Sketching in the (freezing) Land of Ten Thousand Lakes

[By Gabi Campanario in Duluth, Minnesota, USA]

Feet deep in the snow.

Fellow sketchers Daniel Green and Amber Sausen gave me a warm reception in their home state of Minnesota last month.

What wasn’t warm at all was the weather! One morning, I did a sketch when it was 18-degrees (-8° Celsius.) Imagine that. There was really not much point in using watercolors.

Luckily, the last day of my visit the high temps shot up to the low 30s (about 0° Celsius.) That’s “really warm” this time of the year for Minnesotans used to driving their trucks over frozen lakes to go ice fishing.

Daniel and Amber draw Lake Superior.

In these photos you can see Daniel, Amber and me sketching in Duluth, an industrial port city located in the western tip of Lake Superior.

Being February, the lake was frozen almost as far as we could see. Quite a sight, considering it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world, the size of two Switzerlands!

I came to Duluth to talk about urban sketching at the Lake Superior Design Retreat, an annual event organized by the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects, of which Amber and Daniel are members.

At a earlier stop in Minneapolis I was also thrilled to meet some local sketchers, including, Ken and Roberta Avidor,  Roz Stendahl and James Nutt, of the Twin Cities Urban Sketchers, and Liz Carlson, of the Metro Sketchers.

Being in such good company sure made me forget about the brutal temperatures these folks so proudly endure in the land of ten thousand lakes.

Here are some more sketches and moments from the trip:

Sketching from the passenger seat as we drove north from Minneapolis to Duluth.


I stood outside to sketch the historic cargo ship William A. Irvin surrounded by ice. The sketch of the draw bridge on the right was done indoors, from one of the many pedestrian skywalks that crisscross Duluth.

This sketchbook spread shows different moments of a scheduled sketchcrawl that was part of the design conference. The skywalks come in real handy for indoors winter sketching!

Sketching with just a pen allowed me to get drawings done before my fingers would get too cold.

I sketched Daniel into my little Duluth panorama. You can see the photo he was taking here and don’t miss his Lake Superior Design Retreat flickr set of drawings!

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