It’s that time of year again: the annual summer camp moleskin sketchbook sketches update thingy! Of course, there’s a few things to take note of this time around.
Firstly, this was the first time I’ve had all 3 of my sons, all now in the troop that I am the scoutmaster for, at the same camp. This meant, for the first time in many years, I only had ONE week of summer camp to go to. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping, I love the outdoors, I love having these wonderful memories (as well as some frustrating ones, to be honest) with my kids at camp. However, devoting two weeks (in a row, no less) to camp was getting pretty old. It’s hard to accomplish certain career goals with that level of interruption (because it’s never just the two weeks, there’s prep time and coordination involved, too), but it’s also very difficult to scratch off some family bucket list items we’d like to get to before they start the next phase of their lives (which is creeping closer and closer no matter how hard I try to ignore it).
Secondly, this was the first week of summer camp for my middle son (and me) since he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I knew I was going to have a rough week, worrying and not sleeping, but I was determined to make sure he had a “normal” week and could prove to himself that his condition doesn’t stop him from doing any of the things he wants to do (or that I make him do…he never admits to enjoying himself even when it’s clear he is). As such, I wasn’t even sure I’d have time or the mental bandwidth to get the moleskin out this year. I had to follow my son around to keep tabs on him (he’s not great about being self aware when it comes to the ups and downs of his blood glucose), but I also had to carry around all his medical supplies because the rules and regulations wouldn’t allow him to, and the standard timing for med calls just wasn’t going to work out. It wasn’t until Tuesday (we arrived first thing Sunday morning) that I managed to sit with pen and notebook in hand, but I did manage to get some drawing in.
Thirdly, aside from this being my first post in over a month (despite my intentions, my productivity and punctuality in updating things here has been abysmal this summer, which is highly frustrating), I’ve been back from camp for over a week. So why the post delay? Well, you see, I have this habit of carrying everything I could possibly need with me in this bag (soon to be replaced with some awesome custom thingy I dream up), including the moleskin. As you might assume, I carry this bag with me wherever I go, whether it’s out to a store, dropping the kids off at school, camping, hiking…even kayaking. The day after we returned from summer camp, we (the family) decided to go on a little kayaking excursion that went a tad off the rails. Despite my bag being in a properly sealed dry bag, my bag, and it’s contents, got wet (and my phone is now hanging out with the Gungans at the bottom of a river). I tried valiantly to dry out and save my moleskin, but I couldn’t undo the damage. The drawings are mostly still there, but the ink bled in quite a few areas and the pages are now corrugated. I won’t be using this particular sketchbook again, but I was able to scan this year’s camp sketches and do some Photoshopping voodoo to mostly salvage what the images looked like. It was time consuming, I did all kinds of tricks and things (I’m sure someone with more skill than I could do a better job), including adding a paper background color and texture, but they don’t look quite “right” to me. Still, it’s better than losing them, and the memories embedded in them for me, completely.
The first moleskin sketch since camp last year, basically. I felt a little rusty, and it took some time to find inspiration. Of course, my mind was preoccupied with my son’s health, this being his first week of summer camp since being diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I had to follow him around with his meds (rules and regulations wouldn’t allow him to carry them for some reason) and to keep tabs on him, so it was hard to lose myself in sketching. I didn’t actually crack the moleskin open until the second full day of camp, since the first day my son was out kayaking all day so I was too.
Anyway, no matter what camp I’ve been at, there’s always a plethora of rocks and picnic tables, so when I can’t find anything else, I usually place a few rocks around the more interesting features or textures of the tables.
The second sketch of camp, same day. The first few days were brutally hot. In my quest for interesting bits of nature to capture, I found some nice, big, dandelions in an open field near where the scouts were engrossed in their program. I sat down and drew for about five minutes before I was sweating so badly it was pooling on the inside of my glasses, making it impossible to see what I was doing. I relocated to the shade.
After running away from the sun Tuesday, I decided to draw this wooden pole and rope juxtaposition from the circus tent I was seeking refuge under. I also attempted to capture the rough shapes and shadows of the foliage in the far background. I was seated a little too far away for my liking while working on this one, as the staff frowns upon folks moving picnic tables around willy nilly.
Still under the circus tent Tuesday, not quite lunch time, I turned my attention to the weathered bench I was sitting on and the funky knot near the end. Wood grain is interesting to try to replicate, especially if you’re working with a fine point tool (as opposed to a nice, dry, brush) and trying to move quickly.
Tuesday was probably the day I found myself with the most time to draw at camp. This particular scene was near the entrance to Challenge Valley, the team building obstacle course area at camp. There were some nice shapes, textures, and volumes in front of me, but I got pulled away from this one when the scouts headed onto the course, first to make mud, then to run the obstacles. I ended up running with them (and filming them) while the staff member went with another group. It was great fun, though I wish I had had more time at this spot.
There was a great, big, old tree in our campsite that I either needed to climb or draw. After watching my monkey of a youngest son climb all over it and then fall (fortunately without getting injured), I decided not to set a bad example and drew the tree instead (if the scoutmaster climbs a tree, that obviously means all the scouts will wind up climbing the tree, too…). The bark was thick and chunky with tons of character. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only tree around, so light in the late afternoon faded quickly (that’s one of those things that happens in the woods, for those of you who don’t spend time in the woods). The entire troop was thoroughly enjoying a rousing card game before heading off to the evening programs while I drew.
On Wednesday the scouts were doing metal work and black smithing, one of the more unique programs at camp. There were lots of neat things to draw, but, between my son’s blood sugar dropping while he was hammering away on an anvil and the patrol being mostly first and second year scouts who needed some assistance with their endeavors, I once again wasn’t really able to lose myself in what I was drawing. But, even distracted drawing is better than none at all, and every sketch, no matter how rushed, reminds me of what was going on at the time better than any journal or photo.
More rocks on picnic tables. There was some nice juxtaposition of silhouette and textures going on in front of me, as well as a little bit of morning light sneaking in through the trees in the black smithing area.
Towards the end of the program day Wednesday, one of the scouts decided it would be funny to stand where I was drawing. I’m not sure if he thought his face was going to make it in, but his shirt did anyway.
I think I draw at least one pinecone at every summer camp experience. They are very complicated, but interesting shapes, very easy to lose your place and tough to make artistic choices about using marks to indicate texture or shadow/volume. Throw it on a picnic table and you’d better have more than a few uninterrupted minutes to focus. This was another Thursday waterfront drawing that I didn’t quite give my full attention to.
Another distracted drawing. This little tree at the water front was casting a really nice shadow, but my interest and attention wavered Thursday because the scouts were working on swimming merit badge, and my two youngest sons don’t have a lot of confidence when it comes to swimming and are very reluctant in general to engage in group activities, but particularly when they feel less capable than others. My youngest did pass his swimmer’s test for the first time, which I was very impressed with and proud of him for. He stayed more engaged in the program than I would have expected. My middle son, however, devoted most of his energy during the test to supporting and cheering on his younger brother and only made beginner again. It was pretty hard to watch how crushed and embarrassed he was. He is essentially part fish, he is capable, but he refuses to learn any real swim strokes, and the lack of efficiency due to that kills his stamina. He participated a little during the swimming merit badge, but wouldn’t get in the water. I did what I could to support and encourage, but to no avail. It was very hard to get sucked into drawing under those circumstances.
The last full day of programs at camp, Friday, was another waterfront, this time for all 3 of my sons and their patrols. They went tubing and water skiing, and due to the popularity of that particular program, there weren’t enough spare seats for leaders to tag along. So, I sat somewhat in the shade to draw. There were some nice shadows cast on some rocks in the morning. I had moments of getting really into this sketch, but frequently became distracted by conversations taking place around me. As with many of my camp sketches this year, I had a tough time maintaining my interest in what I was looking at.
There you have it, another year of moleskin sketchiness. Hopefully I’ll remember to take the analog sketchbook out more often between now and next summer, as it’s a fun exercise (of course, I’ll need a new, non-ruffled sketchbook). I hadn’t even filled this sketchbook halfway, so it’s a shame it’s now toast. It pretty much starts with my first summer camp drawings, back in 2015 (and for those keeping track, there have been 6 weeks of summer camp since then), and I still remember what was going on and where in camp I was when I made each drawing. I really thought it would have been cool to use the same sketchbook every year until my youngest aged out of scouts, but I guess that’s not going to happen. At least the original sketches aren’t completely ruined, and I have the digital versions to jar my memory.
Okay, I won’t waste your time with all the things I hope to get to in the near future, but suffice it to say, I hope to be more productive over the coming weeks. Summer is almost over, which brings with it a different kind of busy schedule. However, the kids are in school all day, so that should allow me greater ability to focus in the studio on weekdays. It’s amazing how disruptive to the art making process it is to constantly be chasing kids away from your wife (who is working a real job from home that earns real money and pays real bills), nagging them to clean up after themselves or to go outside, or yelling at them to leave each other the heck alone, stop poking one another, stop insulting one another, stop farting at one another…