Sketching the people in the passing show


There is something compelling about the immediacy of painting people in a public, uncontracted setting.  Working small also allows me to capture detail quickly.

People in Airports

People carry an air of self-containment in airports. They read, work on laptops or they chat with friends and strangers. Sometimes they are deeply engrossed in meetings. For the most part however they occupy themselves they are pretty much captive till they leave to board a flight or meet someone. If I am not working to complete preparation for consulting at my destination I like to sketch the people around me. Here are some of these sketches:


People in restaurants are different. Some have come to enjoy the company of friends, some have come to meet and others have come to eat and perhaps do some work. When I am travelling I am usually kind of ‘peopled out’. I love working with people in the consulting I do. But interaction fatigue is real for me. So I like to paint people in way that I can escape any sense of interaction. Here are some of my sketches:

Sometimes people gather to break bread and drink coffee:


Sometimes they are on their own:


And sometimes they are up to no good:

“Bubble bubble toil and trouble…”

So, do I ask for permission? Well not unless I am in someone’s space. And even then not always. Once or twice I have approached people to say I will be sketching them and the response has been negative. “Well I don’t have any money!!!!” for example. Neither do I often offer the painting to the person I painted. Once or twice I have done this and had a pleasant exchange with the person. But also around here we are not so good at accepting a gift

I painted this little family obviously having a good meal together at a coffee shop in Tshwane. Ma en Pa en die groot seun:

I thought they looked like they would like a memento of the occasion so when I left I asked if they would like to see the watercolour I had done of them. The old guy became quite aggressive saying “I don’t have any money!!” So I just left them. I think I would like to have a little picture like this framed in my home. I don’t know. Maybe it would clash with the durer praying hands and ducks flying up the wall.

Here are some paintings I did waiting for a meeting at the Tea Room in the Botanical Gardens in Stellenbosch:

Sometimes when people leave or when I am not keen to deal with inevitable psychological weight of being aware of someone else, I paint the buildings and not the people:

Hotels and hotel dining rooms have a unique energy, mostly made up of people who are passing through.

But sometimes they are very much immersed in each other:

EPSON scanner image

Quite often though I will try to paint something of the environment:

Route 44 market

Before we locked down Aura (my wife) and I used to do the Parkrun at Audacia Farm – a most beautiful route. We would then wander over to the Route 44 market for a coffee after the run. At this time on a Saturday morning the crowd were fun to sketch. All of the usual suspects:

This is where I sketched the lady smoking a cigarette as she sipped her iced coffee.

Once I set up a stall to paint watercolour portraits at a local market. In the end I painted portraits of the two boys who were selling lemons from their parents tree:

I chatted to lots of people and I did some stolen sketches:

Street lady and a selfie
The Street lady was selling sweets outside the University of Botswana in Gaborone. And the selfie as from 30 January 2017. This was the first painting I did in my second year of one painting a day. I chose to focus on portraits. And so in my hotel room in Gaborone I sat in front the mirror and did this selfie.