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.
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.
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.
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.