Events recently reminded me of sketches done while wandering in the halls of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. not so long ago. This is an inspiring place which often is missed by visitors to the capital because it is not on the Mall. It is a bit off the beaten path. But in this Gallery is so much history, so much art, and so much that is astonishing. It is a relaxing place too with lots of places to sit, including in a covered light- and plant-filled atrium.
Co-joined with the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art (which is where I came across an intriguing bust of Alfred Lord Tennyson), this entire city block is devoted to the proud history and artistic accomplishments of the people of the United States, and visitors to the United States, right up to the present time. Like the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, these two museums present powerful evidence of the fact that this nation is built on a pretty solid foundation, if only we would bother to understand and protect it.
With so much to keep up with these days, it’s more likely than not that we will pay inadequate attention to the requirements for this solid foundation–which is a huge risk that has been with us at least since the onset of the digital revolution.
In our social media-saturated world, we are more likely to be guilty of rushing to judgment than pausing long enough to try to understand what’s going on. That’s why taking some time out to sit in the National Portrait Gallery can be helpful! Sketching has a way of concentrating the mind at the same time that it opens us up to new perspectives. At the National Portrait Gallery, you can bring your drawing tools right inside, and the atrium/courtyard is a perfect place to practice drawing people in motion too.