My sketchbook entertains me and expands my interest in the surrounding world. Drawing helps me see and understand things more completely and deeply. It is also therapy for me. Unlike photography, drawing, for me, is a more active way of seeing and recording. Even scenes that appear drab on first glance become interesting when I transfer my understanding of the time evolving scene to paper. It becomes my art when I transform it into, not what is seen, but what should be seen.
On trains and planes I often draw the people. Pauline becomes a bit nervous with this practice and discourages it, fearing that I may get “caught” invading someone’s privacy. To lessen the tension she humors me by allowing me to draw her, so I have made many sketches of her during our travels together. She probably hasn’t figured out yet that this is just one of my ploys to get her agreement to be my model.
I have been caught a few times but have never experienced any major objections from my unknowing models. A few of these times brought on surprises and even a good laugh. In the summer of 2009 Pauline and I took the train from London back to our village, Flitwick, after an afternoon of theatre. The trip, which takes less than an hour, goes a lot faster when I find someone interesting to sketch.
Seeing me observe an interesting family sitting across the aisle to the right, Pauline, reading my mind, gave me a suspicious look, even before the sketchbook emerged and said “No!” To comply with her wishes I began to sketch her. As I progressed, a little girl facing me from a few seats down on the opposite hand side of the train began to show extra interest in what I was doing. Soon she left her seat and walked past me to see that I was sketching Pauline.
When she returned to her seat, I could see that she, herself, was up to something as she worked away at a piece of paper with a hand full of pencils. A young friend, about the same age, who was with her, began also to look at me and laugh. With that signal I took a risk and assumed I could get away with drawing the little girl in the 15 or 20 remaining minutes of the trip.
By the time we reached Harlington, the last stop before Flitwick, the family and the little girl were clearly having a good time in some way that involved me. I wasn’t sure I would ever know how when the family collected their bags to leave the train at Harlington.
As she passed me, the little girl proudly handed me a small piece of paper containing her portrait of me. “I love it ! Can I keep it?” I asked with a show of enthusiasm. She seemed as delighted by my request as I was to have it granted. So then I showed her my sketch of her, which fortunately, both she and her mother liked. Further communication was halted by the door closing warning signal and they rushed to leave the train.
Such nice interactions with strangers add a lot of happiness to my life. The only problem is that she failed to sign her portrait of me. So I may never know who is this future Mary Cassatt from Harlington.