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Saturday, Dec. 9: Wallingford Center

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Campus Surprises

6/6/17 UW Quad

While my car was being serviced nearby, I walked over to the University of Washington campus on a spectacularly beautiful afternoon. I’ve sketched these decorative cherry trees in the Quad many times in all seasons, and I never seem to tire of their gnarled branches and huge knotty trunks. As I sat on a bench I’ve used several times before, I started to sketch this old tree, and suddenly I realized it was covered with small leaves sprouting from its trunk. I noticed a similar phenomenon a few months ago when I was sketching the flowering cherries near Sunset Park – blossoms blooming from the side of a tree’s trunk. I’m sure this tree has always had such leaves this time of year, but I had never really seen them before. The tree was mostly in shade, but I decided to focus on the leaves instead of the shading on the trunk as I usually do.

6/6/17 Baby crow
That was surprise No. 1. Walking elsewhere on campus, I saw movement in my peripheral vision: On the ground was surprise No. 2, a baby crow. Not sleek and shiny like adult crows, this young one was dull and somewhat scruffy, and it looked like it was sitting on the ground on its butt, legs straight out. Of course, I quietly pulled out my sketchbook. As I sketched, a researcher seated nearby reassured me that the crow was fine and that “baby crows like to do that.” I wasn’t really concerned, just curious and thrilled that the bird was still long enough for me to grab a quick sketch.

My third surprise of the afternoon came as I left campus to go fetch my car. Walking by Raitt Hall, a building I probably passed nearly every day for the four years (plus graduate work) I was a UW student, I stopped at a pair of ornate lamps flanking the entryway. At the corners of each lamp were tiny gargoyles – two different animals – that I had never noticed before.
6/6/17 Lamp at Raitt Hall

Going on my sixth year as a sketcher, this never ceases to amaze: When I have a sketchbook in my hand, it’s as if I’m wearing new glasses. Things come into focus that I’ve never observed before. But it’s not my eyes that are wearing the new glasses – it’s my brain. 

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