Friday, May 27, 2016

Sketching at District Energy in Saint Paul

There's a building on West Kellogg Boulevard next to the Science Museum in Saint Paul with a big, white plume of steam coming out of it that recently became an art project. The building is home to District Energy, a private, non-profit company that turns biomass into electricity, heating and cooling for hundreds of buildings in downtown Saint Paul. A while back, I sketched the District Energy building from a window in the George Latimer Library across the street. I wondered what sort of machinery was inside of the building that created that big billowing cloud  and whether I could sketch inside it.

I contacted the folks at District Energy and they were gracious to schedule two sketching sessions inside the plant. I had wear a hard hat, protective eyewear and ear-plugs as I sketched.   I love sketching machinery and all things  industrial, so I was very excited to find enormous machines of all types inside the building. The plant was clean and well-lit, but at times really noisy and really hot – definitely an extreme sketching experience! I want to thank Lisa Eng-Sarne and Nina Axelson for showing me all the amazing parts of the building and all the people who work at District Energy for keeping our neighborhood buildings comfy all year round.
The view of District Energy from the library.

Water pipes.

A big room with big machinery.

Photo of me and the finished sketch by Lisa Eng-Sarne
All three sketches were done on Strathmore toned paper with ink and colored pencils (mostly Prismacolor). I get all my art supplies for sketching at Wet Paint on Grand Avenue and Saint Paul.


  1. Excellent sketches of a very complex subject. Thank you for sharing, Ken. I always wondered about those plumes of white steam coming from that building, and this has enlightened me.

  2. Really great sketches of an intriguing and innovative local energy enterprise. I love that you got inside and sketched in difficult surroundings. I can feel the heat and hear the machinery through your work. Thanks for your bold spirit!


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