Mary Tait, who leads the Draw & Discover workshops Tuesdays in the Luce Foundation Center interviewed one of the program's veteran participants, Barbara Wright, about her experience with the workshop over the years.
Top: Romaine Brooks's La France Croisée. Bottom: Barbara Wright's untitled drawing.
Mary Tait: How long have you been coming to Draw & Discover and what is your background in art?
Barbara Wright: I've been coming since October of 2008. I didn’t start drawing until I took a weekend sketching workshop thirteen years ago. I loved it! My sketchbook became my companion —good timing since I was mostly working in foreign countries developing software for air traffic control where I often knew no one. When I started oil painting in 2007 I used my sketchbooks as source material. A classmate from a painting class I was taking complimented my sketchbook and asked if I would be willing to teach a class. I’m now semi-retired and have been teaching plein air sketching for a little over a year.
MT: Out of all the drawings you’ve done here, which is your favorite?
BW: The drawing I did after La France Croisée by Romaine Brooks. I love the painting and my drawing reflects what I love about it: the boldness of the composition, the combined strength/vulnerability of the woman and the tragedy of war.
MT: What have you learned about drawing since you’ve been coming here?
BW: I’ve learned to do copies of fairly complicated works in under an hour. It’s not just how to draw the artwork, it’s how to see it.
MT: What improvements would you still like to make in your own drawings? Or to put it another way, what do you still struggle with?
BW: I would like to improve everything of course. That’s part of the pleasure of any skill. Drawing faces is what I struggle with —sometimes I can get them, sometimes not, and sometimes they’re grotesque.
MT: What would you tell someone about the Draw & Discover workshop who has never been here before?
BW: Come! Come if you like to draw. Come if you wonder whether you can draw. You can. It’s like reading or riding a bike. It needs a little instruction and practice but everyone can do it. Come if you love to look at art!
MT: What keeps you returning to the program week after week?
BW: It is always a pleasure to draw in the museum. You get to know the artwork more intimately than if you were just looking. The discipline of a fixed time each week is useful and the length of drawing time being consistent makes me focus on seeing what’s important: why the piece I’ve picked attracts me and what the artist was trying to do. The weekly challenges like feet, landscape, or perspective provide learning opportunities and focus. The community of other attendees is fun and I look forward to seeing them. It is nice to see their work and hear their comments on my work. People are very supportive (both other participants and museum staff). And getting to sketch in a museum is great!
MT: Thank you, Barbara, for your time.
Sketching: Draw and Discover! is offered in the Luce Foundation Center on the third floor Tuesdays from 3–4:30 p.m. Some materials provided; please bring a small sketchbook and pencils.
- Luce Foundation Center, Drawing, American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum