Sketching on trains


Having a sleeping or otherwise occupied person in reasonably close range is a golden opportunity for sketching. So a train journey is pretty good – the best position is across the aisle, so my subjects are in seats facing the other way. I don’t want to be observed so sometimes have to pretend I’m doing something else, but as soon as they are asleep again or immersed in their laptop, then I can continue. These were done between Stirling and Edinburgh or Glasgow, in my small square sketchbook with a Staedler pigment pen. 

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12 thoughts on “Sketching on trains

  1. Well done you Anna with your surreptitious sketching , I’m sure these were as quick as quick not wanting as you say to be observed observing 🙂 No 3 has an air of alertness somehow even if sleeping … expecting to see eyes suddenly open and jump 🙂 I bet those sketch books are filling up at a pace …

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    1. I think two and three were aware of me – number two got up at one point and I thought he had left the train, then I found him a few seats away when I got off! I haven’t done too many of these, just when I’m seated in the right place, but it is satisfying to grab a quick likeness. Thanks Louise!

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  2. Yes, always tricky sketching others when on a train or elsewhere. I’ve found on the Tokyo metro that if I draw on my smartphone it’s less obvious than a sketchbook, as most people are plugged into their devices.

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      1. Yes it’s a different interface. My phone comes with its own stylus which is small and relatively easy to draw with. I ignore all the fancy art programs and just work with the different colour and weight of lines. This is the closest I find to ‘real’ sketching.

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  3. You’re very brave to do this! I like to scrutinise people using their reflection in the window as I feel less guilty when they catch my eye. Maybe the rail companies should offer a “sketch” service where artists sketch portraits to sell to travellers 🙂

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    1. I’m as careful as I can be, but yes, I feel guilty too if someone catches me, and I stop if I think they are looking annoyed. The window reflection is a great idea Anne, you could be drawing the landscape! I think I will borrow that one … And I do like the idea of a ‘sketch service’ that legitimises it. My husband suggested I offer the first one (man with ponytail) to him as he felt it was a good likeness, but I’m not game to do that!

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    1. The movement of the train adds a new element to the drawing doesn’t it? You end up with lovely unexpected marks, you can’t fight it, so incorporating it is the way to go! I agree about drawing every day, the days I don’t I feel it. Thanks for visiting Valerie!

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    1. Of course – but sometimes it would be good to really catch someone unawares being embarrassing. One time my daughter and I were on a train watching a man sleeping on his girlfriends shoulder. We watched in fascination as a dribble emerged from his mouth onto her shoulder … no sketchbook to hand then of course!

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