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The following posts reflect my creative endeavors in writing, photography, fashion and art from 2011-2015. To view my most recent work, please visit

Visual Analysis of Hendrick Avercamp's "Skating Near a Town"

I am an art history major, so two of my favorite classes from this academic year have unsurprisingly been The History of Western Art and The History of Modern Art. Enthralling lectures and aesthetic gratification aside, one of the best aspects of the courses has been the visual analysis writing involved. Requiring no outside research, visual analysis involves only what one can discern from viewing the piece. With the St. Louis Art Museum in the beautiful Forest Park only a twenty minute walk from campus, the scenic walk alone is enough to propel me to view renowned art now and then. This morning I ventured there to study Kandinsky's 1911 Winter Landscape and left with pages of notes in my moleskine notebook. It's a therapeutic process staring at a single piece of art for such a long time, and surprising how many observations and conclusion the average viewer can walk away with in one afternoon. Here are the thoughts I left with on a trip earlier this year when I studied Hendrick Avercamp's Skating Near a Town: 

Beyond the immediate pull of the copious number of figures and the very intricate presentation of their individuality, perhaps the most striking feature of Hendrick Avercamp’s Skating Near a Town is the way its subjects seem oblivious to the bleak desolation that is the wintry landscape they inhabit. The reality of this depiction is that it cannot be attributed to only one element of the painting, be it color, application of paint, or actions of its subjects. Instead, a medley of each of these elements, and the humility of each on its own, lend a subtlety to the purpose of the image that piques the interest of the viewer and compels him to venture further into its meaning as a piece. 
An initially striking feature of Skating Near a Town is the prevalence of the human figure dotting the landscape, a reality that quickly becomes intriguing, as it departs from the traditional subjects of landscape painting. Adding this second layer over the natural features of the landscape such as the pond, trees, and surrounding land, contributes to the subsequent visual pull of the piece. The viewer immediately gets the sense of a cozy, large gathering among these people; of all ages and spotting the landscape in many clusters, their various activities are unhurried, but have a sort of vivacious energy to them. Upon closer inspection, we make out a flood of diverse actions: skating, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, sliding on a toboggan, clutching baskets, hockey playing, and engaging in lively chatter. While the sheer number of people implies a large, organized gathering, the variance of small groups and activities suggests a certain spontaneity and freedom. What’s more, the casual actions of these citizens gives the viewer the sense that this is an average day for them; it is most likely a weekend day due to the multitude of leisure activities depicted. Their ordinary dress also suggests that this gathering is not for any special occasion. Furthermore, there is a suggestion of a love of the outdoors despite the wintry chill; a lack of emphasis on, or detail of the surrounding homes dotting the landscape almost compels the viewer to come outside and join them, an inviting force that counteracts the austere setting of the painting. It is interesting to note, however, the lack of overt beckoning; no figure directly faces the viewer, but is instead very absorbed in his or her own activities. This obliviousness to the periphery heightens the sense of a necessity of finely tuned senses for survival, while also forcing the viewer to focus more on the figures’ activities. 
Beyond the visual weight of the activities and sheer abundance of the people depicted, another dominating impression of the painting is created through the size of the figures against the landscape. Although they seem comfortable and cheery out in the cold, we are reminded of the domineering hold nature has over mankind, in part because the people are quite small and defenseless against the huge backdrop of snow and ice. The composition is roughly divided in two, with half of the space devoted to sky and half to the earth; because the sky is equally as expansive as the ground, its much emptier space is emphasized and adds an aesthetic balance to the many clusters of characters engaging the eye in the other half of the piece. With a landscape orientation, there is strong horizontal directional force in the painting. This is caused in part by the inability to view its entirety while standing at the close range required to study its small elements. This planar orientation within the piece is most evident at a close distance, as the painting does not fit in the viewer’s cone of vision and he or she must scan the eye across the work to view it in its entirety. Within the piece, horizontal lines situate themselves predominantly along the horizon, but less obvious horizontal planes and implied lines appear where people are clustered; the way that they are standing lends a sense of order and organization despite their varied activities. More evident are the horizontal lines indicating transitions between foreground, middle ground, and background along the earth, ice, and sky because of the clarity of the division between each physical geography. It is interesting to note, however, that although the painting’s orientation is horizontal, most figures have a very vertical directional force which counteracts the flatness of the landscape. While horizontal and vertical lines and implied orientations are more immediately apparent, diagonal lines are few, yet they stand out in their isolation. Most clear in the sailboat masts, they point conveniently toward the vanishing point of the painting, accentuating the piece’s perspective. 
Skating Near a Town is a painting of very biological subject matter, therefore Avercamp’s use of shape is less constrained and structural as it might be in a more conceptual take on this ideation. As a landscape painting full of people, most shapes take on a very organic formation lacking strict architectural structures. Instead, the similar but unidentical geometries of natural contours lend a cohesion to the composition, while also maintaining a strong level of interest in the viewer as a result of the slight disparities among them. There is a clear emphasis on the human form which most closely resembles a rectangle if it must liken itself to a most similar geometric shape; trees and buildings also mimic this pattern, while shying away from strict containment in form. The lack of repetition of exact shapes suggests Avercamp’s close study of natural variations of forms, while the similarities among figures add to the unity of the composition. 
Color, too, plays an enormous role in the effectiveness of Skating Near a Town as a piece of art. The color of the landscape itself is very muted and of low intensity, indicating a bleak and unforgiving landscape. As a result of this inhospitable sense we get from the landscape, the lively activities of the people stand out in the foreground, something the viewer perceives again and again as integral to the effect Avercamp wished to portray. The greatest contrast in color is between the dark trees and the pale ice and sky, perhaps suggesting the struggle of growth in such a climate and reminding us of the fortuitous fact that the townspeople have homes to return to for respite from the cold. Beyond the contrast between vegetation and atmosphere, the emergence of the people of the town is aided in part by the most saturated color in their clothing. The lighter value of the figures in the background also helps the viewer focus his eyes on the central part of the piece. Their clothing is mostly blue and orange hues which are complementary colors; this choice of a harmonious color scheme suggests a community and a cozy bond between the townspeople. Little color discord also contributes to the comfort exhibited by the figures; the only real disharmony among color is between the human figure and the landscape, a subtle reminder that no level of comfort will completely transform such an environment into a hospitable one. 
There is, however, a strong sense of the juxtaposition between cold and warmth due to the bundling of thick clothing to combat the obvious freezing temperatures. This sense of cold is heightened when the viewer glances the man who has fallen on the ice as he touches it to brace himself; it is also emphasized in the most prominent man in the foreground who hunches over in the wind, stuffing his hands into his pockets and dipping his face into his coat with his hat pulled down as far as it will go. Although the time of day is unclear due to such a muted sky and dim sense of sight, the light source is clearly straight ahead and slightly to the left of the viewer; this is evident by the reflections of the figures on the ice and the shadow of the man farthest in the foreground. The lightest lights are in the ice and sky and especially the traces of snow (little snow covering the tree branches and homes suggests that springtime might be near). The darkest darks of the painting are at the bases of the trees and buildings, but extend not far beyond the objects themselves, helping Avercamp in representing the waning light of day in their short length. It is essential to note that Avercamp shies away from excessive information in this work; while the colorless sky gives us little information on the time of day, the subtle shadows of his figures do. There is no doubt that the lack of redundant elements keeps the viewer very much engaged. 

Hendrick Avercamp’s Skating Near a Town depicts a scene familiar to nearly every viewer who’s ever witnessed a wintry landscape. The lack of pretentiousness of the subjects’ homes, dress, and activities suggests that he meant to display his work to the common man, but perhaps more specifically it is directed at one unused to the activities of people living in the cold north of Europe. The artist welcomes even less worldly viewers through his careful inclusion of nearly every possible activity one could partake in on ice. Meant to regard the painting at eye level and at a close range to see the small scale of the figures, the viewer, if extremely close, can detect the faint silhouette of a town in the very background of the image, another slight indication of the painting’s title. This work of art is most notable for such elements that require close observation to discern; Avercamp strikes a subtle balance between constructing a composition at a small enough scale to bring the viewer closer, yet holds him at arm’s length by painting his figures as oblivious to the viewer’s presence. Clearly fascinated with the people he encountered, Avercamp’s own close study encourages the viewer to peer into the world he creates to investigate its inhabitants further, suggesting that a landscape is empty and meaningless without those who inhabit it.

Don't Ask Me How I Know It, 

Coming Soon: Men’s Fashion Week?

Heads up, fashion week aficionados. There might be an entire additional seven days of fashion coming your way in the coming seasons devoted entirely to menswear. According to surveys by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, many American designers are clamoring for this addition to the fashion calendar. The initiative has acquired recent backing from several sponsors who support the patriotism of the idea and recognize the dwarfing effect womenswear shows have on their male counterparts when shown back-to-back. Some menswear designers are so frustrated that they’ve even taken their shows elsewhere, namely to Europe where the time between showing and selling is reduced. For now, the biggest hurdles to jump over include organizing a strong enough group of shows to attract buyers and international acclaim, and the necessity of even more sponsors. And as of now, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger have not indicated whether or not they would participate. If the plan is successful, however, you can expect to see the first ever men’s fashion week in July 2015. 

Don't Ask Me How I Know It, 

How To Dress Like A Ballerina

Let’s face it, what girl hasn’t dreamed of becoming a ballerina at some point in her life? There’s something so glamorous and feminine about the image we have of classical dancers: hair in a high bun, lifted chin and excellent posture, and of course clothed in that signature look- leotards, layers of tights and leg warmers, and elegant wrap sweaters. And whether you never made it past that class your mom enrolled you in at age three so you could learn to plié right after taking your first steps, or you did pirouettes diligently every day until the many demands of high school set in, it’s never too late to fake it. And if you’re not one for spending hours and years at the barre pursuing a career in this art, here are a few tips to at least mimic the effortlessly graceful look of the professional ballerina about to step out of the wings. 

Most dancers spend their days in the studio in tiny form-fitting leotards and cropped wrap sweaters to keep their muscles warm when they aren’t dancing. To mimic this classic look without the inconvenience of stripping down a leotard every time you need to pee, opt for a crop top with a simple silhouette. The wrap sweater can stay. 
Wear Moi Carmen Wrap Sweater 
Free People Seamless Tank
Diane Von Furstenberg Ballerina Wrap Cardigan 
Parker Ohana Crop Top
Cynthia Rowley Dutches Satin Cropped Cami
Alice + Olivia Tess Fitted Crop Top 

Skirts + Dresses:
While you might spot Teresa Reichlen or Sara Mearns, both principals with the New York City ballet, walking around the city in tight fitting skinny jeans accentuating their flawlessly toned legs, this look isn’t quite as quintessentially ballerina-like as some. To better convince yourself that you’re about to go onstage to perform a pas de deux, wear a mini a-line skirt, preferably made of tulle. 
Dressing up for a night out? Choose a fit-and-flare dress, the looser style many ballet costumes are modeled after. A departure from the more structured pleated tutu-skirt for day, these dresses (especially when made of intricate lace and soft colors) present an ethereal beauty. 
Candela Jack Skirt 
Alice + Olivia Darcy Tulle Skirt
Frenchi Swiss Dot Mesh Layered Skater Skirt
Free People Reign Over Me Lace Dress 
Alice + Olivia Darcy Tulle Skirt 
Free People Beads for Days Tunic
Free People Secret Origins Pieced Lace Tunic

Unless you wouldn’t mind the pain of going about your day en pointe, select a pair of dainty ballet flats or delicate strappy heels that wrap or tie around the ankle, reminiscent of the way the pointe shoe ribbons wind around the feet.  

Jessica Simpson Mandalaye Elastic Ballet Flats 
Sam Edelman Felicia Ballet Flats
Zimmermann Tie Up Ballerina Flats 
Schutz Quarta Two Strap Pumps
Bionda Castana Lana d’Orsay Pumps 
Schutz Meeraal Ankle Strap Pumps

Wearing your hair in a bun is a no-brainer, but what about pinning only some of it up in one of these pretty barrettes à la Juliette from the classical ballet Romeo and Juliet?
To keep your legs warm (ballerinas are perpetually cold), pull on a pair of ballet-pink tights, or legwarmers, or both! You can never have too many layers. 
Ben-Amun Crystal Headband
Heart of Gold Queen of the Forest Fern Leaf Crown  
Mrs. President & Co. Dreamy Leaf Ponyholder
Mrs. President & Co. X Barrette 
Commando Up All Night Thigh High Socks 
Commando Premiere Sheer Tights in Nudie

Really want to persuade people of your prima status? Sign up for a bar method class to sculpt beautiful arms to complete your authentic look.

Don't Ask Me How I Know It,

New Year, New Talent

Sorry for the somewhat lengthy hiatus! I've been so busy adjusting to college life at Washington University in St. Louis and have devoted much of my blogging energy to my new post as a staff writer for my school's fashion magazine, Armour.
In honor of the coming New Year tomorrow, I scoured the web for inspiring collections produced for 2015. And while any fashion lover is a big fan of the great established labels, it’s more difficult to find many people with whom to to share an appreciation of emerging talent. But it’s important to keep in mind that lesser publicity and availability of garments does not denote a less skilled designer. Here are a two young American designers to look out for in the coming seasons.

Mathieu Mirano
New York, New York
Age: 22
Experience: graduated from Parsons School of Design, showed collections each season at New York Fashion Week since 2012
Inspiration: Camille Saint-Saens; Philip Glass; the culture of Europe, Asia and Africa
Design Aesthetic: “the juxtaposition between soft femininity and hard structure”
Celebrity Fans: Lady Gaga, Nicole Richie, Gabriele Union 
For more designs:

Looks from his Spring/Summer 2015 Collection:

Jonathan Simkhai
New York, New York
Designing Since: age 14
Experience: graduated from Parsons and FIT, a member of the CFDA Fashion Incubator Program, has produced collections since 2010
Inspiration: “the blurred gender lines within the realms of fashion and sexuality,” Rooney Mara, Kristen Stewart 
Design Aesthetic: the ambiguity between masculinity and femininity 
Celebrity Fans: Drew Barrymore 
For more designs:

Looks from his Spring/Summer 2015 Collection:


Happy New Year!

Don't Ask Me How I Know It, 

The Latest

Here is a crop top and pants ensemble I created recently. About halfway through the construction of these pieces, I tried them on and almost believed I was dressed to be in the circus- was it the bloomer-like quality of the pants or the stripe of the print? I'm not sure exactly...
But I forged ahead and came to appreciate the unique neckline and waistband of the pants; sometimes it's refreshing to make more of a statement.

Don't Ask Me How I Know It, 

A recent photo of a men's flannel shirt that I made...more to come on the process soon!

Don't Ask Me How I Know It, 

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