Tag Archives: New Jersey

Trains, Planes and People Watching on the NJT

18 Oct

Ink drawing: people-watching on the NJT.

Trains are great places for drawing because you can settle down in relative comfort and people are generally static for a reasonable time often dozing or absorbed in books or conversation. These are two drawings I did on one of my USA visits, travelling regularly between New York City and Princeton on the New Jersey Transit [NJT]. The drawings are done with Faber Castell Pitt pens into an A6 Cotman sketchbook which is a nice easy size for carrying around and has good quality paper. I think the woman with the large earrings knew I was drawing her.


Ink drawing: Train Talk on the NJT.

The NJT was always very crowded, whatever time of day or night I travelled, possibly because it stopped at Newark airport, which is really cool and has a monorail to take you from the station to the terminals. I got really absorbed in drawing the chap standing up, the way his hand grasped the rail and also the baggage which made interesting shapes. The trains had these weird seats in pale caramel leathery material. They could be swivelled round to face the other way so groups of four people could sit together.


Scribbling USA: the Haves and the Have-nots.

9 Sep

Ink drawing: asleep at 34th Penn.

I’ll scribble anywhere and platforms on the tube are great because you can often get crowd scenes and people tend to stay reasonably still. When I went to New York City I sketched on the subway – loads of homeless people sleep down there and you could find them tucked away at all hours and sometimes former homeless subway people collected on the trains for charity. I saw these two young men one day sleeping at 34th Penn station, their bodies adopting the same position.


Ink drawing: Large woman from the NJT.


Trains are good because there are captive subjects and if you’re lucky you can sit down too. I stayed in New Jersey and travelled in to NYC on the New Jersey Transit [NJT], which had these odd seats that you could turn round so they were either seating a twosome or a foursome. I tried speed sketching when we pulled into stations and caught this woman standing on the platform. I don’t often get the chance to draw someone of this size and it was interesting to see how her lower body hung down over her legs. It may seem voyeuristic but I guess that’s something we artists have to come to terms with. I found the difference between the haves and have-nots very pronounced on my USA visits and I think you can see that in these two drawings.

Bauhaus and the Bates Motel in New Jersey

6 Sep

Ink drawing: the Bauhaus apartment.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit friends based at the Princeton University Institute of Advanced Studies in the USA. I was expecting New Jersey to be a cross between a Bruce Springsteen song and The Sopranos but I had a surprise because it was beautiful. The university campus is an odd mix of all sorts of architectural periods; rich benefactors endow buildings and seem to prefer historic styles, even to having mature trees transplanted in front of their buildings so they look very old and well-established instead of newbuild faux Victorian or whatever. I’m a keen gardener so I know how hard it is to keep a large transplanted tree alive and to stop it from falling over. That’s REAL money.

Our friends had a wonderful Bauhaus style apartment in a development of similar units set in parkland. The layout was a piece of brilliant modern open-plan design, spacious and airy with a vacuum cleaner that sucked dust into the cavity wall. Cool. We’re so used to modern architecture that it’s easy to forget that how revolutionary this stuff was when it was first built and this complex is one of the best examples I have seen.

While I was there my friends drove me up to visit the Printmaking Centre of New Jersey, about 45 minutes through beautiful Autumn countryside that reminded me of Powys back home except the houses were mostly made from wood. Eventually a tall rickety wooden building came into view that resembled Bates’ Motel from the film Psycho. It was the printmaking centre and it looked very sinister. I told my friends but as they’re Danish and Pakistani, they didn’t get the cultural reference and thought it was quaint. It spooked me out at first but inside is lovely with loads of printmaking facilities and a gallery.

I did this ink drawing in my sketchbook of Melvyn, my husband, looking out of the Bauhaus apartment through the large picture window onto the parkland in Princeton. You can see electrical cables clearly; I was surprised to see so many wherever we went; most cabling in Britain is buried. It was also the first place that I saw black squirrels, but they’ve now arrived in the UK.



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