Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Drawing In Public

It wasn’t always easy for me to draw people in public, but I forced myself to get past the fear and you can too. Many artists say they are too embarrassed to draw in public out of fear that they will be criticized or appear like they are staring. When I first started commuting into Manhattan everyday for work and school, I had a very long day. If I wanted to get any drawing done I needed to utilize every minute of my day which included drawing on the train or while waiting on line. It’s bold and exciting to capture real life unfolding before your eyes. Long Island Railroad
Appear Confident
1. If you look confident people will be at ease. When you look sheepishly at the subject you’re attempting to draw, they can feel your hesitation. On the other hand, if you project yourself as a serious artist who has the “right” to be doing what you are doing, people will have more respect for you and it will make them feel comfortable and even somewhat honored that you chose them to draw.
I think everyone feels awkward at first, especially in NYC where people rarely look each other in the eye. I was surprised when artists who seem very bold and outgoing told me they felt too uncomfortable to draw people in public. It can actually be therapeutic and exhilarating. Like many people these days, I used to suffer from anxiety, especially in public places. My heart would pound from every little thing, so it was a huge leap for me. I started little by little and after a while I became desensitized to it. Some artists remember being embarrassed the fist time they drew a nude model, but after a short time it becomes a normal part of everyday life. Like anything difficult, the key is repetition.

Difficult Challenges
2. One of the main challenges is people moving around or leaving, never to be seen again, so you have to work quickly. If you have ever done life drawing where you do 1 or 2 minute poses than you have a head start. First thing is don’t panic about finishing, if they get up and leave you can just start with a new person. Eventually you will be able to work quickly enough where you can get a lot done in just a few minutes. Actually, some of my best drawings were done in under 5 minutes. People move around a lot but they usually only move in two or three different positions. If they move, just give it a few seconds and chances are they will move back to the same position. If they are reading and then they move to answer their phone and you think they may be a while, you can always start over on a new page and then if they go back to the first position you can finish the other drawing. You can also try to capture all the different movements which can be very exciting and challenging as well.

Jazz Band Columbus Circle
Most People Are Nice
3. People are for the most part pretty positive about it and are more curious than anything. I think most people just want to see what you are doing and are fascinated by it. There are occasions when people give you strange looks but don’t react startled as if they caught you doing something wrong because it’s like admitting that you are doing something shady. Instead just slowly focus your eyes on something past them and when they go back to reading the paper or whatever else they’re doing than you can go back to drawing. The one thing I have noticed is young attractive women react more than other people. I’m a women and I think that when another women stares at them they get very uncomfortable, like you are eying them up out of jealously. I would imagine a man may have similar troubles. You may want to save the hotties for when you are more confident. Don’t push it, most people are nice but if you are getting negative vibes from someone, you may want to avoid confrontation and move onto someone else. Especially in NYC, you may never know how someone may react. Most importantly, have fun and people will feed off of your energy and will react to you positively.!

Columbus Circle
Rush hour is "quiet time" on the Long Island Railroad.
There was this mom with her three young daughters
returning from a shopping trip in the city and the young girl
asked her mother why everyone looks like "zombies".

Starbucks 60th St and 8th ave

I was having the hardest time with this drawing
and this little boy about 7 came up to me and said he wants
to be be like me when he grows up, it really made my day.

Homeless man Hicksville train station.


  1. Glad to have found your blog (via tachisme actually) and these drawings are a great pleasure to view. NYC is among my favourite places but you show me a different aspect of it. The day to day or routinary, the somewhat weary or perhaps indifferent side to it or the faces/forms constituting it. You capture NYC sleeping in transit and the vitality (an energy despite itself) beneath the apparently monotone or banausic city.

    Thank you also for sharing your thoughts on what makes yousketch strangers or people in public places. Makes me realise that truly malice is in the eyes of the beholder and seems to me you proceed without malicious intentions and that must make the people you draw more accepting.

  2. Very good taste
    and sensitivity

  3. love the energy in these drawings!

  4. Congratulations on creating a daily drawing habit. I love the painterly way you use charcoal.