The Evolution of Looking

This Friday we were drawing in the British Museum with the set objective of drawing something in its context.  With so much to choose from, it took me ages to decide, and even then ended up within 10 feet from the entrance.  I’ve admired this space ever since it was created in 2000; and it was a wish to be able to sketch places like it that first sent me to class to start my attempts to learn to draw.  I knew it would be difficult to sketch, but foolishly I carried on regardless.  The more time that passed, the more difficult it became.

Achieving the right angles on the circular walls of the former Reading Room was particularly challenging, and led to a great deal of erasing and retrying.  When I expressed my disappointment with the messiness of my drawing, the teacher told me that I should be pleased with the traces of the things I had rubbed out as it showed the evolution of my looking and observation.  I shall be using this phrase frequently in the future.

Sitting in the Great Court for most of the day I had some measure of just how many people pass through the place daily.  It is an astonishing multitude.  I thought I’d picked a quiet out of the way corner, but it turned out to be adjacent to  the stairs to down to the area for school groups, and several times during the day I was surrounded by what felt like hundreds of school children in tabards and hi-vis vests, their pack lunches rustling in bags clutched tightly in their hands; but I expect there were only scores of them.

For a bit of compare and contrast, here is the view from my little drawing stool

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  1. Well, ok, it’s not the photograph, but if I could manage something anywhere near as good as yours I’d be over the moon. I’ll bet all this looking and observation will be good for your writing too. 🙂

    • Thanks! I agree – it’s all grist to the mill. As well as the act of concentrated looking, there is the sitting in the same place for an extended period and observing what goes on there, that I’d not necessarily see if I wasn’t committed to that particular perspective (I’d never have picked that spot if I’d known how many small children would be there too at various points during the day!)

  2. Gosh, the ceiling alone would be a nightmare. ((But the main thing is that you’re challenging yourself and having fun, right? 🙂 ))
    I think you are probably developing even better skills than you already possess for seeing things in different ways, and looking at the negative spaces as well.

    • Challenging, yes. Fun? Sort of! I’d never even heard of negative space before I started on these courses, so I’ve increased my vocabulary too.


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