Observing in Airports

Drawing under a little bit of pressure is one of my favorite things. Get the gesture fast because that person is going to leave or move! It is a skill that enhances studio work greatly! However, here is something I’ve noticed over years of drawing in airports, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. People have stopped paying attention. I have been busted drawing someone many times in the past and it usually results in the end of that sketch because the person gets uncomfortable or leaves. This doesn’t happen much anymore because people have stopped looking around. The average person has stopped being an observer. They immediately look at their phone, iPad, computer, book, and the almost obsolete newspaper as soon as they sit down. They rarely notice me anymore so I get long drawing times on many of them. Excellent practice!

I have a recommendation for artists even if they are not drawing. Avoid burying yourself in a distraction. Open your eyes. Sit and observe! People are wonderful and you will see the most beautiful gestures and facial expressions that you will never see if you are staring at your phone.

And besides, staring down at your phone gives you a double chin. Remember that because even if you don’t notice it, I’m drawing your double chin while you sit in the airport!

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  • Tony D’Amico

    Great article with a touch of humor, Heather!

    • Heather Arenas

      Thanks, Tony

  • Victoria Ekelund

    So true Heather. Thanks for pointing out the double chin. I bet that gets peoples attention! They will start holding their phones up higher. As always. Love your sketches. I will be at the airport soon and will use it to advantage.

    • Heather Arenas

      Thanks, Victoria. We need to take advantage while it lasts!

  • Jodi Murphy

    I remember taking “Life Art” in college. The fast charcoal sketches of your hand, model, statue, etc really loosens your drawing. I need to do these more often. Thanks for sharing.

    • Heather Arenas

      You are welcome, Jodi. Keeping it loose!

  • Ray Hassard

    Thanks for the article, it gave me a laugh. I’ve been sketching in airports and similar places for over 50 years. I used to love to arrive too early so I would have lots of time. Now, everyone seems to be taking the same pose–thumbs moving, nothing else, sitting upright, eyes down. People used to eat, sleep on the floors or benches, do yoga, etc. Its not as much fun to sketch anymore, but it is ALWAYS worth doing.

    • Heather Arenas

      I’m glad you liked it. I agree that the poses aren’t as interesting but still good to recognize fundamental differences between people.

  • Priscilla Olson

    Thanks for this Heather. I’m not much for air travel, but I still get the quick sketching in on public transportation, the dentist’s office, Farmers Market, anywhere where there’s a crowd and a place to sit. Excellent practice and very rewarding way to spend spare minutes!

    • Heather Arenas

      One of my reasons for writing this and showing my sketches is to demonstrate that they don’t have to be perfect. The idea is to improve your ability to see quickly and to get the important things down. Maybe you can get the look of irritation on the faces at the dentist. ????