Sunday, September 21, 2014


Green-wood is a designated National Historic Landmark on 478 Brooklyn acres. As Jim pointed out, it’s known locally as Greenwood Cemetery, but none of its brochures ever refer to this place as ‘cemetery’. Perhaps to some, cemeteries have a connotation far more frightening to touch upon even with the mildest delicacy, but unless it’s night and I’m alone in these rolling, rambling paths, these gothic cemeteries are to me a place of peace and comfort by bittersweet Memory and kindly Death…with perhaps just a touch of the creepy to dance along the nape of your neck.

Entering through Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, past tall iron gates, wide green spaces flanking the central car lanes, and up a sloping path are the famed arches — gateway to the gardens, gravestones, and crypts beyond. Perched on these spires are the nests of Brooklyn’s wild parakeets, mostly heard in their raucous arguments and seen only by bullet streaks of spring green, and by legend, descendants of monk parakeets escaped from a crate at JFK airport in the 1960s (thanks to Susan for the information!).

The spires.

Sketch in brushpens
A man and his two little girls stopped by to chat with us and a funeral procession
arrived for services as we waited for other sketchers to gather and join us.

Early birds are productive.

The gates open into diverging lanes leading upward, away, and into the rest of Green-wood. To the right are the Crematory, the Tranquility Gardens, and the Community Mausoleum, and even further, the Chapel, which was our first stop inside Green-wood proper. We reached the Chapel just before it opened at noon, but I’d already found a spot to sketch its exterior and had to leave a visit inside for another day.

The Chapel.
The Chapel in watercolor.

Some of us braved the steep incline to reach Battle Hill and view a swath of Brooklyn and the Freedom Tower at World Trade Center (Lady Liberty was obscured by some persistent, enthusiastic trees). The hilltop would probably be spectacular in full autumn, and I hope my legs forgive me for a second attempt then. (They did not this time around. Hello, Salonpas, and owww.)
Brooklyn below.
The gates behind the trees.
Mark setting up to sketch.
Sketchers make really great, unsuspecting models.
And they don't get offended (much) when they realize they've been painted.

For lunch, the group…regrouped…and walked some distance to Greenwood Park, an outdoor beer garden. Oddly enough, the bouncer at the door asked for ID, which I did not have on me. Who knew I’d have to produce it in the middle of the day? Happily, Mark intervened and asked if I could be let in. And once we were, we found children romping around this rather adult garden. (There was some kind of kid-friendly event right before we arrived.) The group ate and sketched, chatted and sketched, and replenished energies through various preferred libation. And sketched some more.

After sharing our sketches, some of us with control of our food coma (and/or tipsy?) walked back into Green-wood for a final stretch of sketching.
Walking back slowly.

Sketchers in a row.

And what cemetery visit would be complete without a record of a strident angel?

Said strident angel in stone...
...and in watercolor.

Also, Hurlbut. Note the full stop. Hurlbut. (I’m sorry, I am a juvenile when I am not busy aging.)


Read more about Green-wood here and here.

And a great many thanks to Allison for hosting this event. It was a lovely day made miles better by great, talented company.


  1. Great sketches and reportage Mia. It was a great place for sketching.

    1. Thank you! It was a fun day at a great spot. I hope to visit again soon.

  2. Great reporting Mia! Love your fearless attack of the brush without using linework. Really love the atmosphere and mood of the angel.

    1. Thank you! It's not completely fearless, though -- my hands still tremble before I start. The sunshine gave everything great shadows, and made it easier to paint everything. It was great sketching with you after such a long time away.

  3. Thanks Mia, great post and Watercolor sketches. My first time at Green-Wood, well worth the trip.

    1. Thank you! It was my first visit too. I'm eager for the next visit.

  4. Awesome clouds for your sketch of the arches! The colors are also great for the chapel. It looks like a lot of people like this spot we will have to come again.

  5. Thank you! This was such a great spot, I hope we get to visit again to see the rest of it.