Sketching the Small Stuff

[By Róisín Curé in Galway, Ireland] Well, it’s January, and some spectacularly short-sighted and unintelligent decisions by the Irish government have left us with a terrifying infection rate. My kids, who are in their late teens and early twenties, are struggling to understand why their lives are on hold, since they are extremely unlikely to die from the disease. I have to explain the concept of society more than once. We have now lived cheek-by-jowl for nearly a year, like much of the rest of the world, but unlike many we have plenty of space, so we could be faring a lot worse.

I’m sketching as much as I ever have done, and as much as I can do in near-freezing temperatures, when I can’t go more than 5km from home, unless it’s to the supermarket, and I’m not quite desperate enough to sketch the vegetable aisle just yet. I have no interest in “virtual” sketching – I don’t find much joy in sketching from a screen – so that leaves very little other than my own home. And so, please prepare for some VERY domestic scenes.

The above stone wall runs along the edge of my garden. I went numb sketching it and it goes without saying that the paint refused to dry in the heavy frost of early January, but I still loved every minute of it.

The pandemic has opened doors to me that were never open before. I have met and made friends with a huge community of sketchers. I have been teaching online since the start of the pandemic, because my living was pulled from under my feet in March – again, like so many others – and I had to explore other ways to earn my bread. I have been bowled over by the joy that teaching has brought me. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed teaching, but meeting, getting to know and sketching with gorgeous people every week has been a privilege I could never, ever have foreseen. I know they say that happiness comes in the service of others, but for the first time in my life I know it to be true. It’s also made me think about how to pass on tips, which has helped my own sketching a lot too.

This sketch, of the special containers my mother gave me after she sold her apartment in Nice, France, was from one of my twice-weekly Instagram Live demos, but the drawing is pretty incidental. It’s more about having a casual chat with the viewers. In fact, anyone watching the IGTV videos afterwards might think I am talking to myself, since the comments don’t appear on the screen after the live event, but that’s OK. The viewers often sketch along with me, and I am happy about that.


My teenagers have been prevailed upon to contribute to the household chores. I was hoping they’d kind of find their groove once they started cooking and cleaning, and they have (took the pandemic, though). This is Paddy doing the washing up. He wanted to go for a spin in his new car – he worked all summer last year as a sailing instructor and earned every penny for it – and was newly insured and legal. He wanted to buy bits and pieces of washing-up accessories, and who was I to argue? And so I made this sketch after his first trip to the supermarket driving his own car: it was his “day” for washing up and I thought it would make a nice subject. 

Another very very domestic scene. But I liked the label on the wine bottle. I got lost in the sketch, which is always a good outcome, whether it comes out well or not. In the sketch, my husband is insisting he can taste chocolate in the wine, whereas I thought it just tasted of wine. Either he has a great imagination or I have a peasant’s palate, but either way I enjoyed the sketching very much.

Finally. a small sketch of my little dog, who has been quarantined with us, and is finding the little society he lives in very satisfactory. He looks a bit sad in this sketch because he has a bad ear, but he’s better now.

I will go on sketching the small stuff of my life, the small stuff that is of great value, since it is all any of us has.

Many years ago I was buying something in the local shop. “How are you?”asked Tom, the old guy who ran the store. “I’m great, thank you Tom,” I said, “I’m going home to a warm house and a hot dinner.” “The Queen herself has no better,” he said (please try to put on a very heavy Galway accent in your mind).

He was right. I am grateful.


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