Art by Jeff Knecht

Reading Between the Lions

07 Jul 2009

The Art Institute of Chicago has these giant bronze lions on either side of the steps leading to the main entrance. People sit on the steps and read between the lions when the weather is nice. As for me… I stand across the street and draw them. And of course, the woman on the steps was talking on her cell phone instead of reading, thus messing up my very clever title. Maybe I should have gone with a telephone-related title like ‘Hold the Lion’ or ‘The Lion is Busy’?

This lion is the one on the north side of the entrance. His unofficial name (given to him by the sculptor) is ‘On the Prowl’. When one of our home teams is in the playoffs, the lions are dressed in team jerseys. They even have super-size helmets for the lions for football season. Since it isn’t playoff season, the lions are naked.

I did the line drawing during lunch this afternoon and painted it when I got home this evening. There was just barely enough time to eat, walk over there, draw, and walk back. But the weather was really nice today, so I felt like I had to take advantage of it. People hovered around and looked over my shoulder. I could hear them whisper to each other, “Ooh, he’s drawing the lion!” It was, simultaneously, nerve-wracking and exhilarating.

This was real challenge for me for a few reasons: 1. I am intimidated by drawing living things, even if (as in this case) that living thing is not really a living thing; 2. Mostly related to number 1, I actually included a human being in this sketch; and 3. I had to paint from memory so I was left to my own devices with respect to color and shadow. The lion’s looking a little chubby, but overall, I’m happy with how this came out.