Art History

The summer after I turned 17, my friend Thomasin and I went to art school in Paris for two months. I know, that sounds very fancy and glamorous.

And it totally was, especially for two sixteen-year-olds who had (at least in my case) never been to Europe before.

Why art school rather than…I don’t know…camp? Not because I was particularly interested in art - or even a very good artist. I suspect it had much more to do with the whole “two months in Paris without parental supervision” thing.

But guess what happened over the weeks that I spent there?

I ended up falling in love both with the city, and with the art it held. (And, very briefly, with an eighteen-year-old spiky-haired kid named Pid, but we won’t talk about that.)

Above is a pencil sketch I did of Rodin’s The Kiss, chosen for that day’s assignment because looking at it, I understood for the first time what people meant when they said that a piece of art brought them joy.

After the jump, a couple more of my favorite paintings from Paris, and some images from Art.com that remind me of those months.

This is a painting of a sidewalk tableau that was special to me because it was the first time I stopped trying to paint what I saw, and instead tried to paint what I felt, if that makes any sense.

And finally, this is a watercolor of Thomasin sitting in the park on our last day in Paris.

Below, a few picks from Art.com’s collection of over a million images that, for one reason or another - whether because of the colors, of the subjects, or just because of how they make me feel - remind me of my Paris Summer.

Woods and Undergrowth, by Vincent van Gogh

Lovers At Chi Tou, by Chi Wen

Woman Putting on Her Stockings, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

My Space, My Art

This is my favorite corner in the house, and contains some of my favorite things: pink peonies, my faux Eames rocker, a lace tablecloth my mom gave me (it’s hiding a crazy-cheap folding table I found on clearance at Home Depot last weekend)…and my Coney Island limited-edition poster depicting a couple with “His” and “Hers” tattoos, which you may recall from this JITH segment.

At the Art.com summit last month, one little factoid I learned was that the universal reaction to hanging a picture on a wall is to step back and smile at it. How nice is that? And totally true. The art that we have around our home is almost exclusively pieces that have a great deal of meaning for us, whether they’re family hand-me-downs or were picked up during our travels, and I think that’s how it should be: your art should make you love your space that much more.

After the jump are a couple more of my favorite pieces of art hung around our home, and some ways to get the look easily and affordably from Art.com.

Here’s another of my favorite pieces: a photograph with overlaid computer-generated artwork (I’m sure there’s a technical name for this, but I have no idea what it is) that Kendrick and I found in the Union Square Holiday Market and that he gave me for our first Christmas together. I hung it in the hallway in between our living room and our dining room to add color to the space and to bring the two areas together.

And this is an image that used to hang on my grandparents’ wall, and that’s one of the few things I have of theirs. I don’t know much about Alfred Delp (although Wikipedia tells me he was a German Jesuit priest who was executed for his resistance against the Nazis during WWII), but sitting in my grandparents’ hallway and looking at this quote is one of my earliest memories.

Is it pretty? No. It’s ancient, and wrinkled, and the frame is rickety and cheap…but it makes me feel close to my grandparents and makes me happy every time I look at it.

Art means different things to different people, but to me, this is the most important thing that art can do: bring you joy, warm you up, make you feel closer to those you love.

If you like my Coney Island poster: Try this April 1944 Giclee Print by Salvador Dali. I love vintage Vogue covers generally, and I think this slightly-over-the-top image evokes the same feel.

If you like my tree painting: Try this classic 1902 Klimt print, Tannenwald (Pine Forest). It’s similarly bright and lush, and would be a perfect addition to anywhere that needs a little extra splash of color.

If you like my Alfred Delp quote: The thing about inspirational artwork is that one man’s Cheese is another man’s Wisdom. Whatever resonates for you, that’s the one to pick (I like this vintage Taking Breaths Giclee Print by Rodney White, personally).

We Are Art

(I love this video: it reminds me of Edward Scissorhands and gives me chills.)

My relationship with art is fairly straightforward: apart from an oddly comprehensive knowledge of Michaelangelo thanks to a very specific course I took in college called, yes, “Michelangelo”, I have next-to-zero “technical” knowledge about art…but I definitely like what I like, and I know what I like the moment I see it.

What’s hanging on our walls right now: everything from a $30 print we picked up at the Union Square market years ago to a wooden Balinese headboard we bought on our honeymoon to a vintage Coca-Cola sign inherited from my parents. The only thing that all of our pieces have in common: I love them. They make me happy every single time I look at them, and I honestly couldn’t care less whether they’re fancy, or cool, or would hold up to an “expert’s” ideas about what’s “good” and what’s not.

And I really, truly believe that that’s what art should do: it should make you love your space that much more.

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I went to San Francisco? The purpose of the trip: a summit with a bunch of other bloggers to celebrate the launch of Art.com's redesigned site. The purpose of the redesign: to make the experience of finding art that you love fun and exciting, no matter your budget or knowledge base (in fact, one of their key messages is “To rid the art world of risk, anxiety, and snobbery, one piece at a time.” I love this so much).

How do they do this? They’ve taken the old site (which offered anything and everything art-related you could possibly want…but was a little overwhelming) and made it infinitely more inspiring and easy to navigate. We’re talking curated collections (I’ll be curating a gallery at some point over the next few months, so stay tuned), tools that enable you to mount your picks on virtual walls (you can even import an image of your own space) so you can see what they look like “in real life”, and suggestions organized by inspiring spaces (like “Wanderlust Morocco” and “Modern Man Cave”).

P.S. Want to see the piece that I chose as my contribution to the blogger gallery at the summit? It’s the above limited-edition stretched-canvas Rodel Gonzalez, and is called “In The Garden" - I chose it to hang in the foyer of our home-to-be, which I’ve referred to from Day 1 as “The Alice In Wonderland House.” True story.