Cafe-sketching

There are so many reasons that I love to draw in cafes. I think they all revolve around three main things: (1) the feeling encompassed in the currently super hip but truly articulate Danish word, hygge; (2) the drama that is part of people sitting either alone or with friends in public places; and (3) the access to a seat as well as great drinks. 

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Careful design of this cafe inside a beautiful old gaol

Hygge

I don’t think I am one to usually embrace hip trends, but ever since I first became aware of this word I have embraced it. I can’t even remember where I stumbled upon it, but when I did it was definitely one of those moments when I felt like I suddenly understood something about myself that I hadn’t known before. Hygge is Danish but it is now in the English Oxford Dictionary and in there is defined as:

“A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)”

When I first read about it I suddenly understood why I love winter so much. I have often found myself having to explain to people why I spend most of summer longing for grey skies, a cold wind, and preferably large amounts of snow (or at least rain). I knew I loved the colours of winter and the wildness that I can find in just walking down a street. I also knew I really loved running in squally winds and rain and then stepping back into a warm home. But when I read this, I realised that a big part of my love of winter was the richness it gives to my indoor life. Freezing winds outside seem make a warm fire, cup of tea and hours to draw even more perfect.

Cafe’s, I think, work hard to create a similar sense at all times of year. Meeting a friend for a coffee in an atmospheric room with good music, carefully chosen decor and colours, seems to often build a sense of cosiness and an atmosphere that makes one feel content, or at least makes me feel very content! In the same way, treating myself to a coffee and appreciating a nicely made cup with the buzz of voices around me, does the same thing. Cafe’s create this feeling I think, alone or with a friend.

I think it is this way that cafe’s foster hygge that draw me repeatedly back to them to draw.To be feeling that sense of cosy contentment, and be in a room of others probably feeling something similar, is for me happiness and I find this inspiring. The New York Times declared 2016 “The Year of Hygge”, but I intend to try my hardest to make this a priority each and every year and sketching in cafes, definitely helps me with this.

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Saturday morning perfection in a wonderfully atmospheric Port Fairy cafe
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Early morning, pre-work pause for a dose of Hygge in a loved Melbourne cafe

Cafe drama

My second reason for loving sketching in cafes is for the dramas that are played out there and present in everybody’s body language. I never  know exactly what is going to be happening, but in a busy cafe I am almost guaranteed some delightful moments. Usually, for me, these come in teh form of the body language associated with very mundane situations, such as a couple leaning in together, people staring at their phones, people holding their drinks or gesturing with great enthusiasm as they tell a story. I think I could spend a lifetime trying to capture just perfectly these very normal elements of daily life and still find it such a great challenge, with such a great reward. For me, there is a story in the way people sit, and sketching in cafe’s allows me to try to find it.

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The wonderful communal tables at one of my favourite cafe’s always have so much going on and are a joy to draw!
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Weekends at a particularly colourful Port Fairy cafe are always rich with interesting characters

 

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One of my locals, and perhaps the most dramatic of all, the wonderful cafe at the Theatre Royal, Castlemaine

A seat and a drink

The final reason that I find sketching in cafe’s so wonderful, is a very practical one – access to a seat and a drink. I sometimes loiter in streets and draw standing up, and occasionally I’ve carried around a tiny little stool and so I could sit wherever I liked rather than finding a drawing limited by where I can conveniently perch. And, I probably should do both of these things more often. Yet, I often don’t want to carry a chair, and it’s hard to draw well standing. So, a cafe offers a wonderful, welcoming, and inconspicuous place to sit. Sometimes I choose my spot strategically, so I get a good view of a particular place or street. Other times I just sit, and the challenge is to make the best of what is there. I also tend to choose cafes that are known for making good coffee, or where I can be sure I will get a pot, rather than a teabag full of tea! Also, if I get too involved, stay too long, and suddenly find myself starving, I am already in the right place.

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A strategic cafe sitting… so I had a comfortable spot to draw this famous Melbourne lane
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A far less strategic seat, but an excellent coffee in one of rural Victoria’s treasures, and then I got mesmerised by the beautiful shapes of the empty chairs

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