Friday, March 27, 2009

501 Queen

Among Toronto's beloved streetcar routes, 501 Queen is the centerpiece. At over 15 miles, it is the longest route in Toronto, and one of the longest in the world.

When I rode it yesterday between Spadina and Gladstone, it was so crowded I had to stand facing sideways near the front. I was attracted by a man bundled in his hooded coat, oblivious to everything and dozing off.

I used a dark brown Caran d'Ache Supracolor colored pencil and a water brush to try to capture the window light on his coat.

The water brush helped to unify tones and to soften some of the edges. For example the edge between his back and the seat gets progressively softer from his shoulder downward.
More on the water brush and water-soluble colored pencils on a previous GJ post, link.

More about the legendary Route 501, link.


Maria said...

I always wonder don't you ever feel like your doing something naughty drawing someone unaware, like taking a photograph, it can be awfully personal when you focus in on someone. Presumably there were people who saw you sketching away? ...That's not meant to sound derogatory! I admire your braveness and wish I could do the same! :)

Glendon Mellow said...

It is very cool to have you here in our hometown. Any more talks?

Enjoy your time in the T-dot!

James Gurney said...

Maria, it's a good question. If someone really appeared uncomfortable or upset I'd quit drawing them, but that almost never happens. Usually people are flattered that you're interested in drawing them. I try to put a pleasant look on my face, not that intense look we all get by default when we're concentrating.

In this case this guy never noticed I was drawing him. He was tired and sleepy. Everyone saw me sketching, I guess, because they had nothing else to look at, and I was standing right in front of a lady who kept catching the back of my tweed coat in her knitting needles.

If the situation seems to call for it you can ask permission: "I'm learning how to draw; do you mind if I practice by drawing your picture?" Asking that way takes away some of their self-consciouness and lowers their expectations.

Susan Adsett said...

It's true - most people don't mind, and some are flattered! I often draw bands playing in bars (the musicans never notice - they're too busy), and at one restaurant, the waitstaff was facinated. They kept coming over to look at what I was doing... brought me some wine on the house... then some dessert on the house... I left some of my drawings with the tab!

Great lecture last night, BTW - sorry I couldn't stay to say hi afterwards, but I live beyond the end of that 501 streetcar route - it's a long commute home!

Steve said...


As always, your blog enriches my day and my life. And, as usual, it does so on two levels: informational and motivational. Your sharing of the precise tools you use -- including the "people skills" -- is so helpful. Getting a look at your sketches, and hearing the conditions under which you do them, is inspirational. Thanks!

r8r said...

@ Maria: I don't know if 'bravery' has anything to do with sketching people. I personally sketch people a lot, in parks or buses or trains, coffeeshops or on the street, and I'm almost never noticed. (Or at least I don't notice when I'm noticed...)
And of the dozen or so times that I've been noticed (in 40 years or more!), the people have always been flattered that they were a model for a drawing.

So go ahead and draw them!

J. Bustamante said...

For some reason, im always very interested in other artist's sketches and sketchbooks.. i was wondering how many sketchbooks you usually keep going at once, i usually have a larger one for bigger studies and thumbnails then a smaller one i carry around if i try to do stuff like this...however, even though everyone here seeems to have had nice experiences of being caught drawing someone, i once had a girl give me a very dirty look and walk away. i was thoroughly embarrassed by it. maybe its because other college kids dont really understand us art students....

Jason Peck said...

Hey James,

Great Sketch, I do have a question. How did you manage keeping a steady hand while standing. Last time I tried to draw on a street car, it was a bumpy ride, and I was seated. Well I was actually on a trolley in downtown Memphis Tn. I guess a trolley is different than a street car.

It was still loads of fun.

Best Jason

Shawn Escott said...

Great posts! I always enjoy visiting your blog. I've had some people give me dirty looks while I'm sketching them. I probably had that intense face, LOL!!! That's something to keep in mind in the future.

Nik said...

Great drawing, and thanks again for the lecture at ARA and the tips on research, it was very helpful.

James Gurney said...

Jason, I was standing sideways with my feet braced wide apart and my rear and against the seat where my wife was sitting. I braced the sketchbook and sketching hand against my stomach. The ride on the Red Rocket is actually pretty smooth and arrow-straight.

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry I couldn't have been in Toronto for the talk!