Garden Trees at the Chicago Institute of Art

7″x9″ Colored Pencil, Quick Sketch of Garden Trees at the Chicago Institute of Art

So, a funny thing happened yesterday. I missed my train and ended up having some extra time in downtown Chicago. But, that’s not how the story began.
It began with a morning walk. I got up early in order to have plenty of time to catch a train and ended up at the station way too early, so I went for a walk. There was no one – or at least very few people – out. I walked down by the lake and looked out on the orange dawn and took in the stillness of the morning and the distant horizon. Everything was dormant and peaceful – the city, the lake, the trees. And, the trees really struck me. Winter trees make such crisp silhouettes against the grey sky. They go from one thick trunk to thousands of threadlike tips, all in the space of a few dozen feet and by such a simple, natural process. So dramatic and so quiet all at once. I enjoyed the trees.
I walked from the shore to Michigan Avenue and along the front of the art institute. There was a locked garden on one side. It was filled with more leafless trees. They looked carefully pruned and the trunks were bumpy. Very unique. I wanted to draw them, but I had a train to catch.
Later, as I was standing on the train platform, waiting for my 9AM train, there were more trees: I could see the tops of the trees from the park above the walls of the station. A flat, grey wall, tree branches, and sky. All intricate and at the same time two dimensional and stark.
And then, a station employee came out to the platform and told me to move from platform 1 to platform 2. She said there was a problem with track 1, so all trains would be going to track 2. I and several other people moved from track 1 to track 2. Then, a few minutes later, our train rolled in to track number 1 and rolled away as we all watched helplessly from track 2 and missed it. There were some angry people, needless to say. And, as a result, I ended up with a few hours to kill while I waited for the next train. So, I went back to the Art Institute and did a very rapid drawing of the leafless trees in the garden (the drawing pictured above), and then I dashed about the Art Institute, camera in hand, and tried to take in the whole place at once. A fun way to do a museum, actually.
So, here are the trees, born of wonder and inconvenience. I’m actually glad, at this point, that I missed the train.

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