Before we left the house to go to town this morning, I picked up my orange bag that I carry all my sketching stuff in.
“Are you bringing that?” asked my husband Marcel, as he does every time we go out together. He knows it means that sketching is a possibility.
“Yes,” I said. “But I’m not sketching or anything. I’m not well and I would get cold.” (I’m still fighting the unpleasantness of a chest infection, and the pain of a torn hamstring.)
Soon, we were in Tigh Neachtain’s in Galway City, having a coffee. We had called in to drop some prints in, and we were about to leave when the lovely Guga behind the bar offered us a coffee. We accepted, and there was an open fire at my back…very cosy indeed. My hands reached for my orange bag…
“I’ll just do a quick sketch,” I said. “Look how nice everything is.”
Neachtain’s is indeed lovely: it’s painted a deep orange inside, and there are art posters on every surface. There are hatches and snugs, corners to turn and steps to climb up and down. It’s where I used to hang out in my Uni days and I still love it.
The sketch had a blank page on the left hand side, crying out for…a figure.
“Can I put you in?” I asked Marcel.
“If you must,” he said. He’s reluctant to be sketched at the best of times. If I’d been looking, though, I’d have seen a glint of inspiration flash in his eyes. “I’ve been paintjacked!” he said.
I had to listen to the usual grumbling.
“That doesn’t look like me. I look ancient. I have clearly aged a lot in three months. My nose is wrong. My hair is wrong. My everything is wrong.”
My answer is always the same, whoever I am sketching: yeah, yeah. Or, if I am actually bothered about what they think of their likeness, I say they look lovely. I usually say both, because that’s what I feel: yeah, yeah, you look lovely. Now keep still, and look the way you were looking a minute ago.
Twice a week, I go to Gort in south Galway and wait around for an hour and a half while my younger daughter does Taekwon-Do class. There is very little to do in Gort in the evening. I can go and spend money on bargains I don’t need in Lidl or Aldi; I can go and have a coffee I don’t want in the Lady Gregory Hotel; I can go and attract attention I haven’t sought in one of the many pubs, or I can read a book I can’t see in my car. Not a great choice. Sometimes I make a live sketch demo on Instagram of wherever I am. Now that IS fun. On the whole I like the enforced quiet time in Gort twice a week. But every time I drop Liv off to her class, I know I have a stretch ahead which can go well or badly.
The other evening I drove around and found a butcher’s shop I thought I would like to sketch. Just blue, red and white, like a flag. I sat in my tiny car and filmed as I sketched, not very adroitly, it must be said. Afterwards, I added the tasteless pictures of animals with their bodies divided up into meat cuts, partly because I am conflicted about eating meat at the best of times, and I haven’t come up with an answer, and partly because the shop looked a bit bare around the sides. I think I felt even more uncomfortable after drawing these little pics.
I was neither bored nor lonely that evening. Comments came in on my phone screen from my lovely friends and followers. Not for the first time, urban sketching, with a little help from Instagram, was my saviour.
And today was wonderful too: Marcel may have been paintjacked, but the “hostage” was freed unharmed…give or take a poor resemblance.