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:


  1. Fantastic! Thanks for taking me along on the trip!

  2. I've just found your blog and love your sketches! What a lovely way to record your journey, and so colourful on the toned paper. I'll be following from now on and looking forward to seeing more of your work!


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