Sunday, January 2, 2011

Metro Sketching Part 1.

Apparently when I sat down to write this post I had a lot to say on the subject so I'm going to break it down into  two parts.

So what has become a part of my daily life (... again) for the past year or so is the almighty DC Metro Commute.  And it's not just any commute it's a big whopping hour and half commute (that is if things go smoothly and the train/bus is not delayed). I know a lot of people in the area make this huge commute into and out of the city.  And I wanted to share with you what I have done to help make the commute a little more tolerable.

A lot of commuters like to sleep, play on their smartphones, or try very hard not to make eye contact with any one else. But for me I'm an artist so I pull out my sketchbook and begin hammering away at this life drawing gold mine.

What could have been a very painful, horrendous, scarring, recurrence in my daily life I have turned into a dare I say pleasurable and almost looking forward to (notice I say almost it still is the DC Metro) daily routine.  I'm going to share with you what I've learned over the year about ... METRO SKETCHING!

Any artist knows (or should know) that daily drawing (even better life drawing) is good for the artistic soul and will help you tremendously in becoming a better artist.  And what better opportunity to get your daily quota in than riding for a hour with complete strangers who don't move or go anywhere for at least 30 seconds before the next stop.  This is a prime opportunity to mark something down in your sketchbook. And I have learned to take advantage of it.

discovered that as I'm sketching that my commute seems to be immensely shorter.  If your focused on analyzing and drawing your subject you'll be less focused on your watch.  Time will seem to fly by.  Just be careful not to fly right by your stop.   After a while though you'll develop an internal clock as to when you need to look up and see which stop you are at.  I have come in tuned with the turns and bumps that the Metro car makes that I know that when I feel a slight shift to the left that I'm two stops away from my destination.

It never ceases to amaze me of all the different shapes and sizes that the figure can take. And you view a lot of them when riding the Metro. Drawing all these different characters and personalities will help you recall them later when your back in the studio and drawing from memory.  

It's also fun to alter the characters to get your imagination going.  Adding speech bubbles, putting them in surreal places, drawing them as an animal that they resemble.

  Some more awesomeness for ya.  Give yourself  +20  to your confidence for drawing in public.  When starting out drawing in public can be a  very dreadful task. "Oh no! some one will see my horrible work! And laugh at me and tell everyone around him to point and laugh as well!" 

     To be honest I have never had anyone ever say anything bad or hurtful about my sketching.  After all your sketching is a learning/relaxing tool for you to explore and understand the world around you.  It helps you express your feelings/thoughts down on paper.  Your not submitting these for a professional review but rather using these as a sort of artist workout.  For the most part people will ignore you.  To help get over this drawing in public hump the use of music can be a great asset.

  Variety of characters but not poses.  People are either standing,leaning, or sitting. Not very exciting unless you happen to get on the car with the weirdy who likes to dance.  Occasionally  you will get a seeing eye dog or baby that might give you a change of pace.  But still with the lack of poses people still stand in a variety of ways.  So it helps to push their pose to reflect their attitude and what you think they are feeling at that time.  Good ol Gesture Drawing can you help you out here.

     Even though your subjects are usually static that means you are too.  So if the subject catches you drawing them it can get pretty awkward pretty fast.  Its usually best to change subject.  People don't like other people staring them down especially strangers.  

So I've talked about why I like to sketch on the metro and what I have learned from it.  In the follow up to this series I'll go about specifics of how I sketch. Such specifics could include but not limited to:  scoping out prime locations for sketching, materials, choosing a subject, what I'm thinking when I'm sketching, and what I draw when I'm not sketching.

I hoped you enjoyed this little insight on what I do on my daily commute.  

Thanks for reading and Happy Sketching!


  1. hey buddy keep it going and thanks for the tips.


  2. LOVE this. More, please!

  3. John,
    These sketches on your commute are great! You almost make me want to commute again, almost! Very voyeuristic and intimate. Perfect. I love your other work and blog! Thanks for commenting on my blog—brought me here. Thanks!