Maybe you already knew this, but we were surprised to find how many cool parks there are in Southern Illinois. We took another socially-distanced road trip and made the quick drive up to Anna, IL, where we stayed at the Davie School Inn. We HIGHLY recommend this sweet little place - it's an old school where the original eight classrooms are now hotel rooms! The owners cook a lovely breakfast and bring it to your room every day. And you can shoot hoops in the gym if you want! Here's a sketch I made of the deck, which looks onto a city park and a bunch of bird feeders, where we learned that brown-headed cowbirds are really greedy.
Little Grand Canyon is a hiking area in the Shawnee National Forest. We stopped there and found a picnic table for a snack, so I made a quick warm-up drawing with colored pencils. Then I took a short hike and stopped to sketch a downed tree and some mayapples.
When I joined my husband back at the picnic table we had staked out, I was struck by this angle and made a quick sketch to capture the different lines in the stairs and rails, the shadows, and the angle of that car. We really like doing these kinds of trips where we can drive around and stop when we feel like it, and hang out as long as we want. Toby whittled as I hiked and sketched.
Next we drove to Pomona Natural Bridge and walked around a bit. It's a lovely place! It was getting late but I wanted to make sure to get a sketch of the bridge, so Toby timed me for a seven-minute sketch and this was the result.
After another great breakfast at Davie School Inn, we drove to Garden of the Gods, a wilderness area in Shawnee National Forest for another hike and sketch. What a beautiful place! The (sort of crowded) observation trail hike has lovely views and really cool rock formations. I could have stayed there drawing all day, but I didn't have enough sunscreen on for that, plus there was more to see!
Of all of the parks we visited, we were surprised to find that Cave-in-Rock State Park was our favorite. It just didn't sound that interesting - so there's a cave? in a rock? But it is so pretty! It sits on a high bluff on the Ohio River, and there are picnic tables and pavilions with amazing views of the river. We stopped at one and had a VERY WINDY picnic lunch with an awesome view, then we moved lower on the bluff and under a pavilion for sketching (me) and cigar smoking and bird watching (him). We also got to watch the ferry that carries cars from the Illinois side to the Kentucky side of the river - I even included it in my sketch!
I walked down to see the cave and it turns out it's pretty cool, too!
Then we took the ferry! I've never taken a car ferry before, so I was pretty excited. It was a pretty quick ride, so this was all the sketching I had time for.
Then we were in Louisville without much to do, so we went to ToGo Sushi - a drive-through sushi place (It's so good! Go there if you're in Louisville!) and went to Cave Hill Cemetery for a little sushi picnic. We also visited the graves of Muhammed Ali and Colonel Sanders while we were there.
I sketched this at the cemetery. I like the way it looks, but my intention was to do more with ink after I got most of the watercolor down. I ran out of time because we got kicked out of the cemetery! But only because they were closing.
Next we went to Waterfront Park. I was having trouble focusing on what I wanted to sketch, so I drew some borders to work in (this is something I always recommend to my students!). And once I had these smaller areas and specific shapes, I got really inspired!
This is Big Four Pedestrian Bridge. I had so much fun sketching it! First I faced south, drawing the portion that was added for pedestrian access, then I turned completely around to the north and drew the bridge spanning the Ohio River. I started with a very very watered down sumi ink to establish the composition a bit, then just sketched it with a Pigma Graphic 1 pen. Sometimes it's fun to just make a black and white ink sketch.
After that we picked up dinner from Mashallah African Restaurant, which I also HIGHLY recommend. The service was excellent and the food was sooooo good!
Then we drove home! But we went through Paducah instead of driving south through Nashville, and we found a Taco John's! We discovered Taco John's on our fall trip out west - they have these tater-tot-like things called Potato Olés and they are quite good (but also quite salty). So we had a Taco John's picnic at a sweet little park and I sketched.
Then we drove home via Arkansas, by crossing two bridges at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers that had really interesting views - I would love to go back and sketch around there.
This trip reminded me that I need to go out in the world, and especially in nature, to sketch. It does something good to my brain and to my soul.
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