Sketch of the Day: Sunrise on a Spanish Marsh

Doñana marsh at sunrise with red kite leaving its night roost for a day in the field. Below, European goldfinches, perched in the poplars at the edge of the marsh. Watercolor over pencil, Lana 1590 sketchbook, 8 1/2" x 11"

Spanish marsh at dawn, Doñana National Park. A grove of poplars served as a communal night roost and command center from which fifteen red kites launched into space that morning, one by one, to drift across the wetlands. A trio of European goldfinches were also just waking up, my cue to break for coffee. Watercolor over pencil, Lana 1590 sketchbook, 8 1/2″ x 11″.

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Friday Sketchbook: Hans Christian Andersen Slept Here

Attic room with alcove bed, a tiny corner stove, a window, two dormer skylights. Eight by ten feet of rough pine floor space, a window shelf for a writing desk. Andersen's garret for the year of 1827, when he was 22 years old, studying for school entrance exams, impoverished but optimistic. Pencil in Moleskine 5" x 8" sketchbook.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Magasin du Nord attic room with alcove bed, a tiny corner stove, a window, two dormer skylights. Eight by ten feet of rough pine floor space and a window ledge for a writing desk. It was Andersen’s garret for the year of 1827, when he was 22 years old, studying for school entrance exams, impoverished but wildly optimistic. Pencil in Moleskine 5″ x 8″ sketchbook.

Magasin du Nord in Copenhagen is Denmark’s oldest department store, founded in 1870. They have the best scarf selection in town (my opinion), their housewares floor is a near-museum of Danish design, and their basement’s a wonderland of fancy foodstuffs. But 144 years ago, Magasin du Nord was Hotel du Nord, and there’s a secret literary museum concealed in Housewares, Third Floor. It’s tucked back behind the Miele vacuum cleaners and Bodum coffee pots, just past Gift Wrap Services.

Bodum coffee press pots and tea strainers. Nice colors.

Coffee press pots and tea strainers. Nice colors. They’re only there to deflect attention from Magasin du Nord’s mysterious Hans Christian Andersen Room.

That’s how you find the Hans Christian Andersen Room- by going through Gift Wrap. Make a sharp right at Blenders and follow the green carpet through a small door. Bypass the busy wrappers on your left and enter the hallway. It’s the first door on your right.

Flatware as art.

Flatware IS art.

In 1838, established writer Hans Christian Andersen could afford two comfortable rooms at Hotel du Nord, but when he was an impoverished, dreamy, lonely 22 year-old in 1827, he lived here in this spare attic room. It must have been a tight fit. There is hardly space for the 6′ 1″ Andersen to stand up: the ceiling slopes inward along the length of one wall, and he would have had to really watch his head. A short narrow bed fits into the low alcove at one end of the room; it’s heaped with a feather mattress covered in green-striped ticking (perhaps from Magasin du Nord’s housewares department?). A small iron stove and a box of firewood stand in another corner. There’s one earthenware pitcher, two rickety chairs, and on the window ledge, a set of writer’s tools: goose-feather quill pen, bottle of ink, sheaf of paper, and a candle in a brass candlestick.

The light from the one window illuminates a (photocopied) manuscript, a bottle of ink and a quill pen. A candle provided light after sundown, which, right now, is before 4 pm.

The window sheds light on a (photocopied) manuscript, and the 19th Century equivalent of a laptop. Pencil on Moleskine 5″ x 8″ sketchbook.

Andersen's room, north end.

Andersen’s room, north end. It’s possible, by the way, that that isn’t a pitcher.

There are not a lot of bells and whistles in this little museum/shrine to young Hans Christian Andersen. But you get a sympathetic picture of the tall awkward boy dipping his goose-quill pen in the ink bottle, banging his head on the ceiling, and scribbling poems in fading light from the casement window. He might have then lit the stove and candle and studied his Latin lessons before folding up his long stork legs in the alcove bed for the night.

At the south end, eight feet away, Andersen's bed.

At the south end, just ten feet away, Andersen’s bed. From this window he would have had a view of farm fields and windmills beyond Copenhagen’s then-city limitsToday it looks out on a less-poetic parking garage.

The little room exudes a Dickensian poignancy, more Oliver Twist than A Christmas Carol, and while I was there the sensation was further enhanced (or depending on the song, demolished) by piped-in Christmas music. When I walked in, the heart-tugger “Little Drummer Boy” was playing. The rustle of gift-wrappers at work in the next room could have been the sound of starving orphans weaving brooms from straw.

What was most surreal, though, was stepping from the dim light of the Andersen Room into Magasin du Nord’s fluorescent holiday brilliance. On my way out I walked past lines of shoppers teetering under bags and boxes, waiting for gift wrap services.  Hans Christian Andersen, in my opinion, would have loved what Hotel du Nord has become. The older, more successful writer was dressed to the nines at all times, and he’d surely enjoy the selection in Fine Menswear, Second Floor. In fact, he’d be right at home.

Happy Friday.

Stelton coffee carafes.

Stelton coffee carafes. Must have.

 

Posted in Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Diversions, Drawing, Exhibits, history, literature, museums, Shopping!, Sketching, travel, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sketch of the Day: Spanish Stone Pines

Stone pines, Pinus pinea, native to the Iberian peninsula, cultivated for its pine nuts over the past 6,000 years or so. They grow in this umbrella topped shape, but in cultivation, lower limbs are cut to make harvesting the cones easier.

Stone pines, Pinus pinea, are native to the Iberian peninsula. They’ve been cultivated for pine nuts for thousands of years. The natural umbrella shape is enhanced by removal of the lower limbs to make for an easier harvest. I caught a whiff of the delicious scent of piñon smoke rising from chimneys in Seville. One of my favorite fragrances, it conjures up cold, cozy nights in northern New Mexico, where piñon pines grow, too. Sketched at Doñana National Park, Spain. Watercolor over pencil on Lana 1590 spiral bound sketchbook 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Posted in Environment, field sketching, Food, Land use, landscapes, painting, plein air, Sketching, travel, Watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sketches From Spain: A Few Thanksgiving Birds

European goldfinches, Doñana

A flock of European goldfinches pick thistle seeds in Doñana National Park. Drawn through the scope, watercolor over pencil in Lana 1590 8 1/2″ x 11″ spiral bound sketchbook.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on Sevilla at the moment, where Antman is giving a talk and I am enjoying a few quiet moments of reflection and gratitude on Thanksgiving Day.

Red kites, Doñana

Red kites, Doñana National Park, drawn through the scope. Watercolor over pencil in Lana  1590 8 1/2″ x 11″ spiral bound sketchbook.

I’m thankful for our four-month Danish adventure and for family and good health. I’m thankful for the purple swamphen that flapped into view yesterday like a great feathered eggplant. I’m thankful for the benign wariness of the giant bulls of Doñana that allowed me to pass by, uncharged. And I’m especially thankful for the kind hospitality of our new Spanish friends in Sevilla.

Stone chat, Doñana

Stone chat, Doñana National Park. Drawn through the scope on 8 1/2″ x 11″ Lana 1590 spiral bound sketchbook, watercolor over pencil.

I’m thankful to you, too, for spending a little time with me at Drawing the Motmot. I’m happy you’re here.

Spotless Starlings, Doñana

Spotless Starlings, an Iberian endemic, Doñana National Park. Drawn through the scope on Lana 1590 spiral bound sketchbook, 8 1/2″ x 11″, watercolor over pencil.

White stork nest; dead cork oak, Doñana

White stork nest in dead cork oak, Doñana National Park. Watercolor over pencil, Lana 1590 spiral bound sketchbook 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Tonight we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with paella and delicious local olives and crusty bread. I’ll be sure to drink to the health of all, probably more than once. A glass of sangria sounds perfect right now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

They really do nest on chimneys, and although it looks it, this one is not a plastic lawn ornament.

They really do nest on chimneys, and although it looks like one, this white stork is not a plastic lawn ornament. At the Palacio, the biological field station in Doñana National Park, our lodgings for several days of wildlife heaven.

Posted in Adventure!, Art, bird art, birding, birds, Culture, Drawing, field sketching, Food, Nature, plein air, Scope sketching, Sketching, travel, Watercolor, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sketches From Spain

Stork nests, cork oak, and  Spanish not-so-wild wild horses. They roam at will, same as the spotted cattle, wild boars and deer herds. White storks cruised overhead, just to let me know they hadn't sublet the property. Watercolor over pencil, 8 1/2" x 11", Lana spiral bound drawing book.

Stork nests, cork oaks, and Spanish not-so-wild wild horses. They roam at will, same as the spotted cattle with the intimidating horns. Although it’s not nesting season, white storks cruised overhead and clattered their beaks to let me know they hadn’t sublet the property. Doñana National Park, Spain. Watercolor over pencil, 8 1/2″ x 11″, Lana spiral bound drawing book.

Cork oak in bright morning sun. Curlicue branches and deeply pleated bark, many slabs of which were scattered on the ground, colonized by ants. It's a fine-looking tree, and now that everyone's switching to screw-caps, maybe it can grow in peace. Doñana National Park, southern Spain. Watercolor over pencil on 8 1/2" x 11" Lana spiral-bound drawing book.

Now that everyone’s switched to screw-tops, maybe cork oaks can finally grow in peace. Doñana National Park, Spain. Watercolor over pencil on 8 1/2″ x 11″ Lana spiral-bound drawing book.

Flamingoes can feed on their feet in some deep water, and they do the coolest little two-step dance. Heads far underwater, pink toothpick legs moving back and forth in little steps, they look exactly like...Flamenco dancers. Yes. There's gotta be a connection. Give them a pair of castanets, and there you go. They already have the pink ruffled hem. Doñana National Park, Spain. Drawn through a scope. Watercolor over pencil on 8 1/2" x 11" Lana spiral bound drawing book.

Flamingoes do the coolest little two-step shuffle while they feed. Pink toothpick legs wave back and forth as they take fluttery little steps in place; they look exactly like flamenco dancers. I’d never made the connection before, but I’m drawing a line right through those two dots: give that bird a pair of castanets. Doñana National Park, Spain. Sketched through a scope. Watercolor over pencil on 8 1/2″ x 11″ Lana spiral bound drawing book.

Posted in Adventure!, Animals, Art, birding, birds, Drawing, Environment, field sketching, landscapes, Livestock, mammals, natural history, Nature, plein air, Scope sketching, travel, Watercolor, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Art of the Day: Still Life with Danish Pastry

Another Danish food group: flaky breakfast pastries.

One of the major Danish food groups is breakfast pastry. These traditional pastries were made by an organic baker in the neighborhood who specializes in fine flaky treats and good strong coffee. Left to right: Tebirkes, a poppy seed-topped puff pastry filled with marzipan; two Kanel Snegle (snails) filled with solid dark chocolate; a white chocolate Flødeboller, a hard shell wrapped around a marshmallow fluff center that explodes messily at first bite; at far right, a Kokosmakroner, or macaroon, topped with dark chocolate and coconut shavings. And yes, they are very, very good, but not all at once. Pastel on sanded paper, 16″ x 14″

Greetings from Seville, Spain, actually, from a biological field station south of there in Doñana National Park. Just trudged in from a long day in the field, but had, for starters: wild boars, griffon vultures, sardinian warblers and a pink flock of flamingoes. And right now some owl is screaming outside the window. More tomorrow, but in the meantime, enjoy the sweets.

Happy Saturday.

.

 

Posted in Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Diversions, Food, Pastel, Pop culture references, self-indulgence, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sketch of the Day: A Fountain in Paris

Cuvier Corner, Paris. The couple on the scooter lingered long enough for a portrait. They seemed to be waiting f

Cuvier’s Fountain gurgles playfully at the rear of this typical Parisian tableau of motor scooters, smoking, and sociable fashionistas in their chic ensembles. Pencil in Moleskine 5″ x 8″

I meant to draw this but got side-tracked by real life. Cuvier was a French

Georges Cuvier was one of the big guns of early 19th century natural history, zoology and anatomy. His fountain is especially fine. I intended to draw it but got side-tracked by the street action instead.

Posted in Animals, architecture, Art, Culture, Drawing, Science, Sketching, urban sketching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment