Springtime in Spokane is one of my favorite seasons. Right now the lilacs are in bloom, but a couple weeks ago was prime time for the arrowleaf balsamroot, my very favorite PNW wildflower. They are so cheery and remind me of sunflowers and I love how they pop up all over town in early spring. Dishman Hills Natural Area out in the Spokane Valley is one of the best places in town to enjoy their beauty. Two weeks ago I hiked out there, looking for some painting subjects and spent a highly pleasant evening sitting among the flowers.
I've been out and about on many adventures that you will all hear about soon, so forgive me this little blast from the past as I talk about the sketchcrawl class I taught earlier this month:
August 12th on a 107 degree day, I had a sketch crawl class with the Spokane Art School. Luckily we were able to find some shade and eventually cooled off to around 97 degrees! Kali and Rowan didn't have watercolors so we all stuck with pen or pencil, though I loaned them my watercolor set to play with for the last sketch. We had a lovely evening!
Manito Park was one of the first places that I got introduced to in Spokane when I came here for college. 90 acres of gardens, trails, and grassy areas for ponds (not to mention the duck pond and the incredible Gaiser Conservatory) make it a landmark destination, worth visiting over and over again. I have picnicked in the lilac gardens in Spring, admired the flaming maple foliage of the Japanese Garden in the fall and strolled the formal pathways of the Duncan Gardens in the summer. I think my favorite garden is the Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden. There is such a wide variety of plants that there is always something new to look at and I admit to doing bit of window shopping, "Ooo! Could I grow that in my yard?". Luckily the Friends of Manito Park have their twice yearly plant sale in June and September where you can buy many of the plants found in the garden.
Painting and sketching in Manito was a delightful way to spend the morning. I envy the people who make walking in the park part of their daily routine. It is so beautiful and there is such variety among the gardens and landscape that there is always something new to see! I need to return and do some painting in oils soon!
Spokane is a town of trains. Grain, oil, coal, and more. Beautiful Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane used to be a giant rail yard, so did trendy Kendall Yards. Hillyard, a neighborhood to the north and east of downtown is named after "Hill's Yard", another rail yard. Trains are still alive and active in many parts of the city, as seen in the raised bridges at the base of Sunset Hill, running through downtown, and most particularly, to the east of the city out to the edge of the valley where grain elevators pop up along Spague, like giant grey mushrooms. I used to work out not far from the Spokane Fair Grounds and stopped for train crossings was fairly common when I was out running errands. I often drove over the Fancher bridge to the Parkwater Post Office and always enjoyed seeing the Yardley train yard to the east of the bridge and the Parkwater Yard on the west side.
On the other side of the bridge, I'd always admired the brick buildings in the yard. They looked like they had a story. Hearsay says that this large building here used to be a blacksmithry, where repairs were done on site for the trains. This yard has been in use for around 100 years! It is also said that these brick buildings are original Northern Pacific Railroad structures, but I don't have a good source for that so, I don't know if it is true. Are there any train historians out there? If so, please contact me, I'd love to learn more! Especially because I heard a rumor that all the bricks used to build these structures were once used as ballast in old ships! (What a romantic notion!).
I first noticed Mt. St. Michael's on my daily commute down the new North-South Corridor. It perches on a hill overlooking the highway like a large brick layer cake, down to the white architectural "frosting". Mt. St. Michael's has been on that location in 1878 and, according to the official website the area was primarily used as a farm, feeding Gonzaga University from 1881 to 1915. It was used as a training ground for Catholic priests and in 1915 they started building a scholasticate to educate and train Jesuits, which had to be closed in 1968 as the number of Jesuits entering service dropped off dramatically. Another fun fact is that the seismograph from Gonzaga was moved into the basement of Mt. St. Michael's in 1930 and was an important source of data for seismologists. In 1977, Mt. St. Michael's was bought from the Jesuits by the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen. Today, there is a convent of Marian Sisters, a k-12 school, chapel, small historical museum, and large library. It is the only place in Spokane that I know of where you can hear Mass in the original Latin as the organization is run by sedevacantists, who do not adhere to the changes in the Catholic church since Vatican II.
I spent an enjoyable few hours wandering Mt. St. Michael's on a hot summer afternoon. The view from the top of the bluff that it is perched on is incredible. I will have to go back at some point and paint the land stretching out below!
In other news-I'll be at the South Perry Street Fair this upcoming Saturday from 10 am-8 pm. Come by and say hi! I'd love to talk to you!
Spokane is known as the Lilac City and for good reason, lilacs are everywhere. According to the Spokane Lilac Festival website, local legend has it that the first lilac made it out here in 1882 from Minnesota. In the 1930's there was a city-wide campaign to plant lilacs all over the city and by 1940, the website says that there were 30 lilac trees planted in Coeur d’Alene Park in the Browne's Addition neighborhood and 144 trees in Manito Park. I have to say from personal experience that the Lilac garden at Manito is a delightful place to have a picnic lunch in the spring time!
One of my favorite things to do in the spring while I'm driving around running errands is to count the number of lilacs I see as I drive from one place to another. One day, I counted over 60 lilacs in just a 20 minute drive!
Do you have lilacs at home? Do you love them and their overblown, romantic looks and fragrance or do you find them scraggly and smelly? While I don't think lilacs are much to look at for most of the year, I find the one month in the spring when they suddenly bloom and reveal themselves to be worth it. I love that Spokane is the Lilac City!
I first learned about Urban Eden Farm from two of my friends who eventually decided to get a CSA from the farm. I was surprised by their description of a farm just five minutes from downtown, but that is just one of the great things about Spokane-the amazing places hidden in the nooks and crannies of the landscape. I began following them on Instagram and was inspired by their hard work; fixing tractors, weeding the rows of vegetables, and this past spring, dealing with their stream flooding through their shed and down the road, as well as the beauty of fresh picked radishes, glowing rhubarb, and giant heads of lettuce.
Following my phone's directions (as I so often do!), I found myself in Latah Creek, nestled beneath the cliff's of the South Hill. Green houses and plant nurseries popped up like mushrooms as a train chugged along behind all the activity.
When I first arrived at Urban Eden Farm, I was greeted by the sunny Tarawyn, crowned in a straw hat. She led me back to the field where a group of employees and volunteers were weeding rows of beets, pulling weeds and thinning beets (one wise gentleman said in a variation of another gardening proverb, "A beet in the wrong place is a weed." Beets grown too close together end up tiny and stunted. ). I pulled out my three legged camp stool to sketch everyone busy at work and promptly sunk four inches into the soft, damp earth. Luckily, I kept my balance and did not fall over, but it was a near thing. I got to repeat this experience several more times because the weeders worked much more quickly than I drew so I had to move further down the row to keep them in my sight. Soon my back pack was nearly twenty feet away from me!
They're moving past me
This is my favorite sketch from this trip. I love all the action!
Next I crossed the stream on a plank bridge to sketch their farm birds. I'm pretty used to chickens, having some of my own, but I was not prepared for the scream of the peacocks. It really does sound like an alarmed child. They wouldn't come out from cover so I couldn't see them, so their calls were extra startling. However, the chickens belligerently staring at me in expectation of kitchen scraps was completely familiar.
Walking past a worn barn I spotted a vine winding it's way up the wood siding, a coil of nails pinned to the boards below. A perfect farm scene!
I couldn't leave without sketching a hoop house. It was WAY too hot and sunny to sketch inside the greenhouse so I stationed myself at one end, peeking in through the door and slated window-lots of tomatoes getting big and tall!
It was a wonderful morning and I saw so many beautiful things that I wanted to paint I couldn't fit them all in! Thank you to Tarawyn and everyone at Urban Eden Farm for hosting me!
It was a searing 89 degrees on Tuesday when I drove downtown to sketch the construction going on at Riverfront Park. Walking from the parking lot, I realized I forgot my camp stool AND my water bottle, making a couple hours sketching on a hot afternoon daunting. Don’t worry though, there is a happy ending to the story. Walking along Riverside Ave, I found a spot in the shade, sitting on the edge of a flower filled planter across from where the new Loof Carousel building is going up. Absolutely perfect for sketching the cranes and welders working on the building. It even had the Pavilion roof in the background! It is exciting to see all the progress going on in the Park-the ice skate ribbon, a redo of the Howard Street South Channel bridge, and the new Carousel building. When it is all done it is going to be AMAZING. I’m planning to check in with the construction’s progress throughout the rest of the year and track the changes and growth in my sketches. If you’d like to learn more about the plans for construction and remodeling at Riverfront Park check it out at www.riverfrontparknow.com
With these drawings the challenge was sorting out all the construction chaps-strut frames, the building, the heavy machinery, chain link fencing, orange hazard fencing and the trees in the distance. It was great fun to watch the welders on top of the Carousel building alternate between bending over with their welding masks down working on the building and standing up to work their way around the roof. It looked like a lot of hard work! I was glad to be painting and not welding!
Sitting along the sidewalk it was great to see all the busy people out and about on their day. A few people stopped to chat with me which was fabulous. If you see me out and about sketching in Spokane, please say hello! I’d love to talk to you!
One of my favorite places to visit in spring time is the Dishman Hills Conservation District. The first time I drove out there, I was surprised by the nearness of the car dealerships on Sprague, skeptical that a wonderland of hiking trails could actually exist cheek by jowl with the rows and rows of shiny SUVS. Luckily I was wrong. Once I strode up the trail, away from the parking lot, it was like I had stepped through the wardrobe and into Narnia-dappled sunlight under tall trees, enormous boulders, deep glades, and most of all-wildflowers. Arrow leaf balsamroot being my favorite. They look like yellow daisies with a large arrow shaped (hence the name) soft leaves. They covered the hills and fanned out along the trails. So now, every spring, I got to Dishman Hills to spend some time with my favorite wildflowers. Having such a beautiful area so close to the center of Spokane is a treasure. Get out there and explore!
If you'd like to learn more about the Dishman Hills Conservancy and their worthy cause, check out their website http://www.dishmanhills.org/. They have regular expert led hikes covering topics such as butterflies, geology, and yes, wildflowers. Hiking and trail information is on the website.
Bloomsday is an institution in Spokane, starting in downtown and traversing 12 km along the Spokane River and back with the epic Doomsday Hill in between. Around 40,000 people run the race each year; some serious athletes, intent on their time, others out for fun, dressed in tutus, devil's horns, and rainbow clown wings. Children all the way up to the elderly run and when the race is over, the city is full of Bloomies, wearing their newly won t-shirts with pride.
Parking on the outskirts of downtown, I walked to the start point, following the streams of people. Excitement building, music blaring, the smell of fried food (a reward at the end!) in the air! There are enough people participating in the race that starts are broken up into different color groups along Riverside Ave. I parked myself against a street light along the side walk and began sketching the crowd waiting behind the fences for their race to start.
I got the pen drawing in before the groups started moving, but I had to work on adding color as the waves of people broke over my little spot. I was grateful for my light post, otherwise I might have been carried along!
As people walked by, I was amazed to see them throwing jackets and sweaters into the trees. Soon many of the trees along Riverside looked like some odd Tibetan prayer flag monument or like a laundry line gone horribly wrong. It was very colorful! Clothing that is left behind by runners gets donated to charity, so I suppose even if you can't find your jacket, something good comes of it!
Next I drove over to the north side of the River to sketch the runners who had just made it up Doomsday Hill. Some people were still running, but lots of people were walking, or determinedly trudging forward. I practiced gestural sketching, starting off with a head and the assembling a figure from people as they go by. People were running too fast to complete a full drawing from one model so I would weld the arms from one person to the head and shoulders of another and then catch the running legs from third. Frankensteining people together I managed to fill quite a few pages. It was fascinating to see how much unique variation there is in running form-flapping hands, a dragging leg, one should lower than the other...Endlessly fascinating!
At the end of the day, I felt accomplished and I didn't even have run 12 km! I definitely feel like I won in this contest.