Upper Landing Park

Today I had the itch to sketch and since the weather was balmy (above 30 degrees), I drove to the city. Shepard Road winds down past the river into St. Paul and is very scenic. With urbanscape on one side and the river and bridges on the other, there is always something interesting to look at. I chose the Upper Landing Park, a place I have sketched before. A few years ago I sketched there a week after a blizzard. The day was beautiful (like around 70 degrees, I got sunburned) and everyone was soaking up the sunshine after shoveling ourselves out of snow drifts just days earlier. The scenes I chose were the elevator tower and a view back along the street with the Cathedral peeping out:

tower 2


The second sketch with the large house and billboards sits on a very busy corner. Railroad crossing lights and signs, power lines, traffic lights, and other things make it a hodge-podge of activity. I parked facing that same area today and noticed a large structure with a copper roof. I decided I liked the shapes, textures, and the lighting, so sat in my car with my supplies on my lap. I didn’t use pen first, but went in directly with watercolor. After I layered a bunch of values, then I added pen afterwards. It’s a different way of working, but I like to try it sometimes.

upper park 2

I simplified the scene in front of me and just focused on the structure. Adding the other stuff would have cluttered up the sketch, plus I knew I didn’t have the time or patience to add so much more.

upper park

Once I finished the sketch, I wondered what to sketch next. I turned to the right and noticed a green and blue ambulance parked a few feet away from my car. I studied it— the colors, the textures of metal, the stripes, the wheel hubcaps. I really wanted to sketch it but was concerned that right when I started, it would pull away. But sometimes you just have to go for it! So I did. I put that first horizontal line on my paper for the top of the vehicle, then I was off. I sketched quickly, getting in the box of the vehicle, the wheels, the front end, then added details with pen. I also swathed in the green and blue design, just in case it took off. I am guessing the EMT’s were between runs (and a Caribou coffee was nearby) because that ambulance sat for a good thirty minutes or more, which gave me time to sketch it and then go back and paint in many layers of color. I was satisfied with the sketch and was cleaning up my materials when I saw activity in the cab, the driver put it in reverse and drove off. I watched it go down the road, do a U turn at a light, and come back past me, then it turned and headed into St. Paul, probably to the hospital. I was so thankful I got the sketch completed! Sometimes it really pays off to just jump in and try to sketch something, even if you think the subject will move away!


Leave a Reply