Live-Sketching the New York City Marathon

Mile 6

PHOTO: New York Times cartoonist Christoph Niemann live-sketched and live-tweeted the NYC Marathon while running it, Nov. 6, 2011.
christophniemann.com
Tweet: Ahhhh.

Even though it's common for people to live-Tweet or live-blog just about anything these days, one man took the idea of instantaneous updates to a whole new level during the New York City Marathon Sunday. He live-sketched the race.

Illustrator Christoph Niemann is a columnist for the New York Times. He simultaneously sketched, Tweeted and ran the marathon. And he finished in a little more than six hours.

"I feel surprisingly good," Niemann told ABCNews.com today. He said he decided that sketching while running the race would be a "great way to streamline life by combining work and a personal goal."

Niemann had to practice running and drawing at the same time, he said, so that it would not come out like a Jackson Pollock painting.

For each sketch, Niemann would take a photo of the drawing and Tweet the photo with his mileage and a few words about what was going on from his @abstractsunday Twitter handle.

From his first sketch, when he awoke on race day, to his last sketch, as he crossed the finish line, Niemann said he did about 40 drawings. He often depicted himself as a little green battery with varying bars of power, depending on his energy level.

Mile 8.3

PHOTO: New York Times cartoonist Christoph Niemann live-sketched and live-tweeted the NYC Marathon while running it, Nov. 6, 2011.
christophniemann.com
Tweet: Interacting with the crowd.

Niemann carried a backpack with his supplies in it, including two sketch pads (one small and one large), about 12 colored markers, pencils, sharpeners, an eraser and two iPhones for Tweeting the images.

He said he would carry his backpack on his chest while he was drawing and leave the flap open as an impromptu desk for holding up his sketch pad.

Niemann said he elicited a lot of curious looks about what he was doing.

"At the start zone, people thought it was maybe me getting in the zone, but during the race I had a sign on my back that said, 'Go slow, artist at work,'" Niemann said.

While most were sympathetic to the task he was taking on, Niemann said, he did get some nasty comments from people annoyed that he was moving slowly and using his phone. He was Tweeting the photos and calling his editor to make sure the images were received.

Mile 13.9

PHOTO: New York Times cartoonist Christoph Niemann live-sketched and live-tweeted the NYC Marathon while running it, Nov. 6, 2011.
christophniemann.com
Tweet: Darn! I think I missed the bananas while being serenaded by Sean.

Niemannn said he viewed his mission as a stunt and was determined to "do this whole thing with humor," he said.

A few of his drawings centered around his hunger and thirst while he was running. When he missed an opportunity for potassium by passing the banana table, he made it his mission to get a banana.

Eventually, some of his fans who were following his Tweets met him on the route with some fruit for him.

Mile 23.8

PHOTO: New York Times cartoonist Christoph Niemann live-sketched and live-tweeted the NYC Marathon while running it, Nov. 6, 2011.
christophniemann.com
Tweet: Hallucinating.

When Niemann began practicing sketching and running at the same time, he would take close-ups of the sketches and send the photos to his wife.

After seeing the images, Niemann's wife "made a really amazing art direction," he said.

"She suggested that I move back and give some background to the photos," Niemann said. "It really added something to remind that this is actually happening."

So he began incorporating his surroundings with the sketches, as evidenced in his drawing of a beer hallucination with all the water cups on the route.

Niemann said he would keep a good running pace and slow down to a jog while he was sketching, but he never stopped moving to draw.

Mile 26.1

PHOTO: New York Times cartoonist Christoph Niemann live-sketched and live-tweeted the NYC Marathon while running it, Nov. 6, 2011.
christophniemann.com
Tweet: Finished.

A short time before crossing the finish line, Niemann confessed that he cheated a little bit. Because there were some supplies he could not carry at the beginning, he had some friends meet him on the route with a small canvas and some paint.

For his grand finale, he wanted to paint part of his foot, and he did.

Niemann isn't sure yet what he will do with all the sketches, but wants to keep the series together. And he considers the real art to be the iPhone photos of the sketches that included some of the background and imperfections of his drawings.

"Looking at the drawings today in my sketch book, the originals are the actual photos of the sketches with the surroundings," Niemenn said. "There's so much more personality and life in the photos than in scans or actual drawings."

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