Channelling Hogarth

Last week I went to the south of Portugal. I was teaching a six-day watercolour sketching workshop: the idea was to share techniques that would demystify some of the more useful, and prettier, effects possible with paint when you’re out sketching in the big wide world.

I was anxious leaving, and it’s my experience that sketching helps to calm me, because it takes my mind off stuff. I am one of those super-lazy people who only joins a queue at the very last second – unless I’m missing something, I’m not delaying anyone by staying sitting down until there is only one person left in the line. A departure gate in an airport is the perfect example of such a situation, and so I happily sketched until the end.

The thing I like about this kind of sketch is that it’s never going to be a masterpiece anyway – it’s a bloody departure gate in Dublin Airport – so there’s no pressure. However, I still followed my basic rules for making a decent composition: start with the foreground and fill in the bits as I reach further into the background. It was only when I put the small bits in the background that it took on any shape. Keep going if your sketch looks dull!

I had drawn everything in when a group of about seven pretty girls took up seats opposite me, blocking any view I might still have left to do, which I didn’t. They were all Dubliners, smartly dressed, and all golden brown. They began to compliment each others’ tans.

“That’s so natural. Why does it look so delicious on you and so poxy on me?”

“It’s called Liquid Gold. I had it sprayed on yesterday.”

They did indeed look very lovely in their tans but the thought of slathering a brown paste onto my actual skin makes me feel claustrophobic, and on the one occasion I tried it some ten years ago I felt a strong urge to have a shower and a scrubbing. I think I’d rather be the unflattering shade of pinky-white, overlain with freckly sun damage, that is my natural colour.

A few young ladies trotted through the departure gates in black, pale pink satin sashes across their bodies indicating they were part of a hen party. I wondered if they’d be loud on the plane.

Once happily seated, it was time to sketch again. The gents across the aisle from me were a golfing party and were very calm. This sketch is rather dull but it does illustrate something about strong drawing: to get everything in the right place and with roughly the right perspective, there’s nothing to it. You just start at point A (the yellow back of the chair nearest me, to the left of the field) and just keep on making shapes next to the one you’ve just drawn, using the shape you’ve just drawn to compare the new shape you’re drawing. Simple!

I added the song on the top right a little later in the flight. There are some people who must sing a song to go with whatever they are doing: there was red wine being drunk (without pause, I might add), and so the passengers in the plane were treated to a rendition of UB40’s Red Red Wine, or at least the first line, many times. It mattered not a whit that the song in question was a hit years before the singer was born. He was Richie, in the sketch below.

The hen parties were loud, but not half as loud as a stag party that was evenly distributed across the front seats. I thought at first they were from Donegal, but they may have been Belfast or Down or anywhere North (I’m not great distiguishing one accent from another there). They wore matching white polo shirts with their names on the back and the number on a team. The words “Albufeira 2019” were embroidered on the sleeves and “Ethan’s Stag” on the front. That’s Cathal standing up. They were loud and rowdy and trekked from seat to seat to chat and drink but, I must say, they were good-humoured and didn’t bother anyone at all.

“Rowdy flight,” I said to the steward.

“Always like this on the way to the Algarve,” he said.

Drawing the drunken and bawdy behaviour, I felt like a latter-day Hogarth. Passively judgmental. I found it very satisfying and I intend to draw more unedifying behaviour at the next instance.

I was glad I wasn’t going where they were. Wonderful though Albufeira may be, Armação de Pẽra awaited.

More tomorrow!


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