Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sketching the Paranormal in Pipestone, Minnesota

In yesterday's post, Roberta and I travelled to Pipestone on Thursday from Minneapolis via a westbound Jefferson Lines bus . We sketched at the Pipestone National Monument Friday morning and then sketched the buildings along Main Street and Hiawatha Avenue in the center of Pipestone in the bright, clear, October sunshine. The Golden Hour faded and the ruddy stones of Pipestone's landmark buildings, that only minutes before blazed in the amber beams of the setting sun, now took on a palette of darker and more somber hues – Pipestone's Paranormal Weekend was about to begin.

We prepared for our first night of paranormal activities by fortifying ourselves with dinner at Lange's Cafe (click on sketches to make them bigger):

My sketch of Lange's Cafe.
Lange's has good, classic, American family restaurant fare, but their specialty is pies. The sour cream raisin pie is incredibly awesome (top shelf):

Roberta's sketch of the pie case in Lange's Cafe.
After stuffing ourselves with pie at Lange's we took in a play at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center. The Calumet Players performed a medley of macabre tales in a production titled "Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe". The local thespians did a good job of dramatizing "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Pit and the Pendulum", and "The Raven" and the actors succeeded in giving me the frights. The set design was especially awesome. I did a sketch of a scene from the play from memory during intermission:

I rarely use yellow-green. It's a good color for ectoplasm.
After the play, we walked back to the Calumet Inn to meet some of the participants in the weekend's paranormal activities and listen to their eerie experiences with ghosts by electric candlelight. Some of the ghost hunters had some hi-tech gear designed to track down ethereal wraiths in our midst. We searched high and low. But the closest we came to bagging an apparition was when we sat in a dark,  un-renovated room on the third floor rumored to be haunted by a ghost named Charlie who once walked among the living until a fateful fire on Valentines Day 1944 in the Calumet Inn transported him into the realm of the supernatural:

My journal entries document the search for elusive phantoms.
I briefly thought I felt the presence of a being from the great beyond, but I decided the sensation was more likely the effect of a surfeit of sugar in my bloodstream boosted by the awesome sour cream raisin pie I ate back at Lange's Cafe. Roberta and I turned in early so we'd be refreshed for Saturday's schedule of phantasmagoric activities.

Saturday morning, Roberta and I joined our fellow seekers of the paranormal at the Pipestone County Museum from which I biked to a local cemetery for a tour conducted by a local historian:

Journal sketches of some interesting monuments.
Roberta skipped the cemetery tour to finish her sketch of the Calumet Inn. After the tour of the cemetery, Roberta and I met at the old Masonic Lodge on Main Street. No longer in use, the lodge had some interesting murals and artifacts:

Artifacts in the Masonic Lodge.

After the Masonic Lodge tour, we filed into the Performing Arts Center for a "gallery reading" by psychic medium Susie Otto though which the dearly departed sent messages to loved ones in the audience:

My sketch of the medium.
After the gallery reading,  I walked a few blocks south to do a quick sketch of the Pipestone County Courthouse. The courthouse is an impressive, majestic building and I hope I can return someday and do a more detailed sketch:

My sketch of the Pipestone County Courthouse (and tank).
Roberta and I had dinner and I rushed to sketch another landmark, the old water tower:

The old water tower in the amber glow of sunset.

As the curtain of night descended on the city of Pipestone, we joined a "Ghost Walk" – three actors in period costumes led us on an exploration of Pipestone's alleys and byways while relating tales of spirits that haunted various buildings. I'm not very good at sketching in the dark, but Roberta did some nice sketches of our guides by lamplight:

Roberta's sketches of the two ghost-guides with ethereal emanations.
Another sketch by Roberta of a ghost-guide.
After the tour of Pipestone, we were foot-sore and weary, but we partook in one more ghost-hunt at the County Museum, but we failed to glimpse any apparitions. We slunk back to the Inn fell into a deep slumber.

The next day, as we were packing up our Bromptons, Roberta noticed her bike-light was facing backwards. Since neither of us had turned the light around and our door was locked, we concluded it was one of Pipestone's many playful poltergeists that pulled the prank on us. We had our paranormal experience!

My journal account of our encounter with a poltergeist.
We enjoyed our sketching trip to Pipestone and look forward to returning someday. Pipestone is very sketchable and we recommend taking a trip there to all our sketching friends. Pipestone is also a great place to bike. You can rent a bike for 5 dollars a day at the Ewart Community Center (info here). I enjoyed bicycling on the Casey Jones State Trail that begins on the edge of town near the big grain elevator. The trail runs straight and level through the cornfields:

I could have used a ruler to sketch the Case Jones Trail.

We look forward to traveling on Jefferson Lines to more locations in Minnesota. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sketching the City of Pipestone, Minnesota

Last weekend, Roberta and I had an awesome sketching excursion to Pipestone, Minnesota. Pipestone is a charming city in Southwestern Minnesota with a population of 4,311 residents, not counting the many ghosts reputed to inhabit Pipestone. The city is named after red quartzite Native Americans have quarried there for hundreds of years and carved into ceremonial peace pipes (calumet). There are several fine old buildings in Pipestone faced with the ruddy stone. We were eager to sketch the sights around town and in the nearby Pipestone National Monument. We also wanted to sketch Pipestone's Paranormal Weekend (more about hunt for Pipestone's ghosts in the next blog post).

Pipestone is a great destination for folks like us who prefer car-free travel. Pipestone is a stop on the Jefferson Lines route between Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Pipestone's streets are easy to bike and most attractions are within blocks of one another. The Casey Jones State Trail is a nice little bicycle and pedestrian trail through the cornfields on the edge of town.

Our trip began in our Union Depot loft in Saint Paul. Roberta and I packed our clothes in the garment bags  Roberta made last year to pack into our Brompton B-bags with our bikes. We packed our art supplies into our Brompton S-bags. All packed up on our Brompton bikes, Roberta and I rolled our bikes onto the Green Line to Minneapolis and biked the short distance to the Hawthorne Transit Station. We collapsed our bikes and zipped them up into the B-bags with our garment bags and waited for the bus which arrived on time. Jefferson Lines like Amtrak, is awesomely progressive and environmental about accepting folding bikes as luggage as long as the bags weigh less than 50 pounds.

Pipestone is about 200 miles from Minneapolis by road and the bus takes about 5 hours with nine stops along the way. Roberta passed the time by sketching some of the scenery outside our window(click on the sketches to make them bigger):

Roberta's sketch of a U-pick pumpkin patch near Carver (Strathmore Series 500 Journal)
Roberta's journal sketch of cows and wind turbines on Buffalo Ridge.

I sketched the inside of the bus and our bus driver ("Just call me Bear"). Jefferson Lines has nice, new buses with very comfortable seats and lots of weird, hi-tech gadgets I like to sketch:

My pen & colored pencil sketch  on Strathmore toned drawing paper of our bus & driver "Bear".
Bear dropped us off on time at our scheduled stop behind Lange's Cafe in Pipestone at 5:15 PM:

The only part of this sketch I did on site was the sign. The rest from a photo and memory.
We unpacked our Bromptons and attached our bags and biked down Main Street to the historic Calumet Inn on the corner of Main Street and Hiawatha Avenue:

Roberta's watercolor sketch  Strathmore Aquarius paper of the Calumet Inn.
The Calumet is a nice hotel with a lot of character that artists like Roberta and I appreciate. We liked the friendly, local vibe. Our room had some nice antiques (Roberta sketched the dresser). We had a nice dinner in the bar and turned in early. 

Roberta's sketch of the antique dresser in our room.
 Friday Morning, we biked several blocks north to the Pipestone Monument. The monument is a very small park, but it has many scenes we wanted to paint. I chose the "leaping rock" for my only watercolor of the trip. Roberta painted the waterfall:

My pen & watercolor of the "Leaping Rock"on Anigoni toned paper.

Roberta's watercolor of the waterfall.
Above the falls, there is a rock with graffiti carved into it by the 1838 Joseph Nicollet expedition. I was impressed the carver bothered to put serifs on the letters. A little further on, I sketched the pile of rocks named "The Old Stone Face":

Lots of fun stuff to sketch at the Pipestone Monument.
We could have spent all day sketching at the monument, but we wanted to get back to town. Before leaving, Roberta bought a turtle pendant carved from pipestone in the visitors center. I sketched one of the artisans as he carved a pipe out of a chunk of red rock:

A few sketches of the visitors center in my Strathmore toned paper journal.
We biked back to town and spent the rest of the afternoon sketching the buildings in town. Roberta sketched the Claumet Inn, while I sketched buildings on the corner of Hiawatha Avenue and Main Street:

I wished I could sketch each historic building separately, especially the eccentric Moore block, across the street from the Calumet Inn with its oddball gargoyle-like sandstone carvings and the old City Hall, now the Pipestone County Museum. I also sketched some close-ups of the weird carvings on the Moore Block building:

My sketch of the buildings on the corner of Main Street.

 After the sun set, we packed up our art materials. We walked over to Lange's Cafe for dinner (we sampled a couple of Lange's famous pies the following day). After dinner, we joined the celebrants of Pipestone's Paranormal Weekend as they began their quest to get a glimpse of one or more of haunted Pipestone's celebrated ghosts. Our sketches of the ghost hunt and more in the next post – Sketching the Paranormal in Pipestone, Minnesota.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sketching All the Way to Los Angeles on Amtrak's Southwest Chief

It's the time of year we travel to the east and west coast to visit our far flung families. A few weeks ago I took off on a trip to visit Mom in Los Angeles. I planned to make the trip a sketching trip, so I chose to take Amtrak's Southwest Chief with my Brompton folding bike in a B Bag and my sketching supplies in the C bag. I packed my clothes in the garment bag Roberta made (see this post for photos of Roberta's garment bag). When it was all packed it weighed 37 lbs. The weight limit is 50 lbs. Here's a sketch of how 

I've been eager to try sketching with pen and watercolor in the big Strathmore 500 Series mixed media hardbound art journal I purchased at Wet Paint last month. I managed to fit the big journal and my smaller toned paper journal that use for quick sketches with pen and dry media with a compact watercolor kit I made out of a pencil case. Here's the list:

I took the Megabus from the Union Depot in Saint Paul to Union Station in Saint Paul to knock a couple days off the trip. I arrived in Ciccago with plenty of time to sketch other travelers:

I boarded the Southwest Chief and found myself sitting next to awesome cartoonist Tom Winkler. We had fun sitting in the observation car sketching each other (click on the sketch to make it bigger for the panoramic effect):

The scenery on the trip started off with the miles and miles of corn and soybean fields. Dull except for the occasional feedlot or acrobatic crop-duster:

After sleeping through much of Kansas, we were rolling through classic cowboy film  landscapes with buttes and mesas and spectacular desert vistas:

Raton, New Mexico is an interesting stop on the route:

Roberta and I are fans of Breaking Bad, so I had to insert the two main characters in the desert landscape west of Albuquerque:

I did lots more sketches of the desert, but I won't post them all. We arrived in Los Angeles in the afternoon and I unpacked and unfolded the Brompton and biked to the Dover where I stayed for the week:

For entertainment, Mom and I walked to the Farmers Market on Fairfax. Godd food and good music:

Los Angeles has a lot of weird trees. This is a pen and watercolor sketch of a tree growing next next to the Fairfax Branch Library:

Here's another pen and watercolor sketch of two big tiki heads belonging to a movie prop store I found just biking around (Los Angeles is a pretty good place for bicycling if you stay off the busy streets):

My mom and I went to the Page Museum at the LaBrea Tar Pits. Lots of skeletons to sketch like this extinct condor:

I did this watercolor sketch of the beautiful Union Station while waiting for the return trip on the Southwest Chief

There are awesome sketchers everywhere. While I was sketching the Union Station, Luis here showed me his sketches and his impressive pen kit:

Back on the Southwest Chief, I encountered Dotsero Doc and Penelope Proper dressed up in style of the Wild West. They allowed me to sketch them (Roberta and I love sketching costumed models). Here they are and the sketch I did of them:

The Southwest Chief goes through some amazing scenery. The Raton Pass is especially beautiful. After the steep climb and descent, it's mostly dull - a good time to talk with your fellow passengers and catch up on your sleep:

 Back in Chicago, I waited for the Megabus outside Union Station and sketched some of my fellow Megabus passengers:

 I'm back now in Minnesota with memories and sketches of my trip on the Southwest Chief and looking forward to the next sketching adventure:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Roberta Makes Garment Bags For Our Bromptons

Roberta created garment bags for our two Brompton bikes. Roberta designed the lightweight bags to fit inside a Brompton "B" bag eliminating the need for an additional luggage bag and helping protect the bike.

Now we can travel in style!

The garment bags have two pockets on each side with heavy-duty snaps:
The garment bag drapes over the folded bike
Easily fits inside a Brompton "B" bag padding the bike.