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Jan Patience: On-the-go art is a big draw for commuters

© SYSTEMArt produced by sketchers on Glasgow’s subway
Art produced by sketchers on Glasgow’s subway

As a student at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), Robert McCormack spent many hours on Glasgow’s subway network, to-ing and fro-ing from his art school studio.

From his seat aboard the Clockwork Orange, as Glasgow’s SPT subway is affectionately known, McCormack sketched fellow commuters. For the young artist, it became almost a meditation which helped “recentre him in the present”.

McCormack went on to graduate during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. I recall viewing his online degree show, which included some great drawings, made using charcoal.

A growing interest in the process of drawing led to McCormack reading American art educator Betty Edwards’ 1979 book, Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain. In it, Edwards encourages various techniques, including “blind drawing”, sketching with the non-dominant hand and drawing in a continuous line.

Going back to the place which first inspired his drawings-on-the-go, McCormack, now working in art education, recently led two experimental drawing workshops within the Subway. Staged at the end of last year as part of as part of GSA’s Close Of Play: Climate Emergency And Creative Action series, McCormack and fellow GSA graduate, Council Baby, gave 24 participants from all walks of life a variety of drawing exercises to carry out in transit. This helped develop the Subway sketchers’ speed and accuracy.

Participants produced a wide variety of quick-fire drawings. Now, Subway-inspired work by McCormack and Council Baby, together with drawings by all the participants, is on show in GSA’s Reid Building.

Conditions Of Carriage, which is free for anyone to view, includes sketchbooks and drawings resulting from the workshops. Well worth a look. It might even encourage to take out a sketchpad next time you’re on public transport.


The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh has had a place at the centre of Scottish art history since 1842. Ten years ago the private gallery – which is open to the public – launched its Modern Masters series.

In its new exhibition, Ten Years Of Modern Masters, the gallery presents an exceptional collection of paintings, tapestry, and furniture by Scottish artists. One of the highlights is a sublime Joan Eardley Catterline seascape called Winter Sea II.