Sketching People at Classis

I was away the past two days at Classis, our denomination’s biannual regional meeting for pastors, elders, and deacons to discuss church business, planning, and policy. This was my first time as a delegate to an actual Classis meeting, as our spring meeting was by Zoom, due to Covid. I am not ordinarily a fan of business meetings and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about sitting through an evening meeting followed by much of the next day in meetings, but I loved being at Classis.

Of course it helped that Classis was held Camp Connri, a beautiful location in the quiet Northeastern corner of Connecticut, where I could sketch outside before it all started Wednesday and then early yesterday morning.

There was such an atmosphere of love for God and of a desire to honor him by serving and loving people, both those in the church and in the community at large, that the deliberations were inspiring to me on multiple levels. I especially enjoyed connecting with other delegates and hearing their thoughts and experiences of prayer and of ways of encouraging spiritual growth in ourselves and others. It was a privilege to meet with these very inspiring pastors, elders, and deacons in our region! I also was very inspired by sharing sketches and ideas with a fellow deacon from our church who’s also an artist and with an artist we met who is a leader in an Indonesian church in New Hampshire.

Of course I sketched people throughout the meetings, and as I look at my sketches now, I am reminded of those people and of some of what they said during the meetings and in conversations I had with them; in that sense my sketches function as notes, and also as prompts for prayer.


Wednesday, February 10, 1982 was bitter cold, with a typical Finger Lakes icy wind blowing off Cayuga Lake, numbing my hands and bare legs. I had dressed up for dinner at our favorite nice restaurant, The Boxcar Restaurant. Usually we just went to Joe’s to get chef salads, but every now and then we’d dress up and go to The Boxcar. Dressing up meant a knee length dress of some sort of homespun cotton, very much the style I’d still wear, knee socks, and my thin down jacket that let the wind blow in through every seam. Not adequately warm for that strikingly clear, nearly full moon night with temps hovering near zero and the ever-present wind rushing up from the lake.

I was young and starry-eyed enough to willingly brave the cold when Stephen suggested we walk up to the overlook above my apartment after dinner. Below us Ithaca’s lights spangled the night between where we stood and the darkness of the lake. And then Stephen asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Actually, it wasn’t quite that simple…

When Stephen had called my parents’ home earlier that day to ask my father for my hand in marriage, my father had replied, “You may ask her, but she has to call me before she answers.” My mother later said she’d told my father that requiring me to call before answering was the most bizarre thing she’d ever heard. With a mother’s intuition she had immediately known why Steve was calling, whereas my usually astute father had been taken off guard.

So when Steve had dropped to one knee, taken my numb hands in his warm ones  and asked if I would marry him, he immediately followed his proposal with, “But you can’t answer yet; you need to call your father first.” We hurried to my apartment to find my roommate on the phone, so then ran to a friend’s apartment, where the phone was thankfully available. I called my father, got his blessing (he just wanted to ask me if I was happy), after which we went back out into the clear, cold night, where I said, “Yes!”

These 39 years have held plenty of challenges, some due to our immaturity at the time we  married, some to the normal stresses of raising children, especially while Stephen was still in grad school and we were living in a very cramped, cold, thin-walled apartment (we used to have an inch or more of ice on the inside of the sliding glass door and the bedroom windows), and some due to childhood issues that erupted like a volcano years after we got married.

But now, nearly four decades later, our lives have melded into one life- two lives in one- each richer and more steady than we would be alone, more complete as individuals because of the other, at the same time incomplete without the other. Stephen is my favorite subject to sketch and my favorite person to spend time with.

The following sketches were all done from life, most of them while Stephen was reading to me, which he has done nearly every evening for many years. His birthday present to me one year was that he would read a book of my choice to me in the evenings. After some thought I chose The Hobbit, knowing that we would then want to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which we did. By then we were hooked on reading aloud as a companionable way to close our day, and I’m guessing he has since read at least a hundred books of various genres aloud.

A to Z April Blogging S

Recent Sketches

I’ve been enjoying sketching a variety of subjects recently. A few friends and I have been meeting weekly via Zoom for drawing sessions. One person selects photos and pins them, and then we all sketch them for 20 minutes. We do three photos each week, sharing our drawings after each photo. It’s been a very enjoyable and inspiring way to meet during this ongoing time of Covid distancing. Some weeks we have sketched dancers, since one of the artists has a niece who is a dance instructor and is also a wonderful photographer, and other times we’ve sketched wild mustangs. I think one of these weeks we might sketch elk and bison. I have always loved sketching wildlife and have been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed sketching dancers.

Three quick sketches of one image in 20 minutes; I liked the idea of overlapping and also using different mediums.

(Click on images to view full size)

I took my mother for her two Covid vaccinations in February and, while she was inside the Westchester County Center, I waited outside sketching people. Some were standing on line waiting to go inside; others, like me, were waiting for family members who were inside. I also sketched a couple of the National Guardsmen and local policemen who were keeping it all organized. It was chilly (okay cold), but, as always, I enjoyed the challenge of doing quick sketches of people who weren’t holding one position for long. I think my Zoom drawing sessions have helped me capture proportions more quickly. I sketched on location with ballpoint pen and later added watercolor to one of my sketchbook pages. Ramble was with me, and he loved all the attention from people who came over to admire and greet him.

We’ve had a wonderfully snowy February, and Ramble loves leaping in the snow. I took some photos of his joyful cavorting while snowshoeing in Choate Audubon Sanctuary behind my mother’s house, and later sketched from my photos.

After one snowfall the branches were all frosted with white, so I did a gouache sketch of one of our old black locust trees with snow-topped branches.

When I was back home after a week away (I got snowed in at my mother’s), I sketched Stephen and Ramble as Stephen read to me by the fire.

More Front Porch Sketches

As the days warm up (at least for this week, who knows what next week will bring), more people and dogs are out enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, and quarantine-quiet roads. And I continue to enjoy watching and sketching many now familiar figures, as well as new ones.

Today was my weekly Quiet Day– a sabbath-like day I take most Saturdays to read, pray, and generally rejuvenate myself, as I relish God’s gift of rest and refreshment in a time of solitude and silence. And of course sketching is a part of that. Somehow when I pick up sketchbook and pen, I almost invariably find myself praying for at least some of time I’m sketching, sometimes in words of praise and worship, sometimes in prayer for others, and often just in quiet communion with God– prayer without words.

Some of my sketches “turn out,” others barely look like people, but all help me to see the dozens of people who go by as individuals, each unique in some way or another, each bearing the image of God in their being. For me, this season of Covid seems to be a time of focusing on people, whether my son and his family whom I’m here to help; or our other children and grandchildren in Texas, dealing with homeschooling all of a sudden, and North Carolina, adjusting to a new baby; or neighbors walking by, some of whom I meet as I walk my dogs; or my family at home in New York caring for my aged and ailing father; or the many people I know who are ill or at-risk or lonely because of Covid. Sketching my neighbors walking by is a daily reminder to consider all these people, those whom I know and those whom I have not yet met, and bring them before our loving God in prayer.

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