Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cafe Sketching

Gearing up for the move back to NYC and the initiation into the New York Academy, I'm prepping, packing and planning. In the midst of all the changes, I still make time for a few minutes a day of cafe sketching...sometimes more than just a few minutes.

Below is a 5 minute pen & ink sketch from an air conditioned cafe in Harvard Square today, a nice respite from the 98 degree heat and humidity. The lighting wasn't great but the Ginger Lemonade was amazing and the subjects seemed to intrigue me enough to pull out the sketchbook.

Generally these ink sketches are done in 1-5 minutes using an antique fountain pen with a 14 karat gold flexible nib made by Waterman. A couple of minutes is just enough time to make the clear statement I wish to make about a given subject. Once I start the drawing and the person inevitably moves, changes position completely or gets up and leaves, I wait for them to shift back or re-express whatever it was that first struck me...I then attempt to stay true to the memory of the first thing that caught my attention. If they get up and leave, someone sits in the way or they just change position too much, the sketch is done. 

Sometimes it's just a fleeting expression that moves me, sometimes it's the way the light falls on the brow or the upper lip, sometimes it's a body posture or an interesting angle...sometimes when everything aligns, it's all of the above. Once the energy of the moment is passed, I cease working on that sketch...only then do I feel I have captured an accurate record of that particular moment. If I lose sight of the original inspiration and / or the actual subject leaves but I continue to work on the sketch, 99% of the time it loses whatever "truth" was there to begin with, if at all.

So it's an exercise in awareness, precision, speed, sensitivity, patience and unobtrusive observation,
among other things...and of course, occasionally an exercise in sharing interesting conversation or avoiding a potentially awkward one.

I'll be posting more cafe sketches and thoughts on such throughout the summer and, naturally, after I arrive in NYC.

Stay tuned!

5 Minute Pen and Ink Sketch - Cafe Crema, Harvard Square • 6-20-2012 •  ©Ian Factor


  1. Ian - I just REALLY enjoyed reading your blog entries and seeing your amazing images. I'm in awe, as I've always been (for almost 30 years... wait is that possible?).
    Warmest wishes on this incredible new chapter ahead!!! Sophie

  2. Sophie! So wonderful to hear from you, thanks so much for reading through the entries and for your warm and kind words and wishes. How can it be almost 30 years when we're only 25?!? Impossible!
    Your note made my day, thank you!!!