Every time I see something like this, I have to wonder why there are still plain, non-food-shaped watertowers in the world. I mean, come on!
You know how much I love drawing houses—and Prince Edward Island seemed to be the pretty-farmhouse capital of the world. There were so many, in fact, that it was hard not to spend my entire vacation sketching houses. So this was the only way I could think of to save room in my sketchbook for drawings of other things…
Judging by the news lately, and all the dire terms like “polar vortex” being bandied about, I think it’s safe to say that most of the U.S. is still in the absolute dead of winter (including my neck of the woods). But I just can’t bear to post another sketch of icicles or snow. So instead I’m thinking back to one colorful California afternoon, with a rainbow of houses on my right, the Pacific on my left, and all kinds of evidence that spring lay just ahead.
Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, there’s pretty much zero architecture that predates 1850; but I grew up in New England, where early American buildings are abundant. And as you can probably guess, I absolutely adore colonial houses—so I go a little nuts when I get the chance to sketch a whole neighborhood chock full of ‘em.
One of my favorite things about living in the Northwest is how everything seems here seems to exist in its own microcosm. How you can be socked in a gray pall, nothing but pearly fog in every direction—unless you find a tall enough hill to climb. As you near the top, the light changes, sun filtering through in rays, until you reach the top—and find a whole different world waiting.
I love sketching wildflowers and other plants—but unfortunately, I’m really not great at identifying them. Of course, sketching is an excellent way to cement the information into your brain, but it doesn’t help much when you’re not sure what you’re looking at. I’m not a fan of standing there, juggling sketchbook and guidebook, trying to find one particular yellow flower amongst a huge grid of yellow flower photos (that all look, well, frankly identical to each other, and not at all like what’s in front of me), just to label my drawing correctly.
Enter the National Parks. Wondering what kind of unusual flower that is? Forgot the name of that cactus? Just look around—nine times out of ten there’ll be a little engraved label nearby. Not near a marked trail? Just look in the little pamphlet the ranger handed you when you arrived! I swear, park rangers are the librarians of the natural world (and since I’m always telling people that librarians and park rangers are the most helpful folks on earth, this seems to fit).
I rely on this so much that when I’m not in a national park (or arboretum, or conservatory), I get frustrated. I mean, how great would it be if every front-yard garden, every school hedgerow, every city park came equipped with tiny interpretive signs?
Because after all, you never know when a sketcher is going to happen by.
I have a particular love (and lots and lots of sketches) of treeless landscapes and endless plains. But I have to admit—after driving cross-country over more than 2,000 miles of the flat interior of the continent, seeing mountains again, at last, feels like a kind of reward.
* “Seeing the Elephant” was a popular (and complicated) American expression in the late 19th century, often used by pioneers to refer to the reward awaiting them at the end of their long wagon journey west.
People always ask me why on earth I’d rather take a road trip when I could “save time” and fly. And sure, sometimes flying is fun—especially when I’ve got a clear day and a window seat. But while I could go on about all the annoying things about flying that drive me nuts, or extoll the virtues of getting to know the geography between points A and B, or wax poetic about how for me it’s not actually about “saving time” at all, but about “journey” vs. “destination,” etc. etc. blah-blah-blah…
Yeah. All of that is true, but really I just need to show them this sketch:
This. This is why I’m no fan of flying. There’s only so many times I can draw the same airplane wing, or so much detail I can add to a beige plastic wall, before I completely lose my mind.
I’m not really a fan of American football, but I do love seeing (and sketching!) a city transformed by a rare event. And I have to admit, it was pretty hard not to get swept up by all the excitement humming in Seattle’s very bones this weekend. So I’ll go ahead and add my voice to the chorus: Go Hawks!