Artist Sue Anne Bottomley‘s book Colorful Journey: an Artist’s Adventure: Drawing Every Town in New Hampshire got me out of a reading funk. I’d lately found myself dissatisfied which much of what I tried to read for pleasure — something that seems to happen when work reading overwhelms. Reviewing books pile up, I have limited time to read, and I end up feeling very choosy. I liked the idea of this book — a project, born of an artist’s desire to get reacquainted with her home state after forty years. Following through on a project like this had to be challenging, and I admire Bottomley’s perseverance.
Colorful Journey is part art book, part travel diary, part guide to tidbits of New Hampshire history and culture. It took Bottomley two years to visit and draw all 234 towns and cities in the seven regions of our state, and the book gives a page to each, with the pencil/ink/watercolor pictures taking up most of the space. Her style is fluid and colorful, and in the text she calls attention to the way she composed her drawings, when she took artistic license, and what details drew her eye.
In the process, patterns emerge — there are many interestingly re-purposed meeting houses and railroad stations around the state, many cozy general stores, well laid out town centers, and decoratively designed libraries. A lot of New Hampshire’s steeples are topped with weather vanes. Mills abound as well, and it’s interesting to read about all the ways they are being used today and what they produced in their time.
The accompanying text adds even more local color, as Bottomley recalls what she saw as she sketched, what the weather was like, who she saw or met, and sometimes what she ate. For each town there is also a fact laid out in a different font and another set in larger, bolder font. I am usually not a fan of more than one font on a page, nor of such variety of type size and strength, but it really works in this book, and the design seems to add to the reading — you can just look at the art, catch the highlighted facts, and move on, or you can read more closely.
I love New Hampshire, where the Computer Scientist and I feel most at home of all the many places we’ve lived. I find that despite it’s small size, it’s hugely interesting, and this book reminded me of bits of history, geography and culture that make it that way. I also learned that most towns seem to have changed names as well as borders at one point, and one even declared itself a sovereign nation (The Republic of Indian Stream, now Pittsburg) when its people tired of being taxed by both the U.S. and Canada. And of course I loved that Bottomley visited and drew so many libraries.
Whether you live in New Hampshire, vacation here, or just want to learn about it — we are, after all, soon to be on the national stage again as the “first in the nation” presidential primary state — enjoy this beautiful, informative book.
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