Taking time off after weeks of doing some serious work, I’ve been spending my time goofing off with sketching. Slouching in a nice chair munching on a bagel and sipping German Chocolate coffee, sketching patrons at the bagel shop, is for me the perfect way to relax. Sketching the coffee shop regulars solving all the problems of the world is how I take a vacation. Every so often a new comer spots me eyeing them out of the corner of my eye and they twist in their chair as they try to figure out what I’m up to. Most ignore me and go on, able to enjoy their coffee and bagel. Some figure out what I’m doing and get up and move to a table in the other room… I feel bad for a minute or two then start with another victim. Some realize I’m drawing them and try to hold the pose they think I’m drawing them in. Some are shocked to find I was not drawing them, but the person behind them. I try not to make it obvious. Drawing on the sly is great for developing ones power of observation. With one quick glance I can take in the shape of the person’s head and the shapes their clothes are making, which is important for starting.
I don’t always pick the prettiest person in the room for sketching, but rather the one who is most interesting. Danny is an interesting subject because his features are so strong and how his hair in the back mirrors the shape of his nose. He wears several layers of clothing and has this hooded shirt under his main coat that adds to his entire shape. He can fall asleep holding his cup of coffee, sometimes they have to clean up his coffee when he wakes suddenly. He forgets he has a cup in his hands. He makes for a great subject. I suspect Danny is homeless. On occasions, he often sleeps on the bench beneath my studio window. I’ve seen him wrapped in plastic sleeping on that bench in a thunderstorm. He doesn’t panhandle yet, he has money, always buys his own coffee and bagel. Drawing Danny I’ve learned his name and that he worked for years before being retired. I’ve learned he enjoys old time and new rock music. He rides his bike everywhere taking all his clothes with him during the summer months.
Sketching people is a great way to get to know them. Mike is a recovering alcoholic who loves fishing and attends church every Sunday. Mike reached rock bottom several years ago, as he puts it, he was “no good”. Now he has a job and has helped others get free from drugs and alcohol. If I hadn’t taken the time to sketch this guy fishing, I would never have known Mike who has taught me more about fishing and the different fish in the Fox River than I really needed to know. Everyday that he can get a line into the water, Mike fishes the river just below my studio window.
Sometimes I get too involved with doing major paintings and forget the joy of going out sketching people. Larry served in the navy during WWII. I never thought about drinking water on a battle ship. When there are hundreds of men on a ship that is at sea for months these men need drinking water and water for showering. Larry’s job was making sure there was plenty of water on board, he cleaned water for the men. Larry got out of the Navy and went to work for the city’s water department. He has a great and interesting face and sketching that face was how I learned how fresh water was kept fresh on battle ships.
Maybe I’ll take another week to just goof off and see who else I can meet through sketching…