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In 2007 I was able to go to the Minnesota State Fair 3 times. The first time, with a 5-year-old niece and other relatives all splintering to go off in their own directions I only managed to play tour guide, watch the child, and eat a couple corn dogs. It was difficult to be in the poultry barn with the pigeons and the bunnies and know that I wouldn't be able to draw them at all because they would be gone before I was able to return.

Fortunately my desire to draw the farm animals was satisfied (or at least addressed) by the remaining two visits. I ended up with a journal packed full of animal memories.

This year I again elected to work on journal cards made of 300 lb. watercolor paper which I had pre-painted. The ease of working with these cards really can't be beat. I find that taking two cards out at a time is sufficient to create enough stiffness to work on the top card without needing to have it in your lap or leaning against something. Also if you were to get bumped it's not as if you're going to drop all your work in a cow pie! But having a flat piece of paper, instead of a gutter in the center of a page spread to work on is also something novel for me and I like to indulge in it once in awhile. It is also very easy to stand and hold the cards while being bumped by the crowds.

All in all I recommend that you try this approach when working in tight drawing conditions. My cards were 7 x 5 inches. The first one I used I pulled out a Staedtler Pigment Liner, turned the card horizontally, and decided not to add gouache when I had finished my sketch. This set the tone for the remainder of the Fair. All the cards are horizontal in orientation and pen and ink only.

The ink only was an interesting decision. I love using gouache, but I found that in this situation (the fast moving, pushy crowds) it was easier to focus until completion with the pen. Eliminating the need to decide when to commence painting actually meant more concentration on my line and a very quick work process: no drying time, I just shuffled to the next card and kept going. I really enjoyed this pace.

A couple people who have talked to me about this journal have said they couldn't work on cards because they would be tempted to leave out the "bad" cards. If you think this might be true for you too I still recommend you try the journal card approach. I think you will surprise yourself. You will want all the cards in your final portfolio because they represent a slide show as it were of your time at the Fair and even the most botched drawing will have special meaning to you.

After the Fair I did make a hardcover portfolio for the cards. On the cover of the portfolio, I placed a laminated, cropped portion of my spin art. It is inset in a depression. I hope to post a photograph of the portfolio and the cards together as the last image in this section, but don't have a photo at this time. I also think it would fun to do a little video of all the journal cards flipping by (because some of the cards have writing on the back as well), but for now the following images are some of my favorites from the 2007 Minnesota State Fair. I hope you enjoy them and get out and sketch some animals yourself.

Above is my first sketch. I just fell in love with this pig as she napped in her pen. Another pig farmer saw me drawing and came up to talk to me. I spent quite a bit of time talking with him and learned a lot of things about pig farming, and the way you show a pig at the State Fair. I also learned that for many of the animals the State Fair is what is called a terminal show. I'm a carnivore so I am aware and not apologetic that these animals are for consumption in some way, shape, or form, but I never realized that for some the walk out of the show ring is right into the meat processing truck. There is no return to the farm, and little time for good byes. This gave me new understanding into the range of reactions one sees in the exhibitors, especially the younger ones.

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Illustration © 2007 Roz Stendahl; All Rights Reserved