6.00am on Tuesday 18th July, the first leg of THE BIG ROAD TRIP - otherwise known as "Katherine, Katherine, Gordon and Louise go to Albuquerque" - got underway. We were off to the annual convention and exhibition of the Coloured Pencil Society of America which none of us had attended before. The road trip was an added extra.......
Louise is a grandmother who owns and rides two Harley Davidson motorbikes, teaches people how to drive and operate very expensive machines of a rather different nature and is a lifelong artist and fellow art supplies addict. She's got more than me - she could open her own store! Louise is Driver in Charge and Chief Navigator for this trip - and insisted we all get up at 5.00am so that we could do as many miles of travelling through the desert as possible while it was still relatively cool.
In her very busy life in Maine Katherine Ellis manages to fit in being an award winning artist who works in coloured pencil. She produces stunning still lifes of food and shiny reflective objects - particularly ones with old advertising slogans and wonderfully life like dog portraits - which keep winning prizes. Check out "Not Begging. Much" on the main page of her portrait gallery to see what I mean.
Gordon, her husband, is 'in TV' and raises large sums for money for charity on a regular basis with various activities in his home town in Maine. Let's put it this way, the local police now provide directions to the venue of his Haunted House at Halloween production which people travel miles to see. He plays Brad Pitt in this road trip saga - except in this instance he has to sweet talk three middle aged women of strong character for four days. That's when he's not 'the man in charge of the satellite radio thing' or 'the man with his own well in a desert'. By the end he was 'the man who survived four days in a car with us'! Which I guess makes him a man of great diplomacy and infinite patience. Anyway, so far as my sketchbook was concerned, having a beard makes him interesting to draw so he pops up in a few sketches.......including the one at the top of this post which was done during breakfast in Yuma.
Back to the beginning - after we filled up at Starbucks with the essentials - including my small tray of cheese and fruit(!) Gordon opened the maps, I opened the guidebook and Louise guided us on to Interstate 8 and we headed for the deserts and Arizona. That's right - plural - we needed to travel through two deserts, the Anza-Borrego and Sonoran deserts. At this point I was going to include a link to the route from Google Maps but as it's crashed my computer three times so far I've had another think about that idea.
Our first stop and my first sketch was over breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Yuma, just over the border in Arizona. I still hadn't quite got to grips with what the items on the menu (click for larger version) actually meant and this is what arrived.......... It was a mistake and I learned my lesson!
Looking back now, I've noticed that what is interesting about a number of the sketches on the trip is that, as in San Clemente, sketching has to be done while doing other things - there's usually no time to stop to sketch. Also, the speed means that decisions about 'what to do' have to be made very fast - and I found that this helped to produce some interesting decisions about focus and composition which I probably wouldn't have done if I'd had more time to think. No bad thing methinks! ;) The main sketch done at breakfast is an example of this. It was done in pen and sepia ink on a double page spread in my large Moleskine sketchbook while waiting for and then eating breakfast. Coloured pencil was then added afterwards while I still had a clear visual memory about colours in my head. The repetition of motif was entirely unconscious.
As I got back to the car the coloured pencils pencil cases (warms and cools) came out of the trunk/boot and made their way to the foot well. I had decided to try and sketch on the move.............
Addendum: I was hugely impressed with some hot pink cacti located right outside the Cracker Barrel. See also X is for Xerophytes at Yuma