top of page

Washington DC - Day 2

On my second day H had to go to her conference, so I was left to my own devices. I definitely wanted to see the Obama portraits at the National Portrait gallery, so i headed down a little early to get a sketch in before entering the museum. After doing a full lap around the building, I decided I liked the light best on this side.

Then I made a bee-line for Michelle's portrait (as Barack is in the President's gallery, they aren't being displayed together. I was thrilled to find an elementary tour group there, SKETCHING IN THE GALLERY! They were the TINIEST urban sketchers! The chaperones and teachers all looked pretty frazzled (and apologetic to all other museum-goers and docents) by the whole experience, but the kids seemed to be enjoying it, and seeing tiny people sketching the art just made my day.

Tiny Sketchers!

I then wandered around the building a bit, enjoying both the portraits as well as wandering into the part of the building housing the American Art Museum with a great eclectic mix. There was a contemporary gallery in the American wing I especially enjoyed, finding a work entitled the "Electronic Superhighway" to be particularly striking. The work by Nam June Paik is a huge map of the USA made up of neon and many little TVs, each depicting impressions of the state they are in. Some included audio (I mostly heard the Wizard of Oz in Kansas and Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama). I wish I had a person for scale, but for reference I think I was about eye-level with Tennessee.

Then I meandered through the gallery with the Presidential portraits (I think they're all "unofficial" portraits aside from Obama's, as the rest of the official ones hang in the White House), and it was so lovely to see the juxtaposition of different styles! I was very excited to see Obama's portrait, as I've been a fan of Kehinde Wiley's work after seeing his exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum a few years ago. It definitely didn't disappoint! The Clinton portrait (by Chuck Close) and Nixon portrait (by Norman Rockwell) were among my other favorites. As far as I could tell, Theodore Roosevelt's, Warren G. Harding, and John F. Kennedy's portraits were the only ones in the gallery done by female artists (Sally James Farnham, Margaret Lindsay Williams, and Elaine de Kooning, respectively). I particularly appreciate that the Harding portrait was painted by a woman, as the election making him president was the first in which women were allowed to vote. After attempting to Google, I couldn't find a comprehensive list of OFFICIAL Presidential Portraits accompanied by the artists, after about ten presidents it seems the White House's website doesn't feel the need to list the names of the artists with their work. Of those first ten, six paintings were painted by men named "George." Both Obama portraits were the first official portraits to be done by African American artists.

Obama with Clinton beyond

After the museum, I decided to enjoy the lovely weather, and wandered into the National Sculpture Garden. I found the fountain there a perfect place to dip my feet in while sketching the National Archive building across the street! I was particularly proud of my photo of the sketch on location (to see that, check out my instagram feed!)

After dark, I decided I needed a redo at the MLK and FDR memorials. I had been struck particularly by the MLK memorial but knew I couldn't do it justice in 15 minutes. This sketch ended up being one of my favorites of the trip. When I was wrapping it up, a security guard asked me if I was going to paint anything else after. So, I asked when they closed, and she told me they didn't! The memorials are open 24/7! It makes so much sense, since they have to have guards on them in any case, but I hadn't thought about it. So, I headed over and did a sketch of the huge waterfall/fountain at the FDR memorial before calling it a night. I added a quote from the memorial along the top, as well.




bottom of page