Tag Archives: Sketching

Reportage

There’s a lot to be said for keeping up the sketching habit while traveling. I love that drawing gives me an immediate sense of grounding in unfamiliar surroundings while allowing for more fully absorbing a new environment. Stopping to sketch is a wonderful opportunity to squeeze in a breather during a busy day of sight-seeing, and to pay closer attention to the common bits that define a particular locale. At the end of a full day of exploration, my husband and I have become very fond of finding a cafe or bar where we can sit with a drink and watch the world pass by while recapping our experiences. Pulling out my sketchbook has become a comfortable part of that favorite routine.

Waiting to Board

Waiting to Board, BTV     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

That said, this past week in Seattle there were eleven of us, so my best chance to draw was in the morning while everyone was relaxing over coffee as we pulled together our itinerary for the day ahead. Therefore, my drawings are mostly rooms around the house we rented and various breakfast-related still-life set ups. Even so, there is enjoyment in going through each drawing after getting home because, even if the subject itself isn’t that exciting, I am brought back to that moment so precisely: the conversation, the surrounding atmosphere, the overarching feeling of that point in time. It’s a wonderfully direct way to re-experience the moment; there is much to be said for the power of drawings in recording an event.

Cafe Flora

Cafe Flora     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

On the flight home I read this article by Lauren Tamaki who had been tasked by the NYTimes to sketch the Bill Cosby trial since photographs weren’t permitted. Her drawings and accompanying text bring a level of humanness to the proceedings, a quality that could potentially become lost in photographs. My point is not to discount the poignancy and recording power to be found in excellent photography, but rather to draw attention to the benefits contained in a drawing made with time and consideration and which, via the individuality of the artist’s marks and gestures, expresses an immediacy and presence in that particular moment. Details Tamaki captured by hand, such as the ornately carved courtroom door, the assistant district attorney’s hand gestures, or the body language of others in the courtroom, convey an emotional connection with the circumstances that might otherwise be overlooked.

Counter Shapes

Counter Shapes, Breakfast     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Since becoming acquainted with Urban Sketchers, I am much more aware of reportage artists and the importance of their work. Using their skills to tell some of the harder stories that surround us, via means that are arguably more intimate than those of a movie camera or still photography, they have an opportunity to fully immerse us in that particular time and place.

Iris Chair

Iris Chair     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I encourage you to explore a few such artist’s work:

Veronica Lawlor drew on the streets of Manhattan as 9/11 unfolded and in the weeks following. She compiled her sketches in the book September 11, 2001, Words and Pictures. This blog post from The Global Art Junkie drills home the power and authenticity of Lawlor’s drawings in marking that day.

I first learned of Richard Johnson’s work on Instagram. Citizen Sketcher Marc Taro Holmes interviewed Johnson about sketching the homeless in Washington, D.C., resulting in a very interesting discussion about the ethical responsibilities of such work.

Molly Crabapple is an award-winning artist who reports on injustice and rebellion around the world. Her work is spellbinding.

And let’s not forget Winslow Homer who was a reportage artist during the Civil War.

In circling back to the more mundane matter of keeping an account of traveling for pleasure, I know that bringing home spectacular images of newly discovered territory is commonplace when everyone has a smart phone capable of taking wonderful pictures. My husband’s photos are terrific and and I am so grateful for the fleeting moments he is able to catch in a heartbeat.

Knife & Spoon

Knife & Spoon     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Yet there is also a lot to be said for the depth of memories that are rooted in the slower process of drawing. For me, they have unmatchable value as souvenirs.

 

Town Meeting Day

During this contentious election season, while there is so much venomous talk from and between several of the presidential candidates, I can’t begin to say how reassuring it was to attend my local Town Meeting Day this week.

Older-Couple

Older Couple     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                       These two were paying close attention to the meeting. They were subtle, but because I was drawing them, it soon became evident which way they leaned as arguments were made re: the issue at hand.

“Uplifting” is a word that comes to mind regarding this annual forum that demonstrates democracy at its best — government by the governed. Carrying on a 200 year-old tradition practiced nowhere outside of New England, the community comes together. Opposing viewpoints are voiced with conviction, but also within an atmosphere of civility that, considering our current state of politics, appears to be a dying art.

Mother

Young Mother     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                     I was lucky to catch this young woman before her children ran over to give her hugs and leave their bulky coats on her lap.

In fact, in affirmation and endorsement of such courteous behavior, Vermont Town Meetings open with a Civil Invocation.*   We are lucky across this state; Town Meeting Day is an occasion to witness and participate in the very essence of community.

Packed-Bleachers

Packed Bleachers     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                   The chairs on the gym floor were filled with attentive community members, as were the bleachers that were pulled out on either side of the room.

And, not to be discounted, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to bring a sketchpad and get in some drawing practice.

Select-Board

Select Board     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

*Civil Invocation: “Welcome to Town Meeting. We have come together in civil assembly, as a community, in a tradition that is older than our state itself. We come together to make decisions about our community. As we deliberate, let us advocate for our positions, but not at the expense of others. Let us remember that there is an immense gap between saying ‘I am right’ and saying ‘I believe I am right.’ And that our neighbors with whom we disagree are good people with hopes and dreams as true and as high as ours. And let us always remember that, in the end, caring for each other, in this community, is of far greater importance than any difference we may have. Welcome.”

Knitters

Knitters     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                             These two ladies were knitting non-stop, side-by-side as the discussions progressed.