Beginning of Week 9 on the road… can this be real? It must be – I have shipped home one sketchbook already and another is almost full. That is my only anchor to reality, because the rest seems such fantasy, to be here, to be experiencing all of this. Until I run up against The Rules, that is. These British have Rules, which Must Be Obeyed. For instance, afternoon tea is to be served in the afternoon, between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. No earlier, no later. No scones until then. Don’t even think of asking. End of discussion. Dang.
But that wasn’t nearly as bad as: if the Royal Academy of Arts advertises a special exhibition by Degas with a one-day workshop on drawing movement, and the web page says the class is full, it’s full. Going to the academy and inquiring politely if there have been cancellations will earn you a scathing look from the information desk and a very cold invitation to come back 15 minutes before class. And if you are so thick as to do so, you will receive an even colder eyebrows-up explanation from the young woman at the education desk (who is young enough to be your granddaughter no matter how she tries to hide her youth behind those tortoise shell glass frames) that – Soooory – they Do NOT sell tickets on the day of the event, and they ARE overbooked, and you MAY be on your merry way thank you very much indeed next person in the queue please. Dang. Rules where I come from are made to be broken, especially in the art world.
So in the absence of the opportunity to sketch live prima ballerinas under the tutelage of a master artist, I am posting, with raspberries spit in the general direction of the Academy:
- one sketch of St. Catherine, who, being a statue in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University, was very obliging and held still for over an hour;
- and one sketch of the skyline in Canterbury, where old priorities (the cross) meet relatively new priorities (TV antennas) on the rooftops.
According to the description of the sculpture, (made in the workshops of Niklaus Wedemann the Elder of limewood sometime around 1500), she is holding in her hand the hilt of a sword she just demolished and standing on a broken wheel, some kind of torture device she just trashed… whoa. Looking pretty serene, isn’t she?
This sketch was made from inside the new Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, looking toward the Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury was marvelous, especially the guided boat tour of the River Stour, and the local museum. Worth a trip across the world just for that day alone. And Oxford was even more marvelous if that’s possible. In the space of one hour we pressed our noses against the glass case containing one of 14 surviving hand-lettered copies of the Magna Carta – THE Magna Carta, the one to which our culture owes pretty much its existence – and the first folio of Shakespear’s complete works, and an original edition of the Gutenberg Bible, and the first page (handwritten) of Jane Austen’s first novel, and a 1550 copy of the Koran… And if that’s not enough, about 15 minutes later we were having lunch in one of the pubs where Inspector Morse solved so many PBS mysteries!