Cafe Sketches

The art of adventure

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

“Café Sketches,” a lighthearted selection of artists’ travel drawings and paintings, is showing until the end of the month at Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon.

The exhibit features line drawing, which since the Renaissance has been acknowledged as the foundation of all visual arts. Gallery co-owner Christian Carlson, an architect himself, selected a number of elegant works by fellow architects as well as other artists. 

Five pencil drawings by Anita Lehmann reveal her mastery. She’s a Seattle architect who has also designed unique alphabets for the Smithsonian.

Her graphite sketches of Italy from a distance appear precise, but close up, become impressionist. “Venice” conveys the massive weight of cathedrals, next to which a pencil stroke or two becomes a banner in the wind or ripples in water. The generous negative space invites viewers to imagine endless possibility.

As visitors to Rome and other ancient cities quickly discover, washing hanging between buildings to dry is a common sight. In “Laundry,” and “Trastevere,” Lehmann adds a touch of watercolor to indicate the clothes, taking us far into the realm of modern abstract technique.

The pencil compositions of Raul Hirsch, an architect located in Mount Vernon, are more precise and offer a subtle contrast to those of Lehmann.

Eons ago in ancient Sumeria, a stylus and a tablet of wet clay were state of the art. Hirsch brings us up to date with his electronic pencil on tablet computer to give us classic, spare images of “Santa Elena Church” and “San Marco.” He also employs negative space as a gesture toward modernism, and freely sketched lines give life to sky or suggest a crowd of folks in the square.

Fiona McGuigan’s “Zurich 1,” a small etching/graphite/ watercolor composition, defies its minute dimensions with formal weight and strength. One imagines a pair of massive bird statues in a plaza—perhaps central to some antique ritual.

Several of the café sketches capture the feeling of the tropics. Shannon Troxler confesses, “One of the greatest joys of being an artist is slinging my backpack… over my shoulder and exploring a town or city in some faraway corner of the world.” She takes us south of the border with her red and blue oil painting, “Terra Cotta Courtyard,” a colorful pick-me-up, summoning memories of lazy afternoons in Mexico.

Alexis Roberts Keiner, formerly of Alaska, is also a dedicated traveler. He recalls Hanoi with a few strokes of graphite in “Giang Coffee,” while Lisa Lady captures the rich heritage of Turkey with her watercolor, “Ephesus.” And Sky Gelbron takes us to “Japan” with a flight of village steps, traditional homes and a weeping tree revealed by evening light—all within the space of eight-by-five inches.

It’s an enigma to see included in a travel-themed exhibit Lucia Dill’s portrait of three folding chairs. They could be anywhere. Perhaps they imply the ubiquity of our westernized existence.

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