Personal Thoughts


Sketchbooks are also private spaces to work through emotion or to document personal moments. Within the safety of these pages, artists can release a stream of consciousness in both word and line without concern for legibility or understanding. Though not necessarily meant as information gathering, these exercises can teach artists about themselves and inform future work. How those pages are interpreted once they become public and what they tell us about the artist can take many forms.

Inscription: "Who told you all these things to do to not do - with a slug in your head - and a grey – mist - cold in your veins - Amyntas sighs - or here sleeps - Gin doesn't help. And you are sweet."

Nestled among dozens of pages of figural and landscape sketches, a pen and ink inscription alongside drawings of some architectural elements appears in one of John Heliker’s sketchbooks. The poem on the left of the page refers to Amyntas. Amyntas was a stock pastoral character, usually a sighing lovelorn shepherd, featured in plays and literature from Roman Antiquity and the Renaissance. However, another interpretation is possible. The name Amyntas is Greek, meaning “defender,” and it was a moniker of numerous Greek and Hellenistic kings and military figures. This may connect to the word Regulum written at the bottom, which is Latin for “a petty king.” Heliker’s personal circumstances, and the character of artworks made at the time may reveal a relationship with these words. This could in turn, reveal more about the artist and his oeuvre; however, even with extensive research, the possibility remains that Heliker’s meaning might be forever private.

Inscriptions: Top, ink “Autumn --- nymphs etc bringing in grapes; Right side, ink and graphite "Summer Summer adolescence/ Spring action fight of two centaurs in it/Winter self protection/ Fight of centaurs with two armed knights/Knight in armor struggling with satyrs/Summer"

George Grey Barnard’s sketches provide a look into the process of the reclusive sculptor, who barred all but his workmen and family members from watching him work. Rather than neat sketchbooks, Barnard seemed to grab whatever was at hand, using both sides of the paper, and sometimes pinning or stitching together pieces to enlarge the working area. Barnard contended with dimensionality and movement through space via a two-dimensional surface. Scrawled notes sort spaces along with drawn lines. As viewers of Barnard’s design of a seasonally themed frieze, we are privy to a piece that was most likely never commissioned, but rather an imaginative idea given form through drawing. A highly detailed center of figures interacting, becomes looser as Barnard works toward the edges of the frieze, devolving on the right side into formless masses. Naturally, it is difficult for the viewer to match Barnard’s inscriptions to these abbreviated forms; both the sketch and the notes are personal mnemonic devices for future sketches or sculptural iterations.

Many of Barnard’s sketches feature a more finished quality. Barnard’s variation of line and dramatic use of light via the strategic use of wash, captures the hulking dimensionality of Sculptor of False Gods. The dramatic inscription beside the figure, however, leaves the viewer to wonder if Barnard intended it as the title of the piece, or as a self-referential comment.

Even on the same page, Barnard’s sketches shift from precise line drawings of figures, such as the left-facing bust at the top right, to the confused twisting form on the right. Dark blobs and layers of ink over finer lines belie areas worked over and over. The indiscriminate quality of the various forms on the page may signify abandoned ideas, the efforts of the mind to materialize indistinct conceptions, or scraps of inspiration.