Have you ever tried to draw while your pages are gently splattered by the spray of a water pistol? Me neither, until last week.
Here in the UK, we’ve had an unusually consistent, hot summer, and for residents of Brighton, one obvious place to find some relief is at our new playground, the Level, where, every half an hour, fountains spurt up from the paving slabs.
They run for thirty minutes, and then, in some sort of energy-saving or equipment-protecting policy, they disappear again.
You can tell when they start up, because there’s a ragged cheer and children run from every other part of the playground. Toddlers walk blithely through the columns of water; cheeky kids figure out how to obstruct part of its exit so that it squirts violently in unpredictable directions; hot kids just stand blissfully on top of a fountain and let it soak them to the skin.
As a sketcher, it’s a blessing of a subject but also an immense challenge. Kids, especially excited ones, never stop moving. And it was hot, which makes one feel lazy.
My friend Giuseppe – who happens to be an art teacher – and I sat in the only bit of shade, and we had a go at sketching anyway.
I gave up on the actual children pretty early, and started drawing the adults around the periphery of the area instead – they were far more likely to stay still (well, relatively speaking.. under normal circumstances I’m sure I would have been complaining that they were moving too, but compared to the comet-like accelerations of the children, they might have been statues).
Afterwards, Giuseppe said that what he liked best were my small sketches showing parts of children before they had moved off. I looked at his sketchbook, and he’d managed much more complete compositions, including the actual fountains themselves – quite a different approach.
I think if I’d been less lazy that day, I could have made some composite children that wouldn’t have represented any single one of the kids who were really in front of us, but which took some generic stances and movements and put them together. Hmm, maybe next time.
Meanwhile, back at home, I have been doing some first exploratory character sketches in watercolour, for a children’s book idea.