Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Spell of the Cell

Cell phone users hold predictable poses for relatively long periods. They’re oblivious to the world around them, making them good sketching subjects.



This man in France was talking energetically while gesturing with the non-phone hand. His right hand held a slip of paper and a pen.

The fact that people gesture while talking on cell phones suggests that hand movements benefit the speaker more than the hearer.


When men check messages, they usually stand with their feet wide apart and their pelvis forward. They duck their chin to their chest and hold the cellphone against the base of their sternums.


Children melt into their chairs. They totally relax their legs and feet. The outer world disappears. They fall into a reverie. Their minds link with the machine.

(Note: We’re home now in New York. Many of the upcoming posts will be from places we’ve been over the last two months--western USA and Europe. I’m just catching up from a lot of material generated over the last month of touring. I’ll try to keep the Facebook page updated with what we’re doing and what’s coming up.)
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14 comments:

jeff jordan said...

William Gibson, who above all seems to be a really sharp observer of Society/Culture, in his latest book, Zero History, at some point remarks about how you can see by the posture--from a block away--that a person is on a cell phone, and it's totally integrated into our perceptions, and how it's replaced postures of people smoking cigarettes.

It's no less obnoxious, I think......just a different sort of rudeness.

My Pen Name said...

James,
Looks like you've had a very productive trip - funny how so many of us just get aggravated while waiting in airports, etc you've made productive use of your time.
I carry a small sketchbook too and try to jot off things here and there, but i have learned that sometimes people don't like being subjects
if you don't have a sketchbook another way to practice is to draw in your head and draw from memory later- lecoq an others recommend this- and the more one develops this skill, the better one's retention becomes.

Lastly, your observations about the hand are interesting - books like "the brain that changes itself' show there is a strong relationship between the hand and learning and creating an in fact our academic separation of the two might be artificial and counter productive.

For example, in the book, it was shown that boys who learned penmenship (and rote recitation of long poems) curbed their 'ADD" better than those who took so called anti-ADD drugs.

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

GREAT sketches and I really enjoyed visiting your blog.

Spencer said...

I do most of my sketching on trains commuting, and here in Japan everyone is on a cellphone, but unlike in some places, people never look up or even notice you're drawing, which makes them extra good subjects. I've drawn people looking just over my shoulder without them noticing. Great work here, thanks!

Sasha R. Jones said...

Hello,
I'm going to be travelling via plane soon and am wondering about being able to do some art during layovers and down time and such.
What is your experience with TSA restrictions on liquids regarding waterpens and such? Is one or two acceptable within the container/amount limit in carry on? Have you ever had trouble as far as that goes?

Many thanks!

James Gurney said...

Sasha, water pens seem to be exempt from the TSA rules, since the water is inside the barrel of a pen. But I do empty out any cups of water.

MoStarkey said...

Great observations and spot on about the gestures. I've learned a lot. Thanks.

@Sasha,
I've found that some ink pens, and brush pens will ooze at high altitudes. Makes a mess if you like sketching with a pen/brush.

tiffannysketchbook said...

great sketches. ugh. you make me feel lazy! I gotta get out there and sketch. Thanks for the inspiration as always!

Regarding carrying water, if you don't prefer water pens, just bring an empty container. that will go through security. Afterwards you are allowed to fill it with water in the restrooms and sketch while waiting for your plane. Dump it out before you get on board.

Cavematty said...

"The fact that people gesture while talking on cell phones suggests that hand movements benefit the speaker more than the hearer."

I wonder if it is not simply a case of our social evolution being outpaced by technology. I feel that hand gestures made over the phone are still for the purpose of communicating to the person on the other end, who you tend to visualise while you talk. It may just be a linked up behaviour that doesn't stop unless consciously suppressed.

Interestingly your actions while on the phone can potentially cause subtle inflections in your voice too. Can you hear a smile?

Years ago I was advised that if I wanted to politely finish a phone call carried out while sitting, I should stand up. Supposedly the change of qualities in my voice would be sufficient to subconsciously cue the other party that I was ready to move on. Of course it doesn't work on Mum, but interesting concept.

syldem said...

Excellent sketches, very funny and so well observed ! :-)
I like sketching people in the train or on the platforms at the station. Now I see them differently.

The Surfin' Squid said...

These cell phone sketches are so interesting on both an artistic and psychological level. I ought to try this sometime.

Louisa's epiphanies said...

I need to draw people using their phones! You're so clever!! xx

Amy "Bambi" Wendt said...

We call it the "Phone Coma," and just last week I started catching and sketching co-workers locked in their tiny universe. I also use a program called "canvas" on my Droid phone, so I can sketch people on their phones, while on my phone. Meta.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I spotted the potential of mobile phone users (as they are called in the UK) some time ago. They're wonderful subjects for drawing from life. Thanks for the reminder and sharing.