October 1st, 2015
Today I went to Blackhawk Forest Preserve just below South Elgin and made some drawings of the River from the walking bridge. My aim through drawing is to begin to get a feel for the Fox River. The River is captivating. But I see that the River is not to be made captive. If all of nature is alive, the Fox River pushes this point beyond bounds. At this time of year anyway it feels boundless, a rolling sustaining current of life.
Compared to it, my sketches are, so far, anemic - static cartoons. Everything about the River is motion, motion in multiple directions. Motion carried forward and away into the distance; motion coming toward me, pinning me against the river bank. It is an expansive river, unafraid of thinning itself out, of running around its many shoals, of digging its channels today and abandoning them tomorrow. It is an urgent motion, not in a rush, but in a relentless deliberate insistence to move down, down, down to St. Charles, down to Geneva, Batavia, Aurora, Yorkville … Ottawa.
My sketches look like I’m drawing a lake, not this moving river. I have to work out how to draw the river as a horizontal axis – how to get its spread or expanse plus its forward direction – both axes at the same time pushing into and across my drawing sheet. But in my drawings those two directions or bearings seem to cancel each other out. I get a static pond or lake instead of the rolling water.
I’m thinking about Winslow Homer and his Adirondack rivers, or maybe Thomas Eakins and his Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Maybe I can learn something from looking at them.
Written by Joel Sheesley, Artist-In-Residence, Fox River Initiative