In december I spent three weeks drawing in the Louvre with Studio Escalier, Paris. Three weeks seems like a really long time to draw but there were other constraints on my drawing time (other than the cultural experience that is lunch en francais):
Security and Queues
These can take up a surprising amount of time. In Paris the museum queues were enormous with people daily standing out in the cold and rain for several hours to get in. Many of these queues were for airport style security scans, prior to museum entry.
I hate queuing so I was delighted that my Carte Professionelle offered access to the priority line. The Paris Pass and other museum passes offer a similar facility which is probably worth the price of their cards on its own!
Finding the Loos
The other issue in a place as vast as the Louvre is getting to where you want to go, especially when you want to go. There usually are several options for toilets, those inside the museum proper generally have shorter or even no queues. It is wise to avoid those immediately adjacent to the ticket checking booths as they are almost always busy.
Watching your spot
Drawing in a group is great because there was always someone around to watch my collection of bag/stool/sketchbook/coat which I didn’t want to take with me to the loo.
Drawing is popular in the Louvre, especially in the sculpture courtyards so you may return to find someone else in ‘your’ spot. There is no need for concern as they will probably not be there long.
I found that the best thing to do is to have more than one drawing on the go at any one time. This allowed me to swap if one or the other is not going well or if the light changed. As it got dark I moved to an artificially lit sculpture or painting to continue drawing.
The Louvre is an incredible place but it is overwhelming; it would probably take more than three weeks to see everything currently on display there. Sometimes it was hard to get to where I wanted to be without being distracted by all the other amazing things that I had to walk past en-route.
Other times I just got lost. This was not always a bad thing as I saw many things I would not have looked for otherwise; tapestries for instance. There are rooms and rooms of them. The compositions were so masterful; there is no way to allude to depth in a tapestry, as there is in painting. They remain entirely flat yet the depiction of space in some of them was labyrinthine.
I think the best strategy here is absolute focus, combined with some planned dither. That is, decide on a few key things to look at, analyse or draw and stick to them rigorously, to the exclusion of everything else. (Warning, this is difficult!). A vital part of sticking to this is knowing that you do have some time to explore freely as your whim, or whatever catches your eye dictates.
I found that the free exploration worked well as a break between longer drawing sessions.
Learning in the Louvre
I so wanted to come away with a beautiful sketchbook full of fabulous drawings. This is one reason why I haven’t posted them until now, I had hoped to finish the book and make a page-turning video.
On reflection though, I’m pleased that I chose to focus more on learning than finishing drawings. Having taken the time to try and understand the lessons I can apply them elsewhere and return another time to make better drawings.
I struggled with that and looking through the drawings I think you will spot several, ‘must make more drawings’, type moments. Happily that lesson too is recorded in my sketchbook.
There is a solution to most of the issues I struggled with: a return trip!