Gallery Update: A Moleskin Story

Gallery Update: A Moleskin Story

Alright, two weeks in a row of updating the website! Shall we take bets on how long the streak will last? I vote for Q, because my brain.

Speaking of spelling (I know we weren’t, but my brain and I were), am I even spelling “moleskin” correctly? I’ve noticed it autocorrects to “moleskinE”, which doesn’t make much sense to me phonetically, unless I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years as well. Either way, I don’t care, so let’s move on.

If you actually had the interest or patience to have read last week’s blog entry, you may recall that I mentioned a bit of a back story surrounding my recent White Mountain moleskin sketches. It’s now time to delve into that.

I have been hiking and camping in The White Mountains of NH with my wife and kids for many years now. In addition to enjoying the actual act of hiking, I love the scenery up there. The views always mesmerize me and feed my creative mojo (I have mojo?), as well as puts life into perspective. Nature is kind of like my church. Since our first forays into that mountainous wonderland, I have lamented that I never really had the time or opportunity to make any art while I was in such inspiring environs. This was largely due to having young kids that needed near constant encouragement or wrangling. With their shorter legs, we were also often pressed for time. We needed to keep moving in order to finish our hikes before sunset.

However, my desire to draw in The White Mountains is far older than our years of hiking. It’s older than my kids. It’s older than my marriage. It’s older than me.

That last one isn’t true. BUT, my urge to heed the creative impulse inspired by those majestic peaks does date back quite a few years. Back to 1996, in fact. I had just completed my first year in the art program at UMass Dartmouth when my whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) on my mother’s side decided to take a big group vacation up to The White Mountains. My Aunt Lucille and Uncle Steve had been making a similar family trip with their children/my kids pretty much every summer for years (as far as I can remember), so they had some key spots for us to hit. I have always loved spending time with my family, so that trip is a very happy memory for me. Unfortunately, possibly due to how frequently I space out and daydream, even my good memories have a lot of holes in them (though I can vividly remember odd things, like walking around in diapers or being on an infant scale at the doctor’s office). I couldn’t tell you the names of most of the places we went, how long we were there, what time of year it was, or, until recently, even what year it was. I remember loving the trip. I remember loving the mountains and wanting to live there. I remember vaguely some of the locations, some of the personal interactions.

I remember riding a gondola up to a peak and lamenting I didn’t have a sketch book with me.

Fast forward back to the present. On August 19, 2017, my wife and I took the kids on a four day, three night camping trip in The White Mountains. The plan was to hike the Wildcat range, which we did, then spend the other days doing smaller hikes and visiting some tourist spots. On Tuesday the 22nd, on our way home, we stopped to hike Bald Peak across from Canon Mountain and to finally check out Artist’s Bluff, a spot we have driven by and talked about many times. Up on the bluff is where I finally, after 21 years, took out a sketch book and drew in The White Mountains.

My view, perched upon a boulder on Artist’s Bluff. My first sketch in The White Mountains.

The wind was crazy up there. My eyes watered. My nose ran. The pages of my moleskin whipped around. It was even powerful enough to move my arm as I tried to draw, making precise linework impossible.

An artist making art on Artist’s Bluff. Kind of cliche, but I don’t care.

I didn’t care. I was happy.

After that short hike, we decided to stop at The Basin, which I had never seen. It was an absolutely amazing place. I could have spent days drawing there. As it was, I only had time for one sketch:

I climbed out into the rushing, frigid water to sit on a rock and oogle this view for a while.

We did another short hike and then headed home. A week later, we returned to The Whites to hike Mount Osceola and East Peak, where we kept a good enough pace that the moleskin came out once again:

There was an opening on a cliff near the top of East Peak with this blown down tree. The roots were thick and tentacle like, lots of character to them, so I had to draw them.

I hope this is a sign of more to come on our future adventures to The Whites. But, this little back story doesn’t end quite yet. On the heels of this particular trip, for some reason, I got to talking to my parents about that big family trip decades ago. They, like me, both remembered it fondly, but were hazy on the details and even the timing. Enter: my mom. Not long after our conversation, I was down their way visiting. Mom had gone digging and found the old photo albums with pictures from that family trip, which is how I now know it was in the summer of 1996. As I flipped through the albums and began remembering more about that vacation, two pictures jumped out at me.

No, I’m not the cute kid up front. That’s my cousin Brandon. I’m that mesmerized, cool kid in the background with the stylish hair (long on top, shaved on the sides) and sporting my karate windbreaker (that was my first year of Shotokan).

This picture was from the top of Canon. My wife and I hiked this with the kids a few years ago. I thought the peak looked familiar. In 1996, we rode the gondola to the top to check out the views. Do you want to know what I was thinking, sitting there, staring over to the Lincoln/Lafayette ridge (probably one of my favorite hikes, by the way)? I was wishing, for the first time in The Whites, that I had my sketch book with me. This is that moment, or pretty darn close to it.

But wait, it gets better/weirder.

I’m the cool guy standing on a rock in the middle of the frigid water.

Any guesses to where this might be? This is part of The Basin, that place I thought I had never been. You know where I’m standing, 21 years ago? Almost the exact spot that I sat down to create that sketch on August 22, 2017.

I don’t believe in fate, or destiny, or any other mumbo jumbo, but I admit these two 21 year old pictures blew my mind a little. The seeds for my love of The White Mountains were planted over half my lifetime ago (as of this writing. I presume I will continue to age, despite my best efforts), and since meeting my wife, I’ve finally had the opportunities to immerse myself in the nature there. As humans, we often look for connections and meaning in life’s random events. It brings us comfort and closure. It makes us happy. That’s pretty much what finding these pictures has done for me.

About the Author:

My brain makes me draw stuff that isn't there, and this is where I put it.

Please let me know what you think, it makes my brain happy.

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