Sketchbook – Summer Observations

Here are some quick sketches completed in my new sketchbook over the past couple of months.  We have a local, 23-acre, county park very nearby in which we take many walks.  Even though it is on the corner of two very busy streets, once in the park you forget all that hustle and bustle.  The park is also unique in that the majority of the trails are paved and handicap accessible, complete with braille signs and waist-high gardens.  Other features include a pond, wildflower prairie, a small bamboo forest, and a barn for park programs.


This is a sketch of the old homestead at the nature preserve, and the house now serves as a gift shop.  This is a view of it through the trees near the entrance.


Here is the fire pit area where many programs are held and where naturalists cook maple syrup during Maple Sugar Days each year.  When the kids were small we took many family walks at the park, and because not much was happening at the fire pit on weekday evenings, my kids took the opportunity to use the area as a stage and would perform “shows” for us after our walks.   Note part of the bamboo forest in the upper right corner of this sketch.


We saw this cute little guy hopping around, and this is a female cardinal sitting on her speckled eggs.  We also see deer, turtles, snakes, frogs, many varieties birds, and all the other usual critters that live in this area.


One section of the park is home to numerous sassafras trees, which have an odd twisting characteristic to their trunks.  They really are quite fascinating.  I remember learning about sassafras trees when I was in grade school because a teacher said the leaves look like mittens.


I’m looking forward to the fall weather and watching all the changes take place at the nature preserve, and I’m glad we have such an extraordinary place so close to home.

Car, Ford Galaxie 500, #WorldWatercolorGroup

Today’s #WorldWatercolorGroup prompt is car, and painting this really put me outside my comfort zone.  However, I was pleasantly pleased with the outcome although some car aficionados might disagree, but it was really fun to do.  Thanks to my parents, this was my first official car from back in 1979 – A 1970 Ford Galaxie 500 – with a bench seat, black hardtop, and all the bells and whistles including a AM radio.  I was able to afford gas with my babysitting money and summer job, and eventually I saved enough for an FM converter!  Now that was exciting!

Oh my gosh, again the memories held in this car came rushing back as I was drawing and painting.  I drove it back and forth to school each day, to football games on Friday nights, to haunted houses with my sister, Debbie, and Cindy in the fall, to movies with my best friend Cindy, to shop at Gold Circle, and finally to work when I started cooping in my senior year.  Oh, and gas was around 50 cents a gallon!  If my calculations are correct, the length of the Galaxie measured 3-1/2 feet longer than the Focus my daughter is currently driving, but that is what we were used to.


I felt so cool with that big boat of a car and an FM converter, allowing me to tune into the local pop station and sing at the top of my lungs.  I don’t know why this month’s prompts are taking me down memory lane so often, but I am glad they are.  What was your first car?

Amusement Park Ride, #WorldWatercolorGroup

Growing up near a world-class amusement park, I loved the action of thrill rides, the spray of the water flumes, and the crazy spinning of all the others.  Now when visiting there I opt to relax, see some shows, and appreciate the simplicity of the merry-go-round, or carousel.  While on a cruise this spring, the Boardwalk neighborhood on board the ship had a carousel complete with calliope music, but even more interesting to me were the displays of authentic wooden carousel horses and how they were crafted. The skilled carver started with a large, rectangular chunk of wood on which he drew and then carved the characteristics of each horse.  Once carved, the horse was then sanded, stained, beautifully hand painted, and gilded with gold leaf and sparkling gems.


The left side of this horse is still in the beginning stages of production with artwork sketched onto the wooden block and some carving.  In contrast, the right side shows the carousel horse fully carved and painted in all its glory.  What a work of art! Up until the 1920s most carousel horses were made in this fashion.  After that point most were made of aluminum, fiberglass, or other plastics, and the painting was mostly done by machine because, of course, it was more cost effective.

Luckily, the carousel at our amusement park is indeed one of the few original wooden ones left, and it started spinning in 1926 at Coney Island.  After learning so much about these skillfully crafted beauties, I can’t wait to go the park and really observe and appreciate all that they are.

Camping Equipment, #WorldWatercolorGroup

As Thumper taught us, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”  I’ve camped a few times in my life and enjoyed it most when we rented a camper with running water, a bathroom, and air conditioning.  Some would say this is not true camping.  I’ve also tent camped a couple of times and although we have some good memories of it, it is not my idea of vacation.


In retrospect I think my favorite camping item was a stick on which to roast marshmallows, at which time I gazed into the mesmerizing fire and tried to forget all the extra work that camping brings with cooking and clean up, the far walk to the bathroom (especially with little children in the middle of the night), rustic showers, humid summer temperatures, insects, keeping kids away from the campfire and numerous other dangers, noisy neighbors who stay up until 2:00 a.m. and then the others who wake up at sunrise, etc.  Sorry, Thumper, I’ve failed miserably.  Kudos to those who love the great outdoors and relish getting back to basics, but could you please direct me to the nearest modern cabin at the very least?

Famous Monument, Pearl Harbor, #WorldWatercolorGroup

I wanted to paint a famous monument that I’ve actually visited and right away settled on Pearl Harbor, more specifically the USS Arizona Memorial.  We were fortunate enough to visit there three years ago, and the gravity of the memorials definitely left an impression on my heart.  Sure, I’ve read about the events many times over the years, but to actually visit the exhibits and learn more about the events leading up to and afterward, the attack itself, and the bravery of so many Americans was quite something that is hard to put into words.


I felt the solemnity of the entire area including Remembrance Circle, Contemplation Circle, the anchor, etc., but standing over the hallowed waters of the USS Arizona Memorial took my breath away.  I was awestruck yet sorrowful to see the magnitude of the sunken ship below the memorial and realize the loss of lives.  A rainbow-colored trail of oil still seeps from the wreckage, and the oil sometimes is referred to as “black tears,” as if the ship is weeping for all who were lost.  It is mind-boggling that one of the most scenic, tropical places on earth once met with such chaos, carnage, and loss.  I will never forget the ultimate price paid by so many brave Americans and am grateful to all who have served and continue to serve.  Thank you!

Public Transportation, #WorldWatercolorGroup

Our city’s streetcar system just opened this week, but it has been a topic of a lot of controversy.  OMG, so much mudslinging and grumbling took place about the proposed streetcar:  Is the route too limited?  Where will the city get the money to maintain it?  Will it actually make a beneficial impact and for whom?  These are all valid questions, but it amazes me how adults sometimes can turn into whiny, grouchy human beings when they disagree. The streetcar looked like when first delivered to the city; it has since been painted to the specifications of the sponsor.


I go to the city often enough, usually on weekends for an event or a delicious dinner, but I doubt that I will have much need to ride the streetcar.  However, I can see that it will be beneficial for those who live in the city and have limited access to transportation.  The streetcar goes past some hot spots like Findlay Market, Fountain Square, and The Banks, but only time will tell whether or not it will be successful.  Either way, I have a feeling more whining complaints are going to be heard over the next few weeks until things settle into place.  I plan to ride it at some point just to check it out, and once all the kinks are worked out I hope it becomes a useful mode of transportation to many now that it has actually been completed.

Train, #WorldWatercolorGroup

Yes, two posts in one day!  This is a first for me, but I wanted to contribute to Draw A Bird Day as well as participate in the #WorldWatercolorGroup prompt, which is train.  I decided to go the fabric route rather than the locomotive route.  Also, I’ve been on a kick with my Derwent Inktense pencils which hopefully qualify as watercolor since water is needed to activate them. Evidently the longer the train on a wedding dress, the more formal the wedding, which would explain why Princess Diana’s wedding dress train was so long.  Our local museum had her dress, tiara, wedding accessories, etc. on display last year or so, and I was thrilled to see these items in person.  Such beautiful craftsmanship and exquisite attention to detail!


My bride’s dress appears to be a semi-formal length.  This is my first time to draw fabric and a person as a subject, as a matter of fact, and although it is not perfect I thought it was fun.  Lastly, here is a fun fact – While researching bridal trains, I read on the Internet about a bride who had a train that was almost 2-miles long, and she went up in a hot air balloon with the ridiculous train flowing behind her.  If it’s on the internet it must be true, right?