Article by Allison Ebner | Photos courtesy of Urban Sketchers Delaware
On a quiet Sunday in March, the low lighting of the Mineralogical Museum let the vibrancy of the exhibition cases prevail and set the perfect tone for Urban Sketchers Delaware’s monthly sketch crawl event. The group gathers for on-location drawing the second Sunday of every month.
This time, more than a dozen sketchers sat in front of the exhibition cases displaying an array of minerals from the University of Delaware’s collection. Armed with sketchbooks, pens and travel watercolor sets, the artists settled in for a few hours of their favorite pastime.
A member of Urban Sketchers Delaware drawing in his notebook.
“You remember stuff so much better when you draw it,” Rebecca Howell, an administrator and member of the group since its inception, said. “It’s totally different than taking a picture. That’s why this museum was so fascinating. It has amazing objects that, the more you looked at them, the more there was to draw.”
The breadth of sketching possibilities came through in the resulting sketches. Some depicted the sweeping views and soft lighting. Fascinated by the intricacies of the minerals, Howell focused in on specific specimens like many of her fellow sketchers.
Curator Sharon Fitzgerald stopped in to meet with the group, bringing out more specimens from the teaching collection for the group to view up close. When Fitzgerald starting talking about pigments and how some of the minerals are used to make them, everyone’s ears perked up. She delved into the history and science of pigments, garnering particular excitement for the lapus lazuli in the collection.
“We were there just looking at [the minerals] as objects and appreciating that beauty, but in reality, the history of what we’re doing—using pigments—is derived directly from the material we’re sketching,” Howell explained.
This realization of life imitating art brought a new level of meaning to the outing.
Illustrations of the minerals on display.
“Knowing [the Urban Sketchers] were artists and might be interested, I put together a variety of mineral specimens that were used as pigments—both historic and modern pigments,” Fitzgerald said. “Some of the artists knew more about pigments and their use than I did, so it was a learning experience for everyone.”
“It was a lovely, intimate day in this beautiful, quiet space,” Howell reflected. “We didn’t even ask Sharon [to speak with us], and she was so generous with her time and information. We were the perfect audience for it because we were eating it up.”
While Howell has a degree in art, many members use Urban Sketchers Delaware as a gentle introduction or reintroduction into art. Lawyers, publishers, teachers, professional artists, retirees, high school students—the group’s membership is varied, but they share a passion for creating, sharing and supporting art.
Urban Sketchers Delaware pose for a group photo.
When members of the group entered the Mineralogical Museum that March morning, they appreciated the minerals as beautiful objects, as art. By the time they left, they had discovered the minerals weren’t just the inspiration for their art, but the very source of it.
What will you discover in our gallery spaces and exhibitions on campus? Stay tuned for more information on this fall’s upcoming exhibitions.
Urban Sketchers Delaware is open to any skill level. The monthly sketch crawls are always free and rotate between New Castle, Sussex and Kent counties. To learn more about the organization, visit www.facebook.com/urbansketchersdelaware/.