Confessions of a Ballerunner

Essays on Sports, Arts, Culture, and Life

Fashion sketches to pass the time during a thunderstorm

I hate thunderstorms. Especially the severe ones we seem to get all too often in the Ottawa Valley during the hot, humid summer months. As a year-round runner, thunderstorms are pretty much the only type of bad weather — other than the occasional, bad ice storm — that I will strictly avoid running in unless caught in a pop-up thunderstorm while a run is already in progress. It just isn’t safe to be outdoors.

When a severe thunderstorm portends, I don’t resort to hiding under the bed or whimpering like a Golden or Labrador Retriever (or even Goldendoodle, as I found last summer) is known to do, but I usually start pacing the room, going from window to window, repeatedly checking the status of the clouds in the sky like an amateur climatologist on a mission — searching for those ominous funnel clouds.

This past Friday night, a particularly intense thunderstorm rolled into the Ottawa-Gatineau region complete with tornado warnings. Sadly, an 18-year boy, out cycling through Vincent Massey Park when the storm hit, was struck by lightning and died.

I was supposed to head out by bike, myself, to Mooney’s Bay (next door to the park) that night for a dragon boat practice. I was initially torn between my desire to honor my commitment to the team and my desire to avoid danger or harm. In the end, my rational self prevailed and I opted to text our captain and recuse myself from the night’s practice citing concerns about the various severe weather warnings issued, including a tornado warning. (Practice ended up being cancelled anyway as boats are grounded or called to shore at the first sign of lightning.)

While sending the text, I could hear the distant rumbling of thunder in the heavy, sickly grey-yellow sky and see and hear the furious rustling of leaves through the swaying trees in my neighborhood as the wind picked up force. A prelude to a tympanic tempest. Within minutes, the rain began. It was torrential, rendering all observation indiscernible through my second-story observation deck. I had definitely made the right call in not venturing out to dragon boat practice.

Deciding it was probably equally unwise to continue monitoring the fury of Nature unleashed from behind glass, I turned to a drawing project as a means of distracting myself, while keeping the flashlights nearby (as well as my purse, keys, and bike helmet in case I had to make a dash for the basement!).

For me, drawing is an activity — much like photography, writing, and painting — that usually becomes all-engrossing. I knew this would be the perfect way to weather the storm. And so, I dug out my art supplies, pulled out my often-referred-to copy of the Style Book and selected two fashion photos to interpret as ink drawings.

[Below: Ink, colored conté, and watercolor crayons interpretation of a black & white photo dated 1941 featuring a woman in a tailored, wool, checked pantsuit feeding a majestic-looking swan by a pond. (Location not stated.) This image immediately reminded me of Coco Chanel and her ‘disruptive’ fashion line of ‘manly’ women’s clothing at a time when trousers were not de rigeur for ladies. (Katharine Hepburn is another woman who sported a pantsuit in an iconic photo shot in 1938, also featured in the Style Book.) BTW, for a couple of great Coco Chanel movies, check out Coco Avant Chanel and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky.]

[Below: Ink drawing, wash, and colored conte interpretation of a black & white photo dated 1950 of a couple enjoying a care-free day out sailing on the bay. (Location unknown.) The couple is said to be wearing sailor-style trousers: hers – white & blue, his – crisp white. I would totally wear something like her outfit today. It’s so chic! Even her hair – kind of Greek goddess meets fräulein.]


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5 thoughts on “Fashion sketches to pass the time during a thunderstorm

  1. These are great. You have a wonderful talent.

  2. I like the blend of tympanic tempest and art sketches – very evocative! You might enjoy the Cloudspotter’s Guide by the Cloud Appreciation Society. 🙂

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