Friday, December 24, 2010

Art Always Makes A Good Christmas Present

This year having an artistic background helped me with a couple of my Christmas presents. My new twin nieces, Lydia and Awen Robinson, are celebrating their first Christmas tomorrow morning. For their gift I got them a treasury of Jan Brett's Christmas stories and made them a bookplate using Illustrator. The Mitten has always been my favorite Christmas-time story and I wanted to share it with the two girls even though they won't be able to read it themselves or even hold the book without ripping the pages for years to come. The twins are the newest edition to my sister's family. This will be the first time Laura, my oldest sister and the twins' mother, won't be home for Christmas.

I also used three of the several thousand pictures I took during my year abroad to make some wall art for my second oldest sister who just moved into a new apartment. The pictures include a gated home and a shop front in Strasbourg, France, and the Rye cemetery in England. Hopefully everyone enjoys their presents. Have a very merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Mazza Museum - Findlay, Ohio

For the last two months it seems like what I identify as my home address is constantly changing. One week when I get my hopes up that I'll get a job in southern Ohio my address on resumés suddenly switches from my current residence in Westlake, OH (near Cleveland) to my hometown of Piqua, OH. And the next week when I realize my chances of making my life work out in a city like Cleveland are much more likely than those in my tiny hometown the swap occurs again. This swapping has not only been mental, but has also involved quite a few trips up and down I-75 for interviews and to see my family. Truth be told, I'm not certain that either city is where I'll end up, but they're all I have for now.

I recently decided to liven up one of these jaunts down I-75 with a short stop along the way in Findlay to see a museum and visit a friend. Often I assume that opportunities for culture and art in Ohio only exist in the three big cities that all begin with the letter "C" (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland), but I discovered during this short stop that many of the smaller cities have a lot to offer as well. The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books in Findlay, Ohio proved this to me. The museum itself is only a single room with three different viewing areas and a small seating area for class groups, but the walls are filled with art and information. For each piece of artwork on the wall there is an accompanying binder on the artist and his or her life and works. Often the picture book the work is taken from is also included on the ledge beneath the piece. The museum was founded in 1982. Some of the first pieces to be acquired by the museum were by Jack Ezra Keats (an illustration from Apt. 3) and Steven Kellogg. Today the museum houses artwork from the 19th century to present day, including artists like Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane. In fact, the museum holds so many pieces that it is constantly changing which pieces are on view to the public. I am looking forward to stopping in again at the museum to see a whole different set of illustrations the next time I visit. To visit the museum website click here. (Though the museum has a website, it provides very little information. I think this could be part of the reason very few people even know that it exists).

Directly below are some pictures of pieces I saw while visiting the museum.

Walter Crane

Kay Nielsen

Jessie Wilcox Smith
Steven Kellogg - Mike Fink

Lynne Cherry - The Great Kapok Tree

Sheilah Beckett

Of these images, my favorite is the one by Sheilah Beckett. Although I would like to say otherwise, I actually was not aware of her art or her name before seeing the piece above in the Mazza Museum. I love the way she has designed out her artwork with shapes and color. Beckett is known for illustrating Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and many more. Though not found in the museum, I especially like one of her illustrations from The Twelve Dancing Princesses (1954) included below.

Clare Beaton is another artist whose work I first found in the museum. She is a British artist that sews all of her creations from fabric. Click here for her website.

Finally another artist whose work I really enjoyed was David Wisniewski. His books reminded me a lot of Ivan Bilibin's illustrations of Russian fairy tales. Wisniewski has won a Caldecott medal in 1997 for his book Golem. He also wrote and illustrated Elfwyn's Saga, Rain Player, Wave of the Sea Wolf, and Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. He led a very interesting life that included making his living as a clown for the Ringling Brothers for two seasons. He unfortunately died in 2002.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater: A Fall Journey

I recently had the opportunity to visit Fallingwater, which is located in southwest Pennsylvania nestled between Bear Run and Ohiopyle State Park. Even my drive on the narrow Sugarloaf Rd. to get there was enjoyable because of the fall foliage I encountered on the way.

This post will basically be a summary of my tour. One of the themes that kept being stressed by my tour guide was the way in which some of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings, especially Fallingwater, reflect the structure and materials of shipbuilding. Black Walnut, Wright's signature wood that is used throughout Fallingwater, is also a material that is often used to build ships because of its ability to resist water damage. Fallingwater is built over a natural waterfall, so in addition to the aesthetic properties of the wood, Wright also chose it for practical reasons. Another ship reference is apparent from Wright's decision to name a certain staircase leading down to the water "the hatch." The staircase is typically covered by glass, but this transparent covering can be removed so that one can more immediately experience the natural surroundings. Finally, the bedrooms were quite compact like the cabins one might find on a ship. The low ceilings of these rooms continued this connection and also worked to push the viewer's eye outside.

Although I have mentioned Black Walnut as one of the building materials, the majority of the building is made out of reinforced concrete. He used a cantilever design to balance the structure. Amazingly, the home has practically the same amount of outdoor space as indoor rooms. All of the balconies designed by Wright make this 50/50 divide possible. Using reinforced concrete in such a wet environment was not a very practical decision. For example, in order to make the concrete overhang which attaches the main house to the upper guest house, the entire piece had to be made as a single piece. Only one concrete pour was used for this structure so that there would be no separations where water could weaken the overhang.

Other features of the house that I really enjoyed were simply its contents and its openness. Throughout the home there were Tiffany lamps and lots of artwork.

The home itself was inhabited by the Kauffman family. Fallingwater was built in 1935 by Wright after a ten-year period in which he had not had a significant architectural project. Edgar Kauffman, the son of Edgar Kauffman Sr., studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright and was responsible for eventually entrusting the home to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Edgar Kauffman Jr. was a lifelong bachelor who pursued his interest in architecture by acting as a professor of architectural history at Columbia. He lived in the very top rooms of Fallingwater, which are almost separated from the rest of the home like a tree house. In order to reach his apartments you have to take an external staircase. Most of the three small interconnected rooms that he called his home where filled with bookcases. He even added an additional bookcase which covered one of Wright's windows. His bed was situated so that the rising sun from the east would wake Kauffman early each morning. There were no drapes or curtains in the entire home. Finally, Kauffman even had a reading board installed on an adjustable pole directly next to his bed. All of these features of Kauffman's apartments made him an extremely interesting individual to me and someone who I would like to learn more about.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Art Nouveau Architecture in Paris and Strasbourg

One of my life goals has always been to see the Tour de France in person. Last month I took advantage of my current residence abroad and made this goal a reality. Unfortunately this was not Lance's year, but I am so glad he decided to come back to the Tour for one more try. Of course, when not battling the crowds for a good spot to watch the cyclists, I also took the opportunity to visit a couple architectural highlights of Paris and Strasbourg. Below are some of the pictures I took of the sights I visited. I had also hoped to visit a recreation of Alphonse Mucha's Fouquet Jewellery Shop (1901) in Musée Carnavalet in Paris near the Bastille, but the room was unfortunately closed for the day. If I do ever get a chance to go back to Paris, I will make a trip back to the museum to see it. My trip ended with a visit to Luxembourg to see the hometown of my friend Paule Kremer. Enjoy the pictures.

29 Avenue Rapp, Paris, 1901, by Lavirotte

If you think that you can pick out the shape of a phallis in the door, you would be correct. Danee Gilmartin's blog "Museum Chick" also has some more interesting musings on this building and others created by Lavirotte in Paris

185 rue Belliard

Below are the buildings I visited on an early morning walk in Strasbourg. While everyone else was heading into Petite France, Paule and I walked out of town to see these great buildings. In Strasbourg German and Austrian style buildings with wooden beams were often paired with typical art nouveau accents, like intricately designed iron gates. No one seems to be able to truly place Strasbourg because of all the different influences present in the city. I actually found one of the buildings below listed in a Wikipedia entry on German architecture, but the building is most definitely in France. This gives us all another reason not to trust Wikipedia. Out of all the buildings, 22 rue Sledian was by far my favorite to visit.

22 rue Sleidan, 1904-5 by Brion

Villa Schutzenberger, 1897-1900, by Berninger & Krafft, 76 allée de la Robertsau

10 rue Schiller, 1903-5, by Berninger and Krafft

It just so happened that my friend Paule was taking a night drawing class during my stay in Luxembourg City so she took me along. Below is one of the drawings/watercolors I made for the class. Three hours seemed like quite a long time, yet just a little over a year ago I was spending four and half hours in a studio class three times a week.

all images © 2010 Meredith Hale

For more information on Art Nouveau buildings in Strasbourg, Paris, and many more cities visit the Art Nouveau World Wide website created by Frank Derville. The website has information on Art Nouveau sights throughout the globe and has been a great resource to me this year. There are very few trips I have taken without using it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day Out in London: The New Sculpture Movement

Yesterday I spent the day exploring some London sights related to art history of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. First I visited the Leighton House Museum, the home of Lord Frederick Leighton (1830-1896), who was an important painter and sculptor in the second half of the nineteenth century. Leighton is associated with both the Aesthetic and the New Sculpture movements. Leighton's Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1877) is noted as the first work in the New Sculpture style, which was recognized by its "concern for detailed modelling [sic] of flesh" (Read 315). Also inside the home is Alfred Gilbert's Icarus (1884), which Leighton commissioned himself. Gilbert is known for his sculpture of Anteros on the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus. The highlight of the home is the Arab Hall. It even has decorated tiles with text from the Qur'an. Other highlights include Leighton's art gallery and his stuffed peacock (did I say Aestheticism!). Leighton's Flaming June (1895) is one of the many paintings in the home. The museum just recently opened this summer after a long period of renovation. It was definitely well worth the £1 entry fee I had to pay as a student. The museum website can be found here.

Flaming June

Another sight I saw related to the New Sculpture movement was the Selfridge & Co. department store. The most noticeable feature of this store is the sculpture, The Queen of Time (1928), above the entryway by Gilbert Bayes. Included below are some pictures I took of the sculpture and other decorative elements of the store.

photographs © 2010 Meredith Hale

For more information on New Sculpture:
Edwards, Jason.
Alfred Gilbert's Aestheticism: Gilbert Amongst Whistler, Wilde, Leighton, Pater and Burne-Jones. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006.
Getsy, David.
Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877-1905. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.
Read, Benedict.
Victorian Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sketching in Brighton: Lunchbreak

I've been volunteering once a week at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery since May. One of the added benefits of volunteering there is getting to have my lunch break at the Royal Pavilion. I thought I should include a watercolor I did during my break today. It's not that precise, but I enjoyed making it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

StoryWorld Cards

While in the gift shop at the Folklore center in Edinburgh, I found a box series of cards called StoryWorld. The product was created by John and Caitlin Matthews and is produced by Templar Publishing. The purpose of the cards is to help children create their own stories through the use of the cards which depict typical themes, characters, and objects from tales like the Toy-Catcher, the Magic Compass, the Dancing Doll, and many more. The arch included in the layout of the cards appealed to me and generally I enjoyed the work of all the different illustrators included on them. The image above shows the cards created by Paul Hess. Creating works following this sort of idea would be a good personal project for me. Please visit the StoryWorld website for more information on the series, artists, and creators.

Art and Design in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Now that my year abroad is coming to a close, I finally made the trip out to Glasgow to see the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret Macdonald, and Jessie Marion King. I also learned quite a few new names to add to my list of artists I admire through my travels in Scotland. While in Glasgow, I especially focused on seeing locations related to Mackintosh, such as the Willow Tea Rooms on Sauciehall Street as can be seen from the picture above I took during my visit.

One of the few sights that allowed me to photograph Mackintosh's interior design was the House for an Art Lover, which is southwest of the city centre in Bellahouston park. The house was originally designed by Mackintosh in 1901 for a competition set up by a German magazine, but it was not until 1989 that Hermann Muthesius took it upon himself to make these plans into a physical edifice. I was struck by the extreme contrast between the moods of different rooms. The Main Hall and Dining Room were characterized by dark shades of brown and purple while the Music Room was a space a dazzling whiteness. Mackintosh has used this contrast effect in other buildings. He often makes the entry of a building dark and then makes a subsequent room light and airy. One feature of the design that I found innovative were the various lighting fixtures Mackintosh used. Although every detail of the building is not perfectly consistent with Mackintosh's vision because there were discrepancies in his plans, I felt that the building was beautiful and authentic.
House for an Art Lover website


Lighting in the Music Room

The Music Room

One new artist I discovered was Phoebe Anna Traquair. What my initial impression was upon being introduced to her manuscript work was that her style seemed quite similar to William Blake's. She was born in Dublin and was inspired by the Book of Kells to illuminate manuscripts. After marrying Dr Ramsay Heatley Traquair, she moved with him to Edinburgh and has now become known as "the first important professional woman artist of modern Scotland." She went on to illuminate manuscripts by William Morris, Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and others. Yet she did not confine herself to solely illuminating texts, but also worked with enamel, textiles, and jewelery and was a book designer. She was a critical figure to the Scottish Arts and Crafts movement. For more information on the artist, visit the National Library of Scotland page on her found here.

"The Victory." Panel 4 of "The Progress of a Soul" (1893-1901). Silk, gold and silver thread embroidery on linen. The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

"The Progress of a Soul" is a series of four tapestries created by Traquair over the course of eight years that currently finds its home in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. She created a number of tapestry series including the "The Salvation of Mankind" and "The Red Cross Knight." "The Progress of the Soul" is her most famous and was originally conceived as a retelling of Walter Pater's "Denys l'Auxerrois" in Imaginary Portraits, but the tapestries themselves actually very loosely refer to the story. Denys is a newcomer to Auxerre who initially brings renewal to all. Eventually this golden age ceases and people begin to blame Denys for the bad fortune that starts to encompass the town. Denys goes off into seclusion with monks and there discovers he yearns to make music. He successfully builds an organ to fulfill this interest and then goes back to the town, but is unfortunately not welcomed with open arms. The story ends with his fellow citizens tearing Denys limb from limb.

The tapestries in the series display some of this pain and suffering as is apparent from the titles of the middle two pieces, "The Stress" and "Despair." In "Despair," Denys is even given a wound in his side and in this way represents Christ.

The tapestry I both enjoyed the most and had the most difficulty interpreting was "The Victory," the final piece in the series. If viewed in seclusion from the other pieces, the sex of the person being embraced is somewhat difficult to decipher. Although one's initial instinct would be to assume that the figure is female, Traquair is actually depicting a same sex embrace with Denys being taken up to heaven by an angel. Also difficult to decipher is what the figure of Denys is standing upon. Elizabeth Cumming, one of the best known critics of Traquair, writes that this is the jaws of hell symbolized through the mouth of a reptile. Prominent in this piece and many other of Traquair's works is the symbol of the rainbow. Here it is meant to represent the link between heaven and earth.

For more information on Traquair I would highly suggest reading some of the works of Elizabeth Cumming. Some I have greatly enjoyed include:
1. Hand, Heart, and Soul: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd., 2006.
2."Life's Rich Tapestry: Phoebe Anna Traquair's 'The Progress of a Soul." Review of Scottish Culture 19 (2007): 63-76.
3. Phoebe Anna Traquair: 1852-1936. Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 2005.

"The Salvation of Mankind." Panel 3. Silk and gold thread on linen, 1885-93. City art Centre, Edinburgh.

Norman Wilkinson and 20th century railway posters

While visiting York I went to the National Railway Museum (NRM) and discovered the artist Norman Wilkinson. He was a British artist that lived from 1878 - 1971. Wilkinson is known for his marine paintings and his railway posters for LMS (London, Midland and Scottish Railway).
To see more of his railway posters click here.
A website on his life and works is currently in progress and can be found here

Monday, June 28, 2010

This is a quick sheet I made combining some of the photographs I took in Brussels this fall. Some of the most notable architects involved with the Art Nouveau movement in Brussels include Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Léon Sneyers, Paul Hamesse, Gustave Strauven, Ernest Blerot, Antoine Pompe, and Henri Jacobs. If you are interested in learning more, check out the websites below.
Art Nouveau in Brussels
Victor Horta Museum

Sunday, May 2, 2010

London Marathon

So this isn't art related, but I wanted to share that I completed the London Marathon on April 25th, 2010 in a 3:23:29, which is a five minute and fifteen second personal record. I was 334th out of 12,100 women. It was also my first time running for charity. I raised £755 for the mental health charity Mind and ran in memory of my close friend John Morse. For more pictures of the event visit

Friday, April 30, 2010

Photography in France

In the port town of Saint-Malo

Window at Mont Saint-Michel

all images © 2010 Meredith Hale

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jan Brett: Children's Illustrator and Runner

In my monthly perusal of my Runner's World magazine I made the delightful discovery that in addition to being an amazing children's book author and illustrator, Jan Brett is also a runner! She runs the Boston marathon each year. It makes me respect the author of my favorite children's classic The Mitten even more.
Read the article here.

Old Paintings that I Love

Since neither of these paintings are on my website because they don't match my style or my usual subject matter I wanted to post them on my blog. The top illustration is intended as a cover for Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle.

all images © 2009 Meredith Hale

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Figure Drawing Club at Sussex

Some fifteen minute sketches from my weekly figure drawing sessions.