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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On Location: Sketching Hurricane Irma

One month after relocating our home and business to Siesta Key, Florida, a barrier island off Sarasota, Patti and I found ourselves evacuating inland and upland to higher ground as Hurricane Irma churned across the Caribbean with Florida in her sights.   We found ourselves in a Lakeland, Florida hotel, a few miles east of Tampa, but well out of storm surge and flood danger.  Over the next 18 hours, we watched in shock and disbelief as the storm path moved westward from skirting Florida's Atlantic coast to a direct hit on the Tampa/Sarasota area.  A more southerly landfall spared us the full fury of the storm--it was a Category 1 by the time it reached Lakeland--but wind gusts to 100 mph and sideways blasts of rain and made for a harrowing 24 hours.

As Irma approached, I decided to create a series of sketches documenting the storm from the relative safety of our open hotel porte cochere.  This position allowed me to experience the wind and rain without being completely exposed to flying debris.  The first four sketches below capture four phases of my experience of the hurricane (the first three sketches were duly baptized in Irma’s rainwaters).  The fourth image is a photo of my open Stillman & Birn sketchbook, showing the raw double-page spread as drawn on location.

It was remarkable to me how sketching the storm robbed it of its power to terrify me--I had a job to do, and the hurricane became an opportunity rather than a bogeyman.  This was an invaluable lesson, and I extend special thanks to those who encouraged me.  So the beginning is over--here's to rebuilding--cheers!

This sketch, made Sunday at 10:10am, shows the calm before the storm.  The the sky has darkened.  All is dead quiet and the sky is still; even the birds have left.  

The second sketch captures the same view a little more than an hour later, when the first strong band of wind and rain circulated through.  



This image, sketched at 7:30pm, is made a couple of hours before the eye of the storm reached us.  Note the change in wind direction.  The rain is blasting sideways and the howling wind is shredding the palms, but we still have electricity (the parking lot lights are still burning). 

This sketch is drawn 9:30am Monday; the first sunlight and blue sky reappear.  The birds have returned.

This is the series as drawn in the 8 in. x 10 in. Stillman & Birn Beta series mixed media sketchbook, which held up well to the abuse of the situation.  All the images were drawn with PITT Artists' Pens (waterproof ink) and watercolor.  A white gel pen was used to help indicate the night lighting in the top right sketch.



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