Fear and sketching in Tres Pinos

RichardThis sketch is of my friend Richard. Richard is a versatile musician. He plays Irish music, old time music, jazz. I’ve known him over a decade now, and he has taught me numerous tunes.  I drew  this picture in a Kunst & Papier watercolor journal I won from  a contest held by one of my favorite bloggers, Roz Stendahl. The paper’s not great for watercolor; it doesn’t hold a lot of  watercolor pigment and it buckles. But it’s a nice feeling book to work in, and the paper will take very light washes of color. I like the way the Tombow goes down, and I like the way pencil slides across the paper. The book is sturdy, and fun to carry around.

I love drawing musicians while they play music. Trouble is, I’m shy about sketching in front of people I don’t know. Or even those I do know, unless I trust them—as I do Richard. I’m still working on my chops in the portrait department, and I still feel inadequate. Criticism isn’t helpful.

I am trying to get over this. I’m trying to get over the feeling that people who look at me while I’m painting are grading me or rejecting me. I think it goes back to an old boyfriend who once said, “You’re not going to be one of those artists who draws in public all the time, are you? People will look at you!”

And people do look. They crane their necks to look at you, stand over you and breath on you, make comments. It’s disconcerting. But of course they look at you.  David Hardy, at the Atelier, tells me that people “are fascinated and consider you special. You have added to the excitement in their life.”  What?! Little old me?

I know that other artists aren’t shy. Roz Stendahl goes to places like the state fair specifically to sketch. She writes about these jaunts as if they were an expedition, packing what she’ll need as if she were going to discover and sketch the headwaters of the Nile. I’ve decided to emulate her.

This weekend we’re going to the Good Old Fashioned  Bluegrass Festival in Tres Pinos.I’ve never been, and I don’t play bluegrass music, although I’ve listened to a fair amount of it. My husband will be appearing in his band, Harmon’s Peak. I’m going on a mission: to draw people. I’m going to have to force myself to do it, as the thought of sketching in public like that makes me weak in the knees. What a wuss I am!

I’m planning it like it’s an expedition. I’ve got to choose what medium to work in, and which sketch book I’ll take. Then I have to remember my glasses. And to take deep breaths. And to have fun.

Sketching at the Dickens Fair


These two fiddlers played for Morris Dancing. Very high energy.
These two ladies were in exquisite dresses. I want a hoop skirt!

These are sketches I made at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair this year. The fair is enormous fun. It’s a whole day of theater. The costumes are fabulous, and everywhere you look there’s something happening. It bubbles up all around you. I call it immersion theater. Dickens’s characters are all there: Scrooge and Marley bicker in the streets, Miss Havisham wanders through the lanes, Fagin teaches Oliver to pick pockets in an alley, and a cast of extras exclaims over the scandalous window models at the Dark Garden (Ok, so the hilarious window undressings are not really Dickensian, but those models are terrific).

This is the first time I’ve taken my sketchbook to a very public place and sketched. It was fun! And I was happy with my short sketches.

I have to admit, I was nervous about it. I’ve mostly been embarrassed to draw in public, but after these last three years of practice at the atelier, I’ve built my skills to the point where I’m much more confident.

Why so shy? Because anyone can—and will—look over your shoulder at your painting or drawing. We all know not every painting or drawing is a success, but when you work in public, good or bad, it’s on view for all the world. And the world is remarkably free in dispensing comments and criticism.

To be an artist in public, it takes a thick skin. You must get used to every kind of comment, and take none of them, even the good ones, to heart. You must be brave.

The Great Dickens Fair seemed like the perfect place to begin being courageous.

I keep on working.

There was a terrific Middle Eastern dance troupe called Hahbi 'Ru
There was a terrific Middle Eastern dance troupe called Hahbi 'Ru. One lady danced with a huge sword. I drew with a Bic pen.