Sketching in Dry Tortugas

While in Florida, we left the RV at a campground in the Everglades and motorcycled down the Keys to Key West. There we caught the Yankee Freedom ferry out to Dry Tortugas National Park, where we camped for three nights. Fort Jackson was a lot of fun to explore, the key (island) was gorgeous, and we just had an absolute blast!

I brought along some watercolor paper, a new mini moleskine sketchbook, and a handful of pens and paints. Everywhere you turned the view was stunning and I had a lot of fun sketching and even worked on a couple of paintings.

There was a tour every day, explaining some of the fort’s history and design/construction details. We caught the second half of a tour one day and I sketched the first three images while we were stopped, listening. After the tour was over I came back and added some details and shading.

Inside the fort, with a powder-storage building on the left. You can see a cannon up at the top left section of the wall.

Up on the second floor, looking down the hallway. The arches were fascinating, and made gorgeous patterns. (I added all of the brickwork that night by flashlight).

The final stop of the tour was up on the third level, looking down toward the front of the fort (just to the right of the lighthouse).

There are three ways to visit the island: the ferry we took, by private boat, or via seaplanes. These guys came in three times a day, dropping off visitors. You can see the chain of keys off in the background, behind the landed plane.

We walked the moat/sea wall at least a dozen times every day. Between the amazing colors of the water, the views of the fort itself, and the array of sea-life visible from above there was always something new to see.
These conch shells, down inside the moat, had hermit crabs living inside them – moving about less than an inch at a time.

One night it really rained. A couple of campers’ tents didn’t survive and they had to find somewhere else to sleep for the evening. Ours held up just fine, but it was still raining when we woke. I headed into the fort (which opens/closes with the sunrise/set) to stay out of the rain and spent a wonderful morning sketching and painting. Here’s a view of the bridge, the only entrance into the fort, and the old pilings for the coal storage, the current helicopter pad, and the hammock of trees where the tents are set up.

There were so many amazing things underneath the water. I tried to sketch them while walking along the moat wall but couldn’t quite capture the sensation of looking down into the water.

One of our favorite parts of the fort was that the moat had an actual crocodile living in it! Carlos apparently blew in with a hurricane about 12 years ago and has been living there ever since. One morning we spotted him directly below us while up on the second floor of the fort and I sketched out this view. I got to see him reach up out of the water and snap a bird down from its perch a few inches up the fort wall on our first day.

Since we only caught the second half of the tour, we joined in another day for the first half. Here’s the sallyport (entrance) to the fort while catching up.
It was so fascinating to watch the birds about the island. The pelicans were fun to watch. We tried to guess when they would suddenly dive into the water after soaring above it. Way more fun, and more interesting, than we thought they would be. Here are a few captured while at the dock. We also watched quite a few herons. They didn’t seem to like the pelicans when they got too close, and it appeared mutual.
The sunrises and sunsets were spectacular. I couldn’t quite capture this sunset in shades of black and white, but thought it was worth trying. From the bottom, the water with patches of lighter blue, a wall of clouds that set on the horizon, then the colored sky with silhouetted cottony clouds, and then a whispy cap of cloud cover over all. The next morning I quickly sketched out the fort silhouetted by the rising sun. Someone happened to be walking out the sallyport with a flashlight at the moment, illuminating the entrance and bridge.Next to our tent we had two hermit crab concentrations. There must have been hundreds just around our tent and thousands on the island as a whole. In the evening/night you really had to pay attention to where you stepped. Each corner of the fort had spiral staircases leading to the upper floors. On our final morning I found a comfortable seat and sketched out the beginning of the stairwell from the ground-floor. In our last hour, while taking some photographs from the roof of the fort, I quickly sketched this rotating cannon while walking. On the ferry back to Key West I added details and shading. On the ferry, waiting to depart I sketched the lighthouse in pencil. Along the ride I inked the image, added shading and details. So I blame any lopsidedness on the boat’s motion. With the lighthouse finished and more than an hour to go, I sketched fellow passengers.

What an amazing trip! We absolutely loved it and highly recommend an overnight trip to Dry Tortugas!

(Here are the paintings done while visiting.)

Sketching on dates

I love having my little pocket sketchbook, and the ability to carry it around with me everywhere.

While waiting for the movie to start, I quickly sketched out the theater, minus the commercials that were playing… It certainly helped me enjoy the delay more!

Ashley and I like to swing by a Starbucks that is close to the hospital before she heads into work. It might not be our favorite coffee but it’s convenient and a great chance to sneak in a date on a work day. She looks something up on her phone while I look at her.

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!

Sketching at Cumberland Coffee Roasters

During a delightful day with the rare combination of warm, sunny weather, Ashley being off work and awake during the day, we enjoyed time wandering about town together and stopped by my favorite coffee shop in the Fayetteville area for a break.

While Ashley caught up on some emails I quickly sketched my favorite model. Perhaps a bit too quickly. If I were titling sketches, this one would be Why The Long Face seeing as how I stretched her nose and hand a bit too much in my haste. Never-the-less, it’s always fun to get a sketch in. 😀

Ashley’s new favorite hat

For Christmas, niece Bailee received a hand-made (with love!) hat from Aunt Joni. Ashley really liked it and was, dare I say, jealous. For giggles, she pretended like she might be taking it with her when we pulled out. We snapped a picture and, instead of drawing the cafeteria the other morning I sketched out Ashley enjoying Bailee’s gift. 😀

Joni loved that Ashley loved it, and we’re eagerly awaiting the mail man’s arrival. He’s supposed to be delivering a hat of her very own some time later today. 😀

Mini Sketches

I’m trying to instill the habit of sketching whenever I get the chance. The mini sketchbooks are coming in really handy, as I can carry one in my pocket just about everywhere we go. Here are a few of the scenes I’ve jotted down over the last couple of weeks:

Ashley at the coffee shop:

While Ashley ran to the restroom I caught the neighbors on paper.

Another quick stop at a coffee shop before heading to the hospital (you may notice a recurring them, both in subject and locale 😀 )

Still Ashley, but we’re waiting for our Thai food to arrive. Delicious!
Sitting at another coffee shop, this is the building across the street.

On an afternoon spent with a friend, we ended up at a tire shop to repair a flat. This fella was passing his time in the waiting room…