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Scott Bakal
High and Low
posted:
"HIGH SEAT: LIRR"
"LOW SEAT: LIRR" - (I did this one last night...)
So as you may be aware of by now, I take the Long Island Railroad pretty frequently in and out of NYC. Actually, I've been regularly riding it since I went to SVA for my undergrad since 1989, so I've gotten to see a lot of the changes over the years.
One change I'd like to touch upon today are the new train cars. When I was starting SVA, there were new cars being put into service at the time. As with most new things, they were pretty cool and comfortable. Now, over the last two or three years, updated and new train cars are being brought into service. Besides the obvious differences in comfort, smoother and quieter ride, one big difference is the seat height. The seat design went from mid-back height to full back height.
At first, when I rode the new car, I thought I enjoyed the new high seats because it allowed a bit more privacy. In overall comfort though, I think the low seats are better for sleeping and relaxing because the headrest of the old ones allow you to put your head back comfortably but news ones bring the head forward a little too much so in the end, your chin ends up on your chest and when you wake, you wake with a sore neck. I digress...
Now, after taking a few rides in some of the older models that they've been keeping in service, I have decided I dislike the newer seats. I like the new train cars, but not the seats.
Reason being, it is too isolating. I found myself being more self conscious than I used to be in the older seats because I got used to being isolated. It is very easy to make eye contact with people nearby in the older cars and what you do and say is more out in the open. I actually prefer that there is more contact between people because in the case of riding the train with the public, I noticed that people are more respectful when they are out in the open more than hiding in isolation behind their seats.
If anyone takes the train regularly, notice how loud and disrespectful cell phone usage is cut down on the older trains and how much quieter and respectful people are. I think it may have something to do with people being more exposed. Just a theory.
So: Low seats are more comfortable and possibly force people to be more socially aware.
Plus...people are so much more interesting to draw when you can SEE them!  There are a few locations that you can be face to face with someone but you have to hope they're asleep in order to draw.
Here is a tiny selection of train-based drawings I did over the last year.  I emphasize tiny because I went through 3-4 Moleskines and Handbooks this year alone just for travelling not including the 1-2 special sketchbook projects I am doing.  I literally do 1-5 drawings per ride...unless I am sleeping...some from life, most are fantasy and decorative and just ideas that I have.
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Bakal is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!