Rainbow Art Journal – Rust and Bone

I had to redeem myself and my art journal after the hideous beetle page so I returned to what for me is apparently a favourite subject – skeleton women.  I have no idea what in my psyche or imagination keeps compelling me to illustrate these skeletal ladies.  I just go with it.  This one was an experiment with a colour palette of orange, rusty red, and teal.  I like the combination and can see me using it again.  While the orange and red suggest rust, the teal suggests verdigris so they all work together quite well thematically as well as in terms of colour.

26 - Rust and Bone

I probably won’t return to either of my art journals for the rest of this month because I am going to be consumed with other art projects.  I am still filling my Brooklyn Art Library sketchbook with zombies and I am also participating in Drawlloween.  I have joined in with Inktober the past couple of years but this year I decided to push myself out of the habit of just doing ink linework illustrations by joining in with Drawlloween.  I am working bigger than in previous years and I am adding colour.  That’s the plan anyway.  You can follow the results of both of these projects on my other blog, Pict Ink, or on Instagram.

Road Trip 2018 #9 – South Dakota Badlands

The sensible part of our day – as opposed to doing silly tourist stuff – was a visit to Badlands National Park.  The landscape is pretty striking, not just because of the way its rugged peaks and steep chasms differ from the flat plains of so much of the surrounding topography, but also because of the layering of colours.  I am not remotely a geologist but I find the striations of colour to be aesthetically appealing.

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We took a wander into the landscape via the Door Trail.  It was absolutely thronging with visitors but most were staying either on or in the vicinity of the boardwalk.  We, therefore, headed out onto the rocky plateau where there was more space and a greater opportunity to actually take in the scenery.  The Badlands are rich in fossils but we did not stumble across any.  Apparently simply stumbling across fossils is something that still happens here.  A Ranger told Mr Pict that last year a little girl had found a sabretooth skull.  We told the boys to listen and watch for rattlesnakes and to always be aware of where at least one parent was and then let them be free range.  It was just what they needed after so very many miles of being stuck in a car each day for a week.  They were absolutely thrilled to find that they could clamber down into mini canyons that twisted and turned and then pop up and out in an entirely new location.  They also ascended some small peaks to take in some panoramic views and just because they like climbing things.  Our youngest son has almost zero impulse control and never undertakes any version of a risk assessment so he was gamboling around like a mountain goat.  I actually had to stop watching him as he was giving me palpitations.

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On the subject of impulse control and risk assessment, as we departed the National Park, I spotted the rusting hulk of a car in a field and asked Mr Pict to pull over so I could leap out and take some photos.  It is possible he assumed that I was just going to take some distance shots but that was not my plan.  Instead, I hiked off across the field of scrub to reach the car.  Before I could stop them, three of the kids followed me.  We found ourselves dodging numerous cow pats, getting scraped by cacti, and bitten by nasty bugs.  We reached the car and had a nose about and took some photos and then headed back towards the car.  That was when we heard the distinctive rattle and that was when I remembered about rattlesnakes.  Oops.  I told the kids to follow exactly in my path and to scope out not just where they were placing their feet but the area immediately surrounding it too.  It actually became advantageous to stand on the cow pats as those acted like stepping stones through the scrub.  We saw the tail end of a snake dart off but otherwise we had no encounters and we made it back to the car safe and sound.  Parenting fail.

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Having missed out on an evening visit to Mount Rushmore the previous night thanks to tornados, we had a plan to visit after seeing the Badlands.  However, the sky grew grey and overcast and rain was forecast.  We worried we would not get a decent view of the presidents if we trucked over to Rushmore for the evening.  We also worried we were running out of time to see Rushmore at all.  Sometimes indecision can be crippling.  Everyone was famished, however, having had nothing but a donut since breakfast, so we pulled into Rapid City to eat dinner and decided we would put off seeing Rushmore again.  Would we ever make it there?

 

Poconos Day 2 – Rustbelt Decay

I started the morning with a walk along the road from the cottage to see the cemetery that crept up the hillside at the junction with the main road.  The twentieth century grave markers were still legible, and seemed to largely belong to one family, but almost all of the others were too eroded for me to even be able to begin to read them despite the fact that none could be older than 1816 as that was when the cemetery was founded.  What was interesting to me, as a cemetery enthusiast, was the fact that gravestones were erected upon the steep slope as well as the top of the hill and the flatter ground near the roadside.  It made me wonder if the graves were dug perpendicular to or parallel with the gradient of the slope.  The village, Stoddartsville, had been founded to act as the terminal of the Lehigh Canal.  Mr Stoddart apparently saw this as an opportunity to make his fortune but instead he became bankrupt when the canal was terminated a few miles away and all of his investment in grist and saw mills and the like became largely redundant.  That was to set the theme for the day’s activities.

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As a contrast to the previous day’s rambles in the countryside, we decided to spend the day in a town and opted for Scranton.  I am afraid to say that the name Scranton made both Mr Pict and I think of the word “scrotum” which meant we did not have high hopes but were hoping and willing for the experience to exceed expectations.

Since this area was founded on coal mining, we decided to head to the Lackawanna Mining Museum.  The website had stated it was open; notices on the building declared it to be open; nevertheless it was decidedly closed.  According to some men working on machines in front of the Museum entrance, it was opening on Wednesday, despite the statements on the website and building.  We pondered pootling around the nearby Anthracite Heritage Museum but then Mr Pict had the genius idea that we should do some obscure stuff in the area.  We are rather fond of “Roadside America” so we decided we should definitely go and seek out some more offbeat sites to visit.

First, however, we decided to head into Scranton, the county town of Lackawanna County.  We had read there was a second-hand book store there and I absolutely love rummaging through old books so that was the draw for me.  We parked up in the town centre and had a wander around.  The County Courthouse in the centre of town was actually pretty impressive and had all sorts of memorials to veterans of various wars outside, all set in a square.  The main streets were, therefore, huddled around this central square.  Alas, when we arrived on the street where the book store was to be found, we learned it had closed down.  No rummaging through musty vintage books for me then.

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Scranton, it soon emerged, was a rather sad place.   Every third store was empty and there was absolutely no buzz or energy to the place, hardly anyone milling around.  Largely because we were in need of a restroom visit, we wandered into the mall.  It was even more moribund.  Metal barriers were more common than store fronts and either end of the mall was completely barren as the remaining shops had obviously been moved into the centre.  The soulless plinky-plonk piped music echoed around the empty space.  It reminded Mr Pict and me of the mall in ‘Eight Legged Freaks’.  Clearly what this mall needed in order to survive was an invasion of giant arachnids.  I already felt like we were among the mindlessly shuffling zombies of ‘Dawn of the Dead’.

However, as we emerged from the restroom, we spotted that there was a walkway from the rear of the mall out over an old train yard.  We decided to investigate.  It turned out that this was the rear of Steamtown National Historic Site.  We did not enter the museum but spent a diverting hour wandering among the rusted carcasses of train engines, cabooses and other rolling stock, all serried along disused railway lines.  I am not especially riveted by industrial history but something about the rust and decay pleased me aesthetically so I wandered around taking photographs.  I am not ashamed to admit that I have a thing for rust.  It felt like the whole train yard was somewhat symbolic of Scranton: the decaying remains of industry, rusting away, going nowhere.

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Before we left Scranton, we popped to a mall on the outskirts of town to lunch at a Mexican restaurant called La Tonalteca.  The interior was very brightly decorated with the vivid paints of South American fiesta, the furniture all painted carved wood depicting scenes of rural Mexican life.  We shared nachos to start with and then my husband had the carnitas and I had chicken enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce.  The food was good but it wasn’t great.  It lacked a bit of additional seasoning or some extra flavour kick to really make the tastebuds sing.  Some lime zest and juice, for instance, would have improved my meal.  We also took some amusement from the surliness of our waiter.  He was efficient enough in his own grudging way but very gruff and his mouth never once twitched into even the beginnings of a smile.  He appeared to be stunned when we left him a tip.

We decided that the theme of the day had been established: urban decay it was.  So we headed south to Wilkes-Barre – which is apparently pronounced Wilkesbury – to see an abandoned railway station.  The Lehigh-Susquehanna station was connected to the coal industry so when it declined and eventually died in the 1970s the station was abandoned.  It had then been converted into a cocktail bar, with abutting Pullman cars providing additional space, but that venture failed and so the station had just fallen into dereliction.  Boom and bust.  As soon as I saw it, I loved it.  It had clearly once been a splendid example of Italianate architecture, with scroll work wood supporting the hanging eaves and a decorative cupola on the roof.  Now, however, it was all smashed glass and plant growth spreading tendrils across and into walls.  We were able to clamber aboard the carriages but I could not find an obvious way into the station building itself.  Probably that is a good thing.  Exploring derelict buildings probably requires some sort of risk assessment.  Nevertheless I enjoyed scurrying around to find new photographs to take of the station’s exterior.

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The next stop on our itinerary was the Huber Breaker in Ashley.  It had operated for eight decades, breaking coal into the right size for domestic and business use.  The company then dyed this coal blue for no other reason than to identify it as their product, a bizarre coal marketing gimmick.  Apparently it could process 7000 tons of coal each day.  Abandoned in the mid-1970s, it was a massive industrial hulk which a group had been trying to conserve as a memorial to those who had worked in the local coal industry but ultimately the site had been sold for its scrap value and was literally being pulled down as we watched.  I, therefore, had to make do with distance shots.

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Our final stop on our themed tour of the day was in the town of Nanticoke, just a short trot down the road from Ashley.  We were there to see Concrete City, a ghost town.  Although there was a historical marker explaining the history of the site, there was no indication of where it was to be found.  Then I had the idea of looking up Google Earth on my phone and the aerial shot provided an indication of where we would find it.  So Mr Pict and I wandered off into the woods, along a muddy track, and soon we could see the ruined remains of houses peeking through the trees.  Twenty two-storey houses stood in a square around a plot of overgrown scrub.  Each house was identical, having been built as company houses for some employees of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Coal Company in 1911.  It turned out that poured concrete was not the most sound choice of building material as the houses were continually damp.  It must have been pretty miserable for the residents.  There was also a tragic story of a boy having drowned in the wading pool.  Ultimately the houses had only been occupied for just over a decade before they were abandoned.  When the Glen Alden Company took over, they didn’t want to invest the money required for sewerage improvements.  Attempts at demolition had failed: 100 sticks of dynamite had not even taken down a single house.  And so there they remained, tucked away in the woods, while houses grew up in the land beyond the ghost town.  Some were missing ceilings and floors; some had basements filled with water which, despite its murk, glinted in the sunlight pouring in through the glassless windows; all were vandalised, absolutely covered in spray paintings and graffiti and some even pock-marked by ammunition.  We were amused by the fact that one vandal had corrected the grammar of another.  It was a very poignant place, post-apocalyptic.  We felt like we were in a scene from ‘The Walking Dead’.

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On the way back to our cottage at Stoddartsville, we took one final diversion when we saw a brown sign pointing to the Francis E Walter Dam.  We thought we might be able to end the day with something a bit more scenic.  Unfortunately the dam was just a concrete carbuncle, doing its job perfectly satisfactorily but without providing any picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.

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