While I was drawing this I heard a noise and turned and saw a woman standing behind me, her hands on her hips.
‘Hi,’ she said as I paused my podcast* and took my earbuds out.
‘Are you drawing that place because of the grass?’
‘No,’ I said looking back over at the house, ‘I’m drawing it because I like the colour of it and the way the light falls on it…the dappled light…the path and the wrought iron.’
‘Oh,’ said the woman, who looked to be about 75, and was wearing beige slacks and a grey sweater with a pattern of burgundy diamonds on the front of it, ‘well it’s very very good.’
‘Thanks a lot.’ I said, looking down at the drawing and frowning as if I’d never seen it before in my life.
Then, not knowing what else to say, and hoping that shortly I could go back to my drawing and podcast, I asked her if she lived in the neighbourhood.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘right behind you, honey.’
Then she laughed, and so did I.
Then there was some silence, so I filled it by saying-
‘I’ll be finished in about an hour and a half. Come back then if you want to see it finished.’
‘Alright honey,’ she said, turning to walk away, ‘I will.’
About 25 minutes later I heard a mans voice over the sound of my podcast and I looked up to see a smiling man and a girl standing there looking down at me and my drawing.
‘Woah,’ the man said as I paused my podcast and took my earbuds out, ‘that’s really good, you really got the light.’
I said thank you, and then the man told me that the girl liked to draw too.
‘Do you?’ I said to the girl who looked to be about 11 years old, was wearing a startlingly yellow hoodie, braided hair and carrying a school bag.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘but I can’t draw like that.’
I told her she would be able to if she practiced.
Then we chatted a bit more about drawing, my accent, their neighbourhood and the girl’s talents, until they left and I went back to my podcast and house.
It was around 10 minutes later when I heard a noise behind me and I turned to see the girl again, accompanied this time by a young woman.
‘Woah,’ said the young woman, as I again paused my podcast and took my earbuds out, ‘that’s amazing.’
I said thank you and the girl, who had several Celtic tattoos on her upper arms, told me she liked to draw.
‘Aliens.’ she told me when I asked her what she had recently drawn.
I asked her if she was taking art classes at school, and she told me she wasn’t at school, that she was working at an animal welfare society.
‘I work with dogs and cats,’ she told me, and laughed, ‘and rabbits, sometimes horses.’
‘Nice job,’ I said, smiling up at her.
Then she said she had to go.
‘It was nice talking to you.’ she said, and I said you too, and waved to the small girl, who waved back, and then I put my earbuds back in and went back to drawing and listening to my podcast.
About 5 minutes later I heard a mans voice over the sound of my podcast and I looked up to see a smiling man dressed in grey sports clothes, sunglasses and a golfing cap looking down at me.
I paused my podcast and took my earbuds out and smiled up at the man.
‘Hello,’ he said, ‘I’m sorry to disturb you but that’s a beautiful drawing.’
I told him thank you and he told me that I had captured the light, and I said thank you again, and then he told me he was terrible at drawing, but that his wife was good at art, but that he was good at golf.
I told him I was terrible at golf, that I had only played once.
‘It didn’t get you hooked?’ he asked me.
‘No,’ I said, ‘it’s a dreadful game, I don’t think I even made 3 holes.’
He laughed and asked me where my accent was from.
‘Australia,’ I said, ‘have you been?’
‘Yes,’ he told me, ‘I went to Sydney, I loved it there, beautiful.’
‘I’m from Melbourne,’ I lied.
Then the man held out his hand and said- ‘My name is Gregory.’
‘Gregory,’ I said, ‘I don’t want to shake your hand because my hands are filthy.’
But Gregory didn’t care and he shook my hand.
Then, after I told him my name, has asked me if I would do a drawing of his house.
‘Sure,’ I said, ‘Not this week, though, but next week for sure.’
‘It’ll be for my wife.’ he said.
‘Then he told me the number of his house and I put it in my phone and said I would leave a note on his door once I had done the house.
‘Okay,’ he said, and smiled.
I smiled back at him and he said he should let me get back to my drawing and good bye and so I put my earbuds back in, turned my podcast on and went back to my drawing.
About 10 minutes later I looked up from my drawing to see Gregory standing there with a smiling woman.
I paused my podcast and said hello.
‘Hello again,’ said Gregory, ‘I hope you don’t mind, this is my wife.’
‘Hello,’ I said, as Gregory’s wife held out her hand toward me.
‘I don’t think you want to shake my hand,’ I said, ‘it’s filthy.’
I tried to fist-bump her, but she laughed and said she didn’t mind shaking, so we shook hands.
‘My name is Helen,’ she said, and laughed.
I laughed too, and then Helen told me she liked my drawing and that she had studied art at college and that she wished she still drew.
Then we talked about pastels.
‘These are soft pastels,’ I told her, ‘they’re perfect because there’s no waiting, they’re instantly workable.’
I made some marks on a spare piece of black paper with a pastel I was holding and then sprayed some fixative on it.
‘Watch this.’ I said to Helen, and then I drew over the layer of the fixed pastel, showing her that I’d made layers of still vivid colours.
Helen asked to see the can of fixative.
‘You can use hairspray,’ I told her, ‘It’s cheaper but it tends to have splodges of oil in it which can spoil your drawing.’
Then we talked about an art store we both knew: a place on La Cienega that Gregory calls the Costco of art supplies.
‘You can spend a fortune in there on stuff you didn’t know you wanted.’ he said.
We laughed at this and then Helen said it was lovely to meet me and that she was looking forward to the portrait of their house and Gregory put out his hand again for shaking.
For a few moments I watched them walk away and then, when I felt it was safe, I put my earbuds back in and started my podcast up, but it was only about 5 minutes until I was interrupted again, this time by the woman who’d spoken to me just after I’d started drawing.
‘Do you mind if I take a photo for my neighbour,’ she’d said, holding her phone out in front of her, ‘might encourage her to water her grass more often.’
*Today’s Podcast: Atlanta Monster, a podcast about Wayne Williams, serial killer