The 2013 Minnesota State Fair

September 6, 2013

Above: My favorite sketch from this year's fair. A white Bantam cock with gold neck feathers and a band of brown feathers across the top of his back and part of his wings. A very self-assured gent who watched me the whole time, rather unamused. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen and Daniel Smith Watercolors on 8 x 8 inch 140 lb. Fluid hot press watercolor paper. Click on the iamge to view an enlargement.

People who attended the Fifth Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out on August 27, 2013 already know it was 97 degrees with a heat index of 103! In fact it was so hot and there was enough humidity in the air that I had trouble with my watercolor paper! It was very limp and didn't dry out quickly at all, and it was difficult to sketch on with any of the pens I bought.

But that's the fun of this type of field sketching. You just keep at it with what you have on hand.

You can see a more detailed write up about the sketch out here.

And Ken Avidor posted about the sketch out on Urban Sketchers Twin Cities. You'll see photos of some of the art work from other sketchers. I have a scan of one of my other sketches at that post. (A sleeping chicken; the heat made it easy to find sleeping chickens to sketch.)

I was able to go to the Fair for a couple hours on the first Friday, and a couple hours on the last Friday. It was hot on all those dates (of course the last weekend it cooled off but I couldn't go). My Fair journal for this year is rather small—about 8 loose journal cards per visit (I indexed them, but haven't even counted them). 

Because of the heat I slowed down while sketching and I also spent a lot of time not sketching but just staring at the animals. (I swear sometimes I actually passed out standing up.)

So I think I learned a lot. The loose cards were a disaster because of my injured shoulder and elbow. Everytime I put one away I had to loosen my fanny pack and swing it around, then reverse the process and cinch it up. I was a basket case of pain by the time I got home. Next year I'll take a bound journal and just keep it out the entire time I'm sketching. (Deep pockets keep all my tools and pens ready at a moment's notice.)

It was also very clear to me (as it is every year, but especially this year) that all I really care about at the Fair is sketching the animals. I might make attempts at sketching the crowd and the buildings, but all the while the thought goes through my head, why aren't you in the barns? 

This makes me an unsuitable companion for anyone interested in seeing anything else at the Fair. Unless they want to see it on their own. But it also makes me really happy when we have the sketch out because then I can see, through the eyes of the other artists, all the great things that I'm missing. I can eat my Dole Treat, get a brain freeze, and smile—happy that I know so many observant and talented folks!

Below: One of my favorite sketches from my short jaunt to the Fair on the final Friday. Same paper, but this time a Staedtler Pigment Liner.


    • Miss T
    • September 6, 2013

    Roz, I love your Bantam!!

  1. Reply

    Hope you’ve recovered from the twisting and wrenching, and the heat! I’m always impressed with how you are able to capture the chickens at the fair in your drawings. Such a ‘moving target’ was a big challenge for me. There sure are some beautiful breeds of chickens but they don’t often stand still! Sadly, I did not sketch at the fair this year but I’ve enjoyed the links you provided about the sketch-out! such fun…

  2. Reply

    Thanks Miss T. He was a handsome guy. But he liked things the way he liked things and me drawing him wasn’t one of those things!

  3. Reply

    Dianne, it’s easy to draw chickens at the Minn. State Fair because they in crates so their movement is contained. They’ll come round to the same position. And I also think I have calming bird energy (I have better luck drawing birds than a lot of other folks I know and I think they are too excited).

    I stand there and watch the bird and after awhile they calm down. And these birds have all be hand raised so they are more comfortable with people. Once they calm down it’s just a matter of recognizing how they’ll stand and starting and then waiting until they take that pose again, and again, until you’re done.

    Sometimes we do this zen thing where they just stare at me and I stare at them and it’s like a connection and no one moves, except my hand. But it isn’t fear coming out of them, it’s curiosity. You can tell when fear is coming out of a bird.

    And that’s the best moment because they know you think they are beautiful and they are enjoying that and curious.

    And you work really, really fast.

    I’m recovered from the heat and twisting. The arm is still a problem, but I’m finding ways to work around it.

    • Chris
    • September 6, 2013

    Unfortunately when you go to the rodeo early in the morning all the school groups are there. Nothing makes animals more neurotic than hordes of little kids trooping past their cages yelling “Mira!” at each other and shrieking. The sheep were positively trembling with anxiety. Need to find a better time, but not sure when that would be.

    • Tina
    • September 6, 2013

    Great sketches, Roz! The animals are the only reason I sketch at the fair, too!

  4. Reply

    Yes, school groups. At the Bell museum (where the animals won’t be bothered) the school groups run wildly about, encouraged by the docents to play wolf pack/deer herd. You can imagine.

    The Fair has its share of noisy folks and some plain DOLTS. One father went along the Turkey crates hitting them all with a continuous drag of a wooden stick in his hand, as he walked down the aisle mumbling something in a drunken stupor (a little early for Beer I’d have thought) and his son, about 12, learning by his example did the same. I can tell you the birds were terrified and I told him to stop it.

    So sometimes there is no better time!

  5. Reply

    Tina, I’m glad to know others feel the same!

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