Having had mixed feelings about the quality of my drawings on day one, I was slightly nervous about the second day of the Summer of Skulls. Would I get my drawing mojo back today, did I have one at all?? But, I was also very excited as we were visiting somewhere I had wanted to go for ages and it is not normally open to the public during the day – Bart’s Pathology Museum.
It is an incredible collection of all sorts of weird and wonderful medical specimens. I could have spent the whole week just drawing and exploring in there! Whilst they are not open daily (it is still used by medical students) they do open for special events and I would really recommend going (coming up is Bart’s Bazaar on the 22nd August – a ‘macabre and medical market’ with stalls selling taxidermy and offering tarot readings which sounds amazing!)
We were very lucky to be introduced to the collection by Carla Valentine, the ex- mortician who is now in charge of documenting, researching and preserving the collections, as well as organising the events. She had got a load of real human skulls out for us to draw – very exciting! She told us the history of some of them so we had some idea of where they had come from, and what had happened to them. One had two holes drilled in the front which she said had probably been to cure a sinus problem (seems a bit drastic!).
I really enjoyed drawing the skulls. Having looked at reproductions the day before I was amazed at just how much detail and different textures were on the surfaces of each. We were given a couple of hours to draw and were therefore able to spend longer on our drawings. In fact, I only completed 2 drawings in that time. I got so into looking at them and really enjoyed spending a bit more time to work into my tone and texture. I was really pleased with both of the drawings I produced, which gave me a lot more confidence in my work.
We spend the second part of the day in the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room. Having visited many exhibitions at the Wellcome, and loving their bookshop and café, I felt I knew it pretty well. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t even know the Reading Room was there! It is like a library but so much better! There are loads of comfy sofas, slouchy beanbags line the stairs, and there are lots of things to look at and play with, including an virtual autopsy table! Of course, the collection of books is brilliant too. With a focus on ‘what it means to be human’ there is everything, from religion and folk-law to science via art, love and death. I didn’t know where to start!
I didn’t do any drawing in the Reading Room, although some people did. Instead I used it as an opportunity to find out more about things that had been discussed during the course so far, or look at things that I find inspiring. For me this meant books about cults, alternative religions and memento mori. I left with my mind spinning with ideas and inspiration! Such a fantastic day.