Drawing as a Pastime

When I had been in Seattle a year, I wrote a post lamenting my then-unemployed state.  It remains one of my most commented-on blog posts, but the comment that surprised me the most was the following:

Take a drawing class. Everyone can draw. Everyone. Then as you walk about the city, you can sketch. Sketch over a cup of something in a coffee shop, or on a park bench. This will imprint moments on your mind forever.

Also, when people see someone sketching it is almost impossible for them to resist sneaking a peek. If you like the looks of someone you see peeking, play the role of generous person who doesn’t mind being bothered even in the midst of such serious art. Now you have made the first approach and the other person doesn’t realize it.

The comment itself isn’t what’s surprising.  What’s surprising is that it was sent by Roger Ebert (and as if to prove the validity of the author,  Ebert posted this entry on his blog four months later).

When I met with him for the first (and only) time in April 2011, I wish I’d shown him two things: pictures of my nieces and the two drawings I had sketched since receiving his advice.  I’ve finished several other drawings since that time, and while I didn’t meet anyone during those drawing sessions, I still find it an enjoyable pursuit when the weather gets nice.

I sketched my first drawing when it was still raw outside, which is why I drew it in a rush. I like to think that the wind is captured in the pencil strokes.

Windy Day, 3-6-2011
Windy Day, Greenlake, 3-6-2011

I waited until it was warmer for my next drawing, which was of cherry blossom trees. As I’m no good at realism (or perspective), and grew impatient with drawing how the bark and the branches actually looked, my drawing took this form, instead.

Cherry tree in the quad, UW, 3-19-2011
Cherry tree in the quad, UW, 3-19-2011

After Ebertfest, I sketched five more drawings. I finished one in the summer of 2011, two the following year, and then one each in 2013 and 2014. The 2011 drawing is my favorite of the bunch, mainly for the girl sitting on the rocks, her back to the viewer, which adds poignancy to this drawing in a way I can’t describe in words.

Watching the boats go by , Puget Sound, 7-23-2011
Watching the boats go by , Puget Sound, 7-23-2011

The next two sketches were drawn, as was the first one, at Greenlake. This time, however, I waited until spring and summer, respectively, before I stood outside with my sketchpad.

Tree at Greenlake, 4-13-2012
Tree at Greenlake, 4-13-2012
Swimming at Greenlake, 9-8-2012
Swimming at Greenlake, 9-8-2012

My drawing from the summer of 2013 is of the most iconic landmark in Seattle. While I made the Space Needle too fat and the International Fountain too unrecognizable, I’m proud of the plane flying by and the couple on the blanket.

The Space Needle, 8-21-2013
The Space Needle, 8-21-2013

My final sketch led me to Kubota Gardens, which I believe to be the best Japanese gardens in Seattle. It’s also a great place for taking photos, particularly if you wish to try out a roll of black-and-white film.

Relaxing in the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden, 8-23-2014
Relaxing in the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden, 8-23-2014

In looking again at Ebert’s advice, I realize I didn’t take all of it. I didn’t take a drawing class. But that’s okay. The task itself, not the execution, is what’s important to me. And he’s right. Drawing imprinted these moments on my mind. Decades from now, I’ll probably remember the circumstances surrounding these drawings better than I will those surrounding my photos.

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