Drove down to Frederick, Maryland, Friday afternoon to participate in the Easels in Frederick Quick Draw competition -- a two-hour beat-the-clock on-location painting challenge at the end of the weeklong plein air festival.
We stayed at the fabulously decorated 10 Clarke Place B&B, and strolled down to Volt for dinner - every bite was delightful. I scouted out locations for Saturday within the boundaries marked on the Quick Draw map, noting sheltered spots in case of rain.
In the morning, the sky was indeed threatening, so I set up under the marquee at the Weinberg Center for the Arts and painted the alleyway just opposite, with the spire of Trinity Chapel in the background.
When the start horn sounded at 9:30 I was pretty relaxed, but as the minutes ticked by I got more nervous -- at 11:15 I started getting ready to pack up, as I knew it would take some time to put everything away. At 11:30 it was brushes down!
A few drops were falling so I held the paper upside down for the sprint to the car, parked in the garage a block away. In a few minutes the painting was signed, secured to the mat and framed.
All the artists then set up their Quick Draw paintings on easels at the Talley Recreation Center so the public could view and buy. M. took this aerial shot from the second floor balcony:
Just as I got ready to take down my easel, I had a buyer! Getting the receipt from the cashier was very exciting. M. and I celebrated with lunch at The Tasting Room before heading home.
My next attempt at Quick Draw will be at Plein Air Easton, in Easton, Maryland, in a few weeks. Can't wait to see this town on the Chesapeake I've heard so much about.
Saturday: A leisurely float in our kayaks along the Saugatuck River in Westport. There were lots of paddleboarders about, and scullers.
Sunday: Mingling with the horsey set at Greenwich Polo Club. The last time we'd gone to a polo match was in Saratoga. Figured it would be interesting to attend one right here in backcountry Greenwich.
Many spectators were decked out in full regalia, complete with hubcap-sized hats; others were there mainly to enjoy the perfect weather while relaxing on a picnic blanket.
Yes, this guy's velveteen jacket was really that amazing hot pink. You could not miss him. If you were meeting friends in the crowd, you could have told them to meet you at the dude with the awesome jacket. They would have known exactly what you meant.
It's hard to sketch polo players as they thunder past you mid-chukker.
Next time we'll bring food and some friends. And a dog wearing a rep tie.
We spent Memorial Day week in the 49th state. I'm not sure why everyone in the Northeast seems to treat it like a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It's not that far, people. It's big. It's beautiful. I'd go again.
A layover in Minneapolis is highly recommended, as is lunch at Masu in the Mall of America, where I sketched these lovely ladies. M. noticed that there were multiple outlets of many stores at the MoA. "There's two of everything," he said. "It's the Noah's ark of malls."
We landed in Anchorage, Alaska's biggest city, and got our bearings. Anchorage isn't the most inspiring of cities to sketch. It looks perpetually stuck in the '70s -- because that's when the city's architecture dates from, due to the massive earthquake in 1964. With today's taste for retro chic, though, it's somewhat hard to tell what's actually from that era and what's just been built to look like a rec room on purpose.
Thankfully, the food scene is much more modern. Breakfast at Snow City Cafe was so good we went twice during our stay. Tip: They take reservations.
What Anchorage also has, randomly, is a fabulous art supply store.
The breadth of merchandise at Blaines is impressive. They even have a whole rack of the multicolored-lead pencils we urban sketchers like so much.
And next door was this little vignette, just begging to be photographed.
Still marveling at the fact that we'd never see nightfall for an entire week (the sun would set well after we'd gone to bed and rise before we woke up), we decamped to the lovely, slightly Grand-Budapest-Hotel-ish Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. We planned to go south into the Kenai peninsula; however, the air was thick with smoke from the wildfires so we decided to head to Whittier for a boat tour of the glaciers in Prince William Sound instead.
I sketched the surrounding landscape while we waited for the Whittier Tunnel to open for cars (the train line shares it, and you actually drive on the tracks). It's apparently the longest highway tunnel in North America.
The town of Whittier is tiny. Just about all of its residents live in one condo building. Then there's a marina for the glacier tours, and there are fishing boats during the season. That's all.
While on the glacier tour, I took out my watercolor kit and did a quick sketch of the landscape. This is what I'd always imagined Alaska to look like, and it didn't disappoint. (The finished work is at the top of this blog post.)
Next we headed north. We discovered that Wasilla -- yes, the town Sarah Palin put on the map -- has really good restaurants (mmm, Grape Tap) among its maze of strip malls. No, we didn't run into its most famous resident.
As we made our way to Denali National Park we made the obligatory detour to Talkeetna -- it's a quirky little town whose honorary mayor is this cat, Stubbs:
We reached Denali around dinnertime, and while M. hiked up a mountain, I tried to paint the view from our hotel and made a mess of it on account of the chilly, biting wind. My fingers were freezing by the time I called it quits.
The next day we boarded the shuttle bus, which took us 50 miles into the park. We checked off everything on my to-see list: moose, Dall sheep, bears, caribou. Oh, and the elusive Mt. McKinley graced us with its presence too. On the ride back to the park entrance, I sketched the typical tundra scene.
Lots more to see on a future trip someday: Alaska is over twice the size of Texas! I leave you with that.