Sunday, April 09, 2006

Moleskine on the move!

Moleskines are a great size for when you're trying to draw people on the tube. I travelled to see my god-daughter yesterday (I'm doing her portrait for her 21st birthday present - and we were having our first artist/client consultation!) and used the tube to get across town to Hammersmith.

Having gone all kitted out with arty stuff I thought I'd limber up by trying to draw the other people on the tube. Now anybody who knows the underground in London will know that smooth running is NOT what it excels at - and trying to draw while the compartment bounced around on the rails was interesting to say the least!

The worst problems associated with drawing on the tube are not knowing which stop people are getting off at (rule of thumb - it's always just before you get to the important finishing bit you've been putting off) and the vertical poles which people hang on to tending to block out out key bits of people's faces. I tried to draw two women - each time the pole cut the face in two! On the other hand you do get the dozing traveller - who is unlikely to move their head very much.

So - these are not examples of great drawings but rather evidence that it is worth taking the Moleskine when using the tube!

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  1. Wonderful drawings -- life studies -- not perfect. That is why I like them so much. The imperfections in sketchbook drawings like this tell a story -- about the conditions under which they were made. If one draws people from a photo, the drawings will be much more realistic, of course. But the context, the story, is lost.

    Katherine describes some of the difficulties of drawing on the tube -- not knowing when people will get off, for example. This leads to spontaneous technique. I have drawn many times on trains. I usually prefer the results to what I can make in a portrait drawing class. I think it is the spontaneous aspect to it.

    Something that Katherine does not mention, but always troubles me a bit: is it fair to draw strangers trapped in a confined space with you? I think the answer depends on the person being drawn. Chances are, some people won't like it. And so there is an element of drama in drawing people in this sort of situation. It is not practical to ask everyone, "May I draw you please?" And if one did that, it would change the context of the drawings. For my part, I would be happy to see many more people drawing in public. It is quite a rare site.

  2. Ethical considerations aside, when someone notices that you're drawing them, they immediately become self-conscious and unnatural, and you've lost an opportunity to capture an unguarded moment. An oversized sketchbook is a dead giveaway. I've had the best luck carrying around loose paper on a clipboard, so I look like I'm taking notes or doing something else boring and uninteresting. Sometimes I get caught anyway. But I've never had anyone get angry. Just a little suspicious.

  3. Sketching people in public is challenging and fascinating! I've done my share of sketching people on restaurants, buses, parks, airports.. just about anyplace I've had to sit and wait. Two of my favorites places were while waiting at the Motor Vehicles Dept to renew my license, and also waiting in the Jury Room to be called to Jury Duty. You can't be bored while drawing!

    If I'm sketching someone and they are beginning to wonder about me, I shift my eyes so that they'll think I'm looking to the side of them. In fact, I do that often. I'll look over them, past them, and around the room, and then sneak another look at them as I continue my sketch. I've never had anyone leave because they figured out I was focusing on them.

    Btw, it's also great fun in restaurants to leave the sketch on the edge of their table as you leave. I like to do this if I've drawn couples who are obviously in love!

  4. Very nice drawings!

    I absolutely love taking my moleskine out for "stealth drawing" people in public places. I do occasionally get those shifty eyes from strangers when they catch me. But then from the small size of the book I can make it look like I'm jotting a note.


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