Drawing in the National Galley, as this blog testifies, is a habit of mine. The ultimate cure for artist block and a great way to discover artists for free. Drawing in a public place comes with its own set of challenges. If you can’t handle criticism don’t draw in a gallery. Every passer by has an opinion and generally they feel obliged to share it with you.
Since the National Gallery began allowing photography in 2015, drawing also comes with the peril of being considers part of the exhibition. Bus loads of tourists go home with a blurry photo of a London art student’s half finished copy and a selfie of them with the original. What they do with these photos I’m not sure.
All the perils of bad chat up lines and distractions when drawing are nothing compared to the hassle of camera clad tourists when you’re painting.
The staff at the National Gallery are amazing. They were always helpful, attentive and friendly, I really enjoyed my interactions with them. The gallery going public, in particular the groups are very difficult to cope with when painting. Firstly there’s the crowding issue, which means it’s hard to stand back. Secondly because you’re painting in a public space people take photos and videos. We are not talking a quick snap here, it’s more like try painting with an iPad shoved in your face! One man actually stood filming me for 10 minutes, I asked him what he was doing and got a critique of the painting and an explanation of his photography technique. He seemed to find it totally bizarre that I explained I didn’t want strangers standing by the easel filming me. The novelty of seeing someone painting in a gallery seems to draw crowds which has the benefit of making them look at the painting.
The experience of paparazzi aside, it was amazing in the quiet moments to paint from an original work by Gerard David. It makes me so happy to live in a country where access to museums and art galleries is free.