Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Maps Progress

Meanwhile... I have been working on the turn-of-the-century city maps. I have many, many hours of tidying the drawings and working the layers of color ahead.

Here are the four city maps in their first phase:
Now, any guesses as to which cities I am drawing? Come, on...

Richard Hunt, Sculptor - Collector

Thanks to my colleague, Anthony, I made it to the last hour of the last day of the Richard Hunt show at the SCAD Museum of Art today.

Of Hunt's sculptures, the most captivating idea and composition was the Middle Passage - a huge sketch and a model in bronze, commissioned in 1986 - for a yet unfabricated life-size sculpture.
Of his personal art collection, I was interested in the duality - it's comprised of rough-hewn African tribal art and precise Piranesi etchings of Roman ruins - and also his thoughts on the artist as collector: ..."what the works of art that surround me reveal of the makers' processes of intuitive adaptation and creation are of prime importance. Of less importance, to me, are the more usual collecting criteria of beauty, age, and rarity."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Civil War

This beautiful, historic city has ghosts. Not the ones that the many ghost tours promote to tourists whose heads are popped out of the top of the black tour hearse. These old buildings, if walls could talk, have seen cruelty, arrogant dissent, disgrace, jubilation, disconsolation, fear, and hope that characterize one of the most significant periods in American history. An education in the Civil War is inescapable in Savannah, and her buildings, streets, parks and monuments, once discovered of their roles, appear saturated by their history, dark even in bright daylight. This is what I think of as I walk through Johnson Square...
The first flag of independence raised in the South, by the citizens of Savannah, Ga. November 8th, 1860 / drawn by Henry Cleenewerck, Savannah, Ga. ; lithographed by R.H. Howell, Savannah, Ga.

The Civil War was known by many names, including:
War Between the States
War of the Rebellion
War for Southern Independence
War of Northern Aggression
Second American Revolution
SezessionskriegAmerikanischer B├╝rgerkrieg (German)

Immediately after the war, the following expressions were common in the South:
The War
The Late Unpleasantness
The Lost Cause

New York : Published by Currier & Ives, 1861
I recently read Saving Savannah, by Jacqueline Jones.

Reading the book over the course of about five months, these events lodged in my mind. I think they most epitomize the cruelty, arrogant dissent, disgrace, jubilation, disconsolation, fear, and hope between the 1850s and 1870s in Savannah.

"On New Year's Eve 1862, the Savannah city council held its regular biweekly session and debated routine proposals...Meanwhile, not far away, at their sanctuary on Franklin Square, members of the First African Baptist Church were holding their traditional December 31 "watch-meeting." Outwardly, the service seemed unremarkable...Soon after midnight...the congregants exchanged greetings with one another, then parted. The meeting had proceeded peacefully, undisturbed by city authorities. And yet secretly the members of First African had just celebrated a promise of freedom, the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863...That night the choir offered up familiar hymns; only in their hearts did these "gospel trumpeters" herald "the year of Jubilee," for their music of the soul "was not for earth's ears, but it was heard in heaven." (Saving Savannah, Jacqueline Jones)
New Year's Day festivities included a "celebratory but subdued" dinner held by black clergy from all over the city. About 3,000 blacks joined in New Year's Eve festivities of the Union soldiers near Port Royal SC when an elderly black man and two women spontaneously began to sing My Country, 'Tis of Thee...
Savannah freedman James Simms wrote, of the Emancipation, "Who, then, could estimate or describe with tongue or pen the struggle in their hearts between hope and fear? Who can measure the prayer offered in secret at this period and know its effects?" (Saving Savannah, Jacqueline Jones)

First African Baptist Church, Historic American Buildings Survey,1936

"Many African Americans saw Union troops...as a grand army of liberation. At the sight or sound of the approaching vast procession, thousands of black men, women, and children along the way came out into the open, eager to free themselves as the Yankees passed by. Some emerged from the slave quarters, others from nearby swamps where they had been hiding. To greet the invaders, some dressed in their finest clothes - the women in fancy bonnets, the men wearing a pair of the master's cast-off gloves...For the most part, northern soldiers regarded the slaves with a combination of pity, contempt, and amusement." (Saving Savannah, Jacqueline Jones)
The slaves provided food, laundry and cook services, military intelligence, and muscle to the Union troops. At Ebenezer Creek, near Savannah, a Union general and his troops crossed over a pontoon bridge then pulled it up before the black refugees following them could cross. Some drowned, others were left to die at the hands of Confederate troops.

Family and former slave quarters at The Hermitage plantation, Savannah (Detroit Publishing Co. c1907)

"On the morning of January 10, 1865, five hundred black children, ragged, shoeless, and shivering from the cold, assembled in the sanctuary of Savannah's First African Baptist Church. Spilling out into the street, they marched en masse through Franklin Square to the edge of the city market on Ellis Square, and on to the imposing three-story brick structure on St. Julian Street - their new school, the old Bryan Slave Mart...This "army of colored children...seemed to excite feeling and interest, second only to that of Gen. Sherman's army," in the words of one observer. Then, in the building where traders had bought and sold slaves just a few weeks before, pupils took their seats...surrounded by remnants of the old regime - handcuffs, whips, paddles, sales receipts for slaves - and positioned in front of the auctioneer's desk, now occupied by their teacher." (Saving Savannah, Jacqueline Jones)
These were the bold efforts of the black-led Savannah Education Association (SEA.) By Spring 1866, the organization was unable to pay its teachers without government or private funding and was forced to fold. Public funds for education of former slaves and their children was almost non-existent. The AMA, American Missionary Association, backed by Northern philanthropists, competed to monopolize black education, aimed to shut down the SEA and was satisfied when there was "no opposition" in the field of black education. Print showing President Grant sitting at a large table, with group of men clustered around (identitied below print), signing the 15th amendment granting that the right to vote cannot be denied on basis of race or color. Vignettes along sides and bottom show African Americans in military service, at school, on the farm, and voting.
Stereograph showing a large group of people, seen from behind, sitting on fence rails andstanding, possibly gathered for appearance by a presidential candidate in Savannah, Georgia; also shows a banner for the Republican nominations for president, Ulysses S. Grant and Schuyler Colfax. Election scene, November 1st 1868 / photographed by J.N. Wilson, No. 143 Broughton Street, Savannah, Ga.

While in Savannah, the Freedom Trail tours offer the history of enslaved and freed African-Americans in Savannah. The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum chronicles the Civil Rights Movement in Savannah in the 1960s. Some places that saw these events unfold - rallies, sham elections, secret education, slave sales, stocks and chain gangs, parades and fights, trials - keep their secrets from the surface. Some memorialize with plaques and signs. The places we pass by, enjoy or work in every day were built by slaves or freedmen, cradled injustice or hope, were trampled by soldiers, honor Confederate dead, honor enslaved inhabitants of the city: they were used by this Civil War, not just arranged for touring. The City is a living museum.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lithography (by hand) in the Twenty-first Century

I love old maps. These are the essential Art-i-Facts, revealing topography, bodies of water, streets and names, buildings - factual information in a format that is nothing less than art. I just gained my own copy of a collection called An Atlas of Rare City Maps: Comparative Urban Design 1830-1842, Melville C. Branch. A few excerpts:

Rand McNally pales in comparison. Mapquest certainly holds no candle. These maps were created by artist-engravers in Great Britain, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge whose object was to "furnish the means of instruction to those who are desirous of acquiring it, and to excite the desire of those who are indifferent to it..."
The maps form a cohesive set because they are defined by graphic rules such as these:
- the horizontal form of the cities is carefully composed within the borders
- the values of black and white are well selected to express and differentiate the many urban elements presented
- heavy lines drawn on the same two sides of structures and built-up areas accentuate and produce a sense of the third dimension by suggesting cast shadows
- structures and built-up areas are made to stand out even more by shading them with fine closely parallel engraved lines which create a grey value contrasting with the lighter value of streets and open areas
- closely parallel engraved lines of different types are used for the "hachures" which depict changes in topographical relief, and for thin wave lines following the land's edge to emphasize a coastline or water front which is always an important "breakpoint" in transportation, form of surface, and environment
- subtle color and tone

I would love to learn more about the process of lithography, seemingly a dying art.

For the past few weeks, I have been attempting to learn from and draw in a manner sympathetic to these maps, with a variety of pens.
My favorite and the most beautiful pen I have ever seen, a 1940s Parker "51". Isn't this the most beautiful pen? It was also the most perfect birthday gift I have ever received, thank you, Ken.
Micron technical pens are indispensible. And I am learning to use fountain pens with changeable nibs. It is the only way I could find the right width flat tip. I dip it into the ink bottle - it's too thick at first, wanes to the perfect consistency for a while, then the ink peters out and it is time to dip again. I feel so old-fashioned, and I have a nice ink stain on my drawing fingers.

I have defined a loose set of graphic rules for cohesion within what I intend to be a wide family of city maps. Some samples from my palette:

I do enjoy making lots of small lines under good light, trying to be conscientous, and thinking about things.
Did you know "doodling" actually sharpens one's attention? (Check it out on npr.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Turning Point

I'm not usually drawn to photographing flowers, but I couldn't help but notice the WARM DAYS (low 80s) and the PROFUSION OF BLOSSOMS throughout the city. It seems, with the time change, that SPRING has moved into Savannah, suddenly. The weekend brought opportunities for reading in the warm sun on the back porch, walking the beach, wearing a favorite fairweather vintage dress, buying fresh strawberries from Florida (though they weren't very good yet...) Peeps - the bright yellow marshmallow chicks - are also now in season. Mmm.

Today, another Turning Point occurred in the public hearing room at the Metropolitan Planning Commission in downtown Savannah. A landmark project was APPROVED for Part I: Height & Mass Review, after a laborious and surreal initial hearing last month. The design of the Savannah College of Art & Design Museum of Art and the Walter O. Evans Center for African-American Art, purportedly the largest in the nation, has the overwhelming support of the Historic Savannah Foundation, The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, Savannah Development & Renewal Authority, and numerous private citizens who spoke passionately and wrote in support of the project -- and now, the Approval of the Historic District Board of Review, to proceed with Design Detail. The Museum will be a major contribution to the city, a star in SCAD's urban campus, the result of 31 years of historic preservation by adaptive re-use of over 50 of Savannah's great buildings. Admittedly, I wish every last person was as convinced as we are that this is the right design on the right site in the right city, but I suppose the drama, the twists and turns of events, the web of powerful people the controversy has drawn, makes for a much more exciting movie. Really - the movie's in the making. But we've got to get on with the making of a modern Museum of concrete and glass within and in preservation of a Ruin of Savannah grey brick, the 1854 UpFreight Warehouse for the Central of Georgia Railroad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pedestrian Eyes

I've taken a break from my bike lately. I've noticed some new things along familiar routes, in Savannah.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

10 BLOCK West Jones Street

click image to view larger

Brrr. Cold snap in Savannah. I just took a brisk walk to verify these tricky chimneys before I finalized the stitched-together streetscape for the 10 Block of West Jones Street. The streetlights shone brilliantly on me, but they did nothing for the buildings, as I stood in the middle of the brick street and tried to see into the darkness above the rooflines. I'll have to check one more time in the daylight.

I like this block for it's unfinished/deteriorated nature: Three Great Buildings and asphaldt lots on the corners. Eichberg's centerpiece cannot be overlooked.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NEW SERIES Drawings for Spring

While waiting in the posh golf-themed waiting room at the Lexus dealership for my (more humble) vehicle to be serviced this weekend, I settled on the elements of the New Series of Drawings I aim to create for (late) Spring. I will be rounding out the exisitng series from Fall and beginning some new ones with hopes to expand after this initial start. I will like my "shop" to be comprehensive, cohesive and still a little surprising. Check up on me for that.

Building on the successful elements of my Fall Series,
For Spring, I will have the following series of drawings:

: SILHOUETTES (4 images/2 new)

: VINTAGE AUTOMOBILES (6 images/2 new)

: FROM THE BIRDS EYE [Turn of the Century City Map-drawings] (4 new images)

: STREETSCAPES (5 new images)

: DOMESTIC CASEMENTS [Vintage Dress Patterns] (8 new images) + [Vintage Apron Patterns] (8 images)

: DOMESTIC CASEMENTS [Recipe Cards] (3 prototypes)

: SAVANNAH MAP-DRAWINGS (4 images/1 new)

That's the realistic version, paring down what I want to do by the limits of what I can do, in the time I have - and I am notorious for underestimating Time.
Of course, I will continue to work on the Jones Street Blocks for This is Savannah Vol. 1 (but I need a little expansion sometimes.) I am looking forward to recording my progress here as I start to really make these things.
A very cursory image of this weekend's habit, beginning the base layer drawings for the Turn of the Century map-drawings >>
Any guesses on which Cities comprise the initial Four?

Diorama Life

My girl-about-town buddy, Catherine, found this diorama at our favorite, Habersham Antiques. Luckily, she noticed the tiny drafting table and T-square, rolls of paper, the writing desk and tiny books shelved above, the file cabinets, the world map and Roman ruins prints hanging on the walls covered in vintage wallpaper and she thought of...Me! Or perhaps it was the tiny print on the back wall, front and center, "Nobody's Perfect."
It's really my life in a 7-inch box. I was completely overwhelmed when she gave it to me. That she found something so quintessential, that someone actually made this lovely miniature place, Kirsten's studio in a box. Someone who did not know me - someone possibly in Virginia or North Carolina - somehow it ended up at Habersham Antiques in Savannah - and my friend has a good eye and knows me well. Well, it was one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.