Let’s be clear – I wouldn’t claim Napoleon as one of my heroes. So why did I sketch his bust?
Well, a chance concatenation of events meant I’d been granted a weekend all to myself. No-one else to please, or work round. Just me.
Facing a blank weekend felt a bit like starting a new sketchbook. ‘What if I don’t make the most of it? What if I don’t do enough? What if it isn’t sufficiently fun? How can I prioritise all the things I’d like to be doing? Will I actually enjoy doing them alone?’
In the end I turned to my default setting – a day trip to London to absorb a bit of culture. The plethora of choice (even having narrowed down the destination somewhat) is astounding. I Googled and dithered, and in the end decided I’d visit both the Tate Britain and the Victoria & Albert Museum – the nation’s largest museum dedicated to the decorative arts.
I found Napoleon at the V&A, around the first corner of the first gallery. He had a moody look in his marble eye, daring me; the clincher was that there was a conveniently positioned quiet wall opposite where I could sit and rest my back when sketching. I took my shoes off (it was a very hot day) and began in my 3×3 inch sketchbook. Normally I use this sketchbook for drawing straight into pen, but I must admit Napoleon was quite intimidating and so I ventured some brief pencil guidelines first. Once I’d put the main lines in using fineliner I added contours with a black Tombow and waterpen.
Maybe Napoleon’s friends wouldn’t recognise him from this, but that’s ok. I’m sure he had enough flattery in his lifetime not to need any now!