Thursday, September 1, 2016

At Last – the Minnesota Fair Sketchout!

8/27/16 colored pencils (rooster)
Greg and I have been visiting his family in the Twin Cities annually for 30 years. During those decades, due to various family events, we’ve managed to time our visits to coincide with the Minnesota State Fair only a couple of times, and the last time was about 10 years ago – long before I began sketching.

Certainly I’ve been to our own Washington State Fair, and the last few years I’ve even joined Urban Sketchers Tacoma there. But I have to say, our fair cannot hold even a 15-hour votive candle to Minnesota. One of the oldest and biggest state fairs in the country, the Minnesota State Fair is arguably the best.

Ever since I started reading Roz Stendahl’s blog several years ago, I’ve been fascinated with her passion for sketching at the Minnesota fair – and for the fair in general. I could see that she worked very hard to organize a very special outing for sketchers in the area – bringing together not just urban sketchers but art groups of all kinds. Every year her sketches of animals at the event and eventually the sketches of other Twin Cities Urban Sketchers inspired me, and I became more and more determined to get to the fair again someday – this time with sketchbook in hand.

My prized Fair Sketchout button on my bag!
This summer the stars finally aligned, and we were able to make it to the fair again – and even better, I made it to the 8th Great Minnesota State Fair Sketchout! Since I had used the previous day with Greg’s family as a preview, I knew exactly which animals and attractions I wanted to sketch, so I hit the ground running! Before I took off, however, I joined Marty Harris, the current sketchout organizer, and an enthusiastic group of Twin Cities sketchers at the morning meet-up. I was proud to finally wear an official Fair Sketchout button (artwork by Marty)!

I spent quite a bit of time wandering slowly through all the animal barns. The chickens were so colorful, and the bunnies were adorable, but I think I had the most fun sketching a broad-breasted bronze turkey. Constantly twitching, his bluish-pinkish head had a bizarre texture that was very challenging to capture. It was fascinating to watch that thing that normally hangs down over his mouth lift up when he ate or drank. Eyeing me intensely, the tom occasionally turned around to display his rear end.
8/27/16 colored pencils (broad-breasted bronze turkey)

In the Dairy building, I watched a demo of the Smart Masker Pro several times. This product would be 10 times faster than using an ordinary roll of masking tape, he assured us. Although he moved quickly, the demo guy made the same motions repeatedly, which made it easier to anticipate what his next gesture would be.

When the occasional drizzle dried up, I wandered around outside to capture the Sky Flyer ride (I stood on a bench to get above the crowds) and Fairchild, the fair gopher mascot, who is celebrating his 50th birthday this year.

Speaking of crowds, I learned afterwards that a record-breaking 140,000 people attended the fair on the Saturday Sketchout. (A second Sketchout was held the following Monday.) While London crowds completely overwhelmed me, for some reason, I wasn’t bothered by fair hoards. Perhaps eating deep-fried foods on sticks has a sedating effect. (By the way, if you think that making all these sketches kept me from eating, you would be very wrong!)
Spin Art -- something I hadn't
done in decades!

My only regret for the whole day was that I missed sketching Princess Kay of the Milky Way! Crowned during Minnesota fair pageantry, the princess and each of her court members has her likeness carved in a 90-pound block of butter. At a previous fair, I had seen one of the princesses sitting for her butter sculpture (crowned and bundled in a down parka because the sculpting occurs in a refrigerated chamber with glass walls for viewing), and that image was seared in my memory. Where else on earth would I have the opportunity to sketch someone being sculpted in butter? Unfortunately, the sculpting schedule isn’t published, so by the time I got to the Dairy building, the sculptor was done for the day. Oh, well – it gives me a new life goal.

In the late afternoon the sketchers got together again to share sketchbooks, and that’s when I was delighted to meet Roz herself! After all these years of learning from her extremely informative (not to mention entertaining) blog, it was a thrill and honor to meet her in person.

8/27/16 colored pencils (rabbit)
Ken and Roberta Avidor, two more Twin Cities urban sketchers whose work I follow, were also a delight to meet. In addition, I was happily reunited with Amber Sausen and Daniel Green, whom I last saw at the Manchester symposium only a few weeks ago.

I know I’ve said it before, but the single-best thing about Urban Sketchers is the amazing network it offers. Whether I travel around the globe or go to Minnesota, I can find sketchers to spend the day with. The Urban Sketchers world keeps getting smaller.

Many thanks to Marty for organizing a fantastic Fair Sketchout! I can’t wait to get to another one!

Updated 9/2/16: Minnesota Public Radio News has been covering the fair on its website with many sketches by Sketchout participants, including a few by me!

8/27/16 brush pen, colored pencils (pig)

8/27/16 colored pencils (hen)

8/27/16 ink, colored pencils

8/27/16 brush pen (sheep shearing)
8/27/16 brush pen (bunny waiting to compete)
8/27/16 brush pen, Zig marker, colored pencils, ink
(Fairchild, the fair's gopher mascot)

8/27/16 brush pen, rainbow pencil (Sky Flyer)

The Saturday Sketchout sketchbook sharing!

Tina, Roz Stendahl and Marty Harris

Daniel Green, Tina and Amber Sausen

Ken Avidor and Tina


  1. That's really great you were able to attend the Fair sketch outing! Sounds like a great time.

    1. It was the most fun I've had in a long time! Maybe even more than the symposium! ;-)


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