Thursday, February 19, 2015

DrAwinG in PuBliC CoMfoRtLy by lYnN cOhEn

Last week someone (JWK) mentioned that they felt their Starbucks was not as large as mine and therefore they would not be comfortable drawing at theirs.

First of all I go to many different Starbucks, all different sizes. But let me speak today to the act of getting comfortable drawing people out in public anywhere.

When I first started this, as you know if you've read my book, "One Fish Taco ..." (see sidebar), I was very timid about drawing in public just a very few years ago.

I began by drawing people who sat clear across the room and were either reading a book, working at an iPad or engaged in deep conversation with another person. I was assured they were NOT looking at me. (see first drawing below)

Now, I can and do draw people sitting at the table next to mine. But I also draw people in line to get their coffee; the coffee counter, the people who serve the coffee, the people sitting clear across the room from me. Everyone is fair game. I can count on one hand the number of times anyone has approached me about my drawing in the past 4+ years. It just rarely if ever happens. No one has ever said a mean thing. Rarely have I  been asked to show my art to anyone there. And when I have it's always gotten a few nice words in response.

So I just want to encourage you all to draw in public. It's fun. There is a world of live subjects waiting to be drawn, some who move, some sit still, they pose for you and you will go home with an art journal full of them. At least a page each visit.

  first drawing done from a long distance away

Here's one I did at a Mexican Restaurant from across the room when I was just starting out drawing people in public.

And here's one I did recently as last week, capturing quick gestures from all over the room.

Here's one from 2013... They were all so engaged with each other they didn't know I was drawing them or that I was drawing at all.

... and one from last week. See they weren't even looking my way. Easy from about ten feet away ...

So I share all this to help you become more comfortable drawing in public! I am living proof you can go from terrified to totally comfortable. I even take out my colored pencils, water brushes and paints right there too. Something I would not have dreamt of doing a few short years ago.

Last Sunday we went to San Francisco, a favorite spot; Hyde Street Pier where I drew a tug boat I like for it's bright orange paint called the Hercules.
(I sat on a bench. People may have noticed me drawing, but no one said anything)

I was thrilled to find a deck full of sea lions basking in the sun, as drawing them in parts would help me fulfill an assignment for Sketchbook Skool/boot kamp this week. I was to capture motion, see what I could learn about their behavior and bodies. I hope you can see what I learned just by looking at all the details I quickly put down in my art journal.

the sea lions did not show a wit of interest in the fact that I was drawing them

My husband called to me when we were at another pier past Crissey Field to see this huge pelican that was just sitting on the pier next to a fisherman. No doubt hoping to catch some fallen bait or fish.
I was able to stand and draw a mere few inches from him and to study his coloring, bill, feathers, and feet. A truly beautiful bird.

the pelican didn't care either

nor did the sea gulls care that I drew them ...well, one, maybe, just a little...

The gulls on the same pier are so used to people they too allowed me to stand directly in front of them and draw to my hearts content before they flew away.

those folks were so far away they did not know I was drawing them at all
the sea lion may have minded, as he swam away fast!

This sea lion was only a minute in my view before swimming under the pier we were standing on. I drew the pier later from a distance looking back at it.

I found these sail boats in the water by Fort Mason. It fulfilled my lesson of drawing water this week. Well I drew water and then got the lesson the next day. Oh well, it worked for me. LOL

Everywhere we were was with this view in sight. The Golden Gate Bridge close up and personal. She is bright orange; the sun shone brightly upon her and us. If you ever think about coming to San Francisco do it in February, the weather was a perfect 76 degrees F. People were walking around in shorts and tank tops! I wished all the snow bound folks further east could have been there too.

See you at Paint Party Friday! (side bar icon)
See you at Sunday Sketchers! (side bar icon)
See you at Paper, Paint, Pencils & Pens! My other blog with Ann Hyde in UK where you can join us drawing to a new theme every two weeks. Click on this link!

Join us at too! A fun place to learn more about drawing by 14 teachers, 5000 other klassmates, and lots and lots of fun. (link on my side bar too)



  1. Lynn, all of your drawings tell a story. The people are busy chatting, the animals are having fun. Not everyone can do that! I especially like the first drawing you posted today...the one with the cars in the background. What a fun week you had.

    1. Thanks Carmel. I always enjoy your take on my art! Much appreciated!!! That first picture is one of my earlier pieces done in 2013. Glad you like it. It's in my book!

  2. Lynn, it was so fun to see your sketches from a few years ago contrasted with the confident sketches you do now. Wow!!! You captured a lot of sketches of the sea lions, but I love that pelican!!!

    I agree about sketching in public. I've been doing it for so long now I can't even remember the first few times I tried doing it. I'll sketch people sitting across from me on the subway. I have NEVER had a person say anything because I was sketching them. My sister did have a man get up and move once. Most people at Starbucks, restaurants, or on public transportation seem to be oblivious to what is going on around them. lol

    1. Joan thanks for noting my progress over time. I hope of course it continues ... Isn't it fun to remember braving drawing in public and becoming second nature to it? I so look forward each and every opportunity I get to draw out there! And Thanks so much for your visits here!

  3. Your sketch books are crammed with information, I love the little notes you make as you sketch. I envy the way you make drawing quickly in situ look so easy.. It isn't!

  4. Wonderful advice for everyone Lynn! The sketches this week are very cool with the pelican and sea lions! As always you are not getting older you are getting better!! Always impressive work Lynn!

    Hugs Giggles

  5. You continue to be my inspiration! Your notes here should be titled "Sketching Improv". I love them all and the nice loose style you do so well. One of these days... Thanks for posting and Happy PPF!

  6. I love seeing all you've sketches, you give me courage to do more. I would love to have you link over at my blog today. I can't remember if I invited you to do so before.


  7. Your sketches are fabulous. Love them. And thanks for encourage me for sketching outside!

  8. good challenge to draw "in public" ; have a nice weekend

    much love...

  9. Love the brown pelican and the bridge best of all! Wonderful visual diary :)

  10. Hi Lynn. Sounds like a fun day. Love your sketches on all that was happening. Great job.

  11. the tug boat and the pelican are real standouts , which is saying something as there is lots to love in this post... xx


Thanks for leaving your comments as I love hearing from you. Your words of encouragement are why I continue to draw!