Sketching, Urban Sketching

A Day At The Garage – Watercolour Pencil Drawings

I type “Would it be OK if I stopped to draw at the garage while you fix my car?” on my phone and click send. I look at the screen again and realise it’s a weird question. Not the sort car mechanics usually get asked. Sam doesn’t even know I draw, so he’s going to think I am crazy.

Sam mechanic at work watercolour and watercolour pencil drawings by Sophie Peanut
Full sketchbook spread – Sam at work in the garage: watercolour and watercolour pencil drawings.

My phone buzzes with a reply ‘No problem’. Sam’s happy for me to stand in a corner of the workshop and draw. So on a cold, rainy April morning I pack my pencils and drive to the garage to sketch my second entry for the ‘sketching people at work’ competition.

Read about the reportage illustration competition and my first entry for it here.

Drawing Sam at work

The Riverside Garage is busy: there are tools, cars and now me and my 7-year-old daughter (it’s the school holidays) packed tightly in the workshop.

Sam’s boss Keith peers over my shoulder. “What are you drawing?” he asks. “The mess in the corner”. Keith laughs “It’s not a mess. It’s a working garage.”. I’ve started my sketchbook with drawings of the workbench, tool chests and shelves. I sketch directly in a wet watercolour wash with watercolour pencils.

Drawing at the garage - Watercolour pencil drawings by Sophie Peanut
Start of my garage sketchbook – Quick drawings in watercolour pencil on a wet watercolour background.

Watercolour pencil drawings

I hadn’t planned to make watercolour pencil drawings, but it’s cold and damp so paint dries very slowly. Watercolour pencils make lovely textured marks on wet paper which turns out to be perfect to give a feel of the grease blackened workshop.

At the garage - Urban sketching drawing by Sophie Peanut
The middle part of the concertina sketchbook – somehow I managed to draw my own vehicle as the central subject of the sketchbook!

After an hour or so, my daughter Katie – who has been drawing in her own sketchbook, gets cold and fidgety.  I can’t blame her – my fingers are numb and I am shivering. Katie interviews Sam (you can read the interview at the end of this post) while I draw him working on the van’s breaks. Soon my sketchbook is full and we are ready to head back home to warm up.

A productive morning – got the old van fixed and filled a concertina sketchbook.

Drawing a mechanic at work in a garage - Urban sketching by Sophie Peanut
The end of the sketchbook – Drawing Sam while he is fixing the van.

A Day At The Garage

Take a sharp turn down a very narrow cobbled alley, carry on through a tunnel-like passage and you’ll get to a yard packed full of cars. You’re at the Riverside Garage. You’ll find Sam and his boss Keith there.

Being a Mechanic is physically demanding and dirty. It’s also cold in winter. They’ve had three apprentices leave because the work was too hard. Yet Sam, who has been a mechanic for over 10 years still loves the job. He tells me with a grin ‘ I get to play with cars all day… a boy’s dream!’.

The job has changed over the years and will continue to do so as technology evolves. Cars are getting more reliable but more complicated too. More electronics are used in vehicles and hybrid and electric cars are becoming more common, so the skills a mechanic needs are changing.

Being a mechanic can be stressful when things go wrong – diagnosing and fixing car problems isn’t always straightforward. Sam rates his job 8 out of 10 – he says ‘It’s a very nice job!’.


Watercolour pencil drawings - A day at the garage Urban sketch by Sophie Peanut

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