It’s a rainy Sunday morning today, but not last Sunday when I did my roundabout trip to the grocery store with pastels and camera. This was the first sketch I had in mind, even before I left the house. It’s a view of Chartiers Creek from the Hammond Street Bridge. I knew that all the trees were nearly leafed out and even some wildflowers were blooming, and that on a sunny morning all those greens would look almost flourescent. The foliage is so abundant, it hides all the rest of what is along the creek except one house, but on the right there are industrial buildings and railroad tracks, on the left is West Main Street and Irishtown, building upon building and house upon house. But you’d never know it here.
This is the first of several sketches I did or began that day. My little traveling kit of pastels is missing a few colors important to the spring landscape, so I had to finish them all at home. I’ll be posting them throughout the day as I scan them.
I fabricated the need to go to the grocery story, on my bicycle, with my camera and art materials. It meant I didn’t have time for a day on the trail, but I had a real need to ride my bike and do some art and just kind of poke around and find what was interesting in my town. I did take a roundabout way to the store and waded in the creek and did a few paintings and followed a great blue heron and photographed wildflowers and saw both lovely neighborhoods and well-used alleys. Here’s a slideshow of the events in order.
In the dense, comforting shade of a century-old spreading maple, a section of the row of headstones farthest back in the military veteran’s section, the first stones to be installed during the Civil War, read only:
A father, brother, husband, son of someone, unknown, but honored by a headstone that tells of his final sacrifice, rests there.
One of the most moving photos I took from the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony at Chartiers Cemetery, but perhaps the most fitting, no name, no rank, no distinguishing remarks, but the most common thread of all, a soldier.
And not just in remembering the Civil War, or even other conflicts following. My ancestors were fighting their own civil wars in Eastern Europe at the time of America’s Civil War, only one in a long line of civil wars that perhaps finalized their decisions to leave the only land they’d known to come to America for freedom and a chance at the dream they’d never see, not even today, in the lands where their families had lived for centuries. A few decades later, they had no qualms about bearing arms and traveling back to those lands to protect the country they had embraced as their home. Centuries of soldiers everywhere who fought for freedom, protected their loved ones, gave their lives, each brought us a step closer. May the day soon come when no one needs to die for freedom.
This photo is one of my most often-shared images from this site and on Pinterest; I am honored.
The good old traditional parade on the good old traditional Main Street, in my home town of Carnegie, PA. I am not a big fan of parades but my mother loved them, so every year until the year before she died I set us up on Main Street regardless of the weather and we cheered along the high school marching bands and local dignitaries and fire companies and reenactors marching in the parade. Going out for an ice cream sundae afterward capped it off.
Each year our community held an art exhibit called “Carnegie Painted” for 2-D art depicting images of Carnegie; this was one of my entries in 2008, sketched from photos I had taken of the parade. Instead of color I decided to render it in pencil, in a style reminiscent of World War II cartoons. Pencil is so expressive, and it really reduces lines down to just what they need to be to get the point across, and this illustration style is almost impressionistic in its quality of line and level of detail.
Also, my father was a veteran of WWII, and my mother graduated high school and began her life during the war years—she considered it “her time”. I always felt as if I’d lived then with all the stories and memories. As my mother was growing older and finding and reading through my father’s service papers I actually came to feel closer to that time. This drawing in this style was a memory of that parade, of my mother, my father and a lot of other things combined. It all connects to a story I’m writing.
I sold the original, but have prints and notecards of it in various sizes. Visit my website to read about this and other pieces in my “My Home Town” series.
The pear trees are blooming on Carnegie’s Main Street again, and though each year looks like the previous years I still can’t help myself from photographing and sketching the sight. This is one of the reference photos for my sketch, a bright late afternoon though a little bit overcast.
One of my favorite paintings of Carnegie, and also a favorite of others is also from this time of the year, and I realized as the pear trees began this year that I painted it ten years ago. It is called, not surprisingly, “Pear Trees on Main Street” and you can see it here where it is the signature image for my series “My Home Town”. Can’t wait to finish the new one.
And you can also see a slideshow of photos of the pear trees blooming on Main Street. It’s really quite a sight.
I found her in her favorite morning fishing spot, though she grew angry and flew farther downstream before I had my camera ready. I readied my lens and crept to the top of the bank as off she flew!
This isn’t in a park or conservation area, this is right in the middle of Carnegie. I dropped my car off for service and walked back home, dipping down by the creek, studying a few industrial areas, walking down a few alleys instead of main streets and then walking on Main Street itself.
Chartiers Creek winds through the middle of town and beyond in both directions, and a colony of great blue herons nests about 11 miles away, considering the entirety of the creek’s channel as their hunting ground. For the most part the creek is less than a foot deep, and today the air turned slightly warmer again, warming the water and bringing out the small creek fish, carp and darters. The heron stands on the gravel on a shallow edge of the creek and as the fish swim between her legs she just reaches down with that long neck and picks them out of the water with her beak like tweezers.
When the heron is standing still in the water, she is so slender that she looks like a twig or thin tree branch standing up in the water. But when she decides to fly she is hard to miss as she looks like a prehistoric creature, some sort of pterodactyl, with her long beak, long hooked neck and immense wingspan, plus those long gangly legs. Not to mention she is quite blue.
Those big, long wings are so graceful that I can’t even describe it.
I’ve been playing in this creek since I was a child. Both the heron and the fish she eats are signs that a creek horribly polluted by industrial waste has found a new life. I’m glad to see it coming back.
The pear trees were blooming on Main Street on this day last year! Not a sign of any pear trees or magnolia, and even the daffodils are hesitating.
On a sunny day like today this pale yellow brick street is nearly blinding.
Well, it was sunny, but instead of leaving it in its natural colors, I desaturated it to approximate a black and white shot because I liked the close-set details of all the buildings and light poles and bollards and bricks. I then added a yellow filter because it seemed to help define things better.
A sunny winter day with big clouds can offer interesting lighting; in this case a huge cloud traveled over the geese and me, while all around the sky was bright and the hills were lit by winter sun. All the light in this image is comes in at an angle and reflects onto the geese and water, cool winter light enhancing all the shades of blue as the geese calmly paddle along on Chartiers Creek in Carnegie.
Not sure who her features are patterned after, but between her molded and painted features this tiny Baroque lady is a marvel. She’s only about four inches tall, yet the lace trim on her dress and the flower in her hair are extremely detailed. She might need a little skin cream for those cracks though. I just wonder who she’s looking at for all of eternity.
Bright late winter sun turns up interesting things, the graffiti on a rusted abandoned railroad bridge, and the last tired vestiges of wormwood.
This time, however, they are on the water.
There’s just something about browsing books this way that I find so much more enjoyable than browsing titles on a computer, even if I’m looking for recorded volumes…each book on each shelf seems to hold a treasure, and walking sideways down the aisles is so much more fun than scrolling. At Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.
Someone left a number of quart-size canning jars outside their door for most of the winter. They don’t have the lids, only rings, so rain and snow fell inside, melted, froze and did all the things water does. I’m surprised only one jar is shattered, but it looks like four friends who are a little worse for the wear.
What primordial wash left these deposits of colored sand between layers of limestone? How many times did the landscape change to create these layers? How much time does this represent?
This highwall is a man-made cut along the Panhandle Trail in Collier Twp., PA, a former rail line from Pittsburgh to Weirton, WV and connecting to points north and west. A section at the trail head runs through the McShane Quarry of Collier Stone, providing Collier Gray limestone and other products around southwestern Pennsylvania.
The portion of the quarry around the trail is no longer mined, but several quarry ponds still provide interest and habitat, and in the woods huge quarried and natural boulders left behind are covered with lichen and moss. And like most limestone and sandstone formations, there’s a natural cave to explore. Farther along the trail is another limestone feature, the Fossil Cliffs where millennia of flora and fauna remain in this ghostly form.
Sunset fading orange casts a warm glow on snow-covered rooftops and streets; shadows tinge violet. Houses, mill and more houses march across the valley in courses, filling from one hill to the next.
Colors, colors, colors in the dark days of winter. Everything reflects on the rippling water, especially the bright blue sky from one angle and the brightly-lit hillside of auburn tree trunks and oak leaves. Love the orange foot on the duck, who’s giving one web foot a break.
I spent a good bit of time watching the ducks and geese on Chartiers Creek, feeling lucky that I have such a place to go and spend some quiet, meditative and creative time.
Tonight’s sunset reminded me of this photo I took several years ago from a ridge above Carnegie PA. It’s one of my favorite places to observe the sunset or incoming storms, and the valley includes nearly all of Carnegie. In this view you can see the snow-covered rooftops of houses, businesses and industrial buildings with a slight violet glow and the winding course of Chartiers Creek reflecting the pale aqua of the sky as it meanders through town and the sun slowly sets on a bitter cold winter evening. Tonight’s sunset looked like this, even down to the snow on the rooftops, but I couldn’t get to this vantage point in time to get the photo. Still, I wanted to share this moment; I’ve never posted this image on Today before.
“Good Night Little Town” is one of 14 images of Carnegie PA in my exhibit, “Carnegie Painted”
I always have to close the year with my absolute favorite sunset photo, from December 31, 2004, taken from the top of my street.
A few hardy wildflowers still hold shriveled, faded leaves and just the seeds left from abundant flowers blooming around industrial debris. The debris itself is most interesting, a huge metal spool alternately rusting in various patterns with a few flecks of turquoise paint left for effect. The contrast of the delicate, brittle flowers washed by the sun and the solid, heavy object held in shadow is perhaps the story of how nature will always try to find a way back when it’s been pushed aside and buried, renewing itself slowly but surely, while manmade things slowly but surely sink into the soil.
Each headstone is touched by the last light of day.
One of the times I wish I had had my DSLR with me instead of the little pocket digital which really couldn’t handle the subtleties of this image. The sunset was not so garish and tropical-looking and the headstones had more detail, but you can imagine the peace and quiet in this scene. I was following the sunset as I drove around for errands, and saw this coming up on the road ahead of me, pulled over and got the best shot I could.
This is Chartiers Cemetery in East Carnegie, southwest of Pittsburgh. Established in 1863 during the Civil War as a public burial ground it tells many stories. In the center a slender white line is the flagpole; they lowered the flag shortly after I took this photo. Slightly to the right of that the tall slender gray figure is the monument to the Civil War dead, and around them the veterans’ section of the cemetery.
Of course, we can never see the signal, but the front line floating down Chartiers Creek in Carnegie suddenly took flight and flew 100 yards or so upstream, leaving those behind milling around, trying to decide if they should do the same. Eventually the did. Perhaps there was a mark somewhere on the creek floor and a system set up that only geese understand.
In the entryway of the Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie; not from this year, but from two years ago, before I was posting daily photos. Wheat is a very important symbol in the Ukrainian tradition and appears in the famous cross-stitch embroidery and pysanka, or easter eggs, in church windows and on liturgical vestments as well as in artwork.
I love to photograph the vibrant colors of stained glass church windows as well. One of these days I’ll have to collect my photos of stained glass into a slideshow.
I am thankful that I can share my photos with people I don’t even know as well as those I do, every day. At the end of this holiday weekend in America, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, or just a beautiful day.