Smartphone sketches of a little town

Step into Baked Cafe on a Sunday afternoon and you know that you're being watched by the latte-sipping hipsters who frequent the establishment. But that's not all. You may also be drawn. Sophie Fuldauer, 20, has taken to doing sketches of cafe customers, on the sly. But unless you know her work, you'd be forgiven for thinking that she's just fiddling with her iPhone.

Step into Baked Cafe on a Sunday afternoon and you know that you’re being watched by the latte-sipping hipsters who frequent the establishment.

But that’s not all. You may also be drawn.

Sophie Fuldauer, 20, has taken to doing sketches of cafe customers, on the sly. But unless you know her work, you’d be forgiven for thinking that she’s just fiddling with her iPhone.

She’s not. Instead, she’s whipping off spontaneous, squiggly yet precise sketches, finished with soft splotches of colour.

Fuldauer has drawn “since ever.” She developed the habit of carrying a sketchbook around to practise and kill time. Then, one year ago, she bought her iPhone, which has become her medium of choice.

While idling in Baked, Fuldauer would surreptitiously draw customers. When her stepdad saw her work, he suggested she could make money doing it.

Now she is. Typically, she charges US$30 to email the picture directly to the customer.

It’s not a particularly lucrative endeavour, because Fuldauer works in secret. Some subjects get up and leave before she’s done. Those who do sit through a session are understandably surprised to learn they’ve been sketched. Some pay to obtain a copy.

Fuldauer’s portraits have been used as Facebook profile pictures for more than a few of her customers. Others have printed the portraits on paper, although, because the output resolution is low, they can’t be printed much bigger than a 10-centimetre square before becoming fuzzy.

She uses a free drawing program, called SketchBookX. Dangling from her phone is a stubby stylus with a black rubber nub at the end. “It’s an imitation finger,” she said.

Drawing on an iPhone is tricky, thanks to the small screen. “It’s a little flukey with this thing,” said Fuldauer. “You don’t always know what you’re getting. Lines don’t always show up in the right place. But if they look good, I’ll keep them.”

Thankfully, there’s the undo feature. “You can try several times for the same line, until it’s exactly where I want it to be,” she said.

The big advantage? “I can do this in colour,” she said. “That’s really a drawback to just having a pencil and paper.

“You can be more dynamic and cool with it.”

The portraits are mostly of people, although there’s also the occasional dog or cat.

Some prominent artists, such as David Hockney, have begun to use the iPhone’s big brother, the iPad, as an electronic canvass to paint on.

Fuldauer isn’t aware of this trend. However, she’s thought about trading up for an iPad.

“But I think I’d go crazy on the details, and then all the life would be lost,” she said. “It’s better to have a small thing, and then the pictures look alive.”

She has a stylus pad for her computer at home. But Fuldauer isn’t particularly tech-savvy. She’s not familiar with Photoshop’s labyrinthine menus.

Her next step would probably be to shell-out for a full version of the drawing program. Maybe then she could sell pictures that could be printed bigger.

She concedes it would also make sense to ask for payment in advance. “But I’m too shy for that.”

Fuldauer will be drawing portraits in Baked every Sunday until July 17.

Contact John Thompson at

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