Preloader Image


Making Friends

Posted by Koosje Koene in ArtJournal, sketchbook on April 29, 2018

I remember that, years ago, I felt a little anxious about drawing in public. I was afraid that people would look at my drawing and see how much it would suck. For a long time, I didn’t draw in public at all, because location drawing just didn’t even come up in my mind as being an option. But then, when I saw other people’s work done on location, I wanted to give it a try too. So I did. I hooked up with a sketch pal and together, we faced our fears and sat down to draw in the open. It wasn’t as bad as we expected at all. Nobody seemed to notice us or what we were doing, and it was just very enjoyable to sit alongside, to sketch and chat together.

It seems like a very long time ago now. Ever since I’ve been doing a lot of location drawing. And of course, at first I felt very self-conscious about it, but now, I don’t even really think about it that much anymore. Whenever I feel the urge to draw, I pull out my sketchbook and start to draw. The strange thing is, drawing around strangers turned out to be easier to get used to, than drawing with people around me who are close. Like friends and family. Them getting used to the fact that I would be drawing while engaging in conversations made me a bit nervous in the beginning, but it turned out that they just all really seem to enjoy seeing me enjoying myself!

Anyway, drawing alone on location can result in more than just a drawing. Oftentimes I wound up in fun conversations with strangers, who carefully approach me. They just want to let me know how much they like the fact that I’m drawing. It’s hardly ever about the drawing itself – they don’t judge or anything. Often, people express how much they would love to be able to draw whatever is going on around them too.

I made this drawing below, when I was in New York recently. I stayed there for a week to work with my business partner Danny on our plans and ideas for Sketchbook Skool.

So at the end of one of our intensive days, I explored the neighborhood and found a nice place to sit and have dinner by myself. I was happy with a place at the bar, where my view was straight into the action of the busy kitchen. I love watching people preparing delicious food! After I placed my order, I took out my sketchbook to capture some of the action and atmosphere. Then at some point into my drawing, one of the waitresses spotted me drawing and was delighted to see that happen. She asked me about it – whether I was an artist and if I draw often, and ‘could I see the other pages too, or is that weird?’. I told her it wasn’t weird at all so we flipped through my sketchbook and chatted about drawing and creativity. She said she would follow me on Instagram, we shook hands and introduced ourselves properly.

She went back to work but every 5 minutes she was right behind me to follow the process, and when I took out my small watercolor palette, she was there again, intrigued and interested. It was fun to know there was a new ‘friend’ around, who would check in every now and then. I kept drawing while I ate my (seriously delicious!) meal, and of course, before leaving, I showed my new pal Isabel the drawing. She told me to wait and then brought me a business card and a matchbox from the cafe, and said: ‘I noticed that you glued tickets and business cards so I thought you might like it’.

And I did! back in my hotel, I discovered that the matchbox didn’t actually contain matches, but paper! So then I came up with the idea of drawing my meal as a little cartoon animation. Then glued it in my sketchbook. 

What a great evening. I had a fantastic meal, had an interesting conversation with a stranger, enjoyed myself drawing, and came up with a fun idea that I executed right away! And all of this I captured in my sketchbook.
A great memory and souvenir.


Koosje Koene

Hi I'm Koosje. I'm an illustrator and art teacher in Amsterdam, where I was born and raised. I went to school to study graphic design, then worked for ten years as an award-winning professional photographer. But eventually my love of drawing and painting took over and I became an illustrator. My illustrations have been published in many Dutch magazines and in 2011, I began blogging and started developing and teaching online art classes. In 2014 I founded Sketchbook Skool, which is a flourishing community of artists from around the world of all skill levels.