Saturday, December 14, 2019

Cold, Crowded Cacophony at Swansons

12/13/19 Swansons Nursery

If being frozen and jostled by mobs of squealing children while sketching doesn’t appeal, you might want to avoid Swansons Nursery during its annual Reindeer Festival 12 days before Christmas. USk Seattle goes there every year around the same time, so Kate and I were puzzled about why it seemed more crowded than usual. That said, I managed to make four sketches, so how bad could it have been? I had fun!

12/13/19 Dasher and Blitzen
Whatever else I sketch during these annual outings (I think this was USk Seattle’s eighth Christmas visit; we sometimes go in the fall and spring, too), Swansons’ reindeer are always my favorite. As far as animals go, they don’t move too swiftly, but scaling those enormous antlers accurately is the challenging part. No matter how small I draw their bodies, I can’t seem to fit their antlers on the same page. This time I hedged my bets and put both Dasher and Blitzen in the same composition so that the full rack of at least one of them would appear in the sketch.

Fully chilled, I retreated to the koi pond inside the café. A few years ago, I was more ambitious and attempted the whole pond. This time I focused on simply capturing a couple of koi (I apparently had trouble scaling again – one tail went right off the page).
12/13/19 koi
Although I hadn’t fully recovered from the cold, I pulled my hood up again and went back to the reindeer pen, this time to stand further back (top of post). Perhaps my proudest moment of the whole day was catching the gesture of the dad taking a selfie with his young kids – he was quick, and so was I.

Toes numb, I headed for the café again to get coffee when I suddenly remembered Santa! The coffee line wrapped around the café, so I skipped it and headed for yet another crowd – the one waiting for the big bearded guy. At least it was warm and the view relatively unblocked. (I’ve sketched a lot of Santas, and my favorite moment is when babes are seated on his knee, and suddenly they turn and realize this red-suited, bearded dude is not known to them – and let out a huge howl! It happened a couple of times as I sketched . . . though the little bald guy in my sketch was happily oblivious.)

12/13/19 Santa at Swansons


  1. You really got a lot of sketching done there. I can see how it would be difficult to fit those racks of antlers on the page. lol I sometimes wonder how they can walk around. I love the Santa sketch with the little baby on his lap...and no crying either. lol

    1. I surprised myself by how many sketches I did! I felt stressed by the crowds, but I think it made me sketch faster!


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