Sketching in Museums

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A photographer visiting the museum that day offered to take my picture! 

This past Tuesday, I returned to the California Academy of Sciences to sketch animals from their habitat dioramas in the African Hall. I will admit that I am deeply disgusted by this museum's remodel, but I believe in supporting museums and the sciences, so I purchased a student membership last September regardless. The membership also pays itself off in 3 visits and allows you to bring one free guest.

The African Hall feels like a feeble shadow of its early days before the remodel, but those dear frozen animals that I grew up with are still there, posing proudly for their viewers. I adore drawing them!
The old Simson African Hall. How I miss you and your North American counterpart! 

Tusher African Hall, after the remodel. 

Sketching in a museum is a wonderful experience, and I encourage all artists to try it at least once. Drawing from a model is far more immersive and educational than drawing a photograph. As you draw, you may be surprised by small details that you hadn't noticed before. All background chatter and noise seems to drain away as you quietly contemplate form and shape.

Curious onlookers? I have never had a problem with them. Even children rarely peer over my shoulder. Most people who want a look at my sketchbook tend to do so at a respectful distance and I'm almost never interrupted.

I should also mention that if you let your mind take little breaks to focus away from your subject, you pick up on the most humorous conversations, remarks, and attitudes from the museum visitors. My personal favorite from this last visit was "Bees are not cigarettes. I learned that from this place..."

In addition to a half-finished sketch of an oryx, and a pen study of reindeer antlers, I completed this portrait of a male Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus).

Roan Antelope Study by ~Stagsleap on deviantART

African Hall 03
Photo by Sinh_Phun. Click for more of his amazing photos of the dioramas!

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