Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More Sketchbook Work

I make drawings while riding the train. Specifically on my rides home from Wilmette after a dinner with  my friends the Soskins, where most likely I have had a cocktail or three, and a large dinner. The train ride is long by some standards, up to an hour with a change of trains at one point. So I have come up with this series of drawings to make use of the time on the train. They are just a record of the date and time in bubble-like letters that I then crosshatch in a background for the duration of the train ride. I begin at the Linden station and put my pen away a minute before I reach the Addison stop near my home. The level of finish in the drawing it totally determined by the length of the train ride. I give up a lot but not all control, (I can still estimate how much time remains before my stop), but the results can be surprising, and I have a rudimentary diary entry.
Sketchbook Entry - Sunday, November 23, 2014
On this particular night I was reassessing the guidelines for this series of drawings, hence the notes on the page above the drawing - I will try to explain and expand:

- something to do on the train - I have this feeling lately in my life that I'm running out of time. There is much work to do and time is running short. This exercise is about making use of the time I spend riding the train. Some people read, some sleep, I feel compelled to draw, something I do not do enough of, and you have a small memento when you arrive at your destination.

- 2 Parts - a) the outline b) the coloring in - These drawings are a two step process. I make the outlines of the letters and numbers quickly, often as the train is sitting at the Linden station, the starting point for the Purple Line, before it starts it journey. I just get the information down, the day of the week, the date, and then I can spend the remainder of the train ride crosshatching, a mindless, yet to me comforting activity. This work eases all sorts of guilt about wasting time and not working enough as an artist. 

- Time - Fast/Slow - Being busy with this activity can make the time spent on the train fly by - the sixty minutes feel like fifteen. I have occasionally wished I had more time on the train to get further through a drawing!!!! Time is malleable, I experience it on the train! 

- Work on Tight Areas When Stopped - The train is mostly in motion. It rocks, it jerks, it starts and stops. Those movements make drawing a challenge in terms of neatness and technique. So I consciously work on the tighter, smaller areas while the train is stopped or slowed. When the train is moving quickly I cross hatch in the broader areas. 

- Only the Duration of the Train Ride - Explained above but let me repeat, the drawing can only take the length of the train ride. I don't have to decide when the drawing is finished, the Chicago Transit Authority does it for me. 

- Design Quickly If At All - This was the revelation of this most recent drawing. I have been doing this all along but I realized that not over thinking the layout and composition, not really controlling the font, will open this series of drawings up to unplanned, informal and less controlled results. 

- Grown-up Coloring - This practice is no different than what I was taught to do in coloring books as a child, except no color and I make the outlines. Sometimes it is shocking how little my art practice has evolved in fifty years.

- Follow the Initial Outline - I was repeating myself on this one. Make the initial letters and numbers quickly, do not over think. Then live with what you made. 

- Some Choices Base on Practicality and Utility - What I refer to here is that sometimes I will crosshatch in areas that are easy to get at, or feel good in regard the way I am holding the pen. Balancing the sketchbook on my lap on the train can be a challenge and some decisions are based on making the work not too difficult or painful.

On this night three young men got on the train at one of the stops that service Northwestern University. The train car was mostly empty but sometimes one chooses the closest seats and the they ended up surrounding me a bit. We started a conversaion and they were curious enough to ask about my scribbling in my sketchbook. I explained as best I could but I was unclear and self conscience. I did show them the few other pages that had been completed in the sketchbook, but they seemed unimpressed. I ended up explaining to them that I occasionally take photos on the train and would they let me take a panoramic photo that included the three of them. This explanation went on even longer than the sketchbook discourse and it involved me giving them my business card and asking to exchange e-mail addresses. Finally one of them said slightly exasperated, "It's ok, we give your our permission!" From what I understand they were heading downtown to do Karaoke. Good for them for venturing out via public transportation on a cold and wet Sunday night to experience Chicago. 

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