theTravelsketcher this week – 12 February 2021

What a week – Tampa Bay/Brady win the Super Bowl and another impeachment trial is underway. BUT the really big news is that I got a new fude pen and travel brush set, now that is newsworthy.

Started off the week remembering that last year at this time we were in final preparations for a trip to France. The purpose of the trip was to find a place to live when we moved there in July of 2020, well… we all know how that worked out. Bien sur! we still had a wonderful time. A sketch of cherry trees and the Loire River seemed right.

Sunday watched the Super Bowl, ate nachos, black-bean dip, and Tricia’s guacamole – her guac is so good, almost as good as her photos. My new fude pen arrived that morning so a quick try was in order. Then a few flowers to test both the pen and the brush.

Friday we took a drive up north, we stopped for a quick (outside, COVID style) visit with my mother, then headed up to Chuckanut Drive and the Oyster Bar, one of our favorite places in the world. Here is a view from there on a foggy day, done with a limited pallet of only ultramarine blue and sepia.

My current read is The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley, full of amazing info about our world – I now know about “roche moutonée” and “thigmomorphogenesis.”

Finished the week with John Muir and dreaming of mountains.

Hope you are well, and sketching. Looking forward to the virtual workshop and book club that is starting on 24 February. Stay safe,

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theTravelsketcher this week – 5 February 2021

This week Kris at Nature Together and I put a combination workshop – book group together starting at the end of February. We will be reading Nature Obscura by Kelly Brenner and then doing sketches inspired from the book. We will have three Zoom meetings, then finish off with an outdoor workshop. There is still room for a couple more people, email me for info. Kris has the books at her shop.

My first sketch of the week was more flowers, then a virtual travel sketch from Cité de Carcassone in the South of France.

Neville of course spent a lot of time sleeping as usual, me, I am dreaming of crocuses and spring.

Then a sketch of Japanese Gulch, where the workshop will take place. I finished the week with a few fleur d’iris in a clay pot. I hope you are all well, and sketching.

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thetravelsketcher last week – 29 January 2021

Last week I started a new sketchbook sketching flowers on the table, moved on to an Eastern Bluebird from a photo by Eunice Miller at Folsum Mill Studio, then of course something from France, Eglise Notre-Dame-sur-l’eau in Domfront, Normandy

Recently we watched The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns then I read the book Two in the Far North by Margret Murie. Margret and her husband, Olaf Murie, were instrumental in the formation of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. So my mind turned to National Parks and the Arctic. First came an acrylic on canvas of Joshua Tree National Park, then a couple of sketches of the arctic.

I finished the week off having coffee outside at Cafe Louvre in Edmonds. It was a good week, I am looking forward to spring and the chance to get outside more.

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Capturing the Inspiration of Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman stole the show at the inauguration, what an inspiring recitation from an inspiring person. I tried to just capture a bit of the essence of that moment.

After posting this on Instagram many requests for prints came in, I am donating 10% of the proceeds to 826 National, a youth writing project, Amanda Gorman serves on its board. Prints are available from the Shop page at this site, or at my Etsy Shop.

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My Misdirected Youth

In the seventh grade (1962-63), at Dale J. Ickes Junior High, my science teacher was Mr. Hughes, one of those teachers that it is impossible to ascribe enough praise. He opened the door to the wonders of biology and the world around us beyond what anyone could expect of a seventh grade class or of 12 year old students. The projects we took on in the after school science club were beyond what most high school students have ever done.

The classroom project I remember most clearly was when we went outside, crossed the fence into a field behind the school where we each staked out a 12” square piece of land. Our project was to identify the life in that square. We collected plants, mostly grasses, we captured bugs, when it rained and there were puddles we collected water samples in petri dishes and studied the microorganisms under a microscope. Back then that was called “ecology”, the word had not yet been attached to political movements; to this day I am fascinated by flora and fauna.

BUT the science club work I remember the most, that was so far beyond the seventh grade, involved doing lab-prep work on a variety of species. I am sure in this protective culture of today he never would have gained approval for the things us 12 year olds accomplished. 

Mr. Hughs had a connection with the Portland Zoo. If an animal died naturally at the zoo he was often able to get the carcass; I have no idea how, but it was amazing. Then a group of us, about five or six as I remember, would skin the animal and tan its hide. We would clean the skull as a lab or museum would do – we were seldom bothered by anyone, especially the principal, as the aroma of a monkey’s skull boiling to soften the tissue so we could then spend hours cleaning the skull drove most folks away. We cleaned skeletons, did measurements, and journaled. I worked on: a monkey, an African lion, a bobcat, and a small bear. When I moved on to high school a lifetime in science was all I wanted. (Mr Hughes contacted me and one other friend of mine asking if we would come back to help him with a project: sadly a young elephant had died at the zoo, he had the opportunity to have it, but after we had left the school few interested or experienced budding biologists filled our place. Sadly I had to say no.)

All it took was one year of a 5 hour, 105 Biology for Biology Majors class at Portland State University to stifle that enthusiasm. Most of the class was chemistry, some dissection of dead things (I must admit the feral pig was interesting), yet there was nothing about studying actual plants and animals, the one thing I dreamt of, so I moved on.

It was all good though, I spent 25 years traveling the world, seeing cities, people, and nature that I never dreamed of. Along the way I became a sketcher. What I understand now is that my interest was in being a naturalist not a biologist – John Muir should have been my idol. I wish I had know the difference then.

At my age there is no room for “I should haves.” But there is also nothing that keeps me from my naturalist pursuits today. As theTravelsketcher the destinations that interest me the most are natural sights not iconic tourist traps. Small villages with an environment of their own, mountains, oceans, and lakes all make a trip worth while. Even our passion for eating locally is a form of learning about the environment we are visiting. I have spent many evenings in hotels and B&B’s sketching a leaf or flower I picked up during the day.

So in these late years of my life I find I have returned to that long smoldering ember that Mr Hughes lit, now, with the time of retirement, it burns a bit brighter.

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Travelsketching Nature Obscura

Travelsketching has and is all about discovery and capturing the moment while traveling. Le Confinement has broadened my perception of travel, it has taken me to a number of new destinations for art and sketching, and since new destinations are what travel is all about it has been quite a journey. My last blog theTravelsketcher with clipped-wings explored some of the new sketching voyages I have enjoyed.

Thanks to the book Nature Obscura by Kelly Brenner a  wonderful new sketching venue opened up this last week. My parents suffered through my interest in science from an early age, smelly chemistry experiments, and collections of all kinds of critters, with their own fragrances. This book delightfully stimulated my still active curiosity about the nature that is all around us, even in the city.

Half way through the first chapter Kelly’s description of Anna’s Hummingbird moved me to grab my iPad to search for a photo of the only hummingbird that is a resident here all year, not migrating. Next I opened my sketchbook and started sketching Anna’s Hummingbird. As I read on I learned about moss, muskrats, mountain beavers (not beavers), moths, and more. Frequently I sketched something that related to what I was reading.  My new sketching venue – read a book on some interesting topic – nature, travel, food. Then sketch your way through it. 

What do you think of doing combination virtual workshop and book reading group in January, based on Nature Obscura? We spread it over 4-5 weeks, read a bit, do a sketch, and then a one hour virtual workshop each week. If there is enough interest I will work on details.

I still have a couple of chapters to go, but here are the sketches so far.

This is Marsh Island near the Seattle Arboretum, home to many muskrats, truly fascinating critters.

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theTravelsketcher with clipped-wings

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.

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A bit of Travelsketcher trivia, and Hobart

Trivia time. First, what country has theTravelsketcher been to more times than any other? (Outside of the USA of course.) Secondly, where do the second and third oldest friends of mine live? The answer to both: Australia.

Australia has been my destination over 20 times. Oddly enough it was not until my last trip there that I ever saw a kangaroo in the wild. On one of those early trips, about 25 years ago, I met MaryAnne and then David, her husband . Oddly enough MaryAnne and I met in Aukland, New Zealand, though they live in Melbourne. We are still in contact all these many years later, Zooming just last week. The only friend of mine who has known me longer is Tim, we met in High School. Tricia and I have been together 33 years.

One of my favorite places in Australia is Hobart, on the southern tip of Tasmania. I still remember that first taxi ride from the airport into town. It was my first time down under, also one of the first times I ever experienced a bit of homesickness. The reality hit me two weeks earlier when I arrived in Sydney that I was a long long way from home; a three hour flight to Los Angeles followed by a seventeen hour flight to Sydney. Hobart was the last stop of a multi-city trip, I was tired and I was missing home. As the taxi crossed the Tasman Bridge over the Derwent River into town I saw the bay, and the dusting of snow on Mount Wellington; I felt like I was home, it reminded me of Puget Sound and the islands, I have loved the place ever since.

This photo was taken from Wrest Point, if you are familiar with Puget Sound and the islands you will see the resemblance.

I have been back to Hobart many times since then, and I always enjoyed the town – watching county cricket at the oval, walking along the harbor, visiting an old church one Sunday morning, and of course some really good food along the way. The best bit though is Salamanca Place, right next to the harbor and the location of a famous Saturday Market. Long before the Saturday Market and the current array of shops, restaurants, and pubs, the sandstone buildings were warehouses for the cargo on and off the sailing ships and whalers in the 19th century. Read Tricia’s blog about her trip to Hobart.

Most often my first stop, after checking in to my hotel, was The Whaler Pub in Salamanca. Established in 1829 by Rev. Robert Knopwood, it is still a vibrant place to grab a pint of James Boags Premium along with a bag of Salt and Vinegar Crisps. Unless the weather is inclement, sitting outside for people watching or sketching is the best. I do miss being there. 

I did this sketch from a photo, it would be nice to get back some day.

As always keep traveling and sketching, even if its just around the block.

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I miss flying!

I miss flying! I never tire of traveling or flying, I got tired while traveling, but never tired of traveling. 

My first real travel began in 1987. Prior to that any trips away from the Portland, Oregon area were few. The first time I was ever on an airplane was in 1969, a Spring Break trip to Chicago to visit my High School Youth pastor, then again that summer back to Chicago to work at a camp. Over the next 18 years I went on one business trip to Los Angeles, and one to Colorado. 

In 1987 I went to work as a Regional Sales Manger for an import food company, eleven western states; that is when my travel kicked in. Hawaii, Idaho, Utah a couple of times a year, Portland quite often, and California infrequently. I left the company a few years later and my travel took a break. In January of 1988 Tricia and I went to Mexico, my first international trip, I was so nervous.

In 1994 I became a seminar speaker and my world changed. For the next 25 years I traveled all internationally, to five continents, for seminars, along with multiple trips with Tricia to Europe thanks to frequent flier miles. 

I miss those wonderful times flying. My rule is, “Never complain about travel, no matter what.” Once you begin being negative it is a slide into the Dark Side which sucks the fun out of travel. Yes, I have had my share of delays and cancelations, but frankly I don’t have the horror stories that others talk about, I honestly believe that our attitude influences the events. Enjoying the trip is contagious and airline staff, as well as hospitality staff, would go out of their way more often than not to make my trip a pleasure.

Often I would do small paintings for fellow travelers, flight attendants, and servers. It was a pleasure for me and earned me a smile in return. Here is one such time:

I was flying from Anchorage to Seattle. The lady sitting next to me was on her way home to New York after visiting her boyfriend in Anchorage. Over time I have learned that they are quite amazing people, they have nurtured a vibrant relationship for a number of years, I see her posts on Instagram along with her three kids. Quite something. So I figured she needed a sketch. She took the photos.

How great to be in a place where you don’t get interrupted by email or texts, they bring me a glass of wine, then, with music in my headphones, I pass the time painting and chatting with nice people – not bad. 

Over the years I flew on Alaska Air more than any other, that could account for why so many of my experiences with flying were positive, they are the best – I have a Million Miler Card to prove it. There were a few years when I was flying mostly to Montana and Oregon, short flights on those wonderful Dash-8 airplanes, honestly one of my favorite planes. But those short flights don’t rack up the miles like Los Angeles or Anchorage. So as I was retiring from seminar speaking I could see that there was a chance I would not hit a Million Miles so I did what many do, I took round trip flights just for the miles.

One such trip was a morning flight to San Antonio, Texas, where I got off the plane, then re-boarded a few minutes later for the trip back to Seattle. 

Air travel has changed thanks to COVID, I wonder what it will be like when things get back to some semblance of normal? What I do know is that as soon as restrictions are lifted I want to be on a plane, off to someplace, most anyplace would be fine these days. For those who are frequent readers of my blog you know my first choice would be France, I hope it comes true soon.

Happy sketching and traveling, even if your only trip these days is a walk around the neighborhood.

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Granny would have loved Google Earth

When I was young I had a book of black and white photographs from around the world. It was about two inches thick, and no more than A5 in size. Granny and I would spend hours sitting on the couch slowly turning the pages, dreaming of places we wished we could see in person. She never saw much more than Portland, Oregon, thankfully I have been to many of the places we once looked at in that picture book. Granny would have loved Google Earth and Street View, without leaving her couch we could have taken virtual journeys all over the world.

Thanks to Street View I have spent time these last couple of weeks exploring Normandy, still fixed on the idea of living there once this Pandemic eases up a bit, of course sketching as I went.

La Thebaudière is near the town of Domfront in Normandy, it is where we would like to begin our time of living in France. These are sketches of old farms in the area.

This part of Normandy is farm country, wonderful pastures along every road.

I thought that Mont Dol was in Normandy, but a kind follower on Instagram corrected my geography, it is in Brittany, the demarcation between Normandy and Brittany has been a source of debate for many years, yet she lives there so I acquiess to her help. Either way, I can’t wait to visit it.

This park and gardens are on our must see list, Lassay-les-chateaux. How can you go wrong with a chateaux, water, and gardens?

Two more farms and buildings in the area – it is a beautiful place. Even more alluring these days when we have renewed our efforts to stay-in and stay-away. But I never give up hope, one day we will wander these narrow roads, sketching and, in Tricia’s case, taking photos. BTW if you have never visited her site and seen her travel photos you should check it out, Travels Through My Lens.

Reminder, my ebook is available from the Shop Page, or at Apple books. It is a collection of tips I have learned over the years, when you get your copy send me an email and I will send you a free copy of my first book, Let it be Hot.

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