Sunday, October 3, 2010

More Drawings

Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly, a long time, and never avow it;)

—Walt Whitman

I've drawn people while on the bus, in restaurants and bars, at performances and during jury duty. It's like hunting; any place I can corner them for a few minutes, I must take a chance. I don't do this now, because my life does not contain the kind of time and space necessary. If I outlive the present project, I may return to the drawings. I'd like to observe the human figure again, after many years of concentration on other subjects.

The big constraint in this work is time. I almost never asked someone to sit still for me; I didn't want them to know I was there. I knew they would get up and go somewhere else in a few seconds to a few minutes. The challenge was to steal as much of their visual soul as I could in the time available. Predictably, much of what I produced was really terrible, but occasionally I got lucky.

I especially liked drawing on the trains in Tokyo. Japanese people usually ignore others deliberately, so I had more freedom to work without drawing any attention to myself. It also helped that I couldn't speak the language, so I never worried what they were saying. 


Riding a bus in San Francisco can be a similar experience; almost no one speaks English here either. This young woman became my favorite model several years ago, but I never spoke to her. I imagine a tense dramatic scene, as in a movie: "A model on the bus, is that all I am to you? Do you think you can just draw me for twenty minutes and then walk out the back door?" Yes, I do.

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