Why do I love drawing so much? It’s a question I’ve never been able to answer. The feel of the pencil etching into the page, the gentle scratching sound of graphite clinging to paper, it's a mesmerising, mindful pursuit.
I’m a realism drawer, I do sketches that are like black and white photos. It takes ages but it's pure pleasure. Lost in that world, my concerns and anxieties slip away, and the joy of creating takes over.
Sometimes I just sketch, quickly, rather than trying to be too precise, to get the impression of something. Like a photographer trying to capture interesting and beautiful photographs, I carry my notebook and pencil, and if inspired, which happens frequently when you open your mind to inspiration, I sketch the beautiful and arresting things I see. When I’m home, I’ll flick through my sketchbook and sometimes paint some into a watercolour like I’m trying to emulate Monet. But if I’m honest, life-like sketches are my passion.
The precision needed to draw image quality photographs is a huge rush, and developing that skill has taken years of practice, getting to know the softness of a 9H and the unforgiving hardness of a 9B, and all of the shades of grey between to create the illusion of light falling on objects, and shadows hiding in crevices.
I could go on about drawing all day, it’s my thing. My passion. It's my preferred way to waste time. So when my flatmate dragged me along to a party, I was not feeling enthusiastic about it. Then, once we got there, he found some cooler friends and abandoned me. That was five minutes ago. As a coping strategy I’ve decided to get drunk. It’s a bad idea. But I’m out of options. I slump onto the empty sofa and try to look like I don’t care about this stupid party and I don't want to talk to anyone anyway.
It’s a typical house party. There is a throng of people in the kitchen, the hallway, up the stairs, outside the bathroom upstairs. People spill into the back garden. There’s laughter, shouting, drinking games. There are people having a good time and a few sullen people.
I realise I must be one of the sullen. I’m on the sofa in the living room where the stereo is hooked up to a mobile that plays Coldplay, Bieber and Bruno Mars. Six or seven people are dancing.
My eyes are drawn to one person in particular. She has her hands in the air, with long black hair hiding her face, and she dances slowly, rhythmically, in her own world, at her own pace. She’s dancing like nobody's watching, and doing it well. I’m drawn to her confidence, her lack of self-awareness, her naturalness.
I can’t help myself, I realise I’m inspired, and I flick out my notepad. I start to sketch her. I sketch her outline, she’s pencil thin, and her flowing black dress counter-sways to her sway, like a counter-melody accompanies a melody. She wears black nylon tights and is barefoot, her feet and toes digging into the carpet. I return to her hair, to add more depth, its lush black and wild, like the maine of a horse, and I wonder if it smells of almond shampoo.
I’m sketching my quick capture-the-essence technique when I realise she’s looking straight at me.
Suddenly, I’m self-aware, awkward. My heart thumps and I sit back and pretend to play it cool. But I feel stiff. The opposite of cool. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her approaching. She walks like she dances, smoothly, gracefully.
“What you up to there, buddy,” she says slinking into the couch next to me.
OMG. She’s talking to me. Think. What to say. “Sometimes I sketch.”
“Nice, that’s cool,” she says. “Can I see?”
I’m reluctant. I don’t know how she’s going to react to my drawing of her. She’ll think I’m weird. But I’m polite and she’s asked so nicely. I don’t mind. Maybe she won't get to the page with her sketch on it.
She takes the notebook and looks through it.
“These are amazing,” she says.
“Ah, no, they’re nothing, just quick sketches,” I say.
“They’re lovely.” She’s looking at them intently. An image of rolling hills. A sunset. A spider web with dewdrops.
“What do you choose to draw?”
“Just things that inspire me.”
As she works her way through the pictures my heart pounds faster and faster. And then she’s on the latest sketch and she looks at it for a long time.
“You’ve drawn me,” she says.
“Yeah,” I say.
“Well it's only fair that I draw you too." She takes my pencil and starts to draw.
"How should I pose for your drawing?"
“Just sit like you were when you came in, you know, like someone had just died,” she said.
I laugh. And she draws.
There's a large belch. “Dude, there are so many babes here,” my friend Ray says. He hits me on my shoulder to get my attention. “You should have seen me, I downed a whole yardee. It was so cool.”
I frown at him. Why do I hang out with this guy?
“Here you go,” she says, handing back the sketchbook. “See you around.”
I don’t want her to go. “I hope so,” I say.
She smiles and walks away.
I’m home now. I didn't get drunk in the end after seeing how Ray was going. I thought I'd look out for him instead. Just as well. He got into a fight with one of his cool mates and got a black eye. I had to walk him home with his arm around my shoulder. He's heavy. When we got back to our flat, I got him to drink a large glass of water. I managed to get him into his bed and put him on his side. He’s so drunk I’m scared to leave him alone. I’m just sitting in his bedroom watching him. Making sure he keeps breathing. He does not inspire me to draw him.
Looking after Ray has been a massive undertaking and now having a moment to myself I realise I've not even looked at what the girl drew of me.
I flick open the last page and find a stick figure sitting on a sofa with a caption saying, 'Don’t worry, it may never happen :)'. And then she’s written, 'Your picture of me was beautiful, I’m keeping it. Text me.' And she’s left her number.
I lay on my side in Rays room with half an ear listening to make sure he's okay and close my eyes to sleep. I can see her dancing. I can see her smile. I smile myself to sleep.