#132: The Sketch Artist

March 1st, 2013

He drew the hair first, a few lines. They flowed into the outline of a face. Always good to get the broad strokes first.

A few features came next, a few details added in. He drew a bit of her downturned mouth, her tired eyes as she sat on the ‘L’ that morning, going somewhere she wasn’t excited about.

He sketched her from across the car. She didn’t know he was doing it. His pen moved as the train did, filling in the outlines with finer and finer scratchings.

His fingers moved quickly, filling in lines, shapes. Her nose took form, as did the shading around it. The train jostled a bit. He was standing by the door on one of the new L cars with the increased standing area and hanging straps just like the bus. She was sitting in one of the in-facing seats, her mouth and now-formed nose facing downward.

Finer and finer grades still. The shape of her eyes refined, giving her vision and life. He was of the school or habit of drawing that fills in the pupils last. An eerie down-facing demon on his page.

Now you could see the knit of the young woman’s brow, the tinge of frustration in her lowered head. More scratching. More details. Cross-hatching, line work, shading giving texture and contour to her face. Little lines intersecting with littler ones. And littler. And littler.

Soon, a face was there. The curve of her cheeks. The wistful disdain. Maybe a tad more angry than the woman sitting in the train car, maybe a bit more fretful and less tired, but it was a face, a detailed and exacting human face on a white sketchbook page of a ring-bound notepad.

The only part kept simple, kept free of the tinier and tinier cross-hatching, was the hair.

It was still those few broad strokes he started with, the three simple lines that composed the hair of a woman he built, based on someone he saw on the train.

Comment on this story

Read about more unexpected art

What's this?

You are currently reading #132: The Sketch Artist by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • -30-