Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Caitlin Doyle

I met the present resident author of the Kerouac house, Caitlin Doyle, at Rachel Kapitan's reading of her short stories at Neon Forest. We became Facebook friends and after a quick exchange of messages, I arranged to sketch her on a Friday evening after I finished work at Full Sail. I was nervous and excited when I parked in front of the Kerouac house. It was dark outside but a warm light filtered through the 1950s styled curtains. I knocked and the old door shook on its hinges.

Caitlin welcomed me and made her way to the kitchen table where her computer and note pads were set up. She offered me water but I just wanted to get right to work. I explained that the sketch might take a couple of hours and I would be quiet as a mouse. There was some sort of scurrying scratchy noise that came from the kitchen or back of the house. I asked, "What was that?" She got up and went into the dark kitchen looking at the ceiling. "I don't know" she said, "This house makes some strange noises." She was a bit self conscious at first about writing while I sketched. She thought she might not be able to concentrate. She explained that she had been painted by an artist once before, and he talked to himself the whole time which made her want to laugh.

Soon we were both working, lost in the moment. She was working on a series of poems about objects in bottles. The poem she was working on went through multiple drafts. She worked with pencil on paper. Occasionally we both erased and made frantic adjustments. Pencils and pens scratched away in unison. A smoke detector or security device made faint chirping sounds but soon those sounds were erased from my thoughts as the sketch took form. She only glanced at the computer a few times, referring to a thesaurus. There is a shared energy that comes when creative people work together in the same room. This must be what life was like in Victorian times when people gathered in parlors and spent quiet creative time together rather than passively staring at a TV.

Later we had a fascinating discussion on the similarities between our art forms. I explained that creating a sketch on location was much like a jig saw puzzle where all the pieces are constantly in motion not only on a two dimensional plane, but deep in space. I would commit to a puzzle piece and lock it in place in the sketch making compositional adjustments around it. She said poetry is much the same only the pieces are words. Her poems have a predefined rhyme scheme but then she needs to find ways to break up the pattern making it organic and unpredictable. She erased and changed lines until the poem took form, its meaning and depth growing in the process.

After the first sketch was done, Caitlin said she had made serious headway on the poem she was working on called "The Ship." She had been so focused, that she forgot I was there. Since she was comfortable, and we were both getting plenty of work done, I asked if she minded me doing a second sketch. She agreed. I made bolder choices and allowed the second sketch to take form with ease. Caitlin had to review a You Tube video of one of her poetry readings. I leaned forward to listen. Some of the poems were light hearted and fun while others had a dark profound meaning. One poem titled "The Doll Museum" was about the lessons dolls have taught through the ages and the loss of a sister to a surgeons scalpel. Something about the innocent description of the light, lifelike doll followed by sudden loss hit me hard. Later Caitlin let me know she never had a sister. The poem was told from the vantage point of a friend who had lost her sister.

The strength of poetry is that it never feels like fiction, it strips a soul bare unquestioned. Caitlin told me her last name Doyle means black stranger. With her jet black hair and poems that have a sharp cunning edge, the name is a perfect fit. She is reading some of her poems tonight at Infusion Tea (1600 Edgewater Drive, College Park) starting at 7pm. Come on out to what is sure to be a great evening of poetry.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

1 comment:

Hannah said...

I really like these individual, portrait-like sketches, Tom. The large sketch from this session is super intense, I can almost feel heat coming off her!