Skip navigation

Two weeks ago I visited Eva’s blog and found this poem titled “1:37am sleepless”. I was impressed and commented because it brought sights and sounds and movement alive for me through the way she worded it.  I am not a writer but have taken an interest in what a few writers are doing so I follow them. To make a long story short, Eva replied to my comment asking if I would try to illustrate her poem. The above is my attempt to do so.  Let me say, right up front, that I am not an illustrator. I rely heavily on what I see to create a drawing or painting. In preparation for this painting, I drew numerous figures. I had some figure drawings from my sessions of life drawing and I have several figure books. I had to come up with figures I saw in my mind when I read her poem so some of these have been fattened up. Two have tops from one pose and legs from another. I actually got the lady looking over her shoulder from turning and staring at myself in the mirror to see how my body twisted and how much of the side of her head I’d need to include. The yellow taxi that seems to be soaring in for a landing (incorrect perspective on that) happens to be what my Jetta looks like as I stare down its’ side from behind.  OK, the pre-drawings were done.

Next I decided  how I wanted to lay it out. I hope I captured a viewpoint a little above the street. I chose to overlap the women leading one’s eye across the page in a serpentine manner and including a post in the background. The light source isn’t defined in the hopes that the yellow casts all around would suggest street lamplight. I tried to capture sadness in the little blonde woman in the foreground, the energy of the smoker swirling  her cigarette in the background, the clicking of heels with the blonde walking away and the taxi pick-ups with the woman reaching for the back door of the taxi starting to open for her. I tried to develop the personality of a lady of the evening in the facial expression of  the foreground lady in green.

I realised how little of streetlife I knew as I painted this. I’ve only seen these women featured in police documentaries on TV or seen fleeting pictures in photo magazines that accomplished photographers have taken.  This is pretty much the vision I had when I read Eva’s poem. There are things I wish I had done better and they would include more lost edges, more abstract look and a darker and more somber scene.  Next time! There is always something we wish we had captured a little better.

Thanks Eva!

Below are mini’s cropped from the above painting. I thought they were interesting. Click any of the images to enlarge.


  1. It is a pleasure to watch and enjoy the ladies.I love the purple dress. How small are these figures? Hard to visualize from these images.

    • Hi Raji. Thanks for the comment. The lady reaching for the taxi measures almost 10″. The painting measures 12.75″ x 18″. The blonde in the foreground in the two-piece purple measures 8″.

  2. Leslie,
    You did great! You know what I really like about them . . . they are real women, not tv glamour. I could have been your model for the cigarette gal. LOL. Proud of you for taking the challenge. It’s fun to stretch and learn beyond the comfort zone. Most of the time. 😉

    • Thank-you, thank-you. I wondered what you would think since you had a part in encouraging me to try this. I certainly needed models. I agree, totally about growing and learning. ….and you know? This is not a subject matter I would normally paint. I don’t know if that made it easier or more difficult. Maybe, easier, allowing me to be more free.

  3. I have been anxiously awaiting the unveiling of this painting and must say I was not disappointed.

    You have captured this image perfectly. I went over to Eva’s site and read her poem. You’ve done her work justice.

    If I had any criticism at all, it would be exactly what you said…that maybe the painting should be a little darker. But no matter. You’ve done a terrific job (for one who has never seen a real streetwalker.)

    • I have been anxiously awaiting what you would think of it! I agree with you that it needs to be darker. I was like you with your recent painting and I got to this point and was afraid to do anymore to it.I had to change some of their clothes to a darker tone and feared if I darkened the shadows any furthur, I’d lose contrast. Sooooooo, I told myself that there was a big streetlight that cast yellow light on them all and the sidewalk. 🙂 Really, it was I’d exhausted my skill level and need to learn more. Thank-you for your comment!

    • All things nice..
    • Posted January 19, 2010 at 8:04 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply


    Another beautiful painting, so well done! Where did you get the ideas for the clothing? The jewellery, accessories and even the painted fingernails so much detail, you have an eye for fashion 🙂

    All things nice…

    • Hi Allthingsnice! Thank-you! Your question is so much fun to answer. I actually had five nude ladies drawn on th watercolor paper.Reminded me of looking at undressed “Barbie” dolls. lol My daughter and I sat and discussed it and who should wear what. I actually toned down the amount of jewelry and left only those things that led you from figure to figure. If you start with the smoker, her ankle bracelet leads to blonde girl’s arm bracelet, jump to neck of lady in green, to the left arm jewelry of other blonde and down her hair and sash to taxi girl’s purse. 🙂

  4. Sometimes a word or a picture can inspire us to paint something beautiful. In your case a beautiful poem of Eva was the source of the inspiration 😉
    I love it, Leslie.Great job 🙂

    Enjoy your time, my friend!

    • Thanks, Alina. I think that is why I visit your sight. I know I can find something to see that brings me a moment of beauty or fun from somewhere else and come back here, refreshed and ready to paint again!

    • All things nice..
    • Posted January 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    What a good idea, it was one of the things I noticed the most, and then I looked at all their jewellery and accessories. Lots of thought went into it.

    All things nice…

  5. Hello Leslie and everyone else who has commented so far. Leslie has done quite a wonderful job of painting people and a place she’s never seen in the flesh. Seeing Leslie’s visual rendition of what my words-poem evoked within her mind’s eye is very intriguing. Leslie’s work has such vitality and color that contrasts in very specific ways with my actual observations and memories of the women working the corner of K and 11th in Washington DC. “DARK”–with a streetlight would characterize that scene with more starkness. One thing both my memory and Leslie’s painting retain, I think, is that these are/were WORKING Women–hard working women. Nothing glamorous or flighty about them–it was business–work–just like anyone else does day in and day out.
    Thanks so much, Leslie for such a wonderful painting and for being so informative about your own creative process.

    • Thanks, Eva, for taking time to comment with your observations. I wish I had had the confidence to create more darkness in this, also. Also more lost edges. I also identify with your comment about women like each of us and hard working. As I was putting them together, so to speak, it was very difficult to make them separate from us, in form. I had to stress postures and clothing and scene.

      • Leslie–what a thing to say–that you wish you had the confidence to create more darkness–Okay I send you GRANDE CONFIDENCE DELUXE! Don’t get me wrong–DARK is not easy to ‘do’.
        I think this is wonderful as is–dark or not.
        Thank you.

      • Thank-you, Eva! I’ll take that GRANDE CONFIDENCE DELUXE! 🙂

  6. This is a wonderful collaboration. how exciting to be inspired by one form of artistic expression to create another! I used to live in St Kilda – at the time this was the red light district of Melbourne – and this reminds me very much of the feeling of the ladies (and some gentlemen) who were a permanent part of the evening landscape.

    • Thanks, Kirsty. It was fun to try this with Eva. ….and I didn’t even think of gentlemen in this capacity but there are! I like how you say permanent part of the landscape. That’s how Eva’s poem came across to me, like they are there every night on that same corner.

  7. I don’t think there’s any rule anywhere that says yoy have to be able to create something without reference material in order to qualify as an illustrator 🙂

    I like your ladies very mcuh, particularly the one with the cigarette

    • Oh, Sarah, thank-you. The one with the cigarette was my wanting to stretch a little. 🙂

  8. Amazing!

    I am at a loss of words (doesn’t happen often, btw!)

    The scene is so strong and alive, Lautrec like alive. Leslie, this painting speaks so loudly and that for me it overrides conversations about techniques, values, edges. These are valid discussions of course, but they seem small in comparison with an impact this painting has as a whole. I can’t spare time being concerned whether the taxi appears or doesn’t appear floating when I am processing the lives these women are leading, their line of work, and a large desperate “NO EXIT” sign they get to wake to every day.

    Leslie, a round of applause from me!

    • Oh, thank-you! My roommate in college adored Lautrec! Hi praise, indeed. You all are making my day!

  9. i think its great.
    You didn’t glorify it but you did give it a depth i can relate too.
    Street scenes like this where i grew up were not uncommon.
    you’ve done a great job

  10. The people on this painting are just fantastic. They are very colorfully in character and expression. Actually I’m quite intimated by just drawing people out from thin air, cos one need to plan for their looks, facial and color tone. I’m not sure about the dark tone but i bet a street light will just ignite the scene.

    • Thank-you, Francis. I was intimidated by making up people and switching poses around, also. I had to do a lot of my planning on other paper. My drawing skills got a real work out. Then I had to figure out what size to make them and what clothes to put on them. Phew!

  11. That sound? It’s me clapping you. This was not an easy illustration to do, but I knew you would do a fantastic job. I agree with Alex Zonis, it simply doesn’t matter if the taxi isn’t quite right or any of the other things you list – it works. The important matter is that your image as a whole most effectively enhances the poem and helps make it real.

    Found it interesting that you use the same techniques as I do to get your figures correct…a bit from here…a leg from there: my family pose for me and I also use the mirror.

    • Thank-you, June. There was no other way for me to put those figures together unless I’d hired a model or asked my daughter to pose for me. Once I’d worked the figures’ poses out, I suppose I could have had her strike the pose I wanted and draw from her. I may do that, in the future. I think your illustrations are remarkable, so I consider this high praise. Thank-you.

  12. Brilliant, this is brilliant, the whole atmosphere of the street and the people is captured perfectly in the painting. Wow its priceless.

    • Thank-you, Paintedbrush. I like “priceless”. You have made my day! 🙂

  13. Wow! I am blown away. You captured the movement and color of life so well. I love the perspective as though some one above was looking down without judgement. And one again I really enjoy your sense of humor and usage of color.

    • Thank-you, Linda. The sense of humor happened when one of my friends asked me if I even knew what ladies of the evening looked like? I had Eva’s poem and what I’d seen on TV to go from. 🙂

  14. Leslie, I can’t say enough about this painting. When I first saw it, I was intrigued by all the life and color in the painting. As I looked closer and read your commentary, I was completely fascinated by the characters you developed. It felt as if you got to know each one of the ladies, personally, as you painted them. I bet you even knew what their voices sounded like.

    Also, I was amazed at the way you got the perspective so right. On the lady who is reaching for the car door, you can look at her body and see that the viewer is a little above her.

    You really did a great job! The poem is wonderful, too.

    • Thank-you, Beth. Thank-you for picking up on the voices part because I was struck by the words in Eva’s poem that brought movement and sound alive in the image in my head. She has a way of getting “deep” with words and I’ve admired that in her work. Thank-you for the perspective comment. I worked hard on that. I know it needs improvement, but it pleases me that you were able to visualize it from what I gave you. This was my project like your
      that completely blew me away!

  15. Thanks, Leslie! You are such an inspiration!

  16. Being one who has walked the streets… well, only to get to the donut shop, finds this painting very cool and completely different from your norm. To take someone’s writing and tell it’s story visually has to be exciting to both the writer and the artist. Leslie, I kind of like your dark side! So cool!

    • Thank-you, Ryan. I believe that Eva’s words did cause me to feel a little like these women chose differently than I. I think to some women (me included) it is difficult for us to grasp why someone would choose this. When I painted them, it was difficult to make them look any different than any other woman I pass daily. I learned a lot with this. Eva’s poem made me think the same thing.

  17. I like it, Leslie! I like the shape of these women, their curves… 🙂 I don’t know why that came to mind first, perhaps because I’m too used to looking at thin women. They are refreshing!

    • Thank-you for mentioning the curves, Camilla. Eva had reference of curvey lines in her poem.

  18. The energy of the activity entertains my interest for the unknown.

    • What a cool comment, Nancy. It kind of makes them anyone. I like that.

  19. I can’t help laugh on looking at this one. It is so fun and playful! Beautifully done !

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. I guess my naivety in regards to the subject material is showing. But I will surely take fun and playful! 🙂

  20. I was on pencilscribbles’ blog and clicked on your name. This is wonderful. So alive. So are your other paintings -all of them. I’m royally impressed.

    • Thank-you, Gigi! I just read three of your shorts and thoroughly enjoyed “annie” and “christine”. Will you be adding to the list of stories?

  21. hi leslie, thank you. My goal is to add to the list but I don’t really blog and I’d rather wait until something is published before putting it on my site, so for now, I’m only publishing those. I will be doodling, though, and I’ll put one or two doodles on the site. I really love your stuff.

  22. What a story these ladies do tell, of life on the streets at 1 am …

    I love the perspective you chose. Great work, Leslie. You challenge yourself and your talent more than any other artist I have seen.


    • Thank-you, thank-you, Kate! Between trying to get the cloud scene and trying to organize five night ladies, I learned quite a bit. Hope the storms are over for you on Big Sur.

  23. You might like this site for figuring out poses… save your neck
    P.S. Been following your blog since class and am really enjoying it.

  24. I’m assuming this is Jerri from class!:) Thank-you for the link! And thank-you for the comment.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By 1:37 am sleepless « 47whitebuffalo’s Blog on 19 Jan 2010 at 3:33 pm

    […] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)A Laugh a Day, So They SayWomen Acting for Change: […]

  2. […] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: