Living in Lockdown: Eugene Delacroix And Our Sketching Heritage

Every week, the Urban Sketching organisation hosts an hour of talks with some favourite sketchers from around the world. This Sunday gone was the turn of Mário Linhares and Hugo Costa, bot from Portugal. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for Hugo’s talk, but I will catch up with it on You Tube.

Mário spoke to Rob Sketcherman about some of the “urban” sketchers who have gone before us. He concentrated on Eugene Delacroix, who visited Morocco in 1832 for a sketching and writing expedition. Delacroix made many very famous oil paintings. They are grand, and planned, and lofty and important, but to me cannot compare to the beauty and freshness of his sketches. I wasn’t the only one to notice this. The oil paintings were often painted directly from sketches made on the spot during his trip, but while the oils looked heavy and dated, the sketches could have been done yesterday. The palette he used was comprised of desert colours: ochres, siennas, reds, russets, coal black. The drawing tools used were pencil or dip pen. So far, so identical to what most of us use now. But the work was evocative, powerful in its skill and simplicity and above all, so inspiring. I wanted to drop my pen – to which I seem surgically attached – and pick up a 4B pencil. I wanted to scrabble around in my paper stash for rough paper that will show a beautiful texture like nothing else. During the talk I sketched the two guys, and on Monday morning, I hit the studio early and with the morning sun streaming in I expressed how I felt about what Mário said. I was sad that for my pencil sketch I had grabbed the nearest back-of-sheet I had for the sketch of the men, because it was dreadful stuff with no tooth at all. Ah well – surely M. Delacroix found himself short of decent paper at times? I suggest you explore Delacroix a bit further. I intend to. Mário also discussed copying the work of other artists: I believe in this deeply. M;ario pointed out that you learn about their brushstrokes, their chosen media, their composition in this way, unlike a photo. I am a bit giddy with all the fun I am having in my Zoom classes, and part of me wants to suggest we all draw Delacroix together. Might yet do so!

Honor (20) is a talented artist. She would love to become a professional tattoo artist. The lockdown has meant that all her plans (like all the plans of everyone else) have had to be put on hold. But artists gonna art, right? Her boyfriend is a most relaxed young man and very accommodating about proferring limbs for Honor to permanently draw upon. I can’t say “practice” because everything she has done has been completely perfect. So far, Honor has an Anubis on her own calf; her boyfriend has one of those eyes you see everywhere in Egypt (do they keep evil away?) on his ankle and a large goddess on a thigh, all courtesy of Honor and her skill. “Lucky her boyfriend has a lot of skin,” says my husband Marcel, “which is just as well, because when he runs out of space she’ll find a new boyfriend.” I tell this to her (very nice and extremely laid-back) boyfriend, who laughs a lot and says the goddess on the thigh is the last one he’s getting.

Let’s hope the lockdown doesn’t go on too much longer. People are starting to get very, very restless. But the virus doesn’t care how restless anyone is.

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