16 Years of Sketches

Simon_sketch a day

Screenshot of John F. Simon Jr.’s recent drawings, recorded in his online archive

I’ve always admired the dedication that comes with practicing “one-a-day.” I’ve tried my hand at it over the years: snap one photo a day, write one journal entry a day, I’m currently on a (cheesy) roll recording one grateful thought per day. Most of these attempts last a few months at best. So when I learned that Intersections artist John F. Simon Jr. creates one sketch per day, which he’s kept up for over 16 years (seven of which have been recorded on his online archive), I was mesmerized. I find that sort of artistic devotion so impressive, and it makes his work more meaningful for me. It gets to the “why” of art; the process behind Simon’s work serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. It’s a zen moment, it’s introspective, it’s meditative. As the artist describes it, “I make a drawing and then I write down what I think it’s about and the whole package tells me something about where my head is.”

Do you have a daily routine, art-related or otherwise, that serves as an opportunity to reflect or look inward?

Amy Wike, Marketing Manager

Size Matters


Arthur G. Dove, Waterfall, 1925. Oil on hardboard, 10 x 8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1926

Would Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party have the same effect on its viewers if it didn’t take up nearly an entire wall at 51 x 69 inches? Conversely, would Jacob Lawrence’s panels from The Migration Series be so poignant if each were triple the size, Panel no. 1 measuring only 12 x 18 inches? In art, size matters. It can make a large piece overcome you. It can force you to inspect a smaller piece more intently than you might if it were just little bit bigger.

One of the smaller paintings and one of my favorites in The Phillips Collection is Arthur Dove’s Waterfall, measuring only 10 x 8 inches. This oil painting done on hardboard could escape you if you were walking through the galleries quickly, but it is a work worth a closer look. In a typical Dovian way, a style shared by other members of the Alfred Stieglitz circle including John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe, a natural subject is abstracted in a way that does not immediately depict its title. But as the title indicates, it is a waterfall, a subject found in the nature around us that, when you think about it, does not really have a typical look to it. Not all waterfalls look the same, and Dove is aware of this phenomenon. Dark grey blues swirl into beige washes with highlights of white put carefully on top. The surface is loaded with painterly texture and monochromatic gradients. What the painting captures is a moment in time, the moment you forget what you’re looking at and see only the colors and shapes that make up the nature in front of you.

If we could only ask Dove, why so small? Why is it that the artist chose to depict such a grandiose subject in such a small window? Perhaps it is precisely for this irony. It is at once artful and emotional to represent a subject that takes up so much space in the world around us and impose it onto a surface that only takes up a fraction of a gallery wall. The unique smallness of Waterfall is what drew me to the piece in the first place, intrigued by its placement amongst larger O’Keeffe and Marin works that I could spot from the gallery next door. When I took the time to really look at the painting, it instantly became one of my favorites, and that was because of its size. So size in art really does matter, and sometimes, smaller is better.

Annie Dolan, Marketing and Communications Intern


Lady In Red: Alex Katz, Brisk Day

Alex Katz_Brisk Day

(left) Alex Katz, Brisk Day, 1990. Woodcut, 36 in x 29 1/8 in. Gift of Fenner Milton, 2013. (middle) Alex Katz, Brisk Day, 1990. Aquatint, 35 3/8 in x 28 1/2 in. Gift of Fenner Milton, 2013 (right) Alex Katz, Brisk Day, 1990. Lithograph, 36 in x 29 in. Gift of Fenner Milton, 2013

These three portraits, recent acquisitions for the museum, are currently the only thing displayed in a small gallery at the Phillips. Take a moment to look at each one. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

It’s not until we look at the labels that we realize what creates the small nuances in color and line between the three works—each one is a different form of print. Artist Alex Katz is known for his arresting simplicity of line and form, bright, flat colors, and a powerful graphic punch that link them to commercial art and popular culture. By generalizing the features of a sitter or a landscape, and removing any expressive or emotional content, Katz focuses instead on formal properties of light, scale and color.