The other week my little sister and I took an afternoon trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia) to walk around and do a little drawing. I’ve been to Mia tons of times (I got my art history degree from the university less than 10 minutes away), but this was new for her and it was so fun to enjoy it for the first time with my sister! We mostly looked at beautiful art, took pictures, and drew a little.
While gathering my art supplies for this visit, I got to thinking about my anxiety around drawing outside my studio. My most comfortable environment for drawing is sitting securely at a desk, with all of my materials spread out in front of me and with the internet and books close by for reference. But at some point last summer, I decided drawing away from the desk is something I really wanted to get better at. I had to force myself into it at first, then without really noticing, I found methods to feel more comfortable doing it. I think starting this habit will effect my artwork for the better. I can’t predict how, but eventually I think it will.
I’ve found drawing at a museum to be the most natural way to ease into drawing away from the studio. Here’s why I like it:
There are a lot of options for static inspiration. You don’t have to worry about your subject getting up and walking away.
There are usually lots of quiet spaces and nearly empty rooms where you can draw without feeling conspicuous.
There’s a huge variety or physical objects and subject matter to choose from.
Here’s what I bring.
I routinely over pack on art supplies so this is work in progress. But basically I now ask myself these questions: What tool do I feel most comfortable using? What tools am I trying to get more comfortable with? And what am I allowed to use? (At some museums paints and markers aren’t allowed.) Just as I limit myself with the number of colors and brushes I use for finished work at home, limiting colors and utensils away from my desk removes some indecision so I can focus on drawing.
Here’s what I took on our recent trip to Mia. It’s a mixture of my favorite drawing utensils and some new things I wanted to play with. I put all of these go-to’s in a small pencil case so they’re very easy to grab. Anything extra I can’t part with I put in a separate larger bag. The separate bags have really helped me cut down on fumbling around with materials. (The Caran d’Ache crayons just go right in the backpack).
Above, left to right:
Caran d’Ache Neocolor II
Pentel Water Brush Pen
clay eraser (probably Prismacolor)
Alvin Brass Bullet Sharpener
Prismacolor Col-Erase red and blue
Gelly Roll 08 #49 and #19
Prismacolor, Caran d’Ache Supracolor II Soft, and Crayola colored pencils
Pentel Sign Pen
Micron Black 01 and 03
Uni-Ball Signo Broad white
Copic sketch R00 and G000
Pentel Fude Brush Pen
My side pouch is pretty big but I highly recommend a clear bag. It’s not the prettiest option, but sure helps me find things.
Intentions and Limitations
I’ve been trying to set intentions or goals when I head into the museum. It’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed with options if I don’t have a sliver of a goal in mind. I can’t say I go in with set intentions every time, but eventually after a little sketching, I might hit on something that feels good.
For instance, in one outing, after drawing a bunch of random things, I realized I really just enjoyed drawing the portraits of ladies. So, I set the intention to draw ladies’ portraits BUT 1. I must look for a variety in the types of women and 2. Must process the images through my own lens rather than be too realistic (something I’m constantly working on). These are sketches so things don’t always pan out, but at least I set a goal!
I usually give myself a loose time limit for each drawing. I don’t set a timer, I just keep an eye on my watch. Just being aware of the time stops me from laboring over a drawing I should have given up on already.
If I was going to mention one last thing I’ve learned about drawing away from my desk it’s to always wear something with pockets! Dudes, this might not be a problem for you, but some of my most comfortable clothes don’t have pockets. When I’m drawing, especially if I’m standing up, I’m always sticking my favorite pencil, eraser, sharpener, etc. in my pockets. I make a mental note where I’m putting those things on my body and keep putting them there so I can grab them faster. Sometimes I even pick a trash pocket, designated for pencil shavings.
That’s about it. I hope to keep up with the habit of drawing away from my desk and aim to do an outing at least once a month. If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!