Friday, March 23, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened While I Was Out Sketching

It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in early March when I set off down the road from our house to do a little sketching. I wanted to add a page or two to my Greene County sketchbook and thought I'd meander along the back roads until I found just the right spot. I didn't have to go far before I found this trio of old barns just a few miles from home.

Pen & walnut brown ink with colored pencil, 7" x 11"

I wanted to capture the look of the warped boards that were curling away from the back wall of the largest barn, so I set about drawing them, using my Noodler's Flex Pen with walnut brown ink. I like the variable line that the flex pen gives, but it's tricky to keep from smearing the ink as I work. It takes a long time to dry, so I have to be careful not to swipe my hand across the drawn lines.


I was having a lot of fun chilling out in the van with the windows down, feeling the warm spring breeze on my face, and listening to an audio book on the van sound system - very relaxing. After awhile, a farmer pulled out from between two of the barns and headed across the field on his tractor, with a big yellow lab bounding ahead of him. The happy dog led the way up the hill until they were out of sight. Including them helped inject a little life into this sketch.


With the ink drawing finished, it was time to head home. I turned the key in the ignition... nothing. Hmmm. Confusion. Tried it again. What?! Huh? The battery was dead. Oh, no-o-o-o-o! It was the audio book - the CD player had drained the battery.

Okay, now what? My husband was out of town, my daughter lives 35 minutes away. Who could I call to jump start the van? I knew AAA would probably never be able to find me out there in the boonies. The farmer in my sketch was up over the hill somewhere. I didn't know if I could even give someone directions to find me. I had been wandering along, turning left or right as the spririt moved me, figuring I could always use the GPS to find my way home.

I walked up the hill behind me to where there was an old farmhouse, but as I approached it, I saw no signs of life. It was locked up tight and looked as if it hadn't been lived in for years. I headed back to the van, where I got out my manual to read up on the directions for jump-starting a car. 

Then I waited... and waited... and waited. Until I finally saw an SUV coming down the hill toward me. I jumped out of the van and waved my arms to flag it down. The nice lady stopped and agreed to help, so I began hooking up the jumper cables to our cars, but I must not have inspired much confidence, because she smiled sweetly and insisted on calling her boyfriend, "just up the road," for help.

A few minutes later, he drove up in his pickup truck and cheerily made the last connection on the cables. With the SUV engine roaring, I turned my ignition key... nothing! Still deader than roadkill. After another minute or two, though, it started! What a wonderful sound! I wouldn't have to spend the night in my van on Fisher Hollow Road, thanks to two neighborly Greene County folks who went out of their way to help.

One additional note about the sketch - when I began adding watercolor to it later at home, I realized that the Noodler's Walnut ink I had used wasn't waterproof. Since I didn't want to end up with a muddy mess, I decided to add just a dash of color to the sketch with colored pencils.

And, can you guess why I included that framed title on the lower edge of the sketch? Yep, because I had smeared the ink on the border line really badly there and it looked awful. So, I just lettered a title on another piece of paper, cut it out, and glued it over my boo-boo.

I'll never look at this unassuming little sketch without thinking of that moment of puzzlement and utter confusion when I turned the key in the ignition and heard absolutely nothing. Really, the look on my face must have been priceless.


  1. You do have the adventures dont you out sketching. :)) But you do get some great sketches. Glad this one worked out. Loved the sketch and the fixit which we would never had known something needed fixing had you not told us. Sometimes the best things come out of fixing goofs. :)

  2. What a great story and wonderfully told and illustrated. I too love to listen to books while I paint or drive.
    You need a new battery. You should be able to play the cd all day without draining it. We don't want you stranded somewhere. Although you could turn it into a series...

  3. Suzie, I was really shocked that the CD player drained it so fast. I think you're right - I do need a new battery. I might not be so lucky next time I'm out sketching somewhere!

  4. This is a cute story and a wonderful sketch to go with it. I'm trying to figure out how to correct an out of proportion canoe on a lake. The rest of the painting was going so well, then I kept working on the canoe and now it is just too large. Oh well, some mistakes just aren't correctable. Hope you don't have any other problems with your car.

  5. Katiejane - How about doing something creative with your painting, like using the pieces you like in a collage?

  6. Fascinating story! I love how you captured the roughness of the boards on the barn, the farmer and the dog. Great page to remember the events of the day. Great example for all of us on your use of collage for the title. Thanks for sharing.


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