In one of the sculpture galleries at the V&A museum in London is Michaelangelo’s David. He does tend to dominate rather. However, there is also plenty of other stone-hewn flesh to sketch, and this time it was the turn of Crouching Boy, also by Michaelangelo.
One of my favourite ways to represent white marble is to work in white gel pen on a black background. It’s fun and a good mental discipline to have to add in highlights, rather than to leave them blank. Another bonus is that often you don’t need to spend very long to capture a credible likeness, as there never seems to be quite as much shading.
Sometimes I charge right into a drawing without circumspection. Not this time. When drawing just with pen it’s a risky business, as once you’ve committed there is no going back. I was on the last page of my sketchbook and wanted to do it justice, so I took care and time to think about the spacial relationships between the broad back, the head and the knee in particular. This pause for thought definitely helped in constructing the outlines.
The light in the sculpture gallery is rather diffuse, which means that it can be hard to see where the highlights and the darks are. It gave me some problems on the leg, trying to show the less defined muscles yet still leave enough shadow, but overall I’m pretty content with the way this one turned out. I would have been even happier if I’d been the sculptor!
Back at the V&A Museum, once David was as complete as he was going to be, I moved on to a 15th Century Italian bust of a young aristocratic woman. She was demurely looking down, and very beautiful. It never ceases to amaze me how well sculpture can represent flesh – something so hard conveying the softness and curves of a real body. That’s incredible art.
Unfortunately, my sketch makes her look rather snooty and sneering, poor thing. That’s the trouble with going straight into ink, there’s no convincing way out once you get it wrong. Although you can attempt to correct your mistake, often it’s just irretrievable…sigh. Anyway, I though her hair was particularly attractive, reminding me of the styles you see on Roman statues, and at least my drawing of that was more convincing.
While in this gallery we met an artist who was drawing the whole sculpture gallery. I was staggered. He was making a great job of it too – he said that he was going to use his picture as a demonstration to his students of how to successfully pull off a wide angle of perspective. I’d have liked to have seen that lesson. Anyway, he was a very pleasant chap, and passed on a technique which he uses, which is to dip a bamboo kebab skewer into bark ink to draw. I think I’m going to be trying that out sometime; it made beautiful, variable ink lines, and the ink went much further than you would expect. Lovely.
…of marble, that is. Buff, and buffed to perfection.
On our big sketching day, the second port of call was the Victoria & Albert Museum. It’s probably my favourite in London, hosting the most amazing examples of the world’s art and design achievements, from the time man first set his hand to create something beautiful.
We were arrested by the sculpture galleries, where Michaelangelo’s imposing David takes centre stage. There was simply no question about what to draw first.
First I drew the main shapes in fineliner, then added the contours with Tombow and waterpen. I find it pleasing how the paint has separated to give blueish and reddish tones to the shades.
As you see, I made life difficult for myself with the positioning of David on the paper – he could have done with being either a little lower, or smaller and higher. It would seem an undeserved indignity to have given him only half of what he was due in the nether regions, so I opted for complete omission instead. A handy cop-out.
The afternoon light was excellent in this gallery, and provided lots of good shadows and highlights. This, combined with the museum stools fortunately to hand, made it a real pleasure to sketch here.