Friday, August 25, 2017

State Fair Sketchbook

Over the ten days of the Iowa State Fair I was fortunate to spend more than twenty spectacular hours sketching. The great thing about something like our State Fair is that there is sketch material in literally every direction as far as you can see. There are displays of vintage farm engines, a potter
actively firing pots, judging of animals of virtually every species and variety, demonstrations, chain-saw artists, horseshoe pitching, and cow chip throwing. And that could be part of a single day. There is an astonishing variety of people, of animals, of nearly everything. And this year the weather has been perfect, with high temperatures in the eighties, a couple of days of brief rains (we need much more), and light winds. By arriving very early--usually before 8:30--I managed to miss the crowds and higher temperatures of the afternoon, as well.

So I had an opportunity to sit comfortably to draw and paint a number of those events. These are a few pages of my sketchbook that I've selected to post. The first page shows the General Store and Pharmacy in the lineup of old town buildings, below which is a head-only portrait of the Big Boar for this year, who weighed in at nearly 1200 pounds, a truly enormous animal. I visited his enclosure twice, and to my amazement, he was actually standing up both times. Usually these gigantic swine spend the majority of their time supine. The top image is watercolor and ink, the Big Boar was painted in casein.

The next page shows the Pharmacy building in larger detail. This building is now an ice cream shop, selling sweetness in the Iowa heat. Next door, the General Store sells toys and gadget and doodads and gewgaws. This page was done in ink and watercolor.


Finally, here is a painting of a vintage Farmall tractor, by International Harvester. These tractors have been used by generations of small family farms, but are too small for the kind of mechanized agri-business that is practiced today in many places. This particular tractor was part of the Future Farmers of America competition to restore old tractors, and was in particularly immaculate condition. This is a casein painting.

Sketching at any large event--fairs, music events, plays, concerts, and so on--is a golden opportunity to observe and translate. Sketching is really the life blood of art.
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