Prior to publishing last Sunday’s post about creativity, where I introduced you to Brian and his paintings and a few of the vendors at the “Art in the Park” event, I was perusing my Metroparks newsletter to see if anything captured my interest.
One event, which name I used for this post title, drew me like a magnet: “Walk, Talk & Sketch – Take your art outdoors. Learn some of the basics of field sketching; then hit the meadows and woods of Oakwoods Metropark for inspiration.”
Michigan’s Metroparks are comprised of nine separate venues, with a total of 84 miles (135 kms) of rustic and paved hiking and biking trails. The adjoining waterways make it perfect for fishing or boating activities. I bought my first park pass last July, and sadly, I’ve only been to one of their venues (Lake Erie Metropark). Since I wanted to try out Oakwoods Metropark and Summer is slipping by, I signed up for this event.
I’ll do a separate post about the six-mile long hike I took after arriving there around 9:15 a.m. I wasn’t sure how long we’d walk while sketching, so I cut myself off after walking six miles. The woodsy areas were not so dense that you’d worry about getting lost, or being alone in the middle of nowhere, so I walked all of the trails, taking a lot of pictures. I found it amusing that the reviews about Oakwoods Metropark mentioned lots of critter activity. I found a grasshopper and a butterfly and took their photos. Then I saw a Great Egret breaking bread, er … fish with a couple of Mute Swans in the distance, all which will be fodder for a Part II post about this jaunt.
After hiking the rustic trails from about 9:30 to 12:30 and reaching my six-mile, self-imposed steps cutoff, I realized I still had 90 minutes to kill before the sketching event began. So, I took out my sketch pad and pencil and parked myself on a picnic bench under a tree while the breeze stirred the wispy tendrils around my face and a cacophony of insect noises, (maybe cicadas), were music to my ears.
I didn’t sketch a thing, but instead began writing a post in longhand that memorialized my hike to hopefully publish it last night.
In the past I’ve written about a sketching class I took as a teen. It was sponsored by our city and every Wednesday, the bus took us to different historical or scenic locations in nearby Wyandotte, Michigan. Maybe it was free, but likely my parents ponied up for the lessons; we just needed to show up with a sketchbook and charcoal pencils or pastel crayons, whatever was our preferred medium. I was sorry to see the class end at Labor Day, and my parents, eager to foster my interest in art, bought some sketching how-to books and more art materials, but schoolwork often intruded on free time and the class was not offered the following Summer. I began sewing as a hobby shortly thereafter, so there was just no time for artwork. On occasion I’d think about reviving the sketching but the pastel crayons weren’t good anymore and we used the sketchbooks to make diagrams where to hang the pictures and knickknacks in the same location as before the house was painted and wallpapered.
Back when there were bird feeders in the backyard and we watched the beautiful jays and cardinals feasting on sunflower seeds in the Winter, Mom suggested that I get interested in sketching again. As an incentive she bought me this book for Christmas.
It has been on the coffee table since 2005, and occasionally I’d pick it up and page through it, marveling at the beautiful sketches of birds and waterfowl.
I promised Mom that birds would be my first subject to tackle when I began sketching again, but I would wait until I retired. Back in 2005, that was a promise that was easy to make.
So, fast forward a few years … I registered for this event, figuring that even if the $5.00 fee was a waste of money, I wanted to visit Oakwoods Metropark anyway. I even invested in a sketchbook and some number two pencils. Woo hoo – I was all in.
While on that 20-mile drive to Oakwoods Metropark yesterday morning, I envisioned sketching a pair of mallard ducks or a Canada goose, the likes of what I’d seen in A Sketchbook of Birds. I even kicked it up a notch and fancied myself being one of those women painters who sit on a short stool, watercolor paints at the ready, their sketchbook balanced on their knees, as they sketch and paint one of the many flower gardens in the historical area of Heritage Park. Every time I’ve seen those women I am envious, while thinking “I want to be that girl” … even if being “that girl” will be in my retirement years.
So I went to this gig with that mindset ….
My first mistake was assuming “Walk, Talk & Sketch” was a class, combined with a follow-up interpretive walk. I’ve gone on several interpretive walks at Lake Erie Metropark and they are enjoyable programs to learn about the Park’s natural resources.
We assembled in a room where paper, clipboards, number two pencils and erasers were available; however, we all arrived with our own sketchbooks and pencils. Then Paula, our interpretive guide, showed us a few of her sketches she’d done in the past.
She then announced “we’re off to explore and sketch!” (What? Wait a minute – with no tutorial, or no sketching instructions first?) Logically, I next assumed the sketching instructions would be at each point we paused on the walking trail – ah, yes … that made sense. So the six of trailed behind Paula as she picked a place for us to sketch, then chitchatted about the park.
(Note to self: next time re-read the program and reach out with questions beforehand.) I chastised myself inwardly … “well, silly me for thinking instructions may be Paula peeking over our respective shoulders and offering some guidance.”
Nope, that didn’t happen either.
Only one person in our group had any drawing experience and that was a preteen who’d taken some art classes in middle school and dabbled in pen-and-ink drawings as a hobby. Her mom was eager to show pictures on her phone of her young prodigy’s artwork. The rest of us, another mother/daughter combo, plus a woman my age, obediently stood where Paula stopped, making quick sketches of what we saw. We learned what tree or berries we were sketching. My eyes glanced over to the others’ sketches which looked about the same as what I’d accomplished.
My sketches are pretty simple, but I am putting them here anyway to go with the post. I made sure to label them as you’d likely never guess what they are – we had about seven minutes to sketch each one.
My next “real” stab at drawing will have to wait until I take an organized class, or even after watching some videos like this on YouTube on sketching basics and that’s because I still aspire to be “that girl” … (using the moniker “girl” loosely here), but when I have more time to play.
What the hay, it was a beautiful day, a trek to a new venue and I added more miles to my tally. I had a really early evening as I was worn out from the long walk and all the fresh air and kept nodding off when I finally got online. 🙂