Sketching in Congaree National Park

After wrapping up Ashley’s contract at the hospital, we headed to Congaree National Park in South Carolina. With only about 20 miles of hiking trails we only visited for two days (especially since we don’t have a canoe/boat to explore the waterways) but while there I quickly added some more sketches to the little black moleskine.

While checking out the boardwalk, we heard, and saw! three owls that were talking back and forth quite expressively. They were too far away for me to sketch, but I did get a quick sketch of the boardwalk itself, meandering through the flood plane with cypress trees (and their knees sticking up!)

This fabulous national champion Loblolly Pine was right next to the trail and I scribbled its outline in just a few moments before we continued on and I added in the bark texture and root details while walking.

Though there is no RV overnighting available, there are two tent campgrounds. We were able to snag a site for the night and leave the RV at the visitor center. Here’s a couple minute sketch of our home for the night.

While hiking out to the Congaree river, I sketched this image. The trail meandered through the flood plane, between the towering old-growth trees. During our lunch break on the river bank I added some details and shading with the marker.

Playing with a (new) Marker

Yesterday we went downtown and walked about to see what we could see. Ran across a nice little bookstore/art gallery and also a paper store. I picked up a gray Tombow dual brush pen/marker. I’ve been curious about these for a few months now and finally saw one in a store. This should allow me to quickly add a bit of shading to my sketches while not adding much bulk to my carry-around items.

After walking in the park, we headed to the hospital because Ashley had a quick training session. We arrived early and sat in the cafeteria until they closed it for cleaning. Upon arriving, Ashley realized she had a voicemail and listened to it, while I sketched her.

I’ve realized that I just sketch when I have time – and that drawing expands to fill the amount of time available. So I have no idea how long each of these sketches take! So yesterday I tried to pay a little more attention. This quick portrait was roughly 5 minutes.

Ashley headed up for her class, so I drew another view of the cafeteria.

Have to say, I’m getting a bit tired of drawing those chairs… But they’re so prominent it’s hard to omit them! After finishing the sketch I added some shading with my new marker. Here you can see a bit of the contrast of the before/after. Really adds some visual interest!

Ashley actually recalled the time incorrectly (we were thirty minutes early), so she came back down and joined me. That means that the above sketch took roughly 20 minutes.

They close the cafeteria a few times each day for cleaning/restocking/etc. This was one of those times, so we headed out to the lobby. Ashley headed back upstairs for the meeting shortly after we arrived, so I spent about 30 minutes sketching the StarBucks kiosk, along with some of its patrons.

While sketching I had one woman stop by and ask if she could be nosy and see what I was drawing. She really liked seeing this and the other cafeteria views, and was impressed with Emily’s portrait. I had just started adding some shading when Ashley arrived and we headed on our way.

I’m loving my marker! It’s nice to have the option to quickly add some shading. I’ve been carrying around a little travel watercolor set but haven’t broken it out yet – it’s both a bit time consuming and quite intimidating to add color. But with the success of this new marker, I think that color is the next step!

Hanging out in the Cafeteria

Spent some more time in the hospital cafeteria, waiting for Ashley to escape from work. Over two visits I sketched the view in front of me, trying for a bit of a different angle than before.

During the first wait, I sketched the right table and the woman grabbing a bite to eat, the frame around the condiments counter and the ceiling fixtures.

The second visit saw the addition of the counter itself, the items on top of it, the two ladies in front, the left table and chair and the decorative tree.

Already having something started certainly makes it easier to sit down and just get to work. Especially when it doesn’t matter if there are people in sight or not!

Back in the Cafeteria

After the fun of the holidays it was time to head back to the hospital once more. I’m still torn between wanting to work fast and capture figures and trying to get enough detail to differentiate specific people. Here are a few of the characters who came through the line one morning:

The gentleman on the right is a regular, I’ve seen him quite a few of the mornings I’ve been there. This sketch covered a couple of mornings – I drew the diners, flag and column one morning and the next added in the rest of the details.

Here I knew that I only had a couple of minutes, but that’s the beauty of the pocket sketchbook – I can draw no matter how short of a time!

These are the same two guys, chatting with another of the regulars.

Cafeteria Characters

Coffee shops and libraries are great places to see a variety of people, who will pause for a few moments so that you can quickly sketch them. As are cafeterias and restaurants. While waiting for Ashley to finish work in the mornings I’ve been sitting in the hospital cafeteria, sipping on a coffee and sketching.

Almost everyone goes to the utensil/condiment counter, so it’s a great spot to catch them stationary for a few moments:

My favorite of the day was the elderly gentleman who sat at the table in front of me to eat. Quite the hair-do. Ashley said I can’t grow mine like that…. 🙁

Though, the lady in the serape poncho was pretty fun, too.

And when no one’s there, you can draw the condiments themselves! At least you know they won’t be moving on you.