Do you do it in public?

Make art that is. These guys do!

Are you quite comfortable making art in front of other people and in public?

Artist and art teacher Chris Mostyn:  I’ll draw in cafes, the lunchroom, anywhere I can. If I don’t draw for a couple of days I get really irritable. I start getting grouchy and short with my family and everyone else. They all kind of know ‘just go and draw something’.When I do comics I do it in a small book, because my schedule is busy, so if I’m sitting down to have a cup of coffee after work I need to be drawing while I’m doing that.I bought a basket for the front of my bike that has a roll down wet bag so I can put my art supplies in – so its my art studio on the go.

One of Chris’ sketch books

I have dozens of sketchbooks around. We go to a church on a Sunday morning and I’ll draw while I’m listening, it helps me to concentrate, so I’ll sit and draw people walking around and doing things and occasionally there will be words in there of what was being said. And then I have another book which is just for observational drawings when I’m travelling, and then I have a book that’s more like a journal, like ‘it’s October 4th and I’m doing blah blah blah, I’m eating this and I’m drinking that’. But one small book is just for the comics.

Student and crafter Mercedes Hughes-Barlow: I once crocheted an entire king size blanket while working as a substitute teacher. I no longer substitute but I do take projects with me while I wait for appointments, crochet or embroidery most often when I am not working on homework anyway. And I always carry my camera and take pictures of things that strike my fancy. When I’m working on crochet I use a giant reusable shopping bag from Costco to carry my gear around with me, for embroidery I use a ziplock baggie in my purse (which is giant). People are usually interested in what I am doing and want to know if it is difficult, and why I crochet or do embroidery and how I learned.

Artist and Art therapist Gretchen Miller: For sure, I’ve pulled out my stuff in an airplane, putting the tray down and just clearing some space. All I need is a gluestick, and I have a TSA approved pair of scissors that I bring. I don’t need a whole lot, just some collage bits or I use the magazine thats in the seat in front of me, or things I’ve picked up on my travels. Or waiting, like this year I got super delayed going to the American Art Therapy Association Conference, it should have been a super quick trip but it was really extended, it turned into all day at the airport. I was like ‘OK so what am I going to do? I’m going to make some art. I’ve got time, I’ve got my stuff here, so… that’s what I did.’

Writer Sarah J. Sequins: I used to write a lot in public. At the hotel on the University campus, actually. Novels and short stories. The change of scenery helped me get a lot of things done, more so than if I’d stayed home. Just about the only problem I had was with strange men who thought I was there to meet them… even though I was clearly wearing earplugs. Sometimes they wouldn’t even wait for me to take the earplugs out to start yakking!

A still life starbucks
A coffee shop still life by Carol

Also, I have to share one of my favorite characters with you. He was an older man named Bob, and I called him Wandering Bob because he would sit down in the lobby for a minute, mutter to himself, then get up and shuffle away again. Over and over and over. It got to the point where he became comfortable enough with me to ask me to watch his things while he wandered… including an enormous old-fashioned suitcase. I always wondered what was in it, but I never peeked 😉

Most of the time I carried around a blank artist’s sketchbook for my writing. I went through at least eight of them in all my trips to the hotel, and I named them the Write Brothers. Notebooks were easier to carry around than my laptop, which I only hauled around on special occasions (like National Novel Writing Month, where speed was important). I carried it in a vinyl tote bag, which had plenty of pockets for pens and highlighters. I also had a thin hardcover book that I brought everywhere with me. It was the same length and width as a typical sheet of printer paper and was great for a makeshift lap desk when I was editing printed drafts of my projects.

Artist and art therapist Carol Rice: Making art in coffee shops is my favorite thing to do. It’s the best part of my week. Mostly I work in art journals, I have started making my own. Here is a still life at Starbucks from one of my journals. I made this picture at a coffee house too, it’s about 11×14″. Later I framed it and sold it (image below).  

I have an amazing, even magical bag to carry my art supplies in (see main photo for this blog post). My daughter made it for me, and I carry it everywhere. Very rarely do people ever make any comment about what I am doing. In fact I rarely even notice people looking my direction, even though my supplies spread out as I make art. I usually spend an hour or two making art. The people who have made comments to me are usually artists themselves.

a coffee house mandala
An artwork made in public by Carol and later sold

One time I was making art while on an airplane, where you are squished up against other people, and I was busy putting holes in my art journal pages and collaging around the holes. A girl of about 10 sat next to me and stared with a frown. But I was so busy and in the process that I just blocked her out. I am quite happy with my “blocking people out” abilities. I didn’t used to have them.

If I am feeling nervous about being in public, I start with writing in my journal, and then pretty soon I am engrossed in my process, and one thing leads to another–the markers come out, the glue and collage items, scissors, the watercolors. It’s like I am not really happy till all my supplies are out and being used!

Keen crafter, Homeschooling mother and tutor Peg: I take smaller sizes of crochet and knitting to any place I will have to wait for any length of time (doctor’s appointments, chemo with my friend, kids’ lessons, etc) and on airplanes. I once made a sculpy clay dragon at the park too. Oh, and origami and iris folding greeting cards. Tried quilling but that was too easily blown away by wind. I will carry crafty things pretty much anywhere.

archery hat
Archery hat made in public by Peg

I have a large canvas bag which I painted a dragon on, it holds whatever project I am working on. For the paper projects I have old plastic kid case things that I just put the supplies I need in, it also functions as a sort of lap table. For the clay I used two large plastic food storage containers. Most people are curious about what I am making, say nice things about how nice it looks. The hat I made recently, archery target, was started at a preschool open house where I was working taking applications.

How about you? Do you make art in public? Craft up a storm in waiting rooms? Try your hand at sculpture in the park? Or maybe inspired to try? Let us know in the comments below! 




About the folk mentioned in this article:

Mercedes: I live in Oregon and I am addicted to learning. I am currently an online student and when not doing school or crafts I hike and fish near where I live.

Peg: I love doing almost anything crafty, reading, proofreading, singing, yoga, martial arts, Reiki, research. I currently work as a Homeschooling mother, reading and math tutor.

Sarah: I am a writer, jewelry artist, and professional puppy wrangler living in the Midwest. In my spare time I cook tasty vegetarian food and play with my ever-growing collection of customized Barbie dolls. You can find me at

Carol: I live in New Mexico and work as an art therapist and counselor. My hobby is making art in coffee shops.

Gretchen: I am an art therapist, art therapy teacher and mixed media artist who loves art collaborations. My blog is Creativity in Motion.

Chris: I am a middle school art teacher, artist and comic strip illustrator who is passionate about kids and creativity. You can check out my comics at



To experience art making in a low pressure environment with supportive friendly people try one of my Sydney workshops, including the next round of Women’s Wellbeing Workshops. Details for all up coming weekday evening, weekday morning, and Saturday events are listed HERE.

JadephotoAbout the author: Jade Herriman, BSc, MSocSci, DipTAT is a Sydney-based transpersonal art therapist, Barbara Sher coach and facilitator. She works with clients to help bring more creativity into their lives, plan for their professional development, manage big life change and go after their dreams. She works with groups, individuals and online to deliver workshops and help support people work towards their dreams. She is pleased to be presenting a full program of art therapy, creativity and coaching workshops in 2017 including a series of Women’s Wellbeing groups and mixed media art making workshop. She brings a playful, flexible and creative approach to serious issues, and draws on many years of experience working in organisations in project management, policy and research roles to bring practical solutions to her clients.

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