Mausoleum. A tomb. It's a Greek word that originates from the grand resting place of the satrap Mausollos, a place that was once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The British Museum hosts friezes and statues that once decorated the outside of that somber and glorious establishment. I was walking among a few of these pieces and noticed a striking statue of a man that is usually assumed to be Mausollos. It stands around fifteen feet tall and is missing some of its head and most of its arms. The intact body is shrouded with fascinating drapery that curls around the body and has a freshness and sharpness that is not typical of weatherworn original Greek sculpture. It didn't draw much attention. I can forgive that, because the British Museum has an astonishing collection. I had a moleskine with me, so I sat down to do a quick sketch (museums are one of the few places I will use a sketchbook).
I should say here that as an artist, I have a lot of time to think. Without going into too much detail on my artistic process, I need a combination of seeing and thinking through my subject to get any work done. In an open area, like the British Museum, there's a relationship with the crowd that I struggle to deal with. I know that when I put pen to paper, the dynamic in the room changes. At that moment, there's a room with an artist in it. Or student, or however people see me. He's taking this seriously. He's observing. So I think about the art and the people in the room, and they think about me a lot less, I'm sure of it.
I set to work on a 5-10 minute sketch of the sculpture. Something gestural. Soon after I began, the mood in the room changed. People came in, saw me, and then followed my gaze to the sculpture. Some approached the inscription. Some pulled out their cameras. Others stood quietly for a minute or so to scrutinize Mausollos. The power of suggestion. Someone is intently observing, so it must be important. Or historical, or however else people justify their change of attitude. I took a tally to the left of my sketch: eight pictures taken of the sculpture while I was drawing. No pictures were taken for ten minutes after I stopped drawing.
Some people, sadly, need to be told what to see. They need a museum to prop up a sculpture on a plinth and give them a wall text that tells them exactly what to look for. I don't have any secrets, I just observe. And I skip the rooms with all the ancient coins and jewelry because I think they are boring.