Lately, I've been making a concerted effort to take a break, walk away from my screen, grab my pack, step outside, and start walking. I don't have a direction or destination in mind. I do have an intent, though, which is to plop myself down somewhere with my sketchbook and try to draw something. I don't usually make it very far on foot because I need to dedicate most of this break to getting the actual drawing done, so I'm never really far from home or where I’m working at that time. Nonetheless, I started drawing. I draw in ink so that I don't get hung up on what could have been or the fact that I could erase and start again, and I just pick something to draw.

Urban sketching has been popular a lot longer than I've been doing it, but I have done it on and off for a few years since I started drawing in 2020. Yesterday I had a lovely small moment with a stranger. After looking through the neighbourhood for something to draw, I stopped at a house that was having its basement excavated. So, I plopped down and I tried to draw the excavator. Before I got very far out of the corner of my vision, someone came up to me and said something, which I didn't hear because I had my headphones in.

“Sorry, what’s that?”

“Can I see?”

A sliver of a moment of protectiveness, of wanting to say, "I haven't even started yet." But I turned my small book and showed the stranger what I was drawing, along with the other on the same page from the previous day.


I can't remember the exact dialogue, but his enthusiasm was boundless. He was older than me, and he was the owner of the semi-attached house to the left of the one I was drawing. He told me that he started drawing photos that he had taken from his phone, and that he was having a great time.

The man stepped back inside after we had chatted for a few minutes and I got back to drawing, but then a moment later he appeared again, this time showing me something. It was a piece of paper on which he had painted the figure of somebody. He told me it was his wife. I was enthusiastic in response. I'm always so energized by people who are thrilled about learning something and are willing to share it with people, especially a stranger. So we talked a little bit about it. It was the first painting he had done. He told me that it was cathartic, and I said, "I hope you keep going." He responded by saying, "I just need to find the time."

He shared with me that he found what I was doing “so fucking inspiring”, and I was delighted just by his colourful language, but the energy with which he shared that with me. He said, “I just had to show somebody”, referring to his painting.

He introduced himself, and I did the same, and told him he'd see me around the neighbourhood looking for things to draw. After he left, a daydream tumbled across my head of a collection of people, all of them similarly enthused and energized with activities like this, drawing, exploring the neighbourhood, capturing it on paper. All of us strangers to each other, but with one shared intent.

I've noticed people looking at what I'm doing when I'm sitting in the middle of a sidewalk or on the curb, drawing. It's out of the norm for most people. Most times, if we're going somewhere walking or stopping to do something, it's to look at our phones.

These kinds of interactions are often something I crave. Connection with people with a shared enthusiasm over something—regardless of skill level. I don't get it as much as I used to when I was younger. When it happens, it’s special. When I tell this story, people sometimes ask if the stranger’s art was good. But that’s not the point of the story.

There will be times in the future where I just wish to ignore the world and just practice rendering something, but the rest of the time I think I’ll start drawing without my headphones in.