He sized up the doorway ahead. The way it looked through to a boat and a shanty on the other side of it. Yes. That would work. He held his sketchpad with his left arm and steadily made light pencil marks with his right hand. He placed the threshold near the bottom of his page. Flicks on either side of the doorway suggested the exterior wall. His eyes and head tilted up. Quick lines framed the roof and the second story at the top of his page. Just enough marks to describe the building. Parallel strokes created the horizontal roof boards. His persistence paid off. He knew what he needed.
It was the way he gathered information. To make himself comfortable with the subject. So that it could be colored with washes from his kit. The fact that it had almost rained was not lost on him.
As the sun rose above his head more of the clouds were burned away. He could hear the knocking of footsteps over the boardwalk. Others were out drawing and painting in Fish Town. The last of the moisture cooled his neck as he found another spot from which to work.
That afternoon he focused on figures. Men were gathering their nets and laying them out to dry on the wooden reels.
Drawing with black ink and trying to capture form while it was moving was always a trick.
His page was full of THIS moment,
THAT sea gull,
an arm reaching over,
and a head tilted forward. Linear snapshots.
carefully, were then interrupted by the
of the figure he had been drawing.
It was the classic adage of "trial and error."
He could draw a hand,
maybe the back of a head
and add a hat to it.
If they would ONLY POSE, or FREEZE in space, he would be able to draw that.
He thought of examples from his bound journal. Guys leaning against the counter at the campus library.
Friends chatting at a table.
A classmate, one row over from him, during religion class.
Goofy caricatures of his Valparaiso instructors, Waldschmidt and Wismar.
The man asleep on the "L" train
that he did in charcoal.
Gee. Even the dead insect specimens he drew for zoology class were easier to manage than these men, as they spread their nets.
The day ended with him sitting on the sands of Lake Michigan watching the sun set in a blaze of color. The water became orange blue or was it green, he thought, as he watched the blue edge of water nestle along the shoreline. Across from him the island was a deep purple. The traces of sun shone a deep rich red. He went back to his apartment and listened to the Lewis-Walcott fight.
The night was full of talking. He stepped out into the night air and chatted with the women. All of that bunch were art students from East Lansing. The one called Lydia talked about her paintings. What a day it had been for all of them. He had finished four watercolors and a bunch of sketches. And from the looks of it Lydia made some nice watercolors too.
# # # #
[Pencil, black ink, charcoal and watercolor drawings by Reinhold Marxhausen, journal sketch, June 1948. Courtesy of Marxhausen Estate LTD, Seward, NE. Story by Karl Marxhausen, copyright 2015. The narrative was based on journal entries by Reinhold Marxhausen, from June of 1948]