During lockdown I haven’t been able to people-watch and hence, people-sketch… but the shapes of plants on my balcony are almost as interesting!
During a recent visit to Oaxaca I sketched these plants in the courtyard of the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO). It’s a beautiful space where people were working and reading… a couple of sketching tourists fit right in.
Some sketches from the Forest of Dean. Perhaps I’m the only one this fascinated by the curve of the fallen tree trunk.
More sketches based on people flitting by… a happy man at a ramen restaurant, girls passing the coffee shop in Roma and La Condesa.
I had a little bit more time to draw these: a woman in the juice bar with impeccable makeup… and the tree and bike racks outside.
The week-long carnival in Tenejapa in the Chiapas highlands includes several colorful elements, such as this “chasing of the cow”. The men dress in red ceremonial finery and, among other things, chase a woven-mat “cow” around the town plaza. (Later there’s “chasing the bull” at another plaza, looking exactly the same as “chasing the cow”, but at that event cameras aren’t welcome… so I figured sketchpads aren’t either). It’s a day full of symbolism and prehispanic references and local pride – also lost of whooping at jokes. It’s very contagious and after we left we spent the rest of the day going “i-e-e-e!!”
Some sketches from the art festival CompArte at the zapatista centre Caracol Oventic. The festival took place for a week at the campus of CIDECI with concerts, changing art shows, workshops, documentaries and theatre; and at the weekend there were performances at Oventic too.
An intrigueing experience for sure. This time I had a bit more time for sketches as most people stayed put watching the performances of theatre, dance, poetry and music.
The girl band – like all the zapatistas, wearing Indigenous traditional dress and balaclavas – were a riot of energy and power.
As always, people couldn’t resist filming instead of watching. Or, in my case, drawing.
A Mexican street scene: one of the guys selling toasted snacks, peanuts and grasshoppers (chapulines) with lemon and hot sauce. (In addition to people selling macadamia nuts, creamy pastries, shoeshine services, oranges whole, peeled or juiced, cotton candy etc… and I haven’t even mentioned the textiles or child labour)
This guy was one of the least enthusiastic salesmen I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in African controlled economies.
Some Turkish street scenes! Dried fruit, Turkish coffee, football stripes…
In honour of the US American Thanksgiving holiday coming up, here’s a sketch of turkeys! And the small boy who was chasing them gleefully.
These two black turkeys came high-stepping down the path like they owned the place. They were not much smaller than the smallest kids playing football on the path, and for a minute I was worried about how the beak vs cheek contact would go. But the Southside Team goalie stepped up and chased the turkeys back the way they’d come with an exuberant series of sideways leaps, as if he was swinging on invisible lianas or vaulting invisible fences. At one point he did go splat on the ground but the turkeys looked at him indignantly and beat a dignified retreat.
Turkeys are called guajolotes in Mexico and are one of the few animals to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica. Provecho!
Life drawing with a proper model, plenty of time and a choice of materials is a welcome change from my normal practice of dashing off line sketches of passers-by after studying them for ten seconds… Here’s a sample. She’s drawn on A3 and scanned on a dinky A4 scanner, with a few technical fixes applied (with very limited success) to the horrible scan line in the middle.
From the sketchbook: Do these featherballs look like chickens? No. They look like fluffy knots. Plus, they produce delicious fresh eggs and do the work of a compost. My views on the marvels of backyard chickens are expounded here!
You’d think that someone lounging in a hammock on the beach would stay still for more than five minutes. Not the case. My drawings of friends in hammocks ended up as express sketches – croquis – live drawing done with very little time.
But once they moved and messed up my portrait I could still work on the ropes and knots.
Hammocks define the outermost points of the person inside… it’s as if they wrap a plane around limbs and protrusions which makes for fun drawings. There’s something early-90s-computer-graphicksy about them.
And you get to feel like you did something creative on holiday.
This sketch was inspired by some hairdressers we interviewed in 2012 in Mirerani in Tanzania. Mirerani is a frontier-flavour mining town – the origin of all the world’s tanzanite, a precious stone. Our partner organisation was finding out about the social impacts of the tanzanite companies – and small-scale miners. Our interview with some women at the hairdressing salon turned into a major streetside spectacle.
Seven Survivor is a Tanzanian band who play the urban music mchiriku. This is a sketch from a gig of theirs in November 2013. (Another famous mchiriku band is Jagwa Music.) Mchiriku is a frenetic genre based on high-octane staccato drumming. The rest of the instruments and the rapping seem almost secondary to the drumming, which sounds as if the drummer is on speed; or as if he’s anticipating the end of the world any second and is trying to fit in a lifetime of drumming into a few short minutes. The pace and intensity of the drums ebbs and flows but never falls below ‘feverish’. It’s a rhythm that you can only dance to by jumping up and down, but you’d have to do that very quickly – almost vibrating! – to keep pace with the drums. The band also featured a lethargic mini-Casio keyboard player; a rapper (the lyrics are political and worth getting into), another percussionist using sturdy sticks on a small coffee table, and a guy shaking home-made maracas made with nailed-together bottle tops. Here’s a link to one of their gigs. And the main man – the drummer – was in some sort of trance with his head thrown as far back as possible. You’d need to really be at one with the flow to manage to keep that level of intensity going for hours.