Friday, April 01, 2011

Museum Studies, Pt.8


African Lion 5.5x8" Conte on paper (purchase info)

The Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History is a main attraction, being the first thing you might enter if you walk in the main hall and head straight down the central aisle. It has some amazing dioramas, on two levels, including a pack of Elephants in the middle of it. I'm particularly happy to see that a large reason why these dioramas are so impressive is that they are backed by incredibly well-done and large paintings, which form panoramic backdrops, and more often than not blend convincingly with the foreground rock and plant elements. Honestly, as a painter, the backgrounds of many of the dioramas at the AMNH are worth a visit to see on their own. Fantastic landscape and wildlife work.

Chief among the dioramas is the African Lion, for obvious reasons--he's the King of Beasts. Everyone loves a lion, and lions are among the first animals children learn about due to their legendary ferocity. This means that drawing in front of this diorama is very difficult. Drawing in this particular hall is very difficult, actually.

First off, the entire hall is very dimly lit, so as to allow the lighting in each diorama to reign, it seems. This isn't the case in other equally-effective areas (like the bird dioramas), so I've avoided drawing in this hall due to the very dim light.

Secondly, as I said, this hall is popular. People are coming by to look, and they often take flash photos in front of it. All the kids yell, "Look! Lion," and drag parents over to see. I can't very well stand right in the center of it and draw for an hour or so. So, I chose a spot off to one edge, and tried to stay out of the way of the informational placard. Being near to it also gave me a little more light, from the diorama itself.

African Lion, 5.5x7" Conte on paper (purchase info)

True to life, there is only one maned male in the scene, and a few females. So to draw him again, I changed my angle and height. This angle would have required that I stand right in the center. As I said, I couldn't do that, so I backed up and sat down on a bench under the elephants. After standing for the first drawing, this was a relief anyway. However, now it meant that this drawing took a lot longer than it should have. A constant stream of folks came by to stand at the glass, and so my view was obscured constantly. I had to wait, get a few-seconds glimpse, and draw while waiting for folks to enjoy and move on.

Before I venture into this hall again in the future, I'll remember to bring my wife's mini book-lamp. I draw on a standard office clipboard, and it would've solved the lighting issue and helped the drawing. Of course, it would also draw attention, which I'm not too big on.