Month: April 2018
I spent a fun afternoon sketching with Urban Sketchers at Architectural Antiques in the northeast Minneapolis art district. This building, a giant ware house or something, housed a zillion antiques. Everywhere you looked were interesting and old gadgets, furniture, lamps, lights, hardware, and tons of household items. I sketched an antique stained glass window and iron chair, and an old traffic light that caught my attention when I arrived. Such fun. I meandered into a large shop room full of handles, door knobs, and other smaller objects. The exit signs caught my attention, piled on a flat dolly, ready to be stacked somewhere. Where, I wondered, does one find these items? I had fun sketching a globe (looks like the one I had growing up), and a candelabra. The workers were very nice and let us sit and sketch whatever we wanted. It was almost overwhelming, there was so much for the eye to see. One sketcher remarked that the place put them in “acquisition mode” instead of sketching mode. My final sketch was of an antique outdoor sconce. I liked its ornate shape and the fake candles burning brightly. The weathered copper added a nice touch. All in all, a great afternoon of sketching!
I had some time to kill before church, so drove to a construction site near the Summit Hill Sr. Living off of White Bear Avenue. I have seen the buildings going up and knew there would be some interesting machinery sitting around. The area was deserted, I had a spot in the parking lot to myself. I noticed these two conical shaped cement mixers (I think?). They were dirty and old and looked well-used. I also noticed the orange lift in the background, as well as some old brown stacked pallets in the foreground. All good ingredients for a quick sketch! The big pile of dirt in the background added to the atmosphere and beyond that, a ways away, was the freeway. Beyond the trailer, purple wrap on the structures of the buildings stood out to me. That will have to be a sketch for another day!
Yesterday I spent a delightful afternoon soaking up sun with Metrosketchers at the Upper Landing Park in St. Paul. Located on Shepard Road/Eagle Parkway along the river, I have driven past it many times and didn’t know the treasures it held. I walked down the cement steps so I was on the walkway along the river and looked west. I was impressed by the barge elevator’s height, the brick building, and the parked barges. I’ve always wanted to sketch a barge, something about its shape, I think. So I settled down, facing into the sun and started my sketch. Here is the sketch with pen and I added watercolor to the sky and the gray building only.
A week ago we dug ourselves out of a blizzard. Sitting on that sidewalk in the baking sun, I was roasting after awhile. But it felt so good! I enjoyed listening to the boats, people walking by, and the lapping sounds of the water. I got off my stool and sat on the film of dry mud on the sidewalk so I could spread out my watercolors. I began adding color layer by layer, until I was pleased with the results. In the background is the High Bridge, which is currently under construction.
I had some time left, so I decided to look a different direction. My attention had been grabbed by the large brick house that sits at the railroad crossing at Eagle Parkway and further in the background, the St. Paul Cathedral. I liked the colorful signs, the railroad crossing, and all the action going on. While I sketched, a train pulled through the crossing and sat there several minutes. With loud thuds and clanks, it eventually got going again, and I could see what I was sketching again. I did the house first and then focused on the cathedral. I love its architecture, and many trees and buildings were in front of it, so I kept a large amount of white space in this sketch, to emphasize each building a bit. I was quite happy with this sketch too, and had a wonderful afternoon, complete with sun-burned wrists!
Because Mother Nature has relentlessly been sending snow, cold, and a recent blizzard our way, I’ve been sketching at some places where you can obtain hot drinks: coffee and tea. Last week I was in Caribou waiting for a friend. I always like their hot chocolates with whipped cream. While I was waiting, I sketched the barista in his black apron helping an older man in a green coat. His back was to me, but that’s okay. I left most of the sketch uncolored because I wanted to highlight the textures on the display and the basket nearby. A few days later I was at Jerry’s and sketched near Starbucks. It must be the hip place for retired people, because I saw many there. One table held two men, one in a blue cap and shirt. His friend joined him and they talked quite some time. I was working on expressions and faces this time.
Finally, I went to Sencha Tea Bar yesterday, over at Seasons. I am in love with their hot Chai tea, which has a perfect blend of ginger, spice, and creamy sweetness (be careful to let it sit a bit, I burned my tongue drinking it too soon). I also like their bubble tea. I sank into a lumpy gray couch, parked my drink and watercolors on a little side table, and got to work sketching people. I wanted to showcase the display area, which held tea pots, tea, honey pots, and other items. I captured one guy standing in line (invisible girlfriend) and two ladies talking. Cold weather attracts hot-drink seekers, which makes for great sketching! Soon it will be warm and I’ll be sketching cold-drink seekers, but I’ll enjoy this for now!
A few years ago I did this plein air oil painting of an orange lift outside a new structure in Woodbury. This is actually the Sur La Table store before it was built. I find I like construction areas and construction machines to draw. They are interesting and out of the ordinary. I haven’t done sketches of very many sites, but decided to do a sketch of the construction on the MN United Stadium.
When driving down 94 towards Minneapolis, I always notice the new Minnesota United Stadium going up near Midway. I marvel at the smooth white curved girders, the array of beams, the colorful cranes and lifts, and the purple siding. Looking a little like a circular roller coaster, it always gets a second look from me. I watched the US Bank stadium going up as I rolled by on 94 towards 35W. That behemoth structure looked very strange, with girders sticking up and out, and giant cranes hovered overhead. I think that’s part of the curiosity: you don’t really know what it’s going to turn out looking like, so you see the skeleton of the thing and know it has to change from there. Each piece that falls in place is like a puzzle. I was in the the neighborhood the other day so decided to sketch a little of the stadium. It will be done a year from now, but they were busy at work. I could see cranes and lifts working, with ant-like people walking around the girders and in the buckets of the lifts. I was in my car parked on a street directly across 94, so there is actually traffic zipping along right past the brown fence line, which you can’t see in the sketch. It was fun to capture a moment in time, and will be fun to go back again and sketch more progress!
When I am in the Highland Park area, I always notice this large tower when driving down Snelling Avenue. I never knew what it was…it looks sorta like a prison watch tower. Today I was very curious, so instead of driving by, I decided to stop and sketch it. I liked the cream-colored bricks, the tile roof, and copper accents. I did the sketch top to bottom and added the trees in last, then added watercolor. It even looked like it had little animal heads sticking out below the roof line. I wondered who would look out of this mystery tower. Around me in the parking lot were huge round light blue water towers. That should have give me a clue! Unfortunately I was still daft and had to rely on my cellphone and Wikipedia to learn more about this tower. It was the Highland Park Water Tower! Designed by Clarence W. Wigington, the nation’s first African-American municipal architect and built in 1928. The tower is 127 feet and has a capacity of 200,000 gallons of water. It looked so ornate, I have a hard time imagining it holding water. I think it would be nice if all our towers looked like that today, brick instead of light blue. Anyway, I had fun, and it’s sometimes interesting to sketch something that is a mystery to you. I learned something today I didn’t know before!
Last week I went searching for warmer weather, so went to somewhere with humid air and green plants: the Como Conservatory. I enjoy going here in late winter and it didn’t let me down. While dodging around school groups and families, I breathed in the humid air of the Fern room, and listened to the trickling water and fountain in the main garden. Large tropical trees and plants stretched their branches to the windowed ceiling above and condensation dripped down the windows to the ground below. I have two favorite areas: the bonsai room and the Sunken Garden. I needed flowers and scents, so headed to the Sunken Garden, aptly named for the steps that take you down to tiled walkways while a long rectangular pond with elevated plants in containers ends in a fountain. The Spring Flower show was in full force with plenty of purple and yellow spring flowers: daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, violets, and more. I always try to find a seat and breathe very deeply. I sketched the flowers and a guy with a huge camera taking pictures. I then moved to one of the main gardens with the tropical plants, orchids, and more water features. Kids drooped over brick walls looking at fish below. I saw a mom and her daughter across the pond, deeply shaded by trees and decided to sketch them. I also got a detailed sketch of a beautiful mauve and cream orchid embedded in moss. It was a lovely place to sketch and cured the winter blues!