February 17, 2018

Forest Lawn
Forest Lawn, Glendale, January 2018 (mixed media)

On January 27 a couple sketching groups from LA participated in WW SketchCrawl 58. I’m not sure I know exactly what there is to know about a Sketch Crawl, but suffice it to say, it’s a kind of worldwide sketching and painting group experience. And I guess it’s sort of an exclusive club of urban sketchers from every continent (except Antarctica I believe) that posts what each group creates on a predetermined day. But unless you have gotten permission to join the group, you can’t see what we do on Facebook. I think it’s kind of funny that a bunch of crazy artists thought to put together such a cohesive continuous event. It’s a lot like herding cats. So, you are lucky to see what I did on that SketchCrawl 58 day, even though I didn’t post it on the LA Urban Sketching website. Of course there are no rules! I should add that our Urban Sketching gang was joined by some other wonderful artists through a “Meetup” group.

I love the gang we have cobbled together, and don’t get me wrong, anyone who wants to join us can come along. But our little (I guess it’s not really so little) Urban Sketcher/Meet Up group decided to go to Forest Lawn in Glendale to sketch and paint on the 27th. Oh, and I forgot to mention that usually at one of these gatherings we also take a photo of all of us holding up our art and that gets posted too.

Back to Forest Lawn…You may or may not know it, but Forest Lawn is a kind of conglomerate cemetery and you can be buried in Glendale (where we were), Arcadia, City of Industry, Covina Hills, Cypress, Hollywood Hills, Long Beach, Cathedral City, Coachella or Indio. Many of LA’s rich and famous were buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale. (It also has the dubious distinction of being where my parents got married—at The Little Church of the Flowers.) It was my first visit and I had planned to paint The Little Church of the Flowers. But if you read the caption, you will see that that is not what happened. I liked the idea that the “story of me” started in that little church in Forest Lawn. But I guess the really big story about this place is the fact that people like Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson (to name only a few famous people) were buried there.

The place is huge and when I first turned into the property, I drove around and around, until I finally got to the top along with the 10 to 15 others who had dared to paint at Forest Lawn. The group had decided to meet in front of The Hall of Crucifixion-Resurrection and museum. After we determined what time we would all get back together to share what we had created, we milled around a bit and each found a spot to paint. It was at this point I realized there wouldn’t be time to find the church where my parents had been married. But no worries. I made a mental note to come back another afternoon to do that. I found a nice place in the sun across from the Church of the Recessional. We had been instructed not to get too close to the church as there were continuous services going on there all day. And I guess it wouldn’t have been a good idea to roam the burial markers looking to practice figure drawing while a family placed flowers at Great Aunt Myrtle’s headstone. Across the street from this church were great mounds of chipped trees and shrubs (mulch). So, I laid out my bubble wrap and sweatshirt and settled down to sketch and paint this church. But there were lots of places to go all around that mountaintop. When we later had our “through down” (placed our work on the steps in front of the Hall) I noticed 3 or 4 others who chose to paint the Church of the Recessional. But some painted the many statues that were all around The Hall of Crucifixion-Resurrection and museum, and some painted the exterior of The Hall. I didn’t see it, but I understand there is a “Last Supper” window inside that should not be missed. There is also a giant 195 foot long by 45 foot high Crucifixion painting that was originally painted in 1904 for an exposition in St Louis, and it finally found its final resting place in the Hall in 1951. And if you looked over a wall on one side of the Hall, there was an amazing view of the city of Glendale below. I thought of trying to paint that scene, but it was too overwhelming, and I am glad I chose to do this piece instead.

I guess it’s common for people to come to Forest Lawn and look for famous people who have been buried there. If you look up Forest Lawn on the Internet you can find a page that lists such famous people in alphabetical order. I was kind of intrigued with Michael Jackson’s final resting place and thought I might look for it some day. There is, however, a kind of note on their website that says we, the public, are not really invited to do so as there is special security to keep non-family members away. Not even sure what that might look like.

I guess the question might be, whose grave would you be interested in seeing? How close can we get to something so personal without it being intrusive or kind of creepy? And how do we show respect and reverence without being like a member of the paparazzi? Or is visiting a famous person’s grave the ultimate fan club event? I am looking forward to going back there to find and sketch The Little Church of the Flowers. I guess I am the self-appointed official historian of June and Gene’s fan club.


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