Monday, January 7, 2013

Working in Public

Traci Bunkers here! Working in your sketchbook or art journal in public can be scary! At first anyway. But, those of us who do it, enjoy it. Since some people might be interested in working in public especially on their artist dates, but are afraid to try, I thought it might be helpful if we give a few pointers. If some of the info is repeated, it just means it's good!

This first thing that came to mind on this topic, is the famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, and this can be applied to most aspects of life:

“You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

So while at first you might feel super self-concious about working in public, you aren't as conspicuous as you feel. And, it gets easier the more you do it.

If you want to take some baby steps, find a friend to bring along who also wants to work in public. Or, to at least keep you company if their presence will give you a little support.

Here's a photo of me and Aimee Myers-Dolich on an art date in a coffee shop, before she moved away from Lawrence, KS.

Sometimes I feel shyer than other times. It just depends on my mood. But once I get started, I usually don't even notice other things going on around me--I tune everything out. My usual place to work in public is at restaurants or cafes. Often when I go out to eat, I'm by myself. So for me, drawing or working in my journal makes me feel better than just sitting there eating alone. Or, if I'm out and decide to get takeout, I draw while I'm waiting for my food to be ready. It beats staring at the walls thinking about how hungry I am! So I always keep a little sketchbook or moleskine in my purse, along with a marker or two. (Another reason I keep those in my purse is I have a fear I'll be somewhere and not have anything to do.) Coffee shops are great places to work because usually everyone there is working on their computer, or reading or something. They won't even notice you! So they are good places to start.

Jane LaFazio here. I went on my first sketchcrawl (sketching in public) in 2006 and this is a photo from that day. Once you do it, you realize how much fun it is and that no one really pays any attention to you, unless it's to admire what you're doing. really!

Taxidermy Bear at Devils' Backbone brewery restaurant

Kristin La Flamme here. I've made a commitment to draw more and so I try to remember to take a sketchbook with me more often and to sketch what's around me. I drew this taxidermy bear at a brewery where my family and I had lunch. I think that we overestimate how much interest other people have in what we're doing. In reality, I think everyone is too focused on themselves to care if you're getting the highlight on the edge of that coffee cup just right, or if that tree is in the right place. Hah! The hardest part about sketching in public was trying to hold a conversation and draw at the same time!

Susan Brubaker Knapp chiming in. Here are two fish I sketched while waiting for my daughter during her speed and agility training. I worked from a book with photos of fish from all over the world. I am by nature an introvert, and crave a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, so working in my sketchbook helps me cope when I am in a crowded waiting area. It focuses my brain on something I love, and helps filter out all the noise and confusion. When I sketch in public, I like to keep my materials simple, because my space is usually limited. A small Moleskine sketchbook and my Lamy Safari fountain pen are perfect. I can add details and color once I get home.

  Pam Carriker adding some thoughts about sketching in public. For many reasons this can be an uncomfortable situation. It used to bother me and I'd try to hide my sketchbook from viewers while trying to sketch in it. Most of the time I work in public it's on an airplane and the close quarters can scare anyone, but it's such great 'alone' time that it's a shame to waste it! So I decided I wasn't going to let fear keep me from doing what I wanted to do and I put my earbuds in and sketch away! The earbuds keep people from talking to me, it's kind of a polite way of being 'busy'. The interesting thing is that I get a lot of comments when the earbuds have to come out on landing. All nice, mostly just interest in what I'm doing. So I get my 'alone' time to work, and still chat about it when/if the person next to me brings it up. All I usually bring are the sketching essentials, pencils, blending stump, kneaded eraser and my Moleskine Sketchbook. I always have those on me, I carry a big purse:-)
Jamie Fingal.  I always carry a Moleskin sketchbook in my purse.  On Friday, while I waited at the doctor's office, I passed the time by drawing objects around me.  Funny thing, sketching is very relaxing and lowers my blood pressure, and I had the best reading every in the doctor's office.  I find myself sketching at Starbucks most of the time.  I enjoy having conversations with people who ask me what I am doing!  I used a Pilot Razor Point pen.

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If you have any tips on working in public, we'd love to hear them! Post them in the comments. Thanks!


  1. I was working on small pieces while waiting for my dad to have surgery. My brother wanted to know why I was coloring. I told him, I was making art to give away and it passed the time and was relaxing to me. I told him it was no different from him reading his Ipad. I didn't say I could have a conversation while working on my project too.

    I'm a rubber stamper and often take pieces to water color while waiting in a doctor's office. Most people are very interested and intrigued that I make my own greeting cards.

  2. Thank you for your ideas for sketching in public. I love to do it but often find it really hard to make the commitment to taking my sketchbook out of my bag.

  3. I can't thank you enough for this post! Yesterday, I was so close to pulling out my sketchbook in our local coffee shop but it was crowded and I chickened out. I'm back there later this week while my daughter takes her dance class and I will think on the words here and try to find my courage. :)

  4. Thanks for the impetus to sketch in public!


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