Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Day 1 - passion more or less

Anyone remember the late Stanley Green? He paraded up and down Oxford Street in all weathers with his banner: 'LESS PASSION FROM LESS PROTEIN: LESS FISH MEAT BIRD CHEESE EGG: PEAS BEANS, NUTS and SITTING.' Then he would wobble off home on his bike along the North Circular, never exuding good health.

Today I felt I could become another human landmark, spending the rest of my life drawing on this tidal stretch below the Westway which flips from deserted to busy in seconds. Unlike Mr Green, I have no message.

So. My friend Julia and I took out our sketchbooks. Julia produced an exemplary pen and ink study of the houses opposite which was much admired by passers by. 

I thought I would tout for sitters. I tried a man working in the second-hand furniture shop on the corner. He was embarrassed for me. I gave up and left it to chance.

A woman walked by with a packet of fags and a pint of milk. She stopped for a chat and a throaty laugh and I did a two-minute pencil sketch including the health warning on the fags; she asked me to make the fact that the bottle contained milk clearer so I wrote MILK on it. She took the drawing and offered me a couple of quid. I refused and she gave me two hugs. She is called Eleanor.

Horn Head cycled up in a black baseball cap to check us out. He is a graffiti artist of great charm. He drew me his identifier and promised to come and draw with us. 

A woman with a pink crutch said Eleanor had told her someone was drawing people. I did another two-minute portrait and said that her eyes were beautiful. She said no one had told her that before. She quoted the saying that the eyes were the windows to the soul. She offered me reiki in return for the picture. She is Doreen: she is an MBE and runs a supplementary school.

Julia left to keep an appointment. I sprinted home for a winter coat and filled its pockets with raisins and BabyBel cheeses.

Little human constellations formed and re-formed. Lone smokers, agitated phone-callers, hand-holding tourists, dazed street locals, a school crocodile. A man stuffed his shirt into his trousers and pulled them up front and back. He saw me sketching him and glared. A couple taking photographs of the rain photographed me drawing them.

A man lugging a black zip-up suitcase fell forwards very slowly then managed to sit slumped against a pillar. Two policemen approached him. I felt it was not appropriate to draw the man but sketched the police. Then the man lay down with his face in his hands. 'You can't sleep here,' said a policeman. My heart hardened and I included the man because of the beauty of the groupings as he lay, or knelt, or spread out his palms in appeal. More police appeared; they put on gloves.

'What's in the case?' asked a policeman. 'Open it, please.' Over and over again. 

Kneeling, the man opened the suitcase and slowly picked out paperbacks. I couldn't see the titles. His trousers were loose and as he stood up for a paramedic his naked buttocks appeared. 

Thick pencil on thick A4 paper - I am not pleased with my drawings today. 

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