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Drawing from the Masters at the Art Gallery of Ontario

drawing by artist Rachael Grad of Old Man with Hat by Adriaen van de Velde

Back To Art Basics: Pencil Drawings

This summer I'm spending time drawing and improving my product photography. One of my fun summer projects is to draw more at museums and art galleries around Toronto. Why the focus on traditional drawing when painting is my passion? 

While on vacation in Mexico in the spring, I enjoyed making quick gesture drawings of people on the beach. When back in my Toronto art studio, I found that the focus on gesture drawings and pencil sketches improved the composition in my paintings. So my summer plan is to draw a lot more both around the city and in my studio. (I also plan to improve my product photography but that's a separate topic for another Art Blog post). 

In the winter, it can be hard to get around the city with ice, snow and winter closures. In summer it's easier to get around Toronto and do more mobile artwork and art projects. There are also some great art exhibitions on during the summertime. I can't wait to check out the "In the Age of Rembrandt" art show at the ROM, the new MOCA museum and more exhibitions and drawings at the AGO. 

Drawing by Artist Rachael Grad of old master Adriaen van de Velde

Master Drawings at the AGO

Last week I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to start my summer drawing project. Shown here are some of my quick sketches and drawings made last week  in a 3 hour time period in the AGO vaults.

These pencil sketches are from drawings and prints by Rembrandt, Henry Moore, A.Y. Jackson, Adriaen van de Velde and more. I had no idea that the AGO vaults were so full of wonderful drawings and lithographs by master artists! 

drawing by artist Rachael Grad of Henry Moore Elephant's Head II

Henry Moore Art at the AGO

We don’t have many old master paintings in Toronto public museums. So I was surprised to learn about the many master drawings, etchings and lithographs in the AGO vault.

Henry Moore has a whole wing of sculptures at the art museum, which I’ve been visiting since a child. I hadn’t seen the elephant and animal drawings by Henry Moore that are usually kept in the vaults. The elephant heads with the strong hatched shading and deep tones were especially interesting to me last week. 

Drawing by Rachael Grad of A.Y. Jackson lithograph Pine Island

A.Y. Jackson Lithograph at the AGO

The Art Gallery of Ontario is known for its extensive, impressive collection of Canadian art. In particular, the AGO has large galleries dedicated to art by the Group of Seven painters.

Growing up in Toronto I went to the AGO weekly throughout high school for Saturday morning classes. As a student, I felt inundated with Group of Seven painters and art. So much so that it wouldn't feel like a trip to the AGO without examining at least one Group of Seven artwork.

Last week, along with sketching European masters drawings, I chose to study and draw a lively landscape by A.Y. Jackson of Pine Island (c. 1925). At first glance it looks simple, but the more I drew the small lithograph the more I noticed its complex lines, pattern and movement. Drawing from a master artwork makes me appreciate and understand things about the artwork that I wouldn't notice from observation alone. 

Drawing from the Masters at the Art Gallery of Ontario by artist Rachael Grad

Feeling Like I'm Back in Art School

Having the time to study the artwork and draw from the masters had me feeling like I was a student back in art school. At the AGO last week, I was excited to see Goya, Rembrandt and Durer drawings and prints up close and not behind museum glass. I was surprised by what I could see in detail and learned so much from the dedicated drawing time.

You can see my eraser marks and shavings still on these pencil drawings. I was trying to capture the overall composition of each artwork through pencil lines and shaded areas of tone. It was hard to get the right angles and shapes sketching with a drawing pad on my lap. 

Drawing by Artist Rachael Grad of old master Rembrandt van Rijn Young Man in a Velvet Cap

More Drawings & Sketches This Summer

I plan to draw more from master artworks this summer and will likely post more drawings (if they're worth sharing!). So check back on this Art Blog if you're interested in seeing more summer drawing studies and sketches. This drawing focus will surely impact and improve my paintings and studio artwork. I can't wait to see how this summer drawing art project unfolds...