I feel bad for anyone who goes to a museum with me. You see, before MP3’s and Spotify’s, I was that guy who would go to the used CD store and flip through every CD in the metal section (Horns up!) looking at the album art, reading the back- and I’d have to listen to stacks of discs before I was ready to make my selection.
Needless to say, if I am into something I have an incredible amount of patience to stand in front of it.
At some point going to museums and looking at a painting on the wall wasn’t enough for me. Taking a picture wasn’t enough. I wanted to get inside that artists head. Figure out why they would pull the strokes the directions they chose.
So, testing the tolerance of my family, I am known to stand in front of a painting for an hour or more just drawing. They learned long ago to ‘Go on without me!’.
The sad thing is I see a fraction of what is in a museum on a visit. But the cool thing is, what I do see I get to know on a deeper level.
What follows are a sampling of what can be found in my sketchbook, the inspiration, plus a couple vids at the end. Some of them are quick impressions, like this doodle after Frans Hals. Or this Van Dyke. Just trying to grab the essence before my starving family revolts over lunch.
But some require much longer hauls. It is not about replicating technique. These are far from ‘master studies’. It is trying to understand their thought process. My eyes spend much more time looking at areas that I might have otherwise glanced over. And in a weird way, this exercise makes me feel like I am somehow communicating with the artist, or at least found a time machine to peek over their shoulder. They were there, making these marks, and I am having a bizarre conversation with their ghosts.
Museum goers tend to keep a respectful distance when I am drawing. Occasionally glancing over my shoulder the way I wish I could have done with the artists I am paying homage too. Standing in one spot, you get to hear everyone’s reaction to the painting on the wall. Tourguides spouting theories as to why they painted the way they did. But you smile, thinking you have the secret knowledge. That you know this artist in a way they never could.