One Saturday morning I attended a free drawing event that was held at the historic Riversdale Mansion, which is located in Riverdale Park, Maryland. I have lived within a short driving distance from that mansion for many years and I have even driven past it many times. I have even attended a couple of events that were located on the mansion’s grounds (Rome Around Riverdale in 2011 and a reenactment of the Battle of Bladensburg in 2012 ) but I have never been inside the house itself before.
There were a few snags on the way to the mansion. I needed to buy a new pad of sketch paper because I had used up the last one at the most recent Dr. Sketchy’s event in Baltimore (link is NSFW). I planned on going to this art supply store that had recently opened in nearby Hyattsville on the way to the mansion. But I stupidly walked out the door without the rest of my drawing supplies and I didn’t realize it until I was almost at the art supply store and turning back would’ve been futile. So I ended up buying a new pad of paper and a box of Crayola colored pencils.
The entire Mid-Atlantic Region was in the grasp of this horrible heatwave where the temperature rose in the high 90’s along with very high humidity and very few clouds in the sky. Despite that, I managed to get a few decent shots of the front of the mansion along with a sign explaining why this mansion is part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trial (which I drove on a few times last year in June, early August, late August, even later August, and early September).
The event itself was pretty nice. We were allowed to go anywhere in the house (with the exception of a couple of areas that were off-limits to anyone who wasn’t on staff) and draw whatever we liked. They even provided chairs for us to sit in. I initially walked around the mansion before I settled on my first item to draw. I found it in a room on the second floor that was known as Hattie Caraway’s Room after the widow of U.S. Senator Thaddeus Caraway of Arkansas, who purchased the mansion in the late 1920’s. After her husband died in office, Hattie Caraway became the first woman elected to the Senate. It was after I sat down and started sketching with my newly purchased supplies that I realized something—I forgot to buy an eraser while I was at that art supply store. This meant that I couldn’t make any corrections at all. This is an artist’s equivalent of walking on a tightrope without a net below. So I took a stab at drawing what I saw in Hattie Caraway’s Room. Here is the result:
You can compare my drawing with the original still life in chair setup in Hattie Caraway’s Room.
For my second and final drawing that I did that day, I drew one of the stairwells that had a statue of the ancient Greek goddess Hebe holding a cup.
Here’s my photograph of the same scene.
I spent the rest of my time at the mansion just taking pictures. I found it to be a lovely place, especially with the furniture and other home decorations. This mansion was once owned by George Calvert, a member of the Calvert family who founded the state of Maryland, and his wife, Rosalee Stier Calvert. This shot of the Calvert family coat of arms show the shield that served as the inspiration for the Maryland state flag.
Here are some more interior shots of the mansion along with a shot of one other artist who also took part in this event. (There were other people who took part as well but I didn’t get their pictures.)
In addition Riversdale Mansion is currently having a special exhibition on the paintings of the Old Masters. Here are just two of the paintings that are currently on display.
Riversdale Mansion also has plenty of well-manicured grounds and gardens. While there were a couple of artists who were willing to withstand the high heat and high humidity to create a work of art outside, the vast majority of participating artists chose to remain indoors where there was air conditioning. I took these outdoor photos from the windows inside the mansion.
The drawing event ended at 1:30. As I walked outside in the very hot and humid weather I took a few pictures of the gardens but I stopped after taking them because I was overwhelmed by the heat.
I would love to return to draw the gardens but it would have to be on a day that has lower temperatures and lower humidity. I also should take one of the mansion’s regular guided tours sometime in the future because it would be interesting to hear some of the stories behind the rooms and its furnishings.