Purple-ish greys in this sketch.

I occasionally paint on the train on my way home, so much so that by now I sort of plan to do it as I think about when I might have the opportunity to paint. So how does this painting aboard a train work?

  1. You need a small sketching kit. I have a Moleskine sketchbook, two big bulldog clips to prevent buckling when the paper is wet, a pencil, ink liners, a kneaded eraser, a waterbrush, a cloth to wipe the brush on and a set of 12 half-pans of watercolours. All of it fits in a small cotton bag.
  2. This really only works in open-plan train coaches. I personally wouldn’t sketch if someone was sitting right next to me, so I always try to have two seats for myself.
  3. Look around you to see what you see and decide who or what makes for an interesting and doable little sketch. You can spot the peeps in front of you through the gap between seats, as I did in this sketch.
  4. This  might sound weird (or weirder than the previous sentence even) but if the coach if relatively empty, find a seat near another passenger. Otherwise you don’t have many options and end up painting your hand. Or your backpack. Which is also good, but you don’t need to be on the train to do that.
  5. I sketch the person in question in pencil, then use ink for more interesting lines, then I erase the pencil lines, clip my palette to the sketchbook and apply watercolour. Usually all of this only takes about 30 minutes maximum.

Especially on transregional trains, people settle in cosily for a long journey. They read or watch a movie or sleep, all of which means that they don’t move a lot. This makes long distance travellers wonderful subjects to paint.

Some of the sketches produced on the train are dull or just a bit off but that’s ok. They’re sketches, after all, and making them is a wonderful way to capture a moment – even if that moment is a tiny bit dull 🙂