Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Daily art report 5 -- maps of the USA

Recently I started a challenge to myself in my daily map project, having to do with the map of the United States.  What is more familiar to us than that map -- we see it every day in the weather report, not to mention on schoolroom walls, in textbooks, in road atlases, and who knows where else.  But I bet few of us know it so well that we can draw it without a cheat sheet.

I decided a map of the lower 48 would fit nicely on the page of my sketchbook, so I set out to draw it.  I have been working quite a bit with copying maps from books, and enjoy trying to make good replicas by eye.  I decided it would be a good challenge even if I had a map to copy from, so I tore out the weather map, which had the outlines of the states, and set to drawing.

And I should mention that I draw in ink, a deliberate choice of medium that encourages you to get it right the first time.  (I love the ink lines; pencil seems too tentative, too faint.)

The outer perimeter of the map turned out pretty accurate, especially the Great Lakes.  But when I started filling in the states I ran into difficulties.  I would start from one corner and start to draw states, and maybe start again from another corner, but when it was time to meet in the center things didn't work out all that well.

Arizona and New Mexico ended up twice their real size, while Montana was half its real size.  Texas ended up with an interesting northern edge, Tennessee was just downright strange and you can't find Delaware at all.

So I decided to do it again the next day.

This time things turned out better; I was careful to get Arkansas where it belongs.  New York, West Virginia and the Dakotas flunked the shape test, but Maryland and Delaware were a whole lot better.

I was so excited with this exercise that I wanted to do it every day.  Only problem: it took me two hours to draw the map and color it in.  That's more time than I'm willing to devote to daily art, so I'll have to wait for days when I'm sitting around a table all afternoon talking and drawing.

If I do the map often enough, maybe I can achieve two goals by the end of the year: to be able to draw a stunningly accurate map while consulting a real map, all the states having their proper shapes and sizes; and to be able to draw an accurate map without consulting a real map.  I think those are two separate skills and it would be nice to get them both.

The next week I decided to draw the outline of the United States while consulting my cheat sheet, but try to fill in the states from memory.  This was such a spectacular failure that I drew over it again and again, trying to get a bit closer.  Still need a bit of work on those skills.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Women / Impressionism 6

One last post from the exhibit at the Speed Museum.

Whenever my friend Marti and I go to a museum we play a game at the end: which piece do you want to take home with you?  It requires us to take one last walkabout, reminding ourselves of everything we've seen, and to discuss why this one is our favorite.  (It's an exercise that I recommend to any serious art viewer, making sure that you haven't just looked without seeing and thinking.)

Here's Marti's favorite, which we both thought screamed "Vermeer" for its gorgeous light coming in from the side window.

Anna Ancher, Young Woman Arranging Flowers, ~1885

It struck me that hardly any of the paintings showed those classic Impressionist subjects of landscape or still life.  Those have always been my favorite Inpressionist genres, and I had a hard time choosing my favorite from the few possibilities.

Fanny Churberg, Waterfall, 1877

This artist got no respect from the Finnish art world: they called her paintings "strange" and "abnormalities." Unsurprisingly, she gave up painting.
Marie Cazin, Evening, 1884-88

The dramatic smoke plume made me think of all those paintings of trains, especially inside the huge open-air railroad stations. 

Helene Schjerfbeck, The Door, 1884

Anna Bilinska-Bohdanowicz, Unter den Linden in Berlin, 1890

This was my favorite, reminiscent of all the Childe Hassam paintings of New York street scenes with flags flying.  I loved the way the precise detail of the architecture dissolved into hazy radiance.

Well, maybe not my absolute favorite -- how about a tie between that one and this beautiful still life of pink satin shoes.  Not only do I love the painting, I sure wish I had a pair of shoes just like it.

Eva Gonzalès, The Pink Slippers, 1879-80

And that's all, folks!  You still have a couple of weeks to see the exhibit, "Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism," which closes May 13.  As the Michelin Guide says, it's worth a detour.  Maybe even worth a trip.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Women / Impressionism 5

Almost done with my report on the "Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism" show at the Speed Museum in Louisville.  Most of the work in the show was portraiture, and there were several that called out to me.

Cecilia Beaux, Sita and Sarita (Woman with a Cat), 1893-94

You come upon this painting from a far distance, and I didn't even see the cat until I got a whole lot closer.  But how much the portrait sings when you do detect the cat among the shadows of her dark hair.

Amélie Beaury-Saurel, Into the Blue, 1894

Scholars think this is probably a self-portrait, which makes two strikes against Amélie -- a smoking artist!!!!  Scandalous!!!!!!

And finally, this exciting picture of a young girl, which was chosen for one of the poster images to advertise the show. 

Ellen Thesleff, Echo, 1891

Let's all imagine what she's shouting, what powerful words are echoing back to her.  I hope it's something more important than just calling the cows home.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Women / Impressionism 4

A couple more posts about the exhibit at the Speed Museum about women painters in Paris during the late 19th century.

First off, a mea culpa -- I said incorrectly in earlier posts that the exhibit would close last week.  Good news -- it's actually open through May 13, so if you're anywhere in the vicinity of Louisville, you still have time to drop by and enjoy this engaging show.

I'd like to show you my favorite pictures from the exhibit.  Today, three paintings of mothers and children that hung right next to one another, which made me realize how all three of the mothers have the identical expression:

Cecilia Beaux, The Last Days of Childhood, 1883-5

(makes you wonder if childhood has been redefined in the last 135 years...  I would think it lasted a whole lot longer....)

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Nursing Mother in Front of Birch Forest, 1905

Elizabeth Nourse, A Mother, 1888