Inspiration: A Trip to the Woodmere

Earlier this year, I started having these things called Inspiration Days, which is exactly what it sounds like—I dedicate specific days to doing things purely because they are inspiring. I started to claiming one inspiration day a month until I got drowned myself with work and proceeded to put these days on the backburner. I got my act together this October. Since leaving my full-time job to focus on SG23 Design I have realized that in order to avoid physical and creative burnout, I need to take the time to step back and explore things that remind me why I fell in love with design in the first place.

Last month, I headed to the Woodmere Museum and it did not disappoint. I should first state that although I was at Philadelphia University (or Jefferson….whatever) for 6 years, through undergrad and graduate school, I never even knew this place existed. You could say I was an overachiever, or you could just say I was the typical design student—studio was my life. When I had spare time I mostly just wanted to sleep.

The museum is housed in this beautiful, historic stone Victorian house with a porch, tower, stained glass windows and lovely staircases. The scale of the museum is perfect, not so big that it is overwhelming and not so small that you’re left thinking what to do for the rest of the day.

The works in the first gallery blew me away—the woodcuts are insane. There was a small colored woodcut of a wasp by Dan Miller and a series of three huge woodcuts by Diego H. Rodriguez Carrion called Exodus. The quality of light shown in Exodus through the wood carving was amazing to see—a work so physically heavy had such a visual lightness to it.

 Exodus, by Diego H. Rodriguez Carrión

Exodus, by Diego H. Rodriguez Carrión

I am a bit biased, but the the next few works that made an impression on me were the painted interior elevation renderings. One of my favorite things as a design student was hand-rendering, but I rarely do any of that now—project timelines often force me utilize digital tools. The speed is great, but there is so much more soul and tangibility to hand-rendering. I’ve played with a few different mediums for rendering, but I want to learn how to render with paint. At the Woodmere, there were some beautiful renderings with opaque tempera on illustration board of the Main Rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol by Joseph M. Hudson. I caught myself standing about 4 inches away from each of these pieces, taking in every detail.

I read almost everything in museums so it takes me a bit longer to walk through each gallery. I went to eat lunch with a dear friend and her co-worker then returned to continue my walkthrough. The other half of the museum had gorgeous paintings of landscapes and ships. The detail and scale of the pieces in the gallery next to the main stairhall were lovely. It is tough for me to wrap my head around paintings of ships. First, ships move—a lot. It’s safe to say most paintings of ships are dependant on a strong memory. Second, there are so many details to capture, including the billowing sails, the cargo, the waves, the crew, the coast.

The last gallery had some of the largest paintings, many of them being portraits. There was the most charming work of a girl with her dog in front of some stained glassed windows. Can anyone guess why this is one of my favorites? You guessed it, the dog that just happens to look a bit like my pup!

The Woodmere Museum was a fantastic place to spend my October Inspiration Day and I would highly recommend it for anyone that wants to spend just a few hours wandering around the galleries and then exploring the surrounding grounds. Also, if you are looking for a fun Friday night, head to their Friday Night Jazz through December 15.