Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Cactus

This plant is not a consistent performer, but this year she's rocking it. It's been in bloom for a couple weeks, like it knew we're in the Christmas season. I knew I had to sketch it, but I had to wait until seasonal obligations (shopping, house cleaning, xmas cards, etc.) were done and our house was empty of our holiday guests. Not just any guests. We finally get to see our kids and their families. Sketching is not on the priority list of things to do. Wilma and I need to grab all the face time we can. But as soon as they left I had my sketchbook out and absorbed this beautiful plant. Felt better afterwords, too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Truce

There's been local buzz about the 100 year anniversary of the first Christmas of World War I and the unofficial Christmas Truce that occured.  England and Germany thought the war, which started in 1914, would be over by Christmas. It wasn't, by a long shot. When Christmas did show up, a special moment occurred in parts of the trench lines in eastern France. Both sides of the war worshiped the same God. Kansas City claims title to the National World War I Museum ( Wilma and I took the chance to visit and learn what happened for the truce, specifically, but in general what was World War I all about. This place is top notch! We got there late on Saturday and could only spend two hours before closing time. We just had to drive the 60 miles back the next day to finish the rest and I wanted some sketch time. Ate lunch there, too. The Trench Stew was tasty (carrots, turnips and corn beef). It really was. They modified the recipe a little by also adding potatoes and peas. I can see where meal time would be a welcome time after trudging through muddy tranches all day, dodging artillery shrapnel and bullets. This was an ugly conflict.

My favorite exhibit is there until February 28. The French artist Raymond Fontanet (a.k.a. Renefer) went into the military at age 38 to help defend his country, which was being invaded by Germany. He worked for four years with the Combat Engineering group. Their goal is to plan the battlefield in advance of the battle. Renefer's job was to draw the topology of the pending battlefield so the group could design the communications (run phone lines) and other infrastructure and battle planning. He was then to sketch the war as he experienced it. In addition to his official duties he would sketch for his young daughter to show her what her dad's life is now. The exhibit had no original artwork but did have a multi-banner presentation with reproductions and with translations into English. I admire his ability to describe his environment with his sketches. That's what we do today in this journaling world.

Christmas a'Comin

Wilma had a meeting to attend in Salina, which is a hundred miles west of us, for most of the day. Salina is a nice smaller town (bigger town if you live in a typical central Kansas town) we like to visit. I invited myself along so I could spend time urban sketching. I'm a member of Urban Sketchers Midwest and wanted some urban sketch time. I live in a rural area and Topeka is close but is big enough that it loses some of the small-town urban atmosphere that I like to sketch. Salina still has a neat downtown area. All the storefronts aren't full, but there is still healthy commerce going on. I had a splendid day, one that I couldn't have planned better. Sometimes you just throw yourself out there and sometimes everything clicks. My favorite interchange with the very young daughter of the coffee house owners, who walks around talking to us patrons, most of which I could tell were regulars. She had her tutu on over sweat pants and running shoes. We had a nice chat and shared a cookie (don't worry, the owners were watching to make sure the stranger acted properly).

Sketch Crawl, October '14

Finally got back to a monthly sketch crawl. It's the closest one to me, based out of Excelsior Springs, which is just outside of Kansas City. The October crawl met at the Kansas City River Market. It's located north of downtown not far from the river. I love all the activity here. Some day I need to practice drawing people, because they are what add the energy to this environment. I had an older man set up his portable chair a few yards from me and my portable stool, and he had a book and pen. Figured another sketcher. Nope. When I left I noticed his work. He was composing music on musical staff paper! Never heard of composing music in an open market. Why not?

End of a Dry Spell

Well, I've had a dry spell and I have no good reason. The sketch journal thing just didn't happen. I've noticed some changes in the blogging world, too. Many have gone away. A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast (Pen Addicts, I recommend it if you like fountain pens) and they mentioned the upcoming Fountain Pen Day in November. That started the ball rolling. Had to ink one up and take it to work. I realized how much I miss fountain pens, which got me thinking how much I miss sketch journaling, which got me thinking how much I miss an almost-local sketch crawl, which got me thinking I can control this. It's my choice. So, for now, I'm back in the game. No guarantees, though. But I know I can pull this off if I can just get sketching in my routine again.