Like many people, I have always been fascinated with the talent of artists to render the world around them in drawings and paintings. And so when I opened up this gift from a lovely friend it struck a chord in my imagination. At first I wasn't sure what this object was. There was an enticing tag from the company that made it:
"Our many free-spirited travel adventures and time spent admiring the splendours of nature has inspired us."
When I untied it and spread it open, I discovered that it was a sketchbook with a dozen colored pencils. The little silver object at the end of the tie is a pencil sharpener. Looking at it made me smile. I thought about travelers in the past who would sketch the wonders they saw on their travels in a sketchbook such as this. I thought about the lost art of drawing which was typically taught to young people in the nineteenth-century. Many young men and women at that time could actually draw fairly well. I also thought about many of the books I have read with characters who did not venture further than their small village, but because they learned how to draw and paint would spend hours sketching a lovely view or members of their family. This seems to occur regularly in the novels of Jane Austen.
I remembered a book filled with sketches by Queen Victoria that I owned and I pulled it off my bookshelf to have a look. I flipped through the pages and saw many charming drawings and watercolors done by Victoria throughout her life. Here was a young woman who learned how to draw and paint and immortalized many events and scenes in her life, including travels to her beloved Scottish Highlands. She was a passionate recorder of everything around her. We learn a lot about her from a book like this; her sketches show her delight and pleasure in the ballet and opera, her coronation and wedding, her ever-increasing family, and her travels abroad. In her case keeping a sketchbook was just another way of keeping a diary. And she was a prolific writer of diaries throughout her lifetime. Here are a few images from the book:
On the right is Lord Melbourne shown at Victoria's coronation in Westminster Abbey
On the left is the view of Westminster Abbey from Buckingham Palace
A family scene at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight where Victoria lived with her family
Ardverikie Lodge in Scotland with the dramatic scenery that Victoria loved
Her children dressed in Highland costumes
This sketchbook also made me think about the great artists such as John Singer Sargent and their romantic fascination with travel to places such as Italy. Sargent had a lifelong love of Italy where he was born and he painted many watercolors there out of his passion for Italy's people, land and culture.
Thinking about those who would chronicle their daily life and record their travels in drawings and watercolors has made me think about the quickness of everything we do today. The camera is the tool that most of us choose to record the moments we want to preserve. But wouldn't it be fun to travel to a country we love such as Italy or Scotland and take art classes, learning how to draw and paint landscapes or other scenes It would be a luxury to take the time and sketch the things we see. To draw and paint our world would require us to really look at things. I would imagine that we would be more connected to the beauty all around us if we tried to capture all those moments that really touch us through drawing or painting.
"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."
-- Oscar Wilde
"True life is lived when tiny changes occur."
-- Leo Tolstoy
Here's to noticing the beauty all around us and doing something new. Is there an art class in my future?