Ken Avidor Sketches Snow Piles and You Should Too

March 18, 2014

Ken Large Snow Pile

Above: Snow pile behind the University Stadium in 2010-2011, ©2010 Ken Avidor. Pen, colored pencil on toned paper. Click on the link below in this post to go to Ken's post on sketching snow piles to see this an many more snow pile sketches.

I think the title of this post says it all. I have written before about Ken Avidor's new column about "the Sketching Life." It's always fun to see what he's up to but his recent post is about sketching snow piles. I wanted to urge you all to go and read it. 

Here in the Twin Cities it's starting to melt a little. Though as I write this another light snow is falling. Spring comes in spurts and I'm used to that. But several years ago Ken got me interested in sketching snow piles when he showed me the mammoth snow dump that was actually only a few blocks away from me. (Tucked back in an area I don't normally travel past.)

When the girls were alive snow had a different meaning for all of us. It was something to dive into and fish red rubber balls out of (for Dottie, not me, I just chucked the balls). It was something to forge forth through, breaking the crust with joy and strength (for Emma). Their obvious delight in the snow buoyed me up through the entire winter. In fact I spent more time outside in the winter during my dog years than I did in the summers; whole days dressed in snow pants looking like a swollen tick, trudging through landscapes transformed by blowing, drifting snow, under skies of pale gray or blue so brilliant it burned your eyes. The girls taught me how alive that landscape was through their understanding of scent. 

In spring when you have Malamutes you and they both want to be out as much as possible, though perhaps for different reasons. And when the landscape is melting and a season of salt and grit has washed up to the side of the road and onto any path you might achieve, it becomes a real skill in knowing exactly the moment (after coming inside) when the muddy belly icicles will melt enough so that you can towel them off before they smear into the fur or flood everywhere else. You learn how to care for paws so that salty city streets won't harm them. And you do a lot of puddle stomping, just because it's fun.

The light is changing, it reflects off the ice on the puddles; ice which is thinner, frosty, and lighter. That almost metallic squeaky crunch of your boots against highly packed, super cold snow that's been the only accompaniment of your walks when it's -11 degrees gives way to a slappy, sloppy sound of "sqooshing" and brittle crackle depending on the time of day. It's amazing. I'm glad I had that with them, to learn to appreciate snow.

But every winter since Ken showed me his sketch of that mammoth snow pile I have been happy to look at snow through my sketchbook. I don't get out into snow the same way I did when the girls were alive, but sketching snow has reminded me not only of all the fun I had with them, but the joy they felt in it.

We live in a really beautiful place. You don't want to miss a moment of any of it. When it is green here it is so green; when it is orange and red it is so red and orange. When it is white it is a hundred million colors and shapes and patterns and sounds and smells.

That calls out for sketching.

So put some alcohol in your pen as Ken suggests and get out there and sketch some snow piles.

    • Frank Bettendorf
    • March 18, 2014

    Great example of good writing. Thanks.

  1. Reply

    Thanks Frank, it’s always fun to think about what the girls taught me about snow and cold. Especially after this winter when everyone I know who has lived here forever is talking about moving! I do think I need to start thinking about getting away for a week of outdoor cycling, but then I think which week would that be? I’m hindered by my desire to live sequentially.

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