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These two fragments of portraits, (paint on plaster) come from a Roman bath in Syria, 2nd century AD. Their eyes staring out at me from across the centuries captivated me. Could they ever have imagined what life would be like in 2015, or that their portraits would find their way into an exhibit at a university far across the ocean?
There I am adding my visage to the two anonymous faces from a distant time and place, Selfie with ancient Syrians. I have a particular interest in antiquities and art from pre-history. One of the reasons I really enjoy sketching at a museum is that it connects me in a very special way to the art and artists who created what I study.
There is no better way to get to know a work of art, get into the mind of an artist or understand a culture or a thing, whatever sort of thing it may be, than by drawing it. Drawing gives you the opportunity to slow down, really look, study and understand. Drawing gives you a way to interact with the piece and to encounter all the details and subtleties. Through drawing you gain insights, make connections, ask questions, and sometimes find answers.
Draw at a museum and I guarantee you'll never want to go back to simply consuming museum art with gulping glances. You'll want to savory every moment you have with the art.
Most art museums limit what kind of media you can use. Usually it's dry media (like graphite, charcoal, pastel) but very often it's further limited to just pencil, with some museums even banning colored pencils.
This is to protect the art work and sometimes because they don't actually want you to make close copies of the works on display, thus the ban on colored pencils. I don't really understand that part but that's what I've read.
To keep things simple and light weight for a day in the museum I have a special "museum sketch kit" that I use. The small zipped pencil case came from Staples and has a clasp so I can hook it on the my belt loop, the elastic bands inside hold things secure and that frees up my hands. Depending on what I think I'm going to be sketching I bring different kinds of pencils, a stick eraser, and a pencil sharpener (one that catches the shavings, so no mess).
Today I brought along Derwent Drawing Pencils in Brown Ochre, Warm Earth, Crag Green, Warm Gray, Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle # 3510-009, Faber-Castell Pitt Oil Based in Black, and Sanguine, Derwent GraphiTint in Chestnut, Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil 0.7, and a Multi8 which holds 8 colored pencil leads in one pencil holder. Tucked away in a zippered mesh portion of the pencil case I keep a small water brush and a fine liner for use outside the museum at lunch etc. In case I want to add water to make washes from the GraphiTint or Aquarelle pencil, or write additional notes with the fine liner, (which I did).
Lunch by the way was at York Street Noodle House, which is a terrific little Pan-Asian place with very good Dim Sum, and a great selection of noodle based dishes from China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, as well as teriyaki and rice dishes. Plus bubble tea!