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.


  1. Ken, I love seeing what the two of you sketched. Linda and I stayed in the same hotel and the only sketch I got done on that trip was that lion gargoyle on the building across the way. But we sure had fun on that trip—it was very cold and my Niji would freeze up on me which is one reason I gave up on sketching. We met a ton of interesting people.


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