Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trax in Technicolor

"Do you draw people's faces?"

I glanced up, a little surprised by her question.

"Yeah," I answered after a moment. "Yes, I draw people."

"How much do you charge?"

"I don't know. I've never been paid for my drawings before."

She jumped from her seat and sat next to me. "I've been trying to find someone to draw my family. I want someone to draw me, my son and my daughter-- my other two kids are up for adoption. I just got my son back, you know, he was in state custody. And I told him, you stay in school, you stay, because I am going to do everything I can to get you back. Last year, for Christmas, he was in foster care; this year he will finally be home for Christmas. I was paying the state two eighty for child support. Only in America. Only in America do they separate the family. I was adopted from India, by a family in Washington; I know a family in Washington that all of their kids do this," here she made drawing motions with her hand. "They own several businesses now, very successful. Hey, so, you draw people's face?"

"I don't go much for realism these days," I answered quickly. "I am very stylized with my drawings. You can see if you'd like."

I handed her my sketchbook, knowing full well that I did not keep any 'realistic' studies in those pages. It wasn't so much that I couldn't draw realistically; it's that I don't enjoy taking the time to do so all that often. She flipped through page after page of ridiculous drawings, many of which were caricatures of people who didn't exist (not in my life, anyway).

"Ah, very good, good," she got about halfway through what I currently had in my book and handed it back. She continued telling her life story to me, then suddenly grew quiet. Turning to someone else on the train she asked, "Is this 2100 south? Oh, this is my stop. It was nice talking to you."

Bidding her the same, I turned back to my sketchbook and picked out a new crayon color.


I enjoy pulling out a baggie of crayons and baffling the people sitting around me. They rarely say anything, but I can see their eyes slide over my lap occasionally, watching the quick and juvenile strokes I make as they form a bright, almost painful to look at doodle.

Last week I got on a crowded train car, miraculously found a seat, and quickly drew on a note card the image of a tree and a large bird and handed it to the little girl sitting across from me. I imagine that little girl-- though she was quiet and shy-- fully understood the joy of crayons as she watched me make this gift for her.


My grandmother, very recently, gave me well over two hundred new (some gently used) crayons in boxes that she had found around her house. Tonight, when I went over to help her decorate for Christmas, she presented me with yet another large box of 120 crayons that she had found in some dark corner of her home. Somehow I can never find it in me to say, "I have enough." Instead, though I have a perfectly acceptable collection of used crayons in my work bag, I accept the wax sticks of color with a smile and gratitude.


I drew this fellow a few weeks ago while riding the train. The lady sitting across from me tried very hard to hide her interest, but she frequently looked at what I was doing. I still wonder what she would have said if I had followed my curiosity and asked, "so, do you like it or hate it?"

I always wonder what people would do if I took my drawing and gave it to them as I walked off the train.

(What would they do with a quick sketch done in crayon?)