12 February 2012

sketching Victory

Sketch and photo © 2011/Gina Sales
I wish I had the time to sketch more.

It seems I only get to do it during moments when I have to save myself from perilously falling asleep. On one very important yet--sadly enough--dreary conference where you could actually do a counting game on how often the term 'Excel spreadsheet' crops up, I decided to keep my eyes and hands busy even though my brain cells were somewhat shutting down.

So I started sketching on my Moleskine an image of the winged goddess Victory of Samothrace based on a photo I took of the actual sculpture when I was in the Louvre last March 2010.

I can never draw the human form from memory; that's a skill I sorely lack.  But I feel a sense of happiness from being able to sketch on paper whatever I can see from my own eyes. I normally use a black tech pen like Pilot for informal amateur sketches like this. I never use pencil. Art class in high school taught me to be conservative in pen strokes so that I don't have to depend on using a pencil for drafts so much.

I ended up having an affinity for pen-and-ink and even charcoal. I remember bringing home a rough charcoal sketch I made of Charles Dickens to show to my mom.  I'm fearfully disastrous when it comes to watercolor, so I have made black ink my comfort zone. I don't consider myself an artist because I can't create something out of my imagination, but I'd gladly do a decent sketch of anything I clap my eyes on.

Most museums, unfortunately, don't allow pens for sketching. So when I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (for at least 10 times, damnit), I could only take high-res, close-up photos of sculptures which I would have wanted to sketch then and there. I'll probably set aside these photos for future moments of ennui that would allow me the time and luxury of drawing on paper.

So here's my finished sketch of the goddess Victory:

Sketch and photo © 2011/Gina Sales

It's not perfect, and God knows I would have wanted the wings to have been less 'heavy-looking.' I remember gazing up at this sculpture, surrounded by fellow tourists and art lovers, and admiring how the artist captured Victory in mid-action, as she strode forward with a purpose, her wings elegantly outstretched.  She seemed even more beautiful and mysterious without the head and the arms.

I hope I have done this favorite sculpture of mine a little justice somehow.

I remember too as I sat beside a young Italian man inside the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence on that same month I went to Paris. There was a large crowd, as always, in front of Michaelangelo's David.  It was sheer pleasure just to look at David (for aesthestic, purely non-sexual purposes) and study the tension in his limbs as he held his sling over his shoulder. The young man beside me (who looked like a local student about 21 years old) was using a pencil to sketch the sculpture, and I admired his efforts to capture THE David.

I'd be afraid to try it myself, actually. And if I did, it would take me days to finish the sketch.  But the young man was drawing him reverently--hesitantly too, I'd say, as if he was dreadfully afraid to mess up on paper what was perfect right in front of one's eyes. His drawing was still rough, for he had just more or less started. I could tell he was struggling with the face--which has always been my own Waterloo. At least the young man and I had something in common.

We chatted a bit (he in halting English and I in my atrocious Italian) and I made sure to compliment him on his draft. He seemed grateful and emboldened by my praise, and so he went back to sketching David's face with a noticeably steadier hand. I left his side eventually so he could spend the rest of the day drawing without much distraction. The entrance fee to the gallery wasn't exactly a trivial amount, so I'm sure he wanted to maximize his stay indoors.

Sometimes, I idly wonder how his sketch turned out. And I wonder too if I would dare to sketch something as complex as David one of these days.


  1. Nice sketch Gina! I'm impressed you can do it straight out in pen. I used to do oil painting but I haven't had enough free time since university. Photography's about the most I can manage these days. Have you sketched any Rizal sculptures?

  2. Thank you, Andy!

    Hey, come to think of it, I haven't done any sketches on Rizal (oh, the pressure).