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Travel Book Club: Artistic Places Discussion

Eden Book Club: Artistic Places Discussion

I discovered Artistic Places face-front in a bustling book shop in Solvang. The illustrations – vibrant, detailed, colorful – caught my eye first. I fell for the concept afterward.

I’m not an artist but I’m an art lover. And I loved how this guide wove together artists’ lives, their inspirations, and their travels (domestic or international). There was something about the topic that just felt right. In a lot of ways, Artistic Places reminded me of Footsteps, a collection of literary-themed essays published by The New York Times. It had the same deeply human, reverent connection.

my favorite illustration by Amy Grimes 😊

All of the English artists were unfamiliar to me and many of the big names I knew only in passing (Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Matisse). The artists whose lives I was most familiar with, and followed myself, were Kahlo, O’Keeffe, and Monet. But I enjoyed learning about the other creatives who shaped this book, especially Hilma Af Klint.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Artistic Places!

Book Club Discussion Guidelines

Discussion posts (like this one) will have a series of questions as starting points. But honestly, you can talk about whatever you want regarding the books (or questions). You don’t have to answer all (or any) of the questions. I’d still love to hear your thoughts!

You can join in regardless of whether you’ve read, not read, or DNF’d the book! I understand that not everyone has the time to read or finish the book so I try to include a general discussion question as well to make the discussions more inclusive.

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Artistic Places Discussion Questions

  • How did you approach reading this book? Did you read it front-to-back (or in a random order)?
  • How many artists were you familiar with before jumping into the book? Did knowing the artists (either by name or work) impact your reading experience?
  • Was there any artist’s story that piqued your interest?
  • Did you Google anything related to the artists or destinations mentioned in this book? If so, feel free to share any interesting finds!
  • How did you feel about the destinations included on this list? Were there any destinations that surprised you?
  • Have you been to any of the destinations mentioned in this book? If so, how did this travel guide differ from (or match up to) your experience?
  • What destinations would you have added to this list of artistic places? Which other artists stories would you have mentioned?
  • What illustration style do you think would have best suited this book?
  • Did you enjoy the art style of the illustrations? If so, which illustration stood out to you the most?
  • Did you reread any of the essays? If so, which ones?

April 2022 Book Club Pick

sincerely anshula

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Of course, these are just starter questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Feel 100% free to discuss anything regarding the book (or otherwise). I’ll be jumping in and responding as well!

4 Comments

  • Rita
    March 24, 2022 at 6:42 PM

    I liked the story set in Coyoacán the most. I liked the simplicity of it. I felt like I was reading an older book. I felt like I was walking the cobblestone path. Although I would have liked for the food to be described more, I felt like it brought out the poignance of Frida’s story in such few words. I felt the tragedy of it.

    I thought this book was well-written. I also enjoyed the essay set in New Mexico.

    However, this book is very Euro-centric. I felt like it missed an opportunity to cover more artists from Asian countries and artists from African countries. And if I recall, no South American artists or countries were covered in this book! South America has such a stunning, colorful art scene. And there are many influential Latin American artists that could have been selected.

    Reply
    • Maya
      March 25, 2022 at 5:52 AM

      I was surprised by how short this book was. I could easily read it in a day and I enjoyed that. I liked that it felt like a jaunt through Europe. But I didn’t consider how Euro-centric it was. That’s a great point! Now that I think about, the author could have also chosen more artists local to the area. Like for Tahiti, the artist is Paul Gaugin, who is a French Post-Impressionist artist. For Morocco, the artist is Matisse, and although I like much of Matisse’s art especially The Open Window, he too is a French artist.

      Some of my favorite armchair travel quotes from the book:
      1. “all around Bern, the clear mountain air glitters in the sunshine.”
      2. “throughout the terracotta rooftops, church bells ring out, while Arno snakes along, attached on both sides by a series of bridges..”
      3. “depending on where you are standing, the crystal water changes throughout the day, from turquoise to sapphire, to cobalt and indigo.”

      My favorite image was of Lake Milaren. The colors used were dark but surprisingly soothing.”

      Reply
      • Anshula Varma
        March 28, 2022 at 2:47 PM

        I agree: this book could have followed the stories of more local artists. Unfortunately, I don’t know any Tahitian artists (and am having a hard time finding any names online so if you know of any, please share 😊) but this book would have been an excellent place to bring up an artist from Tahiti! I think from Morocco, Hassan Hajjaj definitely blends Morocco into his art style (so it would have cool to travel through his eyes).

        Artistic Places tries to bridge the gap between art and travel. It covers some of the most well-known artists in the world. Unfortuantely, many of the most world-renowned artists fit a certain mold. And while this book does focus on artists that break that mold (Basquiat and Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe), it’s still centered around North America and Europe. There was a big void regarding South America (as Rita more eloquently said). And we only got a smattering of information for Asia and Africa.

        Side Note: The sentences and quotes you chose are all stunning. There are so many moments in this book that are pure escapism and I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

        Reply
  • Vyas Nellutla
    March 25, 2022 at 4:36 PM

    > How did you approach reading this book? Did you read it front-to-back (or in a random order)?

    I read the stories starting with names I recognized and then went onto places that I was curious about.

    > How many artists were you familiar with before jumping into the book?

    Only 3 by name (and I only knew very little about them): Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Michelangelo.

    > Did you Google anything related to the artists or destinations mentioned in this book? If so, feel free to share any interesting finds!

    When I was reading the Florence piece, one of the names – Medici – sounded very familiar, even though I didn’t know anything about Renaissance history or art. After looking it up, I found out that the Medici family are mentioned in the Assassin’s Creed Video Game Series as an allied family to the main character: Ezio Auditore.

    Reply

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