Tag Archives: south

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Faux-tem poles

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

If you travel any length of Route 66, you can expect to see some fake teepees along the way. Totem poles, on the other hand, are a bit more of a surprise.

Well, I say totem poles, because they call them totem poles, but as you can probably guess by the fact that this sign sits in the middle of the Ozarks, this is the closest these things are going to get.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Oklahoma’s version is even less like a real totem pole, and more like a giant muppety decoupaged Coke bottle. (It’s not even technically on Route 66, but a few miles down a side road.) Still, this thing is an icon of the Mother Road, and I’m glad to see it being kept in fine fettle for the next traveler who meanders down the road.





World's largest pecan sketch by Chandler O'Leary

World’s largest pie filling

Just in case you were worried about making enough pecan pie for the holiday this year, I think I know where there’s a good supply. To all my readers in the United States, wishing you a happy Thanksgiving! Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a slice of pie with my name on it…

50 States pictorial map illustrated and hand-lettered by Chandler O'Leary

Rereading the map

I finished this map before the airwaves were inundated with red and blue election maps—and today it’s a good reminder that America is more than its electoral divisions. That there is good in every state, and that there is so much to love and celebrate in every nook and cranny of our nation. This is why I started the 50 States project three years ago, and I’m taking the fact that I happened to finish the series right before the most divisive election in living memory as a sign that I need to remember this fact going forward. After all, the real work of our country involves all of us.
Those of you who read this blog know that I express my love for every state—blue, red, purple, whatever—through my drawings. I will continue to do so, to feature the beauty and wonder and hilarity and kooky humor of every state. That is what will get me through the fear and sadness and anger I’m feeling now—and I hope it will help you in some small measure, as well. So the break I took from blogging to focus on my book is over; posting here starts back up again tomorrow.
In the meantime, you can celebrate all 50 States with me tonight at the Ted Sanford Gallery at Charles Wright Academy in University Place, WA, where the entire series is on display through November 29. From 5:30 to 6:30 tonight I’ll have a gallery reception and small pop-up shop. Let’s talk about the good that’s out there—from Paul Bunyan to Elvis to the World’s Largest Frying Pan, and everything in between, from sea to shining sea.
New Orleans sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Crescent City crest

Speaking of Crescent City icons, in my humble opinion there is no finer example of utilitarian design anywhere. It’s been a long time since the era when “municipal” could be synonymous with “beautiful,” but the fact that these little meter box covers are still so famous and beloved today gives me hope. With any luck, other cities might just get on board, and inject a little beauty into even the most minute details.

New Orleans sketch by Chandler O'Leary

A street corner named desire

People like to categorize cities by things like food, or architecture, or climate, or whatever. Me? I like to categorize places by their signature style of lettering. So if I want midcentury neon Googie script, I might look along Route 66. For a good all-purpose wild-west Clarendon, look no further than Wall Drug. But if I want beautiful inlaid tile street signs, I’m heading straight for New Orleans. It’s not just the tile, either—the lettering itself is so unique it’s become an icon of the Crescent City.

Good thing, too—no offense to the designers of Highway Gothic and other wayfinding typefaces, but the French Quarter deserves something a little fancier than your standard green street sign.

Pt. Bolivar Lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Sunset sentinel

When Mary-Alice and I drove across Texas together last year, we knew our stop for this night would be somewhere around Houston. Neither of us fancied slogging through an enormous, unfamiliar city at rush hour, so from the passenger seat I pulled out the map to see if I couldn’t find an alternative. What I found was a lonely road that hugged the Gulf coast, then ended in a ferry to Galveston. Sold. (Also, as it turned out, best idea ever. That road was gorgeous!) Since we made the decision on the fly, I had no idea what we might find en route. So rounding a curve to encouter a 180-foot lighthouse looming suddenly above us in the purple dusk was not just an arresting sight—it was unforgettable.

Suwannee River sketch by Chandler O'Leary

On the banks

When Mary-Alice and I hatched our Florida trip earlier this year, I made a point of not planning any destinations ahead of time. I wanted to be surprised by what we found along the road. One of the many surprises that day was crossing the famous “Swanny”.

Suwannee Gables Motel sketch by Chandler O'Leary

An even better surprise (for me) was what was waiting for us on the opposite bank.

Baton Rouge old and new capitols sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Capital capitols

Mary-Alice and I were only in Baton Rouge long enough to grab a quick lunch and glimpse the city’s (fraternal) twin capitols—but that was long enough for me to add the city to must-return places. The new capitol—while lovely—mostly just reminded me of the Superman Building in Providence. It was the old capitol, however, that really captured my interest. I mean, the U.S. is positively filthy with dome capitols, but how many crenellated ones are there? (Answer: none, now that the one in Baton Rouge is no longer the actual capitol.) But what really got to me was that we didn’t have time to stop and see the inside of the old building. The exterior alone had me Googling away, and once I saw a few photos of the interior, I was practically ready to derail the rest of our trip plans and spend an extra day in there.

Ah, well. You know what they say: a reason to return.

North Carolina steeples sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Steeple chase

You probably know by now that when I draw in my sketchbook, I’m usually looking to fill a whole page spread with a finished scene. Sometimes, though, that’s just not possible. On the day I made this sketch, I was riding in the back seat of a rideshare van, craning my neck to catch any details I could of the landscape. The other passengers must have thought I was nuts as I jotted down any interesting snippet we passed—but at least I can remember something (if not much) of that afternoon.

French Quarter, New Orleans sketch by Chandler O'Leary

City of lace

Today it seems only fitting to hop from one French city to another. Other than the obvious connotation of the French Quarter, the multi-colored houses also made New Orleans remind me of Montreal. The thing that set NOLA apart, though, was all that stunning wrought iron.

Since they call it the French Quarter, it’s easy to forget that New Orleans is just as influenced by Spain—that Creole culture is just as Spanish as it is French. The city’s wrought-iron balconies brought the lesson home for me. As I rounded every corner, all I could see were houses draped in lacy Spanish mantillas.