I was 22 years old in 1966 the year the Montreal Metro opened. Little did I image then that I would be riding the same system forty years later with sketchbook in hand. I had not yet caught the drawing “addiction” preferring to only look at young girls while riding the rails and sometimes the art in the stations. Over one hundred works of public art by noted Quebec artists decorate many of them. Some of the most important works in the Metro include the stained-glass window at Champ-de-Mars station and the Guimard entrance at Square Victoria station. Originally consisting of 26 stations on three separate lines, the Metro now incorporates 68 stations on four lines.
The Montreal Metro was inaugurated on October 14, 1966. It was built just in time to transport citizens and tourists who had come to our city for the Expo 67 international exhibition. I still remember the peanut oil smell emanating from the braking system. My uncle Alexandre, who worked for the transit system, had told me that was the reason. The heat in the trains was unbearable. However, the system was soon modified with ceiling fans to let in some air, an engineering oversight I assume.
I began to get into the habit of carrying a sketch book and drawing people from a distance soon after a comment, similar to Leonardo’s, was made by Joanna Nash. The artist is the author of l’Art Évolutif du Dessin. (Available at Art-Tec). Other than drawing while waiting for the bus, I have found many other opportunities to sketch people such as at meetings and at musical concerts. Peter Steinhart, quoted above, claims that there is no other place on earth where people’s heads hold so still for so long as in airport waiting rooms. Train stations and Hotel Lobbies, in my experience, are also good places.
One can even paint mini watercolors, such as the ones illustrated here, while riding in one of the 759 cars of the fleet. Because the cars run entirely underground and use exclusively rubber tires instead of steel wheels the ride is relatively smooth especially if one sits near the middle of the car. I will explain how to do quick paintings while riding the Metro in a future text.
One only needs passion, persistence and the determination. Leonardo in the statement quoted above was really putting the accent on the process and the learning acquired by observing and drawing. That is what is important. What I do with these many quick scribblings is unimportant at the moment I do them. I am simply having fun and learning to see.
Raynald Murphy sca