Another place I tend to spend hours poring over American Indian artwork is the fabulous Denver Art Museum. In addition to things like beadwork, the museum devotes two entire floors to an astonishing range of Indigenous art, from Pre-Columbian pottery to Plains paintings to Salish heritage poles, and everything in between. The collection includes at least one example from nearly every American and Canadian culture—I had no hope of sketching them all, but I was determined to make a respectable start, in any case.
Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. All of America seems to be celebrating right now, and rightly so. In my opinion, our wildest pockets are our true national treasures, and our national parks, as Wallace Stegner said, our best idea.
Olympic National Park, WA
So since I’ve spent a good chunk of my sketching life in national parks both close to home…
Arches National Park, UT
…and far afield…
Crater Lake National Park, OR
I figured I’d add my voice to the celebratory din, in the form of a little sketchbook retrospective.
Badlands National Park, SD
Redwood National Park, CA
but I also sometimes think they’re the only thing standing between wildness and destruction.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
And anyway, I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m a total park nut myself. It’s my goal to visit every NPS property before I die, including national parks, historic sites, national monuments, everything. (Actually, I’ve crossed a goodly chunk of them off the list already—
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX
—and I even have the stamps to prove it.)
Olympic National Park, WA
I know I have a long path ahead of me before I reach that goal,
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
and getting there won’t be easy.
Big Bend National Park, TX
Yet I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the opportunity exists in the first place—
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
that so many people have fought to preserve these wild places, and won.
Saguaro National Park, AZ
Best of all is the feeling that no matter how long it might take me to get to each park with my sketchbook,
Glacier National Park, MT
I know it’ll be there waiting for me, as close to unchanged as humanly possible. Thanks to the National Park Service, the window of opportunity remains open.
I love traveling by rail, though these days I don’t often get the chance to do it. So the next best thing is hanging out with historic trains—and sketching them, of course.
Besides, you know I’m a sucker for vintage lettering and logos—and a logo hound at a train museum is like a kid in a candy store.
I’m utterly amazed that this sign is still here; that I can refer to it in present tense, rather than with “Once upon a time.” I’m gobsmacked that it’s been so lovingly maintained; that (with the exception of switching from white to its current blue) the lettering is completely unchanged; that the façade is still white as the name suggests. I remember passing this sign a million times as a kid, and being attracted to it even then. I have a sneaking suspicion that this sign may be the reason I ended up becoming a lettering artist—that Sno-White taught me to love a slab serif and a good old-fashioned script.
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…
Remember when I said I’d always wanted to draw Denver’s city hall when it was all lit up for the holidays?
Well, last holiday season I finally got my chance. And the place was even better than I remembered it as a kid—the very definition of merry and bright.
Posting here has been a little light lately, while I help make Christmas happen at home. But while there’s nothing quite like basking in the glow of your own tree, I also love traveling at the holidays—if only because I get to see how other places deck the halls, or experience different regional traditions.
Best of all (for me) is when everything is festive … inside—
Wherever you are spending your holidays this year, I hope they find you cozy and warm—and wreathed in light.
Just like the neighboring town of Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs is filled with midcentury neon signs and fabulous Googie lettering. This sign is one of my very favorites. It’s been altered a bit over the years, but the fact that a relic like this still exists in a town that’s changing and expanding at a rapid pace—well, it feels like a bit of a miracle to me.
I’m guessing you won’t be shocked when I tell you I’m not exactly the type of person who likes shopping malls. But a vintage midcentury shopping mall with fantastic neon signage…well, now that’s downright ideal.