art, Capitoline Museum, drawing, Forum Boarium, Hercules, Rome, sketchbooks, travel
One of my most precious possessions is this slim sketchbook that went with me to Rome a few years ago.
I come from a line of artists. My great-grandmother and grandmother were painters, and my mother is a painter too. I never learned to paint, nor had art lessons, but I always loved to draw.
I chose my notebook carefully. I wanted something lightweight. I figured I would use it as a journal and maybe do a sketch now and then. I use mechanical pencils. No worries about sharpening, and they have good erasers, always a necessity for me!
My first efforts were tentative. I hadn’t drawn anything in years. This page is preceded by several pages of nothing but text, and my drawings are small and cramped. I’m afraid to try anything ambitious.
But then we went to the Etruscan cemetery of Cerveteri, and I started to loosen up. To draw one of the tombs, I took up a half-page!
Five pages later, I am much more confident. They would let us loose in a museum gallery, and I’d pick something to draw. It helped me see the objects, in the moment. I took photos too, some of the time, but I knew that I could find the objects in a book if necessary. Looking at the drawings years later, the objects come back to me in a way that no photograph could achieve.
This was a special day, viewing the archaic temples in the Forum Boarium. Stepping inside a Roman temple gives you an eerie feeling of walking back through layers of time.
The round temple of Hercules once held this gilded statue of the god. They found him, still in the Forum, in the fifteenth century.
He now lives in the Capitoline Museum, where I discovered him. I worked for about twenty minutes, but never managed to get him quite right.
These drawings from the interior of the Augustan houses on the Palatine hill were done in a hurry. We didn’t have much time.
I found myself focusing on parts of figures, like the arm from a Hellenistic prince, or the hand of the weary boxer. People would come up to have a look at whatever I was working on. Sometimes the drawing meant that I didn’t get to look at everything. And sometimes I wasn’t in the mood to draw, so I took photos instead.
I have a thing about male hands! But they’re very difficult to draw.
I was used to drawing from photos or pictures. I discovered that drawing from life is harder in some ways, but it is also more satisfying. You can probably tell by now that my favorite subjects in Rome were human figures and architecture.
In the evenings, I used to come out to the courtyard of our lodgings and sketch the grotto maiden, who was definitely not an ancient piece! But I liked her, and I spent a lot of time trying to get her right.
At the end of the trip, I have come a long way from those first pages. People would tell me “Oh, I could never do that.” But I always said that they could, if they tried. It’s amazing how much better you get with practice.
I’m glad I thought to take these pictures. If something should happen to my priceless book, I’ll still have the digital images.
I can assure you that I won’t be able to make sketches like that not even after drawing 24h 😉
Such a pleasure to recognise some spots and pieces. First of all, the boxer is my one of my favourite statues, I simply adore it. It travelled to the USA some months ago, I don’t remember now to which Museum.
When I come to the city with the bike we pass by Porta Maggiore and the baker’s tomb 🙂
I have not seen yet Augustus’ and Livia’s house in the Palatine 😦
Thanks! I thought you might recognize a number of these 🙂 I love the boxer too. And I was fascinated by the rough stones of the Porta Maggiore. I think they said that Claudius built it.
It is hard to get into the Palatine houses but I hope one day you have the opportunity. They are lovely. How strange though that they are now underground. The same for Nero’s Golden House.
Yes, it was built by Claudius and other works were made by Trajan. Nero’s Golden House is collapsing 😦 It’s still closed to the public and the minister of Culture has made an announcement searching investors.
They’ve made an agreement now with Azerbajan government to start a campaign of restoration of the forums. These private investments work; Della Valle sponsorization of colosseum cleaning-up started last October and a first section of the amphiteatre is already clean
Yes, I think it’s great that people want to fund these projects. Now if people would only refrain from destroying irreplaceable artifacts and sites (Palmyra!) in the Middle East… reading about the havoc in Syria is depressing for many reasons.
I cannot even draw a straight line. And I have tried. Coincidentally, I shall publish a post later today, where I’ve drawn something 😉
Nice rendering of Hercules’s club and the maiden’s horn…arf. Are you still drawing regularly, or have you shelved it…?
Sadly I stopped once I got home. I only seem to do it when I am traveling, and even then, not always. So my skills have atrophied…
Hercules’ club has always been of special interest to me 😉
Fascinating to see the progress of your drawings and what a grand idea to have a digital record of them, just in case.
Many thanks! I can’t believe that I didn’t think of keeping photos until now. Thank goodness for blogging 😉
I just love this! It’s one of my greatest frustrations that I simply cannot draw. There is some disconnect between my brain and my had…the spirit is willing but the flesh? Looking at your drawings takes me straight back to Rome. Thanks so much for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed it. There is nothing like a quick trip to Rome, even if it’s only a virtual trip 😉 As to what you said about drawing, I am that way with music. Even when I had lessons, I couldn’t read the notes.
You have some serious skills, Linnet. Have you ever considered just busting out some acrylics and giving a go at painting?
Many thanks! No, I’ve painted in watercolors a bit. But I think I would need to have lessons in order to really tackle it. Paints require some technical know-how!
I’m an avid art collector, and have really immersed myself into the small, but burgeoning, art scene in Vegas. I’m amazed at the level of talent there, especially those that are self-taught.
I enjoy buying original art too. It’s wonderful, and always surprising, to see what other people are able to create 😉
I’ve always found drawing much harder than painting, but then again, I only ever do things that I generously call “abstract.” And if it’s not finished in a few hours, it’s still finished.
I used to keep a journal with a mish mash of observations as well. These are the best souvenirs. You’ll treasure it for life, and yes, a good thing you have the digital form now!
I like your approach to painting! I always think of it as a draftsman (draftswoman?) would. But it could be very satisfying to simply experiment with colors and abstract forms.
Re journaling, in the past I always had to destroy my journals because I couldn’t bear to read them. But writing about a defined subject, like travel, somehow works for me 😉
I know what you mean about those journals! I’ve destroyed a good number myself. My best one that I have is from when I lived in France for 5 months. It’s more like a scrapbook, but with a few funny tidbits…not so savory words and phrases I picked up.
The painting—yes, have fun. I’m not a serious artist, so I never feel constrained when I paint. I just play, getting paint all over my fingers and face. Good stuff.
Woman, is there anything you can’t do?! That is a lovely treasure from your travels. I’d much rather enjoy something like that shared from someone’s travels. It’s more intimate than perusing a collection of photos or postcards.
Thank you, Crystal! It is indeed a personal way of sharing. I’m glad you liked it.
Thanks very much, and thanks for stopping by.
I always enjoy visiting your blog. 🙂
Beautiful – you are very talented! My mother is an artist, but I didn’t inherit her ability to draw or paint. I tried a lot – but I’m more like my dad in that respect.
Thanks! Maybe there is an inherited element, but my mother is also a musician and I’m definitely not…
Beautiful drawings and journal. Reminded me of this: http://thephilosophersmail.com/virtues/why-you-should-stop-taking-pictures-on-your-phone-and-learn-to-draw/
Wow, thanks for this link! It captures my feelings exactly. And what a stunning drawing by Ruskin, of the peacock feather. It almost makes me forgive him for his prudish opinions on female pubic hair 😉
It amuses me that even in the 21st Century, scholars are still trying to unearth some elusive complex psychological or circumstantial reasoning to explain the non-consummated marriage of Euphemia Gray and John Ruskin.
A certain number of people are simply asexual. The thought of sex itself and all that it entails probably freaked Ruskin out, but he had no terminology or cultural context to explain his distress, so he defended his disinterest with the ridiculous story about being turned off by her pubic hair because he was used to seeing smooth Grecian statues in art museums. I call Bullshit.
It sucks for his poor unsatisfied young wife that he resorted to publicly describing all the things about her body that disgusted him, though I supposed all that awfulness was necessary in that day and age to precipitate the end of the marriage and she seems to have had a good life thereafter. I was also ticked off to read that he was able to secure a marriage annulment by claiming erectile dysfunction without having to be examined by doctors, yet Effie supposedly had to be examined by two physicians to verify her virginity. *smh*
Anyway, yes. His little peacock feather was quite adorably rendered 😉
Interesting to learn that the pubic hair story is speculation (probably on the basis of his rapturous descriptions of Greek sculpture?), but that he did state publicly that “certain circumstances” of her body disgusted him. I should have thought that an asexual individual would not seek out a marriage. It seems quite possible to me that he had some naiveté in regard to female anatomy, as Effie herself stated…
Eh, for time eternal gay, bi, and trans people have been getting married because society expected them to and I reckon asexual people are no different. There’s a mediocre but somewhat informative documentary on Netflix about asexuals and most of the docu seemed to center on the problem of asexual adults yearning to be included in intimate relationships without having to do anything sexual. They usually have the desire for company and companionship and nonsexual intimacy that a prepubescent child would, but of course the majority of their relationships with sexual partners don’t work out because the sexual partner eventually decides that cuddling and platonic cohabiting aren’t enough. Asexuals do get “crushes” on people and have romantic feelings, just not sexual feelings.
From Ruskin’s writings it seems that when he was courting Effie (well into his 20s) his enthusiastic letters were florid and full of childish naivete, with no real sexual intent or desire implied. I think he did indeed say the famous line about Greek statues and pubic hair and that’s not in doubt, but that that and his other problems with her all amounted to the message: “girl parts are icky!” and even modern scholars give him too much credit when they try to explain away his lack of interest in sex by declaring that his mother was strict and religious making him overly reluctant, he was too moral to make love to a woman who wasn’t truly in love with him, he wouldn’t compromise his aesthetic and romantic ideals etc. As if those things have ever stopped a man who wanted to get off from doing so!
From descriptions, Effie seemed to have a rather strong sexuality so the pair was poorly matched from the start (whereas a young woman with less sexual drive may have acquiesced and resigned herself to a sexless marriage, or been content with the occasional nookie on the side). It’s a fascinating story, yeah, but not the huge eternal enigma that people make it out to be.
Well, you have convinced me! I remember reading letters from asexual people in Dear Abby. I feel sorry for them because it must be terribly difficult for them to find partners. Perhaps with the advent of the web, they can find each other more easily now.
24/7 in France said:
Great sketches! Mine would all be stick figures 🙂 since I can’t draw a straight line!
Thank you! I have done a few stick figures in my time 😉
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