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FAQs ABOUT HIRING
CAN I HIRE YOU TO LIVE DRAW AT MY EVENT?
YES, you can
hire me to perform this service at your event! You receive the original works when you hire me to cover an event.
Your guests do not need to stand still or pose for me, I simply attend the event and collect drawings.
available for hire for documentary, journalistic, or private events. Please also
contact me if you are interested in a mural or large painting based off reportage figures, or if you want to buy print of a sketch I posted.
If I received funding to pursue this project more intensely, I could potentially distribute a
regular, most likely weekly, publication free of charge. If you are able to fund something like this, please contact me ASAP.
CAN I LICENSE A DRAWING YOU DID?
DO YOU HAVE PATREON? WHAT IS YOUR PATREON BENEFIT?
No, I had a Patreon for years, spent hours and hours every week uploading things only for people to never even download them once. I have now deactivated it.
WHAT AREA(S) ARE YOU AVAILABLE TO WORK IN?
I live in Winston-Salem, NC and am accepting work in the Triad area as well as the entire southeast region, and other locations with paid travel expenses. Please contact me to see if I am available to work your event.
CAN I SHARE A DRAWING YOU DID ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
Sure, just be sure to include credit to me and tag my social media wherever possible, and please don't crop the drawings. I would always appreciate donations and you can also buy prints and originals.
I WANT YOU TO COME DRAW AT MY BUSINESS! HOW DO I GET YOU TO DO THAT?
I have business packages available that guarantee you a specific number of drawings per week.
However, I understand not every business can take on this expense. Providing a space where I can sit for a while and do the work, where I have the opportunity to observe lots of people going about their (or your) business is valuable to me, even if you can't afford to pay for one of my business packages.
People often ask me why I don't draw at certain places or businesses, and I explain to them that I need to be able to linger, to loiter, to stand in one place for a few minutes or maybe even twenty, and that these activities are heavily discouraged and even banned in many public places. I don't want my presence to cause people discomfort, or for people to be suspicious of me for drawing, or for simply sitting and people-watching. If a business isn't conducive to regular people, who haven't spent money in the establishment, to be able to come in and sit, unobtrusively and without feeling that they are a burden for existing, then there's a really good chance that I won't feel comfortable doing the same to draw at your business. To be able to get good work for this project, I need to be able to stand or sit in an area where I have a good view of a wide area, where I am not in the way, in an area that is not a walkway where people need me to move every time they come through, and where people will not be bothered by my presence. These are the conditions that, if you really are interested in seeing me come to your business regularly and do this project, enable me to linger long enough to do the drawings.
I draw a lot at coffee shops that are in busy areas; these kinds of businesses accomodate people coming in who don't necessarily always buy product---for example, many many many people meet in coffee shops all day long, but not every person in the group always buys a coffee. The people who didn't make a purchase still feel entitled to take up the space to attend the meeting, regardless of the fact that they're not technically a customer.
I do not feel comfortable going into a restaurant or a diner, for instance, sitting down at a table to draw, and then leaving without purchasing something. For this reason, I don't draw at a lot of restaurants, because I don't draw there unless I'm going to patronize the business, and due to my health problems, I'm just not that hungry all the time. If you do own a business like a restaurant or diner and wouldn't mind me coming by to draw without always making a purchase, you can contact me and let me know this, and suggest to me where I can sit or stand in order to do the work.
I don't drink alcohol or coffee, so unless I have felt out a place and know for sure that a coffee shop or brewery is supportive of the work, I won't brave a lot of new places lately, especially alcohol-based places like breweries and bars; so if you are a business owner of one of these types of places and want me to come by, you will need to contact me to let me know it's safe, and also the same things as above apply about needing a space conducive to doing the work.
ABOUT THE PROJECT/ARTIST
ABOUT THE ARTIST
My name is Hannah Barnhardt; I am an interdisciplinary exploratory artist. Born in 1980 in Statesville, North Carolina and residing in Charlotte from 1999-2018, I now live and work in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After losing my administrative job suddenly in 2012, I returned to school and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in December of 2016.
I work in many other mediums and post my work on
instagram and on
my website. You can see more information about my background
here. I make a ton of other work, and I have some work that spawned specifically from this project. Because I spend so much time in the public space observing people, I began making illustrations that make social commentary that speak to the things I overhear and see. I also make animations from some of the sketches. You can see this work in
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR PROJECT?
Reportage sketching is a genre of urban sketching, an artistic practice with a long history and many practitioners today, especially in Europe and Asia. Artists draw the scene before them directly from life, focusing on the general expression of the crowd and architecture. Reportage sketching specifically refers to urban sketching with a journalistic bent, and this project even more specifically focuses on people, producing vignettes of life in the south. I have narrowed my practice much more than traditional urban sketching, focusing entirely on people and how they move, lounge, dress, and what they carry; I often eliminate architecture and furniture entirely from the composition.
Since 2014, I have pursued drawing from life and urban/reportage sketching as a daily practice, evolving my style and approach, compiling a visual archive of life, fashion trends, and the social scene of the metro area, for a project formerly called
The Real Charlotte Observer
(you can find the old and new archives here)
I draw live on scene in ink; I do not sketch beforehand, all drawings are done
in the moment responding spontaneously to what is occurring in front of me, and I do not draw from a photo reference. At current time of writing (July 2019) I have completed over
7,000 drawings that document people living in North Carolina for the past 4 years. All of the people in the drawings are real, and are drawn directly from life without posing.
When I'm out drawing, I am open about the work I'm doing and explain the project to people who ask, and hand out cards with information on where to find the work online.
I have sketched live at a wide array of events, from live music to art openings to protests and political action, and hours in the courtroom, listening to cases and weaving compositions that attempt to convey a sense of the scene. In an age of such accelerated access to photo and video technology, I believe there is a place for re-emergence in information-sharing methods like oral traditions, storytelling, and non-photographic means of event coverage.
For the past 4 years, I operated a solo project called
theREALcharlotteObserver , where I shared these drawings within 24 hours of the event that occurred, a one-woman journalistic endeavor that regularly kept me up till 5 AM and which caused me to spend every last dime I had! Because I moved, I ended
The Real Charlotte Observer as an area-specific endeavor, though I do continue the project under the new title
Wandering Witness with a somewhat more limited scope than before, until I find a way to fund this project.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO WITH THIS PROJECT THAT YOU'RE NOT CURRENTLY ABLE TO DO?
With proper funding, I could distribute a free, full-color newsprint publication to the community featuring the drawings I do on a regular basis, a real-time illustrative history of the city for people to hold in their hands and enjoy. Please contact me if you're able to fund this or know someone who will.
I would like to travel to other places to do this work, so if you'd like to bring me to your city,
please contact me.
DO YOU EVER JUST TAKE A PICTURE AND DRAW IT LATER?
NO! As I mentioned, I draw live on scene in ink; I do not sketch beforehand, all drawings are done in the moment responding spontaneously to what is occurring in front of me, and I do not draw from a photo reference.
That is not what I'm interested in for this project, because this project is about capturing the live moment in illustration; I do a lot of other illustrative work that, like many other artists, is based on a combination of research and photo references, though I am a stickler about always using my own photographs. Using a photo reference is a staple technique for any illustrator and there are many times that I use my own photos as a reference for my other illustrative work. However, for this project, the magic is in capturing live action. The work obtained from scrambling to draw live people moving, and the energy it becomes imbued with, is what I'm after.
There are many street photographers; there are also many talented urban sketchers; there are also millions of every day people with expensive camera phones that get better every day. If an image can be captured in a photo, what is the point of me drawing it? The scenes I materialize cannot be captured in a photograph or even a video, and they can only be made by me standing on the scene drawing what is going on around me.
I also do photography, and often times I will take a photo at an event where I also am drawing; this does not mean that I use those photos for reference, that is a separate body of
HOW MANY DRAWINGS HAVE YOU DONE?
I began this project in 2014. In January 2017 I named the project The Real Charlotte Observer and began posting the drawings to an instagram account regularly, though I don't post every single drawing that I have done. The total number of drawings in the project is in the thousands, but I started keeping a hard count of finished drawings that are labeled, and these are what I consider complete: as of July 2019, completed drawings for this project are around 7,100.
I draw in ink, and add color in marker and watercolor. I don't add any major elements to a drawing after I leave the scene; I do thicken line weight where needed and sometimes finish color after the fact while using color notes; I always prefer to do color on the spot or else finish it in grey/ink wash later. Most drawings are done within a few minutes and then finished with structural or background elements, labeled, and posted later.
YOU MENTIONED YOU HAVE HEALTH PROBLEMS, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
You can see more information about what I've shared about my health problems on my website, but for this project I only mention things that may directly influence the work.
I am hard of hearing; this means that while I can hear, and communicate orally, not in sign language, I have hearing difficulty that makes it almost impossible to hear in certain environments. Loud environments with lots of people talking and background noise are extremely difficult for me to hear in. You can read more information on how to communicate with people with hearing loss
here. It is most helpful for me, if you want to speak to me and want me to hear you, to follow the suggestions in the linked article. If it is a particularly loud environment, I may not be able to talk back because of other issues, which you can read more about below.
I have health issues that cause bouts of intense pain, nausea, dizziness, brain fog (confusion), and other annoying symptoms; if you see me out drawing and I suddenly look pale, kneel down on the ground, begin breathing exercises, or close my eyes, it is because I am dealing with one of these symptoms.
I have lots of issues with my throat that cause problems swallowing, breathing, and talking, especially talking in loud environments, which unfortunately now encompasses virtually all environments: if you see me out drawing, especially at an event that is loud like a concert, it is extremely difficult for me to talk in a raised voice, something that many healthy people take for granted and don't realize they're doing.
I am not able to talk in a raised voice without coughing uncontrollably; please do not be offended, or think I'm sick/contagious: it is because I am trying to talk that my throat is irritated.
I would appreciate when you see this happening that you stop engaging me verbally. At times when it's particularly bad, I may simply hand you a card directing you to this website and card that explains that I can't use my voice right now.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?
I'm drawing the live action happening all around me, possibly even you; what I'm doing is called urban sketching, more specifically reportage sketching, and lots of artists engage in it as drawing practice or as a standalone documentary project. Keep reading for more info about this project.
WHY DON'T YOU GO SHOW THAT PERSON THE DRAWING YOU DID OF THEM?
I get this question a lot! When I first started out this project, I was much more open to interacting with people, but after years of being screamed at and grabbed by strangers because I put ink marks on a small piece of paper in a shape that resembled them, I have stopped.
If you haven't read the previous question, please do as a lot of that applies to this as well.
I generally only have 4 hours to work on this project in a day before I fade and have to go collapse; that time includes the time I spend walking around to venues looking for the compositions I need. If a drawing takes me 5 minutes to draw, that's 5 minutes I definitely cannot spend talking to someone. If I spend 20 minutes talking to someone, that's 4 drawings that could have happened that didn't happen.
I am currently dealing with the sensitive dillemma that when I'm out working on this project, people are very curious and want to talk to me about it; while I completely understand and am supportive of people who are curious about art, having conversations with people explaining what I'm doing takes up such an enormous amount of time, I actually get really angry about it. I have, over the years, designed cards that attempt to explain to people what the project is, and give them information on where they can see the drawings, to help cut down on the time I have to spend explaining to people. Can you just think, for a second, that if I'm out in the city, and every single person that walks by and sees me drawing wants to ask me, "Excuse me, why are you drawing?", can you imagine how much time that takes up? There are days that I go out to work on this project where I give a spiel to so many people I start to wonder if I sound like the robot that I definitely feel like at that point.
I used to think that every person who stopped me while working to ask me what I was doing ultimately meant well, but now I know better: if you see that an artist is working and you stop them during their work because you want to demand information from them about what they're doing, you are being a jerk. I do sometimes meet wonderful people while out doing this work; they are usually the type who will wait till I'm not actively drawing to approach me. And that is the correct way to approach me: if you see me intensely drawing a scene, as in I'm not even looking at anything else, not making eye contact with you; if you have to touch me or say "excuse me" in order to get my attention, because I was currently focused on drawing, you are interrupting my work and actively preventing me from doing what I'm trying to do. I promise you there will be moments where I rest and look around, waiting for things to happen. These are the good moments to approach me, not when it's obvious that I'm right in the middle of drawing something.
So back to the original question: given what I've just explained, and how it's not in my interest or in the interest of this project to be entertaining conversations with anybody and everybody that happens by. When it comes to approaching people that I've done a drawing of, there are 3 possible outcomes: they like the drawing, they are indifferent to the drawing, or they hate the drawing. A lot of people who ask me about approaching people assume that most people will like it; they are so, so, so, so, so wrong.
My drawing style is cartoonish, exaggerated, and tends toward the surreal and almost slightly abstract: not everyone appreciates this art style, and definitely not the masses, as most people have no art education whatsoever, and have no reference to understand what I'm doing---these are the people who come up to me and remark "Hey my kid draws like that!" (No, your kid doesn't, actually, and that's a seriously rude thing to say). Most people, especially those who don't know much about art, prefer realistic styles that are traditional.
I have approached many people whose portrait I just did, thinking, "Well, just let me show her, maybe she would really like it and it would brighten her day." and instead, the person was angry, rude, dismissive, insulted the work, insulted me, yelled at me, or worse--demanded to be given the drawing for free, even though they supposedly didn't like it. There are a lot of terrible people out there, and they mostly look normal, and I cannot know who is going to be a terror and who is not. If you don't understand this about people, you either haven't worked with the public very much, or you are one of the terrors.
I have also approached people whose portrait I just did and they loved it, were ecstatic, and eventually bought the work or a print of it. This has not happened very often, but it has happened.
What happens most often is that I always make it very, very, very obvious what I'm doing; I even angle my board in a ridiculous way so that the people around me can see what I'm drawing, rather than huddle it against my chest. People who are paying attention see me drawing, and are curious; they might suspect that I drew them, and they will approach me and ask, at which point I am always delighted to show them. When this happens, I would say it's an 80% satisfaction rating; that does not mean at all that those drawings sold, just that the person that I drew was pleased and not offended by me drawing them.
If I'm drawing someone and I can tell they notice, but they seem reluctant to approach me, I have this great thing that I do where I get up to leave, make eye contact with the person, take a single card out and lay it down, smiling, then walk out. Almost every single time I have done this, the person scampers over as soon as my back is turned, and finds me on instagram. This is a good strategy that I use all the time, and I also just leave random cards laying around for people who come into that venue that day but might not have seen me.
I do not give away my work for free, but also I am not a roving portrait salesman, and so I also don't approach people because I know how much I hate being solicited to when I'm just trying to go about my day, so I refuse to do that to people.
I have had people remark to me that I'm missing sales opportunities by not approaching the people whose portraits I've done; what they don't understand is, as I've explained here, most people aren't going to be remotely interested in what I've done, definitely not enough to pay for it, and so I would be giving up time I could be spending making the work (which is what I want to do, after all) to go take a chance that someone might buy it (which has a very low chance of happening). After years of doing this, and having to get myself out of nightmare scenarious with rude people, I have decided to not pursue the small chance of monetary gain in favor of being able to preserve my time and focus on making the work.
CAN I TALK TO YOU WHILE YOU'RE DRAWING?
No; I cannot draw while I'm talking because I need my brain to make my work. This does not mean you can't ever talk to me, just to not talk to me while I am drawing. Coming to interrupt me while I'm in the middle of a drawing is similar to waving your hand in front of a photographer's camera as they're trying to film something, to say "Heeeeey buddy, are you filming here?"
I don't have a producer or handler to help manage the customer service aspects of this project so that I can focus on doing the work. I cannot draw while I'm talking:
I need my brain to make the work, and there is no compromising this.
If I am talking, I am not working. It is a lot to have to constantly run customer service, answering people's questions and trying to get people to move on as quickly as possible but without being rude, so that I can continue doing the work.
This is the thing: a lot of people misunderstand this project, I think because they just assume that other people operate the way they do. I am not an extrovert, and I am not a people person.
I am not going out to do this project because I love being around people and love being social---if you think that's what this project is about, you have completely misread everything about it. I am an artist who is intensely interested in pursuing my work: I don't do a whole lot of anything else. On any given day or night, at all hours, I am in my studio, alone, working. At this point in my life, I am not interested in having friends, or going out to clubs: if you see me there, I literally came only to draw, and I will be leaving as soon as I've done that. If you see me in a club drawing, I don't want to dance with you, or talk to you and your friends, I want to draw----and if I DID dance with you, or hang out with your friends,
I wouldn't be able to make these drawings. I can only make this work by existing slightly outside of the usual social system, present and observing but usually not partaking.
People do not understand this.
I am not a camera! I need my brain to be able to make the work, it takes (a small amount of) time, and to do that,
I can't hold a conversation while I'm drawing. I explain all this to illustrate why it's not in my interest to have a lot of conversations with people while I'm out drawing. It doesn't matter how nice and interesting the people I meet are, if I spend all my time chatting with people, that is time I could have spent working on this project---
and the whole point of my coming out was not, in fact, to chat with people, it was to work on this project.
You may absolutely hover nearby and watch me draw, that does not bother me at all and I encourage it.
If you'd like to talk to me, please wait till I'm not actively drawing. Do not approach me when I'm very obviously in the middle of a drawing. People interrupt me while I'm working all the time and it's so rude; I used to think it was my responsibility to educate people, but I would rather do the work.
IS THIS ALL YOU DO?
Oh lord, no: my live drawing/reportage practice initially began as a way for me to extend the time I spend OUTSIDE the studio, because I really do love to be working pretty much at all times, so much so that I would go from studio to woodshop to photo studio and just keep working on projects for hours and hours. This project has a life of its own now, and I feel compelled to keep it up, becuase I think I get good work from it, and I would like to be able to see it through different forms if I can get the funding to get it there, so I keep pushing forward; however, it definitely takes a lot of time away from the time I spend in the studio on my other work. I do a lot of other work! This is just one project. I created a separate branding and web spaces for it because the scope of it has ballooned into a much larger project at this point than most of the other work I've been doing.
But I say all this to emphasize: I do other stuff! And also I am a sculptor, and a photographer, and pseudo-performance artist---I occupy different suits when I need to in order to convey the idea.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO DO A DRAWING?
As little as 1 minute and sometimes as much as 10-15 minutes; some drawings don't necessarily take longer to draw, I just have to wait for the action to happen that really "makes" the drawing; sometimes I will work on several drawings at once while I wait for people to do something or arrange themselves in a way that benefits the composition. I rarely spend more than 10 minutes on a full-color drawing, and most drawings are completed within minutes. Basic sketches take me 30 seconds to a minute. Of course, the larger the paper is, the longer it takes me to cover it.
I DON'T WANT YOU TO DRAW ME!!! WHAT DO I DO?
If you encounter me live in the real world and don't want to be drawn, you can always just tell me in person---I will not ask questions or be offended. If I am actively drawing you in the moment, you can shake your head no or otherwise let me know you don't want to be drawn---there are a lot of ways to verbally and non-verbally communicate to someone to stop doing what they're doing, so long as you're not rude to me, it doesn't matter how you communicate it. If you notice I drew you and would rather it not be posted, you can tell me that as well and I will of course honor that request.
If you don't want to tell me in person that you would like not to be drawn, I understand---
you can send me an email (you can also send a message on my instagram if you prefer) and just say you would like to not be drawn; again, no questions asked, I don't need to know why, it's not a big deal. I don't ever want people to be uncomfortable, or to be depicted against their will.
If I have posted a drawing of you that you want taken down,
please contact me and I will take it down immediately and make a note to keep it privately archived.
WHY DID YOU SUSPEND THIS PROJECT?
A couple weeks ago, a new auto business moved into the lot beside us. When we bought the house, an auto business was operating there, and we got along with and never complained about that business. If you have been following my main work for any time at all, you know that I grew up in the automotive business, working for my family's 24-hour towing company that my parents ran out of our home. My husband and I are accustomed to automotive environments and the noise that is associated with that so we didn't think it would be a problem.
The new tenants have yet to put up a sign or tell us their business name, so we don't know what they're called, but they have been a nightmare, and have turned our formerly wonderful house and neighborhood into an industrial-sized hellscape of sound. They show up late at night and bang away at metal just barely 6 feet from our house, hang out loudly talking and listening to music at all hours of the night, as people drive by honking, and during the day the sound is unbearable, inescapable even inside our own home, at times exceeding 90 decibels, which is damaging to our hearing. The outside areas of our house, like my front porch, which I use to relax and to do drawings for this project, have become unusable when they are working. Our house was built 100 years ago, when zoning codes were different and automobiles and tools to work on them were much different, and there is zero soundproofing between our properties. The previous auto business understood the precariousness of this and didn't do heavy-duty work that caused a lot of noise, and kept normal business hours during the day, closed on the weekend.
Because they are all so loud and unsafe with their work practices, creating an unsafe amount of noise for themselves as well as us, they are constantly shouting, and it is more than unnerving to have to hear this outside every day---it is causing unhealthy levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones. It is awful to have to hear yelling all day long, and I have been very sick since the problems escalated.
I have suspended this project because I can no longer access my windows, due to the extreme amounts of noise they are causing just a few feet from all the windows I use to do this project. We have to rely on many levels and varieties of soundproofing to deal with the noise when they are here and it makes it very difficult to sit and look out the windows, since that's a main entry point for noise.
We also have been harassed for standing at our own windows, with the business owners next door screaming at me while I stood at the window washing dishes, then when we came out onto the porch screaming at us for making noise complaints to their landlord, who also doesn't care about the situation. I am no longer able to look out my own windows, for fear of drawing the ire of the people next door. They scream things to us to provoke and bully us, saying things like "HOPE YOU DON'T MIND THE NOISE!" while they slam doors and hoods open and closed for no reason. They are very antagonistic and we've taken a defensive stance in return, keeping our curtains closed, not going outside, not interacting with them at all. I've been in very bad health since this started, and spend a lot more time in bed. Obviously, this all makes it really difficult to continue this project, and I love this project and have been doing it since 2014.
Drawings and prints are no longer for sale, and I'll be removing the archive once I download it, and figure out how to move forward with an archive. I'll be focusing on trying to protect my sanity, what's left of my hearing, and trying to heal from the damage we've had inflicted on us night and day for the last 3 weeks. When I am able, I want to continue the practice privately for my own archive.