Tian An Men

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Tian An Men, Beijing (click for larger view)

I spent my last day in Beijing doing what I'd intended to do on the first--draw Tian An Men, the gate that leads into the Forbidden City.

Arriving at 10, I settled into a spot on the ground near a flagpole by the big obelisk in the square. Five hours later, I completed my drawing.

I'm never a speedy artist, but the work was slowed somewhat by numerous interruptions as Chinese tourists noticed me. I am the subject of half a dozen videos and countless photos. I talked to adults and children, putting forward my best "American representative abroad" smile and good cheer, even when I wanted to smack people for standing between me and what I was drawing.

At various points throughout the day, I had crowds of as many as thirty people watching me. Dozens of sweet little girls came and sat next to me, smiling while their parents captured the moment on film (I saw very few digital cameras and only one D70 like ours). Grown men gave me the thumbs-up when we established that I didn't speak Chinese. Many mutterings of "Very Good!", which is exaggerated praise considering what I drew.

My favorite onlookers were a group of bright blue-shirted students of various ages and their teachers. Their tour guide explained that they had come from all over China on a trip to Beijing that was a prize for an essay contest on the benefits of reading. Some of the kids spoke English and I asked them about the books they liked. None of them knew Harry Potter but it seems likely he's named something different in Chinese.

When I finished my drawing I can't say I was thrilled with the result, but I'd experienced a memorable afternoon. That makes up for any lack of skill displayed on the paper.

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Kristen, your drawings are gorgeous! Lively and colorful. I love this one, and I really like the whimsy of the "sunburn islands" and your turbulence one.

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  • Jenn: Kristen, your drawings are gorgeous! Lively and colorful. I love read more