Neotropics

Minnesota Sketch Journal

I returned to my home state of Minnesota this summer and brought my sketchbook and watercolors. Living away from the state for 20 years, I understand it now better than ever, and sketching its contours help me remember what compels me to dig under its surface.

   
 

 

 
 

 

 
  New Germany, Minnesota  
 

August 14, 2012
I sketched this old barn from New Germany, MN while looking for black terns and shorebirds in the marshy habitats surrounding this town of 370. Great old barns and silos exist throughout Southern Minnesota, but these turn-of-the-century farmhouses, often built by regular Minnesotans without an architecture degree, can be striking in their originality and dimensions.

The Crane River, which wanders alongside New Germany, is prone to flooding throughout summer, and as this water recedes, it makes fine feeding habitat for shorebirds passing overhead.

New Germany is one of those places that is known for very little. It's most famous resident was a local lake character who spent his earlier years in New Germany. It is believed that the Rolling Stones song, You Can't Always Get What you Want! was inspired by Mr. Jimmy of New Germany.

We decided to have a soda
"Whatcha favorite flavor?", "Cherry red"
And I sung my song to my friend Jimmy

 
  Fourth of July in Minnesota  
 

August 14, 2012
Last summer, I got a really bad stomach flu and I couldn't eat anything but bananas and rice for a good, long week.

At the tail-end of it, I had lost weight, and my desire for food started to come back. But at first, I was just starving for food I hadn't thought about for years. Suddenly, all the tastes of a Fourth of July in Minnesota came at me: pickle-flavored potato chips, orange popsicles and grape soda.

A few weeks before returning to Minnesota, my friend and former next-door neighbor decided to recreate a Fourth of July from our youth, by gathering together three pontoon boats and collecting neighbors and family out on the water all day.

For a year, I couldn't stop thinking about that strange craving for my 1970's Fourth of July cuisine. Now was my chance to complete that craving and spend a day with Orange Fanta and sunflower seeds. The sketch above describes the apex of my cravings for lake food from Minnesota.

 
  Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota  
 
July 15, 2012
There's a bait and tackle shop on the lake that also serves as the local marine gas station. You can buy live crickets, leeches and lures here. We were proficient with outboard motors as pre-teens, and on a good day, you could motor right in to the dock, rummage barefoot through the shop, and find orange popsicles or bomb pops in the self-serve fridge.