In an attempt to side-step a mind that is bent on destabilising my confidence, I often speed draw. Tea helps, as does the arrival of a motley of coffee shop frequenters in marvellous winter garb (and/or with fantastic haircuts to boot) – such as this customer last Sunday. Is it a girl or a boy? my partner asked. Does it matter? I hissed, intent on my drawing.
I’ve got a new edition to my arsenal of drawing implements (which I lay out on the table in front of me), one that the superlative reportage artist Veronica Lawlor mentions in her book, One Drawing a Day – a portable water pen. I used it, or I should say them (for they come in various brush thicknesses) this weekend, warming to the fluidity it gave to my drawings. I also tried a new fountain pen that I’d purchased, which seemed to work much better under the pressure of attempting to capture people before they disappeared, rather than the static drawing I’d used it for in my studio.
The coffee shop was busy, buzzing almost, with lots of people sitting around in groups. I tried to step up to meet the challenge of the clamour, the amiability and chatter by describing what I saw and heard, such as the group of young men sitting at a low table near us talking about clothes, before lowering their voices and moving in closer to discuss, no doubt more intimate issues.
All the while, the man with the beard and luscious brogue kept, surreptitiously, taking a drag from his vape pipe. A group of students occupied the big table with more and more turning up to join them. They looked earnest and keen.
I became a little fixated in trying to capture one of them in a huge, patterned jumper.
Prior to their arrival the effete man and his wife had sat on the end of the same table. She seemed distracted and sad again and he sipped his green tea saying little.
I endeavoured to show something of their interaction but oftentimes other details are lost – such as her face, I can’t get it. She’s far more elegant than I portray her.
Sunday also brought groups and couples.
Such as the two women who sat on the table next to ours (they were joined by their partners later). They both had remarkably yellow faces, one it appeared from exposure to sun or sunbeds, and the other possibly because she wasn’t well, her eyes being very puffed up. Or there was the man with mental health issues, who the day before had launched into a long conversation with us. We were both delighted by his transformation. He came in both days with one of his friends, a very, very tall girl.
His Christmas jumper this week was a parade of penguins. They didn’t talk much but when they did she made him laugh. There was also the couple who came on the Sunday taking the table vacated by the yellow-faced women. I’d drawn him in the queue, fascinated by the rubbery lean of his gait.
She had red-hair that had been sternly pulled back off her face. When he eventually joined her with coffee and two brownies, they ate in silence. He ate fast (I watched his jaw moving) as did she, and their conversation was virtually non-existent.
The regulars were in, of course. The man who read his phone and the small, rotund chap who I think I shall call Dylan Thomas who returns again and again for his ‘robbo-cinos’.
I watch him a lot trying to get his stance and features correct. He makes an effort chatting with the staff and they clearly like him but there is a hint of melancholy about him when he stands unattended to in the queue. The rest were strangers who excited me by their unusual bodily leanings (so often people cross their arms when queueing) or attire or behaviour.
The world was there and I loved it.