Monday, October 13, 2008

Subway Sketches

One of the things that is very different about my life in the last year is the daily commute from my house into the city to class and teaching via the subway. I have gone from almost exclusively working at home to being a daily commuter like most of the rest of the world. This has caused me to have to really make a lot of big changes to what my life used to be. Getting up early for one, probably the biggest change and sometimes the hardest thing to wrestle with especially since when I come home in the evening I usually have plenty of freelance to do into the night. Luckily the trip to 15th street from 69th street is only about 15 minutes, so most days my trip to school is roughly 30-40 minutes tops.

So one of the things I decided to start doing was to sketch on the way to and from school if I can, depending on the circumstance. Sometimes the train is just way to busy and I have to stand. But then I draw with my eyes, taking in the endless variety of people and gestures I see playing out before me. It's amazing the variety of faces and "types' you often get on just one car of the EL.
Sometimes the train rocks so violently that it's like trying to draw or sketch in an earthquake or a paint shaker. People often become aware that I am sketching and that leads to interesting results. Sometimes they become self-concious, sometimes annoyed. I have had many also become intrigued by me drawing or sketching and usually get compliments. I think it's a rare thing for people to actually see somebody out doing art someplace.
Often I'll have only seconds to maybe a minute of two to draw someone before they move, get off the train or have somebodt block my view. But it's great practice for my powers of observation. Sometimes I just get caught by the way a gal is standing or holding a pose.

My long term goal is to do a series of paintings and drawings about my experiences as a commuter, but for now i want to keep building up ideas with these subway doodles and see where it leads me. These are in ballpoint in a Strathmore 5 x 7 sketchpad.


alan said...

Excellent, this is something we haven't seen frok you for a while - for the reasons you mention, I guess. Nice sketches, especially the seated young man, where the posture is so well captured and the clothing sketched so economically. Everything you said about public sketching resonated. I get so self-conscious I usually just resort to the inner sketching you mention.

Mike M said...

Alan, yeah, it can get a bit weird or tense, or dicey depending on who i am sketching and where. I see many homeless people that would be great subjects to draw or paint, but they are so often unbalanced people you risk a confrontation.

I often were a hat which hides my eyes so I can draw people without them seeing I am starring at them. It is great practice and very honest. I does push you a lot as an artist to see, observe and remember, to prioritize.

I plan on taking my class out to draw next week in the local park just for the same experience.

alan said...

I can't wear hats, they don't look good on my head, don't know why - so that's out ;) I did some sketches at a lecture last weekend that weren't total failures

I seem to remember a post some time ago of preliminaries for a set of paintings about commuters. Be great to see that progress. I remember liking some of the compositions - people in shadow in tunnels...

Mike M said...

Alan, there are hats for every head--even yours :-) The mystery of the hat is a great aid in throwing off our prey.

Yes, I want to do the series on commuting, and hat is something I plan on getting started on next month, so you'll be seeing some in-progress stuff soon.