Today I’m going to tell you about a fun way to use your journal/sketchbook. It involves paring down your implements (pencil only) and taking your journal with you. You may have already guessed; today it’s all about sketching at the art gallery! Woot!! Here in Toronto there’s the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). I’ll be talking mostly about this gallery because it’s such a large place and there seems to be something for everyone. But there are so, so many other galleries both large and small to explore and discover.
When I was in art college, we were told to go to the AGO and practice our sketching skills. There are so many things there to sketch: sculptures, ceramics, paintings, patterns, portraits, and the list goes on. Here are 7 tips for basic art gallery sketching etiquette:
1. When sketching at a gallery, it’s always best to get in touch with them ahead of time to confirm that sketching is allowed. (At the AGO they have specific guidelines stating what is and isn’t allowed. Here it is: “Sketching is permitted in the Gallery except where indicated. Sketchpads must be 35 x 25 cm (14 x 10 in.) or smaller. Please use pencil only (no pens or charcoal)”. If you’re nervous about a pencil sharpener falling open and sharpenings going everywhere, just take a mechanical pencil instead. Much easier! (Especially if it’s the kind with the little eraser on the end).
2. Don’t sketch other people without their permission. (Obvious, but still needs to be said).
3. If you’re a bit nervous sketching in public, find a less busy wing of the gallery or a quiet nook. You could also just do quick sketches or gestures, rather than longer more developed drawings so that you only have to stop for a couple of minutes.
4. If you’re working on a specific project, check out the gallery website to see what’s showing so you can plan what section to go to. Or, just wander until you find something that catches your eye.
5. Always write down what the work is that you’re sketching. Record as much information as you can; artist, year, medium, influences, etc. If a piece really sticks in your mind maybe you’ll want to do further research or discover what else that artist has created. You can also write down which gallery you sketched at, even what section – especially handy if it’s in the permanent collection.
6. As you can see by my sketches, I tend to write a lot. Sometimes its just impressions of the art and sometimes it’s more practical. Often my trips to go sketching at a gallery are either to research for a project (practical notes) or they are unplanned frenzies of inspiration (impression notes). Either way, writing and drawing go hand in hand.
7. After your gallery sketching trip, treat yourself to a cup of tea or coffee at a nearby cafe and admire your work. I cannot explain just how satisfying it is to spend even an hour or two sketching at a gallery and immersing yourself in art. Taking some time afterwards allows you to develop any lingering ideas and make notes for your next visit.
As an added bonus the AGO has a section on their website stating how to get in for free! The most widely applicable way is to go on wednesday evenings. The gallery offers free admission to the collection galleries on wednesdays from 6 till 8:30pm.
If this has you planning your wednesday evening (that’s tomorrow!!) and packing your journal and pencils, then my work here is done! Feel free to share your favourite galleries for sketching below in the comments.