Sunday, September 30, 2012

State Fair Sketch-Out 2012

First page spread - I left this open and returned to it after the rest of the book was filled.
Gopher mascot statue and my collaged in gate ticket.
 This year's Minnesota State Fair sketch-out was a combined effort with sketchers from both the MCBA Visual Journal Collective and the MetroSketchers groups in attendance.  (The link will take you to a nice group shot and more information at Roz Stendahl's blog, complete with more links.)
I arrived at the fair at about 2:30 p.m. with a small (4x5.25) accordion journal made with Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media paper, a Faber-Castell PITT pen size F, and watercolors. Along with a desire to fill the book before I left for home knowing it would be my only trip to the fair this year.

Lunch as well as my first sketch of the day.  
 I had not had lunch when I got to the fair so my first task was to find food and get sketching as quickly as possible being we were meeting as a group at 4:30 and I had gotten to the fair much later than planned.  Both tasks were accomplished after I purchased, ate, and sketched a corn dog.  Of course not being used to the seemingly tiny pages in this book (about 5x8) I drew my corn dog way bigger than planned and it goes so far out of the page that honestly it becomes a bit abstracted and strange due to the limited view.

From my corn dog lunch I move on to the cow barn where cows are being lined up for pre and post judging in an outdoor pen between buildings.  This cow was standing tied to a fence and reasonably still so it made for a good first model.  The laying down cow was done after moving into the actual barn and was added into the space between the cow face and the cow backside (shown below) and is the same cow as the cow backside, which lay down mid sketch.

A couple of cows, the "i draw" button that Marty Harris
gave to all of us at our meeting later that afternoon
and a quickly done horse.
 After the cow laid down, and I drew it's new position and added some paint.  I tried to save the unfinished standing cow by looking at a new standing cow and adding on a neck and face.  I think I drew a tiny bit larger and ran out of room again on the page.  At this point I am discovering that the size I have created this accordion is a little awkwardly small.  It is surprisingly hard to hold and paint in while standing and my sketches keep leaving the page.  I now know that I will go back to the accordion journals that are about 6 inches square as they are still very small and portable but they are easier to manage than this tiny book.
I walked over to the horse barn from the cows, which is usually one of my favorite places to sketch at the fair. I have loved drawing horses since I was a little girl and look forward to seeing some in person every year.  This year there were very few horses in the barn and an overwhelming number of people looking at the handful of horses, a very bad combination for sketching.  I attempted a sketch of a horse tied in a hallway being trimmed thinking it would be standing there for several minutes and was shocked when the trimming involved only it's nose hair and was finished with the horse was being led away in under a minute.  I had no sketch time to waste being pushed into by strollers and fighting crowds so I left the horse barn and moved on to the pigs.

The pig barn is nearly empty of people which is a pleasant change from the horse barn and due in large part to people being afraid they will get sick from the animals.  I was able to draw a sleeping pig and stick around long enough to add some paint and I had only one person even pass down the aisle I was in.  While I was in the barn in a pen across the way they were judging pigs and the judge was making commentary on the status of each pig as it passed him.  I have to say the commentary was very interesting and included things such as "I love the way this animal is set on it's hocks"  "this hog carries its weight well".  

Next, I wandered down to the poultry barn knowing that it was nearing the time for our meeting and the poultry barn is en route to our meeting location.  I draw one warm-up chicken with just my pen and then find a pillar to lean against and paint the next chicken, choosing one with interesting black and white patterned feathers.  Drawing the chickens is always a bit of a challenge because they are never very still even with their limited space to move in the cage and in order to get a full sketch you have to wait for the bird to move back to the position you started from to complete the drawing.  
This book is the first book I have used with the 500 series Mixed Media paper, and I am starting to notice that it takes the watercolor a tiny bit longer to dry than I am used to, so I am walking from place to place with an open sketch before shutting my book.  Which isn't a problem but it is something to be aware of while working on a page spread.  I like that the paper texture is smooth and easy to draw on and that it is not buckling from wet work at all, which makes it nice to work on and I will not have to worry about the long accordion getting out of whack because of paper buckle issues.  The paper is also holding up well in this accordion structure, even with my continued folding back and forth around the book cover to complete drawings that go beyond the expected page spread the folds are not cracking and they do not seem to be weakening either which is good.

At this point our meeting time is close enough that I must leave the barns behind and walk across the fair grounds to the plaza between the food and agriculture buildings to see what the rest of my sketching friends have been up to all day.  I get to the meeting place a bit early and decide to try and sketch some fair goers while I wait for the group to gather.  While I sketch the man on the left I realize that someone is watching me, I ignore them and continue to sketch.  As I work they move in closer and at one point stand between me and the man I am sketching while exclaiming to the world at large that he knows who I am sketching and challenging other fair goers nearby to find the guy I am sketching too.  At this point I realize that this man is quite drunk and he continues to stand directly in front of me, so I have to lean and look around him to finish my drawing.  This drunken man is very excited that my sketch looks just like the man eating his lunch and decides that he would like to purchase my sketch to give to him as a gift.  As he announces this intention to me he tries to take my book with one hand and give me ten dollars with the other.  Needless to say I am not happy with this turn of events and I am glad of two things, one that I completed my sketch before things got weird and two that he backs off as I stand up and announce that I am flattered but my book is not for sale (and worth more than ten dollars empty) and that I have to go.  I have to say that this encounter is my strangest sketch in public moment ever.
I meet up with our group of sketchers at this point and we chat and compare scenes sketched, which is always the best part because everyone does such different stuff and it is always exciting to see all the variety in subject matter and style.  Ken Avidor has posted many images of sketches by group members taken that day as we chatted over on the Urban Sketchers Twin Cities blog.  If you follow the link you can check them out.  
We also had a special guest at our meeting from WCCO, Amy Rea.  She was in the process of writing an article on interesting things to see at the fair that might be unexpected and did a little blurb on our sketching group that day.
As our meeting is breaking up and we are discussing whether or not we are leaving or continuing to sketch I quickly sketched the couple seated at a table nearby to try and get one more sketch into my book as it has come to my attention that I have only three spreads to go and then my book is full.  I decide that I cannot leave until I fill my book so I say goodbye and wander back toward the barns.

The decision to continue to sketch seems like a mistake as I sit down and try to draw the green tea slushy I was drinking but I continue on to the sheep and add in a lamb resting against the back wall of it's pen and then finish my book with a brown goose.
Over all I had a reasonably good day sketching at the fair.  There are a few awkward sketches but they do not take away from the overall effect of the completed book and I feel that it is a great record of my day at the fair.  Looking back at my sketches, I do think that next year I may try to draw more people at the fair as I think that those were my favorite sketches from this year and it is not something I usually sketch while I am there.  Although next year is a long way off and there is no real way to tell what will catch my eye at next year's sketch-out.

The full accordion book as a continuous image.  My day at the fair in one long sheet.
5x82 inches, Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media paper, Grumbacher watercolor, Faber-Castell pitt pen size F