I recently picked up the book/catalog for an exhibition called “Lists: To-Dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art,” edited by Liza Kirwin. It immediately made me want to stop making any kind of list on the computer or smartphone: dull, dull dull compared to these handwritten, drawn or typed lists that bristle with personality and well, life.
Here’s Picasso’s familiar handwriting, fat and assertive in pencil, listing the painters he thinks should be invited to the 1913 Armory show in New York. Or sculptor Alexander Calder’s 1930 address book, just the addresses in Paris written out in a loopy beautiful hand in brown ink. Or this circa 1962 packing list from realist painter Adolf Konrad in which he draws every item to be packed for a trip. Ha! Love that one.
It inspired me to pick up a pencil and draw a grocery list, which I found highly entertaining. What about it? Give up the smart devices, words too, and draw what you need.
Need another source of inspiration? "Obsessive Consumption" collects the purchase drawings from Kate Bingaman Burt. For three years, she drew nearly everything she bought. And it’s all here in this mesmerizing (and cautionary) book for everyone to behold.
“Lists: Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art,” by Liza Kirwin (Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010, $24.95)
“Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?” by Kate Bingaman Burt (Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010, $19.95).
-- S. Irene Virbila
Top right illustration: Packing list. Credit: Adolf Conrad
Top left illustration: Grocery list. Credit: S. Irene Virbila
Bottom illustration: Breakfast at the Tin Shed. Credit: Kate Bingaman Burt