Ian Hill-Smith is a reportage illustrator and cartoonist from the Midlands, living and working in Cheshire. He was kind enough to tell us more about his reportage drawings created on sight at Crewe Station, which he has been creating for the past year.
I started the Crewe Station Project because I found out that a lady there was trying to add a bit of life and colour to the place, as well as supporting local businesses, by running pop up shops, so I thought i’d roll up and see what was happening. This has been going on since last summer, Virgin have now got behind her and there’s going to be a big launch at major west coast stations at the end of march, which I’m hoping will see me on a train from Carlisle to Stafford trying to hold me pen steady.
There’s a nice little gang down there - although you quickly learn that there are a number of station regulars who you’re best off not engaging in conversation - and it’s just a fantastic spot for people watching.
You can catch people being completely oblivious to your presence and that’s what I enjoy most - trying to capture little interactions, tiny candid moments and the inherent absurdity of us humans, with as few pen strokes as possible.
As someone with a tendency to be ponderous and overly self critical, the fact that it allows you objectivity and makes you work quickly is very liberating too - I don’t need to worry about a reaction (or offending anyone) and i can’t mess about trying to perfect a picture because the subject is now on their way to Rhyll, never to be seen again.
Unless colour is demanded (for example the sketches of Denise, who had orange hair and a lime green hat on, or the colourful mum picture) I tend to stick with pigment ink pens and play around with nib thickness to provide emphasis. If I need some splashes of colour I tend to go to my Inktense blocks when i’m working on white paper because they’re so vibrant - and that’s generally the kind of colour that’s inspired me to include it in the picture - or if I’m using coloured paper I dig out the trusty Derwent studio coloured pencils because they contrast so well. I carry all my kit around in an extremely useful Derwent field bag that i bought from a very lovely independent art suppliers in Manchester.
My old mate Ian spends his weekends on the platform at Crewe Station… In a good way!!