Monday, April 23, 2012

Art and Baseball Day, Part Two: Scribbling Away at the Museum

Sketch of Virgin & Child, 1646, Jose Jusepe de Ribera
In case you hadn't noticed, I love to scribble.

The other, more refined term would be to sketch. Scribbling is what I call grabbing a pencil, pen, crayon, lump of coal or any other implement of creation and attacking a handy surface (usually paper) with it. Scribbling is the sound made by such an endeavor, when all other sounds fall away and shapes, curves and textures come to life at your hand.

After visiting the Van Gogh Up Close exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum, I inhaled some lunch, then set out to explore the countless rooms, hallways, nooks and crannies of the vast collection. If I saw something that caught my eye, out came the drawing pad and pencil, ready to take down pictorial dictation of a celebrated work.

It's amazing what you discover about a painting by copying its forms in simple graphite. Breaking it into shapes and tones, you see patterns that reveal themselves only after the intense scrutiny necessary for duplication.

I was drawn to Spanish Baroque painter Jose Jusepe de Ribera's Virgin and Child for its earthy depiction of the Holy Mother and little Christ. While working, I wondered about the models used, who they were and how they became the actors in this scene. Aside from the bright blue of the shawl and the angelic expressions, this could've been a sweet family portrait of any mother and baby.

Sketch of Young Boy
with Toy Soldiers
1876, Antonio Mancini
The face of the Young Boy with Toy Soldiers by Antonio Mancini intrigued me. The composition of the piece looked like that of a photograph spontaneously taken while he played. Although frilly collars and over 130 years separate the subject from any kid today engrossed in his games, the unaffected expression of youth surely hasn't changed much.

Guan Yin, 960-1279, Song Dynasty
What a delight to turn a corner into a darkened Asian temple to find Guan Yin, the enlightened figure in the Buddhist tradition associated with compassion.
I always loved the way she sits, as she is often portrayed in this position, chilling out, ever so mellow and calm. One of my favorite stories about her is when she was executed for not entering an arranged marriage and was sent to a helllish realm, her love, compassion and grace threatened to turn it into a paradise, and she was summarily kicked out. It's been said by modern thought teachers that we are each responsible for the energy we bring into a situation. The legends of Guan Yin certainly illustrate that the lesson is not a new one.

There were other sketches done during that afternoon, favorite paintings revisited as well as new discoveries. During my years in Philly while attending UArts, I regret not spending more time at the Museum while I had easier access. As I left to go to Citizens' Bank Park for the Phillies' encounter with the Mets, I made a quiet pledge to come again later this year, and also take advantage of the close proximity of smaller museums around Delaware.

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