Sunday, October 18, 2015

Of Street Corners,Trains and Coffee Nation: Drawing on Marginal Time

Water soluble pen
I took a really wonderful online art course with Roz Stendahl this summer call Drawing Live Subjects in Public. Roz is a wonderful artist and also a fabulous teacher. She is passionate (I don't use that term lightly) about daily and intentional practice. I got as much out of her practice philosophy as I did from her expert technical instruction. I have never encountered a teacher who is as rigorous with her feedback and as devoted to individual students. Generous, creative, disciplined, hilarious, quirky and hardworking, always leading by example. Did I mention prolific?  Check her out.

All this to say, I have (with intention and efforts at daily practice) been trying to add lively, moving people and animals to my sketchbook. There is no shortage of subject matter, just the challenging reality that people and animals move, constantly. And yet, the urban sketching I admire most is animated with sentient beings. So during the recent trip to Japan, I made efforts to include live subjects. As an aside, cell phones have become my unexpected ally in that people sit very still when they are looking at their phones, a gift to the sneaky transit sketcher.

The other factor about urban sketching is that there are opportunities to draw in every circumstance. Marginal time; that is to say time at the edges of the "star attraction" travel experiences, is often the best time for fresh and spontaneous drawing. Drawing people on trains, or on street corners or even in temples, capture slices of everyday life that, for me, are full of meaning and conjure up memories of the trip. These are not always the "best" drawing or paintings to look at. But there is a rough sincerity in the quick, incomplete and often ill composed pages.

Grabbing street corner time while others wait for coffee

Let me say, my travel companions were quite attached to their coffee habit. Coffee is definitely available in Japan but coffee purists have to got to quite an effort to find the "real" espresso machines. Further, coffee is not a morning ritual in Japan so  Coffee Nation usually has to wait until at least 10 am (sometimes noon) to find a cup of java brewed to their standards and specifications.  Instant and drip do not meet the gold standard. On one particular day, after google searches and a destination trip, I had a full 15 minutes to sketch on a street corner  while the barista opened the kiosk and the Percent Arabia machine got fired up. The resulting fragmented sketches zoom me back to that day, people watching and capturing fragments.


  1. Wonderful post and awesome sketches! What brand of watersoluble pen did you use?

  2. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks you for your enthusiasm and kind comments.
    The pen is nothing special, just what I had in my pencil case.
    It is a Pilot Hi-Techpoint 0.7. After I finish the pen drawing, I use my Niji water brush to pull some of the lines for shading.
    Do you have a blog?
    best, Susan

  3. Thank you Susan! I like to do the same with my UniBall Vision Elite (Micro). No, I don't have a blog, but you can find me on Instagram and Flickr as WWendi 😊

  4. Hey Wendi, I found you on Instagram. Love to see your work :)