32. The Boxer

While I was drawing this a young man passed in front of me on the path leading a very large Boxer on a leash.
The young man, who looked to be between 28 and 32 and was wearing shorts and sunglasses and talking on his phone, seemed not to care that the animal had pulled him to a stop and was standing with its face about a foot away from mine.
‘Hello nice doggy,’ I said, leaning back slightly, keeping my voice chirpy and dog-friendly.
The dog didn’t wag its tail, didn’t even move: it just stood there, as if it was made of concrete, staring at me intensely with a smile on its drooling lips.
Even though the young man was deep in conversation, he must have been paying attention to the animal because he held the leash tight enough to prevent it licking, or bitting, my face .
I didn’t want to touch the dog in case it was riled to strike, so I continued with the friendly words until the young man yanked on the leash, and him and his salivating beast walked away.

Today’s podcast: Oprah’s Master Class- Alicia Keys

31. I don’t have time to do it now.

While I was drawing this a yellow taxi (Prius) pulled up to the house next to where I was sitting drawing.
I watched it for a few moments but nothing occurred: no driver got out and no passenger got in, though I did hear the raised voices of women from inside the house calling ‘We’re coming, we’re coming!’
About 15 minutes later the driver walked over and stood off to my right, looking down at me and my drawing.
I heard him say something so I took my earbuds out and said ‘Excuse me?’.
But he said nothing, just nodded and smiled.
I turned back to my drawing, and then the man, who was tall and slim, bald and wearing a white shirt, red tie, well ironed gray slacks and aviator sunglasses, spoke again.
‘Nice,’ he said, ‘very nice.’
‘Thank you.’ I said turning to him.
He asked me what it was for, and I told him about the hundred houses.
‘I’m at 31.’ I said, feeling a despair at how many I still had to go.
‘I paint,’ he said to me, ‘landscapes.’
‘Oooh really,’ I said, ‘what kind?’
‘Mainly I like mountains and trees around here,’ he told me, ‘but I don’t have much time anymore with this.’
He swept his arm around toward the taxi, as if he were a game show assistant pointing out the prizes to the contestants.
‘Do you go outside and paint?’ I asked
He told me no because of time constraints, but he took photos and painted from those.
‘What do you use?’ I said.
‘Mainly oils,’ said the man, who didn’t move, was just stood there stock still, ‘ though sometimes I do sketches in acrylics or watercolors.’
I told him I did not do oils because they took so long to dry.
And then I explained to him how the pastels worked, that I could build layer upon layer, like paint, fixing them in between, eliminating the need for pesky over night drying.
I picked up a bright yellow pastel I had been using on the bushes and made a long wide on my drawing board.
‘Look how delicious that is,’ I said, picking up the can of fixative, ‘and now I can spray and go over the top with another color.’
The man was watching intently, but not saying anything.
‘Get a good fixative,’ I said, ‘this is 36 dollars on Amazon for 6 cans. Not top of the range but very good.’
Then I demonstrated how far back to hold the can, sprayed, waited a few moments for drying, and then made some marks on my drawing so he could see the wizardry that are soft pastels.
When I looked back up the man was smiling and nodding.
Just then we heard a noise and looked over to see 2 very old women coming one after the other down the path with walkers.
‘You takin’ a picture of my neighbor’s house?’ said the 2nd woman.
‘I’m drawing it,’ I said, ‘not a photo.’
‘That’s what I said, takin’ a picture of the house.’ the woman repeated, and rather than argue with an elderly stranger, I said yes.
‘I just got a lesson.’ he said, and the women laughed,
Then he said goodbye and thank you and went to help the women.
‘I picked you up one time before, I think.’ I heard the man say to one of the women.
‘Oh?’ yeh she said without looking up at him or stopping to converse, ‘I don’t remember.’
Then the man helped the very slow old women get into the taxi, and I watched him put their walkers into the back.
I turned back to the house and my drawing, but I was interrupted again by the man who bent down in front of me, holding out his phone.
“Here,’ he said, ‘these are the roses I take photos of to draw later.’
On the screen of his camera were photos of 4 pink roses and I said ‘Nice’.
Then he swiped the screen and showed me a rather good painting of a mountain with some snow on its peak.
‘You painted this?’ I said, ‘It’s very good.’
‘Yes.’ said the man, smiling.
‘Excellent.’ I said.
‘Yes,’ said the man, ‘thank you, but I think I’ll get some pastels because oils are so slow and I don’t have time to do it now.’

Today’s podcast: Sword and Scale Episode 118, all about a very nasty guy.

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.

28. Woman in the Red SUV

While I was drawing this a woman came out of the red door and walked down the yellow brick path.
Her hair was cut in a blond bob, she was wearing a dark blue tee shirt stretched over a stomach that looked pregnant, denim shorts, and she was carrying a hand bag across her shoulder.
I could see she had car keys hanging from her hand and, without stopping, she looked over at me: a glance, really.
Just beyond the left edge of this drawing was parked a red SUV, which obscured the driveway in which must have been parked the woman’s car, because a few moments later I saw the back end of a car appear in front of the SUV, and then drive off down the road.
I went back to my drawing until about 15 minutes later when the woman drove back, this time in front of the house.
She did not, however, go into the house.
Instead she got into the red SUV, started it up and drove off, leaving me a full view of the large tree on the front lawn and the car she had originally driven off in, parked in the driveway.
For a few moments I sat there thinking about the woman, wondering if this was her house, and if it was, why she hadn’t come over to ask what I was doing.
Was she scared.
Did she not care?
Or perhaps she was the cleaner.
Or maybe she was too busy moving cars around and didn’t have the time.

Today’s podcast: You Must Remember This- Dead Blondes Part 13, Dorothy Stratten

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.

25. I Just Love Seeing Creative People

23While I was drawing this a car pulled into the driveway and an elderly woman got out, walking with a stick.
She looked back at me several times, but the angle of her mouth told me I should not wave hello.
So I went back to my drawing and podcast.
About half an hour later a short man with dark hair and moustache drove up and parked his car in the front of the house next door.
He got out of the car and, while walking up the driveway, looked over at me a few times.
I waved, but he didn’t wave back.
‘As miserable as the old woman!’ I thought to myself.
Then around 10 minutes later a large silver SUV stopped right in front of me and a woman leaned across from the driver’s side and shouted something.
Because I had my earbuds in and was listening to AC/DC with the volume way up, I had not heard what she said.
I took my earbuds out and called back to her asking her what she had said.
‘I just love seeing creative people do their thing!’ she said, a big smile on her face.
‘Thank you,’ I said smiling back at her, ‘I just love creating.’
At this we both laughed, and then the woman said, ‘I’ll let you carry on then.’ and I waved and she drove off.

Today’s playlist: AC/DC playlist, including Thunderstruck, Back in Black and You Shook Me All Night Long

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

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

16. The Old Man in the House

While I was drawing this, a couple (man and woman) walked along the footpath behind me and stopped and began to speak.
‘Ooh, let’s have a look.’ the man said.
I turned to look up at them, at their baseball caps and big round sunglasses, their polo shirts, and their grinning white faces, as they stood there looking at me down in the gutter grinning back up at them.
‘Oh, look at that,’ the man said and pointed at my drawing, ‘my, that’s pretty!’
The woman said nothing, no noise, not a nod of the head.
Only grins.
‘Is that chalk?’ he asked.
I set him straight by telling him it was soft pastel, and made a stroke on the paper with one I was holding between my fingers.
‘Much softer than chalk,’ I told him, ‘look how smooth.’
‘Uh-huh, uh-huh,’ said the man, who now had his hands on his hips, his legs slightly spread, and was nodding and looking down at the paper, ‘Uh-huh!’
I hadn’t turned my podcast* off for this disruption, so after the man made a few throwaway lines of encouragement at me, and told the woman ‘Let’s go, honey’, I went back to listening and drawing.
Then around 20 minutes later, as I was nearing the finish-line, a man walked along behind me and said- ‘Oh, I don’t want to startle you.’
I laughed and told him it was fine, he hadn’t startled me because, out of the corner of my eye, I had seen him coming.
The man, who was wearing a white baseball cap with a small logo on it, a white polo shirt, shorts and sock and trainers, stopped and laughed and told me he liked my drawing, and that he thought it was beautiful and that I’d gotten the light right.
‘Do you live around here?’ I asked him, and he told me no, and that he’d only be around for a bit longer.
‘I live in Houston.’ he told me when I asked him where he lived.
‘Do you know who lives in the house?’ I asked the man, who was standing to my right, slightly out onto the road, looking straight down at me with his hands folded behind his back.
He looked back toward the house, which had cracked paving, and patchy uneven lawn where the roots were bulging under the earth.
The porch was empty of ornaments, unlike the other houses in the street.
‘I believe an older gentleman lives there, alone, but the neighbours all look out for him.’ he said.
‘Oh, that’s lovely.’ I said.
Then he asked me if I would sell my drawing to the man in the house.
‘No,’ I said, looking up at him, ‘I go about the place drawing houses, you know, where the light is right. I’m going to move neighbourhoods soon though, I need more trees.’
‘Oh, I see,’ he said, ‘but what do you do with the drawings?’
‘I’m drawing a hundred,’ I said, ‘and I’m up to 14, and when I get to 100 I’ll have an exhibition.’
‘Oh, I see, wonderful!’ the man said, smiling.
‘Yes, and I write little stories about the people who stop to talk to me while I’m drawing, so you’ll be this drawing’s story.’
‘Oh,’ the man said in a slightly raised surprised voice, ‘really?’
‘Here’s the address.’ I said, and I told him the address of my blog, ‘Can you remember it?’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I’ll remember that.’
‘Good,’ I said, ‘You can read about yourself!’
Then we both smiled and said some niceties to each other and told each other to have a good day, and he left, and I went back to my drawing, giving the grass a bit more green, the paving a bit less crack and adding a few red and white flowers that perhaps the old man in the house might have liked.

*Today’s podcasts: Trumpcast- All that Kushner Money
  Sword and Scale: God’s Plan