Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Mild Tribulations of the Urban Sketcher

On Saturday I sketched a fallen tree (well, mostly the upturned stump/rootball) at Magnuson Park, which went just fine.

On Monday I paused during a lunch time stroll across campus to draw some chopped-down tree stumps, and that was fun, too.

Then yesterday things didn't go quite as smoothly, although I really had nothing much to complain about -- merely one of those outings where trifling irritations follow upon another until you give up and call it quits.

It was lunch time at work.  The Boss Who Doesn't Like It When I Sketch At Work (long story) was out of town.  Sunshine was trying to poke out between the clouds, so I grabbed my supplies and headed off to Drumheller Fountain, where I found a comfy bench with a fine view.  It was a bit nippy but I had my coat and hat on, no problem.  Then the clouds parted and the sun hit -- right in my eyes.  I got too hot, and had trouble seeing my subject.  I took off my hat.  The clouds immediately returned.  I put my hat back on.  The clouds parted.  Off with the hat.  Clouds returned...on it went, sun, no sun, hat, no hat...until I was spending more time with the hat than the pen.

I persevered, and just as I reached the point of adding watercolor, the clouds turned dark gray and tiny raindrops hit the page.  Well, it's watercolor...what's a little more water?  So here we have Drumheller Fountain (which was more like a pool, as the fountain was not turned on), looking a little wobbly here and there:

I still had half an hour left, and felt a strong inclination to spend it indoors.  Guggenheim Hall was right behind me, and it is very old with great architecture.  I went inside to look for a subject -- and saw a wonderful carved wooden Native American sculpture on the wall.  Oh, how I wanted to sketch it!  Alas, the only bench was beneath it, and was occupied by a woman who eyed me suspiciously.  Thwarted, I roamed down the hall and spied a door leading out the back to a cloistered passageway.

It had fabulous openings (are cloister windows still windows if they don't have windowpanes?) and some convenient steps from which to sketch.  So I started in on a window, this time using toned paper and pen.  But when I got to the part where I add white ink for the highlights, I couldn't get the white ink pen to work.  I shook it and prodded it and pushed it and of course, a big glob plopped onto the page when least desired.  And as I tried to fix it, a man walked slowly past me -- and he was whistling.

You probably don't how much I detest whistling, so I'll just tell you now -- I DETEST whistling.  I would rather listen to nails upon chalkboards.  Possibly even screaming babies or leaf blowers or the neighbor's broken car alarm.  I believe there ought to be a circle in Dante's Hell for whistlers.  Especially the ones who don't seem to know any tunes and just make random notes that go nowhere.  STOP IT NOW.

So there I was, having been cold and hot and cold and hot and rained upon and stared at with great suspicion and without white ink and then whistling and I gave up to head back to my office -- only to find that it was now the break time between classes and the entire route was paved with scurrying students.

I tell you, some days urban sketching is hard work.

Anyway, here is the partially completed cloister window/opening/whatever:

Note:  No whistling students were harmed during the production of these sketches.  


  1. Whistling? Really? It's such a happy noise most of the time. I guess too much of it would be annoying but not just a little. Have you been to a shrink lately LOL? Such terrible things you must put up with. I'll stop now. We all have our little annoyances.

    1. Yes, whistling! I had a coworker for many years who would wander around the office whistling or humming random notes all the time and it drove me NUTS. I was SO happy the day she announced her retirement. Whew.

      Remember that my hearing is practically supernatural -- I can hear things only dogs can hear, or at least it seems that way at times. It's great for birding -- I can hear all those little high-pitched songs and chirps that other birders can't, but it's not so great for the rest of the world's noise. And to me, whistling is just an annoying noise!

  2. Makes perfect sense and I have excellent hearing as well despite the fact that I was told loud rock 'n roll would ruin my hearing. Ha! It's a tad annoying to me at times to be able to hear so well because I wake up at inappropriate times due to hearing something outside, usually a car starting up in the next block or something. I've never run into any crazy whistlers so maybe it would bother me if I was around it all the time.

    1. Wikipedia says, "The human hearing range is commonly given as 20 to 20,000 Hz, though there is considerable variation between individuals, especially at high frequencies, and a gradual decline with age is considered normal."

      I had extensive hearing tests back in 2007 when I developed ringing in one ear, and my audiogram results stated a hearing range up to 23,000 Hz. So when I complained about the music coming through coworker's earbuds, or the fact that I could hear *both* sides of some people's phone conversations through closed doors, I had PROOF. Ha. So much for the "loud rock" ear damage we both suffered from!

    2. Again, we must be related LOL because I can hear the music and the phone conversations too although I've never had my hearing tested. I have a very slight "ringing" in my left ear, but it may be caused by wax. I'm working on it. It doesn't appear to bother my hearing ability though.