Friday, June 29, 2012

Soldiers, Sketching and Splashing!

Saturday was a hot and humid day with the sun blazing down and me wilting terribly. With zero energy for getting on the bicycle or hiking or absolutely anything that involved being outside I decided on visiting a museum that had piqued my interest for some time, the United States Marine Corps Museum. So grabbing a bottle of water I got in the car, turned the AC up high and set off.
On the way there I saw this fabulous display of vintage trucks. I stopped to grab some shots since there were a few of my favorite Macks there but was soon back in the car again.
 The museum has been open since November 2006 and is an amazing example of how fabulous modern day museums are. Well laid out and easy to walk around, I have to admit that initially I suspected I might get bored with it after a short time since it was primarily about all the wars the Marines/USA have been part of. But instead I was sucked right in from the moment I entered the doors. The staff were friendly and polite, the building light and airy, and I really didn't know where to start first, so much was catching my eye. I noticed the shop but decided to leave that until last and walked over to the middle and just looked up.
 I loved this picture but the only prints available were $200. Ouch!
 This is a piece of the Twin Towers with a chunk of the Pentagon in the background which people are encouraged to touch.
The museum was like a gallery where you walked from one war room to another. The mannequins were incredibly lifelike with the war zone settings so realistic that you could almost have a very small idea what war must have been like for these brave soldiers. There was so much reading to do yet everything was so well displayed with interactive models and visually stunning layouts that you actually felt you didn't want to miss anything.
I was shocked to learn that nearly 6000 Marines died in the 36 days battling Iwo Jima and this wall helped to put it in perspective with a pin for every life lost. Both flags are also in the museum.
I'm not a big fan of Norman Rockwell but drawn in by this painting called The War Hero from 1945.
A representation of the commitment required to join the marines.
I had not taken in all of the museum, in fact it had felt like I'd skipped so much being so anxious to see everything, when an announcement declared that the museum was closing in half an hour. I'd been here for over 3.5 hours! I would definitely have to return but I made a beeline for the store before leaving. I still hadn't seen the memorial garden but that would have to be saved for next time.
 This photo for me summed up the Marines. A soldier who despite having been robbed of a limb could not be robbed of his bravery, determination and valor. They are all such wonderful heroes and I'm proud of every last one of them.
Once back in the car, it was time to head to Crystal City for my last time at Artomatic. I met up with the gang and we walked round trying to see everything we'd not gotten around to viewing in previous visits. The photos below are my favorites of the evening.
Some very clever and unique work.
And below is my WTF Gallery. I mean, seriously, WTF. Couldn't get my head round any of these:
Huggy and Emily are really struggling with this wall. I have to tell you it certainly helped that beer was on sale...
But there was one artist there that I met who really stood out, modest without a trace of vanity, whose walls were a testament to his skill. Eric was working the whole evening and encouraged folk to sit in front of him while he sketched their portrait using Sharpie pens.
I sat down and didn't have to pose at all. I chatted and looked around while also looking through one of his sketch pads.
His hand moved constantly, flitting back and forth across the paper, not stopping for a second. He seemed to cover the page with swirl after swirl, making you wonder how on earth it would come together, but as you watched, it was amazing to see a portrait emerge. Eric calls this sketching method 'creeping'.
This was my portrait which took 6-7 minutes. Gosh! And as soon as I had stood up another person sat down and his pen was off again. Everyone he sketched could receive a scan of their portrait with no charge if they left an e-mail address. He has a blog,
I went up to my wall and was delighted to find a poem from Brash.
Brash is a person who has wanted to be anonymous throughtout Artomatic and when I approached her a few weeks ago actually left me dumbstruck at the way she spoke to me. Her Artomatic art has been to write a poem for all 1300 artists and I think she actually achieved it. Her Kickstarter project is at the top of my poem page. I was going to post a photo of her but on reflection I think that would be wrong. She didn't want her photo taken when I took it so I shall respect her wishes and leave her anonymity intact.
So Emily very kindly took a shot of me by my wall and just as we were leaving, these two walked in and used my wall as a backdrop.
OK, so she did a better job of me at posing. Whatever. Tart. But I was flattered by them using my wall.And so the next time I return to Artomatic will be to 'deinstall'. It will seem strange to take everything down, having been here for 5 weeks has made it feel almost permanent. But it's been a fun run.
Sunday was another beautiful day and a perfect day to be on the water. I threw Big Red on top of the car and set off to the Shenandoah. The water was perfect, clear and cool with fishes darting back and forth yet managing to elude the fisherman throwing out their tempting lines.
I spent nearly 4 hours paddling up and down the river, finding a few small rapids and a nice private area that I plan to return to for swimming. There was a small group of kids on the water, obviously drunk, offering anyone who passed a shot of vodka, and letting a passing fishing boat know that there were some huge 'trouser trout' very close by.
I also tested my underwater case for my phone. I had done a 10 minute test at home and now got some pretty good shots of the river bed and through the water line. I'll be playing with this for some time I know.  Towards the end of the afternoon I returned to dry land knowing I was going to suffer from sunburn yet again. On the way home I stopped at a farm close to Marshall to pick some cherries. I popped one in my mouth and it nearly turned my face inside out, it was so sour. Apparently they were cooking cherries. The farmer laughed loudly and we started chatting. I sat next to him and soon his wife came out and we introduced ourselves.
This is Esther, a hand reared sheep who was born in April and actually goes inside the house. She was adorable and spent some happy minutes chewing on the ties on my shorts. There was an emu, ducks, chickens and peacocks roaming around which made me ask if they also sold free range eggs. He doesn't advertize this but told me that if I called and asked they would put some by. How wonderful. The setting sun encouraged me to get up and bid my new friends a fond farewell and finish the last leg of my journey home. Another fabulous weekend filled with fun to fortify me for the work week ahead!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Staying Close to Home

I was going down to watch a movie at Artomatic on Saturday afternoon but on waking up early in the morning, I had plenty of time to get other things done. Both the cats had a vet appointment but I reckoned I could pedal a few miles before we were due there. I jumped on the bike and set off. I turned off onto what had looked like a road on Google maps but what was really no more than a gravel track. Undaunted I continued and soon found that the next road was gravel too. I still continued and managed to keep pedaling on my narrow tires. I was doing really well and liked to think that the reason I persisted in going forwards was due to my skill at handling my bike and not pure stupidity. I passed very little traffic, it felt as though I had the whole world to myself and all I could hear was the hum and chirping of insects and the crunching underneath my wheels.
The scenery was beautiful and after about halfway round my route I came across smooth tarmac again and was able to travel faster. This ride was more arduous than last weeks but one I'll definitely ride again. I got home in less than 2 hours after 16 miles and with time to jump in the shower before we were due at the vets.
Rosie was having booster shots and behaved impeccably but Kota was like a demon from Hell. He yowled constantly, hissed and screamed, all over an exam and 1 shot. He wore me, the vet and her 2 assistants down and had to suffer the indignity of finishing his exam with a towel over his head. Rosie watched placidly in silence with rather, so I thought, a smug expression on her face. We all got home eventually, got out of the car and parted from each other in opposite directions. Rosie to bedroom, Kota to the barn and me to the fridge for a beer. I think we were all frazzled. I gave up the idea of going into DC since I would now miss a good part of the screening and instead focused on taking some photos around Meadow House.
Kota followed me around and soon we were also accompanied by a thrush who fluttered from tree to tree and very noisily asked us to leave, actually coming down to the lower branches to try and intimidate us. She bothered me a lot more than Kota who never once gave her a glance. My phone chimed as we walked round and I saw that Lewis had sent a photo of himself by my wall at Artomatic. I'd completely forgotten about my friends down there and resolved to try and find the movie on line which they had seen. A trailer is on the link below:
On Sunday I decided to continue my leisurely weekend with a trip to Front Royal and visit a flea market as well as scouring the thrift and antique stores.
I saw this old school desk in the back of a truck and asked the price thinking it would be about $35. I was amazed when they only asked for $5. I've always wanted one of these, they're so much more interesting than old English school desks. I was rather concerned about whether I'd actually be able to sit at it but was petrified that I might end up doing a Jake from The Blues Brothers so abstained from trying it out until I got home. But bonus! I sat at it easily and it was very comfy.
On the way home I nearly missed a yard sale. I regretted driving in once I noticed that it was mainly beat up tools and engine parts but then I spied these sturdy old wooden boxes. These sell for a fortune up in Middleburg and surrounding areas but I got all 5 for $13. Great for doubling as storage and a room divider.
 I did a double take when I saw this potting compost. I finished the day with getting some cilantro and basil plants and found an old cheese can to use as a plant pot indoors.
It was lovely to sit and enjoy the late afternoon sun. The cats were stretched out on the patio at my feet and I sat with feet up sipping on a cold beer and loving the bright colors and lush vegetation surrounding me. The peacocks yowled and honked across the hill and I sat so still that a young buck came close by grazing on the tall grass in the meadow. He looked up and directly at me when I called softly but didn't run. He carried on munching but then Rosie got up and a second later we saw him jump away, a quick white flash as he lifted his tail in warning. Soon the lightning bugs started blinking, increasing in numbers as dusk grew darker, and  the weekend came to a close.