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New photo book takes a journey across New Hampshire

Last modified: 1/12/2016 3:26:02 PM
Visit – and draw – 234 cities and towns.

In just two years.

That was the mission Sue Anne Bottomley of New London gave herself after returning to her native New Hampshire.

This year, she published the finished product, Colorful Journey: An Artist’s Adventure Drawing Every Town in New Hampshire with Piscataqua Press.

Bottomley grew up in the Concord area. She studied fine arts and French at the University of New Hampshire. She was a printmaker in Maryland. And she jetted off on travels to Canada, Germany and around the world for the next 40 some-odd years.

During a 2008 trip to England and Scotland, she decided to document the visit with her sketch pad instead of with photographs.

“You really need to leave the camera at home,” she said.

Those sketches inspired her blog, also called Colorful Journey.

“It’s basically my life really, in story format,” Bottomley said of the blog.

Bottomley sketches all her drawings on site, with pen, ink, pencils and watercolors. Sometimes she just does the outlines and will fill in colors later at home. But never does she work off a photograph.

“I like the high energy and the immediacy of standing in the middle of the road with my sketchpad. It focuses the mind,” she wrote in the book’s foreword.

She explained that when you’re drawing on site, your eye can notice things a camera can’t. You can exaggerate what you like best. You can ignore what you’d rather not have in the image. You can shift and combine angles. Ultimately, you get an image you can’t see from any one place.

“In life, you don’t see things as a still image,” Bottomley said.

She added that drawing takes time, so it goes into her head differently.

“You’re forming a memory for yourself,” she said. “I can remember the weather, what I had for lunch.”

Bottomley sketched 19 New Hampshire towns before deciding to draw them all, and before she knew how many that would entail.

“When I got back here, I started driving around exploring,” Bottomley said. She had never been an adult with a car while living in the state.

As she completed a sketch of a town, she colored it in on her map. She drew during all four seasons, starting in the Monadnock region, which she was least familiar with. She avoided the north in the winter. She did the towns along the Vermont border in an easy trip, since the road goes straight up following the Connecticut River. She bought an atlas, and got lost more than once.

Most days, she would stop by two or three towns a day, so she had only two or three trips a month. Which wasn’t too bad to meet her goal for 10 a month for two years. Twice, she and her husband did overnight trips to Colebrook and to Eaton.

While planning her jaunts across New Hampshire, she would read up on the town, but she said the descriptions didn’t stick in her head. So she purposefully went into a town without a plan of what she would draw there. Bottomley said she wanted to be open to a new experience.

She looked for what made an impact on her eyes and her heart, she said. Repeated patterns and bright colors are star features.

In Ossipee, she drew a bunch of differently-colored shops.

“It’s the color in the town square that sort of appealed to me,” Bottomley said.

Concord is represented by the arch on the State House plaza.

There are lots of drawings of old buildings like meetinghouses, churches and mills, but there are also mountains, parks, a covered bridge and a missile in the book.

“I’m one of those grown up children who never stopped drawing,” she said. “I just kept going and never stopped.”

Back at home, she added the text to her images. Some of the stories are what she witnessed the day she went to draw. Some are background pulled from historical markers and research guides. And some are her personal reflections, like in the town where she lived when she was 5 years old or the riverbank where her parents were married.

And after two years, all her drawings were done. Partway through her project, she thought “wouldn’t it be nice if these were all put together.”

Tom Holebrook, who runs the River Run bookstore in Portsmouth, signed on as publisher for the book, which was printed by Piscataqua Press.

Then, it was another two years of editing and picking paper types and looking at lots of proofs.

“The most important thing as an artist is to get the colors as close as possible to the original artwork,” Bottomley said.

The book is organized into seven regions – Dartmouth and Sunapee, the Lakes Region, Merrimack Valley, Monadnock – and in each region the towns are alphabetized. Each town gets one page. (For simplicity, Bottomley calls all the municipalities “towns.”

She said the book was a good format for her sketches because the art has lots of detail and you can hold the book close.

“I view this as a permanent exhibit of my artwork,” Bottomley said.

She hopes people will take her book and learn about other parts of New Hampshire.

“One thing I learned is that it’s a small state, but people only know their little part of it.”

The book is available from Piscataqua Press, Amazon and Barnes and Nobel. Gibson’s Bookstore also has autographed copies available.


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