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24 December 2015

Sketching at the Getty


Yesterday my wife Brette and I went to the Getty Museum: me for the first time. We had a lovely day to do it, partly arriving via public transit (yes it exists in LA). What a spectacular site, not to mention program, enough to make any architect envious. While I appreciate Richard Meier’s references, in plan at least, to Hadrian’s Villa, I couldn’t help thinking a more overt reference to the Roman villa in the architecture wouldn’t have been much, much more appealing, and sympathetic to the collections. Ç’est la vie moderne.

While there I experimented with drawing on my new iPad Pro (whereupon I currently type), using the ill-named Procreate app to approximate sketching on paper with pencil. I first drew Bernini’s bust of Paul V in pencil, then tried it on the screen (I’ll post that eventually); later I tried just the screen for Rombout Verhulst’s portrait of Jacob van Reygersberg. The app has the advantage of recording a video of the drawing as it happens, which you can see here (apologies for some anomalies, editing the video is not yet my forte):

Although the app can approximate paper texture and pencil grain, you’re still drawing on a slippery screen, and returning to draw on paper heightened my awareness of the subtle resistance of the paper surface (in my case a handmade grey laid paper from Zecchi in Florence). The value of the app for me was the portability and the chance to record the drawing to show to students at Notre Dame and elsewhere.

I was happy to find the Getty has a dedicated sketching gallery, equipped with benches and drawing materials. I had seen last month that the National Gallery in Washington offers drawing in the museum sessions. All of this is a wonderful way to revivify the original purpose of the museum to be a home of the Muses.

While drawing the Flemish bust my wife caught up with me, excited to report she’d just met a hero of hers and mine, a well-known British actor, while looking at paintings in the early Renaissance section. And he, with a young female companion, were heading our way. So when he and his companion arrived I was nearing the end of the sketch, and we had a lovely, informal chat about the app and drawing. Brette and I were discrete enough not to ruin the conversation with recognizing our actor interlocutor, but we couldn’t stop talking about the encounter the rest of the day. And if he’s somewhere reading this, and fancies a pint with some discrete fans, an email can make it so….