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Sketching at the Ashmolean

  • Art talk

Every time I summon the courage to sketch in public I kick myself that I don’t do it often enough. It can be a very hit-and-miss experience and is often interjected with questions from baffled and curious onlookers, but when it works out it is just the best feeling. The simplicity of creating something unique and emotive with just pencil and paper is infectious.

A visit to Oxford gave me the chance to spend a good deal of time at the Ashmolean museum and wander amongst the huge collection of sculptures. A few quick practices and then to business on a couple of 20-minute sketches resulted in the work below, a marble Roman bust and a Degas. I was pretty pleased, given that I haven’t braved a public space for quite a while. It was interesting that as my confidence increased with the quality of the result I relaxed and was totally fine with people glancing at what I was up to. Of course, quality shouldn’t matter one bit, but I seem to still be caught in the loop of wanting to impress people. But as I think about it more, I get more satisfaction in igniting the creative desire in others. For example, as I was sketching a lovely experience happened when two small children came over and asked “How do you draw like that?” to which I answered you need to learn to look differently, not think of objects that you know like a face but just see shapes and shadows. One then answered “Thank you Sir” which was really memorable.

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