Tag Archives: Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Drop Dogs

DropDogs

Above is a journal entry I did when volunteering for the Iditarod in March on drop dogs and the people who care for them. Drop dogs are the dogs that are left behind as the musher and his team continue the race. There are many reasons a dog may be “dropped” at a check point. An injury, dehydration, not eating, etc.

Every dog is given a thorough check-up upon arrival at every checkpoint by checkpoint veterinarians. A veterinarian  can pull a dog from the team, but, from what I witnessed 99.9% of the decisions to drop a dog were made by the musher.  As it should be. They have been with these dogs day-in- day-out since training began in early fall and know these dogs very well.

Once the dogs are dropped they are cared for, 24/7, by veterinarians at the checkpoints until they are flown out to central transportation hubs such as Unalakleet or McGrath. Here they are cared for by Vet Techs, professional dog handlers and veterinarians until a plane load has gathered. Then they are flown to Anchorage where they are cared for at the Women’s Prison in Eagle River, AK until they are picked up by their mushers/owners.

 

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Iditarod Infographics from the Field.

Anatomy of a sled dog team.

Anatomy of a sled dog team.

As Iditarod 2015 heats up with the lead racers hitting  the half way mark, here are some info graphics I put together during my stint as a volunteer for the Iditarod in 2012. From my Iditarod sketchbook.

A quick look at how the dogs are hooked to the sled.

A quick look at how the dogs are hooked to the sled.

 

 

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Yukon Quest 2015

From the start of the 2012 Iditarod.

From the start of the 2012 Iditarod.

The first of the 1000 mile dog sled marathons kicks off today in Whitehorse (Canada) and will finish in about 9 days in Fairbanks (USA). Some of these mushers will compete in another 1000 mile race, The Iditarod, starting a month from now. Not much time to recuperate. To follow the Questers I recommend going to yukonquest.com and using the live tracker option. This is free to use unlike the the Iditarod tracker where you need to become an Insider (well worth it by the way). The image above is from the start of the 2012 Iditarod. I have yet to make the Yukon Quest, but, rest assured it’s on my bucket list.

To get you fired-up and in the mood for today’s start of the Yukon Quest, here is one of my favorites, a video of the 2012 start in Fairbanks put together by Mark Gillett and Tom Barber.

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Travel Journal Tip No. 4: Using a 9B Pencil & Blending Stump

Quick sketches done with Derwent 9B pencil and blending stump.

Quick sketches done with Derwent 9B pencil and blending stump.

When I travel the three items I must have besides my sketchbook are a Derwent 9B pencil, pencil sharpener and a blending stump. I use these items to do a quick sketch technique I learned from David Rankin’s outstanding book “Fast Sketching Techniques.”

Fast-Sketching-Techiques

A great reference on learning to sketch from life. One of my top ten books.

Click here for a pdf on fast sketching faces with David Rankin.

Derwent 9B pencil.

Derwent 9B pencil.

For this fast sketch technique I like the Derwent  Graphic 9B pencil. These buggers are hard to find and when I do find them when I travel, I tend to buy the store out. I will use an 8B or an ebony pencil, but, only in a pinch. This 9B has a fluid, buttery feel to it that is unique.

Pencil sharpener that contains the shaving is a must.

Pencil sharpener that contains the shaving is a must.

Of coarse with a wooden pencil you will need a pencil sharpener. Surprisingly I’ve found that most museum and gallery gift shops (like the National Portrait Gallery in London, above) carry pencil sharpeners. It’s important that you have a sharpener that collects the shavings and lead so it doesn’t get all over the inside of your backpack, pocket or plane seat. I usually carry my sharpener inside a zip-lock bag for further protection.

Blending stumps carried inside a snack-sized zip-lock to keep them from marking up surfaces you don't want them to mark.

Blending stumps carried inside a snack-sized zip-lock to keep them from marking up surfaces you don’t want them to mark.

Blending stumps are what makes this fast sketching technique so versatile. Because the 9B lead is very soft it can easily be picked up with the stumps. The stumps then become a pencil (or brush) on their own and the lead can be transferred to other areas on the page. You can create a water color look and create delicate shading. It takes practice but, it is oh so worth it.

A landscape Sketch in One Minute

To follow is a series of images showing how I apply the the fast sketching technique using the 9B pencil and blending Stumps

Pick an interesting scene to sketch such as these Alaskan Mountains.

Pick an interesting scene to sketch such as these Alaskan Mountains.

Step one: Frame your subject. I've done this so often that I can quickly decide what format to do my sketch (landscape, portrait, circle, etc).

Step One: Frame your subject. I’ve done this so often that I can quickly decide what format to do my sketch (landscape, portrait, circle, etc).

Step 2: I quickly put down an outline of the scene in front of me. I squint to eliminate most of the details in front of me.

Step Two: I quickly put down an outline of the scene in front of me. I squint to eliminate most of the details in front of me.

Step Three: Fill in the darkest areas in your landscape.

Step Three: Fill in the darkest areas in your landscape.

Step Four: Once the dark areas have been done, I use the stump to "drag" lead to areas I want to add value to. The dark areas will also become darker when you rub over them with a stump.

Step Four: Once the dark areas have been done, I use the stump to “drag” lead to areas I want to add value to. The dark areas will also become darker when you rub over them with a stump.

Step Five: I now go back and forth between adding lead with the pencil and blending with a stump.

Step Five: I now go back and forth between adding lead with the pencil and blending with a stump.

Step six: With the pencil I will add to the darkest areas and put in a few sharp lines with the pencil to make it look sharp. Then I stop.

Step six: With the pencil I will add to the darkest areas and put in a few sharp lines with the pencil to make it look sharp. Then I stop.

The above sketch took me about one minute. I like to use this technique while riding in a vehicle (car, tour bus, boat). Its amazing how much detail you can record within seconds while going 50 mph.

A Detailed Sketch Using the Quick Sketch Technique

I use the 9B pencil and stumps when I get back home from my trips by using notes and photos I’ve taken. Below is an image I did for my Iditarod sketch book. I was a volunteer for the Iditarod for two years. The volunteers worked hard giving me little time to sketch let alone sleep. I took plenty of photos and notes on index cards. Below is a sketch of fellow volunteer Josh Capps when we were at the Koyuk checkpoint. This image of Josh is from a group photo I took while in Koyuk.

The key to sketching from photos is the same as when working from life—don’t get bogged down in details. Notice the  way the lines are placed on the figure. Good line work can indicate volume, shape and depth.

Step One: I wanted to use both pages of sketch book (called a spread). The first step is to make an outline of your image you want to draw. I use a mechanical pencil for this stage.

Step One: I wanted to use both pages of sketch book (called a spread). The first step is to make an outline of your image you want to draw. I use a mechanical pencil for this stage.

Step Two: Fill in all the darks and outlines with 9B pencil. Notice that I use a clean piece of paper to rest my hand to prevent smearing the soft lead.

Step Two: Fill in all the darks and outlines with 9B pencil. Notice that I use a clean piece of paper to rest my hand to prevent smearing the soft lead.

Darks and outlines are complete.

Darks and outlines are complete.

Step Three: go over image with blending stump. Don't over do it. Go back over image with pencil if it gets to "muddy" looking. The key to a nice sketch is to have contrast (darks next to lights).

Step Three: go over image with blending stump. Don’t over do it. Go back over image with pencil if it gets to “muddy” looking. The key to a nice sketch is to have contrast (darks next to lights).

IMPORTANT: Any pencil sketch should be sprayed with a Fixative as soon as you can. Remember always use a well ventilated area and spray  a test piece first before art work. The fixative keeps the soft lead from smearing and "offsetting" to the opposite page.

IMPORTANT: Any pencil sketch should be sprayed with a Fixative as soon as you can. Remember always use a well ventilated area and spray a test piece first before art work. The fixative keeps the soft lead from smearing and “offsetting” to the opposite page.

The best drawing tool is practice. Use the techniques I’ve covered and practice, practice, practice. Go to your local library and see if Rankin’s book is available. Good Sketching!!!

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Design For a Cause—Karen Ramstead’s Last Iditarod will be in 2014

Karen Ramstead leaving Koyuk Checkpoint as she drops onto the sea ice (Iditarod 2012)

Karen Ramstead leaving Koyuk Checkpoint as she drops onto the sea ice (Iditarod 2012)

Karen Ramstead has declared 2014  her last Iditarod. She has run several and this energetic soul has many irons in the fire she would like to attend to. But, didn’t Jeff King say something like that a couple of  years ago? Only to come back this year (2013) and take 3rd. I watched this competitive musher blow through the Koyuk Checkpoint and give Mitch Seavey and Ali Zirkle a run for the money.

Racing the Iditarod is hard work and expensive. Karen has been non-stop promoting her team of beautiful Siberian Huskies since the end of the 2013 Iditarod, where she participated as a race judge.

I worked with Karen in designing her Winter Chicks identity. She will be selling water bottles and caps with the Winter Chicks logo to help finance her 2014 Iditarod bid. Winter Chicks is her team of crazy women biking across Iowa (440 miles) in July when the temperatures and humidity are both 100. I hope she makes it. Yeah I have no idea what biking in Iowa has to do with going to Nome but Karen knows. I just make the impossible, possible—a Siberian Husky peddling a bike.

You can read more about Winter Chicks and Karen’s preparations for Iditarod 2014 on her North Wapiti Kennels Blog. Karen I wish you the best.

Winter Chicks cap

Winter Chicks cap

You get a bonus with Karen's kennel named on the back of the cap.

You get a bonus with Karen’s kennel named on the back of the cap.

Karen better have several of these when she crosses Iowa in July.

Karen better have several of these when she crosses Iowa in July.

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Lino-Cut Print of Koyuk Exit Trail

Lino-cut print of the Iditarod exit trail out of Koyuk.

Lino-cut print of the Iditarod exit trail out of Koyuk.

Above is a lino-cut print of the exit trail out of Koyuk, AK for the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. I did this print from a sketch from my travel journal based on a sympathy card I did for a friend. Enough said except that some images take long and unexpected journeys.

I plan on doing one hundred of these prints and will send them to fellow volunteers (the ones I have addresses of)  I’ve worked with at Koyuk until I reach 100. Then I’ll do another print of a different scene.

From Iditarod Sketch book and inspiration for print.

From Iditarod Sketch book and inspiration for print.

Carving block for print.

Carving block for print.

The worst part of printing.

The worst part of printing.

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Anatomy of a Dog Sled Team

From T. Marple's 2012 Iditarod Sketch Book.

From T. Marple’s 2012 Iditarod Sketch Book.

Above is a sketch I did to help keep track of the different roles a dog may have on a dog sled team. Terms such as lead, swing or wheel dog would be slung around like moose stew at a checkpoint. As a volunteer I needed to learn  quickly. I noticed that a musher will move his dogs around depending on the situation. An example would be when the teams crossed from Shaktoolik to Koyuk, across 50+ miles of sea ice, often times the musher would use an older, calmer dog to lead the team across the ice and not the normal leader. The few times I witnessed this, the dog used to lead the team across the ice had been a wheel dog, but, not always.

The number of dogs you can start (Willow) and finish (Nome) with on the Iditarod is also a frequent question—16 (start) and 6 (finish) (from the 2012 Iditarod rule book). Not sure if the number you can finish with changes from year to year or not.

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