Recent sketches, June 25-26, 2017


Rock Creek, Washington DC, June 11, 2017

In the northwest quadrant of thrumming Washington, DC, Rock Creek is a surprising refuge from the city's noise and traffic. On the year's hottest Sunday afternoon so far, we forced ourselves to venture out. Parking the car in a small shady lot, we walked down the creekside trail, sheltered from the blazing late day sun under a high canopy of broadleaf giants, until we found a quiet bend in the stream. A pebble strewn wash where I could sit and experiment with this unwieldy medium, a grassy patch of bank where Ina could read the Sunday New York Times and enjoy the soft burble of shallow flowing water. Walking back through hushed woods in the failing light, an owl call echoed through the trees.

Regressive results on paper that I reluctantly post here as an exercise in humility, but a lovely little outing to remind us that we can find beauty in unexpected places.

thumbnail sketch, colored pencilwatercolor, 14" x 10"watercolor, 11" x 7"


Sketches, June 7-9, 2017

Trying to do at least a little something every day. Sometimes it's very little, and often not very good. Art involves lots of disappointment. I tell myself that the important thing is that I keep at it rather than to get discouraged and quit.

frustrating results but the late day sun was pure gold

done at Swedish Motors while waiting for new tires ...

on the patio while drinking coffee before starting the work day


Sketches, June 4-6, 2017

Ten years ago, my daughters attended a school in the picturesque village of Lititz, 20 miles across the county. The daily trip there and back had a couple of features that I looked forward to despite the inconvenient trek – driving through a nineteenth century covered bridge, and this scene: below the crest of a wooded ridge, an old farmhouse facing a barn and its cluster of appendages, separated by Mt. Joy Road on its winding eastbound path. Noble and I went on a sketch outing one non-school day, but the complexity of the tableau overwhelmed both her and my skills, undermining what we’d hoped would be a fun plein air drawing experience. Ever since, I’ve wanted to try again. This past Sunday, I finally took a fresh swipe at it.

Like most everyone I know, I dislike having to sit in any kind of waiting room, even if only briefly. Yesterday, I was obliged to wait, although not for very long, for an oil change at Swedish Motors, which is just a mile from my house. Unlike most waiting rooms, though, this one features a revolving display of my friend Rich Kushner’s collection of unique old Saabs and Volvos. Right now, a 1963 Volvo 122 Amazon, heavily modified for racing, dominates the floor. Since I had my sketch bag along, and in the interest of not wasting time leafing through magazines or staring at my iPhone, (along with indulging my fondness for cool and quirky old cars), I had just enough time to dash off a quick impression.


Sunday morning barnstorming

Its asymmetrical northern gable end only a few yards away from the edge of Rt 23 in western Lancaster county, this barn has caught my eye for years. I stopped during a bike ride and did a quick pencil sketch of it yesterday afternoon. The owner strolled across the road as I was tucking my little pad into a back pocket, and after congratulating me for being out getting some exercise on such a gorgeous day, told me a little about the farm. 39 acres with the barns and a stone house, the deed dates it to around 1750, so the original owners answered to the King of England. We chatted about staying fit in our later years (he's 68 - 7 years my senior), the hard work that farming is (he grew tobacco at one time, which is all about backbreaking labor), and the impossible expense of maintaining these old buildings. I told him he might see me sometime set up with an easel alongside of the road, and he invited me to have the run of the property anytime.

So after an hour and a half early morning ride took me past the place once again, I threw my infrequently used field easel and a few supplies in the trunk of the MG and drove over to take a stab at it before I could figure out an excuse not to. Parked in the weeds, unfolded the easel behind the car and got started.

A fascinating collection of geometric shapes being battered by the seasons and grown over with vines, neglect allowing it to be slowly consumed. I like to think that I'll return to better interpret the scene until I feel satisfied I got it right. Might be a long project!

watercolor over graphite pencil on Arches 140lb hot pressed watercolor paper, 14 x 20