The Stranger at Starbucks – Anatomy of Success

Three times in the last week I have gone to a coffee shop and drawn.  The first and second time led to pretty good drawings I thought.  But the third time I struggled to get a good drawing.  

I thought I would show you the drawings and explain some of the reasons why it went the way it did.  Of course, there isn’t a reason for everything in art and creativity so I am not trying to explain it as if it’s a science experiment (where there is a reason for everything).  But I think it can be helpful to show failures as well as successes.


The Stranger at Starbucks

I had to take my car in to have something looked at so took some of the waiting time and went to get coffee and breakfast.  I was hoping to find someone interesting to draw and Periscope live as I did so.  I went to Starbucks and as I walked in I noticed a woman sitting in the corner with her back to the window. She was at a small 2 person table and was talking to someone facing her.  She had a nice brochure in front of her and seemed to be explaining something about a company or a sales opportunity. 

First Attempt


The woman had a beautiful long face, eyes that were slightly turned up and a wide, expressive mouth. But in trying to capture those elements I exaggerated them.  I then reduced her neck and shoulders in size as I tried to complete the drawing. The result was  more of a caricature than a portrait. It’s not terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to capture what I saw as a beautiful set of expressive lines and I don’t think I did that.


Second Attempt


This time I thought I would do the drawing in my sketchbook.  I started the same way I started the first drawing, with a simple line.  I was focused first on seeing and drawing the line that went from her forehead all the way down to her chin.  Getting that to flow right was key to the rest of her face. I then went back up to her eye and worked on it’s shape and the line of her nose.  By that time I already knew my initial line was off.  My solution was to force myself out of that obsession with accuracy by changing my technique to a more gestural one. In other words I decided to draw fast and furious, going over a line multiple times as I went.  It allowed me to correct the lines I didn’t like and move more spontaneously in the rest of the drawing. 

However, even with a gesture drawing, if you start out with a fundamentally flawed construction, it can be hard to bring it back. And that is what I had done. By the time my initial work on her face was done I knew I had her eyes too high on her face and that their shape made them look vacant and amateurish.  But I continued on thinking perhaps working with shading would fix the problem. It didn’t.  I was able to do pretty well with her body this time around but it wasn’t going to matter if how I drew her face made her look like an alien, which it did.  I worked it a bit longer before I decided there was only one more thing to try, and that was to lower and reshape the eyes. Unfortunately, I had already so overworked her eyes trying to save them that lowering them made them look even worse.  I gave up at that point.


Third Attempt


I decided to try one more time on a napkin. I was determined to be spare and simple with my line and learn from what I just done. This time I started with her forehead line, then her eye, wanting to redeem myself after having drawn them so bad the first two times. I felt good about the first one, the one farthest from me and continued with her nose and jawline. At that point I felt I had a better start than the first two. 

While her mouth is proportionally larger than average, in the first drawing I had made it too big. This time I waited until I saw her talk enough times to see how her lips looked and drew the four lines as fast as I could.  Then I focused on getting the other eye right. After that I felt I had the bones of the drawing right and could move on to her body and hair with a loose and simple confidence.

This one is the best of the three, I have no doubt. The academic issues of proportion and shape are dealt with effectively and the expression allows for interpretation and imagination.


Success From Failure

So, I think I finished with a success. A minor success so far, but a success nonetheless.  But I wouldn’t have achieved that success without the ability to walk away from a failure. Stopping something and saying it’s a failure is not failing in the ultimate sense. It’s simply admitting something is beyond repair, learning from it, and moving on to better things.

Drawing © 2015 Marty Coleman |



Brooklynne Studying

I had a Dr. appointment yesterday to look at my Achilles Tendon (it’s sore and I have a marathon coming up). After the appointment I went to Starbucks to hangout and draw.  I saw this woman’s blonde hair shimmering in the sunlight as I walked in and found a table close enough so I could draw her as she studied.


(The drawing is available for purchase, original or print. If you are interested email me at to inquire. )

I brought my sketchbook but decided to draw on a Starbucks napkin instead.  If you look at the line drawing only version below you can see how brown the paper is. I usually shy away from coloring these napkins because of that but this time I thought using shades of gray to create a monotone image would be cool. But as I colored I started using colors that were bright.  Next thing I know the drawing is colorful!


After I finished the line drawing I showed it to the woman. She seemed to be happy about it. I told her why I started drawing her (her hair) and she said she has only cut it once in her life, way back when she was in middle school.  Even then it was still mid-chest so not really short.  Her name is Brooklynne and it turns out she has won a few beauty pageants.  I expect she will win a few more, as well as some academic scholarships. She was studying hard!

She wanted a picture of herself with the drawing and so I took one on her phone and another on mine.  



You can see the live Periscope video of me doing the drawing here.

Drawing © 2015 Marty Coleman |


Money Problems #3


This drawing is available, original or print.  Email me at to inquire.

Money or Sex

Is this about money or is it about sex?  When I was drawing it live on Periscope the #napkinkin talked a lot more about what it says about sex than what it says about money. Maybe they just aren’t that different?


Drawing © 2015 Marty Coleman |

Quote by James Baldwin, 1924-1987, American author


You can watch the creation of the drawing and the guessing of the quote on the Periscope replay.

Money Problems #2

Have you ever heard the quote, “Wherever you go, there you are.”?  This quote is similar only having to do with money. In other words, you can have all the money in the world but it’s still you in control of it. And if you aren’t competent at controlling your money you will wreck it, surely as you will wreck a car.



This drawing (and the entire Money series) is available for purchase (original or print). Please contact me at if you are interested.


College of Money

When I was young we were a pretty wealthy family. Nice homes, cars, boats, vacations, even airplanes.  But through a series of events, both personal and global, we had to downsize to a much more middle class existence.  That included not being able to afford the college I was going to and me going out on my own.  I regrouped and eventually went back to college on my own dime.  That was the start of my college education in learning how to deal with money.

Masters of Money

I eventually got married and the family I married into was very different than my own. They were quite frugal and responsible with their money.  They planned, invested, planned and invested some more. They budgeted, they prioritized, they delayed gratification. They judged the need vs the want. Marrying into that family was the graduate school of my education about how to deal with money.

Ph.D in Money

Later still I got divorced.  We had just finally gotten out of debt from a move, a job change, and the raising of 3 kids.  But the divorce had blown all that out of the water and I was back in debt.  It took me many years to get back on track. That was my Ph.D. into how to deal with money.

Real Life in Money

How do you deal with money? Are you learning from the events of your life? Have you figured out what works and what doesn’t? Have you changed habits, ways of thinking, attitudes?  What is the number one lesson you have learned? Let us know and maybe it will become a new drawing in the series!

Drawing and commentary © 2015 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Ayn Rand, 1905-1982, Russian-born American Novelist and Philosopher


You can see the creation of this drawing by watching a replay of my Periscope live video. Watching on Periscope allows you to interact with me live as I draw. It can be a lot of fun! If you would like to follow me on Periscope I am @thenapkindad.



Money Problems #1


A Question

Is this true or false? We had a long discussion about it yesterday, trying to come up examples of money solving problems that could not be traced back to actually be a money problem.  We covered health, relationships, poverty, and more. We couldn’t find one.  What do you think? Can you find a problem that money solves that isn’t in the end, about money?

Original drawing or prints are available – Please contact me at to find out more.


Drawing and commentary © 2015 Marty Coleman |


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