Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Open Thread: based on old MYSpace posts about the hazards of drawing in public.

Drumlin Farm p3 Detail
Click to see this large, as always.

(Originally posted at MySpace on 5/1/07)
One of the little irksome things in my life is when I am out drawing in a public arena, and I am totally intent on whatever my subject is, and then... I gradually become aware that some stranger is - get this -
watching me as I draw! WTF???
The wonderful thing that I learned today: I am not the only person that this happens to.
If you're at the Museum or the Zoo or - God love you - the *Farm* and you break out your Sketchbook, you are officially on display. I have to say, it isn't so bad when it's little kids staring over your shoulder. Yes, it makes me anxious in a way that's hard to verbalize, but they don't know better.
Older kids are more of a problem, especially if they look old enough to know that this isn't polite. And adults!
Adults! What the hell do you think you're doing watching me draw! You're in the Harvard Museum of Natural History! Go stare at the Liopleurodon, Charlie!
I highly doubt that some chick with a
Sketchbook is more interesting than the Liopleurodon.
I'd like to do an experiment sometime with my photographer sister (happy Birthday, Kath!) She will bring her camera, I will bring my Sketchbook (like there's any question we'd bring them). We'll go to a zoo or a farm or someplace with animals that is almost guaranteed to be *teeming* with children and their pet adults and we'll see which of us gets inexplicably gawked at the most.
ADDENDUM - As the watercolor up top suggests, Kath and I did go to Drumlin Farm shortly after I posted this. Of all the farms we've gone to together that allow visitors to come and go "Awwwww!" at their baby animals, I think this is the best. It wasn't very big, it wasn't very crowded, it wasn't blatantly designed for little children only (though the little kids we saw liked it a lot), and it felt like an honest-to-goodness farm. It was a very welcoming and peaceful place to visit.
Davis Farm and Smiling Hill are okay (and the latter has home-made ice cream, which is a huge plus), but they feel more like amusement parks with cows rather than a place where you can learn about farm life. Any place where my sister and I can spend a good twenty minutes taking and drawing adorable pictures of baby sheep looking adorable is very nice.
There weren't a lot of other people there, which turned out to be nice but it also meant that we couldn't do our experiment.

Return to HMNH (with watercolor goodness) - "It's a Liopleurodon, Charlie!"
I went to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which has lately become one of my favorite places to just go and draw all day and probably will continue to be as long as I get my student discount. This was my
Moleskein's last hurrah. I spent the better part of midday sitting in Romer Hall and drawing like crazy. Certainly I drew the large and popular and impressive animals and I also drew the smaller, stranger, more oddly endearing animals.
Now, there were at least four or five field trip groups at the HMNH this day (somehow I always end up going there on a field trip day). There were two definite elementary school groups, one group of really little kids, and a high school group. I spent a good hour in Romer Hall alone so I got to meet them all.
And to my surprise and delight, they were all very, very polite. Not many of the kids noticed me at first, but those that did were really cool. They asked if they could look and I let them and they all agreed that my loving portrait of the Kronosaur was really awesome. And the one person who wanted to watch me draw actually
asked me if she could! I was absolutely flabbergasted! I said, "thanks for asking! It does make me a little uncomfortable if someone watches but you'd be amazed how many people don't bother to ask." Kudos to these schools!
On the other hand, here is a list of
Things I Learned While Sitting in Romer Hall and Drawing the Kronosaur:
* - There are Sea Turtles and "Regular Turtles".
* - Chicks dig Triceratops.
* - It is okay to shout very loudly, if you want to, in a prestigious 100 year old museum that is a part of an Ivy League University. (OK, so not all of the visitors were impressively polite.)
* - I'll grant that the HMNH maybe isn't designed with people who never majored in Biology in mind, but the few labels their exhibits do have at least will give you an idea of what you're looking at. At least they work better than shouting, "What's THAT?!" to nobody in particular. (I can understand if this was a little kid - but I mostly overheard teenagers and adults doing this. Seriously, what the hell? You're expecting an answer from the Museum Fairy?)
* - Many of those same adults finish this sentence: "A Kronosaur is a kind of...
...Penguin." (This guy just HAD to have been f-ing with everyone.)

On today's episode of "Ridiculous Comments Received by Me When I Break Out the
Sketchbook in Front of Normal People"...
Yesterday, we all went to Freeport. We had fun and my sister and I spent most of our time in the craft store, which was awesome. Then we went to... a store that rhymes with "Roach".
I found myself a chair and sat among the teeny tiny little coin purses that can't hold more than three dollars worth of quarters and which they wanted thirty dollars for, and brought out my
Summer Sketchbook for it's last hurrah. Yes, she had two pages left to be filled with wonderful ideas. I did a lovely study of the nice Coneflowers I could see through the store's window.
Now, up until this point, the crazy greeter lady (her job was to stand there at the door and greet people) hadn't noticed me. Honest and no kidding the minute I brought out my
Sketchbook, she starts giving me these Looks.
But her comment would be considered one of the most ridiculous comments received by me when I break out the
Sketchbook in front of normal people even if it had not been preceded by several minutes worth of these Looks. Because finally, she looks at me drawing and asks me the following:
"Are you

For certainly, anyone bored enough by her horrible little store to start *drawing* in *public* has to have *problems*. Whatever.

(1/30/08 - may be a little chocolate-martini-fueled, just so you know.)
HMNH 1/29/08 - Dimetrodon
I went to the Harvard Museum of Natural History again today and drew and drew. As I explored and drew, I kept running into this one group of people, and they prompted me to ask myself the following question:
What compels a person to bring a child under the age of five to a place like the Harvard Museum of Natural History?
I ask this because I was sitting there drawing and suddenly I hear the kind of squeals one usually associates with mid-day at Disney World. And then this knee-high child who could not have been more than two (and was probably younger) comes barrel-a**ing into the Hall of 100-Year-Old Really Delicate Displays, charges into the glass cases, climbs all over the furniture, smears his sticky little paws all over the signs - and then, minutes later, his mom comes in to check on him. And then two more moms come in with their two-year-olds.
And, let me be perfectly clear on this, these were not moms who had to go to Harvard on some important assignment or other and couldn't get anyone to watch their kids. No. I could hear every word of there conversations (trust me, I wasn't trying to). These mothers wanted to entertain their young children and somehow decided that Harvard was the best and most appropriate place to go for this purpose.

See, I could maybe understand if it was obvious they had to bring their kids here and there was absolutely no way to work around this. But it was clear they could have taken them to the Children's Museum or something. (And, really, for the love of Pete, take the kids to the Children's Museum next time. You'll all enjoy yourselves much more. It's right there in the frikkin' name of the place.)
What in the world did you think the kids would find entertaining in Harvard? It's a building that exists for biology students (and artists) to study specimens of animals. It isn't a playground. Can you imagine if these kids were let loose in the Glass Flowers?
Which brings me to the Open Thread part. Sound off in the comments, fellow artists who like to draw in public:
What crazy experiences have you had while sketching in the field? (It could be bad public behavior/an awkward situation/an unforeseen occupational hazard/ect.)

1 comment:

Zachary said...

I try not to sketch in public for the reasons you verbalize here. Generally, when I do, such scribblings attract the attention of the pre-double-digit crowd, who I dislike, because they ask a lot of questions.

Back in college, I'd often get to classes very early and draw some prehistoric beastie on the board, sometimes accompanied by a trivia question. The professors never minded too much, and would often play right along. That was cool.