Sunday, 31 January 2010

61 & 62 - Couple

Sat opposite this German couple yesterday, Sketched him first, as he was facing away from me, attentive to her. She had a lot to say to him, to include him in ( that's how I know they were German ). After a while she turned to look out the window, companionably together, so I drew her profile as well. Only had my small sketch book, so had to draw them on separate pages.
Wanted to post them side by side here, as they were. An Arundel tomb, for the internet. But when I post it refigures them one above the other, so no poetry then.

How will all of this decay ? Does the Internet have an eternity in it ?

I hope they have a good, long relationship. I hope it does survive.

Text - 60

Now I know why I sketch. Too fill the insistent mouth of this blog. Committed to it now. In for the long haul.
And it is changing who I sketch. I look for the person I can say something about. The person who appears to have a narrative going on. Or rather, someone whose narrative is showing, like underwear.
Hence this woman, who was texting so furiously yesterday. Dub Dub Dub, her thumbs hammered on her phone. If the person she was messaging was in front of her she would have been pointing her finger at them, for emphasis. Jabbing it in their arm.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

59 - the joy of flight.

Luxembourg airport. One of those interminable waits, on very hard metal benches (blue). Two fellow travelers/sufferers.
And, oddly, what this reminds me of is the Western Union money transfer advertisement, in french, that kept looping over and over on a screen in front of us. Happy people sending their hard earnt money to ecstatic relatives.
And a Businessman, who sat alongside me and drank more cups of coffee than the human bladder could ever realistically hope to contain.
The legs are somewhat confusing until you see that hers are crossed and tucked close, whilst he has sprawled out across the whole bench, possessive. I like what that says about them, as a couple.

58 - watercolour

From earlier last year. As always, on the train into London, ( you have them captive and, for the most part, stationary on trains - plus I never have anything else to do other than look out of the window, so...) The sun was brilliantly white, that sharp, clean spring light. Sketched this guy, and wanted to remind myself of how the sun was so bright on his cheek and shirt, so the paint came out when I got home.
Adding colour usually isn't that successful, but I think I got away with it here.

56 - 57 Kensington Library

Was waiting for someone outside Kensington Library, lunch time. And two builders/workmen were perched on the railing by the main door, eating their dockey and chatting. Sketched them both while I waited.
One leant forward, and listened as his mate did all the talking, telling some unbelievable story...
...possibly involving scaffolding.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

52 -55

Had cause to rummage through some really old sketch books today. And seeing as I have fallen behind on the running total again, and need a bit of catch-up...
A few oldies. Sketches that is, not the people.
Interesting, to me if no-one else. These were done when drawing without looking at the page was still a novelty to me. You draw without taking your eyes from the subject, you imagine the line you are drawing as you trace along what you see in your mind. It stops you censoring what you think you see. It exaggerates the shapes. Gives them an oddness and an angularity. And a freeness. A fluidity.
And I hadn't moved across to pen yet, still needed the reassurance I could rub stuff out if I needed to.
At a push this one above is only two lines. And the one below, his head is all without breaking the contact with the paper. Always satisfying.

51 - National Gallery Patron

Often used to sit and sketch in the National gallery a few years back.
This lady is very much the kind of visitor you can always be guaranteed of seeing. Especially on a weekday afternoon. Up in town for a visit, meet a friend, bit of art, bit of shopping, maybe a new piece of bondage wear to take back to hubby, tea at Fortnums, the new Bennett, and then the train home. Not too late is it ?
I loved how she sat with her coat over her shoulders, and arms folded on her bag, so composed. (Although I'm now wondering what she had in that bag ?) Managed several of her, couldn't decide which I liked best, this one won the toss. Shading a bit harsh. And the face/head slip is, as always, not that flattering.
I have always liked that the Gallery is so accessible and you can just pop in and sit. Like a library. And the paintings are good mates you acknowledge, but don't have time to stop and talk to. Cornelius van der Geest, Echo, Pan and Syrinx, Lord Ribblesdale.
Thought that last bit would come off a lot cuter than it did. Sounds a bit up my own bottom.

And just want to ask, where do I go to get a name like Ribblesdale ?!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Made it to 50 !

From last year, Open House day in London. Met up with a friend and went to nose around various buildings. Went for lunch at the Leon's behind Tate Modern - hence the falafel sticker.
This bloke was waiting for the train at the station on the way in.
Did that trick of thickening the outline on the shoulder, head and neck, to give it weight. Obvious, but always effective.
Very pleased with the hands.
Added his profile when he turned, but not good at all.
The Boxdub sticker was peeled off a lamp-post somewhere. Always picking up stuff like that as I go around. It's all valid.

The falafel was excellent.

49 - Glasgow to London

This guy was part of a whole rail journey that I could write a book about.

On the way back from a trip to Glasgow, and it was one of those slow journeys that seem to take for ever. And the whole world looks the same through the window, and you don't interact with anywhere.
There was an elderly woman in the seats across the aisle from me, with a million bags. Drew her a few times, then two young guys got on, students on their way back to university after the Christmas holiday, and they had to sit either side of the central table because of the heaps of the woman's bags. And they then proceeded to play a kind of cutesy foot game under the table and it slowly became obvious to me and the woman that they were more than just college friends, were, in fact, a couple. More than that, were a new couple, with the crease of the sheets still on them, sharing a packaged sandwich and that ungainly exploration of who they now were, together. The negotiation of limbs.
I started to sketch them and it felt oddly invasive, and the first drawing was fricking awful so I stopped.
At the next station the woman rose to leave, and the students leapt up and helped her off with her stuff, keen to get the seats to themselves. The train moves on and they settle down next to each other, quietly holding hands, reading a book, and looking out the window.
A few stops further and this guy gets on, sits opposite them, ( clear in my eyeline ) and becomes the next subject for me. He was overtly pleasant, smiling to us all, you could feel the conversations he wanted to have, unplucked strings. He realised very quickly I was sketching him, didn't seem to mind, grinned his permission.
And I got to watch as he slowly unpuzzled the students' relationship. Saw him pick up each detail ( as the woman and I had done earlier ) come to conclusions, watch for other clues, and then finally, when it was clear, that odd mix of confirmation and surprise, like he was happy that his world view had met the moment and encompassed it.
And not a word spoken. ( But, I suspect, torrents when he got back home. )
To watch someone else 'people watching' has to be the nadir of distancing yourself. And I'm not sure if I use the word nadir to mean the absolute highest, or the absolute lowest.

It's like free TV.

Monday, 18 January 2010

48 - Bluebeard

This guy was sitting next to the hairphones Lady (47) on the Circle line from Acton. I drew him first, as you can just see the shading of her hair on the next page ghosting in there.
Nothing made me think they were together.
Enjoy how his hair and beard both swoop away from his profile, like they're punctuating it; commas or speech marks. Like his ear too.
I called him Bluebeard for obvious reasons. I'm sure he doesn't have wives locked in towers.

Not in Acton at any rate.

46 and 47

Two to post together. One I had labeled Headphones, and the other Hairphones, so they seem to sit together quite well.
Not sure if this guy was asleep, or just listening intently. A very quick, rough sketch, mostly about his profile, everything else is secondary. In this case it wasn't him who got off the train, but me. I do often stay on and go past my stop if I have a good drawing going on, but time had me by the proverbials this day. So a scrawly circle will do for the head phones, a quick block of shading for the hair, and on to the proper reason for the day.
This woman was drawn on the same day as the earlier blue sketches, as that was the only coloured pen I had with me. ( And just had to teach my spell check the CORRECT spelling of coloured there. With a U ! ) Her hair just had to be drawn. It gives her head a brilliant shape, the explosion at the back balances the front fringe, like her whole head was a composition. She was on the central line tube, going into town from Acton. I often sit on one of the small seats either side on the connecting doors, where you get a great view of the whole carriage, and great profiles of the people immediately in front of you. The movement of the train never seems to affect how you draw, unless you have a really dodgy driver who is a little too brake crazy, and you get shunted backwards and forwards a lot. Even then your arm buffers most jolts. Everyone can write on the tube, but people always seem amazed that you can draw on the tube just as easily.
Anyway, really enjoyed drawing her hair.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Unfinished - 45

There, another one that wanted to load upside down ! What am I doing wrong ?
In the spirit of not just posting stuff my own filter picks out, here is an unfinished sketch. Though of course I am still being selective, even in the stuff I say isn't. You can never uncensor yourself. Again, like how some bits suggest themselves, the back of the head, the chin. You fill in what is missing. Which is more about how we see than about anything to do with how I draw.


There, having boasted that my sketch books were the perfect memory pockets, I cannot recall a single thing about this guy. Must have been done on a train, but no... nothing. Even the sketches either side of him fail to bring anything to mind.
Very pleased with the bulk of him though, I know there is no shading of weighting, and that sounds like a contradiction, but the shape of the nose, the chin, the eye ridges. There feels like a solidity to him, or to the drawing. In my view. This is a head you could grab hold of and shake.

If you felt so inclined.

43 - father watching daughter

An old sketch from sitting in Soho square. I was waiting to go to an interview for a job and had got there way too early. Sat on the bench by the Pizza express side and caught this bloke opposite.
He was there with his Daughter, who was intent on Pidgeon chasing ( what is it with kids and birds ? ) and I did other sketches with her in them as she kept running back to sit with him a while, then leaping from the bench and off she went. He was trying to get her to eat their lunch, but I think she was expending more energy that she was consuming that day.
I like his leg, how it suggests the other knee without me having to draw it. And the other arm and the rest of the bench. I would love to be able to say this is by design, that I know when to stop, but it was more likely because his Daughter came running back and he moved his position.
For some reason this one has loaded with a white border around it. Love it but have no idea how or why. Think I have posted this one elsewhere, so that might explain it.


Sometimes these scans insist on loading themselves upside down. I have resisted the urge, every time, to let it be, and go all Baselitz on you, and instead go back and resave them so they load properly. Never have that problem with pen and paper.
This couple were on the tube, but not together, they just ended up that way in my book. I think she was talking to her female friend who sat opposite her. Tourists. Very quick sketches these, not really belonging to the one line club, but look like they could.

sketch 41

Haven't posted for a few days. Was a little worried, on reflexion, of all the talk of invisibility. Doing this is about visibility, about being seen. Let this just be about drawing.
Sketched this woman as the train sat idling in Blackfriars station. Her hair was amazing, and had to be drawn. Don't think I have exaggerated it in any way. Eyes are off, but glasses just about rescue this.

Monday, 11 January 2010


So, in the middle of all this snow and cold. An image from the height of last summer, in the park.
Sat opposite this girl as she ate her lunch and read her book. It was baking hot, and bench space was at a premium. As one person moved on another quickly took their place. There were people laying all round on the grass, sitting on the wall around the flower beds. Pret-a-manger sandwiches by the cart load, and the park cleaners emptying the bins by throwing one bag into another for speed. There was a school trip as well, the kids alternately feeding the pidgeons, and tormenting them.
Loads of subjects. You can almost fill a book on days like those. The whole world becomes a free life drawing class, everyone stunned into submission by the heat.

number 39

Sat next to this couple at St. Pancras station, waiting for the train ( obviously ) Everyone was well wrapped against the cold still, and she nuzzled into him for comfort.
The way his hand came round over her shoulder was too good to resist, so out came the sketch book. I was amazed to get away with it, sitting so close to them and they not noticing, mind you, they obviously have better things to occupy their minds at that moment in time.
His arm isn't quite at the right angle though. A little off.

Luxembourg waiting.

I was waiting in the bar at Delux studios when I did several sketches of this girl. I'm not sure if she was unhappy, or just bored. It wasn't late, ( although the person I was waiting for was ! ) and she was there with her family, so it's a far assumption she probably wanted to be some where else.
I like the sleeve, like the shading on the hair as well.
There were four sketches I did, this one is the one I think caught her best.
The other people in the bar were watching me, but no one pointed me out to her. When the person I was waiting for arrived he knew everyone there ( he's that kind of person ) and they were all amused by me, the stranger drawing in the corner.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Thick coat for the snow.

Another person wrapped up in a thick coat, to mark the snow that is still falling outside. Done just before christmas. Like the line that makes his neck.
So far no-one has seen any of this, ( that I know of ). They are still mine, still hidden away as effectively as they are in the books. And I kind of like it like that. This is still just a challenge to me, by me. And no one else need ever be involved. Still part of the vaulted invisibility. Because even here, no one can see me. Ha !
So this makes me question another element of this. Why am I posting them here ? Beyond the fun of doing it. I sketch, then shut the book away and move on to the next one, and no one ever sees them. If this just becomes another version of the closed book then surely there is no point. The point is to let others see them, but in as anonymous a way as possible. But I am stumped as to why, other than as ego massage. But if I want it to be anonymous...??? Which comes back to why sketch ? And I still don't really know. Is it a validation, and if so, of what ? My purpose ? Pretty thin purpose then. Maybe I am looking too deep (as always). Maybe it's just about loving people, loving the shape of people, wanting to draw them, and wanting to share that with everyone.
So am going to try and get others to have a look here. See what the reaction is, see how that changes what I think of doing this.
So, if you've found your way here, your feedback is essential.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

sketch 36

Now, in contrast to 35, a sketch that is almost pure line. ( okay, so there is a bit of shading going on ) But almost adheres to my one line principle.
The back of the head is even more skewed this time. Looks like a costal map outline of a bit of Ireland.
Was draw much later than the previous, and I think it shows. But time is no real yardstick. It all depends on how you are drawing on a particular day. Some times they just fly out of your hand, other days you can try your hardest, and it's all just crap.

Sketch 35 - shading

Chose this one to follow the previous as the shading is moving on apace here.
Although it is still quite rough, I love the bulk it gives the drawing.
And the whole distortion of the head works for me, pushing the back of the head, out and up, completely out of alignment, in a satisfying way. This initially came from not looking at the page whilst drawing, but I now almost consciously do it.

grey sketch

Another from the coloured sketch book.
The same train journey too, if I remember.
Shading getting a bit more assured.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Sketch 33

Another page from the coloured sketch book. This woman was on a train going out to Borehanwood. I can remember this one well, I was house hunting, and took this train several times. She reminded me ( then and now ) of Clare, an old flat mate from years back. She was wearing a cream sweat-suit.
It has the same crude shading of yesterday's sketch. So from the same kind of time, so I can date them better. 2004. Sound like some Museum archivist there. Or up my own arse, take your pick.
As often happens, women suffer somewhat at the hands of... well... my hands. My style isn't flattering. I think it emphasizes the solidity of people, and whilst that seems to work for men, it tends to leave female subjects a little lumpish. I like that, but I always assume that they wouldn't.

Friday, 1 January 2010


A very old sketch to start a new year. And I like that it is on red paper. Festive.
This guy was sitting on a bench in the park in Soho Square, but I can't remember when. Sometime in the last five years, but can't be more specific on this one. Just went off to look in the sketch book, to see if it had a date in it anywhere, but can't even find the book. So this one only exists here at the moment. It will turn up one day.
Have posted this one before, ages ago, my space I think. A few people saw it and commented on it. But didn't follow up then. Let's see if I can get people interested this time. Will start trying to move this out this year. Now I am assured that I am going to stick with this.
A favorite of mine, like the squareness of the head, and the cartoonish quality it ended up having. Quite crude really, in the shading. I think I was only just starting to try and add shape to the lines at this point. It feels different from most of my drawing, and was one of those sketches that points a way forward, that you do and then look at and see that you have progressed from how you used to work.
And the hand to face detail that is always guaranteed to get me sketching.