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!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


This will be my last post in this series...thanks to everyone who has been following along! My latest "Artist Adventure" (which began the first week of September) was a wonderful time exploring a little corner of this beautiful country of ours.  Special thanks to my daughter, Courtney, for feeding the cats while I was gone!

Okay...let's get this going with a visit to RUBY BEACH just about 27 miles south of Forks, WA.  I chose to see the Northwest coastline because of all the giant rocks...I was not disappointed. When you take the winding trail to the beach, the path opens out to a creek that empties into the ocean.
To get a sense of scale of these giant rocks, look for the couple walking in front of the pointy spire below left.
Here's another "set-the-timer-and-run-strike-a-pose" pic...
The shape of the big rock below reminds me a bit of "Jabba The Hut" getting a tan.  Love all the "needles" and "stacks" rock formations.
Here are a couple of views of the same big tree-topped rock...from far and near.

Once I had moved on from RUBY BEACH, I drove south to my next "base camp" for the last three days of my trip...CANNON BEACH, OR.  While I was there, a couple of good friends, Josh and Monica Holtsclaw, drove over from PORTLAND, OR to spend the day with me.  But not just ANY day...we turned it into a  GOONIES DAY!!!    "HEY YOU GUYS!!!"

Josh is an EXTREME fan of the 1985 Spielberg movie "THE GOONIES", and my family loves that film, too.  When Josh and Monica arrived, I asked if he was excited for us to go see all the locations filmed there, and in ASTORIA, OR...his reply: "I've got Goon Bumps!!"

So we started off at HAYSTACK ROCK, one of the major features during the titles at the beginning of the movie. This is where the evil Fratelli Family, being chased by the cops, swerve the get-away car into a big race that happens on the beach.
This view below is from Lookout Point at ECOLA STATE PARK, where the Goonies kids use a medallion to help locate the hidden treasure of pirate "One-Eyed Willie".
This empty field below is the location of the Fratelli's old restaurant, which has a secret underground passageway which leads to the treasure.  As you can see...the building was removed after filming.
The next pics are in ASTORIA, about 30 miles north.  Here's the famous "GOONIES HOUSE' where Mikey and his brother lived.  The sign is at the bottom of the driveway.
Below is the jail where the film begins with a break-out of one of the Fratellis, and the ensuing Police chase.  The window on the lower left is in the bowling alley where "Chunk" spills his strawberry milkshake while watching the cars speed by.  The museum, lower right, is seen very briefly as the kids ride by on their bikes and wave at Mikey's dad who is on the porch.  So much fun hanging out with Josh and Monica!!

Since it was raining on my last day,  I drove to the AIR MUSEUM at nearby TILLAMOOK.  On my way there, I was following behind these two great-looking old cars.  There were lots more of these beauties on the road that weekend for some car show in the area.  Wish I could have found them.
The AIR MUSEUM is a massive structure that can be seen from a great distance. So impressive!!
Here are a few of the old planes there...many are still in working order and are flown for air-shows.
If you look closely at the image below left, you can see the ladder that weaves through all of the wooden rafters.  Too bad for the person who has to climb it to change a light-bulb in there!  I snapped a couple of pics of the old photos from the World War II era, when the Blimp Hanger was being built.

Now I'll wrap things up with a few images from CANNON BEACH.  The changing weather made for some interesting variations of mood and color.  Here are three shots of HAYSTACK ROCK...a sunset in the fog on my first night there...another sunset the following evening...and a beautiful sunny morning.
My last day there, before leaving to catch my plane in PORTLAND,  I got up very early to walk on part of the beach I had not explored.  Below is ECOLA CREEK, near the lodge where I stayed, which empties out into the ocean.
I pretty much had the beach to myself...the sun was just coming up over the hills...a glorious morning.
Once I had walked as far as I could go, there was a very steep trail that wound it's way up to the top of a rocky ridge.  I was pondering whether to take the gamble on the muddy path. Just then, I had a brief moment where I thought of my late Dad, while in his prime. I grinned and said, "Yeah, Mr. Shorty would climb that!" And off I went up the hill.  On the way down, about 20 feet from the sandy beach...I slipped and landed right on my rear in the mud!  (Thanks, Dad!)
As I made my way back to the lodge, these darker rain clouds began to move in...glad I got up early!
This last image is another of ECOLA CREEK, looking back towards HAYSTACK ROCK.  As you can imagine, it was hard to leave...but it was time to head home.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Thanks for returning to my travelogue!  This post is actually the second half of my previous entry about FORKS, WA.  I'll be showing you SECOND BEACH.

I wasn't sure I would make the effort to go to SECOND BEACH, after seeing all the FOG that covered everything that morning at RIALTO BEACH.  But as I'm driving back to nearby LA PUSH (part of the Quileute Indian Reservation)...the edge of the fog-bank was ending right in front of me...BLUE SKIES ahead!

The trek to SECOND BEACH is a bit of a walk...3/4 of a mile up and down a steep trail.  But it was one of the best parts about the experience!  As you can see in the photo below, the fog actually made the rich green forests even more magical, as the particles were lit up by the sun-light.  (And a side-note to the "Twilight" fans...this is supposed to be the area that Jacob Black and the Quileute tribe's shape-shifting wolves would meet!)

As you get near the beach, the trail gets very steep...and the muddy "steps" aren't much help.  Below left is the top view...then the same part of the trail looking back up the hill.

Once I was on the beach, the fog was, again, thick as pea soup...and there were the same giant, dead tree trunks everywhere.

About an hour after I sat down to begin to draw the huge rock below (see the sketch in Part 1 of this series), something wonderful began to happen right before my eyes! I started noticing details in the distance as the fog was burning off...HUGE rocks appearing, that I didn't even know were right in front of me!  It was SO cool to see!  For the next hour or so, I'd sketch a little, run around with my camera...sketch more.  Before long, the sun was brightly shining on the beach!

I didn't have much time to enjoy the sunlight, as it was now at the end of a very long day.  Many photographers began to arrive to get photos of the setting sun.  I decided that I would stick around and do the same.

This last photo is a true "Twilight Moment"!  The fading sunset gave just barely enough illumination for me to see the path, on my walk through the woods to get back to my rental car.  I had not brought a flashlight, so occasionally I would use my camera's flash to see a bit farther up the trail.  I had taken a few photos along the way, and later that night was reviewing them back in my motel room.

I noticed something white in the upper corner of one of the shots...when I zoomed was a BAT flying over my head!!!  (Yep...still in vampire territory!!)

That's it for this on the list:  RUBY BEACH!