[by Fred Lynch, near Boston, Massachusetts]
Coming upon a hollow, abandoned train station can feel like approaching Oz, the Emerald City, under the right conditions.
I've written a number of times about the obstacles I encounter on my long sketch walks. All are self-made problems. At this stage in my career, it's what I choose to draw, more than how I choose to draw, that is my issue. And I'm picky. More problematic is that I don't know exactly what I'm looking for until I find it. It turns out there is a word for this: to coddiwomple, meaning "to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination."
Perhaps to coddiwomple in some form is an essential part of being an artist. In the book Art Thinking, author Amy Whitiger writes, "If you are making a work of art in any area of life, you are not going from a known point A to a known point B. You are inventing point B. You are creating something new—an object, a company, an idea, your life—that must make space for itself. In the act of creating that space, it changes the world, in however big or small a way...By this definition, art is less an object and more a process of exploration."
In my quest for a pleasing subject on this particular Sunday in Viterbo, I left our densely packed city to search the countryside. I longed for an open view of a peaceful place—perhaps some rolling hills. And, to a degree, I found what I was looking for, but never under sketchable conditions. Perhaps we've all had these days. The best compositions were seen from busy narrow streets and bridges. Drawing on the sides of those roads would surely have put me in danger's way. Going off the beaten path and down more rustic roads, I found that field was surrounded by high fences of barbed wire. Every gate was closed and locked. Losing patience, I tresspassed twice—slinking over and through obstructions. But that resulted in pant legs full of painfully thorny weeds, and my near shredding by a large snapping hound.
Miles from home, tired, tattered and nearly defeated, I turned what I decided would be my final corner. To my delight, I came upon this little tattered building at a dead end which I considered my own promised land. It occured to me that the big number 85 on the building could have stood for the number of sites I had seen that day (and until now rejected).
What I would draw was nothing like what I had intended. It was the surprising "Point B." The blazing sun poured down upon me, but it felt good to sit on my collapsable drawing stool. From this train station, I was off on my next drawing journey—about a two and a half hour trip.