Archive for September, 2011

Generalizing with Icons

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Icons can be used to suggest not only a specific city but a broader region as well. They serve as a generalization of the idea of a place.

The Staircase Rose

I took advantage of icons in “The Stair Rose” (#110702) to suggest a place and atmosphere without making it so specific that other viewers would be unable to relate to it. Rather, it’s the kind of scene that almost any traveler in Italy might come across and could imagine having seen in person.

It’s like thumbing through old photographs and saying, “Oh yes, we took these on our trip to Italy. I don’t remember which city it was in, … but do you remember …?”

In the same way, icons serve to trigger personal memories, and our art can take advantage of them to appeal to a much broader audience than experience-specific images usually do.

Iconic Images

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

How better to retell the story of our visit to an age-old city than to illustrate it through iconic imagery? One of the classic icons of Venice, of course, is her gondoliers, garbed in their striped or sailor-collared shirts and their brimmed and beribboned hats.

A la Venezia

As the weather was particularly pleasant while we were in Venice this past spring, the canals teemed with boat activity of all kinds. Gondoliers hung out on their landings in hopes of catching the eye (and custom) of a tourist. Cocky, callow youths flirted with tank-topped teens who ambled past while jaded fellows snatched cigarette breaks between fares. Seasoned boatsmen, poling their crafts through the shallow water, used their feet to shove away from inconveniently jutting walls. And, as depicted in “A la Venezia” (#110703) above, muscular men, supplementing their winter income during the lucrative tourist season, stood by their gleaming gondolas and critiqued the style of their competition.

I couldn’t help asking myself: Who are these men in their “off” hours? Why are they doing what they do? And how do they feel about the passengers who madly snap pictures of every novel sight they pass, or the drunken party who crowd into a craft with raucous laughter and bawdy ditties, or the pairs and threesomes of ladies who hope to experience the romance of the classic (and often non-existent) gondola serenade.

Although I captured the literal image of many of these situations with my camera, my challenge comes in expressing through watercolor the essence of each experience, telling my version of the stories those images recall.