Monday, November 19, 2012

SKETCHBOOK: "A Gazebo And A Python"

Okay, folks...this will be one of the more unusual posts I've done so far.  I'll start with the more predictable sketchbook entry...but hang will soon round the corner to become one of the most delightfully "eclectic" experiences of my life!

Last weekend, I took a road trip to see some very dear friends of mine, Ken and Dana Davidson.  They just recently moved to Dana's family farmstead southwest of Wichita, Kansas.  It was there that I met Dana's mother, Frankie, and had two of the most enjoyable days I could imagine.  Actually...I couldn't imagine MOST of the was hilarious and magical, all in one!
I had hoped to do some sketching while there on the farm...and was able to, early on Saturday morning, just as the sun was rising.   Ken grabbed my camera, and took these shots.  The gazebo is a more recent addition to the property...the house was built between 1906-1908.
After drawing everything with a sepia colored pencil...I added some watercolor washes on the brown-toned paper.

When I first arrived, Ken and I put on our near-matching broad-brimmed hats, and jumped on the tractor for a tour around the 160 acres of land.
 Here is a great photo of Frankie, Dana and Ken.
Below are some of Frankie's friends that come visit her every day.  Her home is a true animal sanctuary, where no hunting is allowed.   Frankie feeds all the wild critters...they have no fear of her, nor she of them.  They come right up to the house!  In the short time I was there,  I saw several deer, armadillos, possums, and wild turkeys.  It was a bit spooky at night, as cell-phone reception was very limited out there...I had to walk into the field in the dark to send texts to my girlfriend, Judi.  I could hear large animals crunching in the leaves all around me...could have been raccoons or wildcats...I didn't really want to find out!! I get to the "unusual" part.  As you'll notice, I am wearing a HUGE skin of a giant snake!!!  As it turns out...this snake skin is part of Dana's family lore...a "legend" that involves Dana's Grandfather "Lem".
Before I got to see the snake skin, Frankie did the honors of reading a newspaper article written in the early 1930s.  Apparently, there was a "Demon of Dead Man's Lake" that had been killing local chickens, pigs, and even young calves in the area of the Chicaskia River in Kansas, south of Wichita.  The short version of this story is that Lem...Frankie's dad...teamed up with his best friend "Gus" to track that "demon snake" and bring it to justice.  After a furious battle with the beast ( Lem suffered two broken ribs from the encounter), the snake was lassoed, and died after a couple of hours of struggle...thus ending the "reign of terror".  Apparently, the snake was an East Indian Python that had escaped from a circus, and was feasting on the local cuisine.  Gus was a taxidermist, and agreed to give Lem the snakeskin, while he was to take the skeleton of the "tropical reptile of gigantic proportions".

After I posed for a few photos with the snake skin...Dana brought out a red photo album, and proceeded to show me proof of this whole story, with photos that have been handed down through the generations!  On the left is the python (sans it's skin) and on the right, is that skin hanging from the barn...over 25' long!
Below is a photo of Gus, holding a giant snapping turtle by the tail (with the gaping jaws of the turtle's head below right).  And the other gentleman is Lem...with what appears to be the "Demon Snake" in the story.
As if that saga wasn't interesting turns out that Gus is none other than "The Original GUS WAGNER - World's Champion Hand Tattoo artist and Tattooed Man!"  Gus Wagner was a "world traveler" and famous tattoo artist and showman from the early 20th century.  Below are photos of Gus tattooing his wife, Maud, who was also part of the sideshow.
According to my research online, Gus was covered with 264 tattoos, and claimed to be "the most artistically marked up man in America."  In his later years Gus diversified his talents, showing and selling busts and totems he carved out of wood. He also became a gem collector, taxidermist, and exhibitor of rare animals, reptiles, and birds. He continued to work as a showman in circuses and Wild West shows. Gus died after being struck by lightning, in 1941.

What a GREAT weekend!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

SKETCHBOOK: "Sunny Days in November"

I have a few recent sketches to show you.  There have been some gorgeous days here lately, and I just needed to get outside and DRAW!!!  The huge tree above was done yesterday at my office's "Day Away" out to Kearney, MO. 

Below is a sketch of the little barn and mowers that are on the property at my church.  This year, a "community garden" was started...the produce and proceeds of the sales of the crops were used to help families in need.  

The drawing below is of another "mower"...just from the 1800s.  On Wednesday, I took my girlfriend, Judi, out to Watkins Woolen Mill State Park, in Excelsior Springs, MO.  We had fun sketching some of the antique farm equipment.  Unfortunately, the tour of the inside of the mill was not available, except on weekends (during the off-season).  So we'll just have to come back again to draw more cool stuff!!