Note:


All images on this blog are protected by copyright. Please inquire before using the images for any purpose. For information about purchasing original or giclee prints please contact me: janewingfield@gmail.com

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Falling In Love with the World, Part Two

Twelve years ago, in November 2009, my sister mentioned something she'd seen in the newspaper. This guy, the Seattle Sketcher, was inviting people to sketch at Volunteer Park the following weekend. Was I interested?

I went and I fell in love with sketching. And I keep falling in love again and again and again -- every time I hit the streets to sketch what I see. 

My very first sketch with Seattle Urban Sketchers - 11-21-2009


In some ways, my first sketch outing was the re-kindling of an old flame -- like meeting up with a former beau and starting up where were left off. I'd been drawing since I was a kid. I studied art in college -- drawing, painting, printmaking -- but not being confident enough to believe I could earn a living at it, I expanded my interests enough to get an unfocused degree from a local liberal arts college. I continued to draw quietly. I was a closeted sketcher. 


In 2005, my son returned from college study-abroad in Italy and brought me a deliciously creamy handmade paper sketchbook from the Amalfi coast. I took it with me on a trip to China in 2006 and made a few simple sketches. 

 

Hainan Island - Save to Living the Station 

Then came 2009 and the sketch outing at Volunteer Park. I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited. That day I met other folks who I knew what it was like to be taken aback at what they saw, put a pen to paper, and record it. And better yet, there was no need for a studio, easels, or special lighting. The world was my studio and there was a reason to sketch -- to share other sketchers. The practice was simple--meet up, sketch, share, post. That's it. 



Due to Seattle's notorious November drizzle, we held our 2009 throwdown in the now-closed observation deck of the water tower at the south end of the concourse. The guy, Gabi Campanario,  gave us credentials to sign in to the blog he had just created for Seattle Urban Sketchers. He explained the manifesto. I immediately signed on and then volunteered to start a Facebook Page for the group. I was happily hooked on sketching and I was committed to driving the 120 miles round-trip for every outing I could. 



Group Photo at the Water Tower Observation Deck - Nov. 21, 2009

I've come to understand that this aspect--falling in love with what you see--is, for me, not only a side effect but a key component in the art of sketching. Frederick Franck, author of The Zen of Seeing calls it identification 

"To find the essence, the artist needs the grace to obey the reflex with ever increasing sensitivity, coordination, and freedom. The reflex begins in identification. I have to become the apple, then draw the apple, yet remain myself. What applies to the apple, of course, applies to a figure or a crowd. Where identification is missing, I stumble, and find I cannot draw a line."  
- My Eye is in Love,  by Frederick Franck. 


I find if I slow down enough to connect with what I'm drawing as I'm drawing it, my hand records what I'm seeing/feeling. That is the reward of drawing from life.

Sure, I have grown as a sketcher over the past 12 years -- I've gotten better at remembering principles of composition, color theory perspective. But the real value for me is experiencing the activity of seeing/drawing/drawing. 

2019  - A friend's 50th Birthday Party - Sunny's Bar, Red Hook Brooklyn. It was dark and I couldn't see what I was drawing. One of the most fun times I've had drawing at a restaurant/bar. 

I hear people say it in many ways. They remember the whole experience of being on location--the sights, smells, sounds. When they look at old sketches the experience comes back to them with all the senses ignited. When they sketch it's like a meditation. They slow down; they're in the moment. 

Sounds like love to me. 

I sketch a lot now. It makes me feel alive. It rekindles my love of life. I've sketched in places I never thought I'd see. I've made connections with people who know what I'm talking about. 

To honor this past twelve years with urban sketchers, I re-visited the location of my first sketch outing, Volunteer, that expansive Olmstead park on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I love the expansive park, Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Water Tower at the south end of the concourse, and of course, the Volunteer Park Conservatory which was modeled after London's Crystal Palace. 


When I visited the other day, it was unusually cold. I chose to draw some of the same subjects I had drawn in 2009. but took the most time with the Conservatory. It was a challenge.  November nostalgia painted the skies grey, but the room of poinsettias tinted the windows. While I sketched I was totally focused. Until shivering took over, 


I was in love . . .  with yet another corner of the world. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Market shopping in Corona Time

I can deal with a lot of places being closed but I'm really happy that the Olympia Farmer's Market isn't one of them. We've been able to wind our way through the stalls albeit only "essential" vendors (food and plant related) are allowed.



The Olympia Farmer's Market has a long history. Ever since women gathered with the produce from their local victory gardens. In 1983 when I returned to Olympia after a 10 year absence, the farmers' market was a muddy path next to the local Shakey's Pizza on Plum Street in Olympia. From there it made it's way to the Yardbirds Parking lot. Some miraculous turn of events occurred and voila, the market stands in it's current location the westernmost end of Capitol Way--our own Lincoln Memorial.

I had been to the market a couple of previous weekends but this was the first time there was a line to enter. So I drew the line of masked visitors first, then joined it. 








I had a muffled chat with my line neighbors, a couple whose children went to elementary school with mine.  Two young men monitored the entrance and exits relaying how many were exiting so the other could allow an equal number to enter. There was a traffic pattern, clockwise only, entrances to the stalls from either end only, not the middle. Handwashing station at the entrance.




One vendor had built a mountain of early Walla Walla Onions- bulbous and begging to be drawn.



Since I had stood drawing them I felt compelled to buy a bunch as well that I later drew at home.




There were flowers, seeds, bread, tomato plants with flowers no less, cookies, baby apple trees, sausages and ribs and so much more. People did a decent job of keeping distant; most wore masks. The hardest part was staying alert to those who stopped mid-stream to contemplate a purchase.

For better or worse Olympians want to shop the market and I'm glad the city has found a way to accommodate both shoppers and vendors. Long live the market!




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dipping my toes into oil

During this lockdown I needed a project so I decided to get out the oil paints that have been sitting on a shelf for 18 years. I had hoped to dive in but it's turned out to be more like dipping my toes gingerly. It takes so much set up and I don't really have a dedicated space so I have to protect the floor and surroundings. It's interesting to feel like a real beginner. It's hard to stay motivated when the results are so much different than my expectations. 

And I'm floundering a bit with where to go with it - Where do I start? How do I set up my pallette? Representational or abstract? I'm trying it all out but my resistance is amazing. As I told a friend it's like climbing a mountain in a blizzard. And the drying process--I'm impatient with watercolor--it takes days for layers to dry. After so much drawing on location, painting from photos feels weird, but it's a start. 

Here's my studio set up:



Here are some of my first attempts. 


Detail of above. This is what I love about oil. All the layers you can do. 



Kind of cheesy subject matter but I wanted some darks agains lights. 

Detail of Above. 

Detail of Above. Loving pushing paint around. 


Value and composition. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Great Wolf Lodge

Yesterday I joined the South Sound Urban Sketchers at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound. I'd driven past the place many times and was aware of its attraction to families as an indoor water/amusement park. I didn't expect the huge lodge lobby with it's massive stone fireplace, cushy seating and collection of stuffed wildlife. I decided to sketch a montage rather than taking on the massive lobby space.


Detail
And clearly visible from the lobby was the massive waterpark--waterslides, beach chairs, spouting water, a wave-pool, and hundreds of bodies scampering about in bathing suits and striped towels. When I walked in to the pool area, it was so warm and humid my glasses fogged up. Fortunately once my glasses warmed up the lenses also cleared allowing me to sit and sketch this stretch of indoor sunbathers. 




Detail
It was all so impressive especially since we could walk through and sketch anywhere on site without having to pay anything. Now if I wanted to hop in the pool or stay overnight ...that's another story. Thanks to South Sound Urban Sketchers for arranging this fun sketch outing! 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Frederick Franck's Pacem In Terris

When I was in the middle of raising three children I would dream of having a studio where I could have uninterrupted time to do artworks. Then I found Frederick Franck’s book: The Zen of Seeing, Seeing/Drawing as Meditation and I learned instead to make simple drawings, focusing intently on what was before me. That book by Franck - The Awakened Eye and Art as a Way, A Return to the Spiritual Roots were my touchstone to whatever shred of creativity I could muster.




Last year while visiting in Warwick, New York I was surfing things to do nearby and to my astonishment came upon mention of Franck.  

“Pacem in Terris is a trans-religious space created along the Wawayanda River in Warwick, NY by Frederick and Claske Franck. It is  "One man's work of art that aspires to be an oasis of quiet, of sanity, where spirit and nature may reconnect.  It is dedicated to what is Human in every human being"


I had to wait until summer to visit since it’s only open on weekends from May through October, but it was definitely worth the wait.

The site is inconspicuous from the road—no signage or grand entrance. Once inside it becomes an extension of Franck’s drawings—intimate and rich with meaning.  It sits on the Waywayanda River (more like a creek at that point) and has three separate entrances – one on either side of the river and another across the road. I first entered where the former Franck dwelling and some outbuildings sit on the east side of the creek. I was delighted to find some of Franck’s actual drawings on display. There’s also a small building with his stained glass of the Stations of the Cross and a video room where you can watch Franck highlight his life story including the Pacem in Terris project.

Several sculptures and a labyrinth wind in and out of trees allowing you to meander along the riverbank and contemplate the words of wisdom scattered in and amidst the sculptures.

On the other side of the creek sits the main building – a stone sanctuary completely dark inside save one candle and a bit of natural light. And across the road another sculpture garden and smaller meeting room are open for people to walk around.

Center of disc says, "The meaning of life is to see."
The physical site is impressive especially since a lot of it appears to be handbuilt with wood and stone from the natural surroundings. The sculptures, mostly wrought iron, are bold and dramatic often with a message spelled out in hand-cut letters. The retreat site is dedicated to Pope John XXIII, Albert Sweitzer and D.T. Suzuki, all super-respected leaders in their respective faith traditions.  


But what enthralled me the most was to see Franck’s drawings on display in the small gallery. I was taken back to my original inspiration for drawing on location – it’s not about creating great artworks. It’s simply about seeing and falling in love with the world.



"I am the living center of the heart"

One of the sculptures in the garden

This site has a nice collection of some of Franck's work.

Pacem In Terris - Warwick, NY



Thursday, November 7, 2019

Black Dirt, Pine Island and Onions





Last winter I was listening to the NPR podcast, Planet Money and my ears perked up when they mentioned Pine Island, NY, a small village just a few miles from my daughter’s home in Warwick, NY. We’d been to a local winery there, and driven though on our way to places beyond, but it never struck me as anything special. But apparently Pine Island has some of the richest soil to find anywhere; so rich, in fact that it’s known as the Black Dirt Region. The dirt is the result of the deposits made by glacial lakes over 12,000 years ago. After a very slow thaw the bogs collected rich minerals that feed the soil and produce rich and intensely black dirt that’s especially suitable for growing the ubiquitous onion.



Being from Washington I associate onions with Walla Walla, but apparently the Walla Walla can’t hold a candle to Pine Island onions. The Planet Money team reported that back in 1955 an onion farmer, Vincent Kosuga,  in Pine Island, cornered the market by buying futures in onions – betting on a drop in price. He then purchased all the onions he could from anywhere in the country and stashed them in warehouses. Next he literally dumped the onions in the Chicago trade center, creating a glut of onions causing the price to drop through the floor. Vince raked in over 8 million in 1955 dollars.



A lot of onion farmers lost a lot of money. Congress stepped in to pass a law that prohibits purchasing onion futures, protecting onion farmers from then till now. So onion farming is now still strong In Pine island. They just had their annual Onion Festival complete with an onion eating contest – a timed event to see which contestant can chomp their way through a raw onion the fastest.





I didn’t make it to the onion festival in Pine Island, but I did find a plethora of onions at the farmer’s market in the neighboring village of Warwick. The market was bursting with fresh onions - also corn, tomatoes, peaches and so much more. And since Warwick and Pine Island are about an hour’s drive from Woodstock, NY, our market visit was enhanced by Woodstock revival tunes played by a local band.



Monday, September 2, 2019

Resurrecting the Western Flyer



The Western Flyer  - John Steinbeck's escape into environmental science

The shipyard next to Boat Haven Marina in Port Townsend is a health and fitness clinic for big boats. The Hawaiian Chieftan sits on drydock. Rumor has it that Pete Townsend’s yacht comes in for check-ups. Big cabin cruisers, a shiny  sky-blue 80 foot sailing yacht, a ginormous rusty metal fishing boat all scatter the boatyard. The star of the show these days, however, is the Western Flyer.

This eighty foot wooden former sardine fishing vessel, originally named the Gemini, was the home of authorJohn Steinbeck and biologist Ed Rickerts back in 1940 when they embarked on their 4-month long journey documented in the book Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research. The boat itself is an historic artifact—a symbol of adventure, freedom, camaraderie, or perhaps even refuge for John Steinbeck, who was at the time under public attack for his novel Grapes of Wrath and it’s depiction of America during the depression.


Steinbeck and  Rickerts hired Anton "Tony" Berry and his fishing vessel. Once in the Sea of Cortez, habitat to an unmatched collection of sea flora and fauna, Steinbeck’s attention was fastened to what he saw. He documented the unqualified inter-dependence of sea-life, unwittingly writing the first supplementary textbook for the study of ecology. The book documents the scientific findings and tells the story through Steinbeck’s narrative.


Built in 1937 as a purse seiner, the Western Flyer, first fished for sardines out of Monterey Bay. After the epic journey documented in the book it returned to Monterey and continued sardine fishing until the early 50’s when it went to Alaska as a fishing vessel. In the 60’s it fished in northwest waters, then caught crabs in the 70’s. It changed hands several times during the next few decades ending up in Anacortes where it hauled salmon to canneries.


In 2013 it was salvaged from the dregs of Puget Sound where it had sunk twice during the previous winter. Several entrepreneurs made plans to revive it for moneymaking purposes. Finally in 2015 it was purchased by a geologist, John Gregg, with the dream to restore the vessel exactly as it had been when it made the historic voyage that became the birth of today’s science of ecology.

It’s an awesome sight to see the work being done by Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op to restore the boat to its original state. Remnants of the original hull are stacked near the warehouse. The skilled boat builders work long hours, steaming wooden planks to shape the boat’s hull. Countless school field traipse through the shipyard learning about the history of the boat and it’s role in exposing our planetary interdependence. The owners expect the ship to be finished in 2020 and hope to use it as a floating classroom for the study of marine biology. If you get a chance to visit Port Townsend check it out. The site is open to the public and welcomes visitors.