Sketching in solitude



It's been a really busy beginning of the year for me despite my plans to be more creative and less productive but that's just the way things go sometimes, isn't it? When I work like this my brain gets a bit frazzled and I start to feel like an art factory which is not good at all. Thankfully, I know that my 'factory reset' button is drawing...preferable on my own and, given some time to do, this I am a much nicer person and go back to being able to sleep again...a little bit anyway!


Museums are brilliant places to sketch in the winter because they are warm, dry and sometimes have a cafe with good cake and tea and you definitely need this after a bit of drawing.


In my 'Drop in and Draw: Vintage China Workshop', I spoke about solitary museum sketching and how it really changes your experience of a visit. I actually think that museums and galleries are better experienced on your own because you can see, think and explore them in more depth.


Drawing something whilst you are there adds to this as it helps you really see and effortlessly be more present in the moment. It's like a mini meditation... but without trying to meditate.


I took myself off to Bath a few weeks ago to have a little wander around the The Fashion Museum with the plan to sketch from their current exhibition 'Shoephoria'. It was such a treat! Here's a picture of my sketches from one of the Manalo Blahnik cases. He lives in Bath and had helped to curate two of the cabinets. The one in this picture was in semi darkness to help preserve the shoes so it was tricky to sketch.


Can you see his lovely and huge shoe designs in the background?


I'm using a Pentel brush pen here. Austin Kleon has written a great blog post about how these brush pens are actually magic and always make your drawings look brilliant. It's hard to be precise which is good..helps you loose the fear. Because they are big pens you can fill pages more quickly. I like the lines they make and the character they add to my drawings.


I sat on the floor of the exhibition room drawing these and felt like a little girl on a school trip rather than a 44 year old women. It was nice.


I listened to people talking about shoes as they walked around.


Groups of ladies reminisced about platforms and had a heated debate about stilettos.


One chap and his friend spent along time gazing at the fetish shoes and talking about the impact of latex on the environment.


Memories were shared by another group of women about taking their shoes off after a night out, work shift or school pick up and what that symbolised.


One lady felt sad when she looked at the golf shoes because they reminded her of her husband.


I wouldn't have heard this if I had been with someone else and I wouldn't have remembered it if I hadn't have been drawing at the same time.


Exhausted from my sketching (and eavesdropping), I when to find a cup of tea but, annoyingly, the cafe was shut (they used to do lovely Bath buns there...shame). I walked down the hill to the The Good Day Cafe instead and listened to a group of guys talking about their sexual conquests (eye-opening!).


I then wandered further down towards the Abbey and watched the buskers for a bit. A few people were sat there, in the square, by the Roman Baths despite the bitter cold and the grey, threatening sky. They drawn in by the beautiful voice of an opera singer who had been grounded by the pandemic. We were treated to a performance originally destined for the Sidney Opera House but now gifted to us...a group of interested misfits of all ages who looked and listened with awe.


She sang the song her Dad loved but, this year, he wasn't around to hear it.


I dreamed a dream, Les Mis


It was incredibly moving. I think we all felt we'd been part of something rather magical.


Atfer recovering, I carried on with my wander looking at the shapes and skylines that the buildings made...


and collected door knockers on my way back to the car...



If you'd like to read more about solitary museum experiences there is lovely blog post here by Rosie Leizrowice.