Museum sketching etiquette

After talking about sketching in museums I started having a look through some of my old sketchbooks for inspiration to take up this practice regularly again.

I can remember being forced to do this as a student. Although I used to enjoy it, time constraints meant that, once you had found something inspirational that you wanted to sketch, you only had a short time to get something scribbled onto paper before you were ushered onto the next place or home.

I also remember feeling incredibly nervous when visiting the museums in London as an art student for the first time and being expected to sketch as:

  1. There was so much to see, and you wanted everything to look perfect in your sketchbook for assessment, that you spend ages trying to find something easy to sketch that you thought would look good rather than what you were really inspired by

  2. As soon as you started to sketch, even though you clearly looked like an amateur student, all other visitors in the museum treated you like one of the exhibits and peered over your shoulder to see what you were doing (and then scoffed at your efforts)

  3. Whatever you picked to sketch from you could almost guarantee that within seconds:

  • Some genius Michelangelo-style master draftsman from a fancy London college would stand next to you and knock off an exact replica of whatever you were struggling to capture in biro, before proceeding to do a whole portfolio of abstract interpretations using an array of paints, pastels and found objects. Or even worse...

  • A group of 8 year old school children would sit directly in front of the work you were sketching from, blocking your view, and doing a better sketch than you.

Luckily I am old-enough and wise-enough now to only sketch what I want to, not worry about the results, and ignore whoever happens to be peering over my shoulder or working around me. I prefer to work in pen when sketching in museums as you have to go with your own initial observational instincts.

This stops me getting too precious with my mark-making. The best marks are always the spontaneous, off-the-cuff, ones where you are connecting directly with the object and not over analysing what you are doing.

I am just scanning in some images of sketches that I did when visiting Cyprus during the second year of my degree. This was when I really didn’t care what was going on around me, and really connected with some of the many archaeological objects exhibited in the museums there. It is also where I really developed my own system of mark-marking and recording visual information.

I will share some of these images in my next post...

#Sketching #Museum

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