Only a paper moonNear Missoula, MT

Moonrise sketch by Chandler O'Leary

It’s difficult enough to sketch from the passenger seat of a moving vehicle: keeping a steady hand, drawing quickly enough to keep pace with a changing landscape, etc. But when you throw in trying to sketch by moonlight… Well, I guess you just have to be willing to embrace imperfection—and wait until morning to see how everything came out.

Montana night sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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Fish talesKenora, ON, Canada

Husky the Muskie sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When I lived in Minnesota, people used to tell me hair-raising stories of going fishing “Up Nort’” for muskellunge, and catching specimens that measured in feet, rather than inches. It’s no surprise the muskie is the stuff of legends—but imagine my delight when, without even stepping foot in a boat, the Tailor and I “caught” an absolute whopper!

Husky the Muskie sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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Edward Scissor-finsVictoria, BC, Canada

Victoria topiary orcas sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The last post reminded me of another favorite whale effigy of mine: Victoria’s iconic topiary orcas. I only had a few minutes to spare for this sketch, because Don the talented gardener only needed that long to prune the thing. He finished before I did, and wandered over to to see what I was doing. Not only did we have a nice conversation, but he was also kind enough to identify all the plants for me (since that’s never been my strong point).

So wherever you are, Don, thanks for giving me a bit of your time—and for helping keep Victoria beautiful.

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Thar she blowsRoute 1, Portsmouth, NH

Yoken's whale sign sketch by Chandler O'Leary

If you ever have to ask for directions in New England, beware. Folks there have a tendency to reference landmarks that no longer exist (this quirk is bred into me, too—sorry to anyone I’ve ever confused). “Turn left where the pizza place used to be.” “Go just past where the old highway ran through before they put in a rotary.” “It’s across the street from Bob’s old shop, but it’s called something else now—can’t remember what it is.” If you don’t already know a place like a local, it can be maddening.

Yoken’s is the perfect example: a regional landmark that absolutely everybody in the area knows well, but that is long defunct (ten years now). The sign is still there, though, and is even in the middle of being restored. Thank goodness—and I don’t just mean for anyone giving directions in Portsmouth. Even more so than its brother down the road in Massachusetts, this thing is an absolute masterwork of design.

Long live the Yoken’s whale, the Queen of Route One—may she be a guiding landmark for decades to come.

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Just don’t ask for ketchupProvidence, RI

New York System Hot Weiner Sandwich sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Rhode Island is not actually an island, but it sure feels like one sometimes—in fact, it’s kind of a (parallel!) universe unto itself. Only in Rhode Island would you find something called Coffee Syrup—you know, for your coffee milk. (Chocolate milk? Not a chance.) It’s the only place where you’d order a cabinet and not be talking about furniture. Where public buildings are installed with bubblers*, not drinking fountains. Where you’d never be caught dead eating a hot dog—not when you could have a hot weiner sandwich (which is not the same thing). And where the best place to order a hot weiner in New England is a place with New York in the name.

*Actually, you can find bubblers in Wisconsin, too, oddly enough. While you’re there, pick up some ho-made soup to complement your hot weiner sandwich.

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Like buttaMurray's Restaurant, Minneapolis, MN

Murray's Steakhouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I used to pass this place every day on my way to work, back when I lived in downtown Minneapolis. I confess I never actually had a meal at Murray’s, but I’m not sure it matters—”butter knife steaks” aside, the design of the facade was mouthwatering enough for my taste.

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Sailor’s delightLudington, MI

Lake Michigan lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

As a lifelong landlubber, I don’t often get to see lighthouses from the side they’re designed to face. So as you can probably imagine, not only was I gleefully waving back at the folks on the breakwater—I was also practically hanging off the side of the boat to get a better look at the beacon.

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Island beaconsCape Neddick, York, ME

Nubble Light sketch by Chandler O'Leary

You already know I’ll drive hours and hours out of my way for roadside attractions, but I’ve also been known to make some ridiculous detours and extra-long pit stops for lighthouses. As a result, I have a lot of sketchbook drawings similar to this one. I could probably keep this blog going for half a year on lighthouses alone, but then you’d be well justified in jumping ship on me. So I had to make some tough choices this week. In the end, I let geography be my…er…guiding light (sorry): this week we’ll be making “stops” on the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, and right in between, on one of the Great Lakes.

I’ll start in the east today, with the only lighthouse that was guaranteed a spot this week. Maine’s Nubble Light has a special place in my heart because I used to come here with my grandfather, who loved lighthouses more than anyone I’ve ever known. He never seemed to mind the tourists that would descend here (or if he did, he never let me see it)—after all, the view is so spectacular it’s well worth braving a crowd.

Nubble Light sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Still, though, it’s even better if you can manage to have the place to yourself for a little while. On this day Cape Neddick played host to myself, the Tailor and my mother—and not a soul else.

Well…maybe one other soul—or at the very least, a memory. In a way, these sketches are a tribute to the man who gave me a love of lighthouses.

(Thanks, Gramps.)

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