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  • James Chapman

Grounded by Sketching

When the airline recently announced my son’s flight into Atlanta would be delayed – 9 hours, as it turned out – a muscle in my neck fluttered slightly and I briefly feared for my sanity. Because exactly how long can anyone browse airport sunglasses boutiques or duty-free shops?

Then suddenly, as if by divine intervention, I spotted a blank-paged notebook in a bookstore. Eureka! This booklet, plus a ballpoint pen, suddenly became my lifesaver. I would pass the time by sketching people.

So I began, a bit nervously, to be honest. I am used to working publicly, but there were so many people it felt overwhelming. I half expected a security person might tap me on the shoulder and ask that I stop, as there were complaints. So I timidly burroughed back into the seat and drew in a mousey style.

Using a simple, wandering contour line, I drew people from many rows away to avoid detection. Once I hit my rhythm, though, I thought: Get past the shaky nerves and do it!

Soon, I was brazenly drawing people, some sitting as close at 3 feet away. A young woman spotted me drawing her. Our eyes met.

“Are you drawing me?” she asked in a whisper. (in sketch shown above)

I shrugged, nodded and tore the drawing from the notebook and gave it to her; she lit up with wonder and expressed thanks. It all seemed ok after that.

Over the next many hours, people of all sizes, colors, shapes and bodily decoration styles came and went. Some simply shrank into a seat or dosed in aninimety; others seemed to unfurl like hothouse flowers, spreading in all directions. Lots of headsets, weary eyes and snacks.

And they waited. Some waited to go; some waited for someone to come. Some waited to get off work. We were all waiting for something, fighting back boredom in our own way.

Soon after I finished drawing on the 72th page, my son rolled in from Boston. He apologized for the long delay, concerned that I might be feeling exhausted and frustrated.

“Normally, I would be,” I told him, grinning. “But today I was grounded.”

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