30. My Friends and I Really Love Art

While I was drawing this a woman came out of the house behind me and, on hearing her over the top of my podcast*, I took out my earbuds to listen to what she had to say.
‘Wow,’ she said, ‘wow, that’s really beautiful.’
I said thank you to her and she asked me if I was drawing it for the people who lived in the house.
‘No, I just go about the place drawing houses.’ I said, and I went on to tell her about my hundred houses project.
‘What number is this?’ She asked me and I told her it was number 30.
‘Do you do other kinds of art too,’ she asked, ‘like big things?’
I told the woman, who had her hair pulled tightly back and was wearing shorts, Nike trainers and a pink tee shirt with the words of an educational establishment across the front, that I did big things, and waited for her to tell me what kind of big things she meant.
But she didn’t.
Instead she said- ‘You know because me and my friends we like art.’
‘Oh, okay,’ I said, ‘would you like me to give you my website address so you can have a look at what I do?’
The woman said yes, and I gave her my name and number, which she put into her phone.
Just then, I heard a man’s voice calling from the woman’s house, and I turned around.
‘Shawana!’ I heard the man call out.
But I could not hear the rest of what he said, as Shawana had turned and was yelling something back to him.
After a few moments their discussion finished and Shawana turned back to me and told me she would be in touch, and I said fine and we said our goodbyes and I went back to my podcast, slightly challenged at having to draw around the car that had been parked in front of the house about 20 minutes before by a grinning woman who had exited it carrying a coffee in her left hand while waving at me with the right.

Today’s podcast- Karina Longworth, You Must Remember This: Hollywood Babylon, D.W Griffith and the Gish Sisters.

27. Joseph Campbell

24While I was drawing this a handsome dark-haired man wearing a dark tee shirt, dark jeans, sunglasses and leading 2 dogs; one small and beige, the other large and dark brown, passed by on the corner and stopped and started up a conversation.
’What are you doing?’ he asked me, ‘You sitting there drawing?’
’Yes,’ I replied, ‘I’ve only just started.’
’Cool,’ he said, ‘I wish I could do that. I can’t draw a thing.’
I laughed but said nothing because this lack-of-talent lament is what I hear from most people, and I don’t care to challenge it.
’So,’ he went on, ‘are you drawing it for the people who live in the house?’
’No,’ I said, ‘it’s for my own project. I’m drawing a hundred houses.’
’Cool,’ he said again, ‘How many do you have?’
’Um,’ I said, ‘this will be 25.’
’Cool,’ he said, nodding his head up and down, ‘awesome.’
’Yeh,’ I said, ‘and while I’m drawing if anyone stops to talk to me I write a story about them, so if no one more interesting than you talks to me today, then you’re it.’
The man laughed.
’Well make sure to tell them I’m reading Joseph Campbell.’ he said, holding up a fat book and waving it all around, which startled his dogs.
’Okay.’ I said, ‘I will.’
’Are you familiar?’ the man asked me, and I said very vaguely, that I might have heard the name.
’Well,’ he said, ‘he’s like this awesome philosopher, totally rad thinker, totally changed the world for me. Like, he talks about how Greek mythology, like Daphne and Zeus and all those Gods, they’re totally about us, and like how we don’t want to grow up, and that’s like why the planet’s like totally fucked up.’
’Is he a conspiracy theorist?’ I asked him, thinking he’s some YouTube crackpot.
’No,’ said the handsome chap, ‘he’s more like a philosopher, and like, you know, a psychologist, you know.’
’Okay,’ I said, ‘well, I will check him out.’
’Yeh, right on!’ the man said
And then he said okay, that he was going to keep on walking and I said okay, and that he could stop by on his way back if he liked.
’I might just do that.’ he called out, waving and leading his dogs away, ‘If we walk back this way later on.’

Today’s music: Spotify All Out 70s Playlist.

26. Secret

24While I was drawing this a person in the house next door to the one I was drawing came out to the front of his house, and with some kind of mechanised trimming machine, trimmed the grass at the edge of his driveway.
I turned my podcast* up, to block out the noise, and then watched him for a bit while he trimmed the grass edge at the front of his house.
Then he moved to the garden of the house I was drawing and trimmed the grass at the edge of their driveway and the grass at the edge of their sidewalk.
After he had finished he stood, briefly, on the driveway of the house I was drawing and made a phone call, and I wondered if he was calling the owners of the house to report me.
Then, well after he’d stopped pushing his machine around the grass and I had stopped paying attention to him, I saw him reverse out of his driveway, in a dark blue SUV, and drive away.
Then a good while later he returned, and so knowing he would be curious and probably tell the neighbours about a mystery stranger sitting in front of their house with an easel, I walked across the street to talk to him.
‘Hello?’ I called to him, as I walked up his drive with the finished drawing in my hand, ‘You clearly know the people who live in this house.’
‘Yes,’ said the man who was wearing beige rugby-style shirt, pleated blue trousers and a sunhat like Gilligan from Gilligan’s island wore, ‘I do, yes I do.’
‘Well,’ I said to him, ‘I’ve been drawing the house and I’m going to leave it on the porch there, rolled up, so perhaps you could keep an eye out and make sure she’s picked it up.’
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I saw you there and wondered what you were doing.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘It’s a present for Maggie from her sister, Annie, who commissioned me to do it, but it’s a secret, so please don’t tell her before she comes out and gets it.’
The man said Oh I see, and smiled and shook his head.
‘Okay, thanks,’ I said as I walked across the driveway to Maggie’s house to leave the drawing, ‘And I hope you can keep a secret.’
The man laughed and said he could and I smiled and said thank you and gave him a little wave as I walked back down the driveway to put the rest of my drawing equipment in my car.

Todays podcast: The Daily – ‘Charm City,’ Part 5: What’s Behind the Black Box?

24. I Suppose It’s Creative

BED686E9-970A-4446-9259-B4421AC92D04While I was drawing this a woman and a boy drove off from the house behind where I was sitting, and about 15 minutes later the woman returned alone, and came and stood by me and started talking to me.
I took my earbuds* out and said hello and she told me how much she liked my drawing.
‘Do you live there?’ she asked me looking toward the house, and I told her no.
‘Are you doing it for money?’ she said and I told her no again, and then as briefly as humanly possible, I told her about my hundred houses project and told her that she would be today’s story.
‘Oh, oops,’ she said, followed by ‘I should get out and do some drawing, but I…’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘do you do some art?’
The woman, who was twirling her car keys and wearing what looked to be track pants, a flimsy tee shirt and bare feet, told me that she had done art a long time ago, but that now she worked on Photoshop, inside.
‘So I suppose it’s like…you know,… creative.’ she said.
‘These are soft pastels,’ I told her, ‘have you ever used them?’
The woman said no, but that she would like to.
‘You should try them,’ I told her, holding one up toward her, ‘you have to get really good ones, though, and really good fixative.’
‘I’ve never drawn on black,’ she said, nodding toward my paper, ‘that’s a good idea.’
Then she told me about a friend of hers who painted on trash, and who had then done an exhibition of made up album covers, and that Spike Jonze had come to his exhibition.
‘Michael Stipe came, too.’ she told me.
‘Oh,’ I said, a feeling of minor envy rising, ‘nice.’
‘Must be great to, you know, just… follow your dream.’ she said to me, ‘Do you draw all day?’
‘No,’ I told her, ‘I’m only up to number 22.’
Then I told her about my ‘day job’, and how and where I live, and that it allowed me time to draw, and she said oh that must be cool.
And then I asked her what she did in Photoshop.
‘I create layers, and colours, and you know, backgrounds so I suppose it’s… creative.’ she said, still twirling her keys, ‘but it’s not like what you do.’
‘But what’s it for?’ I asked her, and she told me it was for ads, mainly, and that once upon a time she used to come home covered in acrylics, and the bath would be covered in paint but now she uses a computer and a stylus.
‘So you went to art school?’ I said.
‘Yes.’ she said.
‘You should come drawing with me,’ I said to her, ‘I go out for a couple of hours at a time, and if you come with me you would be forced to do something.’
The woman smiled and asked me my name.
I told her my name and she held out her hand and I shook it and she told me her name, and then I told her my number while she put it in her phone, knowing full well she’d never call me, let alone come drawing with me.

Today’s podcast: Classic Desert Island Discs- Victoria Wood

23. Can I Help You?

21While I was drawing this a woman came out and stood in the driveway, hands on her hips, and stared at me for a few, maybe 20, seconds.
I wanted to wave to her, but the idea of her coming over to talk to me and me having to explain to her what I was doing: telling the same story about my hundred houses project, was more than I could bear, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.
Eventually she dropped her arms and turned and walked away, and I put my eardbuds* in and got to work.
About 20 minutes later, a man reversed down the driveway behind me in a black SUV, stopped just before the road and leaned his head out of the window and asked me a question.
‘Can I help you?’ he said, his face expressionless, his voice authoritarian, like a government official with a small amount of power but a big head.
‘No,’ I said to him, sitting there on the kerb on the edge of his land, ‘I’m just sitting here drawing the house across the road.’
Then I heard something I’d call a delighted squeal and a woman leaned forward from the passenger seat and smiled at me and gave me a little wave.
I returned the smile and wave, and then the man, who was wearing a black cowboy hat and had a little goatee beard and spoke with some style of Southern accent, smiled and told me to have a nice day and finished his reversal out of the driveway and drove off down the road.
I sat there for a moment, watching them drive off and thought about him asking me if he could help me, when what he really meant (from a primal perspective) was why are you on my territory, stranger, and are you here to kill me and my breeder and steal my fire stick.

*Today’s podcast: Desert Island Discs- Kirsty Young with Annie Lennox

21. The Wife

19While I was drawing this, the man from the house behind where I was sitting came out to ask what I was doing.
‘Drawing,’ I told him, taking my earbuds* out and smiling up at him, ‘I go around the place drawing pictures.’
I asked him if he had an issue with me sitting in his gutter and he said no.
The man didn’t seem to have much more to say to me, so he didn’t say anything, just goodbye and went inside.
An hour or so later the man came outside again and called to a man who was arriving in a pickup truck.
‘I’ll move my car out of the driveway and you can put it in here.’ he said to the man in the pick up.
Then the man reversed his car out of the driveway, all the way across the street, and parked right in front of the house I was drawing.
I watched him for a minute or so, thinking he would drive forward, considering that he knew I was there drawing the house.
But he didn’t.
Instead he got out of his car, locked it, and walked across the street toward me.
‘I’m going to have a bit of difficulty finishing my drawing now that you’ve parked your car there,’ I said, in a light-hearted jokey way, thinking that he would probably slap his head and say ‘Oops, sorry about that’ and trot back across the road to move his car.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he walked straight toward me, and as he passed he said- Sorry, I’ve got the electrician here and I didn’t plan on you being here this morning.’
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I just stared at the man’s car: a dark coloured SUV- type thing, which now obscured the house from the driveway to the start of the living room window.
After a few minutes I felt myself get angry, and I was just deciding that I would get my revenge by posting the man’s house and street number in this story, when a woman came out of the house with some keys in her hand and said, quietly and sweetly: ‘Would you like me to move my husband’s car?’
I smiled at her and said yes, and she crossed the street and reversed the car so that I had an almost full view of the house again.
Then the woman, who was wearing shorts and a grey tshirt with the word ‘Hawaii’ across the front, crossed the street again and began talking to me.
Firstly she apologized for her husband, and I told her I understood: that he was most likely stressed because he had an issue in the house as he had an electrician in.
Then she asked me where I was from and I told her I was Australian, but that I had lived in the UK for many years, and she told me that she had always wanted to go to Australia, but had never had the chance.
‘And I love your accent.’ she told me.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Everybody does. I could get away with murder with this accent.
Then the woman told me how much she liked my drawing and asked me what medium it was.
‘Pastel.’ I said, and then I told her of my hundred house project and we talked for a while about drawing.
And then, when I asked if she drew, or painted she told me that she had once, but that now she didn’t have time for much as she was caring for her elderly mother who was very poorly.
‘I used to work as an Ayurvedic practitioner,’ she told me, ‘and alternative therapies, but I gave it up. Too much money and it became all about how much money we could get out of celebrity clients.’
Then she explained that she’d designed and planted the garden along the side of her house: a beautiful garden in well balanced muted tones that looked like it was planted for maximum water efficiency.
‘Are you a garden designer?’ I asked the woman, whose pixie haircut I was coveting, ‘Is that your job?’
‘No,’ she said, ‘I used to work for a company that designs, but I had to give it up because of my mum.’
Then we talked for a while about doing lots of different kinds of work, and I explained to that I had tattooed briefly for a living, that I had once been a creative director, that I had shuffled wallpaper rolls in a hardware store, and that the job I was doing now I had no real qualifications for.
‘Thing about the USA that I’ve learned,’ I said, ‘is you really can be whatever you want to be. You could get a business card printed saying you were anything, apart from an astronaut or a neurosurgeon and people would throw money at you.’
The woman thought for a moment, and then laughed.
‘Actually,’ I say, ‘with my accent they’d probably hand me a scalpel.’

Today’s music: playlist I made on Spotify, featuring Supertramp, Bruce Springsteen,Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Loudon Wainright III, Amy Winehouse, Annie Lennox and AWOLNATION.

20. Leah


While I was drawing this, a young man dressed completely in denim, and wearing an Olivia Newton John-style sweatband from the ‘Physical’ era, stopped right in front of me and began to question me about what medium I favoured for drawing.
‘Pastels. I told him, taking out my earbuds* and looking up at him and smiling.
‘Are they soft or oil?’ he said, and surprised that he would know the difference, I told him soft.
Then he came around to my side and looked down at my drawing.
‘Wow!’ he said.
‘I’m only about half way through,’ I told him, ‘I have a fair bit left to do.’
‘I’d take it just as it is,’ he said, ‘It’s awesome.’
Thanks I told him, as he stood there nodding his head up and down and saying ‘yeh, yeh’ softly.
‘Okay,’ he said, finally, ‘I’ll let you get back to it.’
‘Okay, thanks.’ I said, and I smiled at him.
‘Awesome,’ he said, smiling at me and waving good bye, ‘yeh, awesome!’

Today’s podcast: Anne-Marie Duff | Desert Island Discs

18. Your House’s Story


While I was drawing this I was so engrossed that it took me quite a while to realise there was a man standing behind me, until I heard his voice over the top of my music*.
‘How do you choose the houses you draw?’ he said to me when I took my earbuds out and looked up at him.
‘I drive around until I find one I like,’ I said, ‘and this one has good light, and it’s white, and the plants stand out.’
‘Uh-huh.’ he said.
Not knowing what else to say, I squinted and said- ‘Do you know who lives there?’
‘I do.’ he said, looking right down at me, without expression.
‘Ooooh, I see!’ I said, surprised by his unexpected response, ‘It’s a lovely house.’
‘I know.’ he said, without a smile.
‘What is it, 60s, or something?’ I asked him.
‘No,’ said the man, who was wearing a baseball cap, greyed beard, glasses, jeans and shirt, and a piece of soft blue cloth draped around his neck, ‘1948.’
‘Were they built for returning servicemen, then?’ I asked him, and he told me no, they weren’t, that they were built by a developer who ran out of money.
‘There’s a park behind the houses where there should have been more houses.’ he said.
As we talked I continued to draw while the man gave me some more information on the development of the tract houses: the names of streets and so on.
Then he told me how beautiful my drawing was, and then told me he had no idea how to draw.
‘I could teach you,’ I told him, ‘in just a few lessons you’d be surprised how good you’d be. It’s like a recipe, you know, learning to put things together the right way.’
‘I’m sure it is.’ he said.
I presume you’re retired,’ I said to him, ‘so you’ve probably got the time.’
He made a little huff of a laugh.
‘Ha!’ he said, ‘All the time in the world but not the money.’
I was about to tell him I would teach him for free, just for the challenge of it and to show him I was right, but he got in before before me, telling me about the woman living in the house behind where I was sitting, and that he was surprised she hadn’t been out to talk to me.
‘Would she be grumpy that I’m sitting in her gutter?’ I asked him.
He made a little huff-laugh again and said no, that she was an artist and would probably want to have a look at what I was doing.
Then, because there was a bit of silence and I wanted to be alone with my drawing, I tried to wind up the conversation by telling him about my hundred houses project.
‘Only 86 to go.’ he said, and we’d both laughed, and then I took his email address so I could invite him to my hundred houses exhibition.
And then we said goodbye and he’d started to walk back across the street to his home.
‘And, oh,’ I called out to him as he was half way across, ‘I write a little story about the people I talk to while I draw, and today you’ll be your house’s story.’

Today’s music: Amy Winehouse Back to Black

17. Heating


While I was drawing this, a woman with long hair, and glasses, and holding a postcard for an estate agent, crossed the road and stood off to the side of me, and asked me how it was that I had chosen this house to draw.
‘Is it your house?’ I asked her, pausing my podcast*, and she said yes it was, so I went on to explain how I chose.
‘I choose them because of their light or colour, and the garden, or the style,’ I said looking up at her from my position on the edge of the gutter, ‘or for a bit of sunlight for me to sit in.’
Then we talked for a few moments about my drawing, and I asked the woman if her house was built in the 60s.
The woman said yes it was, and that there were a few more of this style in this street and neighbouring streets.
‘That house over there has a sunken lounge,’ she told me, ‘and I think they were all designed by an Italian.’
Then we talked on a bit about the development of Los Angeles, and the architecture, and the gardens.
‘You can tell the ages of the neighbouring streets by the trees.’ she told me.
‘That makes sense.’ I said.
Then the woman told me when she had first moved into the house, that she had lived for years with winter cold.
‘When we moved in we had no heating,’ she told me, ‘and then my mother died and we got some money and so we finally got some heating.’
Then she told me that when she’d moved in she’d had trouble with the neighbours complaining about some of the plants in her garden, which she had chosen water-wisely with the environment in mind.
‘So I went to the garden centre and bought those wispy ones there.’ she told me, pointing to a waving bush being disturbed by the gusts of wind that were also disturbing me.
We chatted on for a while longer and the woman told me she was going out and wondered if I’d be here much longer, and perhaps still be here when she got back.
‘I’m about to leave,’ I told her, ‘the wind is a bit cold and I’ll finish off the rest of the garden when I go home.’
Then the woman asked me what I would do with the drawing when it was finished, and I told her about my hundred houses project and said I would send her a photo when the drawing was finished.
‘Great!’ she said.
‘My name is Leigh,’ she told me as I put her number into my phone, ‘and I’m really looking forward to seeing it when it’s finished.’
‘Bear in mind,’ I told her as I stood up and began to pack up my colours, ‘I do use some artistic license, so don’t be disappointed if the garden looks different.’
Leigh smiled and said okay.
‘I’ll put in those plants that annoy your neighbours.’ I told her, and we both laughed.

*Today’s podcast: Cold Case| Criminal