Friday, October 27, 2006

Saturday 23rd September: The Farnsworth, the Wyeths and the rain

"Red Head Yard Dog - in good company"
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Well I know what the title says but the only sketches I've got for Saturday are ones of the insides of restaurants! My trip to Rockland, Maine with Gordon and Kathy to visit the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Wyeth Centre involved an awful lot of rain - I had hoped to be able to see something of Penobscot Bay, but the weather was simply awful.

The way in which is rained would have been unbelievable, if I hadn't experienced exactly the same thing the previous Tuesday afternoon coming back from Vermont! What is it about rain in New England - anybody know the answer? It was a complete deluge of the variety which makes roads like rivers and renders headlights absolutely essential.

We stopped for lunch at the Beale Street Barbeque Restaurant in Bath - a little bit of Memphis in Maine! I really enjoyed doing both sketches - especially since it struck me that there was a little bit of a sense of "the ages of man" about them when I looked at them again later! The couple in the Beale Street Barbeque seemed a little incongruous - although having said that they're probably regulars! Very tasty and reasonably priced lunch as well!

Beale Street Barbeque Lunch
pen and sepia ink in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We found "In Good Company" (see top image) a wine bar /restaurant just a little way down the street from the main entrance to the Farnsworth Museum Shop (details in the travel guide links below). It has a nice atmosphere and good food . Kathy and I enjoyed a bottle of "Red Head Yard Dog" after the visit to the museum - being another one of my dog-loving friends it seemed appropriate!

OK - now for the art! Although the Wyeths lived in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania, their summer home was in Maine. For those not familiar with the Wyeths, there are some links below. There are three Wyeths of note:
  • NC Wyeth - the grandfather and an artist who produced many illustrations for both books and journals - including Treasure Island and Robin Hood - which are very familiar to many older Americans.
  • Andrew Wyeth - is a representational who has sometimes been referred to as "Painter of the People". He typically works in tempera and watercolour with extensive use of drybrush work and not a lot of use of colour. His palette tends to be on the sombre side. Wyeth has painted a number of iconic images of the people and places in the areas in which he has lived such as "Christina's World" (which is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The house in the picture is called the Olsen House is near the Museum and was one in which Wyeth stayed.
  • Jamie Wyeth - is the third generation of this family of popular American painters and is a contemporary realist painter.
A final note: The Farnsworth is a splendid art museum but I think it probably has some of the most officious security people I have ever come across in visiting art museums in very many countries. I gather I'm not alone in thinking that - enough said.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Friday 22nd September: Pemaquid Point Light - from top to bottom

Pemaquid Point Light... is the delight of artists, photographers, and tourists. Pemaquid Point itself entrances both land and water visitors by the fascinating northwest-southeast varied veins of rock formation that look for all the world as if great giants had 'pulled taffy' while the rocks were in a molten condition." Malcolm F. Willoughby, The Boothbay Register, 1962

Bottom Up (Pemaquid Light, Maine)
8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I woke on the Friday morning with an absolutely stinking head cold - but the day was saved by the owner of the B&B I was staying in (of which more in a subsequent post) producing something which cleared it up immediately! I was amazed and subsequently bought supplies to bring back with me for the next bad head cold!

So - I started out later than anticipated and then had to get back earlier than the previous day as my friend Kathy was returning from her conference that afternoon. So naturally I decided the best course of action was to go on a very long trip up the coast - the obvious thing to do really!!! Actually it wasn't so silly, as by the time I got to Pemaquid Point the head cold had more or less cleared up and I was feeling a lot more like sketching. That and the fact that it was a day with sunshine and brilliant blue skies and I had appropriate clothing for sitting on the rocks doing sketches.

The reason I made the long trip was to see the geological formation of igneous and metamorphic rocks at Pemaquid Point - which is rather stunning. Basically about 420-430 million years ago, the muddy sand and silt layers at the bottom of the ocean turned into sedimentary rock. This was subsequently transformed, about 360-415 million years ago, into metamorphic rocks when it experienced extreme heat caused by a geologically active mountain system (under the ocean). Subsequently magma from volcanic activity deep under the earth forced its ways though cracks in these metamorphic rocks. Then at some point the rock was tilted over and forced to the surface where it is now exposed - and eroded by the sea. So what can be seen now are all the edges of the layers of the greyish sediments - which were changed into small crystal rocks - alongside the harder bigger crystal rocks, which are light in colour.

This is where I sat to draw the lighthouse. I sat on one of the ledges on the rock platform with the waves crashing on to the rocks behind me. I kept one eye on the lighthouse and positioned the other in the back of my head watching the waves!

When I first started it was very difficult to see what I was sketching because of what appeared to be a boatload of visitors. However they all gradually disappeared and the scene became clear. When that sort of thing happens I just sketch what I can see until I can see better. It's no big deal.

This is the first stage of the sketch - I'd got the pencil drawing down.

As I began to add colour it I began to get worried about how close the waves were getting and then noticed that all the visitors had disappeared. Then the spray started to get rather more obvious and so I completed it sitting rather nearer the subject.

The final version of the sketch of the lighthouse from down on the rock ledge is at the top - and a subsequent drawing was developed which is posted on my main blog here.

Top Down (Pemaquid Point, Maine)
8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
I then sat at the top just beneath the lighthouse, looking back to where I had been sitting on the rock ledge and sketched the waves crashing on the rocks. This was a lot more difficult than it sounds as the tide was coming in and the sea was boiling with very little that was consistent or rhythmic about those waves. I did however get to add in some seagulls who posed nicely for me on top of the ridge of pegmatite which I was sat upon. The plant in the foreground is a beach rose (rosa rugosa).

I viewed the exhibition by the Pemaquid Group of Artists at the Pemaquid Art Gallery in the Lighthouse Park - they were celebrating their 78th year!

I drove home - having forgotten to organise or eat lunch (such is my dedication to sketching!!!) and snacked until I went out for a very pleasant meal with friends Kathy and Gordon that evening. We relived in part some of the events and incidents of our trip out west in July - see Travels with a Sketchbook in the southwestern states of the USA.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thursday 21st September: "In the footsteps of Winslow Homer - nearly"

Massacre Pond, Prout's Neck, Maine (21. 9. 06)
10" x 8", pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This was a big sketching day - with three sketches done during the course of the day on top of a fair bit of travelling around.

Prior to coming to Maine I had decided that I wanted to try and sketch at Prout's Neck as this was where Winslow Homer used to have a house and where he often drew and painted seascapes. (This is a link to an example). Well that was the idea - easier said than done! I have a rant about the problems I encountered in the next paragraph which I would skip if you're not interested or have heard it all before!

I really do appreciate how difficult it must be living in places which get swamped by tourists in the summer months - but I don't think I've ever been anywhere in the world that is so restrictive on parking as New England. In the UK we have the National Trust and where you have areas of outstanding natural beauty or historical importance, the land/properties are bought by or bequeathed to the National Trust and it's then possible for everybody to get to see them - not just those who live there. Appropriate arrangements are made so that people can park - but in ways which are not too intrusive. Having timed my holiday so that I would be travelling outside the peak season I wasn't expecting a lot of problems - but I actually had difficulty parking in most places. The worst by far was Prout's Neck (hence this rant) which had a locked barrier across the car park when I arrived and a lot of road saying no parking at anytime. In the end I parked just off the road and hoped that I'd understood the local parking laws correctly! I was then faced with a a causeway and a very high barrier designed to restrict entry to the beach - which looked like it was designed to keep everybody out except those with passes! Except there was nobody around to buy a pass from or to open the car park gate!!!%&*^!!!

The sketch at the top of the page is of Massacre Pond at Prouts Neck. This is a former salt lagoon which is now a freshwater pond and is located either side of the causeway out to Scarborough Beach. It gets its name due to two separate attacks by local Indians on settlers in the area in 1677 and 1703.

Unfortunately for the entire time I was doing this sketch I kept thinking that my nose was being assaulted by a bad smell - but this was the best viewpoint by far - so I decided to suffer for the art and resolved to pack a noseclip next time! In retrospect I think I might have found a favourite point for dog walkers who couldn't get as far as the beach - sat as I was just short of the great big barrier to the beach.

I loved the colours of this pond and the foliage. It was a brilliant day in terms of a cloudless blue sky and all the colours were looking very strident and as if they were begging for a colourist to come along and get the oils and the easel out! This one is very definitely getting done as a larger work.

I finally managed to suss out how to get access to the beach and the next sketch is of Scarborough Beach on the eastern seashore of Prout's Neck - just beyond Massacre Pond and looking towards the area where Winslow Homer has his house. I had one of those "[insert artist's name] walked here and sketched her and painted here" moments. I try to manage at least one of those on each holiday - it always makes you stop and look again at the landscape with a fresh eye! ;)

What I was amazed about was that there was absolutely no indication anywhere on Prout's Neck that one of the most well known American artists both lived and painted in this area. Such a complete contrast for example to the way the French treat prominent artists who have painted in their country - go to St Remy in Provence and you can follow a walk which leads you to all the spots where Van Gogh painted famous paintings when he stayed in the asylum there.

Scarborough Beach, Prout's Neck, Maine
8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I got some great photos of the surfers enjoying the surf. Drawing wet sand and surf is never easy and while the colours are pretty much OK the perspective drawing could be better.

Lake Sebago, Maine
8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell


The last sketch if of Lake Sebago - the deepest and second largest lake in the Maine and which is the prime water supply for Portland and surrounding areas. Difficult to know what to do with this as a subject as flat huge expanses of water are not something I often want to do unless they have interesting patterns or colours on them - which this one didn't. But the clouds did!

In the evening Gordon (of "Gordon drives Dome Valley with the boss" fame) showed me the sights of Portland and we had dinner at a very nice restaurant whose name I forgot to note down! [I'll update when I've got the data refresh done - otherwise known as contacting Kathy!]


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Monday, October 23, 2006

Wednesday 20th September: A friendly warning from the local police!

Sawyer Crossing / Cresson Bridge, Swanzey 20.9.06 midday
8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

On the Tuesday evening, after drawing art cards of apples on Monday night, Nicole and I then drew pears. An account of the fascinating experience of drawing the same subject next to one another on the same support - with different results - is set out in New Hampshire Pears on my other blog.

Then on Wednesday morning, after a good look round the delights of Keene with Nicole and Lizzie (and a visit to yet another art shop which unfortunately is closing down its art materials section) I left Keene to drive to the coast of Maine.

However I decided that before I left New Hampshire that I should try and visit at least one of the covered bridges in the area. There's a whole bunch of them just south of Keene round about the Swanzey area.

Sawyer Crossing or Cresson Covered Bridge in Swanzey was built in 1859 or so it says on the sign on the entrance to the bridge. According to the New Hampshire Covered Bridges website the 1859 covered bridge in fact replaced the original bridge built in 1771 and is situated near the site of an old Indian community.

This is what Cresson Bridge looks like from the side. People started to cover bridges to protect truss work and planking from harsh weather in the early nineteenth century. Most bridges were built by local people and consequently had design features local to that area. You can find out more about covered bridges and covered bridge societies in the north east of the USA/New England on the Covered bridge website and the National Society for the Preservation of Bridges.

Now for the story behind the title for this post! I parked my car in a small car park off to the left of the bridge and then did my usual "walk around / look at a subject from every angle / decide what is the best composition" study prior to starting the sketch. I finally settled on a head on shot which gave me good contrast between the darkness inside the covered area and the light on the far side - plus a few sightlines to help the eye travel through the picture. This was possible because the road bent round just before the bridge and had a stop line (so cars could check whether anything was coming through the bridge before proceeding) and I could sit on the grass at the side of the road next to the stop line. Very few cars passed so I felt very safe.

Part way through the sketch another car pulled up in the car park, a lot of teenage boys got out, pulled up the hood (I'm really getting into the 'local' language!) and started playing music very loudly - which, as you can imagine, I was just ecstatic about given my nice peaceful spot. When I realised that they were playing some very aggressive rap music - which made nasty comments about women - I started to get quite concerned but stayed sitting where I was. Then a car zoomed through the bridge very fast with one of those "I've got a bigger more powerful engine than you have" noises. So parked car packed up very fast and I then had 5-10 minutes of cars driven by youngsters zooming through the bridge backwards and forwards very fast. Well I was nearly finished and there was no way I was moving - so I continued to sit there.

Five minutes later - just as I was finishing a police car pulled up. I guess one of the houses in the neighbourhood had alerted them to the silly and noisy antics of the juveniles and they were checking it out. A policeman hung out the window and said "Nice drawing - but it's not very safe sitting where you are" (which I guessed referred to the antics of the boy racers). I think I told him that I kept an eye on cars coming towards me and just stared straight at the face of any driver going too fast!

On the drive across to Maine (Route 101 then I-95), I stopped to take a few photos of trees which were on the turn. These were taken from the side Route 101 across Dublin Pond with Mount Monadnock in the background. The latter is reputedly one of the most climbed mountains in the USA - or the world depending on the perspective of the website author!

I wish I could remember what was the name of the small store I stopped at to pick up some lunch - it had great sandwiches and some really 'knock your socks off' wasabi peas - which I decided that, along with yoghurt covered cranberries, were my "snack of choice" for munching on long drives in New England. I don't suppose they did anything for my waistline though!

Links:
  • Sawyer or Cresson Covered Bridge, Swanzey, New Hampshire
  • New Hampshire Covered Bridges
  • Covered Bridges of the Northeast USA
  • National Society for the Preservation of Bridges
  • Mount Monadnock State Park

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    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Tuesday 19th September: The grass is greener in Vermont

    Bert Dodson in Vermont
    8" x 10" pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    What's the ultimate challenge? Well my personal artistic 'top ten' has probably got to include doing a quick sketch over lunch of the man who wrote one of the best selling books about drawing - and then trying to colour it afterwards purely from memory!

    My sketch is of Bert Dodson, the author of "Keys to Drawing". This book, published by North Light Books, is on the shelves of many people keen on learning how to improve their drawing. It's certainly sat on my shelves for nearly 20 years ever since I was able to find time for art again after I finally came to the end of my long haul through post grad qualifications/degrees.

    When I planned the trip to New England I had no idea that Bert lived in Vermont within a 'day trip' driving distance of Nicole. I knew he had a new book coming out as we had corresponded off and on. Anyway, he emerged from under all the page proofs at last and we suddenly realised that there was scope for me to visit and see his studio and for him to learn more about blogging - which he was interested in.

    So on the Tuesday morning I set off for his studio in Vermont.

    Bert with some of the page proofs of the new book - "Keys to Drawing and Imagination"
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    Bert is lovely man and he's a lot more smiley than my sketch indicates - the photo is a much better image of Bert.

    It was huge privilege to be able to see inside Bert's large studio on the third floor of a local community building. It was filled with images - drawings for different clients from children's books to the Metropolitan Opera House, postcards of images he liked pinned close together; large portraits hung on the upper parts of the walls of this high ceilinged room and current work covered his drawing tables and working space. I tried hard not to look too closely at the very many books on art that he had otherwise I'd have been dying to look at them all!

    His main studio was however dominated by several large screens on which were pinned all the page proofs of his latest book which is about drawing and imagination. (Keys to Drawing With Imagination ). Bert told me that he emptied his sketchbooks into this new book and that it contains over 500 drawings by Bert and another 100 by other people including R Crumb and Maya Lin. Having seen the page proofs I know that the emphasis is very much on the visual communication of alternative options for stimulating imagination and the creative process. I also read little bits of the text and this seemed very succinct. I can hardly wait to see the real thing and be able to read it all through from beginning to end.

    We walked his dogs before and after lunch and talked about the nature of the drawing process - how very often the issue is less about having a great idea and more about getting something down on paper and letting a drawing evolve from there. We talked about creativity and producing publications in a wider sense, he talked about how a book gets created and I shared my information about how a blog is created and shared with others. And we both pondered on the different ways information is shared and what really makes a difference. Bert has me tagged as maybe a 'connector' and probably a maven. Hence I read "The Tipping Point" for the first time on the flight back home and I think he might just be right on that one!

    We also talked about how being part of a non-'work' peer group can be really helpful to both creative and critical processes. After I quoted from another one of my art heroes - Charles Reid - on the subject of the 'big blur' and how that carries over from painting into drawing, Bert showed me a photo of the group he used to paint with when he was younger. It turned out to include a couple of other well known names one of whom just happened to be Charles Reid! So nice to have it confirmed yet again that the people I like also like the people I like!

    And the title for this post? Well - Vermont was very green - very few trees had changed colour, which I have to confess was a bit of a disappointment for me. We walked over some very green grass while walking the dogs. And quite a lot of people have made Vermont their home because of the quality of life it can offer. And it rained so much on the way home (we're 'New England' rain here - which is heavy!), it made me think there might just be another reason why the grass is greener in Vermont!

    But it also brought home, in a very real way, how great it is to be an artist and illustrator who can live in a wonderful place and produce work for organisations and publications located many miles away. Small pause for thought...............

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    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Monday 18th September: Apple orchards, maples and a chocolatier

    Burdicks, Walpole 18.09.06. 1.45pm
    8" x 10" pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in Moleskine notebook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell


    On Monday morning I crossed the border into New Hampshire to visit with Nicole Caulfield who lives on the outskirts of Keene with her husband Mike and their delightful daughters Katie and Lizzie. Nicole is a fellow founder member of Fine Line Artists. and we have been corresponding for over two years although we only met for the first time in Albuquerque in July this year when we went to the CPSA Annual Convention - and saw one of her works "Diner Reflections" in the annual exhibition.

    Keene is probably most famous for being the home of the record for the most pumpkin Jack-o-Lanterns in one place (ie 28, 952 - the next record-breaking attempt is Saturday 21st October!

    The morning was sunny and Nicole drove Lizzie and I north to a hill high above the wide Connecticut River that runs north/south and forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont. The hill was home to an extensive apple orchard with many different varieties of apples I'd never heard of before. Needless to say we picked apples!

    We then went to Walpole, a perfectly delightful rural town dating back to 1736, which is home to the Burdick Chocolate Shop and cafe. We had lunch in the cafe (see the menu!) or rather Nicole and I had lunch and Lizzie toyed with various offerings but was very well behaved for a 3 year old!

    The sketch at the top of the page is of the interior of the cafe and was done from our table. The floral centrepiece included some amazing colours purple / crimson / orange and lime green! There were lots of really interesting coloured reflections going on - however I had to colour this one after the visit due to the need for us to be back in time for Katie getting in from school. To my right of where we sat were the doors through to the chocolate shop which we visited afterwards - primarily so all my very kind hostesses could have a token of my appreciation! I did get to try one or two later and I have to say they were really scrummy!

    New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the USA after Maine. When we got home I had another go at trying to workout how one does sketches of extremely tall trees in back gardens - in this case Swamp Maples. which were just beginning to turn. Lizzie entertained me with her toy teaset while I scribbled away at my plein air sketch in a somewhat 'impressionist' style - all I can say is Louise has been showing me too many images of works by Wolf Kahn !

    Back garden, Keene 18.09.06. 6pm
    10" x 8" pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    In the evening Nicole and I both had a go at doing an art card from the apples we had picked earlier in the day. Nicole has started doing art cards and smaller works as a way of making her work more affordable for new collectors - and they're selling well!

    I was particularly interested to try out the properties of the Grafix drafting film which Nicole uses and am now of the opinion that this is the nicest of all the types I've tried to date. I produced two art cards but can now only find one - which is on the left. It is in fact slightly larger than the required 3.5" x 2.5" of an art card.

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    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Sunday 17th September: Rocky Neck and Rockport, Massachusetts

    The tree without a name
    9" x 12", coloured pencil on Saunders Waterford HP
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    This is the first time I've had both blogs with the same image - but I rather like this one!

    On Sunday, I had another bright and sunny day and took a trip across to Cape Ann which is a peninusula north of Boston - and just north of Marblehead. It's home to:
    • Rockport - a seacoast village with a harbour which is home to the world famous Motif No 1 painted by many artists over the years and reputed to be the most painted subject in North America and
    • Rocky Neck which is said to have the oldest working art colony in North America at 200 years old
    Rocky Neck is an on the periphery of Gloucester and was to all intents and purposes closed - at least for for lunch - although most of the galleries seemed to be open or planning on opening. I was rather disappointed as I hadn't brought anything for lunch. Luckily I caught the tail end of Sailor Stan's breakfast where I sketched the enormous sunflower growing in front of this cafe (left)

    There's a good car park (not too busy in the morning) between the main bit of the Cape and the little peninsula called Rocky Neck. After my brunch I walked back to the car park and then crossed the road and also did a sketch looking out east across the bay (below). The sun was hidden by a haze at this point and it was one of those times where you end up looking for the colours in an awful lot of very muted areas within the subject!

    Rocky Neck, look east
    8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    The town of Rockport and its harbour area were incredibly busy later in the afternoon and parking was very difficult so I had to head a little way out of town along the coast to the adjacent bay just north of the main centre of Rockport and its harbour area. There was a great beach, parking spaces and - joy of joys "facilities" - always a godsend to the middleaged female artist who loses time and thinks they have no need of "facilities" until they get up for the last time and pack up at which point the bladder lets you know exactly what needs to happen next! I've learned to suss out where the 'facilities' are before I sit down!

    This is the set up just before I packed up - all the sunbathers had gone home and it was about 5pm.

    This is the lighter weight sketching kit - folding chair; backpack with the two pencil cases - warms and cools and pens and pencils and battery powered sharpener plus sketchbook, block of Saunders waterford and camera.

    The sketch (click for a larger image) is how far I got while sketching plein air. I focused on catching the colours I needed to remind me of what was there. Accuracy as to shapes was of less importance. I also tried to give some sort of sense of relative vales - but didn't try to complete the value range in the time. What I got done was enough for me to be able to complete it at home. I got a lot of compliments from the locals passing by, one of whom commented that his son has tried painting the tree three times - and he thought mine was very nice! All were, as usual, mightily intrigued by the coloured pencils and what could be done with them.

    The image at the top of the post is the worked up version of my plein air sketch which has been built up on top of the original sketch.

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    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Saturday 16th September: A visit to an art store and Walden Pond

    Late Friday afternoon I drove back from Cape Cod to my cousin's and it rained all the way. By the time I got back I was so tired from the work done at the workshop coupled with the drive that I decided to abandon my original plan of going to New York for the Pastel Society exhibition on the Saturday. This also meant I did not have to get up at the crack of dawn and sit on trains for a long time in order to get there and back and have more than a couple of hours in New York! In any case Saturday morning brought a brilliant sunny day and it was far too nice to be inside for too long.

    I spent breakfast time and early morning eyeing up the trees at the rear of my cousin's house with a sketchbook and a camera and trying to work out how to sketch/draw/paint them - but didn't get very far.

    I also wanted to visit :
    Walden Pond is credited with being one of the birthplaces of environmentalism and the conservation movement. It's is a good example of a kettle hole and was formed by retreating glaciers 10,000-12,000 years ago. Henry David Thoreau made the pond famous by living by the side of it for a year and writing his book "Walden" about the experience. The area is now managed by the commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Walden Woods Project was set up to avoid the area round the pond from being developed.

    The Charette art store is great and has a very comprehensive range of fine art and graphic art products. This was the first time I'd been in art store in America on my own and I took full advantage of the opportunity for a very leisurely mooch round. I now know what lots of things are that people refer to and which we can't get at home in the UK like Gator board (and I want some!) I am still knocked for six every time I go into an American art supply store as they are just so much better than the ones at home. Thanks to Cindy Brunk for the suggestion that I try Charettes. Details of how to get to the store are in the hyperlink.

    I was able to test drive and purchase the StudioPak from ArtBin which takes all my boxes of Unison Pastels perfectly - and a few other essentials. (I can't find it in the Charette catalogue so the link is from Dick Blicks).

    I was then able to test drive it in the field a little later when I trecked round the edge of Walden Pond to find a point to try a pastel painting from. I carried my very well travelled folding chair; a sheet of foam core with some full sheets of Sennelier Pastel Carte; the new Artbin Studio pak with all the pastels in and my normal backpack which was stripped down to bare essentials. I think that once I get used to the Studio Pak I'll be able to operate with just that - but I was still finding out how much I could get in it. Moving up and down slopes on paths which weren't terribly well formed was somewhat hair-raising for somebody with feet as dreadful as mine! The major issue which arose from the Walden Pond expedition though was the number of bites I collected. I really should have known better given that i was sitting in woods near to water. I had several very large lumps for days afterwards!

    The pastel was not great - in fact it's pretty awful, is still very much a WIP and will either need a lot more work or will have to be redone. However, I was fortunate to have three people who sat right in front of me - or rather they sat first and then I realised they had the only decent view through the trees and I needed to sit there too. So I sat behind them - and sketched their shapes as I knew they'd disappear in 5 minutes. The sketch is open on my backpack for reference while I worked on the larger work.

    Watching Walden Pond - a work in progress
    19.5" x 25.5", Pastel
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell
    Walden is blue at one time and green at another, even from the same point of view. Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the color of both. Viewed from a hilltop it reflects the color of the sky; but near at hand it is of a yellowish tint next the shore where you can see the sand, then a light green, which gradually deepens to a uniform dark green in the body of the pond. In some lights, viewed even from a hilltop, it is of a vivid green next the shore. Some have referred this to the reflection of the verdure; but it is equally green there against the railroad sandbank, and in the spring, before the leaves are expanded, and it may be simply the result of the prevailing blue mixed with the yellow of the sand. Such is the color of its iris. (Henry David Thoreau - "Walden")
    [Note: Whoops - had to republish as I got the date wrong. Only first I noticed the month was wrong - and it took another hour before I noticed the day was wrong too!]

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    w/c 11th September: More sketching at mealtimes

    The View at Breakfast 13th and 14th September 8am
    pen and black ink and coloured pencils
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    I really like sketching when I'm sat at a table waiting to order or for the food to arrive or when I'm inbetween courses - or even while I'm actually eating!

    However, the latter is reserved for when I'm on my own - such as at breakfast at the place where I was staying in Chatham. It had beautiful gardens which could be seen from the window of where I sat for breakfast. I did the pen and ink drawing the Wednesday morning and then used the coloured pencils on the Thursday morning. I really messed around with this one and used lots of different colours to try and get the effect of the foliage which was looking post summer if not quite autumn.

    Dinner at Squires, Chatham 12.09.06. 9.30pm

    On the Tuesday evening, Sally did a slideshow presentation for the workshop people and members of the Cape Cod Pastel Society - which was very well received - but it did mean that we eat late. This pen and ink drawing of the sketch at Squires - a very popular eating place in Chatham - was done inbetween ordering and the meal turning up. The waitress was very impressed! Being with other people (Hi Colleen and Jeanne!) means that you really do need to be speedy while sketching. However, it great when you're eating with a couple of other people (or more) as that means they have somebody to talk to while I'm sketching!

    The big thing about sketching while you're eating is that you can get lots of practice at drawing people in natural situations and you have no time for detail because:
    • you can't see it
    • you don't need it
    • and, most important of all, you don't have time. The chances are they'll get up and walk away before you've finished - but this does help to practice holding images in your memory!
    I go for the big shapes and values (always remembering Charles Reid and his 'big blur') and then work backwards towards more subtle changes in shape, vale and colour and get down what I can while I can - and don't worry about the rest!

    The weather on Cape Cod became dull and then rainy in the latter half of the week and I was really glad I'd made the effort get out sketching on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. In the next post I'm back in Massachusetts

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    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    w/c 11th September - More Cape Cod seashore

    "Kite Surfer at Chatham Light" 11.09.06. 6pm
    8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    The pastel workshop finished at 4pm each day. So, if I got my stuff packed up and stowed away reasonably quickly (which as many pastels artists will know is easier said than done!) I could get out in the late afternoon and early evening to sketch in the surrounding area.

    The workshop was based in Chatham, so the first evening I went to see Chatham Light and its beach. (warning - parking is very difficult). The lighthouse was a bit too close to sketch easily - but looking out to sea I could see some people in the water. It turned out that they were kite surfing - using the kite as their sail and periodically taking off about 20-30 feet in the air. I'd never seen kite surfing before but it looked far more exciting that traditional surfing or even kite flying - even if the kite surfer I watched only managed to land and continue surfing in about 1 in 3 take-offs. The bit where he took off though was absolutely spectacular. I even managed to get a photo of a kite surfer in mid air which I was pleased about.

    The evening light on the beach area was also pretty spectacular, so after some initial efforts at sketching kite flyers quickly (not easy!) I decided to combine the two - and waited until the next take-off in the area on the sketch to get the approximate scale of the kite surfer and the way the kite billowed. This was a very fast sketch as it was early evening by then and not warm when sat out of the sun - as I was.

    The Jetty 12.09.06. 5.15pm
    8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencils
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    The following day I sketched in an area north of Chatham near where I was staying at Pleasant Bay. The sky was brilliant blue and was having a tremendous impact on the colour of the water. For those not familiar with Cape Cod, both sketches show places which look like ponds and, in fact, in the case of the latter was actually called a pond however the water in both sketches is actually the Atlantic Ocean. I'm assuming that maybe Crow's Pond has actually lost land due to coastal erosion on the seaward side and was maybe an inland pond at one point.

    There are cetainly a lot of ponds all over Cape Cod which excellent subjects for artwork. However, getting anywhere near them with a car is another matter - even out of season! I parked by the side of the road for the Crows Pond view. The road was just above one of the holes on the local golf course and the bit where they stand to drive was just to the right. I think I saw a golf ball whistling past about 20 feet in front of me!

    Crows Pond 12.09.06. 6pm
    pen and black ink and coloured pencils
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    Link:

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    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Sunday 10th September: Cape Cod National Seashore

    The Path to Nauset Beach 10.09.06. 5.50pm
    8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    Sunday morning I drove 130 miles down the 495 to Chatham on Cape Cod where the Sally Strand Pastel Workshop was to be held, starting on Monday.

    Driving in a new place is quite exciting but can sometimes be very slow. Once over the bridge to Cape Cod, I drove south to Hyannis and tried to drive along what looked like a coast road but wasn't. It was also more touristy than I was expecting and when I turned nearer the coast I found out very quickly just how easy it is to get mixed up and lost on Cape Cod. There are endless small roads that twist and turn and I was very glad I'd borrowed my cousin's map of the Cape Cod area as I'd have been well and truly driving round in circles for hours without it! And I'm used to roads that aren't on a grid systems and don't go in a straight line!

    Once I'd got to where I was staying in North Chatham and unloaded my 'stuff' I drove north up the Cape - to the Lower Cape (which is furthest from the bridges even if it's further north on the maps) through Orleans and Eastham (stopping to take a quick look at the outside art exhibition) to visit some of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
    "A man may stand there and put all America behind him."
    Henry David Thoreau
    I'd bought Thoreau's Cape Cod the previous day at the Concord Museum and on Sunday evening after my visit to the foreshore read about The Nauset Plains and The Beach.

    On early Sunday evening, the sea was looking an incredible navy blue colour and I wondered whether this was anything to do with Hurricane Ernesto which had been winding down and moving north the previous week. Nauset Beach has suffered very badly from coastal erosion in the past particularly after heavy seas associated with hurricanes. According to the website of the Nauset Light Preservation Society.....
    "...the average natural erosion rate on the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Cod had been 3.8 feet a year. However, in the area of Nauset Light, the average for the period 1987-1994 has accelerated to 5.8 feet. There may be little or no erosion in some years, and more than fifteen feet in other years."
    In fact, the Nauset Light (see sketch below) has had to be rescued and moved 300 feet further inland to avoid it falling into the sea. The shoreline and glacial scarp cliff reminded me a lot of the area around Dunwich in Suffolk which is one of favourite places in the UK. The old town of Dunwich fell into the sea due to coastal erosion - and only a few cottages and a pub remain.

    Nauset Light , Cape Cod (10.09.06. 6.40pm)
    8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    Prior to the above sketch I had sketched the boardwalk path down to the lookout platform and wooden steps down to Nauset Beach (see top). The early evening light was giving a marvellous colour to the grasses and beach roses and the shadow of the fence was making interesting coloured patterns on the path and in the grasses. This one is definitely going to be developed into a more finished work - possibly in pastel.

    That evening I sketched during dinner at the Academy Ocean Grill in Orleans. The main course was well prepared and very nice but the chap preparing the dessert 'special' went overboard with the gelatine and it was inedible! And so I retired to bed to get my kit sorted for the workshop starting in the morning and to read Thoreau!

    The Academy Ocean Grill, Orleans (10.9.06. 9pm)
    8" x10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in a Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright Katherine Tyrrell
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    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Saturday 9th September: Concord and Caulfield

    I'd formally allocated Saturday as being my rest day for recovering from the journey - but there again it was also my friend Nicole Caulfield's birthday. Fellow Fine Line Artist Nicole lives in New Hampshire and she was kindly offering me hospitality during this trip.

    We decided the best compromise was that she should have a 'day off' from being a young Mum and would drive down to where I was and then we'd then 'do something'. Which is how we came to visit Concord. I don't tend to sketch much on the first day - so this post is mainly photos in and around Concord.

    I found Concord to be an amazing centre for a number of different aspects of American history. On April 19, 1775, the American Revolution - the war between Britain and 12 British colonies - began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord - a clash of arms known to history as "the shot heard round the world."

    It was also home to a number of very well known authors - Nathanial Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott and also became the birthplace of the Transcendatalistism.

    We started off at Concord Museum which has a comprehensive account of the events associated with Concord and the lives of Concord's local residents - the Algonkians, Puritans, Revolutionaries, Loyalists, Farmers, Silversmiths, Transcendentalists, Cabinetmakers, Anti-Slavery Activists and Mill-Workers.

    There are excellent displays of the events associated with 1785 and the recreation of Emerson's study and Thoreau's room together with typical rooms showing the decorative arts used by different people in Concord in the 17th, 18th, and 19th-century were all fascinating. We both enjoyed inspecting the artwork!

    We then admired the house where Ralph Waldo Emerson lived. This is almost opposite the Museum, situated at the end of the Cambridge Turnpike at the juntion with the Lexington Road.

    After that, we travelled to the north of Concord to visit the Old North Bridge and Minute Man National Historical Park.


    Next to the Old North Bridge is the Old Manse in which Nathaniel Hawthorne lived after his marriage and where he wrote "Mosses from an Old Manse". I'm afraid I was rather more interested in composing pictures with my camera as the late afternoon sun was turning the grass a sunlit golden colour.


    The Old North Bridge is where colonial militia men were first ordered to fire upon British regulars. It forms part of the Minute Man National Park. This preserves and protects the significant historic sites, structures, properties, and landscapes associated with the opening battles of the American Revolution. We arrived to see a guide explaining what ocurred at the Bridge in 1775 to a large of group of people from (I think) Korea.


    Finally we walked down the Lexington Road to visit Orchard House, which was the home of author Louisa May Alcott from the age of eight.

    The house's website states:
    Louisa May Alcott wrote her classic work, Little Women, here in 1868 at a "shelf" desk built by her father especially for her. She also set Little Women in this home, causing guests to comment that "a visit to Orchard House is like walking through the book!" There have been no major structural changes to the site since the Alcotts’ time of residence. Approximately 75% of the furnishings were owned by the Alcotts, and the rooms look very much as they did when the family lived there.
    Personally I disliked the house's very dismal brown colour and to be honest it doesn't really look like it could possibly be the prototype for the home of all those 'Little Women'. You can decide for yourself as you can view the room's on the website here. It had closed by the time we got there so I wasn't actually able to see inside but is open to the public as is the Emerson House and the Old Manse.

    And I'm being good - I haven't posted any of the photos of Nicole eating birthday goodies but being as we were in New England it did feature some of Vermont's finest!

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    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Friday 8th September: "A different mode of transport"


    "10 minutes from Boston"
    10" x 8"; Sepia pen and ink and coloured pencil in a Large Moleskine sketchbook
    copyright 2006 Katherine Tyrrell

    I hate the start of a journey when I'm on a 'big trip'. There's so much to think about - and this time matters were not made any easier given the new carry-on baggage restrictions at airports to combat terrorists. Anyway, there I was, in a foul mood as usual when setting off (having mentally run through all the check lists for the nth time in the last two weeks and repacked my baggage for the 3rd time). To reduce tension levels I now fly out from Manchester Airport which is near where my mother lives - as I'd be 'looping the loop' before I even set foot on a plane if required to go anywhere near the nightmare called Heathrow. I've always said how nice Manchester airport is - nearly as nice as Stansted which is my favourite airport of all. Until this trip.

    I arrived at the airport not knowing which terminal the flight goes from as it was not printed on the e-ticket and there was no information on the website, there were no relevant signs on the roads into the airport, none in the terminal we went too, I couldn't find a member of staff who knew where my carrier flew from and when we did find out they forgot to say how long the walk between terminals was.

    So what, you might think? Well I'd turned up an hour earlier than usual because of the extra checks but time was running out as I searched for the flight............and searched..............and searched. Then, walking as fast as I could from one terminal to another with all my luggage which took nearly 20 minutes, I arrived at the correct terminal and the end of a very long queue. By this point I was beginning to have major problems with my mobility. I have an extremely boring congenital disorder which means tissue in my feet (eg my instep) can tighten and snap if I'm not careful. Mostly it means that I have similar problems to people with arthritis - a tendency to fall and an inability to stand for any length of time. However, as a result of falling I have torn a lot of tissue between toes and knees at one point or another and there was no way I could stand in the queue - everything was beginning to tighten.

    Long story short (as they say) American Airlines came up trumps and arranged a wheelchair for me and I was whisked through passport control and security - at both ends - in the wheelchair, which turned out to be a very fast process.

    Mostly I manage my disability very well through taking sensible precautions - but Manchester airport proved to be one challenge too far for me that morning. It seems to me that its management have not given much thought to communication with passengers or disability discrimination.

    I kept being told by airport staff that the airport was not allowed by law to have any signs up for non-UK overseas carriers as it was seen as advertising! Huh!!!??? I've never heard anything so ridiculous.

    I'm currently investigating whether existing arrangements breach the relevant UK legislation around accessibility for people with disabilities having been told I certainly wasn't the first person who'd made a complaint about airport signage.

    Anyway - once I'm sat on the plane and it's taking off I'm fine! I arrived in Boston without mishap, picked up the rental car, followed my cousin-in-law's impeccable directions and arrived at their house in time to bask in the sun on their deck. Driving up Route 2, my first impression of Massachusetts was 'what a lot of trees!!!' And, as it turned out, a lot of them seemed to be residing in my cousin's back yard!

    How about you:
    • what do you hate about journeys or airports?
    • what were your first impressions of New England?
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    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Travels with a sketchbook in New England, USA



    (From top left, clockwise: sketches from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont)

    This is my provisional summary of the next set of entries relating to my trip to New England in September 2006 and the resulting sketchbook.

    Besides the links to posts for individual days (below), you can now also see galleries of my sketches done while on my travels in New England on my website:
    The main purpose of my visit was to take a 5 day Pastel Workshop with Sally Strand on "The Colour of Light" (which will be covered in my other blog 'Making a Mark' as it's not really about sketching). This meant that my first week (11-15 September) was spent on Cape Cod - based in Chatham.

    As I was in New England, I decided that this was the most wonderful opportunity to see as much of New England as I could within the usual constraints of time, budget and the different locations of people I knew. It makes such a difference when you travel to the home areas of people you know. I always get a much better understanding of a place when I do.

    My main base was the Massachusetts countryside, northwest of Boston, with my cousin and her husband. As it turned out it couldn't have been better positioned for my different trips. Consequently I was able to see a bit of Massachusetts on the first and second weekends either side of the workshop. Then in the second week I travelled to see Nicole Caulfield in New Hampshire and Bert Dodson Vermont before travelling on the Wednesday across to Maine where I spent the next five days visiting with Kathy Ellis and her husband, before returning via Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

    The itinerary went something like this:
    The last sketch - at Logan Airport (note the wifi laptops!)
    8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleksine sketchbook

    copyright Katherine Tyrrell

    Before I start I'd just like to say a big thank you to all the people who offered me hospitality - and most especially my cousin who had her washing machine and dryer on overtime for me on two weekends on the trot and my mother who got up very early two mornings to ferry me to and from the airport and provided a mother-substitute services for my two cats!

    For animal lovers, unlike the last trip this trip seems to be completely swamped by animals from start to finish. It's got four moggies and a miniature poodle in Massachusetts, two Labradors in Vermont and three more Labradors in Maine. I even acted as the midwife at the birth of a new blog about Labs!

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