Friday, August 24, 2012

Sketches from a Marble Statue

14" x 10" "White Charcoal" and Charcoal on Gray Paper
A few weeks ago I was visiting the Brigham Young University Museum of Art when I saw this statue on exhibit in the museum's lower level.  The marble statue depicts Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael as Abraham sends his wife and son away out into the wilderness.  Despite the unpleasant story it tells, I thought the statue would provide excellent opportunities for sketching.  Drawing from plaster casts - or in this case, marble statues - provides an opportunity to study how light shapes an object, and how bounced light reflects back into shadows. Since there is no variation in color or texture, you are able to clearly see and study the behavior of light on the larger form undistracted by other factors. What you learn from doing this can be applied to paintings of real people, or anything else for that matter.

A week or two after seeing the stature I obtained permission to sketch it, so I headed to the museum with my gear.  I forgot that it was Education Week at BYU and the campus was crowded.  It was hard to find a parking place close to the museum, but by circling the parking lot a few times I found a spot.  After meeting with the museum's Collections Manager, I headed downstairs and commenced drawing. Lots of people stopped to visit as I sketched - something I always enjoy.  Even security guards stopped briefly to chat.  That was a Tuesday and I did the drawing shown at the top of this post.

The drawing shown above might seem detailed to some, but my concern was for the larger shapes and I dispensed with minutiae.  The image below of one of the eyes shows the level of detail in the drawing:

Detail of Drawing
Tuesday I visited again for a second sketch, from a different angle, and on Friday I did a third angle. Here's last Friday's drawing:

It was on Friday that the man who restored the statue stopped to see the work.  He visited with me as I sketched and explained the fascinating story of the statue's restoration.  The statue is titled, "Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael," and was carved by William Theed in England during the nineteenth century. When the restorer got the statue it was in seven pieces, with chunks missing.  He told me how he had cleaned the statue and put it back together, patching gaps where parts were missing.  I had no idea!  The repairs were not obvious to me, and I still couldn't see some of them even after he pointed them out!

One of the museums curators stopped and talked with me during the course of my drawing Friday. We talked about some of the museum's exhibits and I told him how much I enjoyed and now miss some past exhibits, especially Edward Austin Abbey and Carl Bloch.  He told me about an exhibit that the museum is planning to have in a year or so, so now I have the skinny on what's coming!

The three afternoons at the museum were, I think, time very well spent.  I enjoyed being there, in spite of wearing myself out.  I hope to return from time to time for more study.  Many thanks to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art for allowing me the opportunity to sketch there!

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