Earlier this week, I agreed to meet a person known as ‘The Derry Sketcher’ in a city centre cafe.
For the first time in my career, I did not know who I was going to meet, their name, or even if they were male or female. It was like something from a Sherlock Holmes novel.
In the interests of brevity ‘The Derry Sketcher’ will be known as TDS for the rest of this article and in keeping with the atmosphere of mystery and intrigue TDS has asked me not to reveal their age, sex or essentially any detail that is likely to reveal their identity.
I enter the city centre cafe and I identify several possible TDS candidates.
There’s a man sitting alone by the window, reading a book and drinking an espresso; there’s an elderly woman, again sitting alone, drinking tea and reading off her Smartphone but then it hits me, TDS is sitting right in front of me, alone and is drinking a hot chocolate.
“Hi, I am Andrew from the Derry Journal. I hope this doesn’t sound weird but are you The Derry Sketcher?,” says I.
“Yup, that’s me. Please to meet you Andrew,” says TDS.
Relieved, I take a seat and break the ice by telling TDS that I’ve never had to meet anyone like this before.
TDS laughs and within a matter of minutes the conversation is in full flow.
I first came across TDS on social networking site Twitter. Beautifully crafted images of places like Fahan Street, Boom Hall and the fire garden in St. Columb’s Park during the Lumiere Festival caught my eye.
“I’ve always loved art and drawing. I just love being creative,” said TDS.
“I did art to GCSE level when I was at school but my mother wouldn’t let me do it for A-level. It’s funny how things turn out.”
TDS works full-time in the public sector in Derry and is currently attempting to secure a place at art college later this year.
“I can’t speak highly enough of my employer. They have been so accommodating and they said if I get a place at art college, they are happy to work around my schedule. I just love where I work, the people are magic to work with.”
It was a fascination with Edinburgh and sketching that gave rise to TDS.
TDS was on Twitter one day when they came across a person going by the handle of @edinsketcher.
The Edinburgh Sketcher is a man called Mark Kirkham and a few years ago Mark started a competition and called it ‘WhereArtI’.
Essentially, Mark, sketched well known places in Edinburgh and his fans on Twitter had to guess what he was drawing.
“I remember thinking it was an amazing idea and Mark gave me the confidence to try and do the same thing here in Derry.
“I was born and reared in Derry - I’ve lived in the Bogside and many other places.
“It wasn’t until I started the sketching I started to truly realise just how beautiful the place is.”
Every Friday, TDS posts a competition on Twitter, called ‘Find Me Friday’.
“It’s been really popular so far. I started the competition last year and what I do is I decide on a place that I am going to sketch in Derry. I’ll draw a small part of it and take a photo and post it on Twitter. Then it’s up to my followers to try and guess where it is. I put the first clue up at around 12pm and give a clue almost every hour on the hour until I reveal the answer at 6pm.
“The first person to get the answer correct is awarded the points and then the person with the most points at the end of the year gets to choose any of the sketches I’ve done throughout the year or they can send me a photo and I will sketch the image for them.
“I’ve loved becoming The Derry Sketcher and one of my followers messaged me one day to say that my sketches had helped to look around him more. He said that by looking at my pictures he soon started to see just how wondrous a place Derry is, and he’s right.”
It’s a case of so far so good for TDS and they made a point of saying that none of it would have been possible had it not been for the support of their spouse.
“Marrying my spouse is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. There’s no easy way to say this, but I would be lost without them,” said TDS.
As we continue to talk about the various different places sketched by TDS the interview slowly comes to an end and after I put my pen and notepad on the table, the discussions moves on to pressing issues such as comics, movies and cameras.
The TDS and I leave the cafe together and I assure them that their identity will remain shrouded in mystery.
TDS thanks me and quicker than you can say ‘Find Me Friday’ they have disappeared around the corner and out sight.
To follow The Derry Sketcher on Twitter search for @DerrySketcher or to contact The Derry Sketcher, email: firstname.lastname@example.org