When I was last in China I had a lot of free time on my hands in the evening. Because it was close to Chinese New Years my hosts were busy with more official company obligations which left me alone in the evening. That, in itself, is not a problem. I have become quite used to being by myself when I travel. It is one of the reasons that I take carvings to work on, it passes the time. That is fine while I am alone in my hotel room. The problem us that it would not be acceptable if I took my work and tools outside my room to work on. It would either attract unwanted attention or I might simply be told that I was not allowed to do that in a public space.
When I went for dinner at night I was often faced with long periods of time to fill. Typically, dinner would take from one hour to one and a half hours from start to finish. I am used to dinner at home which usually takes a half an hour from start to finish. So, in order to fill in the periods of time between having my meal served I read my book on Leonardo Da Vinci. This led me to think about my own drawings and studies so I spent most of my time working on my drawings and studies. The studies that I did for The Mermaid were mostly done while I was waiting for the various courses of my dinner to arrive.
After I finished those studies I started to draw various sections of a beautiful ceramic mural that was at the back of the dining room.
Eventually, I asked to be seated at a table in the dining room that gave me the best view of the section of the wall that I was drawing. This is a pictures that I took of one of the pages of my sketch book. Unfortunately, some of the sketches that I did were on scraps of paper that, at present, I cannot find. Nonetheless, it helped me fill the void.
The wait staff became interested in my drawings and they would stand behind me or to the side so that they could see what I was drawing but not disturb me. They would also make comments on my progress on drawings that they liked. It was very amusing. It was also a way to draw them into conversation. Most of them were university educated and could understand English quite well but they were as nervous about speaking English as I am about speaking Chinese. although I am willing to make a fool of myself by making all kinds of linguistic mistakes, these young people were less willing. It seemed that talking about drawings was less intimidating.
In the end, my little notebook helped me to fill the hours as I filled its pages.