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Bus People

August 25, 2018

A loooong time ago I posted about a trip I took to NYC where I did a bunch of little caricatures of people on the subway and it was really fun and definitely a lightbulb experience. It was sort of the kick off of a new style for me, drawing these little portraits of people with big heads.

Recently on our trip to San Francisco we took the Big Bus Tour where you can get a pass to ride these cool double decker buses and you can hop on and off whenever you want. It was the perfect opportunity to do little portraits of other riders.

First of all, shout out our tour guide, Sparkle, who was so damn funny she made the rides such a blast. We actually got a 2-day pass for the big bus, and on the second day when we were waiting at the stop Richard said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Sparkle was the tour guide again?” And then got on and there she was! We were thrilled. With so many buses going around at once, the chances that we would get on her bus two days in a row seemed pretty low. We were so lucky! I’m pretty sure she moonlights as a stand up comedian because she was cracking us up constantly.

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The coolest thing about doing these little portraits is that it forces me to really look at  strangers. And when I do that I start noticing things.

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Like if the person has a nervous little tick, or fantastic eye make up, or a really methodical way that they take things out of their bag, or they are reading something really unusual, or they’re wearing shoes that look like they decorated them by hand.

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I see all these little things that make them suddenly seem so vulnerable and beautiful and interesting, stuff I never would have seen that if I wasn’t paying so close attention to them. In those moments I feel lucky that I got to see them in that way.

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When I am drawing people out in public I try to be as discreet as possible because there is nothing more awkward than that moment when I get caught.

“Hey what are you doing? Are you.. drawing me?”

“Uh, yeah. Sorry. Please don’t be creeped out, I’m not obsessed with you or anything, this is just what I do. And you happened to be in my line of vision which made you the most convenient person to sketch, but as I was looking at you and noticed how beautiful and human you are and I really wanted to document it.”

“Okay, I’m leaving now.”

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I carry a small notebook that keep half hidden in my lap and I wear sunglasses so that people are less likely to notice me staring at them.

I only had a few minutes to draw each person on the bus. I started with pencil, quickly sketching their face and the most interesting details about their clothing and stuff.

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Then later, like back at the hotel, or on the plane ride home, I went back over the lines in ink. And sometimes I added a background. Since we were on a city tour, I threw in major San Francisco landmarks.

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After that I colored them with colored pencil. I did most of these back in Phoenix, after the trip was over, which is sort of a nice way to extend a vacation. Working on the drawings allowed me to relive those moments on the tour.

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It was also a good chance to experiment with color theory. Since I didn’t make any notes on what colors people were wearing, I just made it up, and played around with combinations.

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I had so much fun doing these little portraits.

One comment

  1. […] of this stuff makes a person more fun and interesting to draw. When I am out in the world trying to discreetly draw strangers, details like these will inform the story that I make up about the person in my […]



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