25 November 2014

Tuesday is drawing day - British Museum Islamic gallery

When you emerge from the Underground (as I did last week) and find the rain has stopped and sunshine is moving in, it raises your spirits ... and anything seems possible. This is Russell Square, which is near the "back door" of the British Museum - 
The Islamic World gallery is near the back door too. There were sounds of school groups being mustered, but they left this gallery in peace, and I settled down to draw some 700-year-old Syrian incense burners, joined later by Mike and Pat intent on their own selected objects in other parts of the gallery.
The incense burners reminded me of a row of tap dancers, with their little feet often not flat to the ground. I drew them lightly to position them, and then with more certainty to try to get the shapes right -
 and then tore bits to tissue paper and stuck them over the pencil drawings -
Then followed the detail (in felt pen) ... to the point of tediousness (and confusion) where I was ready to give up. But the blank section was left on purpose: the incense burner is inscribed (in Arabic of course) "Within me is the fire of Hell but without floats the perfume of paradise", and I think it's better to imagine the inscription than to try to replicate it.
After coffee and much discussion of  sketchbook-keeping and drawing opportunities and purposes, returning to the gallery I saw the wonderful bowl (Iran, 10th century) with its Kufic inscription sliding down, or is it reaching down, to the bottom -
Starting to draw it, I couldn't ignore the bowl beside it or those behind ... and somehow the shelving got into the picture too -
I'm not happy with the look of that drawing - the composition (such as it is) just sort of happened, and it needs a dark background? - but I certainly did a lot of looking at the peripheral things and the bowl itself. Up close, the bowl shows that the calligraphy has thin areas of white and white dots ... how long would it take to learn to do that with a brush?
"He who speaks his speech is silver, but silence is a ruby, with good health and prosperity" says the inscription.

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