Monday, August 30, 2010

Road Trip/Sketchbook Journal: Iowa

The next series of post themes (interspersed with all the usual nonsense) will be follow-up on another road-trip I took over July/August. Approximately 5,658-odd (and I do mean odd) miles across Alaska, Canada and the US, four time-zones, awesome scenery and adventures galore, with intermittent opportunities for decompression and artistic observations. All the doodles were done with trusty ballpoint pen (only the bet will do: the free ones at Goldhill Liquor & Gas on the Parks Highway are highly recommended) + Sharpie, scanned right from the sketchbook and all done from life: I believe “live” is not only infinitely better than drawing from photographs, and has the side-benefit of etching experience into memory with a far more aesthetic connection, focusing attention with immediacy and intimacy. That is, if the earthy scent of manure doesn't already do that. (More below the fold!)

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It's Iowa.

First up: Iowa, home of my girlfriend's family right outside of Dubuque. Beautiful country filled with wonderful folks, one particular highlight was a visit to the mind-blowing Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, the largest all-volunteer spread of it's kind. The above-right sketch is of a weeping mullberry tree that caught my attention with its gnarley, twisted branches and textured bark, though I had to knock it off after realizing that it looked rather creepy to passer-byes who could only see my feet from under the low-hanging branches. Another interesting phenomenon I got to witness was the synchronized emergence en-mass of the seven-year locus brood, with an omnipresent hum audible over the sound of traffic while driving through a suburban neighborhood. 

Meanwhile, back on the homestead, some practical relationship advice: when literally dating the farmer's daughter, first do a sketch of dad's barn in order to score some bonus points, followed by a cute drawing of a calf (still can't do cornfield yet). This also has the benefit of shoring up any inadequacies one might feel around several manly brothers with regards to much more useful talents and skill in more practical matters such as growing food, tending animals, or building and repairing things. Or even, for instance, fishing in a farm pond: the picture is actually of me heroically battling a snag on the very first cast, meanwhile mom promptly caught the biggest bass I'd ever seen in person. Also don't blow it with any poseur commentary about things that you have no idea what you're talking about...

Reminiscent of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, the  resentful occupant of hutch B-01 was either bound for competition at the county fair and/or destined for the stewpot. Which explain the not-so-snuggy look. Besides authentic country fairs that put ours here in Fairbanks to shame, another notable aspect of these types of communities would be the truly epic John Deere dealerships right on the outskirts of town. Compared to memories of riding around on my grandpa's tractor while haying as a youngster, these high-tech newfangled contraptions looked more like something I'd expect to see on a lunar colony than a cornfield. And speaking of corn, one of the top-three best gustatory experiences on this trip was scoring a few dozen ears off a roadside stand of the very first sweet-corn of the season. Though any potentially healthy benefits of consuming farm-fresh produce was offset by slathering eight ears with about a quart-pound of butter. That alone will guarantee you about the same expression as the rabbit...

“It's okay, honey. I... I was just talking to the cornfield.” - Ray Kinsella

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