A big part of any tourist experience (for me, at least) is catching a glimpse of local wildlife. People go to Yellowstone to see bears and bison. They come to my neck of the woods to spy orcas. When I was in Big Bend, it was all about the javelinas. So you can bet I wasn’t going to take my first trip to Florida without seeing some manatees.
The odd thing is that at this time of year, one of the best places to glimpse a sea cow is not a pristine nature park—but an industrial canal. The Tampa power plant uses the waterway as part of its cooling system, and as a result, cycles heated water back into the canal. The water is up to 20 degrees warmer than the winter temperatures of the adjacent Gulf of Mexico, so it attracts manatees in droves.
The courtesy of a wooden platform perched over the manatee area was lovely—and I was incredibly excited to see so many manatees at once—but I found myself sorely wishing for the kind of underwater windows they have for watching salmon in Seattle. That way, I could see for myself whether sea cows really resemble sea lasses, as the sailors of old thought they did…
Speaking of underwater sights, if only the Ballard fish ladder had mermaids in it. Good thing I got to visit Weeki Wachee Springs a few weeks ago! Now I’m spoiled—I fear Weeki Wachee may have ruined roadside attractions for me forever. I mean really—no matter how seedy and pathetic a tourist trap might be (and I’m sorry to say there were aspects of this place that were), anything with mermaid performers is an instant winner in my book.
There were two little girls sitting next to me, and when I looked over to add them to my sketch, I had to smile. When I was their age, I was totally into mermaids (I was eight when Disney released its famous fishy juggernaut of a feature)—if I had been to Weeki Wachee at that age, I probably would have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Even at the ripe old age of 33, it wasn’t hard for me to look past the shabbiness and ho-made production values and find a little mermaid magic to love.
One of my favorite walking routes in Seattle takes me across the Ballard Locks. There’s a lot to see there, particularly if you’re interested in watching all the fishing boats head in and out of the locks. But the best part, for me, is the fish ladder at the far end of the complex, which allows spawning salmon to make the transition (both in elevation and salinity) from saltwater to freshwater. There’s an underwater viewing platform down there, and if you go at the right time of year you’ll see a veritable boatload of salmon behind the glass.
I like to go in August or September, when you can find a mix of salmon species (coho, chinook, sockeye, etc.), but I’m told that now is the time of year to see steelhead trout making the same trek. So if you’re local, grab your sketchbook (and your umbrella!) and see what you might find.
Speaking of quiet places, usually the last place I’d think of as meditative is the airport. In fact, airports are usually at the top of the list of places that send my stress levels sky high (yet another reason I’m not a huge fan of flying).
I should have known better about the Asheville airport, though. Of course it was a relaxing spot. Of course they had rocking chairs all over the place. After all, I was in the state that has elevated porch-sitting into an art form. The day I did this sketch should have been stressful—I ended up dealing with lots of delays and cancellations and things that normally make my head spin. But as long as I could sit in a rocking chair and stare at the mountains, I was ready for whatever the FAA might throw at me.
After Monday’s post, and all the noise and disruption present in that sketch, I felt like something a little…quieter today. I did this drawing almost a year ago, on a gorgeous Sunday that should have had the park packed with picnickers. For whatever reason, though, the Tailor and I had the place entirely to ourselves. All we could hear was… well, you read the title of this post.
It was a small, silent slice of heaven.
I always embark on road trips with the expectation that I’m going to delight in what I see along the way. Mostly that’s the case—I’m interested in just about everything, and the road is always full of pleasant surprises. But while this blog mostly has been a collection of things I love, I also sketch things that disturb and anger me.
I did this drawing in complete haste, in pencil and super-quick watercolor, from the passenger seat of a moving car. It’s a sketch of the oil fields in western North Dakota—and it’s the only image I managed to get of them on that trip. There were a lot of people around, and I didn’t feel comfortable stopping to take photos of what I saw. So this image is all there is of that afternoon—yet because of this drawing, my memories of that day are so strong that even nearly four years later, I haven’t been able to shake them.
The majority of my sketchbook drawings just stay sketchbook drawings—they’re “finished” in their own right, and the sketchbook is as far as the image goes. Sometimes, though, a sketch might become the basis for a fine-art project—and that’s the case with this image. Well, the project in question is finished, and on display over at my studio blog—if you’re curious, feel free to head over and take a gander.
If you happen to follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll know I’ve just returned from a 4000+ mile road trip across the south and west of the county. One of the things I like to do at the end of a trip (and the end of my sketchbook) is a map and recap of the journey. Of course, there are lots and lots of sketches of the details along the way (I expect you’ll see lots of those in the coming weeks), but sometimes it’s nice to step back and look at the big picture.
On this morning I took a hike in a part of the world I know very well. Yet while the path was familiar, the rocks seemed to get more alien the more I stared at them. I kept trying different angles and colors, but I never did manage to nail down what I was looking at. I guess it’s sort of the visual-arts equivalent of proofreading: the more you concentrate on something, the more odd and unfamiliar it seems.
Another reason I sometimes draw in black-and-white is when I’m racing a moving target. I may yet add color to these doodles someday, but on the day I drew them, I was more concerned with jotting down each animal before it moved away. It’s a good exercise if you want a drawing challenge—or if you like being frustrated…
Other times, I do the opposite of what I showed you last time: I skip the color entirely, and focus purely on the line. I wish I could tell you that the reason for it this time was for some lofty, arty purpose…but, uh, no. I skipped the paint this time because I was hungry, and my lunch was getting cold.
(I think I made the right choice. That was a darn fine lunch!)