Written by Ben Tallon
When Liz Atkin gets on the tube, pulls out her pack of charcoal and starts to feverishly draw onto the free The Metro and The Evening Standard newspapers, there’s a refreshing break in the monotony of tired commuter journeys, littered with people with heads lodged firmly in their mobile devices, disconnected with the immediacy of right here, right now.
For anyone who’s ever felt the self-conscious pinch of opening a sketchbook and getting to work on public transport, or indeed, been overcome by the alarming notion that they are indeed the subject of a creative stranger’s work, Liz Atkin manages to shatter both discomforts.
With energy and an inescapable charm, Liz, on face value, creates vibrant original artworks and hands them to fellow passengers. This alone is enough to snap many from their routine daily slumbers and provide them with an unexpected anchor point to the present moment. Some find it fun, watching with a curious smile and a raised eyebrow, delighted when Liz almost telepathically grows aware of their interest and hands them the piece. Others grumble, accuse her of littering and return, disgruntled to the confines of their mind.
But there’s a deeper story here. Liz suffers from compulsive skin-picking disorder, a surprisingly common problem on a broad scale of extremes. Her drawing is not only a gift for travellers and a welcome break to the soullessness of many London train rides, but also a great way to keep her hands and mind busy in the most productive and fascinating of ways.
I join Liz on platform 2 of Crystal Palace over ground rail station and after hearing Liz’s fascinating journey, we jump on the train to Dalston Junction, where I witness her live in action for one of the most exciting train rides I’ll ever have!