Things to do with your sketching companions

One of the problems faced by many artists who work out of doors is that of companions: what do you do with them when you want to sketch? Finding one who paints can be a great bonus and I’m lucky having Jenny who also loves sketching, so for much of the time we work outdoors together. In the high mountains, though, it’s not so easy for her. So apart from my solo trips I try to get Catherine to join me – she’s used to her old Dad stopping in the most odd places to spend time sketching and painting.

As usual she brought along a large book to read during our recent visit to the Swiss Alps, although in this photograph of her on a lofty crag opposite the Eiger she’s just put it away as we prepare to move on. But what do you do if your companion doesn’t like reading? Some of the ruses I’ve tried over the years with various non-painting companions have been:

  • On a cold, snowy morning provide a hot drink and mince pies on a walk;
  • Plan a route with many interesting places to distract them – I managed four churches in the space of two miles once, which kept everyone happy while I sketched;
  • Take a load of goodies to eat that are wrapped in the most incredibly difficult style that will take them ages to open, and thus give you plenty of time to get the sketch done;
  • Deliberately get ‘lost’ for a while by dodging down behind a wall, bush, rock or whatever is available;
  • I find that ‘consulting a tree’ (or boulder) is a great excuse to give you a few moments, as no-one is likely to stay with you, although you can’t stretch credibility too long!
  • One very effective ruse is to stop and relate some tale or legend that relates to that particular spot and at the same time do the sketch. Too much of this, however, will attract suspicions.

These are just a few of a great many devices to keep your companions happy whilst you sketch or paint. With a little preparation before you go it can become quite sophisticated, and no doubt you’ll have many ruses of your own. This is just a start. There is a further bonus in all this: it can be screamingly funny at times, concocting these wheezes, so much so that at times I’ve almost laughed myself senseless and been totally incapable of doing a sketch…………….

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