Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Church
12/25/15
chalk
the steeple in better days
10/26/14
It's the Christmas season: I always wonder about Sacred Heart Church as I walk past it on my way to the river. In advance of selling it, the owners had the crosses removed from the main steeple and a smaller side steeple. It looks strange without the gold crosses and the general lack of care is starting to show as bits fall off, steps crumble and woody weeds sprout out of cracks in the foundation.
For a long time after the cross removal, I never saw birds perching on the bare steeple and I figured that they were as disturbed as I was about the change (I'm not very religious but the circumstances surrounding the status of this church are sad and aggravating). But now I see that the birds (starlings mostly) have returned to perching on the tiny real estate up there. They've also even begun using the copper wire that grounded the cross during lightning storms. You can't see it in this drawing but the wire sticks out, like a tree branch from the side of the steeple near the top. The birds don't mind but I think as time goes on and the birds continue to sit on it, that it will gradually bend down, lower and lower until it's impossible to perch on.
Different uses are proposed for the building but there are logistical and financial problems. I imagine the birds would have a few things to say about it too.
Happy New Year to you. Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A few December thoughts

I'm as ready as I'll ever be for winter: I just add another layer of clothing or put on more sensible shoes.

Usually, I'm in a hurry to get outside in the morning. It looked okay but I didn't factor in the sneaky breeze that turned the moment from cool to cold. I did bring some gloves: a ratty pair of florescent orange fleece ones picked up at a hardware store. The cuffs are frayed and falling apart and they are spattered with charcoal and ink. I also brought a small bottle of magenta red ink. Maybe this combination would keep me warm?

There was one lone merganser circling the choppy water above the dam. The duck would distract me from the biting wind. Or the biting wind would keep me focused on the task at hand and I'd make a better drawing. Hmmm… all drawing is a series of challenges engaged head-on or cleverly sidestepped (or abject failures). Imagine: the simplest errand always requiring the construction of a map and a simultaneous post-mortem. This is drawing for me. --And I enjoy drawing!

Charles River above the South Natick Dam
12-21-15
ink
When I draw outside, I like to do more than one drawing usually. I need to reassure or redeem myself. So I tried some blue chalk on the next one instead of pink ink. Using the same logic (red gloves, red ink), I should have turned into an icicle but the drawing went surprising well (I think!) and I didn't feel the cold as much.

It's all pretty silly isn't it? People are starving and killing each other. We pollute the planet with little sense of hopefulness that we can make a positive difference. I still haven't fastened the button that's about to fall off my shirt…
And I worry about my fingers getting cold. We're all beggars in this Life. Lord have mercy!

The island and the bridge below the dam
charcoal
12-21-15

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pleasant Street Bridge

The Pleasant Street Bridge (or Eliot Bridge) is part of the South Natick motif that I visit on a regular basis. This, and other local geometry provide me with enough interesting angles and vantage points to keep my curiosity going. There's an engraved stone on one end of the bridge that commemorates the wise people who donated the land to the town for a park:
"The plaque on the south end of the river states that in 1934, eight acres were donated by descendants of Isabella Pratt Shaw to the town of Natick. The South Natick Dam was built in 1933, and, since the plaque is embedded in the bridge, it is a reasonable assumption to make that the bridge was built in 1934." --source
A bridge of one sort or another has existed here for centuries. Bridges are little noticed until they fail or need maintenance. This one sustains an ever expanding river of morning and evening commuters. When the noise of the cars disturbs me, I try to head out earlier in the day or closer to the roar of the river as it flows over the dam.

One final thought, the river has been somewhat low this Summer and Fall. But in years past, I have seen the river in flood when the water level was almost touching the tops of the arches!

A view from the upstream side: there's a quiet pool away from the main channel. I've seen a fox, raccoon, herons and ducks back in here.
11/27/15
charcoal

This view is from the downstream side of the bridge. You can just make out some jottings in the central arch: the island and the dam are visible.
11-29-15
crayon
A view looking downstream from above the dam. The trees that grow on the island are reflected in the calm water formed by the dam.
12/3/15
charcoal
The river flowing under the bridge
12/4/15
ink
Rocks in shadow below the bridge
12/7/15
charcoal

Friday, November 27, 2015

OBSERVATIONS books for sale

It's time to make a few more books of sketches for you to take home with you. In the meantime, below are on-line versions of my first two OBSERVATIONS books. Printed versions are available for purchase here and here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving

This blog is called ROBSERVATIONS  because my name is Rob and I see things in my nature travels that I think are cool. Just for the record, at this small place on the Charles River near my home I have seen some interesting creatures:
  • American Osprey, Otter, Muskrats, Raccoons, Red Fox, Snapping Turtles, Carp, Trout, Frogs, snakes, small turtles, small fish, Mallards, Mergansers, Cormorants, Canada Geese, Swans, Sandpipers, Squirrels, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Red Tail Hawks, Kingfishers, small birds, crayfish… lots of people and dogs. I'm probably forgetting a few…
This Thanksgiving holiday I am grateful for the farsighted people who act to set aside and preserve bits of the natural world. It's terribly important.

Monday: common mergansers above and a great blue heron below.
charcoal
11/23/15

Monday's heron
graphite
11/23/15

Tuesday: the island. Missing in this drawing is an otter (!) that I saw swimming across the current to the island. It slithered ashore and disappeared over the opposite side.
pink chalk
11/24/15

Wednesday: ice is starting to creep in from the shores. No animals except commuters nearby going to work in their cars. The air is very cold. This is drawn in blue ink. Looking upriver over the dam.
11/25/15

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Within the Flow of Time

I often ponder how this river flows whether I am here to witness it or not. It's very impersonal. The water is flowing as I write this and as it flowed before the internet or anything familiar existed. I can imagine the sound it's making right now in the dark of night. It's the same sound as during the day.

Dams have been on the site for centuries but the current one dates only to 1934. I wonder how long it took for geese, ducks and swans to find their way to its top to rest and preen. Most animals are smart and practical; I imagine they started taking advantage of it pretty soon after it was built.

I also wonder how many poets and romantics have haunted the fringes of its white noise and scenic vistas. How many human worries have come to rest on the shore or been allowed to flow to the Atlantic Ocean on the steady current. Have those cares been taken up by kingfishers and herons? Have they been trampled by ducks in times of low water? What happens to the woes of the world when they are relinquished to the flow of the Universe? Do they turn into seafoam or galaxies? Are those unanswered painful questions knit into the flesh of clams and cormorants? I wonder. Bonne nuit.

Ducks swimming upriver
11-10-15
crayon 
Geese on top of the dam in the rain
11-11-15
carbon pencil
Geese on top of the dam
11-11-15
conté pencil
Ducks, after the Paris terrorist attack
11-14-15
chalk, crayon
Reflections, ripples
11-16-15
ink, charcoal
My birthday swan
11-16-15
ink

Monday, November 2, 2015

Winter blues

Great Blue Heron
10-31-15
charcoal
Some rain has filled up the river again and there is a swift current below the dam. In a sunny corner, early in the morning, hidden from the casual visitor's view, a heron fishes at the base of a wall. I'm on top of the wall about 8 feet away. The water makes a lot of noise so I can spy on Mr. Heron and draw a top down view without being detected. He stays still for many minutes. I was able to do two drawings before my fingers got too cold.

Great Blue Heron
10-31-15
ink

Here's a view of the dam from a different angle. I did this in oil pastel a few days before the heron drawings. I'm trying to get use to the fact that Winter is on its way and wildlife will become scarce. Until then, I'll draw whatever I can find.

detail of the fish ladder


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Heron: Loiterer, Lingerer

9/24/15
ink, crayon

9/28/15
ink

10/2/15
ballpoint pen, crayon

10/12/15
ballpoint pen, crayon

10/12/15
ink 
10/13/15
charcoal, conté chalk 

10/13/15
charcoal, conté chalk

10/14/15
crayon

10/14/15
crayon

10/14/15
crayon

10/15/15
pastel, crayon

10/15/15
pastel, crayon

10/13/15
charcoal

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ducks Unlimited


detail

Mallard feeding
charcoal
9/17/15

Mallard & Canada Goose in duckweed carpet
charcoal
9/17/15

Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, ducks and Swan, ripples
litho crayon
9/22/15

Great Blue Heron and ducks in front of the dam
colored pencil
9/22/15

Mallards, morning light
charcoal
8/31/15

Mallards, morning light
charcoal
8/31/15

Mallards
ink, charcoal, crayon
9/1/15

Mallards, ripples & reflections
ink
9/3/15

Swan and Mallards
conté, charcoal, ink
9/10/15

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper feeding at the top of the dam
charcoal
8/31/15
Spotted Sandpiper (detail)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Drawing from the Bridge

ducks
8/16/15
ink
 Last Sunday, I was drawing from on top of the Pleasant Street bridge. Downstream was a pavement of preening, dabbling and squabbling mallards. They work through a limited series of positions like ballerinas: preening feathers, diving and bobbing, napping, etc. The result is familiar yet varied and interesting to observe.

Visible from the upstream side of the bridge was a Great Blue Heron who was an exhibitionist. I was able to make four drawings before I had to get back home.

my (bad) first drawing
brush & ink
8/16/15

my second sheet of drawings
brush & ink
8/16/15

My third drawing: a little better
(the "ink" is a witch's brew of various inks and paint of questionable origin)
8/16/15

the fourth drawing I did in pencil because the ink had to dry before I walked home.
colored pencil
8/16/15

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