Tiffany Little

‘commuter-unity’ what a difference a doodle makes

when the music stops

My plight is a dire one—having just lurched through the doors of my train home with seconds to spare my headphones are struck dumb; my phone has died, silencing spotify and my ipod is AWOL—just how am I expected to survive the commute home? You, like I, have been here before; in desperate need of a distraction for the next 45 minutes or so. Sometimes a hastily stowed book in my bag or an abandoned paper will prove a useful companion but not today, today is different. Today I doodle.

That didn’t just occur to me out of the blue. I’d committed myself to a ‘draw a day’ challenge for February, but suddenly found the month was mostly over and I had nothing to show for it. Disappointed, I decided right there and then, while spared of any other distractions, that I would make a start. So began an exercise in very purposeful procrastination: doodling an assortment of shapes; some eyes; pylons; fictional faces… I was bored senseless within minutes and hated everything. Then I noticed the boots of a guy sitting opposite me.

these boots are made for…drawing?

Not particularly exciting as far as boots go; plain, well worn, a bit dust-coated with a few splashes of paint but there was something about them. Absent mindedly, I sketched them. Then the face of their owner. Then the man that was hunkered down in his many layers, dozing next to him, followed by the chap that filled his seat when he awoke and hurriedly jumped up to catch his stop.

Fast forward a fortnight and I’m hooked—up to 25 sketches and counting. I seat myself in the same carriage, the same time each evening, ready to capture likenesses of my fellow commuters, half expecting to be caught out at any moment! So far no one has challenged me. Then again, most don’t notice. I prefer drawing those who are oblivious to their surroundings; absorbed in tablets, phones and papers, not because it is easier but somehow, more meaningful.

the art of connection

My passion for online communities stems directly for my enthusiasm for making real, valuable connections with people, something that comes naturally to me. For some who struggle, the internet can provide solace; a peer group that isn’t tethered to a physical location… yet staring at the 11 people out of 13 in the carriage using some form of device, I notice ironically that while we immerse ourselves in these wonderful online cultures we may be further isolating ourselves from those around us.

And, if I feel the nature of community has been transformed by the internet, it’s a transformation that began with travel. In the past people were brought together by necessity relevant to their locale, we now get to pick and choose…don’t like your neighbourhood? Travel to one you do, find the place, people and scene where you belong.

The commute then begets a community of its own; more often or not I see the same faces each day and in the next year I’ll spend just over 1 week of my life in their company. In a bizzarre paradox we come together each day in the process of separate pursuits, without so much as exchanging eye contact. ‘Commuter-unity’.

These musings have transformed what started as a means to pass time into something much more interesting. Sure, having access to dozens of life models has helped me refine my techniques, teaching me the fundamentals of life drawing in a pressure-free and fast paced environment but, more importantly, it is helping me collect my thoughts on the themes I want to focus on as I progress artistically.

I’m so glad that guy was wearing interesting shoes.

train doodles
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