Sketching at the Brooks: An Artist's Perspective

Suddenly I had a small audience that burst into applause.

On Friday, March 9th, two days before the end of the excellent exhibition Armed + Dangerous: Art of The Arsenal at the Brooks, I went in with my sketch book and trusty 2mm 4B Mechanical Pencil, borrowed a canvas saddle chair from the front desk, and planted myself in front of a 16th century suit of German jousting armor.

Just as I began some preliminary lines for a drawing, a family with six brown-haired boys walked in front of me. They were all cut from the same cookie cutter but at different sizes ranging from a toddler, carried by the father, to a boy of about ten or eleven. As is usually the case when people walk in front of someone who is sketching, they quickly shuffled to get out of the way of my line of sight. I appreciate this, but it never really bothers me if people stand there. I tend to think that I am on their turf and that they will eventually move along. When the group passed, one of the younger boys suddenly turned to me and said, “My brother wants to see what you’re doing.” I chuckled to myself that the one brother was asking on behalf of the other. “Sure,” I said, and I turned the page around for them to see. It wasn’t much, just a few lines on paper. They didn’t say much either, just an "Ah" and an "Oh," and then hurried to join the rest of their family.

About 30 minutes later, after having seen the rest of the display–including the popular hands-on area where I could tell by the clanging of metal that they’d had a good time trying on the helmets–they circled back through the main room. This time the youngest boy, around four I would guess, mustered the courage to ask to see my drawing again. The whole family was together now and curious to see what had been accomplished. I turned the page around, the drawing almost complete. Then, as if on cue, all six boys started clapping.

I think I turned three shades of red. An artist so often works in silence and rarely gets applause. “Thanks,” I said, “It’s just a little drawing.” They smiled and filed out in sequential order with the mother bringing up the rear.

This blog is written by Greg Larson. He lives and works in Memphis and goes drawing with the Memphis Urban Sketchers. His drawings can be seen at His series Abstractions in Broken Glass can be seen at the Lisa Kurts Gallery.

Brooks visitors are invited to sketch in pencil on pads smaller than 18” x 24” without easels or other floor standing supports. Groups wishing to sketch should contact the museum’s Group Tour Coordinator to schedule a time for their visit. Please call 901.544.6215 or email Some traveling exhibitions may be excluded.

Be sure to check out the Memphis Urban Sketchers blog.

Posted by Andria Lisle at 4:17 AM
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