Morning walk

It only takes me a couple of minutes to walk from my front door to a trail in the woods with the Susquehanna just a stone's throw beyond. I haven't been willing to go down there for months, to my detriment. Too preoccupied with other worries, but that's exactly why I should at least take a quiet walk there, if only a short one, every day. This morning before starting my work day, I took that walk.

If we could only slow down enough to syncronize our perception with the wonder of photosynthesis. We could see leaves emerge, blossoms appear, open, and fall to be reabsorbed by the damp earth. Watch tiny shoots become towering tress. We might let go of some of our desire to be in control of things. We might take less and give back more.

monday morning by the river, 8-1/4" x 8-1/4", Derwent Inktense colored pencils


Being with trees

Last fall, I read The Overstory, the most recent novel by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Richard Powers. Speculating only slightly beyond what scientists have learned, he spurns conservative notions of mankind's supremacy, and urges us to consider a deeper connection with a life form that many consider as little more than a resource for human utility. It is an inspired, uplifting, and tragic story. It changed the way I think about trees.

Spring wouldn't be spring without the opening of buds, the unfurling of leaves, the world's forests awakening once again to procreate from the sun, rain, and soil. Resuming their myriad partnerships with the microbes and insects and birds. When we can manage to transcend our barbaric attitudes, there is an important role for us to play. Perhaps atonement. I hope it isn't too late.

early evening with trees, 11-1/2" x 8", pen and ink


Barn talk

I noticed this nice old barn when I had a little time to fill a couple of weeks ago. Drew an impression of it in pen and ink. Since I keep being in the same place and circumstance weekly, and the location is not conducive to working on a laptop computer, we seem to have started a dialogue of sorts, the barn and I. Last week the medium for conversation was watercolor. This morning it was back to the fountain pen. Focusing on them, I wonder if the building or the trees know that I'm there. I wonder if they care.

barn and trees, 11-3/4" x 8", pen and inkbarn and trees, 11-1/2" x 8", watercolor and pencil 


Passing impressions

Saturday morning dawned sunny and mild, a scent of flowers in the breeze and the colors of spring coming into Ina's house through open windows. We were soon up and dressed, eager to be outdoors. I shouldered my heavily art supply laden daypack, and we headed down to the woods for a walk under the tall trees along Sligo Creek. My thought was that I'd find a quiet spot in front of a not too obvious panorama, get comfortably situated, and do a watercolor. I had a picture in my mind.

We walked a couple of miles back and forth along the sun dappled trail and I didn't see my framed view. I got grumpy. Ina was cheerily tolerant. Then, not far from where we'd entered the woods, I glanced down and noticed a patch of Mayapple. One of the stalks was bearing an open bloom under the shade of its twin umbrellas. I stopped and sat down, Ina continued along home to fetch coffee, tea, and a portable breakfast snack, and I took my fountain pen out of my shirt pocket to do a little study.

When I started becoming absorbed in art as a teenager, I decided that I didn't want to do much with color before becoming good at drawing. I did monotone drawings with graphite pencils or pen and ink for years, working to get my eye and hand to co-ordinate. Very gradually I learned to grasp form, proportion, foreshortening. With excellent coaching from two good teachers, I practiced varying line quality and tonal value. I had plenty of disappointing results, but I kept at it in cyclical waves of zeal.

I'm still practicing, now to say more with less. To get some essence of what captivates me without a lot of laborious detail or fuss. Here are a couple of snippets from a lovely outing in the woods on a perfect spring morning.

mayapple, pen & inkbabbling brook, 9B graphite pencil



The chapel, Linden Hall

On the edge of the Linden Hall campus, the nation's oldest academic school for girls, at the center of the picturesque village of Lititz, the Moravian Church, a stern gray limestone building, has presided over a grassy square shaded by tall maple trees since the late 18th century. A hundred years later, a chapel was built on the corner of Church Square. Commissioned by the grief-stricken father of Mary Dixon, an 1879 graduate of the school who died of tuberculosis at age 19, the ornate Gothic Revival structure was designed by Willis G. Hale of Philadelphia, known for his elaborately ornamental works, including the newly remodeled Divine Lorraine Hotel on Broad Street. The memorial chapel shines as the architectural star of the campus. 

From the perspective of an artist insistent on drawing directly from life, the chapel is a challenging subject. Its dramatic geometry and wild details first caught my attention when my daughters attended Linden Hall more than a decade ago. I did a couple of sketches of it from different angles, but couldn't seem to get the proportions and foreshortening right. Found myself mostly bewildered by the complexity of it. I didn't have the patience and quickly became exasperated. I managed a decent soft graphite pencil impression of the steeple, then gave up in frustration.

On Wednesday, a perfect sunny spring day, I was driving through Lititz after a meeting, and the spire caught my eye from down the street. Spotting an empty curbside parking space on the preceding block, I impulsively pulled over, grabbed my sketchbook, found a bench across the street from the chapel, and tried again.  

the chapel, Linden Hall. 11-1/2" x 8", pen and ink