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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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12 comments:

  1. Love how you documented this...but then I expected it from you. lol I enjoyed seeing the news segment and shared it with our NYC Urban Sketchers up here. Glad you had no real damage to your new home. Happy sketching, Jim!

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    1. Same to you, Joan--love hearing from you!

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  2. Was thrilled to get your interpretation. We have often visited Siesta Key and you were wise to evacuate in this instance. My home in Leesburg FL (not that far from Lakeland) survived but the park surrounding it has heavy damage especially to the trees. And the trauma from those who lived through it is palatable. (I summer in northern WI so was able to avoid actually being there.). Thanks for the wonderful sketches which I will share with my friends in central FL. Amazing.

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    1. Thank you Ginny, I greatly appreciate your comments. So glad your home in Leesburg survived. Hopefully we are done with hurricanes for this season!?

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  3. James...I featured our sketchbook on my blog today...hope that was okay.
    I was so impressed. I gave the link to your blog.

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  4. My blog is ginnystiles.blogpsot.com

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    1. Ginny, when I cut and pasted your blog address into my browser, it went to a disturbing site called TheWorldToday.co You may have been hacked somehow...I hope it's easily resolvable.

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  5. Hi james I am in a class right now where we have to submit an artists work to our instructor and i used the irma drawings because i live in sarasota. any way my question is, Why do you post your work on the internet? i hope that it is ok that i use your work for my class.

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    1. Hello! Yes, I'm very happy for you to use my work for your class, as long as you mention the artist and source when you do. Why post my work online? There are many answers, but the chief reason is because I am part of a worldwide network of on-location sketchers called Urban Sketchers. We sketch and post online to share the stories of where we live and travel, and to connect with other sketchers around the world. Urban Sketchers started 10 years ago as one guy's idea. Now we are a non-profit with over 200 chapters all over the world, over 100,000 members and millions who follow our blog and other sites. We hope our work is discovered by others (like you) and inspires them to look around their own world, draw their stories and share them online. Good luck with your class!

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  6. Oh my goodness, what an experience. When I consider those who sketch in war zones, this is comparable. You overcame your fear and went ahead producing some historical sketches. Well done James.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Chammi, it's much appreciated.

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