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Sketches of Down Jersey
Sep 02, 2014 | 65 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On the morning of our sketching adventure, my dog Skyler led us briskly down the front steps of home to our Blazer raring to go. He had been dancing in joyous circles by the door since hearing me say "Wildlife Preserve?" as I jingled his collar and leash. It took the older boy several determined tries before he managed to push off and climb into the high step SUV. Once inside, he took immediate command of the navigator's seat, honoring my place as captain in control of the steering wheel and windows, considerately opened for his good use as scout.

The mile and a half drive from home to the preserve is filled with many changes of sights, sounds and smells. I took calming breaths, relaxing into an easy pace as we approached the frenzy of the town intersection punctuated with a convenience store pumping out gas, caffeine, fast food and Rock N' Roll.

It was a relief to turn off the main road to the side streets through residential neighborhoods which retain their charming aspects thanks to the presence of established trees. Good thing I was on the alert for the squirrel which darted out carelessly into the street and after seeing approaching danger, froze in its tracks for a vital second or two before deciding on an escape route. The mourning doves sun bathing near the puddle also slowed us down to a near stop, since they aren't all that quick to take wing.

By the time Skyler and I arrived at the empty parking lot at the preserve, I had shed some of the pressures of a busy and demanding schedule, knowing the importance of claiming a few hours to be in the here and now with nature. As an artist, I also make some marks of my practice along the way.

For this sketching adventure, I had decided to travel light. A small sketchbook, a couple of pencils, pencil sharpener and eraser were all the materials required. This mission wasn't about doing a sustained finished drawing. Instead, I was inspired to do a series of sketches with focus on the composition of the picture plane involving my personal perspective.

As I grounded myself on the scene, Skyler leaped into it. We were greeted by a bold mockingbird sounding an alarm, flashing white feathers from its gray plumage while flying to the fence rail at the entrance to the path. The bird keenly observed us from its aerial view, recognizing us as non-threatening visitors to its territory, which we have explored with awe and respect during all seasons for many years.

By now Skyler and I are quite familiar with the general structure and layout of the place. We are also well aware of the dynamics which change from moment to moment. As a canine, he knows it mainly by scents. Being on all fours reinforces his relationship with earth. Humans, on the other hand, are the bridge between heaven and earth. As a visual artist, I know it mostly by sight. While rooted on earth, I am also aware of the distant horizon and the dominance of the sky.

During this particular experience, I was looking for the delineation between foreground, middle ground, and background with simple compositional studies. I began this course of study by setting my sights on a small hillock in the distance, rising above the meadows. To my heightened awareness, it appeared as an alluring mountain to climb with real purpose. I staked my claim with a pencil line marked near the top of the page indicating the gentle arch of the dune. The drawing took shape as I visually explored the scene before making further tracks through it.

After a few significant scribbles from the perspective, I drew closer to my main subject by following Skyler down a narrow path trampled in the field bordering the dune. After crossing a small trench we felt the change in the terrain as we entered a cluster of pine and cedar trees. Settling into the remarkable silence, we enjoyed the shady shelter provided by the canopy of branches.

I lost myself while sketching a vignette of the world from that perspective, and then noticed that Skyler was missing from view. He responded to my calls, bounding toward me from the pond where he had enjoyed a leisurely swim, shaking water from his ears.

His next action was to dry himself off by rolling with glee on the long grasses. I sketched his deliberate gestures with a few loose lines. By then, he was on the move again, and I sketched him as he began to climb the dune, pausing to see if I was following along. I was. I watched him reach the peak and stand in full alert stance as he breathed in the wonderful accumulation of aromas carried by a bay breeze through the wetlands, woods, streams, hills and valleys. I sketched him as "King of the Mountain," standing on the significant line bridging heaven and earth.

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