My Alaska Airlines Million-miler Boeing 737 model sits on the mantel. Just a few days over a year ago I was with Tricia (Travels Through My Lens) in Japan and Korea. Ten months ago we were in France. Our last flights were on March 12, 2020, one day before travel came to a screeching halt thanks to something named COVD-19. For over 25 years most of my sketching was of what was right in front of me, be it while at a cafe, sitting in a park, or pausing on a ramble – often in some distant land. Now what is in front of me is Neville the cat sleeping on the couch, or in front of the fire. For most of us who sketch the thought of not sketching is incomprehensible so what is one to do?
As the time of le confinement began I set out on a 30 day journey of past excursions – sketching from photos. I re-visited Belgium, Scotland, Montana, Barrow, Death Valley, France, Japan, and Dubai. Each sketch brought back a bit of the feeling of actually being there, a mini-voyage in my mind.
Next I journeyed close to home by mapping and sketching some of our neighborhood, walks were one of the few times I ventured outside. There is wisdom in the 1928 song, recorded by so many folks, “You’ll find your happiness lies/ right under your eyes/ back in your own backyard.”
The first thing I did was sketched a map, my criteria being no more than one mile from where I lived, an easy walking distance. I discovered there are plenty of sketching opportunities, so I snapped photos of restaurants, the golf course, a church, and plants; then sketched at my leisure back home.
Missing France, where we would be living if a recalcitrant virus had not upended the world, I set off virtually exploring France by way of Google Street View. I spent many happy hours wandering down streets and pathways in search of new areas and of views to sketch. My Virtual Voyage took me to places I had never even heard of, a real delight.
Le Confinement motivated me to explore painting with gouache, sumi-e sketching with a Kuretake Brush pen. Often the scene was something manufactured in my mind, another sort of freeing voyage unhindered by staying in.
During the summer I would venture out for brief periods, most frequently to South Lake Union, Tricia, considered an essential employee had to spend a few hours a week at her office, so I would be chauffeur, then spend the time away from people, but near boats at the Seattle Center for Wooden Boats, sitting on docks with sketchpad.
Then missing France and still longing to move there I did some Google Map touring of Normandy, sketching along the way. Then I took a leap all the way to Australia.
My current source of material is a book. Many years ago I planned to be a biologist, never happened and it is a long story, yet the interest in nature never left. I stumbled on to Kelly Brenner’s fascinating book, “Nature Obscura.” She describes some of the wonders of the natural world right in the neighborhood. So I have been sketching nature, using virtual map view, photographs, and observations while walking.
For those who find this idea interesting I am contemplating a combination virtual workshop/ bookclub in January. Keep posted for details, let me know if it sounds lit you might want to join.
How have you been coping with sketching in the pandemic? I would love to hear your stories.