If you are to follow my lead and draw or paint while riding the trains, be discreet. Rule number one is: “Never draw the person immediately in front of you”. Rather, choose as your models those further away. People reading, sleeping or conversing with someone are good candidates. Steal quick glances rather than risk locking into a person’s gaze. Work small and don’t draw attention to yourself.
When I enter a train I find a seat near the middle of the train which faces either the front or the back. Since I am right-handed I find a seat with the window on my right. The end seats over the wheels offer too bumpy a ride, I avoid them. I also avoid rush hours.
Once I have found my window seat I prop my backpack on my knees. The rucksack on my knees provides a ledge upon which to rest my little sketch book opened at a 90% angle with the left cover up. The partly closed book keeps the curious from peeking.
At times I draw in pencil because the softer lead absorbs the bumps. In general I try to do at least one sketch in ink and watercolour during a trip. First, I ink in the sketch. This takes the travel time between two or three stations. The trick is to start drawing while the train is motionless in station and while people take their seats. People tend to remain relatively still when they first sit down. I immediately draw the key lines of the face such as the eyes, nose, mouth and profile.
I ink in the rest of the less important lines such as the hair and clothing while the train moves. I restate wrong lines. I place dots at critical places such as at the shoulder and arm creases. If the subject moves or if someone stands in front of the person I'm sketching I still have these reference dots to work from. If someone blocks my view, I may draw the furnishing around the subject. Suggestion is most important. There is no time to draw everything.
With experience I've noticed that facial proportions are generally standard. However, once I get a good look at someone I can remember the particulars of the features pretty well for a minute or so.
Next, I take out my little watercolor box from my belt purse, my reservoir paint brush and tissue. There is no time to waste. Supplies must be close at hand. Initially I paint the face and hands. Even if the passenger leaves I invent and fill in missing information. The more I draw the more I am able to invent.
I just love the process of drawing and painting quick studies. The result is secondary. I have a stack of these little books on my shelf. I rarely look back in them preferring to rush out and do more!
Note: The watercolour of the people in the Metro station was done in studio after a sketch done on site. Size: 8” x 10” on Arches Cold Press paper.
Raynald Murphy sca