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Robert Frost, New Hampshire.

I had a later flight from Logan International (8:45 PM) and I had time to burn before heading to the maze of Boston. On a whim I decided to head over to the New Hampshire town of Derry and visit a farm that the poet, and native San Franciscan, Robert Frost lived in from 1900 to 1911.

The farm house was closed for the season, most things start closing down after Columbus Day but the grounds around the white farmhouse were open for exploration.

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The three farm building of Robert Frost’s farm. The building are all connected so you can go from building to building without having to brave the frigid winter temps.

I walked through the grounds of the former orchard. Around the farm grounds were placed interpretive signs with some description as well as a Frost Poem printed in it’s entirety. According to a sign near the farm house:

He would call the first five years on this farm, “the core of my writing”. . . Frost called this farm the seedbed for his poetry and his thoughts returned here over and over again in ” the ache of memory,” to harvest poems throughout his life.

Many of his most famous poems were written at the farm and it’s geography certainly inspired the poet.

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One the the signs at the fork of a path featuring Frost’s most well know poem, “The Road Not Taken”.

I did a rough sketch with my dark sepia brush pen in my small Aquabook watercolor book of the farm building and the trees around it (featured sketch). I decided to leave the sketch unpainted because I liked the lines of the work, which was done without a pencil. As I tell my students: embrace your mistakes!

 

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Mount Washington Cog Railway

There is something about the sound of a steam engine whistle that turns this grown man into a child again. Better yet if the whistle echoes off the walls of a valley, covered in autumnal vestments.

I was waiting with anticipation on the platform as I heard the retort of the steam engine’s whistle down the line, announcing it’s arrival. The engine’s top speed is three miles an hour, so it would take a little while to pull into the station.

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Our brakeman Tommy, waving at the children and adult children as No. 2 Ammonoosuc, pulls into the base station.

The Ammonoosuc was slow but it could do what few other steam engines could do: ascend a grade of over 35% (most steam engines can handle only a grade of 6%). This is because the steam engine, now billowing smoke into the cold fall air, is a cog engine.

No. 2, Ammonoosuc, was pushing her red passage carriage which would push about 70 tourists up the three miles of track to the summit of Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, at 6,288 feet. What was really amazing about our engine is that she was built in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1875 and she’s still running strong.

We loaded up and it would take about hour (three miles at a top speed of three miles an hour) to reach the summit. I got a quick sketch in of my carriage view, which caught the attention of a curious toddler.

With a long retort of the whistle we started up and not far from the station, Ammonoosuc was tasked with pushing us up the Spring Hill Grade at 35%. That means that for every 100 feet we travel, we climb 35 feet! But this wasn’t the steepest grade on the line. That was yet to come, just under the summit, at the Jacob’s Ladder Trestle with a grade of 37.41%!

Near the summit was the first of two times that I would be crossing the famed Appalachian Trail or AT. At Mt. Washington, this was the second highest point on the entire 2,200 mile trail. Near the rocky, treeless summit, the AT is marked with stone cairns so hikers will not loose their way in the frequent inclement weather of the summit.

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My sketch from the summit of Mt. Washington looking southeast, the highest peak in the northeast at 6,288 feet.

Once at the summit we had an hour to take selfies at the summit, take in the view, and sketch (well I was the only one sketching). I did one quick and loose sketch of the incredible view to the southeast in which I almost froze my face off (one must suffer for art) and one sketch of Ammonoosuc as she rested before our descent.

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One our descent, our brakeman, Tommy, was in charge of the wheel breaks of our car so we didn’t run into the engine on the steep grades. We were actually not connected to the engine, she pushed us up and then we glided down and Tommy made sure we didn’t put too much stain on No. 2. She was an old lady after all, just 144 years old this year!

We made it to the calmer weather of the base station where well all unpeeled from our layers, hats, gloves, and scarfs. Looking up I traced the snake trail of the cog line and reflected on the incredible achievement of having this almost impossible railway line built.

 

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Phillip Exeter Academy Library

How do you sketch an architectural masterpiece?

Well first I “shake hands” with the building which means walking around the structure, viewing it from all angles and even walking across the street to find which angle speaks to me.

The building, the Phillip Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire, was certainly speaking to me. It is on the campus of Exeter Academy (founded in 1681) and is the largest secondary school library in the world. And I wanted to find the best angle that would really showcase the architect, Louis I. Kahn’s lines and form but I had one challenge. It was hard to see the Library through the trees. This is part of the on-the-ground-challenges of field sketching, but I was certainly up for the challenge!

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Louis I. Kahn’s great library at dusk, Exeter, New Hampshire. The interior is every more amazing.

I first became aware of Kahn’s work through the documentary 2003 My Architect: A Son’s Journey, made by his illegitimate son, Nathaniel. I had sketched his West Coast masterpiece, the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California and I wanted to find more examples of his work to add to my sketchbooks.

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The best way to understand a piece of architecture is to sketch it. The more you take the time to notice the more you really “see” it. This is really true of any subject but the best part about architecture, unlike animals, they are very obliging subjects, except for the complexity of the lines and the difficulty of perspective.

The following morning I sketched the library one either side of a coffee and oatmeal break. I sketched it from two different angles and in two different styles. My first sketch was a little more detailed following a pencil sketch while the second I was sketching without a net using micro pens (08 and a brush pen) to do a very loose sketch (featured image). I think I like the latter sketch, it is freer and captured the essence of the library better.

I did say that the interior was more incredible that the brick exterior. I know this because I headed into the space and saw the amazing interior. Unfortunately a librarian also saw me and with an air that said to me that she frequently turns away Louis I. Kahn fans. She told me of the few days of the year you could visit the interior, this was, after all, a school in session and said, “The library has because popular recently, too popular.” I thanked her and got fleeting glimpses of the incredible interior before headed out. Far too fleeting for such an amazing and sketchable space which remained unsketched.

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