First edition originally published March 18, 2014
The last crocuses have now been joined by armies of cheerful daffodils, bluebells, and hyacinths, all bowing their heads today under the weight of today’s sleet and freezing rain, but still promising that spring is on the way.
My friend, Winston-Salem pastel artist Elsie Dinsmore Popkin, said she never felt as though she had really seen a place unless she had drawn it. Elsie passed away a few years ago, but this insight has always stayed with me.
I came across her 1997 Artist’s Statement yesterday when going through some old curatorial files from my days as an Exhibitions Coordinator. In her statement, Elsie also shared:
“I hope that the experience of seeing my pastels will open the viewer’s eyes to her own surroundings, will help her to see and rejoice in the forms and colors and beauty of the world around her.”
Indeed, I share in this intention, and perhaps Elsie’s concept of drawing a location in order to fully connect with it was an inspiration for me when I started a travel sketchbook. Since our first trip to Ireland in 2001, whenever I feel moved by a particular site on our journeys, I will take the time to draw, attempting to harness the energy of the place with my pencil onto paper. When creating final works, I refer to these drawings along with my reference photographs.
As Elsie put it, we try to express “the essence of the landscape,” as if to distill the fundamental nature of a location into a few marks of graphite instead of selecting a single, potent word.
On this St Patrick’s Day, I wish you slan agus beannacht,1
1 Irish Gaelic for “health and blessings.”
Image credit: Amy Funderburk drawing in her travel sketchbook at the White Horse of Uffington, Oxfordshire, England; 2008. Photo by James C. Williams, copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved.