Surrounded by students, I sat in the Library of the Royal Bourough of Kensington and Chelsea this afternoon and reveled in the very luxury of having an entire afternoon to be In the Presence of Books. It’s been years since I really had an opportunity to read more than the occasional chapter before bedtime, and even more years since I had time to study. The college age students around me seemed oblivious to their privilege, sighing, fidgeting. The young dipstick to my left had his earbud music up so loud that I could actually hear it echoing through the hollows in his skull – I pity his poor spouse in 40 years when he is for all intents and purposes deaf. But back to the library.
We have spent quite a few afternoons in libraries, Griff working on his laptop, me prowling the art and local history sections. Some neighborhood libraries here in London are simply pathetic shadows of what they used to be, shelves holding a smattering of worn paperbacks and DVDs. Others are wonders. Today’s was indeed a wonder, quiet and spacious and smelling of ink and paper. I spread out my colored pencils and papers, then for four hours I indulged in “The London Sketch Club”, a limited edition publication probably found only in London, followed by a huge glossy “oversize” book of Willam Morris designs, then a volume about Grotesques and Gargoyles on medieval Catholic buildings. I sketched as I read, making graphic notes about borders I especially liked.
After awhile I began to realize that everything I have seen and done on this trip is beginning to “gel”. The seemingly random sketches and events and lessons are all having an impact on my perception and style. For instance, I’m finally beginning to “get it” with the human body. Here is my latest sketch made from a sculpture in the Victoria and Albert museum:
Not perfect, but as close as I’ve ever come to saying, “By George, I think I’ve got it!” And for the first time, some random person walked up behind me as I sketched and said, “Brilliant!” But aside from that, there’s a feeling of beginning to grasp that art throughout human history flows like rivers, that there are certain themes and shapes that recur all over the planet , that it’s all intertwined. For awhile a couple of weeks ago I was overwhelmed by all the genius I was seeing, on the verge of feeling too humbled to make anything more… but the realization that every new thing is based at least in part on some old thing inspires me to keep going. Beyond the sheer in-the-moment joy of sketching, painting, and making, every inconsequential little sketch or cartoon has the potential to evolve into something worthwhile on a larger scale. Or not. Either way, it’s wonderful to be here.
For the next three weeks (can that be all?!) I will continue with my Life Drawing classes, my sketching classes, and my library pursuits about design, and whatever else presents itself. Then I will see how Africa fits into the universal patterns I’m finding. And in the meantime, the bonus is that most of London is stringing up billions of lights that will be illuminated for Christmas very soon! Woohoo!