10 March 2015

Tuesday is drawing day - Assyrian reliefs at the British Museum

Amid sad news that Isis is destroying the town of Nimrud, and much else, it's fortunate that the reliefs from the palaces there were moved out of the country in the mid-19th century. They were made between 900 and 600 BC.

While we were drawing in the Assyrian galleries, some of which are glorified corridors, several contingents of schoolchildren trouped through. I was near the far entrance when some 7-year-olds turned the corner and entered the room - "Oh my god!" exclaimed one lad - and indeed the reliefs are thoroughly impressive. ("It's better to use the expression 'Oh my goodness!'," corrected the teacher.)

I chose this section, which isn't much easier to see in reality than in the photo -
because it was under a skylight and because I could stand on one of the floor heating grilles - it was a bright but chilly day and that part of the museum isn't very warm. An art class had snaffled all the sketching stools, so we stood for a couple of hours...

I was attracted to this piece by the rhythm of the legs, but concentrated on just one figure in the first instance. This is a detail of the area -
I got caught up in the textures of the shield and the details of the clothing - quite apart from the curly beards and the depiction of musculature -
Sitting on a bench in a nearby gallery to write a few notes about doing this drawing, I wrote "textiles rendered in stone ... discovering clothing details ..." and then started noticing details in the clothing of people standing looking at the displays, especially the seams in their clothing. That's what the squiggles up the side of the page are -
seams and pockets and wrinkles and zips and shoes
Later, someone commented that they look like maps ... roads and contours on maps ...

While trying via Photoshop to make the drawing visible, I realised why these little sketches were made so faintly - a desire not to "disturb" the page by bringing in the humdrum world. It's ok to write, but to draw unrelated objects?? I've been trying to keep this sketchbook too compartmentalised ... and more thinking along these lines was to come, the very next day.

Back to the gallery, to another scene - which I forgot to photograph, but which had some lovely horses, including this one wearing a hairnet -
Which left time for one more drawing -
Again, the rhythms and overlap were part of my selection criteria - and also, learning what that "post" in the middle was - a body shield, held upright to shield the two archers -
On the way to the cafe, I found this peaceful room, with seating - 10a, the lion hunt - one for "next time" -
Sue said she was happily drawing her horse when she realised that he would have been about two feet too long, so a certain amount of erasure ensued -
Michelle pointed out a peril of drawing in public - even if you have a manky thing to draw from, having people looking over your shoulder can make you want to make "a nice picture", and she found herself doing that in this drawing -
Read her thoughts about "Can you draw" here.

Caryl had chosen a 3D lion from the Nereid Monument, one with rather a lot missing -
But he did have a wonderfully textured mane!

Amid all the discussion, Michelle showed us what a traditionally, properly sharpened pencil (as taught here) looks like -
Have a look here for a sometimes silly video of a seemingly serious young man showing how to do it. At the 2-minute mark he gets out a pencil sharpener dating back to 1905, marvellous...

Also of interest was the shadow of the acetate in the sandwich wrapping - how would you approach drawing that? so many different layers of shadow.... Out came the cameras! -

1 comment:

Chyfey said...

My dad always sharpened his pencils similar to your example, with a knife and then used a special sandpaper board to give it a side or edge to work with.He made his sand board as a child (dated 1909),and I use it now and I must admit I more often then not sharpen my pencils this way.
Dad was meant to join some London art school at 14 ,but came out to Australia instead and ended up a civil engineer.