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Drawing Conclusions: a Graphite Journey

Jim Ross, CESO Volunteer Advisor (Canada) September 6, 2016 Jim Ross - Drawing Conclusions - Sketch 1

When CESO first approached me about contributing to their blog I had no idea what I might talk about. Should I write about the assignments I had undertaken? The people we met on the journey? The things we did and saw? Then inspiration hit.

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed sketching. Most of my work is what could be termed “urban sketches”: street scenes, buildings, etc. I sketch when I’m in a good mood and at peace with myself. I decided that this would be my focus for this blog. My sketches are more evocative for me than photos, of which I take dozens. When I look at a sketch I did 4-5 years ago, I can vividly recall the angle of the sun, the heat, the sounds, the smells, all the small details. I take a photo in 3-4 seconds and move on. A sketch requires that I sit still for an extended period and really look at what is before me.

So, here we go…

The featured image above is a sketch of sulfur spring baths in Tbilisi, Georgia. We didn’t get the chance to try them out, but the architecture is interesting, even if some of them did appear to be fairly new.

There were only a couple of buildings constructed of stone in Mbengwi. They dated from the early 1950’s. We were told they were the oldest buildings remaining in the village.  The one below housed a number of old computers donated by a U.S. university. They were very old and outdated when they were installed a couple of years previous and when we were there only 2-3 worked. The broken ones are not worth fixing because of their age. They were trying to teach adults computer skills on the remaining ones. I looked at this building every day for about 3 weeks before it occurred to me that it would make a good sketch.  When I got home, I made a painting of it.  I can’t find it anymore; I have no idea of what happened to it.

Jim Ross - Drawing Conclusions - Sketch 2

This is the other oldest building in Mbengwi.  It houses the library and is also used as a community meeting hall.  The Lord Mayor told me that, if we wanted to stay, he would arrange to have bricks made so we could build a house!  Our first day there we were invited to attend a Joint Marriage Celebration in this building. The couples had the opportunity to opt for either a monogamous or polygamous relationship.  They made us feel so welcomed and included us in all the family photos!

Jim Ross - Drawing Conclusions - Sketch 3

The sketch below was a common scene on the lagoon near Buguey in the Philippines.  We spent many hours exploring this huge lagoon as part of the CESO project.  At one point I asked someone, as we were tramping in the brush along edges of the lagoon, if we should be concerned about snakes.  He replied that snakes rarely react to the first person in line but may strike at the second person.  I was the second in line!

Jim Ross - Drawing Conclusions - Sketch 4

While in Benin, West Africa, I had the opportunity to tour the slave museum with a private guide.  We visited all the rooms and artifacts in and around the house/museum.  It was difficult to process the horrific history that was displayed before me.  The only sketch that I could come up with that could adequately portray my feelings was the ship’s chain to which the slaves were shackled during their voyage.

Jim Ross - Drawing Conclusions - Sketch 5

This is the last entry I made in my sketchbook before we left Mbengwi for home.

Jim Ross - Drawing Conclusions - Sketch 6

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