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Girl on a train

In October I had to use the London Overground to get to the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane where I had been exhibiting. Coming back was always a journey in the dark. One evening I found myself sitting opposite a young woman who had a carved Halloween pumpkin in her lap. She had taken some of the flesh and made it into ears, so the whole looked like a rather large self-satisfied ginger tom, which made me smile. She was leaning against the upright framing of the carriage doors, with her eyes shut. I looked closely and resolved to remember what I could see. The carriage walls were pale yellow plastic, her coat another shade of yellow and the handrail by the doors a bright chrome yellow, all lit by the blueish neon overhead lights. Her skin was very pale, she had black hair and wore a long grey scarf. Outside everything dissolved into dark blue with pinpoints of yellow street lights. A couple of days later I set this down in a drawing.

My notes of what I call charismatic images are usually small, but this one is at A3, because I had been doing a gouache for our Christmas card and the pad was to hand.

I then transposed the drawing to a 61 X 91.4 cm canvas, altering the composition to emphasise the diagonal arrangement of her body as she sat there. Already in the sketch I had started to simplify; omitting the metal frame round the window and the seat she was sitting on. When I came to paint, I took this further, using the same blue grey for her scarf, the shadow side of her face and the shadows she cast. her coat had resolved itself into a series of areas that reminded me of cubist landscapes. Here she is, an anonymous girl on a train:

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