Thursday, February 27, 2014

Conversations in the City

Three of us lucky ones who weren't at work on a Tuesday morning went back to the CBD to do more sketches for the Joburg Joburg exhibition which opens on Saturday. It was fascinating for a suburban-dweller to sit on the streets of a normal working day in the city, and to experience the responses that our presence there generated.
Old Standard Bank building and Victory House
Our first stop on a pavement next to some workmen fixing a manhole was fairly uneventful as people rushed past, some comments drifting to us about "iArtisti" with the odd quizzical glance. But later we moved to a public square in front of the City Hall (closed off last week for the filming of the Avengers) where we were more exposed, and visitors arrived thick and fast. Here's the gist of some of the conversations that took place, as I remember them: 
Barbican building and burnt out and ransacked Old Rissik St Post Office, opposite City Hall
Security guard: "Hello ma, I have been told not to allow anyone to sit here"
Me: Oh, why is that, isn't this for the public?
S.G.:  "Yes but you see this tree (a large, elderly palm tree in the middle) - it might fall down and squash you."
Me: Well, it's been there for quite a while, I'm willing to take my chances.
S.G. "There are CCTV cameras all over here, watching us as we speak."
Me: But we are doing nothing wrong, I am sketching here as people do in cities around the world (short explanation of urban sketching)
S.G. "Well all right, but if the tree falls on you, don't blame me"
Me: OK, if I survive, I won't...

Well dressed older man: "Hello Mami, what is this you are doing?"
Me: (short explanation of urban sketching)
WDOM: "Do you sell these things for money?"
Me: No, it's just a hobby, for my own enjoyment and to show our city to the world.
WDOM: "Are you a pensioner? (Me:  >:-O) What do you do for your job?"
Me: I sometimes make drawings for educational books and other businesses that I get paid for.
WDOM: "Oh, you are very rich then... Are you married?"
Me: Yes
WDOM: "He must love you very much to do these things. How long have you been married?"
Me: Almost 35 years
WDOM: "Oh, he knows you inside and out then"

One of two young dudes, as his friend engages my friend Leonora: " Wow, no way! Hello Ma! What are you guys doing here, you drawing this place!?"
Me: (longer explanation of urban sketching as he's so interested)
Other YD, draping himself over Leonora's shoulders: Come take a photo of me with this artist!
After photo, my YD: Can I take a photo of your drawing? Can I take a photo of you? Can I have a photo together with you?  And finally, a stinging parting shot: It's great but ma, you're too old to be doing these drawings...
YD to other YD as they move off: Hey, this is our lucky day!

There were others; some wanted photos, some wanted to know where to buy sketching supplies, some wanted lessons, some got details to join Joburg Sketchers, one went to fetch his little sister from school and brought her back to have a look. Altogether a really happy few hours in the CBD, where you're never alone and ignored - even if rather forthright about how very ancient you are!!

15 comments: said...

I LOVE these sketches, especially the top one with the man in the foreground and the interesting architecture in the background.

And I really loved your little conversation vignettes.

You are so talented....for an old lady1 :) jk (that's kid speak for just kidding)

Cathy Gatland said...

Haha Carol - at least I'm not yet sixty... ;-)

Bridget Hunter said...

Love the commentary

RH Carpenter said...

Love the sketches and love the stories behind them - although why would the young dudes be so excited to have photos of you and them and your work - and then tell you that you were too old to do that - too old to paint and draw? Silly boys!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Your sketches are wonderful and your visitors are very interesting :)
Thanks for visiting my blog, Cathy.

Cathy Gatland said...

Hi Bridget, Mary, Rhonda - I don't think they meant the 'ageist' comment the way it sounded... it is quite a revered state in most local cultures, probably thought I should be at home with my feet up being taken care of by my (yet to be) grandchildren!

Polly Birchall said...

What a story you are telling by your lovely pictures and your comments too.

Unknown said...

ha ha ha I just nearly got caught checking out your blog at work because you made me laugh with you dialogues!

Great sketches too.

Helen Percy Lystra said...

I absolutely love your sketches. They are so fresh! Also loved the dialog.

MiataGrrl said...

Great sketches and hilarious dialog!

- Tina

Ginny Stiles said...

The conversations were priceless. Thanks so much for adding them! Wonderful. It absolutely blows me away that you keep my blog on your blog list. I am SO flattered. And of course, you are on mine and have been for a LONG time. You are the best figurative/journal sketcher and I adore your work.

Cathy Gatland said...

Polly, Sue, Helen, Tina and Ginny - thank you so much for your visits - so great to know you keep on looking in here!

Liz Steel said...

oh!!! so glad you recorded these for us to enjoy!!! I had a good laugh!

dinahmow said...

I always enjoy your sketches, but this time your recounted conversations had me giggling, Cathy.

Midori Yoshino said...

Love your work.:)