place. Silly comedies aside, it’s amazing how much that quality has affected me now—has affected the person I have become. And I realized that so much of Robin Williams’s work has had that inherent sense of place—The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire, Insomnia, Jakob the Liar, Dead Poets Society, etc.—that I love so much, that I look for everywhere.

So thank you, Robin, for giving me so much more than a good laugh. May you be at peace.

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Holy cannoliModern Pastry, Boston, MA

Modern Pastry sketch by Chandler O'Leary

If you want the best cannoli it’s possible to get outside of Italy, you really can’t go wrong in Boston’s North End—there are plenty of places that will deliver the goods (special shout-out to Maria’s!). Probably the most famous are Modern Pastry and it’s rival, Mike’s. I’ve visited both many times over the years, and you know? They’re both wonderful. (Mike’s is especially good if you want something other than a cannoli, for a change—lots and lots of choices there.) To me it’s not worth it to go into the finer points of which ricotta is slightly sweeter, which shell is heavier, etc. Either way, I’m not complaining.

But hey—I’m an illustrator, not a food critic. If it’s going to take something extra to make me choose between two fabulous pasticcerie, I’m goin’ with the place with the best neon sign.

Just sayin’.

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Road hogsLusk, WY

Sturgis Rally motorcycles sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I have no idea why, but it seems like every time I pass through eastern Wyoming or western South Dakota, it ends up being in the thick of the Sturgis Rally. (Hmm…I wonder if the Hell’s Angels are there right now…) It’s really the one time of the year where taking the back roads in that part of the world doesn’t guarantee you a highway all to yourself—as evidenced by our attempt at stopping for gas in the tiniest of towns. Still, the long wait for the pumps provided plenty of sketchbook gold—so I’m not complaining.

If you happen to be reading this from the Black Hills, have a great time at Sturgis this year—and drive safely!

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Big rigGrand Lake, CO

RV sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The day I made this sketch was the first time I’d ever stayed in any sort of RV or motorhome (the Tailor and I are more of a tent-camping couple ourselves). But when we joined the Tailor’s aunt and uncle for a few days in Rocky Mountain National Park, I felt like I was having some sort of exciting road trip rite of passage—like I’d suddenly, finally upgraded my Americana membership.

Besides, I have to say, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to wake up next to this:

Mountain sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…without the stiff neck and sore back of having to sleep on the ground first!

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