urban sketching

How commuting makes me a more productive artist

How commuting makes me a more productive artist

My Post-4.jpg

In February this year, my wife Meg, and I, turned in the keys for our end-of-term 2016 Ford C-Max Energi, thus becoming a one car family living in the Bay Area. She would use the Civic to take our daughter to daycare and go to work, while I would bike to the Caltrain station and travel to Palo Alto.

Commuting enables me to routinely schedule drawing sessions

I’d mentally prepared for the 15ish mile bike commute between Caltrain stations, work, and home. I was finally looking forward to once-again fitting exercise into my routine. Waiting at the station for the train to arrive was, however, an unexpected opportunity to fit in a drawing session. Within a few days, drawing found a secure slot into my daily routine, which looked (and still looks) something like this:

  • 7:00 am: Leave house on bike
  • 7:25 am: Arrive at station to draw
  • 8:08 am: Caltrain arrives at station* - 8:10 am: Draw on train
  • 5:00 pm: Leave work
  • 5:20 pm: Arrive at station to draw
  • 5:42 pm: Caltrain arrives at station*
  • 5:45 pm: Draw on train
  • Bonus drawing time for late trains (I get a lot of bonus time)

Commuting enables repeated drawing sessions to turn into a series

David Hockney (famous for his gorgeous iPhone and iPad drawings) frequently returns to the same road in East Yorkshire, England, to draw, and has done so for decades. His plein-air drawings document the natural seasonal changes along the same road. You can also see Hockney’s many creative interpretations of the same subject matter using a variety of mediums including: charcoal, digital, and photography. Likewise, commuting offers similar creative restraints Hockney employs in his work, including: place, time, session length, and materials. Speaking of materials, each daily drawing uses one or more surfaces (Traveler’s notebook, iPad Pro, or iPhone). Eventually, sketchbook drawings will translate into woodblock prints, and the digital drawings into limited archival inkjet printouts.

Routine practice gives birth to new routines

Once an initial drawing schedule is set, a snowball effect begins to take place. Even a daily 20 minute drawing session heightens the desire to find more ways to fit another session into my schedule. Lunch breaks, after dinner, and right before bed are all time slots I plan for on a semi-routine basis. Every session, no matter how short, is time well spent, and an opportunity to hone your observational skills.

I track commuting and drawing habits through Bullet Journaling

Yes. I jumped on the BuJo train. Wooo Wooo! Or, is that Buuu Jooo! But seriously, This simple habit tracker for Bullet Journaling is a great motivator to go along with the biking commute for getting those daily drawing sessions in.

Follow my everyday routine

Below are some in-process works that I continue to develop each time I travel by bike. Have a favorite commuting spot, or a happy-hour hangout close to a Caltrain Station? Let me know and I’ll do my best to draw it during my commute.

Drawings from Cabo San Lucas

Hello Friends, 

I'm recharged after a week-long trip to Cabo San Lucas,BCS. Mexico has so much texture, I couldn't help but draw a bit every day while on vacation. 

Tiny bars peppered across Cabo San Lucas are like the experience of peering in a dollhouse, then walking inside. Usually there are enough barstools for six people, and the walls  are densely packed with the same amount of posters, dollar bills, and decorations you would find in a regular-sized neighborhood dive bar. 

The cramped space forces me to compose akin to a traditional Japanese print: Large, flat objects in the foreground place the viewer directly into the environment. In some cases, the page feels like the same amount of space when actually in the bar.  

Select Drawings of the Week: July 12 - 19.

This week I document one of my favorite dive-bars, along with some new spaces in Sacramento California.

Metal Bandages

The facade of the Stanford Memorial Church acts as a centerpiece and tourist destination; It’s what's around the corner that inspires me. Crowds of people snap photographs of the grand mosaic glistening in the sun; I walk through the shady garden, stumbling upon a breathtaking view. Shielding the rock, covering the stained glass, and wrapping across the steeple, I see what comforts me. Scaffolding.

Scaffolds at the Stanford Memorial Church. Digital plain-air drawing.

Scaffolds at the Stanford Memorial Church. Digital plain-air drawing.


I give up the safe and controlled environment the studio provides when drawing in public spaces. Cafes and bars serve as temporary studios with unpredictable levels of noise and movement that rise and fall. Patrons are the only unchanging component of such places. Their active stillness is reliable as they sit, drink, text, and stare at their screens for hours.