Thursday, April 12, 2012

No Sketching Allowed!

Yesterday, I was visiting the Art Institute of Chicago to view a special exhibit of Renaissance and Baroque Italian drawings. This was a wonderful chance to see working sketches, studies, and life drawings by artists who dedicated their lives to perfect this skill. This exhibit  "Capturing the Sublime" is from a private collector who collected these master drawings.
I moved about the galleries feeling overwhelmed, dazzled by the drawings, the insight into the creative process of these masterful draftsmen. So I did what I usually do to capture the process better. I go from my eyes to my hand to absorb the sight more intensely into my brain. I pulled out my little sketchbook and started some quick sketches. This is absolutely the best way to study art, for me at least. I can't just walk from one small work to another without losing track and focus. I like to use my own hand to  aid my eyes in really looking hard at the art, thinking more about the process and decisions that this artists must have made as his pen moved.
To my surprise, a museum guard walks up to me and announces "No pictures allowed".  I had already heard her say that to someone else with a camera and of course assumed that protecting these drawings on paper from flash photography was necessary. I looked at her stunned, "Are you kidding?" "But I am sketching, that isn't the same as a photograph" How could a little sketch harm the artwork?  I couldn't be possibly even making a copy, my sketch isn't that good. I showed it to her. She insisted that no sketching was allowed in this exhibit. Although she added helpfully that I could sketch in other galleries in the museum, just not this one. Later she brought her manager over to explain to me that, really, truly, No Sketching Allowed. It was also offered to me, helpfully that a large catalogue of the exhibit was for sale at the museum shop for $65.
So here is as far as I got, before I was told to stop. The left sketch is from a Tiepolo pen and ink, (one of my heros from back in art school days). And the right sketch is from a workshop of Fra Paolino, a small photo of the oil painting that became an altarpiece using this sketch was shown, fascinating.