A night at the museum…

ImageI love the Cleveland Museum of Art. There are two nights a week when they are open late and when I can, I try to go there to draw. My love for this museum has one quality that irritates me a bit as an aspiring artist. This museum does not love me the way I love it. It is a tempestuous relation between the two of us. I adore her and am so smitten with my undying love that I am oblivious to her minor follies (to badly paraphrase the Bard). But here is one shortcoming that my love hides from most but has revealed to me and with this knowledge I know our love can never be perfect.

She taunts me, this Beatrice to my Dante…

There are some aspects of this museum that are just not artist friendly,  for Pete’s sake (to paraphrase Michelangelo as poorly as Shakespeare). If you are an artist and you want to draw from their collection you need to grab your sketchbook, get in your car, and drive to this museum. It’s collection is stunning. And I mean this with all sincerity. You can walk in free of charge, snag a little folding stool (that they provide, no less) and set yourself mere feet from the likes of Caravaggio, Hals, Sargent, Velasquez, and Van Dyke. It does not end there. Their collection of Greek and Roman sculpture veritably demands that you draw it. And here my love betrays me. When you are in a position to draw, particularly when you are using the sight size method that I have been practicing, you are seeing everything from very low angles. Curses! There is a fragment of an portrait of Alexander the Great that first called to me with a Siren song, beckoning me to render it in gentle tones on soft paper. Situating myself as best I could the angles from every direction were insufficient to satisfy my artistic desires. Now the sculpture no longer calls to me sweetly, but rather mocks me from on high. Standing, the light and angles are beautiful but when sitting to draw it all evaporates. This sculpture and I….. we are no longer on speaking terms. If only the  museum would let me set my easel next to the work so that I could see and draw properly….. Alas, it is not to be. Easels are not permitted, though there might be a possibility if one subjects himself to the onerous task of filling out paperwork to make a copy of a work. The restrictions are very tight and the hoops to jump through would require the flexibility of a Chinese acrobat. So instead I find myself scooting about the floor looking up at works and making drawings that I know could be better if only I could see…if only…. if only…..

Please CMA, my dearest darling, won’t you throw open your arms and embrace the artists that love you and need you to grow? Won’t you please just let me bring in a stinkin’ easel or display some of those great sculptural works so we can draw them comfortably and beautifully?

ImageWhich brings me to last Friday’s adventures. I’ve been working on a drawing of a figure from a sculpture by Giuseppe Mazzuoli (The Education of the Virgin, 1700). The work is begging to be drawn but the only good angle with details I can see are from a low vantage point nearly in the corner. Imagine that, me in the corner with a sullen attitude; like an artistic time-out. Despite this limitation I have been having a really great time drawing the sculpture of the young Virgin as she flips through a codex. I have been working on in two or three hour intervals off and on for a few weeks now and have the basics in place. I have been trying to utilize the training I acquired through the good folks and the Maestro while studying down south last summer. As it stands I feel it is respectable. It is drawn with a 4H drafting pencil and I feel that in another session or two I can really begin to differentiate the values. As advised I’m trying to “keep it German as long as I can”. (That means keep it geometric and angular. When it is time the drawing will let you know when you can make it Italian.)Image

As I was drawing a father approached me with his daughter. She was maybe six or seven, shy and quiet. Her father asked if she could see what I was drawing as she was curious. Turning my little stool so could be at her eye level I showed her my picture and pointed out what part I was drawing. I asked if she was an artist and with an index finger to her mouth, chewing on a fingernail, she nodded and whispered “uh-huh”. “Well, you’ve come to the right place.” I said and continued: “This is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to and you’ll see things here you’ll never see anywhere else in all the world. And the best part is you can come any day and draw all day long.” She smiled and her father thanked me for my time. And then they were gone… but I hope she’ll be back soon, a sheaf of papers tucked under her arm and little fingers gripping an assortment of pencils….

Most of the people you see in museums are tourists. Sometimes in the literal sense, Sometimes in another way. A “tourist” can also be that person that goes to museums with only a vague idea of what they are looking at. Maybe they look at the Picasso for a long while because you are supposed like Picasso if you are cultured and like art, right? Sometimes they do the “drive by”, the three or four second look and then move on. How can you walk in front of a Caravaggio and not stop dead in your tracks? Odd how art affects people in different ways…. When I go there It is like going home, like returning from a long trip and seeing old friends. When I stand in front of some of those paintings I can say “I know you, friend”….. Sometimes, when the time is right and things are as the should be I can hear them say “I know you, too”.



~ by Kelson Barber on April 21, 2013.

3 Responses to “A night at the museum…”

  1. It has been a wonderful journey to watch you grow and spread your wings. I am beginning to know what the Virgin Mary felt like when she brought her little guy into the world. You have touched so many lives on your journey and have made the world a better place. It was an honor to bring you into this world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: