Monkey Business – sketching monkey skeletons

June 2, 2011

Australian Museum, College Street, Sydney. $10 adult admission.

Years back, I was able to draw skeletons and specimens of primates at the Museum. But no more. The only thing on public view was the skeleton of a Green Monkey and a Baboon. I’m tempted to go back with my previous drawings and get a handle on exactly how many primate skeletons and specimens the Museum holds. Access to sketching them is another matter. There seems to be premium on making some specimens available to be petted (splendid-looking ringtail possums included) but nothing relating directly to ape anatomy.

The Green Monkey and Baboon (here done in graphite pencil and fountain pen ink) are set at floor level and are part of an interactive exhibit involving a moveable human skeleton. One has to press up against the glass and wrap oneself round an exercise bike; but it can be done. Next time, I will alternate between two skeletons (monkeys and elephant, or turtle and birds) because it’s necessary to move out of the way very often, especially in the morning ‘peak’ period of school kids. There is remarkable delicacy in some of the skeletal features, e.g. shoulder blades, tail. The lighting throughout the museum is designed to conserve the specimens and is very dark for the average sketcher. One boon is the ability to photograph, notwithstanding glass.

Some seven sketches, 5×7″, in three hours. For next time, there is a very sketchable collection of owls, at eye level when standing on the Ground Floor.  The Skeleton Room is indispensable in terms of a great range of animals, large and small: an elephant, turtles, birds, reptiles, kangaroos, etc. There is a Touch Table arrangement at 11am in the Skeleton Room, but the setup was ambiguous (it looked like a resting place for museum attendants), but I will ask next time. The Museum will be great to return to for sketching kangaroos and wallabies, etc.

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