You might remember Salem Sue—she was the first sketch I ever posted on this blog. I have a deep fondness for just about any roadside attraction, but I might just love Sue best of all.
It’s not just that she’s freakishly realistic (just out of frame of this sketch: the big scary veins on her udder), and at 38 x 50 feet, absolutely huge. There’s also something about her location, perched on a butte, with an endless plain stretching below her in every direction. It’s impossible to be that big and not have some serious presence.
Probably what I love best of all, though, is that Salem Sue looks great from every angle—from far below, close-to, underfoot, and even from above. The residents of New Salem seem to know this, and have made it easy to get up there and reach her.
Good thing I had plenty of pages left in my sketchbook.
I’ve driven across Kansas enough times that these signs (which are repeated several times along the road, reminiscent of Wall Drug ads) have become like old friends. I haven’t yet succumbed to the temptation to pay six bucks to see any five-legged steers, but that’s okay—that’s not why I like these so much. They remind me vaguely of another, long-extinct slice of Americana—one that I’d dearly love to be able to go back in time to sketch. So since I can’t see them myself, I’ll write my own:
Wish I’d have seen
With mine own eye
Those roadside ads
Of days gone by:
I did both of these sketches on the same road trip. What I love best about traveling this way is that it makes it so easy to see many facets of a complex country—all in one long stretch. If you want to go from a place where the buildings are so tall you have to look up to see the sky…
…to a landscape so vast you can see both ends of a freight train at once…
We’re celebrating the winter break this year with a road trip to the Plains states. And while I normally love a white Christmas as much as anybody—I must admit that brown is a little more conducive to driving cross-country.
One of my very favorite things about the Red River Valley (of the north) is that the land is so perfectly, endlessly flat that you can see entire weather systems grow and unfold before your very eyes.
Then again, it’s not so fun when that weather catches up with you. I did this painting in the passenger seat while the Tailor drove, and not ten minutes later those roiling clouds went from pretty picture fodder to terrifying death trap. It rained so hard we couldn’t see past the end of our windshield, and I had to put my paintbrush down in order to cross my fingers and hope the storm didn’t come equipped with car-crushing hailstones.
Then it was over, just as quickly as it had come—driving home the point that no matter how quick on the, er, draw I think I might be, nature will beat me every time.