Columnist: Ted Pigott Ted's Beyonder Story
I love to draw. And in my previous articles for my Beyonder Times column, I have written a little bit about a few ways to become better at drawing, and I also shared where I like to eat and draw in Taipei.
To be honest, I will draw pretty much anywhere I can, and I’m very fortunate to have a small studio in my home where I can draw and listen to music in a comfortable setting.
However, for my article for this month’s column, I’d like to look at something I think is also very important—getting out of the studio and into the real world, and drawing on location from what you see in front of you.
As an artist, one of my beliefs is to “draw what you see.” So, in order to do that, especially if you want to draw something interesting, it’s best if you can put yourself in places and situations where you will see interesting things.
Of course, it’s always possible to draw from photographs or images you find on the Internet. And while I believe that this can be great for reference, I also believe that drawings really only come to life when they are drawn from life. I can see this clearly in my own work—my drawings really “pop” when I have drawn onsite, looking at the real people, place, and things I see in front of me.
So, without any further ado, I would like to share a few of the tricks and techniques that help me to get out there and draw.
I love to sketch on the subway, or MRT as we call it here in Taipei, and I try to do so as much as possible.
Instead of dreading a journey on the MRT, I look forward to it, because I know that I will have a block of time just to draw.
The subway is always full of a variety of interesting people—commuters, students, tourists, families, kids, and the elderly. It’s a real cross-section of the city.
I love the challenge of trying to capture an image of a person or the image of a scene, not knowing whether that person will get off at the next stop, or if the scene will change in some way, without any warning. Subway sketching has taught me to be in the moment and just focus on drawing, since that’s all I really can control and do. When I draw on the MRT, I just draw as much as I can, as fast as I can, and I don’t have time to worry or even think about anything else.
A person once commented that my subway sketches seem mainly to show people on the MRT doing two things—sleeping, and scrolling on their smartphones. The nice thing about this for me as a sketcher is that people are usually so absorbed in what they are doing that they don’t seem to notice or care about me or my drawing.
To be sure, there have been a few times that people have noticed me drawing, and I’ve gotten some smiles and even a thumbs-up or two. But I’ve mostly been ignored when I draw on the subway, which is perfect for me. Of course, if anyone ever asked me to stop drawing them, I would do so at once. But so far, all of my experiences drawing on the MRT have been positive.
I don’t just draw on the subway, though. Any type of public transportation will do. I draw on the city bus, on the Taiwan High-Speed Rail, and on the long-range busses down to Pingdong.
Traveling, in general, is a great time to draw, and I love to draw in airports, in particular, since the people traveling there are always intriguing to me. I also love to draw onboard airplanes themselves. Again, some people may hate long, overseas flights to America, but I love them, because I know I will have a block of fifteen hours to do nothing but draw and listen to music.
That’s bliss to me!
I must admit that this is likely a term that I invented myself. But to me, “live sketching” means going to a place or an event, and drawing there “live,” as the event takes place.
It can be anywhere—a concert, a speech, a spoken-word performance, a play, a parade, or a sporting event, among many others. I’ve sketched at all of them.
For me, it’s fun to see if I can capture what I see at these events on paper, in my sketchbook. It may be the musicians onstage performing. Or it may be the people in the audience enjoying the show. It may even be the event setting itself.
When I live sketch, I feel connected to the energy of the event or the performance. In my own small way, I also feel that I am contributing my art and energy to the creativity around me.
I certainly don’t think that this is disrespectful in any way to the performers, participants, or speakers. Just as I was able to listen to my teachers and take notes at the same time when I was a student back in school, I am also able to listen to a performer or speaker and draw at the same time, as well.
To me, live sketching is just another way for me, as an audience member, to connect and interact with the performer(s). To explain, people in an audience may laugh at a joke, or they may clap, or they may even get up and dance to the music being played. In my case, I sit back and draw what I see, and I draw inspiration from the music being played, or the story being told, or the information being shared.
I also like to share my drawings online after the event. To me, they can serve as good memories of the event, and they can also be enjoyed by people who couldn’t be at the performance or speech or show, to give them a little taste of what it was like. I like to think my drawings bring a sense of closure to an event, which might be lacking without them.
When I first started live sketching, I did it all of my own accord—no one asked me to draw at an event or invited me to live sketch at a performance. I just came up with the idea to do this and started doing it. I’ve also never asked for or been given permission to do so. I just show up at different shows and events, buy my ticket, and go in and draw, live and in person.
Overall, the reception has been positive, from both performers and audience members alike, and I will definitely continue to “live sketch,” mostly because I enjoy doing it so much.
Sketching Safaris and Art Adventures
This is another term that I think I probably came up with. I also like to call this “Art Adventures.”
On a real safari, people are hunting for animals, and on a surfing safari, surfers are hunting for waves. But on a sketching safari, I am on the hunt for people and places to sketch. I am more of an urban sketcher, so I love to go on Sketching Safaris in the city, where I can always find so many amazing things to draw.
A recent Sketching Safari I went on involved the five gates of Taipei. I called it “To the Five Sentinels” (inspired in part by “To the Five Boroughs” by Beastie Boys), and I started on a sunny Friday morning at Beimen. I drew this beautiful, historic city gate onsite, in the morning sun. I then continued on foot to Ximen, and I drew the memorial sculpture to the gate that used to be there. I then made my way over to Xiaonanmen and Nanmen and Dongmen, walking and sketching as I went. Of course, I also stopped for coffee and snacks as I did my Sketching Safari, since taking a break and drawing in the comfort of a cafe are also important parts of this activity (at least for me).
I’ve also taken Sketching Safaris outside of central Taipei, and this can be a great way to combine hiking and drawing. For example, I recently went to the top of Qixing Shan, the tallest mountain in Taipei, according to the sign at the top, and did some drawing at the peak.
Truth be told, I prefer to go solo on my Sketching Safaris, since I can move faster and have more control of my itinerary. However, it might be fun someday for some interested sketchers to meet up for a group Sketching Safari, much like the photowalks that are often organized by photographers.
These are just a few of the tricks and techniques that I use to get myself out of my studio and into the real world to do what I love to do most—draw. After all, the world is a big place, and it’s full of life. And for me, a great way to make my drawings come to life is to get out there and draw all the amazing things I see—live, on location, and in person!