Dip Into a Bag of Tricks

I have what I call my “sparking” objects when the fires of creativity need a good stoking. From horseback riding at a ranch in Colorado, I have a glorious collection of cattle bones filled with holes and ridges. Drawing pure shapes, peculiar holes, little perforations and irregular edges requires extreme concentration. A collection of wooden tops, marbles and Gumby figures to sketch provides the right touch when I can’t seem to switch easily to the right side of my brain.

Ross Merrill is chief of conservation at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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