Thursday, 31 December 2009

Last New Years Eve, sketch 31

Been saving this one for today.
From last New Years Eve. Had been into town with a friend - fireworks, alcohol, mad people. The usual.
But missed the last train home, and had to grab the Underground and see how far I could get. Made it to Edgeware station. And this guy was slumped, fast asleep on the seat in front of me, and, it being, by now, January the 1st, I sketched and labeled him as a map point in my world, for future reference. The train came to the end of the line and he didn't wake up. As far as I know he could still be riding around, even now.
Like the crumpledness of his pose, and the drawing.
Had to walk the rest of the distance as there were no buses going my way, but did get to see a Deer. Which, in reflection, sums up the whole past year. Always got to where I wanted to go, even if I had to walk some of it, and the surprises, though always pleasant, tended to be small and skittish.
So, first month done. 31 sketches posted.
If this was a trial run I have enjoyed it. But it isn't going to be easy. 334 still to go, and I am already struggling for something to say. It will have to coalesce into something with proper direction if it is to survive.

29 and 30

Okay, really need to just chuck these two out there, and run.
Love this one, love the great scrawl for the neck and collar. And almost... almost... one line for the whole drawing. The holy grail of sketching.
And this guy was done on the platform at West Hampstead, obviously going home for Christmas, loaded down, front and back, with stuff. Wonder where he was heading ? ( Ghost of man's head visible through paper )

Listen to me.

So if my sketch book is protection, protection against what ? Is it armour, like a shield held up against the hoards ? Or is it like a trick, something you do to distract them from looking closer, seeing the wires ?
I do think it is an easy disguise, you offer up this label, and then you're sorted, you have your place in the scheme of things, and no one bothers any further. And you kind of steal the universal position of all artists for yourself, that assumed palette of social oddness and slightly valued skill.
And that is where the protection is.
I called this one 'listen to me' when I was scanning it, as these two girls were intent on a conversation on the tube when I drew them, and the one in the hat was trying to get her point across, about another friend who hadn't done what she thought she should have.
Seemed to suit my own polemic here.

26 and 27

Haven't been anywhere, so all from old sketch books now.
From a cinema trip last year. The guy reading whilst he waits for the film to start...
And a couple, in front of me, checking through the newspaper.

Christmas day

Very good christmas.
Very quick sketch.
My Dad, sleeping off Christmas dinner.
And the first posting of a sketch of someone I know. New territory this.


Okay, am now on the other side of Christmas, and have some catching up to do, so these will probably be very short.
Seeing as the weather has been teeth freezingly cold, I think people wrapped up to the nines would be suitable. Let's see what I can find.
This guy was in the same train as the woman in the coat earlier. Again drawn in pencil. Loved his hat, with the long plaits to tie it down round your ears. And trust me, you needed it.

Sketch 23

The BBC are running an old series called "Orson Welles' Sketchbook ". He sits and tells stories, and draws images to accompany them. The kind of programme that wouldn't even see the light of the Commissioning Editor's angle poise these days. Although, come to think of it, it was a kind of 60's version of a talking heads clip show, exceept there was only one head talking, and the clips were drawings. Which would make it cheap enough to fill any schedule.
Anyway, he called his sketch book a prop, because he used it to distract whilst he worked out what he was going to say next, and also as protection, something to have in his hand when he was telling his stories. So there's two very valid functions of sketching. It both labels you to the world, and protects you from it.
And... and... thinking about this, about how people like to see what you are drawing, it replaces you. That invisibility that I try to find, and said only worked in one direction. I was wrong, it works all round, it just becomes camouflage, and the person watching me sketch is looking, not at me, but at the drawing. And their comments are usually about themselves, about what they think, or what they would do. Sort of taking possession of the drawing for themselves, which is all any of us do to art in the first place.
Better find a good sketch to go with this thought.
Called this one check shirt, and, I have to be honest, can't remember when this one was drawn, so that's two theories out the window in one go.

2 parts

This is one of those cases where you start a sketch, then run out of room, and continue it on the spare bit of the paper. Then leave it to your head to join them together. Or later, when you want to use it as reference.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter solstice sketch 21

The shortest day, and it snowed. Perfect.
Wanted to post a sketch of someone bundled up against the cold.
This woman was drawn on the way home about a month ago, and I liked the way she is standing, the implied curve of spine and hip, underneath that coat. And her thick tights and high boots. Drawn in pencil, as I had forgotten to take a pen with me that day. Used to always sketch in pencil, but nowadays I like the honesty of pen, you can't rub it out, you have to live with each mark you make. I like seeing where I started from in relation to where I end up. ( see other sketches for what I mean )
Another crowded train journey this one, the drawing reminds me off being jammed in the corner by the door, and the thick, dark winter overcoats of those around me, and of a restrictiveness of movement in my elbow, of how it makes the sketch tighter, somehow. Your own posture can determine how you draw as much as anything, although I am now so used to the movement of trains and the Underground that it hardly ever affects the finished sketch. Maybe even improves them.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sketch 20

On the platform before the train arrived.
Caught a quick sketch of this girl, sensibly having a hot coffee to stave off the cold morning. She took the lid off, but held it in place over the liquid when she wasn't sipping at it.
Liked how the sleeve of her fur lined coat hides her hands, overtook the shape of them.
The ghost of the cold train guy can be seen through the paper, must try and fix that so it doesn't become a regular thing.

Cold train guy 2

Another sketch of the same guy.
He had closed his eyes. It was a much quicker sketch as we were coming into my stop and I wanted to get it done before he, or I, had to move. Always interesting to compare.

Cold train day

Yesterday was seriously cold - for London ( the rest of the Northern Hemisphere sniggers under their thermals ) but it was the most brilliant morning. Was up early to meet a friend, and there was hardly anyone else around, except some Magpies, harassing a crow. And the sun was rising over the houses and...
But that is getting too much like the blog I DO NOT want to write.
So, on the train, this guy....

And he knew I was drawing him, but didn't seem to mind. Very few people are aware, it's that whole invisible thing. And only once has someone objected and moved away to sit somewhere else. She didn't need to, I would have apologized and stopped straight away. So I trust he didn't mind, I half expected him to ask to see, but again, people very rarely do. In fact I can only think of two ever. I'll dig them out and post them eventually.
Of course other people not being sketched, those around you, try and see all the time, like the invisibility only works in one direction. And are always only to keen to comment. Sometimes you could strangle them. Pointing and shouting to the subject, " You know he's drawing you !? " which is usually the end of it, because both they, and I end up so self conscious nothing good is going to happen.
But not this time.
I liked the flatness of his hair.
Again that whole back of the head thing happens. I know it should be much further back, yet it still works for me, like your eye shifts to compensate as you look at it, and the sketch still holds together. Emphasizes the squareness his hair gave his head.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

cinema guy

A quick sketch of a guy waiting for the film to start at the Riverside cinema in Hammersmith. Great rake in the seating, and you get excellent angles looking down on people.
I forget what the film was.

Waiting Couple.

Last night, on the Russian art programme, Andrew Graham-Dixon talked about one Artist who said that he didn't care about light, or style, for him it was all about content. Which got me on the whole why do I draw issue again. And I still can't answer it. Although if I'm honest I think there is a lot of ego involved. And just a hint of something to do. I would always say it was simply to record what I see. but what makes that so important I don't know. Because I'm not recording faithfully. Look at these two, two different styles on the same page. Neither exactly honest.
( but I love the guy's nose ! )

sketch 15

Ah, and this was one of the argumental couple I mentioned in the last post. But by this time I think the Girl had won, and the Guy was in submission, doing the standard male reflex of not really appearing to listen any more. So useful.
Again the hand issue, quite like this one.
His track suit top was white with red stripes.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

sketch 14

This one I have had on my computer for ages. I have even posted it elsewhere. I love how I revised the back of the head halfway through. And still not certain which one is better.
I always get excited ( steady on ) when someone chews their nails, or puts their hand over their mouth, or leans on their hand. Anything that puts the fingers near the face, then you get double the pleasure of sketching.
Hands are brilliant to draw, get them right ( not often ) and they look great - get them wrong ( here ? ) and they haunt you forever. I try to use the knuckles to describe them, but always get the heel of the hand, and how it connects to the wrist, way off.
And ears as well. I usually just let a quick squiggle tell the story, but you could really get into the folds and shading of peoples ears.
This was also drawn on a train ride home. It was in the summer, and there was a very argumental couple dominating the carriage, and this bloke was doing his level best to ignore them, staring fixedly out the window.

fresh sketch 3

The third passenger on this gathering got off at the same stop as me, and stood in between me and the first sketch guy, as he waited to get off. If people will insist on standing in the firing line !!! I liked his gloved hand on the rail, and that was the reason to draw him, a good shape, across the shoulders and off down the arm. And how the bag strap cut down into that line. Again not one I would be particularly pleased with, but want to record the moment, and not self-censor.
Incidentally it was bloody cold when we got off the train. I envied him his gloves.

fresh sketch 2

This guy was engrossed in his newspaper, and I had a few minutes between stations, to grab a few attempts, before we all had to shift places to let others on and off.
Like the jaggedy lines. The squashed nature of the journey seems to show in the drawing. Although I would class this as a bit dodgy as a sketch, there is a sense of the shape of him I was pleased with. Would have tried a few more but lost the view of him after we had all settled when the train moved off again.
He wore a silver tie.

fresh sketch 1

Fresh 'roadkill', gathered yesterday, on the train home. Ink still smudge-able.
Odd though, that I now draw with this project in mind, I think, must draw today so they can go on the blog. So why did I sketch before this ? Does a presumed audience ( which I know there isn't, just me here, indulging in onanism by proxy, by pen, pencil and Jpeg ) affect how your hand and pen move ? The subjects you choose. It has made me more self conscious, both of what I am doing, and why. I was looking at people and thinking not distinctive enough !!! And it also makes me worry about infringement of privacy. Who owns this image ? me or the subject ? Traditionally the Artist was the be all and end all, but in this age of copyright ?
I have to admit that today I was feeling like I wanted to know EVERYONE. Stop them all and find out who they were, what made them laugh. But that way is a surefire trip to the asylum. No ?
If you look closely you can see the next sketch through the page. It was of the same guy, so it reads like a ghost, or a prediction of his next move. The train was crowded - I won't bore you with the train service fun and games at the moment - and he stood opposite me by the doors, which is a fatal place to stand when I've my sketchbook out. As often, I end up elongating the skull. Which I always like, and never looks odd to me, but anyone would tell you that your chin is never that low.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

sketch 10 - Father and son

These two were sketched as part of a whole load of drawings I did for a large painting of a group of people I am in the process of doing. I found a spot deep in the crowds at the Lord Mayor's Parade ( just where the route turns by St. Paul's ). And no one noticed me at all, so got loads done. Didn't use these two in the final piece so am giving them their spot here.
I like how the hood and hat remove the need to worry about the heads, and I could concentrate on the pose, trying to get the weight of the child in his arms. The proportions of children is always a test, as they can get a bit ETish if you aren't careful. And they always seem lost in bulky clothes such as winter coats. In fact it seems to me that all the work in this sketch is being done by the Father's front arm, that is the bit that describes and makes sense of everything else.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Sketch 9

Don't often draw in blue.
This was one of the sketches where the subject leaves before you finish, and you think Damn. But when you look later it's not so bad. Like the lips. Again one of those lines you can trace from the top of the forehead to the shadow under the bottom lip
Quick sketch, quick post.

The cat in a HMV

Came across this one as I was looking through an old book, looking for possibles. Had to have this one, one of those odd moments that you just find.
You used to be able to sit in really comfy armchairs downstairs in the classical department of HMV on Oxford street, and as long as you browsed the classical magazines or catalogues you were fine. A real haven on a rainy shopping day, when you just wanted to hide for a while. And you could always guarantee the odd nutter down there as a bonus.
They got rid of it, probably because they were attracting said nutters, people like me... and this guy.
Had dropped in for a sit down. And there, in the corner, was a middle aged bloke, fast asleep, with a black cat curled up in his lap. The cat's ears would flick about at any movement or noise ( above the Monteverdi or whatever was playing that day ) but otherwise it never moved.
Who takes their cat to HMV ? On Oxford street ? Anyone else ever seen him ?
Anyway they were there so long, I had a bit of a shading field-day, and the result is you have to be told about the cat before you notice it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Day at the museum

Anther day, another museum, ( not that I want you to think I spend all my time loitering in the nation's cultural institutions ) The V & A this time, and another group of students, sketching. Did several drawings of the students, intent on their own work, but this one is of one of their tutors, who sat and talked them through what they were doing.
He had a thick black coat on, the collar pulled up around his ears. The gallery wasn't warm by any respects, but I think it was more a style issue here.
I had a tutor once who told me that you should always think about what you want to achieve with a drawing before you start it. I gave it a lot of thought at the time, but I have never been that deep. If anything at all I draw to record, to see, but beyond that... Is it okay to say I draw for the FUN of it, for the sheer pleasure of seeing how a line turns out.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

sketch 6

This woman sat on the train next to me yesterday. Brilliant headscarf, black and white zebra stripes, edged with Greek scroll. So strong her face was almost an afterthought, tucked away in the middle of all this pattern. Didn't sketch in all the stripes, don't know why. Coat is a bit crude, on reflection should have spent a bit more time on it, after she got off the train, but probably turned the page and moved on to someone else.
That is always the challenge in something like this, the inside voice of the self censor that thinks that a sketch isn't good enough. You are inclined to only scan and post what you think will suit, that you want to show off ( because that is what this is at the end of the day - showing off ). Will post stuff I am not pleased with as well. See how that feels.

Museum sketch

Another from the British Museum wander. Three students taking a break from learning, to sit and chat over sandwiches and bottled water. Enjoyed the detritus of their meal, the banana skin, and it was good that they sat long enough that I could get all three. Although they didn't strike me as in any hurry to move. Earlier, in the Mexican print exhibition, there was a cluster of (say it in your best wobbly voice ) " young people", all huddled on the bench in the middle of the gallery, cocooned in bulky black parkas, and fiddling with their mobile phones, pulling up footage of each other, and then sharing it around, trying to outdo each other in what Apps they had, and not one of them giving even a second glance at the exhibits. In the darkened gallery each of their faces were lit from the blue glow of their phones. like overweight fireflies.
Should have sketched them, but would have been too obvious. I like to be as invisible as possible when I sketch, it is a skill I have been working on for a long time. Not unlike game hunters in a forest, you know when you will be too visible, camouflage required.
Not sure if this will count as 1 sketch, or 3 people. Already building in a bit of leeway here.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Sketch 4

What I remember most about this girl was her sweater. It was a very thick knitted pattern, and didn't crease in the way clothing usually does across the arms.
Drawn on the tube.
Hand not very good.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sketch 3

This is the kind of sketch I enjoy doing, when you simply draw a continuous line around the page, following the subject with your eyes as you do so, and trying to catch as much as possible with as few lines.
This sketch is from a few years back, it was a hot summer morning on the Docklands light railway, heading towards Greenwich. ( I was working there at the time. ) I think I can even be accurate enough to say it was draw between Limehouse and West India Quay stations. I can still see the guy leaning on the seat division by the door as the light passed behind him. Sketch books are great for that, they can capture the whole moment of drawing in your memory, not just the subject, but where you were, how you felt, the weather, the light...
Elbows are brilliant things to draw. There is such a specific curve and weight to them, that swell of forearm muscle leading up to the dual points made by the head of the humerus. Very satisfying.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

City lunch sketch

From an old sketchbook.
Was on a location recce in the city, and whilst I waited for the rest of the group to turn up, sat in the square behind Liverpool street station, and watched the office workers spill out to sit in the sun for lunch. A free life drawing class.
I don't often seem to manage to sketch the whole pose, so was very pleased how this one turned out.
She was chatting with her friend, and eating a Pret-a-manger sandwich. I got the sense she didn't actually work in the city, and was just lunching with her friend, who did.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

First sketch

Okay, first sketch. Was on my way to meet a friend at the cinema, but was early, so wandered into the British Museum, and ended up at the top of the central stairs, looking down on the cafe area. Gave a great perspective.
You can't see it here but this guy had one sleeve rolled up, and one fully down, which would annoy me. I did several sketches of him and his family. His partner had left him with their baby whilst she went to get drinks. He gamely played 'bang the stool' with the toddler for a while, thump thump thumpthumpthump, but there was more than a hint of relief in the speed with which he swapped the tiny child for a cup of coffee when she returned.
I have to say, reading that back, that I am never sure if my sketching is just sketching, or some kind of sanctioned voyeurism. People watching is, without doubt, endlessly fascinating.