Folds and faultsNear Cambria, CA

California sketch by Chandler O'Leary

If you were to page through my California sketchbooks, you’d think I had some serious A.D.D.—thematically they’re all over the place, because the state just has so many different things that interest me. But what I keep coming back to, time and time again, are the landscapes themselves. There is just something about the hills and valleys there that grabs hold of my heart and refuses to let go.

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California or bustDunsmuir, CA

California Theatre sign sketch by Chandler O'Leary

As it turned out, I didn’t get to do a whole lot of traveling last year—which was a bit of an adjustment, especially compared with previous years. It’s looking like 2015, though, is going to be another big travel year—which to me feels more like normal life.

Tomorrow morning I’m hitting the road again … and I think you can guess the destination. I have some very specific goals for the trip, which I hope will play out here in a few weeks. For the next few posts, though, I’m going to run a few of my favorite sketches from my last roadtrip to the Golden State.

Enjoy, and see you on the other side!

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Bathing beautySeattle, WA

Neon diving girl sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The Olympic Athletic Club diving girl isn’t vintage, but she sure looks like a throwback to me. Every time I find myself in Ballard—or even that general end of the city—I make sure my route takes me past her. I can definitely see her being a Seattle icon fifty years from now—our own Little Mermaid.

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Edge of the earthCape Flattery, WA

Cape Flattery sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Friday’s post reminded me of the time I stood on the the opposite edge of the continent—that time at the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States. Cape Flattery isn’t just lonely, it really does feel like the edge of the earth. The northern Pacific coast generally isn’t dotted with quaint cottages or resort spots the way the Atlantic shore is—huge swaths of it are uninhabited and downright inaccessible. But it’s that emptiness that makes it so wild, so beautiful, so perfect.

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The last homely houseCapstick, NS, Canada

Cape Breton sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Now this is a house in its own little world. This tidy little cottage was part of a pair of villages located at the northernmost tip of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia—which for all intents and purposes made it almost the last little house on the whole continent.

Somehow, though, it didn’t feel lonely. It felt like a refuge—especially considering how many hours of driving it took me to get there that day. You have no idea how badly I wanted to just knock on the door and come in out of the salt air.

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Horton hears a houseVictoria, BC, Canada

Victoria, BC custom house sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This might just be my favorite building in all of Victoria—and not just just because of the architecture. What I love best about the old custom house is how it sits apart from its neighbors, neither bounded completely by streets or by water. The building is in the absolute heart of the city, yet somehow in its own little world.

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The swan song of the KalakalaTacoma, WA

Kalakala sketch by Chandler O'Leary

There are restoration success stories like Lucy…and then there are others without the happy ending. In my part of the world right now, a floating rust bucket is the talk of the town. That’s because at long last, an odyssey spanning nearly 90 years, thousands of miles and a whole lot of folly is about to come to an end.

From the 1930s through the 60s, the M.V. Kalakala was a swingin’ Art Deco ferry in Seattle’s Black Ball fleet. Her unusual (and flawed) design made her either a shining star or a laughing stock, depending on whom you asked—but either way, she enjoyed a fair amount of fame. She was the recipient of the first-ever commercial on-board radar system (FCC license #001!), and even made a cameo in the popular “Black Ball Ferry Line” song by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.

Once she was retired from ferry service, though, she went into a long, slow decline—beached and converted into a cannery in Alaska, then later towed back to Washington as the unfortunate victim of restoration projects that never made it off the ground. I’ll spare you all the twists and turns of the Kalakala story—a quick Google search will give you a whole host of written words, photographs, and even sketches by other folks who can tell the tale better.

Kalakala sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Normally this is just the sort of story that would get me up in arms, ready to send a donation to the save-it fund and spread the word far and wide. But this time, I think I’d prefer to see the Kalakala sail off into the proverbial sunset. She deserves a better end than rusting through and sinking in a swirl of toxic chemicals, in a town that bears no real connection to her history.

Still, I’m glad I’ve had a chance to catch glimpses of her over the years. And I didn’t want to miss the chance to sketch her, even if only from a distance. She’s slated for demolition at the end of this month—I’m glad the weather held out long enough to give me a couple of good views of her.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas, Kalakala.

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